Cemetery Stories will take place on October 8th at the Northfield Cemetery (across from the High School). This year’s event will include stories from seven of Northfield’s former residents. Guests will hear the life story of Betsy Scofield, Charles Wheaton, Fred Hill, Hiram Scriver, John Boone, Nellie/Harriet Bunday. All of these stories are different and will give everyone a glimpse into Northfield’s unique past.
Tours will be at 4:20, 4:40, 5:00, 5:20, 6:20, 6:40, 7:00, 7:20 & 7:40. Space is limited so pre-registering is suggested. You can do so by visiting the
NHS website or calling NHS at 507-645-9268.
Or clicking here:
This is a family friendly event, there will be light snacks for guests.
The price of admission is:
$3.00 NHS member.
Here is a glimpse of what you will hear that night.
Charles A. Wheaton
Wheaton was born on July 1, 1809 in Armenia, New York. In 1835 he moved to Syracuse where he became a wealthy merchant, fathered his twelve children. He also became heavily involved in the Underground Railroad. After the death of his first wife he moved to Northfield and bought out all of John North’s assets. Wheaton would manage the grist mill, served as editor of the Rice County Journal, and was very involved in local politics.
John A. Boone
John Boone was born in Onslow County, North Carolina on September 6, 1841. He was a free-born African-American as was his wife, Missouri Burns.
When the Civil War broke out, Boone answered the first call for volunteers for the Union Army. In St. Louis, he was assigned to the 18th Missouri Infantry. He was a corporal of Company H for one year and eight months, seeing service in Gettysburg. He served until March 1866, when he was honorably discharged and mustered out.
John Boone became a prominent member of the Northfield community following his service. He and Missouri had ten children, seven of them surviving into adulthood. He was a farmer and dedicated carpenter.
The following article invites readers into an imaginary trip back into the early days of Northfield. The time is summer 1876. May your journey feel real and tangible, as though actually stepping backing time.
Setting the stage
In 1876, Northfield is a community of over 2000 people, where “modern” improvements mean added railroad tracks and telegraph lines. Division Street boasts a few stone and brick buildings, but most are wooden structures with extended awnings to lessen the summer heat. In the countryside, wheat is king. In town, businesses cater to the needs of townspeople and the area’s farm-based economy.
Taking an imaginary trip back to 1876
If we could magically walk into an old photo of Division Street before the September 7th raid, what businesses and activities would we find? Imagine our first steps onto the dirt packed thoroughfare, suddenly aware of oncoming horse-drawn buggies and wagons. No longer holding a sepia tinted photograph, we find ourselves inside it–surrounded by color, movement and warm sunshine. Our feet safely planted on wood-planked sidewalks, we glance up at the closest building, the Dampier House Hotel. It bears no resemblance to the brick edifice housing today’s Rare Pair.
Among the few recognizable sites, we notice other differences. To the south, we spot a farmer moving towards the limestone storefront at the corner of Fifth and Division Streets. It’s not Bierman’s Furniture, however, but Bjoraker’s General Store. Across the way, Mayor Hiram Scriver strides into the First National Bank, a place we recognize as the Northfield Historical Museum. Several stores to our left, a smiling child and her mother step into the Eldred Confectionary shop. It is in the same area as our Hideaway Coffeehouse with its equally delicious sweets, but in an older structure.
We also see buildings with no modern counterparts. In the place of The Measuring Cup sits a cigar factory. Up and down the street, we stroll past a string of forgotten businesses like the Julius Revier Feed Store, Robert Silk Harness and Saddles, Skinner and Drew General Store and many others.
Imagining the smells and sounds of Northfield
In museum photos, a younger Division Street appears less tidy and one ponders if it was somewhat smelly, especially on a hot summer’s day. Historical research provides us with more clues. Through these sources, we might conjure up an odorous mix of saddle leather, dust and horse dung. More pleasing to consider, we might imagine aromas of stewed meat and potatoes emanating from the Onstad & Svien Restaurant. Near the present site of Witt Bros. Automotive Repair, research tells us a blacksmith once fired hot coals to forge horseshoes and mends broken harnesses. We may certainly wonder what smells originated from that outdated process. Easier to imagine is the clanging sound of the smithy’s anvil resonating up and down the street. Farther away, we can almost hear the moos, bleats and cock-a-doodle-doos from farm animals living in sheds, pens and coops, all within walking distance of Division Street.
