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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 [...]

Memorial Day 2022

Memorial Day 2022

The Tradition Continues By SUE HUNTER WEIR After a two-year hiatus, Memorial Day will be observed in Minneapolis Pioneers and Soldiers Cemetery (corner of Cedar Avenue and Lake Street). The program begins at 10 a.m. on Monday, May 30th. Highlights include music by the Seward Community Concert Band (they begin playing about 9:40). Our keynote speaker is Milt Schoen, Vice Commander of American Legion Post #1. This event is supported by numerous groups and organizations including students from the Minnesota Transition School, Scout Troop #1, and American Legion Post #1 and Team Rubicon. We have a limited number of chairs so if you are able to, please bring a lawn chair. We hope to see you there. At 1 p.m., there will be an hour-long presentation about the history of the cemetery. Guests will be seated for the talk but are welcome to explore the grounds before or after the program. All events are free and open to the public. Everyone is welcome.

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 [...]

Letter to Midtown Phillips Neighborhood Association:

Response to 2744 and 2740 12th Avenue Proposed Development: Ensuring Gentrification and Income Inequality by Policy and Design By SUE HUNTER WEIR Reprinted in the alley by permission of the author The City of Minneapolis is well known for expressing concern about gentrification and income inequality—one of the dubious categories in which we lead the nation. These plans appear not to have taken into account the demographic makeup, and therefore the needs, of the people who live here. There is undoubtedly a need to have more housing for renters, but these designs are not the answer. I have listed some of the problems that jump out at me.1) Inadequate parking. Regardless of what the city's current policy is, the reality of life in Midtown Phillips is different. This is not, for the most part, a community of bicycle commuters. Our block (the 2700 block of 12th Avenue) is a block where most of the renters and owners are immigrant families. That usually means two working parents and several young children per household. Five of the houses on the east side of the street are duplexes with little off-street parking, and for those properties there are not two cars/vans per property, but more commonly four to six. Residents already have to pay for parking permits because of our proximity to a school, mosque, mall, and two major hospitals. Parking is at a premium. The notion that people will ride bikes if no parking is available is simply not true. (I say this as someone who walked from my house to the U every day for 30+ years and heartily supports the idea of bike commuting for those who are able).2) Safety. 28th Avenue is one of the city's busier streets and speeding is the norm. Twelfth Avenue is likewise heavily trafficked by residents, school buses, students' parents, and people using the park. All of these amenities are great but they do mean that there is a lot of traffic. (About one out of every three or four bike bollards are flattened on any [...]

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 [...]

A Good Time to Be Born

A Good Time to Be Born

Tales from Pioneers and Soldiers Memorial Cemetery  By SUE HUNTER WEIR  182th in a Series John Wesley and Elinor Lockwood lost three children between 1881 and 1889. Five-year-old Lottie died from typhoid in 1881. Eight-month old Harry died from cholera infantum in 1885, and seven-month-old Lawrence died from pneumonia in 1889. Each of those diseases is treatable or preventable today. It”™s a good time to be born. Photo: Tim McCall Despite being bombarded daily with alarming news stories about the novel coronavirus, there is good news about health. In a recent New York Times article, Dr. Perri Klass declared this to be a good time to be born. Children born in the United States today are likely to live longer than their parents and the diseases that killed so many children in the past are very much relics of the past. It is, she wrote, “A good time to be born.”  In the early 20th century, that was not the case. As many as 20% of American children did not live until their fifth birthdays. And those who did were still vulnerable. There are 227 children who died at the age of five buried in the cemetery. How did these children who were seemingly healthy and who had survived many of the diseases that took younger children die?  There were a small number, about ten, accidental deaths but most deaths were caused by diseases or infections that are preventable or treatable in our day. Common causes of death were membrane croup, spinal meningitis, scarlet fever and typhoid. But perhaps the biggest threat posed to children was diphtheria. It claimed the lives of 71 of the 227 children””31% of them. Young children and adults over the age 40 were the hardest hit by the disease.  There are many superficial similarities between typhoid and novel coronavirus. In their early stages, they look much like colds””fever, sore throat, and loss of appetite””but those early symptoms eventually lead to [...]

What”™s Old is New Again Quarantine and Vaccination

What”™s Old is New Again Quarantine and Vaccination

By SUE HUNTER WEIR  In January 1900, health authorities were at odds over whether a young girl was suffering from chickenpox or smallpox. Four doctors determined that she had smallpox which would have required her to be quarantined, but Dr. Norton, Health Commissioner, insisted that she had chickenpox and accused Dr. Henry Bracken, Secretary of the State Board of Health, one of those who disagreed with him, of “creating an injurious panic without warrant just to belittle me.” Bracken argued in favor of aggressive steps to contain the spread of the disease, arguing that containing the outbreak was critical for the economy: “An epidemic of this kind stagnates business.” Editors of the Minneapolis Tribune chastised both men in an editorial on January 25, 1900: “It would seem as if two men occupying the important positions which they do would cooperate in matters looking to the spread of disease and the preservation of the health of the community.”  All of this”” the disagreements between health professionals, and arguments for and against quarantining patients to stop the spread of the disease”” was the same then as it is now. The one thing that is different””and it”™s a huge difference””is that there was a vaccine that was 95% effective for more than 100 years although many, perhaps most, people had not been vaccinated.  In 1904, the city”™s health inspectors had enormous power to enforce quarantine laws and to vaccinate people. In January, the city reported only one case of smallpox compared with twenty or thirty per day the previous year. That quickly changed. In February, four students at Augsburg Seminary (now Augsburg College) were infected with smallpox, and health inspectors vaccinated every instructor and student on campus including two “anti-vaccinationists” who showed up with guns. It”™s not clear how authorities persuaded the two [...]

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