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# 198 Jack Ferman

# 198 Jack Ferman

Tales from the Cemetery by Susan Hunter Weir November 20, 2021, was a bittersweet day in the history of Minneapolis Pioneers and Soldiers Cemetery. It was a sad day because it was the day that his wife and daughters buried Jack Ferman. It was a sweet day because he was buried where he wanted to be—in his family’s plot near the cemetery’s Lake Street gates. Jack’s was our first burial in 22 years and the first in the 21st century. If you attended one of the movies that we’ve shown in the cemetery and bought some snacks, there’s a good chance that you bought them from Jack. He attended every Memorial Day program for at least the past 20 years and possibly before that. He was at all of our fundraising events, always present and always helping out. He was on the Board of Friends of the Cemetery. He wrote about his immigrant grandparents who are buried in the cemetery in an Alley story published in January 2016. He followed politics, both local and national, closely and was a frequent contributor to e-democracy.com. He loved to tell jokes, most of them awful. Jack spent four years in the Navy. He had traced the story of his Norwegian seafaring family back to the 17th century. He had a Ph.D in metallurgy and worked on projects for General Motors and Westinghouse in the University’s Physics Department. Later, he worked for the Pollution Control Agency. One of the questions that we are most often asked is whether it is possible to be buried in the cemetery. The answer is almost always, “maybe, although it’s not very likely.” More than a century ago, in 1918, the City Council voted to close the cemetery to future burials. In 1935, they voted to allow exceptions for people who met certain conditions. Those who want to be buried there have to own a plot purchased before 1918 and to have a family member already buried in the cemetery. And the City has to approve the burial. Jack had the original deed to his family’s plot. It is dated [...]

Phillips Neighborhood history book wins award

Phillips Neighborhood history book wins award

Top photograph by alley contributor Paula Williamson/ University of Minnesota Press by BEN HEATH As part of the 2022 Minnesota Book Awards, scholar David Hugill is the recipient of the Minnesota History award for his book Settler Colonial City. Hugill's book, published last year by the University of Minnesota Press is a critical look at some of the social forces in Phillips after WWII. Our present city and our neighborhoods are not neutral places where history is suspended, instead they are founded in settler-colonial relations, where white supremacy and non-white oppression are by design. The author lived and worked in Phillips as he completed his research. Hugill describes the neighborhood of Phillips in terms of “sites of articulation”, meaning places where the interactions between two or more social factors are especially visible. Minneapolis is the Settler Colonial City, and Phillips is where the record is rich in material. This a study of racism and inequity. It should come as no surprise that our community has seen much. Over the years and decades since white settlement, our city and state institutions have thrived because of the prevailing settler-minded attitudes of exploitation and domination codified by government policies of Indian termination, removal, and relocation. These policies continue to effect many residents of our neighborhood. In response, our community is also the site of resistance. From the beginning of the book, Phillips is established as a community of people largely excluded from the decision-making and rewards of so-called urban renewal or urban change. Largely because of this exclusion the community has been of interest to well-meaning liberal anti-racist organizations who unfortunately used racist settler-minded thinking to develop and administer their programs. The author implicates these organizations in the perpetuation of inequity, rather than as significant challengers against it. There are other examples of [...]

Tales from the Cemetery: Righting History

Tales from the Cemetery: Righting History

Bryan Tyner, Minneapolis’ first Black fire chief, pays tribute to Captain John Cheatham, Minneapolis’ first Black firefighter. By SUE HUNTER WEIR Something important happened in Minneapolis at 10 a.m. on Thursday, March 17, 2022. Street signs along the nine-block stretch of road between 34th Street and 43rd Street in South Minneapolis were replaced. What had been known as Dight Avenue became Cheatham Avenue. It’s the kind of change that causes some folks to rage about “cancel culture,” but others will see it for what it is—honoring John Cheatham, an honorable man whose contributions to the city’s history should have been recognized long ago. Charles F. Dight, a Socialist, served on the Minneapolis City Council from 1914 to 1918. He was one of three Socialists on the City Council at the time but the only one who lived in what was more or less a tree house that he built on 39th Avenue and Minnehaha Creek. He was described as a “conservative Socialist” meaning that he opposed the use of violence to effect social change which was not in and of itself a bad thing. If it stopped there, he might have gone down in history as an amiable eccentric. But he was not. He advocated for the forced sterilization of those who were deemed “defective.” It got worse. In 1933, he wrote to Hitler, praising him for his support for eliminating “mental defectives.” So how did he get a street named after him? The honor was conferred on him by his City Council colleagues at the end of his second term. To be fair, his belief in eugenics was not widely known. That became clear in 1923 when he founded the Minnesota Eugenics Society. It appears that the honor was bestowed upon him because his colleagues and local newspaper editors believed that he had come to his senses—that he had become a “Bad Socialist,” someone whose political party refused to endorse his candidacy for reelection. In the midst of the “Red Scare” that followed the [...]

