Wednesday, September 3, 2014

The Shooting of George Sommerville

The Shooting of George Sommerville

George W. Somerville was born June 3, 1855, in Ripley County, Indiana.  His parents were William and Rachel (Cunningham) Somerville.  George graduated from Rochester High School in 1876, graduated from the University of Michigan Law School in 1879, then came directly to Sleepy Eye on June 25th, 1879.  In 1882 he became the Brown County Attorney and continued in that office for six years.  During that time he acquired two farms.

In November 1881 George married Mary Fuller of Rochester.  They had two sons and two daughters.  Theirs sons were named Wayne and Saxe. Saxe, was married to Pearl Mo.  Daughter Carol was married to a C. S. Smith but lived at some distance.  George's daughter Madge was married to Al Ruenitz and lived in Springfield (later she became the second Mrs. E.L Nippolt). 

George Somerville had built a home on a terrace on the northwest corner of Summit Street and now Second Avenue West.  The Sommerville home was a lovely home of elaborate woodwork and parquet floors.  It later was the home of The Ed Berkner home family, then a maternity hospital, then the Schwartz funeral home, followed by the Clow funeral home, then becoming apartment housing.   There are 18 rooms and 6 baths in this home.

Ingervald M. Olson was a law partner of George Somerville but left to become a district judge and later then a Justice of the Minnesota Supreme Court.  Albert Hauser was also George Somerville's partner for a short time as well.  However, George had then left for a western state.

His leave may have been because a man had tried to kill George for a suspected swindle.  Or perhaps it may have been for the allegation that George brought in a number of jurors in a locally famous murder trial.

In the September 3rd, 1909 edition of the Herald-Dispatch there is an account of events for September 1st; when John F. Hayner went to Somerville’s office and shot George Somerville twice, at about 10 a.m.  At around 2 p.m. the man had hung himself in the jail.  Weapon in the shooting was an Iver Johnson Bulldog 38.
The first bullet entered Somerville’s left arm near the wrist, then entered the chest near his shoulder, injuring the lung.  The other bullet apparently entered Somerville’s back, passed through the body just missing the lower part of the heart.  It was not agreed whether the second bullet entered the back first.

Florence Dovre, secretary, and Atty. Albert Hauser were in the office.  Hayner told the editor he had been beaten out of every cent he had, said he had received 170 acres of worthless land in Missouri for brick building here.  Hauser gave the alarm and John B. Hickle, Frank Palmer, and Rob Hansen were the first to show up, with a good-sized guns.  Others showed up with weapons also.

Chief August Matter and Judge Peter Geschwind decided to send Hayner to New Ulm in Joe Fialka’s auto, with Fialka driving, trip being made in less than an hour.  Hayner told Matter he had nothing to live for.

Hayner had come to Sleepy Eye about two and a half years earlier, bought the Backer? building, traded it to Somerville for the 170 acres in Missouri and some telephone stock.  Hayner then left Sleepy Eye, worked in Milford and Twin Cities.  Parents lived at Waverly.  Hayner was about 35, of good reputation.  County Attorney August Erickson of Springfield arrived in Sleepy Eye three hours after the shooting.

Somerville was out of danger some ten days after the shooting.  George Somerville died on January 12th, 1890.  Not related to this crime.  He rests in the Oak Ridge Cemetery in Iberia.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

How to Pitch Camp Where Indians Would

How to Pitch Camp
     Where Indians Would 

*Look for high ground if theres any around. Stay out of gulleys and valleys. Look for a place to settle down for the night while its still light enough to check around.

* Get in a clearing. Tall grass and heavy brush too close can be a breeding place for bugs and insects in the wet season, a fire hazard in the dry season.

* Where to do your cooking: During the daytime, winds usually blow off a lake and move toward higher ground. At night, winds usually move toward water.

*If the weathers cool, pitch your camper so that its catch the last possible rays of the dying sun. And close the flaps at this time to trap all the heat you can inside for the night ahead.

