Page 1


Scriver Scribbler

Fall 2008




A quarterly publication of the Northfield Historical Society 408 Division Street • Northfield, MN 55057 • 507/645-9268

1918 Spanish Influenza Epidemic Impacts Northfield By Dr. Alison M. Hanson, St. Olaf College Editor’s note: This fall marks the 90th anniversary of the “Spanish” Influenza epidemic of 1918. Devastating in scope, nearly everyone could cite a family member affected by the virus. The following article is condensed; the full article with citations may be found online at: Until quite recently the “Spanish” influenza epidemic of 1918 was hardly mentioned by historians even though it was a catastrophic pandemic that killed an estimated 21 to 40 million people worldwide and 670,000 people in the United States. In only a few months almost one half of the world’s population had influenza. Minnesota lost approximately 10,000 people to the disease. The onset of influenza was sudden and severe, usually with high fever (104-105 degrees), headaches and pains in the joints, massive nosebleeds, and possible delirium. The disease progressed at stunning speed and could lead to death within days. Unlike past flus, it targeted pregnant women and young, healthy men (aged 20-35 years). Unaware of its viral cause, baffled doctors were powerless to cure or prevent the disease, although they tried various serums. In August 1918, while the virulent, new influenza strain entered Boston, Northfielders worried about the delay of the harvest due to recent heavy rains. The public schools prepared for a Sept. 2 opening for 939 students and 35 teachers. That summer accommodations for a military Student Army Training Corps (SATC) had been set up at Carleton and St. Olaf to open on Oct 1. SATC men were expected to learn military discipline and drill, while also taking military and academic classes. Local political and public health officials were confident that the epidemic was contained, for in early October the Rice County Fair was allowed to open. On Oct. 3, Northfield’s Grand Theater held its first Liberty Chorus, where the audience sang national songs and then heard a speech to “Keep the Home Fires Burning.” Devised by the Federal Public Safety Commission, such meetings were organized by

St. Olaf students avoiding the flu bug. Photo courtesy St. Olaf College

state directors (Leopold Breunner for Minnesota) who then appointed local people in every town to lead public singing of patriotic songs in order to build morale.

Influenza continued on page 4

Inside this issue… From the Director ...................................................Page 2 Message from the President....................................Page 3 New and Renewing Members.................................Page 3 Profile: Charles Wheaton ........................................Page 5 2008 Event Pictures .................................................Page 7 Historical Society Event Calendar..........................Page 8





SCRIVER SCRIBBLER A quarterly publication of the Northfield Historical Society Mission Statement To serve as the primary stewards of the unique history of the Northfield area, fostering an awareness of its meaning and relevance through the discovery, documentation, preservation and interpretation of our collective stories. Vision Statement To achieve a fiscally sound organization driven by a large, diverse and engaged membership, innovative educational exhibits and programming and a successful presences downtown and throughout the Northfield area. Editors: Jeff Sauve Evelyn Hoover Writers: Dr. Alison Hanson Hayes Scriven Northfield Historical Society Board of Directors Gail Jones Hansen, President Deanna Kuennen, Vice President Jodi Lawson, Vice President Chuck Sandstrom, Treasurer Debby Larsen, Secretary Chip DeMann Carol Donelan Adriana Estill Dan Freeman Jeff Johnson Dan Jorgensen Michelle Millenacker Heather Scott Lora Steil Earl Weinmann Hayes Scriven, Executive Director Northfield Historical Society 408 Division Street Northfield, MN 55057 507-645-9268

Production and Printing By All Means Graphics 17 Bridge Square, Northfield 507-663-7937

