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Casper”'s Ghost says, “”˜People were dying to get into the cemetery.”' But were they really dead?”

Casper”'s Ghost says, “”˜People were dying to get into the cemetery.”'  But were they really dead?”

by Sue Hunter Weir Casper Link was terrified of being buried alive, and he was not the only one. There is a word for this fear””taphophobia””meaning the fear of graves. Mr. Link died on Sunday, July 21, 1872, but not before his wife and friends promised that they would not bury him until three days after he had been declared dead. Mrs. Link arranged for a funeral service, though not a burial, to take place on the day after her husband died. During the service, Mr. Link”'s worst fears appeared to have been realized when one of the people in attendance noticed what he thought was perspiration on Mr. Link”'s forehead. The funeral service was brought to an abrupt halt and a doctor was summoned. The doctor examined Mr. Link one last time and concluded, yet again, that he was dead. The funeral service continued as planned, and Mr. Link”'s body was taken to the cemetery where it was stored in the vault until the promised three days had passed. Throughout, his wife held out hope that her husband was not dead but was merely “sleeping.” But that was not the case, and after the specified time elapsed, Mr. Link was buried in Lot 33, Block P. Mr. Link”'s fears were not uncommon. There may well have been a small number of people who were buried before their time, but the exact number of cases will never be known. Stories about “premature burials” appeared in the papers from time to time, often enough to keep a fair number of people alarmed about the possibility. The stories were memorable, including accounts from witnesses who said that they heard knocking sounds or voices coming from inside of coffins. This led some of those who could afford it to buy “security coffins” which had glass windows on the lids. There were stories, mostly from Europe, of people whose coffins had holes drilled in the lids so that strings that were attached to their fingers could ring an above-ground bell that would alert the [...]

Alice”'s murder exploited by vagaries of politicos and publishers

Alice”'s murder exploited by vagaries of politicos and publishers

Roosevelt, Taft, politicos, prostitution, Titanic dominate headlines by Sue Hunter Weir Alice Mathews led a rather ordinary life except for one thing: she was murdered. On Saturday, March 23, 1912, the night that she was murdered, Alice was twenty years old. She worked as a packer at the Pillsbury C Mill and lived with her father, stepmother and four siblings in South Minneapolis. Alice had spent the evening downtown going to a movie and having a late supper with two of her girlfriends. At 11:06, Alice caught the Cedar Avenue streetcar. She got off on 34th Street and Cedar Avenue, the end of the line, and started to walk home, a distance of about seven blocks. When Alice was within a few houses of her own home, someone attempted to rape her. Failing that, her attacker strangled her. The story of Alice”'s murder was front-page news for the next three weeks. Except for those who were interested in the battle between Theodore Roosevelt and Howard Taft for the Republican endorsement in the 1912 presidential campaign, there wasn”'t much interesting going on, at least not much that would sell papers. But it was an election year for local politicians as well, and Alice”'s murder provided an opening for people to vent their frustration or show their support for various local candidates and causes. (more…)

Mayor Rybak Appoints Sue Hunter Weir to the Heritage Preservation Commission

Are you curious about history, how we preserve and celebrate history in Minneapolis, and who writes it? by Harvey Winje If 19th century Irish poet and author Oscar Wilde is correct that “any fool can make history, but it takes a genius to write it,” then, who we commission to preserve and celebrate our local and national history is very important. Selection of those to lead us in acknowledgment of our past do well in listening to American historian Rear Admiral Samuel Eliot Morison”'s advice, “an historian should yield himself to his subject, become immersed in the place and period of his choice, standing apart from it now and then for a fresh view.” Sue Hunter Weir, our own local, Phillips historian, is a hands-on chronicler of the past who does “yield herself to her subject, become immersed in the place and period of her choice,” and stands “apart from it now and then for a fresh view.” She toils in the soil planting flowers at our own Cedar Avenue and Lake Street Cemetery and she rummages through scores of newspaper archive pages to tell the stories of those thousands buried there. Perhaps agreeing with Alexis de Tocqueville that when “the past no longer illuminates the future, the spirit walks in darkness,” a commission to preserve and celebrate our heritage was created by the City of Minneapolis in 1972. The Mayor and City Councilmembers make appointments to the Commission.  Mayor R.T. Rybak appointed Sue Hunter Weir to assume a vacancy on the Commission in May 2010. The Minneapolis Heritage Preservation Commission (HPC) serves as a citizen advisory body to the Minneapolis City Council. HPC is part of a nation-wide network of groups dedicated to the preservation and celebration of our local and national heritage. The Commission holds public hearings twice each month. The public is welcome to attend and highly encouraged to participate.” The Commission sponsors summer [...]

