Category Archives: History

The story behind Pickwick Mill

The Pickwick Mill in Pickwick, Minnesota, started in 1856 by Thomas Grant and Wilson Davis. 

The building started as a sawmill but was later converted to produce flour. It is the oldest flour mill found in Southeast Minnesota. 

The mill was a water-powered gristmill on Big Trout Creek. 

In 1917 the roof was damaged by a cyclone. When it was repaired they put a flat roof on instead of the gable roof. 

When the historical society took it over they returned the roof to the gable roof it originally had. 

The mill has several flights of stairs each with the names of people who have worked there.

Now the mill is still intact but is no longer used to make flour. It stands as a historic site and museum. 

George Johnson, of Rushford, Minnesota, visited the mill on Saturday, Oct. 5. He said he thought it was a beautiful historic place. 

Jeff Wershofen started working at the mill as a child because it was where there was adult supervision. 

Throughout the mill, there are flour bags hung. On the top floor of the mill, they have many strung together with other artifacts.

Wershofen described his experience at the mill as part of a perfect childhood. 

To find out more about Pickwick Mill and Wershofen’s experiences watch the following video.

Pieces of Winona’s Past

By Zach Bailey

 

The stairs creak with each step as Pieces of the Past owner, Cheri Peterson, walks down the stairs toward the basement office.

With each step, the temperature drops by a fraction of a degree as the smell of cold, damp air begins to flood the senses.

Peterson reaches the office, walks to the far end, and opens the large metal door separating the office from the rest of the building’s cellar.

She fumbles for the switch, and as she finally finds the chain and pulls it, light floods the room of the storage center.

She rounds the corner and takes a left, so that she is standing directly below the front room of the store.

“This is where most of the activity happens,” Peterson says, glancing across the scattered Christmas decorations and shelving units.

She pauses for a moment, taking in the view, then turns around and begins walking deeper into the building’s underbelly.

She reaches a thick, metal, sliding door at the far end of the room, and, showing the effort it took to open the door, explains that she does not enter this room often.

A rush of cold air passes by as the door finally slides open and the temperature drops another half-dozen degrees.

She walks into the open space, which houses only two pillars and an old vinyl sign. She is now standing under the back room of the store, where most employees and customers say they have experienced something… abnormal.

“Customers quite frequently say there’s something strange going on in the back half of the store, like someone was standing behind them,” Peterson says. “[I have even] had a customer send photographs of faces reflected in glass. Usually it’s feel but every once in a while, [customers/employees] get a sight [of something strange].”

Peterson quickly walks out of the room, takes one last look at the cellar, then closes the inch-thick metal door, not to open it again until the next curious ghost hunter wants to take a look.

Peterson first opened Pieces of the Past in downtown Winona in January 1995. The store, which began as a wooden furniture shop, made the transition to the home-decor side of sales after moving to the Second and Lafayette streets location in 2000, where they have been since.

This was where the strange happenings began.

The building that now houses Pieces of the Past was built in 1852 and plays quite a role in the haunting’s dark history.

The front half of the store is the oldest building in downtown Winona. The only brick structure downtown, it was the only building to survive the fire of 1856, which destroyed nearly all of downtown Winona, and most of Winona as a whole.

But according to Peterson, there’s more to the building’s history than just its age.

“We’ve found evidence that the building itself was tied to five different deaths,” Peterson said. “Before we moved in, the building had been a bar and brothel in the red-light district.”

Peterson recounted how after moving to their Second Street location, two men who had worked as bartenders in the building came in one day and told her stories of strange things they had seen while working.

The men told of pool balls rolling across the table by themselves and noises being heard when there were no customers around, but they ended with one story that stuck in Peterson’s mind.

“The two were working one night and had to walk downstairs to change a keg or grab something. As they were walking down the steps, they both paused, looked at each other, and said, ‘When we get upstairs, let’s both write down what we saw,’” Peterson said. “They got back upstairs, wrote down what they saw, and showed each other. Both had seen a woman in a pink dress walk past them on the stairway.”

According to Peterson and Haunted Places, a website that documents haunted locations across the nation, Pieces of the Past is home to at least five spirits. Ghosts include the woman from the story, who was apparently shot to death on one of the staircases, and a young girl the ghost hunters identified as “Carol.”

“I’ve caught glimpses of a girl in a yellow dress before. I’ll see her out of the corner of my eye, then when I turn to look she’s gone,” Peterson said. “There was even one time where I was downstairs in the office and I felt a tug on my pant leg. I turned around and there was nothing there, so I went back to my business. A few minutes later it happened again.”

Peterson isn’t the only current employee who has experienced things in the building.

