Saturday, December 11, 2010



Mark Cane First Black Barber In Sleepy Eye



Old-Timers used to reminisce about the black slave who became a barber in Sleepy Eye and New Ulm, Mark Cane.

Mark Cane enjoyed telling about the time that Abraham Lincoln visited a slave market in Alabama when he was campaigning for the Presidency.  One of the slaves with whom he spoke  to was a teenage boy  who never forgot him.  It was the high point in young Mark Cane’s life and he always had a picture of Abraham Lincoln in his shop.  When Mark Cane left Sleepy Eye he went west until he reached the coast.

The Sleepy Eye Herald Dispatch wrote an article in their paper around the time Mark Cane left Sleepy Eye, they wrote the following article on him;

Mark Cane, your old reliable barber, has decided to dispose of his property in Sleepy Eye and move to another part of the country more agreeable to the health of his wife.  For a long time his wife has been very near an invalid and by the advice of physicians he will have to go to a warmer climate.  He therefore offers his residence with the lot and his household furniture for sale.  His brother shop and business will also be sold.  Mr. Cane has been a resident of Sleepy Eye for over 20 years, coming here in February 1879, and with the  exception of a few months conducted a barber shop.

Since 1865 he has been a resident of this state, residing at Rochester that year, afterwards moving to New Ulm in 1871.  Up to 1865 Mr. Cane has quite an eventful history.  He was born in Prairie County, South Carolina, on February 10th, 1840.  His master’s name was John D. Williams.  As a young man he was sold to a southern planter and was engaged in making breastworks (barrier for defense) at Mobile, Alabama, in 1865 when the rebels surrendered to the Northern troops.
Among short items one year was the note that Mark Cane had bought a third barber chair because his son was coming here to Sleepy Eye.  The son had a wife and three children.  No further notice was found.

Another story tells of Mark Cane being friendly with Northern soldiers and being brought by them to Minnesota when they returned to Fort Snelling to be mustered (inspected) out.

* * *
The Census of 1880 states that Mark Cane was 37 years old, he was a barber, his wife was Eliza 55, he had a son James age 22 who was also a barber.

Records indicated that Mark Cane was in Sleepy Eye from 1879 - 1892 but how much earlier or later is uncertain unless one takes a great deal of time searching old newspapers.  A church cookbook published in 1892 has his advertisement in it.  A member of the Cane family is buried in Home Cemetery.

When the Zechetzeches owned a bakery on the north side of the rail road tracks, Mrs. Zecketzech needed surgery on her eyes but the family could not afford it at the time.  Mark Cane collected enough money, $45.00, around town to make the operation possible.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Trains, Blizzards, and Photographs






When the United States Weather Service predicts a blizzard they are calling for a storm that will have winds reaching more then 35 miles an hour and visibility of 500 feet or less.  If they call for a severe blizzard, that storm will have winds exceeding 45 miles an hour with temperatures dropping to 10 degrees F or lower.  With this kind of storm trains are unable to move, powerlines and telephones lines snap.  Welcome to Minnesota.
            Frank Scobie, as many may remember was one of Sleepy Eye’s most prominent photographers of the day and had taken quite a few photos of the Sleepy Eye’s 1909 blizzard. The storm reeked so much havoc, that the major Railroad in the area, the Chicago North Western, needed help moving the huge drifts of snow that had accumulated on the tracks.  Fortunately, the Railroad’s answer to combating heavy snowfall was nearby.  The “Roger Ballast bucking snow-plow” was enlisted for duty.  This plow was weighted by a load of stone to give it force.  Back in the early 1900s, Minnesota winters received a lot more snow than today.  In fact, in 1909 this blizzard was so bad the railroad had to call in for an extra implement.  It was the “Rotary Plow,” this chewed up the really heavy drifts the blizzard created. The Rotary Plow was not self-propelled, so one or more locomotives were connected behind to push the Rotary along the line. An engine within the Rotary rotated this large circular assembly at the front of the Plow. The blades on this wheel would cut through the snow and forced it through a channel just behind the disk to an output chute located at the top of the blade structure.  This massive machine is an expensive machine to operate but one worth having for blizzards such as the 1909 blizzard that Sleepy Eye endured.
            The blizzard of 1909 created a lot of excitement for many and apprehension for others.  During this famous storm, Scobie was keeping himself busy redeveloping his pictures he had taken of the two large machines and of the CNW railroad workers shoveling the tons of snow off the railroad tracks.  Much like how we use email to communicate today, people in 1909 had their own unique form of communicate.  Back then, 5 cent Postcards were the rage.  It seemed like everyone wanted a 5 cent postcard.  Local folks wanted cards for themselves plus another to send off to show what we had going on here in Sleepy Eye.  Those who had been stranded also wanted postcards to take home along with mailing them off.  In fact, more than 677 million postcards were mailed off in 1908; though it wasn’t till 1908 that people were permitted to write on the address side of a postcard.
            Since the trains were blocked many passengers were forced to stay at hotels in Sleepy Eye, which at the time there were many different hotels to choose from.  During the late 1800s the Historical Society’s record reveal they were; The Exchange Hotel, The Lake House, Minnesota House, Leona Hotel which in 1946 became the DelRoy which is now the Railway Bar & Grill owned by Dan Helget, then we have the Commercial Hotel which in 1898 becomes the Smalley Hotel, we also have the Windsor Hotel, another one would be the Loreno House and the Berg Hotel.  The Historical Society’s records don’t reveal to us when these hotels were no longer operating.  As you can tell Sleepy Eye at its prime was not short on sleeping quarters.  At the time, the Chicago Northwestern Railroad owners would pay for the lodging of those who were stranded as well as paying for their meals while staying in Sleepy Eye until the line was cleared and opened.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Supply of Ford Cars