Tales from Pioneers & Soldiers Cemetery: Bad Luck Followed Him

Tales from Pioneers & Soldiers Cemetery: Bad Luck Followed Him

By Sue Hunter Weir The Grand Army of the Republic Block which was established to prevent Civil War veterans from being buried as paupers. The block of graves was purchased in 1870-71, and Arthur Pruitt, who died in 1874, should have been buried here. For some reason he was not and was buried in an unmarked grave in the cemetery's paupers' section. Photo credit: Minnesota Historical Society, 1938. Bad things can happen to people for any number of reasons. Some people make bad decisions. Others simply have bad luck. Arthur Pruitt may well be one of the unluckiest people buried in the cemetery. The last ten years of his life was a series of tragedies, all of them beyond his control.  Arthur Pruitt was born in Kentucky sometime around 1837. He married Irene Elizabeth Tribble in Scott, Illinois on May 21, 1857. On May 7, 1864, he enlisted in Company B of the 27th Illinois Infantry. He signed on for 100 days. His military records state that he was 28 years old, that he was 5 feet 8 inches tall, and had light hair and blue eyes.  Three months after he enlisted. he was captured and sent to Andersonville Prison, the worst prisoner of war camp during the Civil War. Of the 45,000 men held captive there, 13,000 died from malnutrition and disease. He was released in a prisoner exchange on April 1, 1865. After the war, he and his wife settled in Memphis and that is when the first in what would turn out to be a series of heartbreaking losses began. Their children died during a yellow fever epidemic. Soon after, their house containing everything that they owned was destroyed by fire. They left Memphis in late 1873 and moved to Minnesota with an eye to starting over. Irene had relatives in Long Lake who had promised to help them but there was some misunderstanding. By the time that the couple arrived, the people who they were counting on to help them had moved to Missouri. Arthur found work and he and his wife stayed in Long Lake until February 6th when [...]

A Grandson remembers his Grandfather

A Grandson remembers his Grandfather

Tales of Pioneers and Soldiers Cemetery by Sue Hunter Weir Emilie and William Gaspar with their children Photo Courtesy of the Gaspar Family William Gaspar had a dog named Brownie, who loved to eat chocolate-covered peanuts. When William went to visit his son Joseph, in Loretto, Minnesota, he would walk Brownie to his son’s grocery store and buy him a treat. These are small things, and certainly not the most important things that William did in his life, but they give us a sense of who he was, that other types of information - lists of dates and places - cannot.   Emilie Gaspar, William’s wife, was the second person buried in the cemetery after the City Council reconsidered an earlier decision not to allow burials after 1919. Emilie met the criteria for an exception—she owned a plot, and other members of her family were already buried there. Emilie’s mother, Mary Ann Klapperich Kelly Gaspar, was buried there, as were Mary Ann’s first two husbands. She married Frank Kelly on January 26, 1861, but he died from typhoid before they had been married a year.  The date of his death was not recorded on his burial card, but he died before their daughter Elizabeth was born on December 23, 1861. On January 26, 1862, on what would have been the first anniversary of her marriage to Frank, Mary Ann married Frank’s older brother Nicholas. He died on October 12, 1863, three days after their daughter Emilie was born, and less than two years after he and Mary Ann had married. Cemetery records indicate that he died from “congestion of the bowels,” but some of his descendants believed that he was killed in an accident in a flour mill, and both of those could very well be true. He was 32 years old when he died. At the age of 21, Mary Ann was a widow with two daughters under the age of two. She moved to her parents’ farm in Delano, Minnesota, where she met and later married Theodore Gaspar. They did not have children, but her two [...]