*Also, consider where the morning sun will hit- if you can put your camper in it, itll help dispel the dew, eliminate morning dampness and dry the canvas.      

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Golden Gloves Boxing

Golden Gloves Boxing

This picture was taken in 1947.  We have listed as Back Row, left to right: Harold Guldager, Allen Walden, Jim Walden, Harvey Dallman (Trainer), Hjalmer Friton, Ed Walden, & George Gustafson.  Directly in front, left to right: Shimschock & Eckstein.

            Golden Glove Boxing has been going on since the early 1920s.  A Chicago Tribune Sports Editor Arch Ward conceived the idea of a city-wide amateur boxing tournament in 1923, to be sponsored by the newspaper. Each champion was to be awarded a miniature golden glove which gave the tournament its name.  The Golden Gloves are open to all non-professional boxers age 16 and over. There is also a Silver Gloves amateur tournament, which is for amateur boxers age 10 to 15 years old.

            Amateur boxing  enjoyed enormous popularity in the 1930s, '40s and well into the '50s. It was a simpler, more innocent time for the sport of boxing, with gentlemanly heroes like Joe Louis (nick named Brown Bomber) who was considered to be a worthy role model for children. For the most part, the seamy underside of the sport remained hidden.

            Children even received boxing gloves as Christmas or birthday gifts and were cheered on by their parents in amateur matches the same way young football players are encouraged today.  Black eyes were badges of pride to young fighters who sneered at wearing protective headgear. Boxing as been known as the "sweet science".  Many hours were conducted on learning the correct workings of the right technique of boxing for the boys; a complete devotion.

            For Harold Guldager, Allen Walden, Jim Walden, Harvey Dallman (Trainer), Hjalmer Friton, Ed Walden, George Gustafson, Shimschock and Eckstein they were of the many here in Sleepy Eye that took on the roles and attempts to becoming the next Golden Glove winner, through the many black eyes, sore muscles, and bruised egos.  In the eyes of themselves they were winners, perhaps not in the eyes of national championships but in their eyes they themselves, made of heart and steal, they were Champions to themselves and their teammates.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Businesses of Main Street in 1887

Businesses of Main Street in 1887

             Businesses have come and gone in Sleepy Eye as many of us know. But do we know who were our frontier businessmen were? Let me enlighten you. We have the gentlemen of C.D. Griffith and W.W. Smith were advertised representatives of the Merchants Bank, later the First National, now the Security Bank. The Bank of Sleepy Eye lists F. H. Dyckman as proprietor. Dyckman just started off with $500.00. His bank later became the State Bank, now called the Americana Bank.

            Professional men were; Dr. F. P. James, dentist; T.M. Marcellus, physician and surgeon; J.W.B. Wellcome, physician and surgeon (he was the father of Dr. J.W.B. Wellcome, Jr., who took several citizens of Sleepy Eye through their childhoods; J.M. Thompson, attorney; George W. Somerville, attorney who later became state senator, (later was object of a would-be assassin who claimed he had been cheated.)

            Businessmen included; H.J. Hansen, hardware and lumber. Hansen took part in building the Loreno House. W.H. White proprietor, SW corner of Main and First Avenue – the Exchange Hotel (had good sample rooms) for showing salesmen’s wares to local store owners.

            A.W. Case, Occidental Livery and Sales Stable, new rigs and trusty drivers, commercial and hunters’ patronage solicited; City Livery, J. Liesenfeld, fine rigs and trust drivers. F. Marquardt, Merchant Tailoring;  R.H. Bingham, hardware, lumber, tinware, stoves, table cutlery, tools, fence wire, wood pumps, doors, sash, and shingles; Schoregge & Gieseke, successors to F. Ibberson who had come in 1872, drugs, medicines, toilet articles, specialties, Ibberson’s Anodyne Balsam, Pectoral Cough Linctus, and condition powders.

