Below are stories that visitors and residents have submitted about the Minnesota River Valley. Add to the collection by adding your story.
by Roger Clark
My father, Clyde Ryberg, wore a suit & tie to the office. By all accounts he carried it off well. But deep down he was an authentic river rat. He spent every available hour, and a few that weren’t, boating on the Minnesota River. From its source on the shores of Big Stone Lake to the Mississippi River below Fort Snelling, my dad was a familiar figure to people fishing off those muddy banks.
His mode of transportation varied throughout the years, from rafts and canoes to workboats and speedboats. Also in great variance were the activities in which he participated, from family campouts and Boy Scout jamborees, to boat regattas and midstream wedding ceremonies. One thing was certain, in those days. If an event involved the river, my father was involved in the event.
A floating encyclopedia of facts and myths surrounding the Minnesota River, Dad
knew the history and stories of a waterway unseen as it was unknown by many Minnesotans. He knew the towns that lined her banks, and barge lines that carried products downstream. It never ceased to amaze him that a river crossed by highways and interstate freeways was hiding in plain sight. It wasn’t that people didn’t care. They simply didn’t notice it.
More than most in those days, my father clearly recognized the environmental, political, and fiscal value of this major state waterway. In newspaper clippings throughout the sixties there were articles showing dad, as he showed the river’s potential to government leaders, private individuals, political heavyweights, and fraternal organizations. Shoulder to shoulder with businessmen, governors, senators, and Imperial Potentates, dad would give guided tours without charging a fee.
Not all those tours went according to plan. There was a speedboat driver once, who jammed the throttle forward, just as the steering wheel came off in his hands. Because his hands were full, he later testified, it was impossible to turn the motor off, and he crashed into a concrete spillway. There were no injuries, luckily, but the brand new boat was demolished on its maiden voyage.
In another memorable incident, a regatta of boats carrying beauty queens struck underwater deadheads, swamping three gown-wearing contestants in the silt-laden current. The boats were repairable. The hairstyles, not so much.
Another time, during a night landing at grain elevator, dad was aboard a towboat moving barges. Just upstream, there was a large group of teenagers drinking in the nearby woods. The towboat became a target, momentarily, for some rowdies throwing unopened beer cans. From the pilothouse, suddenly, shots rang out as the captain opened fire with a handgun on the hapless party goers. Just as suddenly, the beer can barrage ceased, and peace again descended on the Minnesota River.
Dad passed away in 1982, at the age of 74, and his ashes were scattered over the river from the Highway 41 bridge in Chaska. It was a fitting tribute to a man who was an environmental champion, before it was fashionable, and the guy who never lost sight of the forgotten river.
by Henry D Thoreau
Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862) wrote books, essays and poetry exploring nature, politics, and the human spirit. His famous book Walden chronicles his thoughts and experiences at Walden Pond. The letter below was written to his biographer, Mr. Sandborn, describing his journey up the Minnesota River.
Redwing Minnesota, June 25th 1861
After spending some three weeks in and about St. Paul, St. Anthony, and Minneapolis, we made an excursion in a steamer some 300 or more miles up the Minnesota River, to Redwood, or the Lower Sioux Agency, in order to see the plains and the Sioux, who were to receive their annual payment there. This is eminently the river of Minnesota, for she shares the Mississippi with Wisconsin, and it is of incalculable value to her. It flows through a very fertile country, destined to be famous for its wheat; but it is a remarkably winding stream, so the Redwood is only half as far from its mouth by land as by water. There was not a straight reach a mile in length as far as we went, generally you could not see a quarter of a mile of water, and the boat was steadily turning this way or that. At the greater bends, as the Traverse des Sioux, some of the passengers were landed and walked across to be taken in on the other side. Two or three times you could have thrown a stone across the neck of the isthmus while it was from one to three miles around it. It was a very novel kind of navigation to me.
The boat was perhaps the largest that had been up so high, and the water was rather low (it had been about 15 feet higher). In making a short turn, we repeatedly and designedly ran square into the steep and soft bank, taking in a cart-load of earth, this being more effectual than the rudder to fetch us about again; or the deeper water was so narrow and close to the shore, the we were obliged to run and break down at least 50 trees which overhung the water, when we did not cut them off, repeatedly losing part of our outworks, though the most exposed had been taken in. I could pluck almost any plant on the bank from the boat. We very frequently got aground and then drew ourselves along with a windlass and a cable fastened to a tree, or we swung round in the current, and completely blocked up and blockaded the river, one end of the boat resting on each shore. And yet we would haul ourselves round again with the windlass and cable in an hour or 2, though the boat was about 160 feet long and drew some 3 feet of water, or, often, water and sand. It was one consolation to know that in such a case we were all the while damming the river and so raising it.
We once ran fairly on to a concealed rock, with a shock that aroused all the passengers, and rested there, and the mate went below with a lamp expecting to find a hole, but he did not. Snags and sawyers were so common that I forgot to mention them. The sound of the boat rumbling was the ordinary music. However, as long as the boiler did not burst, we knew that no serious accident was likely to happen. Yet this was a singularly navigable river, more so than the Mississippi above the Falls, and it is owing to its very crookedness. Ditch it straight, and it would not only be very swift, but soon run out.
It was from 10-15 rods wide near the mouth and from 8 to 10 or 12 at Redwood. Through the current was swift, I did not see a ‘rip’ on it, and only 3 or 4 rocks. For 3 months in the year I am told that it can be navigated by small steamers about twice as far as we went, or to its source in Big Stone Lake, and a former Indian agent told me that at high water it was thought that such a steamer might pass into the Red River.
In short this river proved so very long and navigable, that I was reminded of the last letter or two in the Voyages of Baron la Hontan (written near the end of the 17th century, I think) in which he states that after reaching the Mississippi (by the Illinois or Wisconsin), the limit of previous exploration westward, he voyaged up it with his Indians, and at length turned up a great river coming in from the west which he called ‘la Riviere Longue’ and he relates various improbable things about the country and its inhabitants, so that this letter has been regarded as pure fiction – or more properly speaking a lie. But I am somewhat inclined now to reconsider the matter.