“Some staff members have said they have been tapped on the shoulder or hear things like someone calling their name, or hearing someone say hello, all when no one else is [in the building],” Peterson said. “Employees will come in during the morning to find pictures out of place or find that things had fallen down overnight.”

Trianna Douglas, one of the current employees at Pieces of the Past, recently experienced what she believes to be something paranormal.

“I was here later in the day. Business had been steady but slowed down in the afternoon,” Douglas said. “I was standing up front all alone when I heard it.”

Creak.

Creak.

Creak.

Off to her right, she began to hear footsteps walking toward her, moving down the stairs from the back section of the store, to the front section.

Creak.

Creak.

Creak.

The footsteps stopped at the bottom of the stairs, less than 10 feet from the front desk, then she heard them walk back up the wheelchair ramp next to the stairs.

Creak.

Creak.

Creak.

“For 20 minutes solid you could hear someone walking in circles,” Douglas said. “Up the ramp, then down the stairs.”

Though employees and customers alike have experienced things out of the ordinary, Peterson and staff do not believe there is any reason to be scared.

“Nothing has happened where it feels evil,” Peterson said. “There is no threatening feeling.”

 

 

Zach Bailey is a senior marketing and mass communication-journalism major from Winona, Minnesota. He is the editor-in-chief of the Winonan, the Winona State student newspaper, as well as a member of Sigma Tau Gamma fraternity. In his free time, he enjoys racing motorcycles, playing guitar, reading and watching movies. He hopes to one day work for the New York Times and become a published author.

Experts talk about eagle significance

Colombia, one of the Eagle Center’s five birds, sits on her perch to look out the window.

Written by: Erin Jones and Andrew Schouweiler

For years, eagles have had symbolic importance for many people and cultures.

In both American and Native American cultures, the eagle is culturally and historically significant for different reasons.

For the United States, the eagle is its national emblem, a symbol for independence and freedom. For Native Americans, the eagle has profound religious and cultural meaning, and its feathers are a crucial part of many Native American ceremonies.

It’s not just Native Americans and the United States who recognize the importance of eagles. The National Eagle Center in Wabasha, Minnesota is home to four eagles, who help volunteers educate visitors more about the symbolic bird.

Ed Hahn, the Eagle Center’s marketing manager, talked about the variety of visitors who come to the eagle center.

“Some people come here and a whole new world opens up to them. They’re going to learn a lot about [eagle] behavior, their life cycle, their habitat, things like that,” Hahn said. “Another group that has a very strong personal connection with eagles are both Native Americans and U.S Military veterans. Both of those groups come here, just about every day I would say, and you can just tell when they first meet the eagle ambassadors here at the eagle center that there is a connection they share with the ambassadors.”

James Reidy, associate professor of recreation tourism and therapeutic recreation at Winona State University and former zookeeper, explained why the Eagle Center is allowed to keep their birds.

“The National Eagle Center has educational permits and salvage permits to house the birds and the non-eagles are all those displays of taxonomy birds,” Reidy said. “So the federal government has several different permits depending on what you’re doing, so for the Eagle Center it’s those two.”

 

Was’aka, who was named after the Dakota word for strength, splashes around in his bath.

Travis Erickson is a quarter Dakota Native American and a fourth-generation pipe maker in his family. He explained the significance of eagles in Native American culture.

Erickson said Native Americans use eagle feathers because the eagle flies closer to Creator, which is the basis for the use of eagle feathers in tribes.

“That’s why they use the eagle feathers because he does fly that high, closer to Creator, but in our ceremonies it’s always good to have an eagle feather along with attached to your pipe when you smoke the pipe,” Erickson said. “The spirit of that eagle will take your prayers to Creator.”

Erickson said eagle feathers are associated with an individual’s status and feathers are typically earned or are a representation of a certain characteristic, like courage or wisdom, that a person has or wants to have.

“You always see the chief, he has the long headdress made with all kinds of eagle feathers,” Erickson said. “That’s his status in the tribe and I suppose even a medicine man or a spiritual man might have one, but it wouldn’t be as long as the chief’s would be.”

Native American people don’t just come across eagle feathers randomly. Just as there is a process for places like National Eagle Center to keep live eagles, there is a process for physically getting eagle feathers, as well as their carcasses, which are also important in Native American culture.

Reidy explained the process of distributing eagle carcasses and feathers to Native American tribes across the country.

“It’s a process and what happens is any bird that is injured or dies goes to the repository and there, the repository takes inventory,” Reidy said.

Eagle carcasses and feathers are then assessed for quality and shipped to Native Americans who have requested them through an online application. Sometimes it takes months or even years before a request is filled and a bird is sent out.

