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Milton Worth – Ramsey Author with eyes on the sky found beauty on earth and, on Fort Road renamed Hiawatha Avenue

Tales from Pioneers and Soldiers Memorial Cemetery
By SUE HUNTER WEIR
172nd in a Series

If you could choose just one word to have inscribed on your grave marker, what word would you choose? Milton Worth Ramsey didn’t get to choose his own word; he didn’t even have a marker until almost 80 years after he died. He died in 1906 and his descendants placed a new marker on his grave some time in the 1980s. The word that they chose to sum up his life was “author.”

And he most certainly was. According to his obituary, he was “for many years…identified with the literary life of the city…” He self-published four novels, and he is still recognized as having been an early science-fiction/speculative fiction writer. His first work, “Six Thousand Years Hence,” was published in 1891; followed by “The Austral Globe” (1892); “Future Dark Ages: a Story of a Trip Through a Dark Continent” (1900); and “Two Billions of Miles: or, The Story of a Trip Through the Solar System” (also 1900). Although one relative claimed that Jules Verne had plagiarized Ramsey’s work, that’s unlikely since Verne’s most famous works were published in the 1860s.

Nonetheless there is no doubt that the two authors had much in common. Copies of Ramsey’s fiction are impossible to find. According to one of his followers, the Library of Congress admitted to having destroyed their copies of Ramsey’s books. But a reviewer for the Minneapolis Tribune wrote a summary of Ramsey’s “Six Thousand Years Hence.” 

“It describes a cosmopolitan city on the sun made up of representatives from all the planets, who had been carried thither, by an erratic meteor which had drawn them by its gravitation. After 6,000 years the party returns to Minneapoul [sic], to find it a city of magnificent distances and within daily reach of Mexico by train.”

The reviewer appears to have been less interested in the content of Ramsey’s book than his notion that Ramsey had “[trampled] on the present method of capitalization and spells all of his planets as common nouns.” 

Ramsey’s fascination with the planets and the stars began much earlier than his fiction alone would suggest. In 1883, he wrote, illustrated, and published “Elements in Astronomy.” His book was as much about his personal philosophy and religious views as it was about science. He explained everything from how Saturn got its rings to the four ways in which mountains were created. It included a glossary of astronomical terms and was clearly written for the general public. He hoped to “avoid long and tedious theories; to leave out all unnecessary verbosity; to make the work as attractive as possible.” He wanted “to impress upon the mind that you can hardly ever look out upon the beautiful world without seeing something, in nature, to attract your attention, and thus, place roses in your path through the world to make it more comfortable for you, and make life sweeter than it would otherwise be.”

Ramsey’s eyes were not always turned towards the heavens. He was also a politician, although he was not very successful in getting elected. He sought the Republican Party’s nomination for a seat in the State Legislature but could not win over the more popular Manley Fosseen, a powerhouse in Republican and labor circles. But if the list of accomplishments that he submitted to bolster his campaign is accurate, he was a formidable neighborhood activist. He claimed to have had a significant role in getting the Lake Street Bridge and Longfellow School built. He said that he not only helped get the name of Fort Road changed to Hiawatha Avenue but that the idea for naming it Hiawatha was his idea. There were likely many others involved in those actions but Ramsey’s commitment to his community was undoubtedly very real.

Milton Ramsey died from stomach cancer on October 28, 1906. He was 58 years old. Some lines from his poem, “What We Are,” which he included in “Elements of Astronomy,” reveal his thoughts on life and death and serve as a fitting epitaph for him: 

“Our life on earth is but a span,
Our days, they are but few,
O, may we be on God’s right hand,
When all things are made new.”

Milton Ramsey is buried in Lot 39, Block N.77

Winter at Pioneers & Soldiers Cemetery

TIMOTHY MCCALL Winter at Pioneers & Soldiers Cemetery
TIMOTHY MCCALL Winter at Pioneers & Soldiers Cemetery
TIMOTHY MCCALL Winter at Pioneers & Soldiers Cemetery
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