The Governor of Minnesota (Ramsey), the superintendent of the Ind. Affairs in this quarter, and the newly appointed Indian agent were on board; also a German band from St. Paul, a small cannon for salutes, and the money for the Indians (aye and the gamblers, it was said, who were to bring it back in another boat). There were about 100 passengers chiefly from St. Paul, and more or less recently from the N. Eastern states; also half a dozen young educated Englishmen . . .
The last of the little settlements on the river, was New Ulm, about 100 miles this side of Redwood. It consists wholly of Germans. We left them 100 barrels of salt, which will be worth something more when the water is lowest, than at present. Redwood is a mere locality, scarcely an Indian village – where there is a store and some houses have been built for them. We were now fairly on the great plains, and looking south, and after walking that way 3 miles, could see no tree in that horizon. The buffalo was said to be feeding within 25 or 30 miles.
A regular council was held with the Indians, who had come in on their ponies; and speeches were made on both sides thro’ an interpreter, quite in the described mode; the Indians, as usual, having the advantage in point of truth and earnestness, and therefore of eloquence. The most prominent chief was named Little Crow. They were quite dissatisfied with the white man’s treatment of them and probably have reason to be so. This council was to be continued for 2 or 3 days – the payment to be made the 2nd day – and another payment to the other bands a little higher up the Yellow Medicine (a tributary of the Minnesota) a few days thereafter.
In the afternoon, the half-naked Indians performed a dance, at the request of the Governor, for our amusement and their own benefit and then we took leave of them and of the officials who had come to treat with them.
~ Jones, Evan (1962) The Minnesota: Forgotten River. Holt, Rinehart and Winston: New York
by Verne Enestvedt
Come to our Valley.
The place we call home.
With meadows and woodlands
where wild life does roam.
Our Minnesota River Valley.
Come to our Valley.
Enjoy its warm embrace.
The river flowing gently
Through this quiet peaceful place.
Our Minnsota River Valley.
Come to our Valley.
See the tall green trees.
Pine, oak and cedar
leaves caressed by the breeze.
Our Minnesota River Valley.
Come to our Valley.
Fall, summer, winter and spring.
Nature puts on a show for you–
Such contentment it will bring.
Our Minnesota River Valley.
Come to our Valley.
Those of us who know it best,
Will share the peae and wonder
That puts a troubled mind to rest.
Our Minnesota River Valley.
Come to our Valley.
Come from far and near.
Experience the scenic wonder
of this place we hold so dear.
Our Minnesota River Valley.
by Verne Enestvedt
Come to our Minnesota River Valley
Hear the stories of the past.
Learn the history of the area,
from which our lives were cast.
The Dakota roamed the valley.
Hunting, fishing was their way.
Then their way of life was threatened.
With war, they hoped to save the day.
Later on the families came here.
Took a homestead on this land,
farmed the fields and raised their families.
Gave church, school and neighbors, all a helping hand.
Come ot our Minnesota River Valley.
Enjoy all its scenic beauty round.
With history, farms and the flowing river,
no better place on earth is found.
Come to our Minnsota River Valley.
by Carol Erpelding
Bolting the door tightly, Susan Brown climbed the stairs to her third floor bedroom. As she entered, moonlight danced across the floor and a soft breeze moved the curtains. Shivering she walked to the window and looked toward the river. Even the darkness of night could not hide the beauty of the Minnesota River valley. With a deep breath, Susan closed the curtains against the cool evening air. The comfort of the feather bed did not quiet her son’s warnings from ringing in her ears. Sam and his sister Ellen had returned with rumors of impending trouble between the Dakota (Sioux) and the U.S. government with the settlers caught in the middle.
Disturbed by the news, Susan wished her husband Joseph was back from New York. Finally, a restless sleep filled with dreams overtook her. She watched neighbors welcome Joseph with cries of “Brown, Brown”. Suddenly awake, Susan realized those shouts were not a dream but people outside the window. Danger filled the air; as her neighbors shouted warnings of approaching war parties. Instantly, activity filled the house. The hired man scurried after the horses while others gathered treasured possessions. Unable to catch the horses, he returned with three teams of oxen pulling lumber wagons. With Susan’s signal, the neighbors clambered into two of the wagons as the Brown family boarded the third. The drivers hurried the oxen toward the safety of Fort Ridgely, at least three hours away. Susan glanced back at her grand home, now vacant and silhouetted in the moonlight. She wondered what fate had in store for her family.
Would they ever return?
by Carol Erpelding
On the other side of the river the first rays of the August sun stretched across the horizon as Wicahpewastewin (Good Star Woman) and her mother left their Dakota village to gather wood.
Leaves fluttered in the breeze as robins sang their morning song. Laying out a carrying strap in readiness, they began to pick up sticks for their cooking fire. Still holding the first branches, the women looked at each other as gunfire broke the silence of morning. Fearing danger from their long time enemy the Anishinabeg (Ojibwe), they hurried back to alert the others. As they arrived, a young boy ran into the village, so frightened he could barely speak. Breathlessly, he told of Dakota warriors attacking workers and fur traders at the Lower Agency (a government outpost). Tension filled the air and the children began to cry with fright. Some of the men decided to request protection from their friends at the fort, while others loaded guns and painted their bodies in the colors of war. The women hurried to the riverbank to offer prayer for the safety of sons, husbands and brothers. Everyone in the village knew war would spill the blood of many.
What would happen to the Dakota in such a poorly matched war?
by Duane A. Ose
Back during the 1940’s and 50’s, I remember when all roads, even field roads led to the river, and more so during the summer Sunday afternoons.
The land owners along the river all had dirt roads between their crop lands and pastures that lead to the river’s edge. It was very common for the neighborhood to use such a private access road, for the picnic, fishing, or just a family day at the river.
Rain on that dirt road while at the river, was the only fear a driver had. There would be a rush for all to get back out to a real road, as it seemed to be always a hill to drive up and out of the river bottom.
Where the river had bridges, there would sometimes be bigger gatherings to include bandstands, ball fields, something for everyone.
People got out more then it seems, maybe for the lack of television, and air-conditioned homes. The river meant a cooler place, with good social outings.
Then at some point laws changed things, making land owners at no fault of there own were held liable. Thus came the parks, fees, rules and open times.
With that went the open friendly neighborhood and closed fishing banks.
I long for the river days past.