From the Director… The leaves are falling; the air is getting chilly; and things are starting to settle down a bit at Northfield Historical Society (NHS)! I want to start this letter by thanking all of the volunteers that helped with NHS activities this past summer. You all did a great job and the NHS staff, board and I are thankful for your commitment to the organization. The 60th anniversary of Defeat of Jesse James Days (DJJD) Hayes Scriven was a great success! NHS saw huge numbers tour the museum and buy from our Museum Store. In fact, this was the third year in a row store sales have increased during DJJD! Thanks to the Museum Store Committee members for their hard work: Nola Matheson, Julie Jenkinson, Sue Scriven, Jerry Bilek, Jerry and Nicole Maloney, and Gloria Powell. Committee members put many hours into getting the store ready for DJJD and continue to grow the store into a successful operation. Betty Barr, great granddaughter of Jesse James, visited Northfield during DJJD. She was a great sport–signing autographs, talking to school kids and waving to people in the parade. I know Betty had a wonderful time and we really enjoyed having her here. We hope that she will come back to Northfield in the future. After DJJD, NHS hosted the fourth-annual Cemetery Stories on Oct 10. Close to 400 people attended again this year! Everyone did a fantastic job! Special thanks to those who assisted in character research. The event continues to grow and is quickly becoming a community favorite. If you are interested in helping out next year, please let me know. I would like to also thank all of the Junior Curators, Summer Assistants and Posse members that volunteered over the summer. It is because of all you that NHS is a special place to visit in the summer months! Previously in this column, I wrote that many people had mentioned that there is a new aura around NHS and this continues to hold true. NHS staff, volunteers and board of directors are brimming with energy and enthusiasm. This has carried over to new mission and vision statements. NHS also recently adopted a new logo, which can be seen on the next page in our President’s report. Looking forward, NHS Annual Meeting Gala is slated for March 21 at Carleton College’s Great Hall. In the near future the Northfield History Collaborative pilot website will be unveiled to determine the site’s usability. It will also gather feedback on this great project. As always, I look forward to hearing from you. Stop in, send an e-mail or give me a call and let me know how you think NHS is doing. Cheers!

Hayes Scriven Executive Director

“...many people had mentioned that there is a new aura around NHS and this continues to hold true.” 2


Fall 2008

Message from the President… organization a “brand,” keep in mind that a brand essentially means a relationship between an organization and its market. People identify with what a brand represents. If it’s an effective brand, it becomes part of who they are, and if it’s a good product, it delivers on the promise of the brand. Our history is our “product,” and as my grandfather would say, we have a humdinger. The promise of the NHS brand is stated in our vision: “To achieve a fiscally sound organization driven by a large, diverse and engaged membership, innovative educational exhibits and programming, and a successful presence downtown and throughout the Northfield area.” We therefore wanted our logo to appear progressive and forward-looking, while conveying an impression of permanence and tradition. If possible, we wanted it to evoke a river–appropriate for a town whose original industry depended upon the Cannon for commerce. Thanks to the talents of Amy Acheson of Acheson Creative, we now have a winner. Among many intriguing options, this one was chosen by nearly unanimous vote. We like the straightforward “N” crossed by the sensuous winding of the crossbar, which forms the “H” in “Historical” and subtly symbolizes our river. We hope that you, too, like our new look. As Alice would attest, change is never easy. Our goal is to conserve what works for us while moving forward with the times. We invite your comments!

When in the course of her wanderings Alice in Wonderland encounters a hookah-smoking Caterpillar, he opens their conversation with the disconcerting query: “Who are you?” While this is a tough question for anyone, it particularly confounds Alice, who had changed Gail Jones Hansen NHS Board President sizes several times that day already. It’s not easy to re-examine one’s identity in light of a rapidly changing environment. Nonprofit organizations face the same shifting social, economic and political climate as their corporate counterparts. The Northfield Historical Society’s (NHS) answer to “Who are you?” amounts to an articulation of our brand, how we define ourselves in an increasingly diverse world. A brand is many things: an organization’s reputation, consistency, personality, slogan, and logo. While a logo is not a brand any more than the word “rose” is an actual rose, a logo does convey meaning–ideally, the meaning that the organization intends consumers to invest in it. Last year as part of a long range planning exercise, board members decided that we should explore the creation of a logo that more accurately reflected today’s NHS brand. If you shudder at the thought of slick marketing types labeling our dignified historical

Thank You to our New and Renewing Members! Join them today! Welcome to our new members, and a big thank you to our old friends for renewing their NHS memberships! Should you wish to make an additional donation, please consider upgrading your membership. If you have any questions about your membership status, or to notify us of changes in your address or contact information, please call the NHS at 507-645-9268. Helen Albers Robert and Teresa Ballentine Ida Bickel Bernard and Linda Borene Georgia Braulick Arthur and Georgiana Campbell Wayne Carver Laurence and Nordis Christenson

Iva Dodson Carol Donelan Mary Erickson Gene Finger Joy Ganyo Ron and Becky Gardner Terry and Norma Gilbertson Mark Gleason Jessica Green Alice Hanson