A Winter Tale of Friendship and Kindness

A Winter Tale of Friendship and Kindness

By SUE HUNTER WEIR An earlier version of this story appeared in the December 2004 edition of the alley. It is a story about kindness and generosity, qualities that sometimes seem in short supply during these challenging times. Sometimes it’s good to remember good people doing kind things for strangers.Thanks to Tim McCall for providing additional information about Mr. Howard’s military service. The story of Captain Samuel J. Howard’s death was front page news on December 20, 1908. The story of his death was a human-interest story—a holiday story about kindness and generosity, and a story about friendship between two strangers. Because of that friendship, Captain Howard, who had no known connection to the city of Minneapolis, came to be buried in Minneapolis Pioneers and Soldiers Cemetery. Captain Howard was a 72-year-old Civil War veteran who was traveling from Olympia, Washington, where he lived in a veterans’ home, to Boston for Christmas. Although the newspaper referred to him as “Captain” Howard, that was an honorary title, a courtesy often extended to elderly veterans. On July 28, 1863, he had enlisted as a private and was discharged less than two months later, on September 15, 1863, due to disability. On October 22, 1864, he re-enlisted, serving in the 11th Massachusetts Light Artillery, and he mustered out as a private at the end of the war, on June 16, 1865. The Tribune’s reporter described him as a “grey-bearded warrior,” who was “still proudly wearing the Union blue and prouder still of the little bronze G.A.R. button on his faded lapel.” Samuel Howard's military marker. Harry Hurlburt, a mortician from Minneapolis, boarded the train in Miles City, Montana. He noticed Mr. Howard, huddled in a corner, surrounded by workmen on their way home for the holidays. Mr. Hurlburt persuaded the other passengers to make room so that Captain Howard could stretch out, and he bought him an orange. An orange seems like such a [...]

22,000+ Rest, Undisturbed

22,000+ Rest, Undisturbed

Tales of Pioneers and Soldiers Cemetery By SUE HUNTER WEIR In the cemetery’s early days, the cost of maintenance and repair was paid for voluntarily by the families of those buried there. By 1919, the cemetery was filled to capacity. Many families had moved away and some were simply too poor to continue to pay an annual maintenance fee. The cemetery fell into serious disrepair. On May 23, 1919, the Minneapolis City Council, at the request of some South Minneapolis residents and merchants, voted to close Layman’s Cemetery to further burials. The ordinance did not condemn the cemetery, which would have required the removal and relocation of more than 27,000 people. The ordinance simply stated that no burials would be allowed after August 1, 1919. Nonetheless, there were rumors that the cemetery had to be vacated and the remains of 5,000 to 6,000 people were removed. The deeds to the graves for those removals were returned to the Layman Land Trust, and became the property of the City of Minneapolis when it assumed responsibility for maintaining the cemetery in 1928. The remaining 22,000+ occupied graves remain the property of the families. Confusion about what was to happen to the cemetery and to the remains of those buried there was no doubt fed by Martin G. Layman, grandson of the original owners, who was serving as caretaker of the cemetery. In the cemetery office there are several letters that he wrote to family members asking for more information about what would happen to their loved ones. As he correctly pointed out, when the city council voted to close it, the cemetery still belonged to members of the Layman family. In 1920, he answered one letter by stating that the “ordinance shut off all income therefore the grounds are not kept up any more…” He went on to suggest that “people who care for there dead prefer to remove their dead to some place where it is kept up…” He incorrectly added that “Eventually all bodies will be removed [...]

Amusement, Medical Innovation, and Transit Allied for Success

Amusement, Medical Innovation, and Transit Allied for Success

By Sue Hunter Weir The story of the Wonderland babies is as much of a crowd pleaser today as it was when Wonderland Park was in operation between 1905 and 1912. When Wonderland opened its gates in 1905, it was not just a big news story””it was a huge story. It wasn”'t just that having a modern amusement park was important to the city”'s image and sense of itself as the gateway to the Northwest, it was the effect that the park had on the city”'s infrastructure and economy. In 1905, for the first time, it became possible for Minneapolitans to take a streetcar from Hennepin and Lake to 31st Avenue and Lake without going through downtown. It was no coincidence that 31st and Lake marked the entrance to Wonderland Park. The following year, a newly constructed addition, the Selby-Lake streetcar line, provided easier access to the park for visitors from St. Paul. On busy days, streetcars ran as often as every thirty seconds to handle the crowds. In its first year of operation, over half-a-million people came to see the park. The thing that made it all possible””the streetcars, the rides, and the 120-foot beacon of light that could be seen for miles””was electricity. What few people realized at the time was the electricity was also capable of saving lives. At the far end of the park, stood the Infantorium, essentially a neo-natal intensive care hospital for premature babies. For the price of a ten-cent ticket, visitors could see the hospital”'s shiny, new incubators. Incubators, at least those used for raising poultry were not unknown, but the idea of using an incubator to raise a human baby came as something of a surprise to many of the fair”'s visitors. Many people were confused about how the baby incubators worked, and, drawing on their experience of watching eggs turn into chicks in “hatcheries,” thought that the babies were conceived and born in the incubators. The steel-framed boxes with their glass [...]

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