~ Duane A. Ose, The Last Federal Homesteader near Fairbanks Alaska
by Bruce Tolzmann
Diane and I had a very interesting experience a few minutes ago, as we had a family of wild turkeys in our back yard. As many of you know, we live on the edge of a valley, and at about 4:00 or so this afternoon, a family of 9 wild turkeys came up out of the valley, crossed the road, and into our backyard, where they ate up all the bird seed that was on the ground (we feed the birds several kinds of seed), and then proceeded to our next door neighbors, where they also consumed a considerable amount of seeds. When they apparently had consumed enough, they proceeded back toward the valley, through our yard again, crossed the road safely, and down into the habitat of the valley. I wouldn’t be surprised if they again pay us a visit in the near future, being they found food available. Yes, there are benefits to living in Smalltown, USA.
by Gary R. Lentz
Woman who talks to stone was a woman who when troubled and uncertain, would go to areas with large stones and rocks. It was here among the boulders of many shapes and the timeless and enduring beauty she found there, that she felt closest to the Great Spirit, the Great Mystery, to God. She would touch the stone and marvel at the colors and patterns she found there. She would marvel at the cactus that would cling to the sides of the rock, growing where nothing else would grow.
She felt one with the world here. The bullsnake and the meadowlark, and the prairie grasses were her friends, they were traveling with her in the circle of life, and she respected them.
As she sat by these stones she would think of the world around her and she would weep. She wept for the children no one wanted, and the pain and suffering they were forced to endure. She wept for the hate, greed and for the intolerance of one another. She wept for the land that was not respected, she wept for the people who would not or could not see what they were doing.
She brushed her hand across the stone and she asked it, Human beings and cultures have fought and hated each other since recorded time, will we ever realize that we are the same people and that we share the same distiny?
As she sat touching the stone, the Prairie wind brushed her hair back over her shoulders and dried her tears, the meadow lark sang to her and the timeless and enduring beauty of the stone filled her like the fragrance of the wild plum in spring, moving her.
She smilied as she left the place of stone to go back to her people and family. She would go back to them and help care for them, and she would help guide them, and she would love them.
by Mary Holmes Babcock
He was getting on in years, but the love of the outdoors was as ingrained in his very being as was the path to the Minnesota River. “Old Bob”, as many had become accustomed to calling him, was once again assembling his rod, reel, and tackle, then adding a cigar, thermos of coffee and bottle of water to his gear, he was ready to go. It didn’t take much to keep the old man in his glory. Fishing wasn’t a weekend event for him, it was a daily ritual that eventually earned him a place in the great beyond right next to St. Peter, reeling in the biggest and the best.
Just like any other day, “Old Bob” found himself on the Minnesota River bank, baiting, casting, and enjoying the great outdoors. It wasn’t just the fishing. It was a place to commune with the tranquility of nature. Patience was a virtue of his that made the wait even more enjoyable.
Then BINGO! The STRIKE, the adrenalin rush, the thrill, and that wonderful feeling. It was a big one. The burst of excitement that awakened his hypnotized senses could only be equaled in hearing “Old Bob” tell about his catch of the day.
His responses were automatic. Patience, control and reel him in with a sense of purpose. Finally he was close enough to get a good look. What a big one! A walleye! A prize trophy! Then SNAP, the line broke. Nothing left but a memory.
This isn’t the end of “Old Bob’s” story. He came home that day talking about the 10 pound walleye that snapped his line and got away. He felt it’s weight, he even got a good look at it, and came so close to landing it. His enthusiasm was just as great as if he had it in the net.
Wait a minute!
How did he know how much it weighed? “Old Bob” had an answer to that one. Some guy down the river caught a 10 pound walleye. That guy’s fish story was even better. When he reeled in his walleye it had “Old Bob’s” line deeply embedded in its mouth.
The Minnesota River Valley sparks the deepest of memories. Its diversity and intrigue for adventure has no bounds. It has been both a playground in my youth and a giant to respect.
~ Old Bob’s daughter Mary Holmes, Babcock North Mankato, MN
by John W. O’Neal
Kettle Holes Those perfectly round holes formed in solid granite rocky outcrops; the remains eons ago of mountains. The KETTLE HOLES can be seen in various places along the Minnesota River and valleys. What caused them and how were they formed?
Thirteen to 15,000 years ago, a huge glacier hundreds of feet thick covered much of the North American continent. It reached as far south as central Minnesota. In the ensuing year, the climate warmed causing that immense glacier to melt and become Lake Agazzi. Larger than all of the great lakes and hundreds of feet deep.
The outlet flowed south and east cutting and forming our present Minnesota River and Valley. Imagine a rushing, roaring river hundreds of feet deep and up to five miles wide carrying everything in its path.
An example of its power can be found on the courthouse lawn in Granite Falls, Minnesota. This huge granite stone was dug up on the site of the law enforcement center. The force of falling water and time can be seen in another giant granite store. Two sides are sloped and worn. It rests on the south lawn of the Granite Falls Supper 8 Motel.
KETTLE HOLES were formed when jagged stones carried by the river’s current struck a depression in the bedrock. As time passed, the depression became a hole trapping the stones that fell in. The force of water caused the stones to rotate, thus shaping a KETTLE HOLE. Some small, other huge, from smaller than a gallon pail, to a bushel basket in size. One huge KETTLE HOLE in Granite Falls had to be fenced off to prevent cattle from accidentally falling in and unable to get out.
An example of a KETTLE HOLE can be done. Place a small, walnut sized stone in a water pail, with a garden hose on full pressure – watch the stone madly revolve around the pail. Stones have been found in the Granite Falls area; perfectly round granite stones from golf ball to basketball sized; over a hundred pounds.
~ John W. O’Neal, Granite Falls, MN
by Beverly Waters Hunstad
Beverly Waters Hunstad I was born one mile south of Montevideo along the Minnesota River in 1935. My parents were Del and Lucile Waters and I have three siblings: Virginia, Lyle and George. My parents were truck garden farmers along with my Grandfather George Waters and Uncle Orville Waters. During the dry years of the 1930’s they irrigated out of the Minnesota River, with a chassis of an old Model T. I don’t have a picture of that.
There wasn’t much water running at times so we could cross the river to our neighbors on the other side. When the river was full, we crossed in a boat and in the winter, my folks put us children in sleds and away we went to visit the neighbors to play cards or play musical instruments for a house party.