Women & Children First

Women & Children First

by Sue Hunter Weir When Northwestern Hospital for Women and Children opened its doors in December 1882, its board members had lofty goals but virtually no money. Their goal was to create an “organization, charitable in its nature, for the care of indigent women and children””for the training of nurses for the sick, and also for the drilling of domestic servants.” Or, as one member described it, the hospital was “Woman”'s work for women.” They rented a house at 2504 Fourth Avenue South that could house up to ten patients plus the staff needed to care for them. Rent was $25.00 a month for a hospital that had no indoor plumbing and was lit only by kerosene lamps. Despite the lack of amenities, patients were lining up for beds before the hospital opened. Furnishings, food, bedding and used clothing were donated. Three of the wealthiest donors each made a commitment to give $250 a year to cover the cost of operating one of the hospitals three “free beds.” Northwestern”'s Board of Trustees filed Articles of Incorporation the following year. The articles stated that only women and children would be treated at the hospital and that all of the staff, both medical and domestic, would be women. Priority was given to indigent women, followed by women who were able to pay for a small portion of their care and, lastly, by women able to pay the full cost of their treatment. In the hospital”'s first year of operation, 97 patients were admitted for treatment; of those 74 were treated for free. Northwestern”'s nursing school, named the Harriet Walker Training School for Nurses, after the first president of the hospital”'s Board of Trustees, was an important component of the hospital”'s service mission. The earliest students spent a year to a year and a-half learning their profession. Some of their instruction occurred in the classroom but much of it occurred on the job under the supervision of the [...]

Daughters of the War of 1812 , The Second War of Independence, will Honor Sergeant James Nettle

Daughters of the War of 1812 ,  The Second War of Independence, will Honor Sergeant James Nettle

By Sue Hunter Weir The Daughters of the War of 1812 will rededicate the marker of Sergeant James Nettle Glover, one of three confirmed War of 1812 veterans buried in Minneapolis Pioneers and Soldiers Memorial Cemetery. The other two veterans, Asa Clark Brown and Walter P. Carpenter, will be honored in 2011 and 2012 respectively. John Carpenter, Walter”'s brother, may well turn out to be a War of 1812 veteran as well. If that turns out to be the case, four of the approximately 200 War of 1812 veterans known to have died in Minnesota will be buried in Pioneers and Soldiers Cemetery. All of these veterans were interesting men, perhaps none more so than James Nettle Glover. Mr. Glover was born in Fort Tobacco, Maryland, in 1793. When the War of 1812 began, Mr. Glover enlisted; he was eventually promoted to sergeant. Following the war, Mr. Glover and all of his siblings, moved to St. Louis, Missouri. It was there that he met and married Elizabeth Dozier. One of the compensations that veterans received was 160 acres of land. Mr. Glover claimed his land and began farming. Although Missouri was admitted to the union as a slave state in 1820, Mr. Glover did not use slave laborers on his farm: all of the men who worked for him were paid for their work. In 1820, anti-slavery and pro-slavery congressmen reached an agreement under which Missouri was admitted to the union as a slave state. A deeply religious man, Mr. Glover reached the decision that he could no longer participate in slavery in any form. In 1845, he became one of several Missouri residents who pulled up stakes and moved to Grant County, Wisconsin, an area that became known as “Abolition Hollow.” Many of those who migrated brought their former slaves with them, emancipated them and helped them establish farms in the region. The area became an important stop on the Midwest”'s Underground Railroad. In their old age, James and Elizabeth Glover, moved to Minneapolis to stay with [...]

