Saturday, October 18, 2014

On This Date in Minnesota History: October 18

October 18, 1984 – “American alpine ski racer with the U.S. Ski Team,” Lindsey Vonn was born in St. Paul [on this date] and raised in Burnsville, Minn. “She has won four overall World Cup championships – one of only two female skiers to have done so.”

Lindsey Vonn

Friday, October 17, 2014

On This Date in Minnesota History: October 17

October 17, 1965 – Duluth native David Wheat, Radar Intercept Officer (RIO) aboard an F4B Phantom fighter jet, was shot down over North Vietnam during “a day strike mission on the Thai Nguyen bridge northeast of Hanoi. Before rescue helicopters could reach the scene, both Wheat and his pilot had disappeared from sight and enemy troops were seen in the area. David R. Wheat was confirmed to be a prisoner of war”1 of the North Vietnamese.

Wheat was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant Commander during his “2,675 days in captivity.”2 He was released during Operation Homecoming in 1973. One of his co-prisoners is now Ariz. Senator John McCain.



Duluth native David Wheat

Thursday, October 16, 2014

On This Date in Minnesota History: October 16

October 16, 1999 – “On October 13, Jean Weaver told friends that she had told her husband she wanted a divorce. Three days later her body was found in their burning home [in White Bear Lake, Minn.]. At first Gordon Weaver [claimed] the fire began while he was at work or at his son's soccer game. But the autopsy showed that Jean suffered traumatic head injuries and multiple skull fractures and an open wound on her head. The fire was started in two separate places, on Jean Weaver's body and on shelving in the room where she was found and traces of the flammable liquid used to start the fire were found on Gordon Weaver's shoes and socks. He [was] charged with second-degree murder and first-degree arson. Gordon Weaver fled Minnesota and was a fugitive hunted by the FBI. In May 2004, Weaver was captured in Florence, Oregon, where he had been living under the name of David Carson for several years.”1

Gordon Weaver was convicted of second-degree unintentional murder and sentenced to 25 years in prison. But that verdict was overturned on appeal [in 2007], largely due to questions about lab testing used by prosecutors in their case.”2

Weaver was [again] found guilty on February 18, 2010, of unintentional Second-Degree Murder and sentenced April 16, 2010, to 18 years and nine months in prison. A Ramsey County judge heard the case without a jury at Weaver’s request. [In July 2011] the Minnesota Supreme Court denied a defense petition seeking review of Weaver’s conviction for the murder of his wife, Jean.”3




Gordon Weaver 

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

On This Date in Minnesota History: October 15

October 15, 1990 – “Just three weeks before election day, [Elizabeth] Mulay accused Republican gubernatorial candidate Jon Grunseth of trying to molest her when she was only 13. The alleged incident took place nine years earlier at a 4th of July pool party. Speaking with Minnesota Public Radio News at that time, Mulay said there were three other young girls in the pool with her and Grunseth.

‘Jon Grunseth and a couple of his friends came out and tried to coax us into taking off our suits and all go skinny dipping. When I went up, somebody commented that I still had my suit on, and I still refused to take it off,’ Mulay said. ‘Jon Grunseth started chasing me and blocked me in the edge of the pool, and went to pull down my strap with one hand and the other to grab my breast.’

Grunseth denied the allegations, but he eventually dropped out of the race. Arne Carlson took his place on the ballot and won.” 

Jon Grunseth

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

On This Date in Minnesota History: October 14

October 14, 1890 – Thomas O’Connor, the life convict recently pardoned from Stillwater penitentiary upon the condition that he leave the state forever, was arrested today near Elysian, LeSueur County, and is now lodged in the LeSueur County jail. O’Connor was sentenced to prison for life about ten years ago for the cold-blooded murder of Larry Vaughn, of Marysburg, and was then and there and has ever since been considered a vicious and dangerous man. There was no just cause for his pardon, but certain influences were brought to bear that resulted in the conditional pardon.

The arrest was made upon a complaint of Michael Vaughn, a brother of the murdered man, who visited Gov. Merriam last week to protest the pardon. Gov. Merriam told Vaughn, however, that if O’Connor was seen about this state after his release he might arrest him as an escaped convict and have him returned to prison. Mr. Vaughn took the governor at his word and caused the arrest to be made.

When picked up, O’Connor brandished a heavy revolver and a box of cartridges, and also a heavy pocketknife. While the officer who arrested him made the pursuit O’Connor brandished the revolver in the air, but did not use it. There is considerable feeling in the vicinity of O’Connor’s old home over the action of the governor, and many there accuse Merriam of having granted the pardon upon political grounds, , claiming that he hoped thereby to capture the Irish vote. This feeling is quite general there, and will act as much to Merriam’s disadvantage.

St. Paul Globe; “Violated His Parole. Ex-Convict O’Conner Proves Himself Unworthy of Gov. Merriam’s Clemency. Instead of Quitting Minnesota, He Returns Home and is Jailed.” Oct. 15, 1890; p. 1.

Minn. Gov. William Rush Merriam

Monday, October 13, 2014

On This Date in Minnesota History: October 13

October 13, 1857 - In a statewide election, Henry H. Sibley was elected Minnesota’s first governor “and took office following Minnesota's entry into the Union as the 32nd state on May 11, 1858.”

Henry H. Sibley

Sunday, October 12, 2014

On This Date in Minnesota History: October 12

October 12, 1895 – Duluth’s Temple Opera House was reduced to rubble within 30 minutes after flames were first discovered pouring out of the roof by a city detective at about 12:15 a.m. The highest water stream thrown by the fire department fell two stories short of the roof, and before 12:45 only the front and alley wall of the theater was standing, the rear wall having fallen out at 12:30. The stage and auditorium had fallen into the basement even earlier than this, and the interior was a veritable furnace, the flames being fanned by a strong wind blowing from the west.1

Local newspapers reported that the “’interior of the building was like a hell. The flames were a perfect cyclone. They shot nearly 200 feet into the air.’ A firewall prevented the fire from damaging the Temple Opera Block. The Temple Opera House was not rebuilt, and the building’s ruins sat empty for ten years.

In 1905 the Temple Opera House ruins were converted into the Temple Rink, a roller skating facility designed by J. J. Wangenstein boasting a skating surface 140 feet long and 70 feet wide. In 1910, Guilford Hartley purchased the property, demolished the rink, and built the Orpheum Theatre on the lot.”2

1St. Paul Daily Globe; “Theater in Ashes. Zenith City Suffers a Severe Loss by Midnight Flames. Temple Theater Burns. Causing Destruction of Over $100,000 in Less Than Half an Hour. Masonic Orders Suffer. They Lose Heavily on Paraphernalia – Flames Soon Under Control.”; October 13, 1895; p. 1.


Duluth’s Temple Opera House