Saturday, June 2, 2012

On This Date in Minnesota History: June 2

June 2, 1863 – “Because of the poor condition of the North Hill Cemetery, the Stillwater Messenger reports: ‘The gates are down so that cattle range at large over the grounds, breaking down the shrubbery and tomb stones. A large part of the grounds is growing up to bushes which, in a few years, if not attended to, will become an impenetrable thicket.’"

Friday, June 1, 2012

On This Date in Minnesota History: June 1

June 1, 1882 – “The first work at the Soudan [Minn.] mine was begun. The crew consisted of three men, together with a horse and cart. They had a few picks and shovels, a piece of steel driven in a stump served for an anvil, and they burned their own charcoal to heat the steel.”
Duluth News-Tribune; Leading the World in Iron Mining; Duluth, Minn.; September 11, 1911.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Family Stories = Family History, Part I

Documents can tell you when your ancestors were born, where they lived, what they did for a living and when they died.  But family stories tell you so much more.  Stories turn those names on a piece of paper into real people, with real personalities and real lives.              

My paternal great-grandfather Wilhelm Jokela, or William after he immigrated to America in June 1901, came to Cloquet to get settled, find work and a place to live. His wife Anna followed 14 months later in August 1902.  According to my grandma:

    “My father went to meet my mother at the train when she came in. He was
    wearing a straw hat, riding a bicycle and chewing gum. And my mother thought,
    ‘Oh my God, is that how much America has changed him?’ She said she would
     have gone back to Finland right then and there if she had the money, but she

This very short family story, which I used in my historical fiction book on the Cloquet/Moose Lake Fire, “The Memory Quilt,” tells me a lot about both of my great-grandparents, but also leaves me with a lot of questions.  Obviously my great-grandfather wanted to impress his wife and show her how American he had become.  And my great-grandmother, after months of separation, was wondering if this was the same man she had married on December 2, 1900. Apparently it all worked out (they had seven children together), but I still have questions:

1) Why did he come to pick her up on a bicycle?
2) How did he think he was going to get my great-grandmother home on a bike?
    Was she supposed to sit on the bike seat and have him peddle her home, or
    was she supposed to walk along-side the bike?
3) Didn’t she have a satchel or trunk with her belongings?  How would that
    work with a bike?

Unfortunately, I didn’t start questioning this story until after my grandma had passed, so I had no one to ask.

Does your family have stories that have been passed down? Have you passed them down to your children or grandchildren?

" One of the Family History Research services I provide is scanning your family photos, keying in family stories and laying them out in a scrapbook format on a CD.

     “A people without the knowledge of their past history,
     origin and culture is like a tree without roots.

       Marcus Garvey

Discover your roots and watch the branches of your family tree begin to grow.

For more information on my Family History Research services, visit and click on Family History Research.


On This Date in Minnesota History: May 31

May 31, 1961 – Actress Lea Thompson, best known for her portrayal of Lorraine Baines in the Back to the Future trilogy, was born in Rochester, Minn.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

On This Date in Minnesota History: May 30

May 30, 1980 – “Twins’ Ken Landreaux ends his hitting streak after 31 games.”

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

On This Date in Minnesota History: May 29

May 29, 1919 – “Frustrated by the burnt toast served in his company cafeteria, master mechanic and Stillwater resident Charles Strite begins to experiment with alternative ways to make toast. The result is the invention of the very first pop-up toaster for which he receives patent #1387670.” 

Monday, May 28, 2012

On This Date in Minnesota History: May 28

May 28, 1969 – Minnesota Senator Eugene McCarthy beat Sen. Robert F. Kennedy in the Democratic primary in Oregon.”

Sunday, May 27, 2012

On This Date in Minnesota History: May 27

May 27, 1930 – “A patent was issued to 3M for its transparent cellophane tape which became known as Scotch Tape. Richard G. Drew developed the product from his earlier invention, a pressure-sensitive masking tape used as a border when repainting cars.”