Endorsements of Minnesota as “Exceedingly Bracing” and “ An Asylum for Invalids,” Inspired Hopes to Cure Tuberculosis

Endorsements of Minnesota as “Exceedingly Bracing” and “ An Asylum for Invalids,” Inspired Hopes to Cure Tuberculosis

By Sue Hunter Weir Now that winter is almost over and it”'s still a little too soon for us to start worrying about mosquitoes and humidity, we can take a short break from complaining about the weather. Complaining about the weather is part and parcel of living in Minnesota, but that wasn”'t always the case. There was a time when Minnesota”'s weather was considered one of the state”'s major attractions. After visiting Fort Snelling in the 1820s, President Zachary Taylor, endorsed our “exceedingly bracing” weather and wrote that the area was “probably the healthiest in the nation.” Four decades later, civic boosters wrote pamphlets encouraging people from the East Coast and Europe to move here because of our invigorating weather. Minnesota was, they claimed, an “asylum for invalids,” the perfect place to recover from tuberculosis. Cemetery”'s first burial was due to death from tuberculosis: a disease without cure and contagion unknown. By the middle of the nineteenth century, tuberculosis caused one in five deaths in the United States. Not surprisingly, the first burial in Minneapolis Pioneers and Soldiers Memorial Cemetery (Layman”'s Cemetery) was Carlton Keith Cressey, a ten-month old boy, who died in 1853 from what was then called “consumption.” Six of the 30 people who were buried in Layman”'s in the 1850s died from consumption. The cause of death for 11 others in that group was not recorded so the number may have been even higher. Although claims that a change in climate had curative powers were overstated, there were no other effective treatments at the time. Doctors did not know that tuberculosis was a contagious disease and had little to offer their patients except advice, including advice to travel to healthier parts of the country. That advice, well intentioned though it may have been, helped spread the disease. Henry David Thoreau and Horace Mann, Jr. [...]

100 Year Old Church is a Treasure within 129 Year Old Legacy and 1500 Years of Welsh Culture

100 Year Old Church is a Treasure within 129 Year Old Legacy and 1500 Years of Welsh Culture

By Sue Hunter Weir Since at least the 1880s, what we now call the Phillips Neighborhood, has been home to thousands of immigrants and their families, many of whom are buried or have relatives buried, in Minneapolis Pioneers and Soldiers Memorial Cemetery. Their contributions to the city”'s early development are among the reasons why the cemetery is on the National Register of Historic Sites (the only cemetery in Minnesota honored with that designation). Many of those buried in the cemetery, quite literally, built the city of Minneapolis. Their presence is still visible throughout the Phillips Neighborhood most notably in many of the old churches which functioned not only as places of worship but as places where the language and culture of the “old country” was celebrated and preserved. Among those buried in the cemetery are several named Evans, Hughes, Jones, Morris and Williams””most of them the children of Welsh immigrants. (If your house is 100 years old and located between 15th and 17th Avenues from Franklin Avenue to Lake Street, there”'s a good chance that someone with one of those names lived in, or built, your house). This year marks the 100th anniversary of the groundbreaking of the Welsh Church located at 2917 15th Avenue South, on the edge of the parking lot behind In the Heart of the Beast Puppet and Mask Theatre. It was the last Welsh church built in Minneapolis. From 1883 until their new Welsh Church opened its doors in 1911, the church”'s congregation met in a church located at the intersection of Franklin and 17th Ave. In a history of the church that was published in 1931, in honor of the congregation”'s 50th anniversary, William Jones noted that most of the church”'s early members “lived within walking distance of their church.” As members of the congregation moved farther south in the city, they felt the need to build a new church in “a more convenient location,” and [...]

The Hankinson Family

The Hankinson Family

by Sue Hunter Weir The Hankinson family monument is one of the most substantial and well preserved of the cemetery”'s early markers. Although it is now surrounded by many other graves, when Myrtle Hankinson was buried in 1870, the Hankinson family plot was the only one in Section G, near what was then the cemetery”'s northern boundary. Most of the other family plots in use at the time were located near the Lake Street side of the cemetery, but the Hankinsons chose a burial site nearly a block away. Their marker, sitting alone in one full section of the cemetery must have been an imposing site. Myrtle was the six-day-old daughter of Richard H. and Sarah Martin Hankinson. Her parents were married in Minneapolis on January 20, 1868. A little over a year later, in late April 1870, Myrtle was born but died soon after from valvular insufficiency (a heart defect). Four years later, her parents had another daughter, Olive. Olive died on July 29, 1874, at the age of five months and 20 days; the cause of her death was not recorded. One year later, Sarah, the girls”' mother, died from “softening of the brain,” at the age of 28 and was buried next to her two daughters. Richard Hankinson, the girls”' father, was born in Grand Rapids, Michigan in 1842. In 1861, at the age of 19, he enlisted in Company D, Eighth Michigan Volunteer Infantry. He served until he was discharged for disability (a gun shot wound in his left wrist) in January 1863. Nine months later, in October 1863, he re-enlisted, this time in the Thirteenth Michigan Light Artillery where he served until the end of the war. At that point he moved to Minneapolis and began his career with the Northwestern Telegraph Company. He started out repairing telegraph lines, but after four years was promoted to superintendent of construction, and after three more years, he was promoted to assistant general superintendent. (more…)

