Saturday, September 1, 2012

On This Date in Minnesota History: September 1

September 1, 1894 – “Between the hours of 2:00 p.m. and 4:00 p.m., a great firestorm consumed and destroyed Hinckley and 5 smaller communities, namely Mission Creek, Sandstone, Miller, Partridge and Pokegama,” with 418 people perishing.

 Hinckley Fire Memorial, Hinckley, Minn.
Photo taken by Pamela J. Erickson. Released into the public domain September 1, 2012, as long as acknowledgement included.  

Ruins of downtown Hinckley, Minnesota after the 1894 fire.

Friday, August 31, 2012

America: Freedom …and Free Land - Part I

One of the more interesting aspects of family history research is being able to put your ancestors’ actions and movements into perspective with what was happening in history at the time. For example, both of my paternal great-grandparents owned the land they lived and farmed on primarily because of two Congressional acts: the Homestead Act of 1862 and the Dawes Act.

The Homestead Act of 1862

President Abraham Lincoln signed the Homestead Act into law on May 20, 1862, turning “over vast amounts of the public domain to private citizens. 270 millions (sic) acres, or 10% of the area of the United States was claimed and settled under this act.”1  

The Homestead Act “established a three-fold homestead acquisition process: filing an application, improving the land, and filing for deed of title. Any U.S. citizen, or intended citizen, who had never borne arms against the U.S. Government could file an application and lay claim to 160 acres of surveyed Government land. For the next 5 years, the homesteader had to live on the land and improve it by building a 12-by-14 dwelling and growing crops. After 5 years, the homesteader could file for his patent (or deed of title) by submitting proof of residency and the required improvements to a local land office.

Local land offices forwarded the paperwork to the General Land Office in Washington, DC, along with a final certificate of eligibility. The case file was examined, and valid claims were granted patent to the land free and clear, except for a small registration fee. Title could also be acquired after a 6-month residency and trivial improvements, provided the claimant paid the government $1.25 per acre. After the Civil War, Union soldiers could deduct the time they served from the residency requirements.”2

My paternal great-grandfather William Jokela chose the first route to owning property, living on the land for five years. He applied for homestead status on March 19, 1912 and finalized it on May 15, 1919. His Final Five-Year Homestead Proof included a signed affidavit of publication−meaning his intention to file a Homestead Application was published in the local newspaper consecutively for five weeks−and the signatures and testimony of two friends that he and his family had lived on the land for the required five years. Wilhelm and family had actually lived on the land for seven years, two years longer than required, because the 1918 Fire burned all of his improvements and he had to rebuild the family home and barn, replant crops and restock his farm animals.

                                            Jokela's Affidavit of Publication

                               Testimonial from one of Jokela's witnesses

My other paternal great-grandfather, August Erickson, chose the second route, the cash route. He applied for homestead status for 167.13 acres on August 15, 1905, which at $1.25 per acre, cost him $208.92. Like Wilhelm, he had to prove an Application of Publication (this time a notice published in a local newspaper for six consecutive weeks) and offered the signatures and testimony of two friends who agreed that he had lived on the land and made the required improvements. In addition, he had to prove that he had paid the requisite amount of cash. 

Erickson's Cash Paymnet

The Jokela and Erickson families lived within a few miles of each other just west of Cloquet, and both parents came from countries (Finland and Sweden) where there was little chance for them to own land. The Homestead Act gave them that opportunity.


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On This Date in Minnesota History: August 31

August 31, 1929 – “The Foshay Tower, the tallest building in Minnesota [at the time], was dedicated in Minneapolis. Wilbur Foshay hired John Philip Sousa to write and perform a march for the occasion. It was an extravaganza that took place just before the 1929 Crash and Depression that ruined Foshay.”

The Foshay Tower (center)

The Foshay Tower (center)

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

Thursday, August 30, 2012

On This Date in Minnesota History: August 30

August 30, 2005 – “The Minneapolis Central Library was completed on [this date].” 1  “The top of the building features three prodigious green roofs totaling 18,500 square feet that help the library stay cool inside. The roof serves as a huge sponge during the rainy season, when it infiltrates and cleans storm water. The roof also provides natural habitat right in the middle of downtown and reduces the dreaded heat island effect, keeping the local environment from overheating on a mid-summer day. Underfloor displacement cooling technology adds 20% running efficiency, and the entire building is 27% more energy-efficient than code.”2

Minneapolis Central Library

Minneapolis Central Library - green roof view from 2nd floor

Photos taken by Pamela J. Erickson. Released into the public domain August 30, 2012, as long as acknowledgement included.  

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

On This Date in Minnesota History: August 29

August 29, 1919 – According to the annual report of mining inspector W. H. Harvey of Eveleth filed with the county auditor, a total of 33 fatalities occurred in the mines of St. Louis county “during the fiscal year prior to June 30, 1919. Eighteen of the fatal accidents occurred underground and 15 were in connection with surface operations. St Louis county shipped 31,828,809 tons of ore during the year from 117 mines in operation.”
The Duluth News-Tribune; “33 Lives Year’s Toll in County Iron Ore Mines”; Duluth, Minn.; August 30, 1919; p. 3.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

On This Date in Minnesota History: August 28

August 28, 1907 – “Disregarding his mother’s warning not to go into the water,” a 28-year-old man “drowned while bathing within sight of a dozen companions” near Brownsville, Minn. The man’s “brother was drowned in the identical spot just twenty years ago to the day.”
Tower Weekly News; “Drowned in the Same Spot, Brothers’ Deaths are Twenty years Apart to the Day”; August 30, 1907; p. 3.

Monday, August 27, 2012

On This Date in Minnesota History: August 27

August 27, 2007 — “Roll Call breaks the story that Sen. Larry Craig, R-Idaho, was arrested in June for indecent exposure in a men's restroom at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport.”

Sen. Larry Craig, R-Idaho

Sunday, August 26, 2012

On This Date in Minnesota History: August 26

*August 26, 1980Listed simply as “Finnish Sauna,” this former public bathhouse was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on this date. It was built in 1912 “to serve Finnish immigrant miners and their families” in Virginia, Minn.

Finnish Sauna, Virginia, Minn.
Photo taken by Pamela J. Erickson. Released into the public domain August 26, 2012, as long as acknowledgement included.  

Go to to ensure that you are pronouncing sauna correctly. The vast majority of versions listed are correct, including the first English version; the bottom three English versions are incorrect.