Ole “Music” Olson

He was one of Minnesota’s finest band leaders, directing Litchfield’s for more than forty years. First, you’ll need to download the free Zappar app to your smart phone — works with Apple and Android. Then, after opening, point at the poster and watch history come alive.

Welcome Comrades!

Why should you join the Grand Army of the Republic? We used the actual words of Frank Daggett, the local newspaper editor for whom the Litchfield post is named. First, you’ll need to download the free Zappar app to your smart phone — works with Apple and Android. Then, after opening, point at the poster and watch history come alive.

Historic Downtown Litchfield

Our newest walking tour is available on both Vimeo and YouTube.

There is something special about this historic district that sets it apart from found in other Midwest towns. More than half of the historic district’s buildings were built before circa 1900, many using a distinctive locally-produced cream-colored brick. Within the district is Central Park, a peaceful, green space flanked by two nationally-significant treasures.

— On the east side, you’ll find the Grand Army of the Republic Hall, where Civil War veterans gathered to remember that terrible conflict but also to lobby for veterans benefits. It’s one of America’s best-preserved GAR Halls.

— North of the park is Trinity Episcopal Church, called “one of Minnesota’s most important nineteenth-century buildings” by architectural historian David Gebhard.

This tour will take you through the National Register Commercial Historic District, introducing you to some of the city’s finest architecture as well as a few of its most colorful characters. 

Take look at all twenty-eight Litchfield videos: https://vimeo.com/showcase/5954854

And check our blog on this site to see “augmented history.” You’ll need to download the free app Zappar to your smartphone.

Grand Army of the Republic: http://pastcasts.com/?p=583

Norma Berke: http://pastcasts.com/?p=573

Music Olson: http://pastcasts.com/?p=591

Becoming Eagan: The Making of a Community, 1972-2010

This week, the City of Eagan published my book, Becoming Eagan. As recent history, it was a challenge in that almost all the sources were still alive — different than nineteenth century history! The project included more than a dozen oral history interviews with key people. The book tells the story of a rural community, south of the Minnesota and Mississippi Rivers, that was swept up in a population boom. As I’ve mentioned elsewhere, the heart of the book comes down to the choices that were made by the city’s leadership. The book, hardbound and lavishly illustrated, is available at the Eagan Community Center for $25.

New Ulm Turner Ladies

I am proud to have been a board member at New Ulm Turner Hall for more than a decade. It is truly “living history” — the oldest bar in Minnesota under the same organization as the oldest gymnastics program in Minnesota. Still fulfilling the same mission that it began with in 1856. That’s remarkable and a testament to the work of generations of board members. There is another equally important part of the story — the Turner Ladies. Organized as the Damenverein in 1889, this auxiliary has raised money for significant projects while assisting with banquets, dinners, and special occasions. For this year’s Stiftungsfest, I interviewed several members. Here is the half-hour video.

Loyalty & Dissent: Brown County and WWI

This exhibit is now open at the Brown County Historical Society in New Ulm, Minnesota. It was a great team effort to develop. I’m especially proud because it addresses significant issues that have relevance today.

A Sigel Township Farm

For our documentary, A Heritage Transplanted: German Bohemians in America, we gathered nearly 100 hours of interviews. The full-length videos will be available to researchers at the German Bohemian Heritage Society Library and the Brown County Historical Society. There was an abundance of wonderful stories, and none better than those told by Pat Kretsch. Last fall we toured the Sigel Township farm owned by his two uncles and an aunt. The interview is available here for the first time.

A Homeland Transplanted DVD Now Available

gbhs DVD

The German-Bohemian Heritage Society has just released the DVD of our documentary, A Homeland Transplanted: German Bohemians in America. In the latter half of the nineteenth century, immigrants from German-speaking Bohemia came to America, with many settling near New Ulm, Minnesota. There, they lived on farms in the surrounding townships or in neighborhoods like Goosetown and the Wallachei. They brought the folkways of their homeland with them to the new world. Today, the traces of that culture — their Heimat — linger. Many recall the use of the “Böhmish” dialect at home or in the fields. At the family table, bread dumplings with horseradish gravy or “schmierkucken” are still a part of their family fare. Older members of the community carry on crafts such as music-making and klöppeled lace. Based on oral history interviews, this documentary tells the story of a homeland transplanted. 122 minutes

For more information, contact:
German-Bohemian Heritage Society
P. O. Box 822
New Ulm, MN 56073

Flatboatmen of the Frontier

Friends are taking off for a year with their two sons, heading down the Mississippi River in a houseboat. It’s the life of Huck Finn, hopefully without the drama. It will be a voyage that they will never forget. We talked a little about the history of flatboats, and I sent links to several websites about George Caleb Bingham and his evocative early nineteenth century paintings. In the search for more history, I was sent to this fascinating documentary, done in 1941. It begins in a low key manner, never quite stating that it is a recreation.