Ramsey County History Magazine: Volume 41-1 Spring 2006

Ramsey County History magazine offers a wide variety of articles on the people, places and history of Ramsey County.

Volume 41

Volume 41, Number 1: Spring 2006

Mary Hill’s Lowertown, 1867–1891

Author: Eileen R. McCormack

Mary Mehegan Hill lived most of her early life in St. Paul’s Lowertown and was there with her husband, James J. Hill, from the time of their marriage until the Hills moved to Summit Avenue in 1891. Surrounded by prosperous families in the block located between Ninth, Tenth, Wacouta and Canada streets, the Hills were very close, both geographically and socially, to three other families: the Gotzians, the Uphams, and the Schurmeiers. The men in these families and James J. Hill had many common economic and social shared activities. The core of this article is based on diaries kept by Mary Hill, starting in 1883 and continuing, with a few gaps, until 1921. They are a record of her daily activities and information about her family; however, they contain few introspective thoughts. The article looks at the institutions of the neighborhood—groceries, churches, and specialty retail. The children were taught at home in the early years and often played in nearby Lafayette Park. Shopping, cultural activities, work and worship were most often undertaken within walking distance. Mary’s household chores and dinners and other activities are detailed. She was active in the church, especially with charitable activities, and supported St. Mary’s Home for Girls and the Catholic Orphan Asylum. The article covers the changes to the community that were brought by railroad construction that led to the Hills relocating to Summit Avenue in 1891.
PDF of McCormack article

Lowertown: Another Perspective

Author: David Riehle
Fire insurance maps are valuable resources that can reveal some of the patterns of economic class. For instance pink coloring on the plats is reserved for stone and blue for frame homes. The Hills, Gotzians and Uphams were socially active with each other, but mingling of the classes was common as people usually walked to stores and neighbors’ houses. The area surrounding the Hill family’s home included boarding houses and several saloons. City directories give the names and occupations of residents. There was even a significant mixture in churches. Social differentiation of classes in St. Paul would develop after the Hills moved to their new mansion on Summit Avenue.
PDF of Riehle article

St. Paul Underground:
 Stahlmann’s Cellars: The Cave under the Castle

Author: Greg A. Brick
Bavarian-born Christopher Stahlmann opened his brewery in St. Paul in 1855 on Fort and Oneida streets in the West Seventh area. By the late 1870s, it was the largest brewery in the state. Its lagering caves were carved into the sandstone twenty to thirty feet below the surface. In time, icehouses were replaced with mechanical refrigeration that could be scientifically controlled. After Stahlman died, the brewery went bankrupt and Jacob Schmidt bought it in 1900. When he died a decade later, Adolf and Otto Bremer took over and built Schmidt’s into one of the leading regional beer producers. The company made it through Prohibition by selling soft drink and near beer. In the late 1930s, Schmidt’s was thought to be the seventh largest brewery in the country.

The second half of the article describes a trip through the caverns by the author and caving friends in November 1999. It graphically describes the “sewer slime,” the smells of the brewery, crawling through pipes, and finding evidence of earlier human visitors who had passed through. Brick and others visited these caves again after the brewery had closed to see if that changed things. This time the cave was much drier and cooler and in the absence of brewery waste, cave life had disappeared.
PDF of Brick article

Growing Up in St. Paul: 
Stranger in a Strange Land: A Culture That for a Child Was Foreign and Alien 

Author: Bernice M. Fisher
Fisher started kindergarten at Scheffer School in 1933. A later move to St. Adelbert’s School changed her in ways her parents had not anticipated. It was their child’s first introduction to Polish people, their church, culture, and language. Most of the Felician sisters who taught at the school were immigrants and the students greeted them in Polish. The Polish language was a required subject, but students also studied English grammar and learned to write both languages in ink. Rote learning was the preferred teaching method at the school, all children wore uniforms, and their school days were highly regimented with boys and girls separated in the classrooms and on the playground. The teaching was almost always done by the question and answer approach. The school and church also had a large number of Polish dinners and dances.
PDF of Fisher article

Book Reviews

Leigh Roethke, Minnesota’s Capitol: A Centennial Story (Afton, Minn.: Afton Historical Society Press, 2005).

Pearl Marea Schenk, Pearl and the Howling Hound Farm: A Gifted Educator Remembers (St. Paul: Ramsey County Historical Society, 2006).

William D. Bowell Sr., Ol’ Man River: Memoirs of a Riverboat Captain (Afton, Minn.: Afton Historical Society Press, 2005).

Stephen Chicoine, Our Hallowed Ground: World War II Veterans of Fort Snelling National Cemetery (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2005).

PDF of Book Reviews

PDF of Letters to the Editor