Reidy said the process for getting eagle parts has a long history. Governmental protection of bald eagles began in 1918, when the Migratory Bird Treaty Act passed.

“Historically, eagles were hunted for their feathers and things of that sort, not just the native populations, but others would want them and mount them,” Reidy said. “In Alaska, [eagles] were eating the salmon that were already dead, but the fishermen thought they were eating their fish, so they wanted to shoot them.”

Reidy said with the increase of animal habitat destruction and use of pesticides, the United States created the Bald Eagle Protection Act of 1940, which included golden eagles in 1962, as people could not differentiate between first-year bald eagles and adult goldens.

Protection of eagles went further when they were listed as an endangered species under both the Endangered Species Preservation Act of 1966 and the Endangered Species Act of 1973, making it illegal to hunt eagles or possess them.

According to Erickson, this presented a problem for Native Americans who needed eagle parts for their ceremonies.

“When they made the eagles illegal to hunt, then the tribal people got kind of upset a little bit and so [the government] said, ‘Well, it is a part of your culture, it is open to you guys, but you can’t hunt them.’,” Erickson said.

It was then, in the early 1970s, when the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service developed the National Eagle Repository to allow Native Americans, as well as the National Eagle Center, to possess eagles and their feathers.

Erickson said despite the tedious process, eagle carcasses and feathers are a crucial part of Native American culture and are a sign of honor and respect, particularly for the animal.

“That’s pretty simply put,” Erickson said. “But you create the sacredness in those feathers when you receive [them].”

https://www.nationaleaglecenter.org/

https://www.facebook.com/TheNationalEagleCenter

Winona brewing continues almost 200 years

Winona had a brewery before the town had its own flour mill. The history of Winona breweries can be traced back 170 years.

That first brewery in the area was Gilmore Valley Brewing which started in the 1850s shortly after Winona was settled by immigrants. Later Gilmore Valley Brewing became C.C. Beck.

The Rochester Post Bulletin reported the first breweries had a few things in common.

One was that all of them changed owners and names a few times before they closed.

The other was that most of them were founded by a German immigrant.

Bub’s Brewing Company, which exists today but in the form of a bar restaurant, was started after the Gilmore Valley Brewing Company. The company does not make beer anymore.

Originally the brewery was named Weisbrod Brewing Company and was run by Jacob Weisbord.

Bub’s Brewing company was one of the original brewing companies in Winona. The company stopped brewing beer eventually. Today Bub’s is a bar restaurant.

Peter Bub, who would eventually own the company started as a brew master and foreman.

When Weisbrod died of Typhoid fever in 1870, Bub became the manager of the brewery.

Bub later married Weisbrod’s widow and became owner of the brewery, changing the name to Bub’s Brewing.

This was the only brewing company that was able to survive during the prohibition because they sold soft drinks and near-beer, which had an alcohol content of less than one percent, according to the Post Bulletin.

The brewery eventually closed because of lack of an advertising budget and struggle to find cans and bottles to fit the volume discount, according to the Post Bulletin.

The most recent brewery to open in Winona is Island City Brewing Company. The taproom and brewery opened in 2017 on St. Patrick’s Day.

There were some issues for partners ,Colton Altobell and Tommy Rodengen, when renovating their section of the building they share with Jefferson’s Pub and Grill.

Renovations started in May of 2016, according to the Island City Brewing Company’s blog.

Altobell and Rodengen started the process hoping for a fall opening date. The partners were caught in the licensing process for longer than they hoped.

In a video on the company’s blog, the two owners stated they wanted to be a part of the community and  by 2021 they wanted to be selling their beer regionally.

“As a member of the community of Winona we hope to exist as a landmark and destination in town. A place where families, friends and neighbors can gather to enjoy good conversation and enjoy fresh local made beers and house made sodas,” Altobell said in the video. “We hope to give back to the community too and be a part of Winona in every way we can.”

The brewery now hosts events like “The Battle of the Brushes” and a drag show with Winona State Full Spectrum, a LGBT club on the Winona State campus.

Altobell and Rodengen do not run the brewery. As of March of 2018, Douglas Irwin became the Chief Effective Officer (CEO) of Island City Brewing Company.

Irwin said in an email that his favorite part about running a taproom and brewery is the people who love it.

“I get to share my passion with many more people, and I get to do it as my job,” Irwin said. “The long days are worth it when you have strangers tell you that they love your beer and really enjoy your taproom experience.”