James Womack and Frances Collier Womack “Happy Trails to You, Until We Meet Again”

James Womack and Frances Collier Womack “Happy Trails to You, Until We Meet Again”

By Sue Hunter Weir Those of us who grew in the late 1940s and 1950s, in the age of black and white movies and television, are all familiar with Roy Rogers and Dale Evans, King and Queen of the West. At the end of their weekly television show, they signed off by singing “Happy Trails to You,” a song written by Dale. Even now, most of us can still sing the song by heart. Believe it or not, that song has an interesting connection (albeit a somewhat remote one) to Minneapolis Pioneers and Soldiers Cemetery. James Tignal Womack was born in Louisa, Lawrence County, Kentucky in 1835. During the Civil War, on October 15, 1861, he enlisted in the 14th Kentucky Volunteer Infantry. He was forced to resign his commission as a 1st Lieutenant a year later due to poor health. In a letter written to his colonel, Womack wrote that he had “been labouring under a disease of the Breast for the last six months, and which has been so severe of late as to Render Me totally unfit for duty”¦” He was given an honorable discharge for disability on October 10, 1862. It is not clear exactly when Womack moved to Minnesota, but by 1870, he was living and farming in Hennepin County. He married Frances Elizabeth Collier, and they had at least seven children, one of whom died at the age of two and is buried next to his parents in the cemetery. Womack was only one of at least eight men from the 14th Kentucky Volunteer Infantry to settle in Minnesota, although he was the only one to settle in Hennepin County. Marlitta Perkins, Regimental Historian of the 14th Kentucky Volunteer Infantry, speculated that, because Womack arrived in Minnesota either during, or soon after the end of, the Civil War, it is likely that he had “Union sympathies in a family who had also Confederate leanings.” Two of James Womack”'s cousins, who were brothers, fought on opposite sides during the war, something that was not all that uncommon for families living in [...]

“Bring a shawl and get a baby” from a 1908-09 Baby Farm 3341 Nicollet Avenue

“Bring a shawl and get a baby”  from a 1908-09 Baby Farm  3341 Nicollet Avenue

By Sue Hunter Weir Between June 24, 1908 and September 6, 1909, 27 infants died at the same address--3341 Nicollet Avenue South. These babies (13 girls, 13 boys, and one whose gender was not recorded) were under the care of “Doctor” Hans Oftedal. As the quote marks suggest, Hans Oftedal was not a licensed physician; he was the proprietor of one of several “baby farms” operating in Minneapolis at the time. Baby farms were essentially unlicensed boarding houses for infants whose parents were too poor to care for them. The parents surrendered their children to baby farm operators and paid a fee for the care that they believed their children would receive. In some cases, the parents intended to come back and reclaim their children, but in other cases they expected their children to be adopted by families who could provide for them. Adoption was unregulated at that time, and Minneapolis had the dubious distinction of being the baby-trafficking capitol of the Upper Midwest. The Minneapolis Tribune described the adoption trade in Minneapolis as one in which people could “Bring a shawl and get a baby.” In October 1909, “Doctor” Oftedal shut down his baby farm. He ordered the utilities turned off and abandoned five infants in the care of two teen-aged girls. The girls had no food or supplies with which to take care of the babies. Eventually staff from the city”'s Poor Department, as it was called at the time, got wind of what was happening and tried to take charge of the babies. At first the girls declined to give up their charges but eventually turned the babies over to city authorities. The good news was that all of those babies survived although three of them were in poor health. One of them was a five-month old child who had been one of the incubator babies successfully treated at Wonderland Park but who had lost considerable ground after being fed only skim milk while under Oftedal”'s care. After [...]

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