The summer down in the woods, as we called it, was cool pleasant memories. We would run barefoot thru the woods towards the river, but we were warned not to go near the river, as the current was very swift. There was an abundance of wild flowers blooming along the river banks and in the trees, to name a few were the wild blue phlox, cow slips, jack in the pulpit, and violets. On the rocks were plenty of cactus and snakes. We weren’t afraid of the snakes; we would pick up the snakes by the tails and chase one another or hang them on the barbwire fence.
In the summer, there was a sandbar about one-half mile from our home that Mom and Dad would take us to in the evening to swim. The water was so clear and cool. The big bend in the Minnesota River was a great place to fish.
During the 1930’s, people from town had wood lots along the river and they would cut wood in the summer to have for their winter supply. Dad would help people with that. Dr. Roust had a wood lot and Dad helped him, I think that took care of some doctor visits.
The ladies of the neighborhood had a sewing club that met once a month on a Thursday afternoon in each of the homes. The ladies brought either crocheting, socks to be darned, or embroider work. There was always such good food, if us kids were lucky enough to stop after school. They all had their specialties, such as chicken noodle hot dish, red devils food cake or ground meat sandwiches and the home canned dill pickles.
In the wintertime, we had the rock hills by the Lindeckers on which to sled. Mrs. Lindecker would invite us in for hot chocolate and warm bread. We wore out a sled or two. My folks never let us have a toboggan as there were fences and so many trees, and they thought we would run into them. We ice skated on Long Slough to the east of the Minnesota River. If there was much snow, we had to shovel it off, but with any luck, it froze without snow and we could skate for a mile.
We had a lot of good neighbors, George and Mae Marholz; George kept the ditches mowed so the road was always well groomed. Mae always had some good cookies or cake, when us kids went over there. She played the piano and taught me, “Your are my Sunshine”.
In my memories there were lots of nice trees and pastures with cattle, no weeds and the river ran clear and cool. Dad and my brothers would hunt and fish. I can remember the Thanksgiving of 1944, we were looking out the dining room window and 13 deer ran across the field to the south. We had never seen many deer before that. During the war, with gas rationing, people shared rides. We had a Model A Ford, it didn’t hold many people on the inside and the neighbor boy was going to high school so he would stand on the running board, and if it was cold Dad let him put his head inside of the car. Once coming home, the wheel came off by Doc Steven’s garden. Dad figured someone needed a tire and was loosening the bolts while Dad was at work. My first words that I learned to read was from the back of the gas sticker on the window, “Is this trip necessary?”.
We were all neighbors helping each other. When someone was sick, the neighbors did the chores. When an animal needed butchering, all were there to help. People shared what they had.
When I learned to ride the bicycle, I started at the water pump and got part way up the driveway and fell, but came back, when I finally got out of the driveway and over by the neighbors and fell, Mrs. Van Sickle came out and helped me on.
After the floods came in the 1940’s we would have to move out to some farmer friends on higher ground. We had cows, pigs, chickens so all had to be moved. After the water went down there would be water in the ditches so brother Lyle would spear the carp. The floodwaters never went over our house floors, but they came close. In 1946, Dad raised the house by three rows of blocks. The spring of 1947 was the worst and the water was just under the floor. That is when Dad bought some land north of Montevideo and we moved all of our buildings in June 1947. Us kids didn’t think we would like it out there as there wasn’t a tree around. Our mother brought some trees from the Minnesota River bottom and planted them. The neighbors didn’t think we would live long enough to see them grow, but the trees are still there. The people that purchased my folk’s property in 1997 had lived along the river and liked all the trees.
In the spring before the floods, we would all take a ride up to the Lac qui Parle Dam to see how much water was backed up and just when we could expect the flood at Monte. We usually got moved out before the water went over the road, but one of the last times we moved out the water came to fast that there was water over the road while hauling the cattle out. After the flood, there were large holes in the road from the current of the river washing over. They is why; don’t travel on roads with water over the road.
~ Beverly Waters Hunstad Jasper, MN
by Adam Christenson
The Mighty Minnesota In November of 1985, the city of Montevideo placed a Chevrolet Caprice Classic on the frozen river. They drove the vehicle onto the river and let it sit about 100 feet upstream from the dam. The purpose of the car was for Montevideo residents to bet on the date that they assumed it would fall through the ice. There was some type of money reward or something for the individual who got that date correct. I was four years old when I saw that old blue Chevy on the ice. My buddy “John Peet-o-son” lived in it. This was my first recollection of the Minnesota River. The river runs through the southwest corner of my hometown of Montevideo, Minnesota.
I remember the day when my father took me down to the river to see the old blue Chevy and, immediately when I laid eyes on that car, I knew that that was where my imaginary friend, John Peterson, hailed. I mentioned that to my father, and it was confirmed. “John Peet-o-son” lived in that vehicle. Every weekend thereafter I had my mother or father drive me down by the dam so I could wave at my friend. Months passed and on March 16, 1986, John Peterson drowned in the Minnesota River.
During the summer before my eighth grade year, I started getting back in touch with the Minnesota River. A couple of older friends of mine told me of a new sport that they had recently taken part in. They called the sport “bridge jumping”. Now, of course, being that I knew everything because I was going into the eighth grade and all, this was something that I just had to do. I rallied some friends together and set off for the river. The first bridge that we chose was the railroad bridge. This bridge sits about a quarter mile downstream from the dam where my friend passed away.
Four of us journeyed to the river that day. The entire bike ride down to the bridge was filled with stories on how great this was going to be and who was going to perform the coolest trick off of the bridge. When we reached our destination, we placed our bikes in the tall grass neighboring the river. We climbed up some rocks leading to the bridge. There was a strong odor that seemed to be coming from the bridge itself. The smell wasn’t anything like that of rotten fish or tar or iron from the rails but more on the lines of feces. It wasn’t enough to keep us from jumping, of course.
We all walked slowly to the center of the bridge and looked down upon the river below. There was a long moment of silence. All of us had our suits on already, we had all been bragging how good we were at flipping and spinning and yet no one jumped. Everyone backed away from the edge at about the same time. It was a feeling as if we had been had. There was no way that I was jumping off that thing. It had to be at least 1,000 feet high.