Carol Hubbard Gary and Andrea Iseminger William and Jennifer Cox Johnson Mildred Johnson Daniel and Susan Jorgensen Kathy Lockner Bruce and Audrey Moe Katharine Peterson Paul and Deaun Peterson


Pete Peterson Chuck Sandstrom and Dianne Kelly Julia Savina Mary Titus Bernice Van Nostrand Marguerite and Theodore Vessey Companies Premier Bank


Fall 2008

Influenza continued from page 1 The Oct. 11 Northfield News reported flu cases already in Kenyon and disease-related deaths in Castle Rock, but tried to avoid panic by saying that “there was no reason to fear.” H.M.Bracken, Public Health Chief in Minnesota, reported to Washington on Oct. 10, that (among other towns listed) Kenyon and vicinity had 60 influenza cases. Northfield mobilized. Its health officer Dr. J.G. Phillips, together with representatives from both colleges, Mayor A.O. Netland and members of the City Council, acted quickly. Carleton and St. Olaf quarantined themselves voluntarily. Phillips required all new cases of influenza to be reported to him and that quarantine cards be placed in the windows of victims’ homes. The City Council voted to close the city theaters, to discourage all public gathering and to confer about if and when to close public schools. Castle Rock had already closed its schools and Dundas postponed a dance. Advertisements hawked preventative pills and creams. Dundas and Stanton public schools closed. By Oct. 25, Mayor Netland and the City Council closed Northfield’s community clubs and pool halls. Religious services were held only at the discretion of church officials. The Northfield News included special bulletins to convey its best advice against the flu, “to keep well, keep clean.” In contrast, the epidemic had waned enough in Castle Rock to warrant the reopening of the public schools after two weeks of quarantine closure. Presidents Donald J. Cowling of Carleton College and Lars W. Boe of St. Olaf College were both wary. By mid October the colleges voluntarily were quarantined allowing no trips into town or visitors onto campus. At St. Olaf separate chapel services were held on Sunday. The Carletonian urged caution even though the student body had so far escaped influenza. Ending with a usual list of precautions, including covering sneezes, washing hands, avoiding crowds and damp clothing, the student writer appealed to his colleagues, “Shall we as individuals, risk our lives and the lives of those around us, thru carelessness or thoughtlessness when our authorities have thus far kept us safe?” The Armistice on Nov. 11 marked the end of the war! Spontaneous, jubilant crowds filled streets all over the country. In Minneapolis and St. Paul a din of car horns, factory whistles and church bells continued for hours. Among the innumerable religious services of thanksgiving that occurred that day, St. Olaf’s informal, outdoor gathering was not unusual except that someone in that

group carried the influenza virus. The next day St. Olaf men in the SATC came down with the flu. Carleton officials immediately cancelled an upcoming football game with Hamlin and the first recital in its concert series. By Nov. 14 Carleton reported 40 cases of flu among its men, St. Olaf had 29 cases, and Northfield residents had 41–a total of 110 cases of flu. The epidemic began in earnest. During the next few weeks in Northfield, many worked to deal with the sick. Superintendent M.P. Forbes, chair of the local Red Cross Committee, organized the towns’ nursing staffs, among which 20 public school teachers served. The Red Cross gave out gauze masks and members of its Auxiliary left fruit and food baskets on the doorsteps of quarantined houses. St. Olaf suspended all classes in view of the 90 new cases of influenza in a week. College buildings were converted into temporary infirmaries in order to tend and isolate the sick. Between Nov. 21 and 26, four freshman Oles died. At Carleton classes continued but men were not allowed to mingle with coeds. Wearing masks was officially compulsory at both colleges. By Nov. 29 the influenza situation was deemed “improved.” Carleton marked its eighth week of quarantine and canceled the rest of its Concert Course. Thanksgiving passed quietly. Northfield officials considered lifting restrictions imposed during the height of the epidemic, announcing it would blow a town whistle at 4 p.m. on Saturday if they did–the signal never sounded. Early December brought Northfield a respite. Modified quarantine restrictions allowed for early Christmas shopping. The Public Library was open to exchange books 4