Here's a picture of a "Supply of Ford cars at Wooldrk Garage", here in Sleepy Eye...
These Models were the grand of their time.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Berkner Brothers Baseball Team



Baseball was a very popular sport in Sleepy Eye.   There were two baseball teams in town during the summer of 1909.  The "Town Team" was managed by Jack Grimes, while Ed and Alfred Berkner sponsored the "Berkner Brothers," team under the management of Owen Sullivan and Clarence Herbert.
Sleepy Eye had quite a reputation for baseball in those days; as many as seven to eight players on the "Town Team" were salaried men.  They were picked up from Springfield, St. Peter, Waseca, the Cities, and other places.  The Hughes brothers, Mike and Tome, of St. Peter, made up the battery.
The Berkner team, was made up of practically all home town players and in the picture above are left to right, front row are George Helget, right field and Pete Fischer, third base.  Second row; Al "Cossy" Kent, first base; Barley Thorson, catcher; Roy Bzoskie, pitcher; Richard Blake, centerfield and Nick Eischen, shortstop.  Third row: Ed Berkner, one of the owners; Ted Fisher, left-field, Clarence Herbert, manager, Ed Berkner, one of the owners, Alfred Berkner, co-owner, Owen Sullivan, manager, Luke Schmidt, as utility.
Before signing up on the Berkner Brothers team Peter Fisher was the star third basemen on the "Town Team" and was considered one of the best players for that position in this part of the state.  Managers of nearby teams used to call on him occasionally to bolster up their team.
The baseball diamond for the Berkner Brothers ball team was located at the east edge of the city on land owned by the Peter Christensen family.  A small grandstand for the convenience of patrons was erected by the Berkner Brother at the beginning of the baseball season.
Luke Schmidt got his baseball start while still in high school at which time he served as catcher on the team.  He spent 10 or more years in the game and most always played the backstop position.  Other catchers of that time were John Hertz and Ex-sheriff John Reitter.  Mike Fohl (Al's brother), Roy Bzoski were the pitchers.
Springfield seemed to be the hardest team to beat every year.  There were generally pitted against Sleepy Eye on the Fourth of July in the "Game of the Year", however they would usually walk off with the bacon quite regularly.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Sleepy Eye's First Female Doctor


One of the first female doctors in Sleepy Eye was a frontier woman named Mary Ranson Strickler. Mary was the daughter of a doctor, though she was not encouraged to study medicine, "there was no calling for a woman" according to her father, Dr. Stephen William Ranson. Mary was born on May 25th, 1873 to Mary (Foster) Ranson and Dr. Stephen William Ranson, at Dodge Center, Minnesota. Both parents were of English heritage.

Mary had graduated in 1894 from Hamline University, from there she taught in Marshall, Minnesota. She was praised highly by the superintendent for her geometry class, though she was unhappy as a teacher and did not return to Marshall after their Thanksgiving break.

Mary's father had said to Mary un-approvingly that if she were to quit this job she would have to be very ill in order to do so, she should at least have to finish out the rest of the year. Mary had said, "I will just have to get sick then". Her father said it would have to be something very serious. Mary was quite convincing when she set her mind to something. Mary convinced her father to write to the school board that she had come down with none other than a bad case if typhoid which would make it impossible for Mary to continue to teach that year.