Of course, there are also human sounds to imagine. There might be men’s boots tapping against the wooden sidewalks, women’s ankle length dresses swishing back and forth or conversations drifting in and out of reach. Friends might also be discussing the current presidential race, favoring either Rutherford B. Hayes or Samuel J. Tilden. Just behind them, we might hear the owner of a millinery shop greeting customers from her doorway, hoping to sell one of her fancy hats. Conversations among foreign born residents would easily stand out. Speaking Norwegian, German or Swedish, they might be sharing good news from “the old country” or merely discussing the price of goods. (257 words)
Imagining former leisure activities
If we move from onlooker to participant, we could choose from one of many activities. Next to Eldred’s Confectionary, the Lockwood’s Opera House offers everything from classical concerts to popular shows. There is a small but growing library that also invites lecturers to Northfield’s oldest surviving structure, the Lyceum Building. We would certainly celebrate America’s Centennial on July 4th with a “basket picnic,” a parade, sack races and a “splendid display of fire-works” as proclaimed in the Rice County Herald. If a sports fan, we would cheer for the Northfield Silver Stars as they play against the Hastings Crescents–in the still evolving game they spell “base ball.” (107 words)
Imagining Northfielders 140 years from today and their view of us
Northfield’s buildings, streets and activities have clearly evolved since 1876 and change will continue. In 2016, 140 years from today, what locations will we still recognize and what will be beyond recognition – or even astonishing? How will future residents view our contributions to the Northfield they experience? One measure may be our efforts to preserve important aspects of Northfield’s history, whether through restorations of the Northfield Depot, its Armory or future projects. Ideally, such commitments can one day link historic buildings with ever new enterprises. Certainly, the future will offer its share of surprises, even as we hope Northfield’s historic roots remain visible.
Today marks the 140 anniversary of the failed bank raid by the James-Younger Gang. The gang rode into Northfield intent on robbing the
First National Bank of Northfield. It was just a bit before 2:00 p.m. when three of the raiders entered the bank. It only lasted seven minutes but those seven minutes have stayed with Northfield forever.
This week Northfield celebrates the Defeat of Jesse James Days (DJJD). The celebration is for the towns people that defeated the James-Younger Gang. People like, J.S. Allen, Henry Wheeler, Elias Stacy, A.R. Manning, Frank Wilcox, Alonzo Bunker and of course Joseph Lee Heywood. It was because of the bravery of these men the gang was defeated and Heywood paid the ultimate price. He refused to open the vault for the gang even after multiple beatings and was killed for protecting Northfield’s future.
It is the extraordinary courage of these ordinary men that we honor this week. DJJD starts today (September 7th) with a graveside memorial for Joseph Lee Heywood and the other heroes of September 7 in the Northfield Cemetery at noon. It is a great way to start off a fun-filled weekend as it really helps put things in perspective.
This article was written by Norman Oberto, on why he and his family wanted to redevelop Wheeler Park.
I have been asked to write an article explaining my interest in creating a park in honor of Henry Wheeler – and thus underwriting the cost to landscape the 2.7 acres designated by the city as Wheeler Park.
I had not paid much attention to Henry Wheeler’s role in Northfield’s history until Hayes Scriven, Northfield Historical Society Executive Director, asked for my assistance in purchasing a set of historical artifacts that had been in a private collection for over thirty years. These items have become known as, “The Wheeler Collection,” including Mr. Wheeler’s rifle, pistol, gold watch, and numerous family pictures in a decorative trunk.
After learning the story of Henry Wheeler, the young college student, and his heroic role in disrupting the James-Younger Gang raid on September 7, 1876, I decided to assist the Northfield Historical Society by acquiring the collection and putting it on loan to the Historical Society.
The reason for my involvement is very simple. I liked the fact that this college student acted with incredible bravery to disrupt the bank robbery, thus preventing what would have been a catastrophic event for the young town of Northfield.
The James-Younger Gang attempted bank raid story has been told over and over, along with the heroism of Mr. Joseph Lee Heywood, who gave his life in foiling the infamous bank robbery. Other townspeople also acted with bravery. One of these individuals was Henry Wheeler, who picked up a rifle from the mantel of the Dampier Hotel, ran upstairs to a location across the street from the bank, shot Clell Miller, and wounded Bob Younger. His quick response to, “Get your guns boys, they’re robbing the bank” was crucial in preventing the gang from robbing the First National Bank of Northfield.
When I heard the story for the first time, I wondered how I would have reacted to such an event in the face of life-threatening danger. I would like to think I would have acted like Henry Wheeler, but one never knows until unexpectedly faced with the decision.
In today’s world, I, along with many of us, probably will not be faced with trying to foil a bank robbery. However, I do believe we all have the opportunity to conduct ourselves like Henry Wheeler each and every day. We can be heroes to the people we meet and interact with by acting in a caring, kind, and honorable way. Most likely our actions would not be considered heroic, but certainly we could try to model them after Henry Wheeler.
In short, just being a good neighbor and friend, helping those in need, and trying to make our community a better place to live exemplify the character demonstrated by Henry Wheeler.
By establishing Wheeler Park, it is my hope that everyone will be able to take a moment to reflect on the example set by Henry Wheeler. Between the wild grasses, flowers, and rows of oak trees, there is plenty to admire whether driving by, taking an evening walk, or sitting on one of the four stone benches.