            W.M. Muffin, Commercial House and Restaurant, was located about where the present day post office is located, meals at all hours, oysters in every style; August Schweiger, NewMeat Market; L.P. Jensen & Durbahn, dress goods and trimmings, five cents a yard and up; James Reeve, boot and shoe makers; Sleepy Eye Mill, patent, family, and baker’s flour; Rinke & Bertrand, dry goods and groceries; Deutsche Apothek & H. H. Meyer had a business also in 1887. M. Kiefer, Boot and Shoe Store; A new store, Talbot and Rinke was started in 1872.

            Some of these names many may recognize as familiar names others may not seem so familiar.  There were of course other businesses that came and went that is not mentioned in our history because they simply didn’t stick around long enough to be considered a long time business (basically less than a year probably).  We find this often times with family genealogy as well.  Families come into the museum in hopes of finding long lost families but if their family didn’t stick around Sleepy Eye very long chances are we don’t have much record of their stay here in Sleepy Eye or in Brown County. 

A mental note - If you have any old photos out there and your parents or grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, etc are still around and they know who is on those pictures – ask them who is in the pictures. Make sure you get their names written down, before you know it, your opportunity of getting the chance to find out who the people are, and their names will be gone. Even take a moment today to write the name behind of your present day photos, because 20, 30 years from now – our children will be sitting where we are today and saying “I wish I knew who was in this photo.”

Friday, May 16, 2014

The Railroad

The Railroad

     Early travel in Minnesota was mainly done by waterways or across country on foot, occasionally on horseback. The with stout footwear and a canoe could go anywhere in the vast countryside.
     The first signs of the railroad went to St. Paul. Passengers and freight along with mail waited out the winter until ice went out of the river and spring navigation could begin. Winona needed a railroad to bring people and supplies into the southern part of Minnesota. The result, was the Winona and St. Peter's Railroad which pushed back the frontier until in 1872, it reached the high land near Sleepy Eye Lake.
     The Minnesota River had been called the St. Peter by early explorers, The Winona and St. Peter Railroad was later called the Chicago Northwestern.
     Railroad construction was done typically in small sections, sometimes by a number of contractors. This was known as a time of non-automation era. Things were done by hard labor, man power. By the blood and sweat of man.
     Leroy Davis once wrote, "The tools which made the railway cuts and grades were the pick, shovel, and spade, the walking plow, the two-wheeled scraper drawn by one horse, the wagon with dump planks, and the wheel barrow. Most of the grading was let to a contractor who then contracted with others to do short sections. The only startling thing in machinery was the pile driver used to drive big timbers down to solid ground for bridges over sloughs."
     By May 1872, the railroad tracks are almost complete heading towards Sleepy Eye Lake. The grading is nearly ready for iron now, the only drawback is the bottom through town. The Railroad employed 500 workers by this point on the road. A crew of 500 was alot of people to take care of.
     The little settlement was growing up in the vicinity of the Lake of Sleepy Eye. It would have been difficult for the settlement to take care of the crew of 500. However, the railroad had its own system for housing and feeding their employees.
     The railroad had a two-story frame building on a flatcar to accommodate the construction crews. The upper portion provided sleeping quarters and the lower floor was a dining area. Their "hotel" traveled right along with them.
     In the month of July the railroad had a picnic out by the shores of the Sleepy Eye Lake to celebrate the completion of the rails. Some of the workmen on the railroad enjoyed Sleepy Eye Lake well enough to bring their families here and establish their homes permanently here.
     By October 1872 the Depot building was finished. In 1882, a roundhouse and machine shops were added to the Depot train community, thus making Sleep Eye a busy rail town. In January, 1887 the Sleepy Eye Depot was burned down by a fire. By June of 1887 a new Depot (where todays Depot Antiques is located) was under roof, and painted by mid-July. It was not until 1902 that the present brick Depot was built (Depot Museum/Sleepy Eye Historical Society).

