Tag Archives: minnesota history

A Visit to St. Croix State Park

Our first camping trip as adults was at St. Croix State Park in 2006. One of the most popular state parks in Minnesota, it was a favorite camping destination for my family when I was a kid. A relatively short drive from home with lots of hiking, bike and canoe rentals, and interpretive activities, they also had a little store in case you forgot anything. We decided this was the perfect location to test our camping skills and eagerly hit the road for the weekend with our borrowed gear.

Our campsite in 2006, #211
Our campsite in 2006, #211

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Visiting the Historic Kettle Falls Hotel

Tucked in fragrant pine trees on the Minnesota-Canadian border in Voyageurs National Park, the Kettle Falls Hotel is only accessible by boat – just as it was for its earliest visitors a hundred years ago.

kettle falls hotel

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A Meeting Place: Tettegouche State Park

Located on the Minnesota shoreline of Lake Superior, Tettegouche State Park is home to High Falls, Shovel Point, historic campgrounds, and stunning vistas. We were there on a warm spring day and hiked along the Baptism River, across the old suspension bridge, and down to the bottom of High Falls – the second highest waterfall in Minnesota.  With the roar of the rapidly moving water and the sun on our faces, we stopped often along the trail to breath in the heavy smells of pine trees.

the view from below of high falls at tettegouche state park

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Lake Superior’s Gooseberry Falls

Three girls recently sought refuge from the chaos of city life on the shores of the Gitchi-Gami (also known as Lake Superior). They spent a beautiful April day hiking the  trails of Gooseberry Falls State Park, considered the gateway to Minnesota’s North Shore.
sun shining on gooseberry falls

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The Last Voyage of the Sea Wing

My grandmother has always been afraid of water. She once told me that her father lost some relatives in a Lake Pepin disaster and from that point on he was afraid of water. He would fish from shore, never went in a boat, and didn’t have his children learn how to swim – in turn he passed his fear on to his daughter. It wasn’t until the 1970s when she found a letter in a drawer that she learned this relative of her father lost his wife and three children when the Sea Wing capsized on Lake Pepin. When I looked it up, I learned the story that had caused her fear of water was actually one of the largest domestic maritime disasters in U.S. History.

sea wing

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Fort Snelling: Going Back in Time

Located in the heart of the Twin Cities where the Minnesota and Mississippi Rivers converge, Fort Snelling State Park provides not only a quick nature escape, but also the opportunity to temporarily go back in time. When I walk through the park, I always find myself reflecting on the early days of Minnesota’s history and imagining what it must have been like for the first people living here – then I’m brought back to reality by the roar of an airplane and the soft hum of the freeway. Growing up a fan of Little House on the Prairie, I know that my notions of the early days of life in Minnesota are often romanticized, so I set to work looking into the history of the park. Unfortunately in addition to the more well-known Dred Scott connection, I found a large portion of disappointing history but also some that surprised me.

fort snelling landscape

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History in Horticulture: The Minnesota Landscape Arboretum

“He taught both in scientific words and with dirt-stained hands….” – Jane McKinnon

The Minnesota Landscape Arboretum is the Upper Midwest’s largest public garden and is open 363 days a year. Part of the University of Minnesota, the earliest grounds were established in 1907 as the Horticultural Research Center. They developed cold-hardy crops and we have them to thank for our beloved Honeycrisp apples (among many other plants).

white orchid

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A Brief History of the Como Park Conservatory

The Como Park Conservatory has always been one of my favorite places in the city. In fact, not only did I insist on dragging my family there to take my senior prom photos, but I was also married there. A lush and fragrant setting, the gardens create a tropical paradise regardless of the weather outside.

como park conservatory play days sculpture


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Historic Women: Who Was Hilma Berglund?

“One lifetime isn’t long enough for all the things I’d like to do.”
~ Hilma Berglund

This quote stopped me in my tracks during a visit to the American Swedish Institute. This woman had so succinctly articulated my own sentiments, but who was Hilma Berglund?

As is the case with many historic women, Hilma Berglund was the daughter of poor immigrants who came to America in the pursuit of a better life. Born to Swedish parents in the 1880s, she spent her childhood in Stillwater, Minnesota. Debilitating migraines led to her withdrawal from school and instead, she practiced handicraft artforms like pottery, embroidery, and china painting. When her family moved to Minneapolis, Hilma’s pursuit of the arts grew and she took more classes through the YWCA, Handicraft Guild, and St. Paul Institute of Art. It was a trip to Stockholm in 1914 that introduced her to weaving.

“Just sit down and weave.”

In response to concerns about the looming World War, Hilma’s weaving instructor told the class, “Just sit down and weave.” This advice calmed the students and their lessons continued.  Returning home just as war the war began, Hilma would not return to Sweden until 1922 to continue her weaving education.

In 1930, Hilma received her Bachelor’s of Science degree from the University of Minnesota, her Masters in Fine Arts followed in 1939. These accreditations would finally enable her to acquire high-level teaching jobs and she secured a role in art education with the Universtiy of Minnesota faculty that would span 24 years.

Hilma co-founded the Weavers Guild of Minnesota, took a woodworking class so she could develop a student loom with interchangeable parts (the Minnesota Multi-Use Loom) and experimented with natural dyes. She did all this while also hand making Christmas cards to send the nearly 200 people on her Christmas card list. Her cards were made and sent for 65 years, the message in her final card read, “Day by day and year by year the life pattern grows. How interesting it would be if we could see the completed design on the life-span loom.”

Hilma Berglund passed away in 1972 at the age of 86.

For more information on Hilma Berglund and to see photos of her work, visit Hilma Berglund: A Brief Biography Co-written by Phyllis Waggoner and Becky Franklin which was the primary source used for this blog post.

Minnesota’s Last True Wilderness

Sometimes referred to as Minnesota’s last true wilderness, Big Bog State Recreation is home to the largest peat bog in the lower 48 states. It is larger than the state of Rhode Island.
big bog

Home to the Ojibwe Indians until the late 19th century, Big Bog was left relatively untouched when logging spread through the area due to the swampy nature of the land and lack of mature pine trees.
big bog

The bog is now home to many threatened or endangered native plants of Minnesota including carnivorous sundews and pitcher plants.big bog

This area hosts more than 300 species of birds and many mammals including moose, black bear, white-tailed deer, gray wolves and, of course, the woodchuck.

Calling All Fire Trucks!

I love fire trucks. And I love parades. What could be better than a parade of fire trucks?firetrucks

In the late 1970s, Roger Jackson, a Burnsville resident and fire equipment collector started displaying his collection with the help of his friends. A great source of entertainment for local kids, it included a short parade of equipment down Nicollet Avenue.
firetrucks spraying kids

It was such a hit, the Burnsville Fire Muster & Community Celebration became an official city event. Its first Fire Muster parade was held in 1980.
antique firetrucks

It has grown to include more than 100 fire trucks from around the Midwest from antique horse-drawn hand pumpers (circa 1900) to the latest in firefighting technology.

In 2004 it earned a place in the Guinness Book of Records for holding the longest Fire Truck Parade in the World when over 120 trucks were present.
firetruck parade

For more information, visit The Burnsville Fire Muster.