Ramsey County History magazine offers a wide variety of articles on the people, places and history of Ramsey County.
Volume 49, Number 3: Fall 2014
In Search of Ethel Stewart
Author: Steven C. Trimble
Ethel Hall Stewart (1879–1959) is considered the person most responsible for the founding of the Ramsey County Historical Society (RCHS). This same author wrote a biographical profile of Stewart that was published in the Fall 2012 issue. Here he revisits Stewart’s personal history by recounting all the steps he took to learn about her life, her powerful interest in local history, and how she came to preserve the Gibbs Farm in Falcon Heights and in the process organize RCHS.
PDF of Trimble article
Growing Up in St. Paul: The Peripatetic RCHS in the Mid-1970s
Author: Anne Cowie
Returning to Minnesota in early 1974 with a graduate degree in history, the author was hired by the Ramsey County Historical Society to do research and writing for a new exhibit the Society planned to mount in Landmark Center. Ramsey County had recently acquired the Old Federal Courts Building on Rice Park and was in the process of restoring and converting it to the Landmark Center. Thus Cowie was present at the time when RCHS moved from its offices at the Gibbs Farm Museum to Landmark and then temporarily to offices at Macalester College, and then back to Gibbs Museum before a final return to Landmark. Her boss at RCHS was Virginia Brainard Kunz, the Society’s first executive director. Cowie provides a fond memoir full of anecdotes and details of her time on the staff before she moved on to other employment.
PDF of Cowie article
Virginia Brainard Kunz and Ramsey County History
Author: John M. Lindley
The author served as the volunteer chair of the RCHS Editorial Board between 1989 and 2005. In that capacity, he worked closely with Virginia Brainard Kunz, who was the founding editor of Ramsey County History (published twice a year between 1964 and 1990; published quarterly since then). Kunz served as the only editor until her death in early 2006. In addition to her work as editor, Kunz often wrote articles and book reviews for this magazine. When she was not busy with these editorial duties or her responsibilities as the Society’s executive director (1962–1989), Kunz wrote a number of fine histories, most of which deal with the history of Ramsey County in one way or another. She is probably best known for writing three different histories of the City of Saint Paul. When Kunz retired as executive director in 1989, she continued her work as editor of Ramsey County History. Thus she left a legacy of research and writing that is an invaluable resource for future generations.
PDF of Lindley article
The RCHS Archives and Collections Since 1964
Author: Mollie Spillman
Collections form the foundation of RCHS’s history and programs. When RCHS was organized in 1949 by Ethel Hall Stewart and others, it first acquired the Gibbs Farm Museum, which opened in 1954, and began to collect appropriate artifacts to display in the old Gibbs farmhouse, which itself is the first and largest artifact in the Society’s permanent collection. Over the years, the collection has grown more varied as more objects, books, photographs, and a wide variety of documents, diaries, and government records have been added to the collections. This article provides a summary overview of the collections process, where paper and three-dimensional objects have been housed over the years, and some of the more notable collections that RCHS preserves. The largest archival collection is the St. Paul Building Permits with more than 347,000 items. The article concludes with a brief account of the construction of the RCHS Research Center in Landmark Center in 2009–2010.
PDF of Spillman article
Expanding Our Understanding of the Past: The Sod House and Dakota Kin at the Gibbs Museum
Author: Priscilla Farnham
In this article, the retired executive director of RCHS (1991–2011) focuses on the history of the Gibbs Museum in Falcon Heights, which is owned and operated by RCHS. Beginning in early 1994 she and the board of directors decided to hire a team of archeologists to locate the remains of the sod house in which Jane and Heman Gibbs had lived between 1849 and 1854. The results of the archeological dig then spurred other changes and developments at the museum, which included building a replica sod house and a Dakota summer bark lodge, converting farm acreage to prairie, and publishing a book for young people about Jane Gibbs’s early years with the Dakota in the 1830s (1998). Soon thereafter the Society bought the land it had been leasing at Gibbs from the University of Minnesota (1999) and developed an interpretative theme at Gibbs that promoted both pioneer and Dakota life on the site. In 2006 RCHS purchased 1.5 acres of land immediately adjacent to the museum from a private seller. Thus the Society now owns almost nine acres of original Gibbs land and is in the process of developing plans for expanded programming at the site.
PDF of Farnham article