Once again in 1895 Mary attempted the teaching profession at St. Paul for a third grade class at the Hancock School District. However, tried and true unhappiness settled in again. Mary's sister Carrie could see how unhappy she was so she offered to pay the expenses of a medical education. Mary at once registered at the medical school in Minneapolis. However, there was still one problem, Dr. Ranson, or rather “father”. But instead of being angry about the situation Mary's father agreed to allow Mary to attend medical school if Carrie, Mary’s sister, would pay the expenses for room and board, and allow Dr. Ranson to pay for tuition and books. Attending medicine school was no picnic for Mary. Oftentimes men would play jokes on the women. One of the jokes would be placing human fingers in the pockets of the smocks they would wear during lab time. When the women would reach in their pockets they would be in for a freaky surprise. The fingers would come from autopsies the students would be performing. However, Mary toughed through it and in 1896 Mary graduated from medical school.

Dr. Mary then worked with her father Dr. Ranson until she married. She learned a lot about what it was like being a Dr. on the frontier. During her early years of being a Dr. her father entrusted her to take care of a few patients alone while he was away. One visit was out in the country, ten miles out of town to be exact. A simple case; to remove a cast from a fractured leg, massage the leg, and then replace with a new cast. However, a blizzard from the day before had made a drift of snow to make it impossible to where the roads were, or the ditch, or even the fields. The boy who was driving the sleigh for her was careful enough, but the sleigh had turned upside down, and nearly decapitated the driver. One of the horses had slipped and fallen under the other and was badly cut. The whiffletree of the sleigh was broken, but ropes and straps from a nearby farm that were furnished to repair it wasn’t enough to do the job. Dr. Mary had to go part of the distance on foot, but she made it. It took several weeks for the injured horse to recover from this incidence.

On September 15th, 1900, Dr. Mary Ranson wedded to Dr. Abraham Franklin Strickler who was born on January 2nd, 1873 to Elizabeth Henderson Strickler and Daniel Strickler of Ontario, Canada. They were a couple of the Society of Friends, or Quakers, and were of Pennsylvania Dutch heritage. The family moved to Ann Arbor, Michigan, when Franklin was nine years old. Franklin graduated from the University of Michigan Medical School in 1894.

Right after Mary and Abraham's wedding the couple went to Europe in 1900. Abraham went off to study the "eye, ear, nose, and throat" at the Vienna Hospital. Mary also wanting to learn, she learned about the German language through museums and other cultural places. Once Abraham was done with his studies, in 1901, the couple returned to the States, and moved to Sleepy Eye, Minnesota. Here they made their home and began their practices of medicine together. They had but one child together. On July 25th, 1901 a daughter was born, Elizabeth Strickler.

Dr. Mary had many adventures as a frontier Dr. in our small town Sleepy Eye. At times she found out that summertime could be just as harsh of a time as wintertime could be. One of those stories was when Mary had a delivery call for a baby in Evan, which is about 10 miles away from Sleepy Eye. It happen to had rained heavily previously and made the gravel roads into rivers of mud. By the time midnight came along one could not see so easily of any previous tracks in the road, so the only way to see if you were on the road was to watch for the differences between the roadside weeds and the weeds in the middle of the road. With a rising moon, Mary reached Evan. The return by daylight however, seemed far more terrifying because the danger could be seen. The conditions of the roads were reported to the authorities and they had blocked off the road from Evan to Sleepy Eye for a month until the water had drained away. In those days this whole area was sloughy.

At another time in Evan a resident called during winter to report the nearness of a baby. It was suggested waiting for the train at the Depot to take her to Evan, however the train wasn't due for another two hours. Dr. A. F. Strickler had said because there was very little snow he would drive Dr. Mary and a nurse to Evan. By the time they got to the edge of town, they ran into drifts he wasn't able to free up his car. They were stuck just three miles out of Sleepy Eye. Of course the train steamed right past as they sat in the car. You can imagine the look on the two women's faces as they glared at Dr. Abraham. The two women picked up their "little black bags", and walked to the nearest farm, and asked the farmer to take them to Evan with his bobsleigh. "I have no bobsleigh", answered the farmer. "All I have is a manure wagon." Dr. Mary persuaded him to pile a lot of straw in the wagon and put a horse blanket over it and it would do. Dr. Mary's destination was an apartment over the village bank and just as they arrived they saw the banker and the general store proprietor standing on the sidewalk.