Fall 2008

(although not its Reading Room). Small prayer gatherings were allowed at churches, but Sunday School was not. Pool halls remained closed. Rice County school officials fretted about how to make up the lost class time and how it would affect teachers’ pay. Baptists felt confident enough about their safety from flu to hold their previously postponed State Convention in town, but not to serve the traditional lunch. On Dec. 3, 36 Carleton men were still recovering in the hospital from the flu, but no coeds had gotten ill. At St. Olaf when six women came down with the disease, college President Boe terminated the semester early (Dec. 7) to avoid a second wave of influenza. On Dec. 13 the Northfield News reported that deaths from influenza were four times greater than those in the recent war. By Dec. 24, the SATC companies in Northfield were demobilized and the barracks and mess halls again became dormitories and dining halls. By Jan. 1, 1919, Dr. Phillips lifted most of the flu restrictions in Northfield. Public schools (those in Millersberg and Little Chicago a week later) and both colleges reopened. Reports of new cases of influenza and related deaths continued to come in from Stanton, Randolph, and Waterford, but the worst seemed to be over.

Through February and March, 1919 newspapers confirm the passing of the epidemic. Obituary notices increasingly do not cite cause of death, and the advertisements for flu remedies eventually disappear. On March 14, the Northfield News related its statistics about influenza in Minnesota. Among the more than 125,000 cases in the state during the months October-December, 1918, the death rate was the largest in history. The death count: October 1918.............2,088 November 1918.........3,193 December 1918 .........1,995 Total..........................7,276 Once duly reported, the influenza epidemic was rarely mentioned again in local public journals and the many vivid experiences of it lived on only in memory and photographs. Indeed most writers from that time conveyed relief that the terrible epidemic was over and they preferred to look optimistically to the future. Dr. Alison Hanson serves as a professor of music and music history at St. Olaf College.

Profile: Businessman, Early Newspaper Editor Charles A. Wheaton

invested in the Blue Ridge Mountain Railroad in South Carolina only to lose nearly everything in the ill-fated project. During the 1850s, the Wheatons were most known for their anti-slavery involvement including the use of their house as a stop on the Underground Railroad. When asked about Wheaton’s job, one of his servants stated, “I’m not sure, but I think he is the President of the Underground Railroad!” This is echoed in the diary of his wife, Ellen, when they were warned that their house might be mobbed: “Charles went to work and deliberately prepared his weapons. I tremble and fear for my husband, whose ardent, fearless temper I know so well.” Misfortune continued as Ellen died suddenly on Dec. 17, 1858. According to a recent article published in the Syracuse The Post-Standard (2002):

By Hayes Scriven Editor’s note: Few in Northfield know the story of Charles Wheaton, pioneer newspaperman and friend of city founder, John W. North. Hayes Scriven’s portrait touches on the legacy of a man credited as having “rescued” the fledgling community of Northfield from financial ruin. Charles Augstus Wheaton was born in 1809 near Amenia, N.Y. His parents soon moved to Pompey Hill, N.Y., where Charles attended Pompey Academy. At the age of 25, while working as a hardware store clerk, Wheaton married his first wife, Ellen Douglas Birdseye, a neighbor. Blessed with 12 children, the Wheatons also prospered in business in Pompey and later in Syracuse where he built the $100,000 Wheaton Block. Unfortunately within a short time the magnificent building burned down. Wheaton’s misfortunes continued when he heavily

Charles woke during the night to discover his wife having a seizure. She never regained consciousness. Doctors called to the house said Ellen suffered “a rush of blood upon the heart and consequent Venus congestions of the brain.”