Winona Knitting Mills: The History Behind the Building

Pete Woodworth, former owner of the Winona Knitting Mills, walked into Wanek Hall at the Winona County Historical Society on Wednesday sporting a green cable knit cardigan he made at the Winona Knitting Mills 58 years ago. This was the first sweater Woodworth ever made when he was 12 years old.

“I wore it to work one day and someone told me it was so beautifully made, that I should hang on to it.” Woodworth said, “I didn’t know they meant until I was 70.”

Woodworth began working for the Winona Knitting Mills at the age of 6-years-old where he started packing sweaters into plastic bags to prepare them for shipping. He worked there ever since, only taking a break to join the Navy for five years. Now, at 69-years-old, Woodworth said how grateful he is to be able to still have the Winona Knitting Mills in his family and work in the building.

Woodworth’s grandfather, Walker Woodworth, bought the building in 1943 with his partner, Harry J. Stone. They owned two other locations at the time and were looking for a third location. Jack Temple, the owner of a textile company in Winona, suggested they invest in a building in Winona. The empty building on East Second Street was originally built for a wool mill that never opened.

The mayor of Winona welcomed Walker Woodworth and told him he wouldn’t require Woodworth to pay property taxes for the first year and would only have to pay taxes in 10 percent increments for 10 years as long as they had 200 people working at the mills by the end of 10 years.

To everyone’s surprise, the Winona Knitting Mills had more than 200 employees by the first year.

Pete Woodworth said when the Winona Knitting Mills opened, there were lines of people waiting work at the mills. He said mostly women were employed to run the sewing machines, and noted they enjoyed working there together and most of them were friends.

Proof of the friendships made can still be seen in the break room of the Winona Knitting Mills building. Enlarged photos of women with their arms around each other, laughing and eating ice cream at company picnics can be found hanging on the walls of the original break room. Woodworth said the break room has been left untouched to remind current tenants of the bonds that were created in the building.

At the lecture, to Woodworth’s pleasure, were many employees of the Winona Knitting Mills. The whole audience laughed when Woodworth hauled a huge movie poster up on stage and told the tale of the time he and his wife Joyce were able to attend the New York movie premiere of “The Big Lebowski.” Woodworth said he was proud of the fact that Jeff Bridges chose the Winona-made sweater from a warehouse full of costumes and made the sweater famous.

Woodworth told the audience about how he and his wife went bowling with the cast of the movie and his wife was only able to enter the movie screening because she was wearing the infamous sweater.

In the audience, Howard Rockwell and his wife listened to the history of the old building he used to work in. Rockwell said he loved working at the Winona Knitting Mills and said he got along well with Woodworth and his family.

Rockwell worked at the Winona Knitting Mills in the laundry department from 1955 to 1995. He was in charge of washing all the material before it was sent to the machines.

Rockwell said after 40 years of working at the Winona Knitting Mills, his favorite memory was when they moved the laundry facility from the first floor to the third floor. Rockwell said he was happy to move up to the third floor because he was able to see the river and bluffs from the window’s view.

Rockwell talked with old friends and coworkers he hadn’t seen since he retired in 1995. Woodworth recognized some of his old employees and thanked them for coming to the lecture. After the lecture there were some questions about what went wrong for the Winona Knitting Mills. For some, the closing was unexpected, especially for the employees.

Even though Rockwell had retired in 1995, he was saddened to hear the news of the mills shutting down.

“I was surprised and thankful that I retired at the right time. I was really surprised; they hired a lot of people. I saw a lot of people come and go.” Rockwell said.

Some of the audience members wanted to know what happened to the Winona Knitting Mills and Woodworth explained that they merged with the Hampshire Group Limited, a women’s apparel company.

The Winona Knitting Mills closed a few years after The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) was introduced. Woodworth explained said he was advised to sell the company after making visits to Washington D.C. and hearing about the trade agreement.

Woodworth said the hardest moment of his career was when he had to tell his employees the Winona Knitting Mills was closing its doors for good, leaving 180 employees unemployed.

He talked about how he was the type of employer who wanted the best for his employees.

“I’ll try to help you become who you want to be. That’s what kind of company we were. We had a big sign on the office door that said ‘always open’. Those values came from my father and it came from his father.” Woodworth said.

Woodworth’s children now own the building that once was the Winona Knitting Mills. The building is now WKM Properties, a commercial space with 225,000 square feet of leasable space and 10,000 square feet of available space.

dean-cuff-machine-assignment2
This is a cuffing machine that was used to sew cuffs onto sleeves of sweaters such as the one behind the machine. This antique now sits on display on the second floor of WKM properties.

