This month in Minnesota history

EDITOR’S NOTE: Part 1 of This Month in Minnesota History (Aug. 1 – 21) was published in last week’s edition of Hometown Focus.

Aug. 22

1888: The Minnesota [Farmers’] Alliance and the Knights of Labor hold a conference to organize the Farm and Labor Party, nominating Ignatius Donnelly as their gubernatorial candidate. Donnelly would, however, withdraw from the race, and the nascent party would collapse. From the ashes of their false start, the members and organizations associated in the Farm and Labor Party would eventually become the Nonpartisan League and the Minnesota Federation of Labor, the direct ancestors of the Farmer–Labor Party, organizing the new party 30 years later, on August 24 and 25, 1918, and nominating David Evans as their gubernatorial candidate.

1912: Coya Knutson is born in Edmore, North Dakota. In 1954 she would become the first female member of Congress from Minnesota, and she would be respected nationwide for her stance on agriculture issues and her championing of the family farmer. In 1958, however, members of her own party conspired with her husband Andy Knutson to keep her from winning a third congressional term. Known as the “Coya Come Home” episode, this scandal is unfortunately what most people remember about Knutson, rather than her political record as a congresswoman.

1999: Governor Jesse “The Body” Ventura returns to his roots, refereeing a professional wrestling match at Target Center in Minneapolis.

2002: A drug raid leaves an 11-year-old boy injured by a policeman’s bullet and incites violent protests in North Minneapolis. The protest comes two weeks after another young African American man was shot by police in the same neighborhood, and protesters accuse the police of targeting African Americans. The press are targets of violence during the protest. Aug. 23

1852: Joseph R. Brown arrives at the site of Henderson, which he would name for his mother’s family. Brown had been involved in various ventures, serving as a soldier, explorer, farmer, lumberman, legislator, and Indian agent in the early years of the territory.

1862: Twenty-four townspeople are killed at the second Battle of New Ulm during the U.S.-Dakota War. Although the Dakota come close to victory, the barricaded defenders, led by Judge Charles E. Flandrau, manage to hold the town’s center. Among the dead is Captain William Dodd, who had founded St. Peter in 1853 and laid out the Dodd Road from St. Paul to Mankato.

1899: Interurban streetcar service between St. Paul and Stillwater begins. The ride costs 30 cents and lasts about an hour and 15 minutes. Aug. 24

1819: Colonel Henry Leavenworth and the Fifth Infantry arrive in Mendota to build a fort at the confluence of the Mississippi and St. Peters (later the Minnesota) rivers. The following August, Colonel Josiah Snelling takes command of the fort, which is known as Fort St. Anthony until 1825, when it is renamed Fort Snelling.

1839: Lewis S. Judd and David Hone open the Marine Lumber Company on the St. Croix River. Aug. 25

1827: Minnesota’s first post office is established at Fort Snelling.

1901: Elmer Engstrom is born in Minneapolis. He would be involved in the development of color television during his career with the RCA Corporation.

1917: Reacting to protests in New Ulm over the use of draftees in the European War, the Commission of Public Safety, under orders from Governor Joseph A. A. Burnquist, suspends Mayor Louis A. Fritsche from office. Other city officials and the president of Martin Luther College are also removed from their positions. These actions effectively end the protests, although Fritsche would later be reelected.

1937: Congress establishes the state’s first national monument: Pipestone National Monument in southwestern Minnesota. Native Americans, including the Dakota, have mined pipestone (catlinite) from the quarry inside the monument for hundreds of years. Aug. 26

1731: Frenchman Pierre La Verendrye and his voyageurs land at Grand Portage to begin an expedition into the region west of the Great Lakes. La Verendrye eventually establishes a trading post, Fort St. Charles, on Lake of the Woods.

1848: The Stillwater Convention petitions Congress to establish the Territory of Minnesota. Wisconsin’s recent admission into the Union meant that settlers in the area between the Mississippi and St. Croix Rivers were without a government. Minnesota Territory would be officially recognized on March 3, 1849.

1919: The state legislature ratifies the nineteenth amendment to the Constitution of the United States, granting women the right to vote. Prior to this federal amendment, the state’s women had been permitted to vote only in elections for school officials and for library officials, since 1876 and 1898, respectively.