About an hour into our trip, still sitting at bridge center and as dry as the Sahara Desert, my crony, Chris, chose to do the impossible. Without any words or warning whatsoever, he jumped. He leaped right into the mighty river below. It was amazing. We all watched in awe as his head came up from underneath the water. After his death-defying feat, the rest of us weren’t nearly as frightened. We all took our turns jumping off the bridge for the remainder of that afternoon.
Later on that same summer, after many visits down to the bridge, we got to thinking that there had to be some other bridge in town that we could jump off of. Well, as it goes, there was another bridge but this one was no railroad bridge. It was a cage bridge and it sat about another quarter mile downstream from the railroad bridge.
On the way to the new hot spot, that grotesque smell of feces was starting to become more evident. We reached the bridge and could barely take a breath, yet none of use knew where the mysterious odor was approaching us from. Vehicles traveled across this bridge. It was a monster. This bridge sat at least 3,000 feet high. Although when I spit from the base of it, it only took my saliva seconds to reach the water, which really boggled my mind.
My friends and I decided that we were professional enough to climb the cage part and leap off from a higher point. Although this time we didn’t take turns. We all planned to jump at the same time, which was exactly what we did. It was great, for two of the four contestants that is. Unfortunately, the jump was not a good time for Chris or me.
First of all, when Chris jumped in, his big toe landed on a stick, which just happened to be passing by the time. He swam to shore and was bleeding profusely. We ended up flagging down a motorist and taking him to the hospital, where he received eight stitches and the reward of stupidity from the doctor.
Secondly, I happened to jump directly into a stream of sludge. This was apparently where that terrible odor had been coming from. Little did any of us know until that evening at the hospital that the city sewage plant lies adjacent to the river approximately 150 feet upstream! As it turned out, there is a water line that flows into the river which carries treated water from the sewage plant. That was the path that I took. Lucky me.
The final recollection that I have about the Minnesota River was one that occurred in April of 1997. It was a flood. Later to become known as “The Flood of `97”. Montevideo, as well as other surrounding cities, was hit pretty hard by this natural disaster. Many homes and businesses were destroyed, including the homes of three of my close friends. This surely is a year to remember. One I will not soon forget.
The snow fell quite plentiful that winter, as did the rain in the spring. When the two are put together in such great numbers as they were then, it doesn’t make for a very pleasant ending. I remember taking an entire week off of school that April and helping with sand bagging, food preparation and cleanup. I learned a lot about myself in that week. I felt that I touched the lives of many people, including my friends. This was a time when they really needed me.
Over six months had passed, cleanup was still being done and families were still without homes, including my three buddies and their families who had to live in an old hotel building for approximately seven months. Today, most of the flood plain area of Montevideo sits empty. All three of my friends relocated to a new development area in town along with the majority of the others. The state helped them with financing for new homes and their old homes were torn down by the city. I guess the term “The Mighty Mississippi” doesn’t really pertain to me that much but “The Mighty Minnesota” sure does and, if you could ask him, I am willing to bet that John Peterson would say the same thing.
~ Adam Christenson, Montevideo, MN
by Elwood Anderson
These are some of the things I remember and were told about the area and Minnesota River Valley.
I have lived close to the Lac qui Parle Dam and Minnesota River my whole life. My father’s family and relatives lived along the Lac qui Parle Lake. The old dam was north of the present one. Remnants can be seen of it when the lake is very low. My Dad and family farmed some of the land before it was flooded and it was very productive.
In 1938, the new dam was built. The government condemned some land of my grandparents and they were paid $25 per acre. Part of the work on the dam was done with hoes and scrapers. They had a WPA camp south of the new dam. There were about 90 men that stayed there plus other people that worked there. They had a single barrack type building to live in. Times were hard but it gave employment to many. They built the rip-rapping at the dam, state park, Watson Wayside Park and others. They didn’t get paid much, but were glad to have a job.
My Aunt and Uncle Amy and Geoff Churchill built a small restaurant on top of the hill from the dam. Later they build Churchill Pavilion where they had roller skating, dances, and a restaurant. A lot of good times were had there by the area people.
The Lac qui Parle Mission is just north of the dam. Each summer there is a special church service. There have been weddings held there. The hearth stone was originally at the Mission but for some reason it got moved to Nebraska. In later years, Amy and Geoff went to Nebraska to return it to the church.
Before 1938, when I was 10 years old, I remember 8-10 different bachelors that lived in the area of the dam. There was one family that came from Lima, Ohio. They didn’t get along very good so the husband lived in a 12 x 12 shack and his wife lived in a dugout in the riverbank. My Dad, sister and I would go visit them. Her dugout was neat. It was roughly 6 x 10 and had newspaper on the walls. The only window was an 8 x 10 window above the door.
Other bachelors raised garden vegetables and melons and some sold some. They lived off the land. One of the bachelors, Emil Anderson, no relative, would come up to my parents. My Mom would ask him to chop here an armful of wood and she would make him some lunch. He was always glad to do that. A special treat when she would ask Emil and his brother Axel to come up for milk mush.
Joe Chapman was another bachelor who talked very little about his past. He came from the Chicago area and people were concerned if he had been in trouble there. Alcohol seemed to be a problem for most of the bachelors. One night my parents came driving down the road and here was Joe lying in the road. When they asked him what happened, he said the road came up and hit him in the face. Joe died from a fire in his shack.
I saw the first deer in 1943 east of the Stay Bridge. The Montevideo American reported a deer on the Lee Wilkinson farm in 1939. During the 30’s it was reported they raised gardens in the Minnesota River bed south of Montevideo.
There was a Bushman Bridge about 800 feet north of the present Lac qui Parle Dam. I can remember that bridge. My Dad told of being able to see pike fish in 12 feet of water as it was so clear in the winter. Before the bridge was built there was a ferry to take people across the river and it was called the Bushman Ferry. There is a replica of this ferry at the Madison Historical Museum made by Jake Velleckson.
There were hobos that traveled on the trains. One morning a lady went out to feed the horses and while doing chores, found a hobo in the manager.
What a surprise!
In 1881, there was a severe winter and in the spring there was a big flood. Susan Velleckson told me the woods had been farmland and after the flood it washed in river sand and spoiled it for farming. During the winter there was an article about Dr. Limboe and he told of people living in dugouts and etc. that suffocated from all the snow as it was four feet on the level.