Racing Runs Deep with Rushford’s Tuff

This weekend marked the 58th annual running of the Daytona 500, NASCAR’s most prestigious race. Since its inception in 1959, Daytona has served as one of the most iconic tracks NASCAR visits. A lot has changed since then; the cars have changed, the rules have changed, and the drivers have changed since the infant stages of NASCAR.

Yet one thing remains the same; go faster than the rest.

Rushford, Minnesota’s, Ernie Tuff, 85, knows how to go fast, especially at Daytona International Speedway. He was dubbed “The World’s Fastest Man” after building an engine for Edward Glenn “Fireball” Roberts for the 1964 NASCAR Modified Sportsman Division race at Daytona International Speedway.

“Fireball was the greatest racecar driver in the world,” said Tuff in a recent interview. Roberts, a 2014 NASCAR Hall of Fame inductee collected 33 NASCAR Grand National (now Sprint Cup) wins, but he often preferred to dabble in the Modified Sportsman Division, where the cars were faster than the Grand National cars.

Back in the ’60s, there were two NASCAR divisions; the top-tier division was the NASCAR Grand National Series.

This series featured names like Richard Petty and David Pearson. There was a strict set of rules that every team, car and driver had to follow.

The second-tier series was the NASCAR Modified Sportsman Division. There were virtually no rules in this division, except that the car had to be at least three years older than the current model year. It was a proving ground where drivers tried to make a name for themselves and garner the attention of high-profile teams to get a shot at racing at the Grand National level.

Generally, the Grand National Series ran on Sundays, with the companion Modified Sportsman Division racing on Saturdays.

Compared to today’s NASCAR, the Modified Sportsman Division parallels the NASCAR Xfinty Series, the “AAA” of NASCAR.

Tuff is “a self-made man,” said local racing historian Dale Danielski.

Tuff said he looks up to people like Henry Ford and Thomas Edison, and it is evident with the historic photos hanging on the walls of his property. He said one of the reasons he was attracted to Ford and Edison was because they liked to tinker around and build things with their hands. So did Tuff. And he still works on project cars to this day.

Tuff never finished high school, quitting after eighth grade because he felt the stuffiness of a classroom didn’t let his creativity flow. “I would be sitting in the classroom, thinking about how to make a motor work,” said Tuff. “Not thinking about the math problems.”

Studying the life and career of Henry Ford closely, his allegiance was to the Ford Motor Company. “I didn’t like Chevys,” he said with a straight face. “Anyone who knew anything was racing a Ford.”

After a successful career as an engine builder at the local level, building engines for Jerry Richert and Scratch Daniels, among others, Tuff decided to give NASCAR a shot.

In 1964, Tuff built a 427 cubic inch Ford V8 engine and put in in a 1961 Ford Starliner, emblazoned with the No. 99 on the door. He brought it to Daytona, and Fireball Roberts was slated as the driver.

“I put in a half-inch longer stroke with fuel injection, and that’s when I got the greatest driver in the world, Fireball Roberts,” Tuff said.

During qualifying on the Wednesday prior to the race on Saturday, Roberts posted the fastest time out of the 50 drivers, reaching an average lap speed of 170.470 mph over the 2.5-mile track.

“They must’ve calculated it three or four times. It didn’t seem quite right,” he said.

The second-place qualifier, Junior Johnson, was nearly five mph slower in his 1959 Chevy, with a speed of 165.822 mph.

“It’s pretty easy to attract good talent when you have the fastest car in the world,” Tuff said.

As for the race, an ignition issue prevented Roberts and Tuff from reaching victory lane, completing just 37 of the 80 laps for the 200-mile race. The race was delayed because of rain, and was shortened because of darkness. Originally, the race was scheduled to be 250 miles. Roberts finished 44th.

Not only did Fireball Roberts drive for Tuff, but Cale Yarborough, LeeRoy Yarbrough, and Larry Frank also piloted the No. 99 Ford Starliner.

From 1964 to 1967, Tuff brought the same car to Daytona for the race, but in ’67 he visited Lee Petty in the Grand National garage area. Tuff acquired a stroked 426 cubic inch hemi Plymouth V8, swapping the Ford out for the Plymouth power.

LeeRoy Yarbrough drove the car in ’67 and he set a new speed record at Daytona. He became the first to average more than 180 mph for a single lap in a stock car.

In 1968, NASCAR president Bill France outlawed Tuff’s car in an effort to keep the competition equal, to Tuff’s chagrin.

The car then sat idle for 47 years on Tuff’s property, and didn’t run until a few years ago. Tuff keeps it in his garage with his other project cars, and he enjoys bringing it to vintage car shows in the summer.

“It wasn’t too great just being built in Rushford, Minnesota, but at least it was the best in the world.”