I also hope that Wheeler Park will remind people of the strong community we have built since that fateful day in 1876. As the years go by, and the trees and grasses become more established, may all of us remember that our community has been, and will continue to be, built on people caring about people. My desire is that Wheeler Park reminds us to be good stewards of our community, based on the legacy of Henry Wheeler and others before us.
This is a guest column by NHS Executive Director, Hayes Scriven that will appear in the Northfield News on September 3.
“YOU ARE THE CASHIER; NOW OPEN THE SAFE, YOU $&# %@&* SON OF A &!$#*.”
Image that those are the last few words you hear. Well, those were the words that Joseph Lee Heywood heard during the failed robbery of 1876. Image what your response would be to that. Heywood’s was “It’s on a time-lock and cannot be opened now!”
Shortly after that, Mr. Heywood was hit over the head with a pistol, had a knife run across his throat and ultimately a gun put to his temple and the trigger pulled, ending his life. But at every point during the robbery, he refused to open the vault for a cut-throat from Missouri.
The story of Joseph Lee Heywood is an amazing one and inspires me in my job as Director of the Northfield Historical Society and as a volunteer on the Defeat of Jesse James Days committee. Heywood was a volunteer and loved this community. He volunteered at his church, he worked with City of Northfield and Carleton as their treasurer. Not to mention he was a Civil War veteran who lived through some of the worst battles of the war. He loved Northfield, that is why he and his wife decided to settle here.
I always think about the bravery of Heywood and the determination that he exhibited in a moment of ultimate fear. I also think of the bravery and the willingness of the other townspeople who took up arms and acted so calmly under pressure.
So when people ask me why I volunteer for the Defeat of Jesse James Days, I always state that I try to emulate my work and the way I live my life the way the townspeople of 1876 did. I try to watch out for my fellow person, care for people in their time of need, act appropriately in certain situations and give back to the community that I love.
That is what the upcoming celebration is about. It is not about a carnival, parade, car show, giddy up horsey races or even the amazing food. It is about celebrating what is great about Northfield! So join me in celebrating Northfield this year, September 7-11, and let’s honor the people that have made this community great!
The City of Northfield along with the Defeat of Jesse James Days Committee and the Northfield Historical Society will dedicate the newly created Wheeler Park Wednesday, September 7, at 2 p.m. The nearly three-acre park, located just south of Jefferson Parkway at the end of Prairie Street (950 Jefferson Parkway E.), was recently redeveloped by Northfield resident Norman Oberto and his family.
The park is named in honor of Henry Wheeler, who cemented himself in Northfield history when he grabbed a rifle and fired at James-Younger Gang members during their attempted bank robbery in 1876. His shots killed Clell Miller and wounded Bob Younger. Wheeler, a graduate of Carleton College’s Preparatory Department, was studying medicine at the time and would later graduate from the University of Michigan.
“I hope this park will remind people of the strong community we have built since that fateful day in 1876,” says Oberto. “Just being a good neighbor and friend, helping those in need, and trying to make our community a better place to live exemplify the character demonstrated by Henry Wheeler.”
Oberto explains that he had not paid much attention to Henry Wheeler’s role in Northfield’s history until Hayes Scriven, executive director of the Northfield Historical Society, asked for assistance in purchasing a set of historical artifacts that had been in a private collection for more than 30 years. With Oberto’s help, that collection — which includes Wheeler’s rifle and a gold watch given in appreciation for his actions during the raid — is now on display at the Northfield Historical Society.
Over the past few years Scriven has led efforts to shift the focus of the raid story from the gang members to the Northfield residents who helped foil the attempted robbery. “The locals have never received enough credit for what they did that day,” he says. The NHS has been revising its historical exhibits to reflect this new approach.
Oberto is chairman and an owner of Lakeville-based Imperial Plastics, a manufacturer of engineered plastic components. He resides in Northfield with his wife Lori. They have three daughters: Lauren, Allison, and Emily.
Here are our hours for all next week and Defeat of Jesse James Days!
September 5, 10:00 a.m.- 5:00 p.m. (Labor Day)
September 6, 10:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.
September 7, 10:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.
September 8, 10:00 a.m. – 8:30 p.m.
September 9, 10:00 a.m. – 8:00 p.m.
September 10, 9:00 a.m. – 8:00 p.m.
September 11, 9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.
Research Library Closed
Our research library will be closed all of next week. If you have a request, we ask that you email it to us, and we will get back to you after DJJD.
NHS Social Happy Hour!
Help us celebrate Northfield’s history during DJJD with some locally produced spirits. Imminent Brewing and Loon Liquors will offer up a few of their products for sampling that evening. A monetary donation will be required and a valid ID to take part in the tasting.
Bank Site Tours and the Wheeler Collection!
Make sure when you are visiting Northifeld that you take the bank site tour and see the fully restored bank where Joseph Lee Heywood stood his ground and refused to open the safe. In addition, you can now see the rifle that Henry Wheeler used to defend the bank.
New Store Merchandise
Every year we try to develop new merchandise just for DJJD. This year we have brought back a few old favorites, but also some new products!