Saturday, August 4, 2012

On This Date in Minnesota History: August 4

August 4, 1854 – “Congress approved legislation guaranteeing preemption for Minnesota settlers squatting on lands that had not been surveyed. This act, sponsored by delegate Henry H. Sibley, allowed settlers to purchase their land after the fact of settlement.”

Friday, August 3, 2012

On This Date in Minnesota History: August 3

August 3, 1896 – Hail destroys crops in Swift County in an area 10 miles long and 3 to 6 miles wide.”

Thursday, August 2, 2012

On This Date in Minnesota History: August 2

August 2, 1956 – “Albert Henry Woolson died as the last survivor of the Grand Army of the Republic. He served one year in the Civil War, discharged September 27, 1865, at Nashville, Tennessee as a private. He died in Duluth's St. Luke's hospital at age 109. His 'modified complete military funeral' was in the Duluth Armory August 16, with burial at Duluth's Park Hill Cemetery.”

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

On This Date in Minnesota History: August 1

August 1, 1972 - Follow the money. That’s what Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein were doing when they discovered and reported in The Washington Post on this date that a $25,000 cashier’s check that appeared to be earmarked for the Committee to Re-elect President Nixon (CREEP) was deposited in the bank account of one of the Watergate burglars, Bernard L. Barker.1 

The check was made out by a Florida bank to Kenneth H. Dahlberg, the President’s campaign finance chairman for the Midwest. Dahlberg [told The Post] that in early April he turned the check over to ‘the treasurer of [CREEP] or to Maurice Stans [formerly secretary of Commerce under Mr. Nixon] himself.’”1

Woodward would later call “the Dahlberg check the ‘connective tissue’ that turned what they thought was a story about a common crime into one of historic dimensions.”2

Dahlberg, who had homes in Boca Raton, Fla., and Deephaven, Minn., “started the Miracle-Ear Hearing Aid Company, which developed one of the first hearing aids to fit inside the ear; it was also one of the first consumer products to use transistors.”2 He also had a connection to another historic Minnesota event. While discussing the cashier’s check, Dahlberg told The Post that “he had just gone through an ordeal because his ‘dear friend and neighbor,’ Virginia Piper, had been kidnapped and held for two days.(See July 27, 2012 blog.)

Mrs. Piper’s husband reportedly paid $1 million ransom last week to recover his wife in the highest payment to kidnapers in U.S. history.”1

1The Washington Post; “Bug Suspect Got Campaign Funds”; Washington, D.C.; August 1, 1972; p. 1.

A photo of the Watergate Complex taken from a DC-9-80 inbound to Washington National Airport on January 8, 2006.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Putting Stones on Headstones – remembering and respecting the dead

Have you ever seen small stones or pebbles placed on top of headstones in a cemetery?  I run into it occasionally while I’m taking photos of headstones for clients from outside Minnesota. As part of the genealogical services I offer, I get requests for a photo of great-grandma and great-grandpa’s headstone in a small rural cemetery, or photos of a brother or uncle’s military burial site at Ft. Snelling National Cemetery. 

It wasn’t until I came upon Paul and Sheila Wellstone and their daughter Marcia’s graves while taking photos in Lakewood Cemetery in Minneapolis − the family headstone topped with small stones − that I really began to wonder what the symbolism meant. I hadn’t realized they were buried in Lakewood, and finding them there, I felt an overwhelming sense of sadness for the six lives lost in that terrible plane crash on October 25, 2002.

When I got home, I did a little research on the topic (there are a number of genealogy-related blogs that talk about it). Turns out, putting stones on top of headstones is primarily a Jewish custom (that makes sense, because Paul Wellstone was Jewish), although other cultures and religions do it, too. Apparently placing a stone or pebble on a headstone indicates that you have visited the grave and that you respect and lovingly remember the deceased.1

I must be more perceptive than I thought. While at the Wellstone gravesite, I had the urge to add a stone to the collection, just to let the Wellstones know that I had been there and that I remember them fondly. I ended up putting three pine cones on the family headstone; it was all that was available, but hopefully, the sentiment came through. Lakewood Cemetery is immaculate, so if you’re going there, you’ll have to bring your own stones.


Photo taken by Pamela J. Erickson. Released into the public domain July 31, 2012, as long as acknowledgement included.  

On This Date in Minnesota History: July 31

July 31, 1910 – Split Rock Lighthouse was built on the North Shore of Lake Superior in response to “the Mataafa Storm of 1905, which occurred on the Great Lakes on November 28, 1905. The storm, named after the Mataafa wreck, ended up destroying or damaging about 29 vessels, killing 36 seamen and causing property losses of approximately $1.75 million on Lake Superior.”1 The lighthouse was completed in 1910, and “the light was first lit on” this date.2

Monday, July 30, 2012

On This Date in Minnesota History: July 30

July 30, 1977 – Columbia Heights Police Officer Curtis John “Ramsdell was shot and killed while transporting a prisoner. He and another officer had arrested a DUI driver and his passenger for disorderly conduct. While transporting the passenger the suspect was able to retrieve a .25 caliber handgun he had in his rear pants pocket and shot Officer Ramsdell in the stomach as he let the suspect out of the car at the jail. A jailer was also shot and wounded as he ran to the scene to help. The suspect pleaded guilty to second degree murder and was sentenced to 40 years December 21, 1977. Officer Ramsdell had been with the agency for 14 years and was survived by his wife and two children.”

Sunday, July 29, 2012

On This Date in Minnesota History: May 29

July 29, 1870 – Established May 23, 1857, Cottonwood County was organized on this date. The county got “its name from the Cottonwood river, which touches the northeast corner of Germantown [here], and to which its northwest townships send their drainage by several small streams flowing northward.”
Upham, Warren; Minnesota Geographic Names, Their Origin and Historic Significance; Minnesota Historical Society (St. Paul, Minn., 1969); p. 149