My Dad told of the friendly Indians coming thru the area. They were from Sisseton, South Dakota on their way to Redwood Falls area so they could be in the bottom land for winter. They would camp on the Hagen farm. It was cold fall m\weather and some had their feet only wrapped in cloth.
Gypsies used to come to the area also. Maybe that was in the 40’s. They camped by the Zempel Bridge about four miles west of Montevideo. There was to be a wedding and they had a sheep hanging in the tree for the celebration.
Several years ago, a canoe was found and dug out of the Minnesota River south of the dam. It’s on display at the Chippewa City Historical Society in Montevideo. Its been made out of a log.
~ Elwood Anderson, Montevideo, MN
by Valley Visitor
I came to the valley as a visitor, but feel that I have seen this many, many times in my dreams. The cottonwoods at Blakeley, hasn’t everyone been part of that twice? I’m told there is 50 some of these very majestic trees. If each had a story we would see a story of memories; of good, bad, easy, hard, love, and hate, as those memories hold all of these. Those trees, a spooky and serene feeling all in one, leading to the river of dreams, and dream I did thanks to these trees. I’m a visitor no longer, as they lead to the river of dreams.
by Lila Thomason
Sneaking home from the river during 1969’s flood. We crawled up the river bank and there stood Bud. His jaw was clenched tight as he slapped his large hands on one another. I looked at my sister and I said Oh Brother. You take the corn field, I’ll run the railroad track. I’ll buy some candy from Albrecht’s store and then start heading back. Staring out my window, so sure I would grow old. Grounded for two weeks because of the candy I stole.
by Lila Thomason
Growing up in Blakeley, I didn’t feel was me. Too small in a world with so much more to see. “Stay away from the road, don’t ride too far up the hill, don’t play in the corn fields, and don’t you sass.” But most of all the ten of us were told, “Stay away from that river or I’ll ……….!”
The forbidden river so close to home, forbidden to play near and forbidden to roam. How does a young mind tell it’s self not to stray to an incredible sight just two blocks away? So…we packed up our common sense, our respect, and our love for mom and dad. And we headed to the river what could be so bad? My brother jumped in to a creek-bed and wrestled a 34 pound catfish to shore, while my sister kissed under the bridge with a boy she swore she would always adore.
I felt a little odd, but not to be a bore, I said “OK, I’ll swim a while, but I’m staying close to shore.” The storm came up with a bang and a thunder, so loud and intense, I almost put my sister under. We climbed out of the river and shook off the cold, “wow what an adventure, mom and dad can never be told.” Mom knew what we were up to, on that very day. She said children did not look as we did, after a normal day at play. Dad heard about it from the angels on the day he passed away. They told him while he was at work, with his children they spent the day. So many memories, some chilling and some DEER, will leave with the Blakeley Bridge within the following year.
by Minnemishinona Falls
This 46-foot waterfall is located on the Nicollet County side of the Minnesota River Valley’s Alternate route between the small community of Judson and the City of North Mankato (approximately 2 miles from State Hwy. 14). The highway is #41 and there is a small timber bridge at the site. No close-in parking is available at this time; visiters to the falls do best by parking to the east of the falls and walking in. The falls and all the property around it are privately owned.
At this time the owner of the falls is interested in dividing it from his land parcel and selling it to a public entity. The Nicollet County Board has an appointed committee looking into what can be done. Funding is not available from the County and grants must be sought after. The tentative plan would be to acquire the falls, some additional property along the east side of the falls for an observation site, the property between the falls and the highway for access to the observation site; to construct parallel parking to the east of the falls together with a paved trail for access; and to construct fencing to limit access to the top of the falls, as well as, to private land below the bluff.
by Rebecca Jackson
As we were driving down the Minnesota River Valley Scenic Byway this summer, between the towns of Granite Falls and Monetevideo, I was sitting in the passenger seat admiring the view. I glanced over and the river and caught a Bald Eagle perched on log in the middle of the river, most likely looking for a meal. It was the most breathtaking view!
Big Swede, The
by V. C. Hedner
A fictional account of a Swedish immigrant who seems to be involved in all aspects of the state’s early history, including the U.S.-Dakota Conflict as it unfolds around New Ulm.
Blowing in the Wind
by Bernice M. Chappel
This little book, filed under the fiction -not history- secftion of the New Ulm library, is a great piece of fictional history. It is an account of two German emigrant families and their decision to settle near New Ulm in 1850. The story of their Atlantic crossing is excellent but graphic! The author’s choice of 1850 allowed her to show the development of the impact on settlers in Minnesota and the families’ experiences during the Dakota Conflict are well done and believable. This book is worthy of more notoriety and publicity.
Buffalo Bird Woman’s Garden
by Gilbert L. Wilson
The author of this book transcribes the words of this remarkable woman as she shares her horticultural secrets. Today’s gardeners can follow Buffalo Bird Woman’s advice to grow and eat traditional Hidatsa foods. The secrets and recipes that are shared throughout this book are a great help to todays gardener.
Charles E. Flandrau and the Defense of New Ulm
by edited by Russell W. Fridely, Leota M. Kellet and June D. Holmquist
A great, detailed 62 page book, full of obscure facts on the events directly in New Ulm.
Dakota Conflict, The
There is an excellent one-hour video available at the Brown County Museum and the library that offers an intelligent view of the fight from both sides with many historic photographs. It is a must for anyone interested in this subject!
Dakota War of 1862, The
by Kenneth Carley
The best narrative account of the war and surrounding time period!
Dakota War Whoop
by Harriet Bishop McConkey
Written right after the 1862 Conflict, she is quite derogatory to the Indian’s reasons and actions. However, she should be credited for a sense of immediacy and passion in her story. One must be careful to understand the author’s outrage when writing this. Several of her stories are exaggerated or half-truths, and would be discredited if written today. A good book to help understand what other white contemporaries must have felt.
Flash Point of Deceit
by Larry Stillwell
A new book that looks at the Dakota Conflict from the point of view of two Indians who helped out the white settlers. No startling new facts but a different viewpoint and an easy read.
