Saturday, August 17, 2013

On this Date in Minnesota History: August 17

August 17, 1911 – U.S. Congressman from Minnesota, John Blatnik, was born in Chisholm, Minn., on this date. Blatnik represented Minnesota's 8th District in the northeastern part of the state January 3, 1947 – January 3, 1975.

U.S. Congressman from Minnesota, John Blatnik

Friday, August 16, 2013

On this Date in Minnesota History: August 16

August 16, 1884 - “A horrible fire swept through Anoka [Minn., on this date]. A total of 86 buildings were destroyed by the fire. A loss of more than $646,000 in property was reported at the time; an extremely huge sum in 1884. The fire broke out in a skating rink behind the post office. A breeze quickly spread the flames to other businesses and the entire block was on fire by the time firemen arrived on the scene. The fire continued to spread across streets, catching more and more buildings on fire. Restaurants, stores, the high school, residences, a bank, an opera house, a stable, a blacksmith shop, an engine house, the local jail and a few mills were among the buildings destroyed in the fire. Luckily nobody was killed in the fire and injuries were minimal. The Jackson Hotel [now Billy’s Bar and Grill] (as well as another hotel) were also severely damaged by the fire.”

Jackson Hotel (now Billy's Bar and Grill), Anoka, Minn.

Photo taken by Pamela J. Erickson. Released into the public domain Dec. 8, 2012,
 as long as acknowledgement included.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Duluth’s Vigilantes – Part II

The lesser known Duluth lynching took place in September 1918; the victim, a Finn named Olli Kinkkonen.

WWI was nearing its end, and patriotism was at an all-time high. After all, our boys in Europe were dying fighting for our freedom, and anyone not willing to fight was publically called a slacker, a term “
commonly used to describe someone who was not participating in the war effort, especially someone who avoided military service, an equivalent of the later term draft dodger.” 1

Duluth draft boards reported that Kinkkonen and five other aliens with first citizenship papers had renounced their citizenship rather than be inducted into the U.S. army.2  Kinkonnen, who had immigrated to the U.S. in 1907, had signed his first papers on Sept. 28, 1912, and canceled and surrendered his first papers on Sept. 11, 1918,* a week before his kidnapping.

His landlord was the first to raise the alarm.

On the evening of Sept. 18, 1918, Kinkkonen was
taken from his lodgings by men claiming to be from the draft board. Instead of going to the draft board’s office, Kinkkonen was driven to Duluth’s Congdon Park, where he was tarred and feathered by members of a group calling themselves the Knights of Liberty. As of midnight, Kinkkonen had not returned to his home, so his landlord called Duluth police headquarters to report his disappearance.2

The Knights of Liberty also called upon the other five declarants who had renounced their citizenship for similar reasons, but none of them could be found.2

The next day, the Knights of Loyalty (the group couldn’t seem to decide on its own name) mailed a circular to the Duluth News Tribune claiming the group had more than 2 million members across the country, including 2,000 members in Duluth. The notice said the group would continue its attacks against slackers, as they had proven themselves to be enemies of America.3

A Google and Bing search turned up a group in Tulsa, Okla., using the name Knights of Liberty in 1917 that tarred and feathered men during a labor dispute, which may be where the Duluth mob got their name and the tar and feather idea.4 Otherwise, I have been unable to find anything about this supposed large national group organized to attack slackers.

For several days, the Duluth newspapers ran short notices saying Olli Kinkkonen was still missing. After renouncing his citizenship, he had been planning on returning to Finland, and yet his luggage still sat in his room. His landlord had not heard from him.

Finally, around 5 p.m. on Sept. 30, Kinkkonen’s body was found hanging from a tree one-half mile north of Lester Park. Duluth Coroner McAulliffe determined the hanging to be a suicide, believing Kinkkonen had tried to remove the tar from his body with his handkerchief, but was unsuccessful (seriously?). According to McAuliffe’s theory, Kinkkonen had been so humiliated by the tar and feathering that he had killed himself, although none of his friends or fellow Finns believed that. Kinkkonen appeared to have been hanging there for some time. His death certificate lists his date of death as Sept. 18-22, 1918.5

Lester Park, Duluth, Minn.

Who were these men who felt that killing a man in such a horrifying manner was justified? No one was ever charged with the kidnapping or the tar and feathering. Whenever a heinous event like this is found in a family tree, it should be viewed within historical context.

Many Finn men had immigrated to America to avoid being drafted into the Russian Army. It’s possible Kinkkonen was one of them, although at 38, it’s more likely he had already fought for the Russians and didn’t want to go to war again. As noted earlier, this was a very unpopular view at the time.

