Ramsey County History magazine offers a wide variety of articles on the people, places and history of Ramsey County.
Volume 41, Number 3: Fall 2006
A Little Known Railway That Couldn’t: The St. Paul Southern
Author: John W. Diers
The St. Paul Southern Electric Railway, an obscure “electric interurban,” was built to connect the Twin Cities with several southern Minnesota cities. This form of mass transit was developed in other parts of the United States, but came late to Minnesota. It opened on November 17, 1914, and went as far as Hastings, which hailed its arrival. While there were plans to connect with Rochester and other sites, the line went no further. Unfortunately, casual riders, commuters, salesmen and fishermen never provided enough revenue to meet expenses. In its best years the line barely broke even. The increasing popularity of cars and use of bus travel was impossible to overcome and by July 1928 the company’s assets were sold for scrap.
PDF of Diers article
The 1894 Pullman Strike in St. Paul and the Death of Switchman Charles Luth
Author: Gregory T. Poferl
The 1894 Pullman Strike had a major impact on the country and on St. Paul, a union and railroad town. Eugene V. Debs, the leader of the American Railway Union (ARU), came to St. Paul in April 1894. At the urging of union officials, many bars, restaurants and many boarding houses refused to cater to the “replacement workers” hired by the railroads. On July 14th, two railroad representatives were trying to convince a Lowertown woman to take in scabs as boarders. One ARU striker named Charles Luth interfered and was shot to death by Charles Leonard. St. Paul’s working people were outraged and gave Luth a huge funeral, but when he was tried, the jury found Leonard was found not guilty of murder. According to Poferl, the events of 1894 set the stage for an era of compromise and negotiation between business and organized labor. The article includes a sizable sidebar on labor supporter Rev. Hermann Fleer.
PDF of Poferl article
Memories of Frogtown in the 1930s
Author: James R. Brown
Poet and playwright James Brown relates vignettes of the life of his family in St. Paul’s Frogtown neighborhood during the 1930s. It was a community that was a mixture of public schools, churches, bars and gambling houses, with a diverse group of inhabitants. Brown draws a delightful portrait filled with interesting stories of the people he met as an African-American child in a predominately white community. He lays out his neighborhood and school experiences—some of them positive and some of them not. There is a short description of the nearby Rondo neighborhood that was the heart of the African-American business and residential area at the time.
The main thrust of the story begins on the day of his birthday one August day when he expected a party, but instead was taken on a drive with his father, hoping to go to a movie. It was the first time he was allowed to wear long pants and felt proud as he met neighborhood characters, visited a nearby family, played catch and spent time at a barber shop. He watched and listened as the men talked, played dice and checkers, and was worried about how long his father was taking. It turned out there was a surprise party waiting for him as well as the new bicycle that he had been hoping to get. It was a great lesson in understanding, realizing his father knew what he was doing all along, and how much love there was in his family.
PDF of Brown article
Robert F. Klein, ed. and translator, Foundations: The Letters of Mathias Loras, D.D., Bishop of Dubuque (Dubuque, Ia.: Loras College Press, 2004).