German Pionner Accounts of the Great Sioux Uprising of 1862
by Don Heinrich Tolzmann
Tolzmann has found some first-hand accounts of experiences during the Indian War and has them reprinted. They make for very interesting reading and are quite compelling. He has a forward and afterward with his insightful thoughts on it. A great addition to our knowledge of this time!
God Seeker, The
by Sinclair Lewis
An interesting novel about a young missionary’s life on the Minnesota River 1848. While it doesn’t deal with New Ulm in particular, his insights into the Indian’s values and outlooks helps one understand the Uprising better, An easy read with romance, action and encounters with historical figures such as Joseph Brown. It is hard to find.
Granite Falls: 1879 – 1979
by Carl & Amy Narvestad
Grass Roots: the Universe of Home
by Paul Gruchow
The universe of home.
Held in Captivity
by Benedict Juni
This is a 23 page booklet that is Juni’s first-hand experience during the Sioux Uprising as a 17 year old boy. It is very gripping and lets one imagine how many other stories like his were normal during these battles.
Historical Notes: A Glimpse at New Ulm’s Past, Volumes 1 and 2
by edited by Elroy Ubl
A compilation of interesting events throughout the town’s history that ran in the newspaper in the 1970s. An easy and interesting read. (Vol. 1 is out of print)
History of Brown County, Volume 1 and 2, The
by Louis Fritsche
A super work of factual history and short biographies about the early settler families. A good tool for starting out one’s studies although hard to find.
History of the Minnesota River Valley and The Sioux Uprising of 1862, A
by Charles Barlett and Edward O Neill
A super resource for more serious students. It is definitely for the specialist in history but in addition to short pioneer biographies, it covers the region county by county.
History of Yellow Medicine County:1872-1972, A
by Amy & Carl Narvestad
by Daniel W. Homstad
A fictional account of the Dakota Conflict of 1862 written from the unusual viewpoint of a mixed-blood 16 year old. As Homstad says in his preface, the events and time-line are accurate except where the characters encounter the hero. The book is an easy read, offers a believable story line and brings in most of the major characters of the struggle.
Indian Revenge, The
by Alexander Berghold
This fascination account by Father Berghold, written shortly after the event, is a gripping account that tells the story in a time frame that was immediately after the fact. It is a good insight into 1860s thinking and is understanding of the Indian view.
Indian Tipi, its history, construction, and use, The
by Reginald and Gladys Laubin, with history from Stanley Vestal
This a book for every camper erstwhile Indian who wishes to pitch a fine tent. This excellent text, crowded with authentic tradition and practical information for guidance. This book is helpful and easy to understand.
Joseph R. Brown: Adventurer on the Minnesota Frontier:1820-1849
by Nancy & Robert Goodman
Kinsmen Of Another Kind
by Gary Clayton Anderson
A well researched narrative of the Dakota People’s history up until 1862 with interpretation of interethnic relations from the Dakota’s perspective.
Little Crow, Spokesman for the Sioux
by Gary Clayton Anderson
This is a compelling story well told which will not only appeal to a regional audience but catch the attention of those interested in good narrative history.
Minnesota in the Civil War: An Illustrated History
by Kenneth Carley
Newly updated with photographs and recent research, this book tells the story of Minnesota soldiers in the American Civil War – including the actions of the U.S.-Dakota Conflict of 1862.
Minnesota on My Mind
by Paul Gruchos
Things about Minnesota.
Minnesota’s Major Historic Sites: A Guide
by Jane Drenning Holmquist & Jean A. Brookins with the Minnesota Historical Society 1972
by William J. Ridley
A recent, fictional history that deals with an Irish immigrant family’s struggles as they settle outside New Ulm in 1860. Their mixed feelings about the struggles, the newness of the prairie life and their experience during the Dakota Conflict make for a relatable story. The final third of the book deals with a son’s time during the Civil War in a graphic but realistic manner. Conversations between the characters betrays the common man’s “take” on the then-current events. Accurate and readable.
New Ulm Area Defenders of August, 1962 / Dakota Indians and Pioneer Settlers
by edited by Elroy Ubl
A 54-page compilation of names, monuments and military lists. More for the specialist but a useful source of detail research
Over the Earth I Come: The Great Sioux Uprising of 1862
by Duane Schultz
Fictional history of the area and the 1862 US Dakota Conflict. A 2-3 day read because you can’t put it down!
Painting the Dakota: Seth Eastman at Fort Snelling
by Marybeth Lorbiecki
The author uses the paintings of Seth Eastman, a United States Army officer and artist, to present a picture of Dakota life in Minnesota in the early and mid-19th century.
by Melvin R. Gilmore
Prairie Smoke tells the traditional stories and describes the lifeways of some of the first peoples of the plains. Through these stories, we learn of the essential ties native peoples have to the land that gave them life.
by Frederick Manfred
A fictional history from the point of view of a captured white woman who comes to better understand the Indian’s viewpoints and situation. Graphic at times. It appears to be quite accurate and is an easy read. A nice counter to Nix’s book.
Sioux Uprising in Minnesota, 1862: Jacob Nix’s Eyewitness Account, The
by Jacob Nix
A first hand account of the battle written by the defacto commander of the citizen defenders. It brings you into the action in a memorable manner. It is published in German and English and offers a “not politically correct” view held by those who lived through it.
Sioux Uprising of 1862, The
by Kenneth Carley
The best narrative account of the war and surrounding time period.
Six Weeks in the Sioux Tepees
by Sarah F. Wakefield
This book is an account of the authors life. Intended for her children incase she died so they would know their history, the true statement of her captivity, her suffering and what was spared from her suffering. This is a very interesting book that is well written and should be read by all.
Soldier, Settler and Sioux; Fort Ridgely and the Minnesota River Valley, 1853-1867
by Paul N. Beck
Mr. Beck, who studied history at Mankato State and worked at the Harkin Store in the late 1970s, writes a very readable volume on the fort and its impact on the Minnesota River valley, and by extension, New Ulm. Despite having a cover that features Fort Ripley near Brainerd and a few small mistakes, his facts seem accurate. He does not spend too much time retelling tales already covered in other books but rather he stresses Ft. Ridgely’s role on the western frontier’s advance by whites and European immigrants.
The Gag Family: German-Bohemian Artists in America
by Julie LEnfant
A description of the three New Ulm based Gag artists: Father Anton, and daughters Wanda and Flavia.