2000: On Women’s Equality Day, the Minnesota Woman Suffrage Memorial is dedicated at the state capitol. Titled “Garden of Time: Landscape of Change,” the memorial is planted with native grasses and flowers and features a 100-foot trellis imprinted with the names of important suffrage leaders in the state’s history. Aug. 27

1979: A UFO sighting in Marshall County? In the early morning, sheriff’s deputy Val Johnson is driving his car when he sees a bright light and then loses consciousness. An investigation by Sheriff Denis Brekke finds the car’s windshield inexplicably damaged. The Ford Motor Company determines that the windshield cracked due to a combination of high pressure inside the car and low pressure outside. Later it is discovered that Johnson’s wristwatch and the car’s clock are both 14 minutes slow. No further explanations of the event have come to light.

2006: Curtis Warnke, publisher of the Wood Lake News from 1966 to 1994 and the youngest person elected to the Minnesota Legislature (in 1956), passes away from cancer at age 74. Aug. 28

1857: The one-day “Cornstalk War” occurs between a group of six Ojibwe and the St. Paul Light Cavalry Company, which had been summoned after reports of thefts. Each side loses one man after exchanging shots in a cornfield near Sunrise.

1883: Jacob A. O. Preus is born in Wisconsin. Founder of the Lutheran Brotherhood fraternal society, he would serve as state governor from 1921 to 1925. He died on May 24, 1961.

1977: Lake City’s Ralph Samuelson, the “father of water-skiing,” dies. In 1922 Samuelson had successfully tested water skis on Lake Pepin, having fashioned the skis by boiling and curving the tips of boards purchased at a local lumberyard. Aug. 29

1857: The Constitutional Conventions for the soon-to-be state of Minnesota agree to a compromise document as the state’s constitution. The convention had split into two parts, Republican and Democratic, shortly after it convened. While the groups were unable to bring themselves to work together formally, they manage to produce nearly identical documents that form the state’s constitution. No change in cooperation has been noted since.

1857: Minnesota experiences the first ripple of the Panic of 1857 as the William Brewster and Company bank goes out of business, soon followed by the Marshall and Company bank on October 3 and the Truman M. Smith bank on October 4. The first depression in the territory, the panic is caused in part by the unsound land speculation of the territory’s boom period and by the August 24 collapse of the New York branch of the Ohio Life Insurance and Trust Company, which brings down banks across the country, causing a nationwide depression that lasts three years.

1860: St. Paul’s first telegraphed message is delivered to William H. Seward, governor of New York and Republican presidential hopeful. Aug. 30

1812: The first of the Selkirk colony members reach the Red River valley, where the Earl of Selkirk had claimed land covering much of present-day Manitoba and parts of present-day North Dakota and Minnesota. A flood, grasshoppers, and rivalries between fur companies in the 1820s eventually led to the colony’s failure, and many of the settler colonists would move to the grounds of Fort Snelling.

1813: Martin McLeod is born in Montreal. Arriving at Fort Snelling in 1837, he would trade furs in the Minnesota Valley for 20 years, be instrumental in persuading the Dakota to sign the treaties of Mendota and Traverse des Sioux, and, as a member of the legislature, write the law that created the Minnesota Public School Fund. He died in 1860.

1924: H. F. Pigman, a “human fly,” loses his grip and falls 70 feet from the courthouse tower in Albert Lea. He survives the fall but sustains serious injuries. Said the Minneapolis Tribune of human flies, “When he meets with disaster his title to sympathy is decidedly clouded.”

1968: A race riot begins during a dance at Stem Hall in St. Paul. Ignited by an alcohol violation, the riot continues through the next day, resulting in 26 arrests, numerous police and civilian injuries, and thousands of dollars in property damage from fire and vandalism, mostly in St. Paul’s Selby–Dale neighborhood. Aug. 31

1823: Giacomo C. Beltrami reaches and names Lake Julia, which he incorrectly declares to be the source of the Mississippi River.

1929: The Foshay Tower is dedicated in Minneapolis. Hiring John Sousa to write and perform a march for the occasion, Wilbur Foshay throws a splendid grandopening party, a final display of extravagance before the 1929 crash and subsequent economic depression that ruins him.

Source:, from The Minnesota Book of Days (Minnesota Historical Society Press).

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