Saturday, October 6, 2012

On This Date in Minnesota History: October 6

October 6, 1933 – Duluth Police Sergeant David A. “Butchart was struck and killed by a vehicle while searching for an 8-year-old boy who had been abducted. The boy was sleeping in the back of his parent's car when it was stolen. As Sergeant Butchart was searching cars in Gary [New Duluth] he was struck and killed. The driver of the vehicle was charged with manslaughter. Sergeant Butchart had been with the agency for 34 years.”

Friday, October 5, 2012

On This Date in Minnesota History: October 5

October 5, 1986 – Both of David Virnig’s “arms were severed above the elbows when he got caught in machinery while chopping silage on the family farm at Hillman, Minn.” His parents rushed him by car 40 miles to the hospital in Little Falls, Minn. Friends found his arms, “one of which had been thrown 30 feet from the machinery,” and put them “on ice to preserve them for a separate trip to the hospital.” Then David and his “detached arms were flown by helicopter to North Memorial Medical Center in Robbinsdale, Minn.” Three surgeons reattached his arms, but they became so severely infected, that the doctors were forced to amputate them.

Minneapolis Star and Tribune; “Surgeons lose 8-day battle to save teen-ager’s arms”; October 16, 1986; p. 3B.  

Thursday, October 4, 2012

On This Date in Minnesota History: October 4

October 4, 1991 – “Leonard C. Odell, who with his brother created the early roadside signs for his father's Burma Shave shaving cream, died of cancer” at his home in Edina, Minn. He was 83.

Burma Shave Signs

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

On This Date in Minnesota History: October 3

October 3, 1951 - Former Major League Baseball outfielder Dave Winfield was born in St. Paul on this date. “Over his 22-year career, he played for six teams: the San Diego Padres, New York Yankees, California Angels, Toronto Blue Jays, Minnesota Twins, and Cleveland Indians. In 2004, ESPN named him the third-best all-around athlete of all time in any sport. He is a member of both the Baseball Hall of Fame and the College Baseball Hall of Fame.”

                                            Dave Winfield

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

On This Date in Minnesota History: October 2

October 2, 1924 – WCCO Radio aired its first broadcast under those call letters. The station had begun as WLAG in 1922, but ran into some financial troubles and was sold to the “forerunner of General Mills,” and renamed WCCO “(for Washburn Crosby COmpany).”

WCCO Radio, Minneapolis, Minn.
Photo taken by Pamela J. Erickson. Released into the public domain October 2, 2012, as long as acknowledgement included.  

Monday, October 1, 2012

The Cloquet/Moose Lake Fire – October 12, 1918 – Part I

When I first moved to The Cities (Minneapolis/St. Paul) from Cloquet, Minn., I was astonished that no one here had heard of the 1918 Cloquet/Moose Lake Fire. How was that possible? Everyone would ask, “Is that the same as the Hinckley Fire?” No, I would tell them. The Hinckley Fire was September 1, 1894; the Cloquet/Moose Lake Fire was October 12, 1918.

Growing up in Cloquet, everyone knew about the fire. There are memorials and a small park dedicated to the victims in Cloquet and a 1918 Fire Museum in Moose Lake. The fire played a huge role in both towns’ histories and, as it turns out, my family’s history. My paternal grandmother’s family survived the fire; 453 people did not.

Fauley Park
Highway 33 and Cloquet Avenue, Cloquet, Minn. 

Duluth & Northeastern Railroad Steam Locomotive Number 16

“This train is a reminder of the heroic train evacuations performed by Cloquet Union Depot Agent Lawrence Fauley who ordered trains from nearby train centers into town for the evacuation of our residents. This memorial serves to remind people of the 8,000 people ferried to safety as a result of his efforts.”1

It is generally believed that a spark from a passing train is all it took to set everything in motion. The fire actually began burning grass and bog around 4:30 p.m. on Oct. 10, 1918, near Milepost 62 along the Great Northern railroad tracks just west of Brookston.2 Several men tried to put it out over the next couple of days, but with little success; it would appear to go out, then spring back up again later.

The fall of 1918 had been very dry, and Saturday, Oct. 12th, was extremely windy.  The fire took advantage of the wind and began to travel across the land and through the air, lighting homes, barns and telephone and telegraph poles on fire; burning them from the top down.

Around 5 p.m., as a train carrying approximately 200 people fleeing from Brookston and the oncoming fire pulled into the Cloquet Depot,3 my great-grandfather William Jokela drove into town to get new shoes put on his horses.  Upon hearing from the Brookston train passengers about the rapidly moving fire heading towards Cloquet, he quickly turned his wagon around and drove back home.

Most of the people who died in this fire lived on farms outside of town, where there were no phones, no warning, and no escape. My grandma’s family was lucky. Because my great-grandfather knew the fire was coming, my grandma’s family survived by laying in the bottom of a shallow gravel pit on their farm, and pulling wet blankets over top of themselves.

Much as tornadoes are wont to do, the fire skipped some farms and devoured others. As noted in my September 15, 2012, blog on the Dawes Act, my great-grandfather’s farm was completely consumed, while their neighbor’s home and barn survived. The Jokelas moved in with their helpful neighbors until spring, when William could start building their new farmhouse.

I often wonder if my great-grandfather hadn’t known about the fire and taken action to save his family, would I be here today?


Carroll, Francis M. and Franklin R Raiter; The Fires of Autumn, The Cloquet-Moose Lake Disaster of 1918 (Minnesota Historical Society Press, 1990); p. 26,2; p. 30.3

Did your family have any close-calls or dangerous experiences?
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                                                            Fauley Park
                                  Highway 33 and Cloquet Avenue, Cloquet, Minn. 

Erected and dedicated to the courageous men, women & children who returned and rebuilt Cloquet after the disastrous fire of October 12, 1918 which completely destroyed the city.

Photos taken by Pamela J. Erickson. Released into the public domain October 1, 2012, as long as acknowledgement included.  

                                October is Fire Prevention Month 

On This Date in Minnesota History: October 1

October 1, 1890 – “Devastating prairie fires raged north and south of [Pipestone, Minn., this] night, sweeping everything in their path. Thousands of bushels of grain and a large quantity of hay were destroyed. Senator W. B. Brown lost his fine tree claim and a large amount of grain. The loss will reach into the thousands. The fire was started by a passing locomotive.”
St. Paul Daily Globe; St. Paul, Minn.; October 2, 1890; p. 1

Sunday, September 30, 2012

On This Date in Minnesota History: September 30

September 30, 1981 - The Minnesota Twins played their last game at Met Stadium on this date, losing to the Kansas City Royals 5-2.

 Metropolitan Stadium, Bloomington, Minn.