Our Chief Sleepy Eye

Chief Sleepy Eye

Our Chief Sleepy Eye

There is little written about Chief Sleepy Eye yet we know that, Ish-tak-ha-bah was a powerful man and stood six feet in his moccasins, with what we know as a lazy eye. He was straight as an arrow and a born leader. He had a reputation for fairness and square dealing that made him the friend of all with whom he came in contact with. He had lived in the area for years, had hunted and fished in the waters of the Cottonwood, in the skycolored waters of the Minnesota, and the pellucid floods of the famed Sleepy Eye Lake (Minnewashte Chanhatonka). His truest instinct was on the hunt, his the truest aim was when the great buffalo went down, his greatest success was at trapping, and his largest and most comfortable moments were in and near his tepee (at home). He became a fast friend of the Coutouriers - "French Cap" the fur trader, and many times was a welcome guest at their humble cabin on the lake shore. Once in a while he would talk of his (Chief Sleepy Eye's) people, and sometimes of the interesting history of the country. History with him is legend among his friends and family. 

In 1824 Indian Agent Lawrence Taliaferro took a group of four Sioux and four Ojibway to visit President James Monroe in Washington, D.C. Taliaferro had been a lieutenant in the army, stationed at Fort Snelling. Among the Sioux who went to the capital in Washington, D.C., was Sleepy Eye, and a Little Crow who was grandfather to the Little Crow who was the leader of the Indians in the Uprisings of 1862. Chief Sleepy Eye was named "chief", by President Monroe and the Bureau of Indians Affairs. Chief Sleepy Eye was chief of all the Sisseton Sioux from Carver to Lac Qui Parle. He succeeded Wakanto (Blue Spirit). It is also stated that Sleepy Eyes is to be the son of a chief - though the name of his father is unknown. 

Sleepy Eye is a leader among his people. In 1851, he was the most important chief at the signing of the Treaty of the Treaty of Traverse des Sioux. On July 19, 1851 Chief Sleepy Eye stated to the government, "your coming and asking me for my country makes me sad, and your saying I am not able to do anything with my country makes me still more sad."

Over the years treaties have been signed offering and giving up more and more hunting grounds, fishing lands; without realizing how much was giving up or lost. In 1851 there were two treaties written that ceded all remaining lands except a ten-mile strip on each side of the upper part of the Minnesota River. These treaties were made at Traverse des Sioux on July 23, 1851 and August 5,1851.

In 1852, Chief Sleepy Eye selected the site that became Mankato. Sleepy Eye advised the traders not to build in a low lying land near the Minnesota River. This land often flooded. Sleepy Eye had suggested moving the location to higher grounds, located today where it is known as "Front Street". This location became the location for Mankato's trading post.

At this point in history we know that Chief Sleepy Eye was granted the right to remain off of the reservation and remain by Swan Lake - near Nicollet. He remains there peacefully with his band till 1857 when the renegade Ink-Pa-Du-Ta and his band attacked settlers at Spirit Lake, Iowa, and Jackson, Minnesota. At this point Chief Sleepy Eye had moments to move his band onto the reservation. Our present day town (City of Sleepy Eye) just happened to be within the 20 mile reservation mile marker line (10 miles south of the Minnesota River). After Sleepy Eye moved here to the lake of " Pretty Water by the Big Tree" (Minnewashte Chanhatonka).

Chief Sleepy Eye died in 1860, but not before rendering his assistance at his own risk of his own life many times during his early years, on the sun-kissed prairies attempting to undo the years of hearts bleeding and happy homes from becoming desolated wastes. The spring after Chief Sleepy Eye's death two hundred of the Chiefs band gave a Remembrance Dance to honor the memory of Chief Sleepy Eye, this was the last time this dance with the band was performed. Those who have survived the years are scattered all around the state on various reservations, although most were sent to the Dakotas and traveled to Canada.

A friendly Indian was the Chief and there were many instances in history where he had not only shown kindness and consideration to the white people in times of trouble but actually saved life and nursed back to health men, women, and children who were wounded in battle by warfaring Indians.

Other Treaties Signed By Sleepy Eye;
Prairies Du Chien - 1825
Prairies Du Chien - 1830
St Peters (Mendota) - 1836
Traverse Des Sioux - July 1851
Traverse Des Sioux Sioux - August 1851