Back in those days women wore ankle-length skirts. Modesty forbade the lady doctor to show her ankles. Handing her satchel to the nurse and asking the two men to assist the nurse from the wagon, Dr. Mary took full advantage of their inattention to spring from the wagon on the opposite side. To her embarrassment, the men who rushed to help her got a view of her underclothes. However, the story doesn't end here. Reaching the patient Dr. Mary discovered that the delivery was going to be quite difficult, so she phoned her husband to come on the next train to Evan. The new baby was delivered safely, and the doctors then took the next train for Sleepy Eye home.

While World War I was going on, here at home Dr. Mary was busy. She had the flu epidemic to battle with. This was the time that the flu had swept over the nation in a form which took many lives. One night, in a blizzard, a man phoned that his wife was very ill and wanted help at once. A seven-mile distance drive did not seem too safe, but the man insisted that his wife could not wait.

Dr. Mary had driven to the farm once she got there Mary found the woman’s lungs, temperature, and pulse to be completely normal. There was nothing wrong except that she was worn out from trying to do her own housework and helping her husband with his chores. In addition she was frightened almost to death of getting the flu. Mary knew that she couldn’t tell the lady that there was nothing wrong with her otherwise the couple would just end up calling one of the other male doctors in the area and of course they would of surely made up “something wrong” with her just to go against Dr. Mary’s official diagnosis because she was a woman. So in response of the situation, Dr. Mary made a diagnosis. She told the lady, “you have sent for me in the nick of time. If you do exactly what I say you will come along O.K. and it probably will not be necessary for me to come out again. But if you do want me I will come day or night.” Mary ended up giving her a tonic and told the lady not to get out of bed for a week. Then she was to phone and tell Mary how she felt. Mary also made sure the husband would feed the wife a nourishing diet that Mary prescribed. Also, he was to keep her feet warm with bags of salt. Back then farmers rarely owned hot-water bottles but they did own salt, so they would warm up salt bags which worked just the same. By the end of the week, the woman called Mary, and said Mary had “saved her life."

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Depot Cook


Mayme Seidl Peters was the cook at the CNW Depot in Sleepy Eye, MN around 1916.  As seen in this picture below, she is sweeping the back entrance to the Depot (which at the present time now appears to be facing the front of the Depot on Oak Street ,though this doorway is closed to the public for viewing.)   



On the second photo we see Mayme talking to a local friend who is unidentified, but is standing at the “Women’s Entrance” where during 1916, women and family would enter the Depot through this door only.  Today the “Women’s Entrance” is  used as the Depot’s Main Entrance of the Museum.  The Public has full access to this Door and Entrance.  However, back in the day, the Main Entrance for the Women would have been considered the backend of the Depot as it is used today.



Main Street Sleepy Eye

This is my first blog!! 
Just wanting to get things rolling and off to a good start.  I thought I would start this blog for those of you who would like to learn a little bit more about your hometown - AKA - Sleepy Eye... So perhaps I thought I could let go and reveal to you - who ever is watching a few spare moments - to speak my mind.



 Here's a postcard of Main Street, Sleepy Eye.  Things sure have changed throughout the years since Sleepy Eye was first established as a Village.  We now have our streets paved for one thing and we do have alot less buildings for another.  Some times change isn't always for the better.  Often times change can be for the worse, depending on how you look at it.  Back in the late 1800s early 1900s we had a little over 1000 to 1500 residents in Sleepy Eye; if we take a look back at some of our other early photos of the day, we see that the streets are extremely filled with residents going from shop to shop doing local business.  Residents didn't leave town to do their business, they didn't go and find a Wal-Mart or Target in the next town... what they did do is stay loyal to their the local businesses we had in town, which meant the local businesses were staying busy and had the up-to-date items that were required for the "times".
 
One nice thing about doing business with businesses is they knew your first name, knew your mom and dad, and if you forgot your wallet at home you could still go home with your merchandise and just bring your money in the next day because "your word" went a long way.... Today this wouldn't happen out of town...However, if you are local enough and do business often enough with some of our local businesses that "old charm business loyalty" still holds up today....  I have at least run into this trouble a few times where I have forgotten I had no check blanks in my checkbook here in town... a local store where I do, do business often has let me go home and get my checkbook and come back the next day.  It can be embarrassing at times.  It's nice to know this loyalty is there if it is really needed.