Through Dakota Eyes: Narrative Accounts of the Minnesota Indian Wars of 1862
by Gary Clayton Anderson and Alan Woolworth
A great account of interviews of the actual participants in the war. A viewpoint primarily of the Dakota Indians. A refreshing change of outlook.
Treaty of Traverse des Sioux, The
by Thomas Hughes
A serious study of the treaty of 1851 that opened up the land in the southern 1/3 of Minnesota. This event was pivotal in the development of the situation that led to New Ulm’s founding and the pioneer-Indian struggles that resulted. It also covers early white intrusions into the area and their first settlements. A “must read” for any true student of New Ulm’s history. It is still the major work on this even and time frame. Hard to find.
What This Awl Means, Feminist Archaeology at a Wahpeton Dakota Village
by Janet D. Spector
This is the first book to show how feminist criticism and methods can be brought to the practice and writing of archaeology. Focusing on Little Rapids, a 19th century Eastern Dakota planting village, the author brings together information from archaeological, documentary, oral and pictorial sources to highlight the activities and accomplishments of Dakota women and to show the significance of gender in shaping history.
Audubon Nature Guide to Grasslands
by Lauren Brown
This is a unique guide to the plants and animals who live on the prairie.
Going Nature, A prairie restoration handbook for Minnesota landowners
by Minnesota DNR, Section of Ecological Services, Scientific and Natural Areas Program
This booklet is intended as a guide for Minnesota landowners interested in doing their own small planting on native prairie where there is none left. This publication provides the specific steps you will need to consider and follow.
Guide to Minnesota’s Scientific and Natural Areas, A
by Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, Section of Wildlife, Scientific and Natural Areas Program
This guide is organized around four major sections of the Minnesota landscape: Aspen Parkland, Prairie Grasslands, Deciduous Woods, and Coniferous Forest. This guide is very well put together, easy to understand, and very informational.
Journal of A Prairie Year, The
by Paul Gruchow
A journal during a prairie year.
McClane’s Field Guide to Freshwater Fishes of North America
by A. J. McClane
An identification guide with accurate, detailed drawing of fish found in the Minnesota River and all of North America.
Minnesota: Forgotten River, The
by Evan Jones
A narrative of the history of the Minnesota River and its people.
Minnesota State Parks, Jr. Park Naturalists
by Minnesota State Parks
This book is targeted to kids 7 through 14 who are interested in earning their Advanced Junior Park Naturalist patch and gold seal. Kids will have fun and learn with this book.
Necessity of Empty Places, The
by Paul Gruchow
Restoring the Tallgrass Prairie, An Illustrated Manual for Iowa and the Upper Midwest
by Shirley Shirley
This book is the ideal book for anyone thinking about developing a home prairie. This book compiles many old and new sources of information into a single volume and will be an invaluable future reference.
Roadside Plants and Flowers
by Mirian S. Edsall
A traveler’s guide to the midwest and great lakes area.
Sand County Almanac, with other essays on conservation from Round River, A
by Aldo Leopold
Tallgrass Prairie Wildflowers, A Nature Conservancy Book, A Falcon Field Guide
by Doug Ladd
This book is the ultimate field guide to wildflowers of the midwest tallgrass prairie. This guide enables you to identify hundreds of talgrass prairie plants.
Where The Sky Began: Land of the Tallgrass Prairie
by John Madson
Wildflowers and Weeds
by Zimmerman and Courtney
Wildflowers and weeds in MN.
Wildflowers, Grasses and Other Plants of the Northern Plains and Black Hills
by Theodore Van Bruggen, Biology Department, University of South Dakota
This book was published for those of who want to know more about wildflowers, grasses, and other plants. It is very informational and has great colored pictures of the flowers and grasses. It is a great book for anyone wanting to learn more about the beautiful flowers in the Northern Plains and the Black Hills.
Beyond the Ridge
by Paul Goble
A wholly original picture book. The concept of a long climb of someone who is dying. Taking a seemingly long, and endless journey up a distant ridge. The view will simply take your breath away.
Bluestem Horizon, A Story of a Tallgrass Prairie
by Evelyn Lee
This book is dedicated to teaching children about the preservation of plants, animals, and natural communities. Inside this book is an exciting habitat to explore, and a whole new way of looking at it- through the eyes of the animals that live there.
Brother Eagle, Sister Sky
by Chief Seattle
All races- the red, black, yellow, and the white- were once believers in the beauty of the world. Brother Eagle, Sister Sky brings to mind the possibility of a world that once was paradise.
by Kim Doner
When a white buffalo is born in Sarah Bearpaw’s community her family decides to make the journey to deliver gifts to the magical calf. Though not without some danger their journey is successful. Sarah is led to a special understanding of the best part of herself.
Heetunka’s Harvest, A Tale of the Plains Indians
by Jennifer Berry Jones
Heetunka is the Bean Mouse who gathers beans every autumn, the women from the tipi encampment come to trade their suet or dried corn. One day a woman decides to leave nothing in return for the mouse, and the spirits start to get angry. When the woman ignores their warnings she learns a hard lesson about greed, and her tipi is the only one destroyed by a prairie fire.
Moonstick, The Seasons of the Sioux
by Eve Bunting
Expertly and beautifully told story about a young boy helping his father cut a moon-counting stick. With each rise of a new moon a notch is put in the stick. The young boy experiences, and learns the changes of the seasons and the changes that are to come.
People of the Buffalo, How the Plains Indians Lived
by Maria Campbell
This book with its authenticated drawings, tells how the Plains Indians lived: how they hunted buffalo, and made their tepees, clothing and tools. It also explains their beliefs, ceremonies and feeling for family life.
There Still Are Buffalo
by Ann Nolan Clark
This book is by an experienced author who knows her information very well. The wonderful illustrations helped to top off this wonderful book.
Welcome to Kirsten’s World – 1854: Growing Up in Pioneer America
by the American Girls Collection
One of the latest publications in the American Girls Collection of historical fiction, this book has a great deal of information on Dakota culture and a chapter devoted to the U.S.-Dakota Conflict — all written for children.
Where The Buffalos Begin
by Olaf Baker
Magnificent full, and double-page pencil drawings capture the immensity of the prairie and the mighty strength of the awesome beasts. This book provides spectacular pencil drawn scenes, as well as a great story.