“Kinkkonen was buried in an unmarked grave in [what was] a poor people's section of Park Hill Cemetery, just a few rows away from the graves of the three victims of the 1920 Duluth lynching. The Tyomies Society, a Finnish cultural group, placed a marker on Kinkkonen's grave in 1993. It reads, ‘Olli Kinkkonen, 1881 to 1918, Victim of Warmongers.’"6

Photo taken by Pamela J. Erickson. Released into the public domain August 15, 2013,
as long as acknowledgement included.

Photo taken by Pamela J. Erickson. Released into the public domain August 15, 2013,
as long as acknowledgement included.

Graves of the three victims of the 1920 Duluth lynching

Photo taken by Pamela J. Erickson. Released into the public domain July 31, 2013,
as long as acknowledgement included.

2The Duluth News Tribune; “Tar Coat Given Alien; Renounced U.S. Rights. Landlord complains to Police of Olli Kinkkonen’s Involuntary Trip with Knights of Liberty”; September 19, 1918; p. 1.
3The Duluth News Tribune; “Tarred Alien Disappears; One Recants by Default. ‘Knights of Loyalty’ Issue Circular Addressed to Those Who Renounce Citizenship.’”; September 20, 1918; p. 8
5The Duluth News Tribune; “Victim of Tar Party in Duluth Suicide, Belief; Body of Olli Kinkonnen Found Dangling From Tree Near Lester Park, Covered with Paint; Federal Probe, Hint; Kidnapping Charge Suggested by County Attorney Richard Funck. President’s Order Violated.”; October 1, 1918; p. 1.
*Written on his WWI draft registration card and his intent papers

LLet me help you find out what parts of Minnesota history your family played a role in.

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 in the left-hand column.

On This Date in Minnesota History: August 15

August 15, 1893 – “Hibbing was incorporated as a village [on this date]. It was the eighth town on the Mesabi that began to function. Mr. J. F. Twitchell, a railroad construction timekeeper, was the first town president. By spring of 1895, there were 1,000 people in town and it jumped to 6,000 in one year.”1

Hibbing was named in honor of Frank Hibbing, its founder. “He was born in Germany in 1857; came to the United States with his parents when a boy; engaged in lumbering in Duluth, and also acquired large interests in the Mesabi iron mines; discovered the Hibbing ore beds in the autumn of 1892; died in Duluth, July 30, 1897.”2

Frank Hibbing

Born in Germany in 1856, Franz Dietrich Von Ahlen immigrated to Wisconsin in 1874 after assuming his mother’s maiden name of Hibbing, believing it to sound more “American” and thus more acceptable. Work as a timber cruiser led the renamed Frank Hibbing to Duluth in 1887 and eventually to the Mesabi Iron Ore Range by 1892 where he began exploring for deposits of iron ore.

“I believe iron is underneath me. My bones feel rusty and chilly.” Frank Hibbing prophetically proclaimed after drinking water from a nearby creek.

On June 6, 1893, Hibbing filed papers in Duluth to plat a town site later incorporated as the village of Hibbing on August 15, 1893.

Historical Photo Display near Hull-Rust-Mahoning Open Pit Iron Mine,
Hibbing, Minn.


Wednesday, August 14, 2013

On this Date in Minnesota History: August 14

August 14, 1987 – “Twins pitcher Joe Niekro was caught with a fingernail file on the mound in Anaheim Stadium [on Aug. 3] and [was] ejected by umpire Tim Tschida during the 4th inning of Minnesota’s 11-3 win over California. He was suspended [and fined] by AL president Bobby Brown, who [didn’t] buy Niekro’s story ‘that he had been filing his nails on the bench and stuck the file in his back pocket when the inning started.’”

On this evening, Niekro appeared on the David Letterman show “wearing a workman’s belt that [contained] a power sander, nail file, clothes brush, toenail and fingernail clippers, sandpaper and tweezers, scissors, Vaseline, emery boards, and two bottles of Kiwi Scuff Magic.”

Twins pitcher Joe Niekro being ejected

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

On This Date in Minnesota History: August 13

August 13, 1973 – Minnesota Governor Wendell Anderson appeared on the cover of Time magazine touting “The Good Life in Minnesota.”,16641,19730813,00.html

Monday, August 12, 2013

On this Date in Minnesota History: August 12

August 12, 1984 – “Harmon Killebrew was the first Twin inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. He blasted 573 home runs during his career.”

Harmon Killebrew

Sunday, August 11, 2013

On this Date in Minnesota History: August 11

August 11, 1906 – “At 1 o'clock this morning [in Duluth] the steamer Troy, a five thousand ton steel packing freighter owned by the Western Transit company, collided with the span of the interstate bridge and precipitated it into the channels on either side of the center pier on which the span revolved. Navigation to and from the upper harbor the most active portion of the head of the lakes is blocked.

The span was about one-third open at the time of the crash. The accident is the worst that has ever happened in the Duluth-Superior harbor.”