Wheaton continued on page 6 5


Fall 2008

Wheaton continued from page 6

follow the capture of the Younger brothers in the following months, chronicling the posse reports Early Northfield Days and also criticizing the St. Paul papers for their Faced with Ellen’s sudden death and his lack of coverage of the event and even calling recent financial troubles, Wheaton did not out the city of St. Paul for comments that know what to do. So he took the advice were made regarding that the Younger offered by friends, John and Ann North, brothers should be held in St. Paul for trial and moved from New York to Northfield instead of Faribault. in 1860. A year prior, Wheaton had Wheaton particularly enjoyed critiquing purchased all of the North’s assets; local church sermons in his newspaper rescuing him from financial ruin and in column. For nearly a decade he commented essence saving the emerging community nearly weekly—no one was safe from his of Northfield, which North founded. scrutinizing typesetter. Here are two excerpts Wheaton’s Minnesota business career from his review a Free Methodist Camp started in 1860 when he owned and managed sermon (published July 3, 1879): North’s former grist and flour mill. Wheaton enlarged the flour mill by adding another run of Ellen Birdseye Wheaton, stones and continued to produce custom flour We got there before preaching time, but the time was about 1851. under the name, “Choice Family Flour!” He later occupied in praying and singing as a useful preliminary sold the flour mill to Jesse Ames and Sons who to preaching. The meeting tent is a large one, and further enlarged the mill and were able to produce 75 barrels comfortable seated for all such as are endowed with a good of flour a day. Ames later built the new flour mill on the west spinal column. By this remark we mean, the seats were not side of the Cannon River. The mill, now owned by the Maltupholstered, nor had they any back supports. In short the O-Meal Cereal Company, still stands today. seats were undressed plank, soft side up... A year after coming to Northfield, Wheaton married We had a good seat next to Mike Swerdfiger, and we Martha Archibald, of the Archibald milling family from mingled our voices in song with the rest of them. Mind you, Dundas. Their first house was the entire second floor of the the Free Methodists don’t sing any of your new fangled songs, American House; a hotel built by John W. North, which nor do they tolerate “whistle boxes,” or box whistles as ironically never housed any guests. Martha and Charles had brother Cusick called them. We suppose he meant organs. five children. In 1866 Wheaton and Charles Goodsell, a local The human voice unaided by any gimcrack instrument is merchant, pledged land to what would become Carleton what (and all) they want to praise the Lord with. College and the American House was its first building. By 1868 Wheaton built a mansion at 405 Washington St. Wheaton’s Death Wheaton passed away in March 1882 at the age of 72. On As a Newspaper Editor March 17, the day of his funeral, all of the banks and many In 1872 Wheaton took over the Northfield Standard, businesses in Northfield were closed out of respect for their which later became the Rice County Journal, now the editor and friend. His obituary stated, “His influence was Northfield News. The Rice County Journal was an eightalways thrown in favor of temperance and those measures column paper, which Wheaton edited with the same flair which tended to the moral and material welfare of the and passion that he lived his life. With the attempted bank community.” In a tribute John W. North wrote, “Our raid by the James-Younger Gang in friendship was such that we could differ in opinion, on any 1876, Wheaton was thrust into the subject, and still be friends.” Martha Wheaton would outlive national spotlight for his writeCharles by 30 years; passing away in 1912. ups of the event. Wheaton also broke typical newspaper Work Cited standards and published the Dalby Database, in Obituaries, search for Charles Wheaton, attempted raid on the front accessed page, which was usually June 16, 2007 reserved for national stories. Franklyn Curtiss-Wedge et al., History of Rice and Steele Counties In addition, he continued Minnesota (Chicago: H.C. Cooper, Jr., & Co., 1910). 541 his story on the raid onto the John W. North, “Letter from Mr. North,” The Rice County second and third page of the Journal, 15 June 1882, 3 paper, which was not standard Robert Warn, “Anti-slavery leader shaped early Northfield,” practice then. He continued to The Golden Nugget, 5 April 1972, 7-8 Charles A. Wheaton, about 1860.



Fall 2008

➀ Wood burning during ArtSwirl ➁ Bank raid during DJJD ➂ State sesquicentennial banner in Northfield ➃ HARVEST sculpture dedication ➄ Betty Barr reception during DJJD ➅ Cemetery Stories ➆ Northfield Historical Society’s Masquerade


Calendar of Events Dec. 4th–Winter Walk Visit the Northfield Historical Society during Winter Walk. Come down for great deals and some of Gloria’s famous cookies and cider. March 21st, 2009–Annual Meeting Great Hall, Carleton College

For the most up-to-date information on the NHS visit

Check out our oral histories online at online-oral-histories

Have you renewed your membership? Call 645-9268 today to renew your membership or join the Northfield Historical Society! Non-Profit Organization U.S. Postage



S 408 Division Street Northfield, MN 55057

PAID Standard A Permit No. 166 Northfield, MN 55057

The Scriver Scribbler Fall 2008  

The Scriver Scribbler Fall 2008

The Scriver Scribbler Fall 2008  

The Scriver Scribbler Fall 2008