The day begins at early light with the father up and dressing. He starts the fire in the cast-iron stove. Shavings and wood from the wood box are used for fuel to heat water and cook the meals. There’s a trip to the outhouse behind the cabin and the day starts just like it did yesterday and will again tomorrow.
Breakfast will consist of side pork, corn mush, coffee, and bread which the mother will soon begin to prepare.
Father is out feeding the oxen, horses and one cow in the rough shed that also stores grain, hay, tools, harnesses, and dry wood. He then heads back into the cabin to eat and rouse the kids. It is springtime with a lot of fieldwork to do.
Their three kids have a full day. The two younger ones head for the spring to fetch water for the day before walking two miles to the one-room school. The oldest boy has finished 8th grad and works on the farm with his father.
Today the father and son start to plow the 15 acres for oats they plan to put in. There are also 20 acres of woodland to cut, pull stumps and break (plowing for the first time), but that is a chore that will take all summer at best.
The work is hard for all of them. The mother of the house has two more big meals to make. She milks the cow, churns butter, knits socks and mittens, and patches or meds clothing by hand. This is also washday and she scours clothes on a scrub board in a tub filled with water she has first hauled in (along with the extra wood for the fire) and heated on the cast-iron stove. For rinsing the clothes she has just washed, the water must be near boiling, and then she must wring the clothes by hand and hang them out to dry.
Later, the kids are home from school, the men from the field. Its getting dark. A lamp is lit. Supper is done and the dishes washed. The kids read a bit from a schoolbook by lamplight. Sometimes a game of checkers is played.
Everyone heads for bed early, in the one-room loft they all share, to get ready for another day just like today.
“Laura always wondered why bread made of corn meal was called Johnny-cake. It wasn’t cake. Ma didn’t know, unless the Northern soldiers called it Johnny-cake because the people in the South, where they fought, ate so much of it. They called the Southern soldiers Johnny Rebs. Maybe they called the Southern bread, cake, just for fun.”
The batter was often spread on a board and baked on an open fire. To eat it, you would break off a piece and dip it in maple syrup, molasses, or gravy.
· 1 cup corn meal
· 1 teaspoon sugar
· 1 1/4 cup boiling
· Oil or shortening
1. Mix the corn meal, sugar, and salt together.
2. Slowly add the boiling water to the cornmeal mixture. Stir until just combined. Do not over-mix.
3. Warm a griddle or frying pan made of cast iron or with a non-stick coating.
4. Spread a tablespoon of oil in the warm pan. Place about 1/4 cup of batter on the griddle.
5. After the edges dry, wait for about 30 seconds and then flip the Johnny-cake over.
6. Press the center of the cake down with the spatula if needed. The second side does not take as long as the first to cook.
7. Remove the cake. Oil the griddle and begin again.
8. Serve warm with maple syrup, molasses, gravy or baked beans.
Ever since the New Richmond Preservation Society was established in 1983, volunteer involvement has been one of its strongest assets. The original name, the New Richmond Preservation Society (NRPS) quickly became too unwieldy for everyday use and evolved into the “New Richmond Heritage Center”. But the enthusiastic participation of volunteers in the various necessary work areas of the Center never has changed. Work areas involve the management of the a large Flea Market which is a principal source of income, tours of the facility and grounds, school programs, and annual “Heritage Days,” and other special events.
Statistics for 2016 include 42 Flea Market volunteers putting in 8,150 hours of time; 8 participants in the St. Croix County Correctional Center Program (CIPs) at 227.5 hours, Community Service persons, 20 hours, and 8 NRHS volunteers at 214.5 hours. Figures were not kept this past year on the volunteers who assist with the very popular spring and fall school programs, or other tour guides, but could be an estimated 15 more volunteers.
A national non-profit organization estimates the “salary” of a volunteer in this donated work time at $23.07 an hour. This would make the work of the 42 Flea Market volunteers an estimated value to the Heritage Center of $18,802.50.
It is difficult to properly offer sufficient thanks to all of these volunteers who contribute their free time and effort to make the Center a significant and continuing asset to the City of New Richmond. A heartfelt Thank You is offered to each one of them.
Each year the New Richmond Heritage Center gratefully accepts gifts from many people to add to the collection of artifacts (objects) and archival items (a variety of manuscripts and documents. These go through an accession process of being given a museum number, described and entered on the computer system, along with the name of the donor. Following are a few of the items that were accepted and processed this past year to add to the approximately 25,000 items already on hand in the various Center buildings.
Paul & Vicki Mayer - (Note that the following is just a small sample of the multiple donations given by the Mayers in 2016 and each year previous.) Medicine bottle from the Sherman Drug Store, one that was in business for many years on “Main Street.” 1955 calling card from Cloutier’s Tavern. Two tokens advertising Mike’s Place and the 1955 New Richmond Centennial. Four wooden hangers from the 1900s. Souvenir plate with photo of 1905 school.
Kathryn Greaton Wohlbier - Double Bell Eupho- nium, an instrument played by her grandfather Wilson Greaton in many events in early years. Wilson’s band was very popular.
Kurt Sroka - 75 lb. foundry anvil.
Chuck & Anne Mehls - U.S. Army 1910s folding medical stretcher. Medical instrument case with field medical supplies as carried by medics in the 1950s Korean War.
Bob Groth - Early cordless phone previous to the 1990s.
Jeffrey Wagner - Jeffrey lives in Chicago and has sent us numerous artifacts and archival items from his grandmother’s McHenry family which owned a farm a few miles south of New Richmond. In 2016 we have received, among other items, photos and postcards, his grandfather’s cartridge belt, his grandmother’s housecoat, and the McHenry silver chest. Jeffrey’s grandmother and one of her sisters graduated from Stout State University in 1916, which was a significant achievement for young women in those years.
John A. Goodlad - Pony Saddle from 1927.
Steve Young - Handmade school podium.
John Helling - Mudboard, hand carved out of a log, used for mixing mortar for laying bricks.
Karen Greaton - Photographs of the Greaton Jewelry Store.
Victor Martinson - 1940s timer used by telephone operators to time long distance calls.
Judging from the number of ironing boards that are turning up as donations to the Heritage Center Flea Market, apparently not. Much of our clothing is now made of fabrics that do not require ironing, a blessing to the households with no one home to do ironing anymore.
And ironing will soon be on the list as one more art lost to changing technology. There were conventional rituals for ironing each type of clothing or household linens that turned up in the ironing basket after wash day. A long sleeved shirt or blouse, for example, always started with the collar front and back, then sleeve cuffs and sleeves front and back. You progressed on to the two fronts and then the back. Done!
A house dress went much the same way, except that you had the skirt all around to deal with. There would be several table cloths in the ironing basket as every kitchen table had a cotton tablecloth for daily use unless someone was lucky enough to have found a piece of oilcloth. If there had been Sunday company the “other room” table would have been extended and a white linen tablecloth used for the company dinner.
Ironing a long linen tablecloth was a chore. First you folded it length wise and ironed each side full length. Then you folded it in half again full length and ironed each side. Linen required a very hot iron and you would have to frequently change the flatirons kept heating on the wood stove. Ironing very quickly when they were especially hot off the stovetop so as not to scorch the tablecloth. The smaller cotton tablecloths were ironed with the same procedure but cotton ironed more easily than linen.
Then there was the “starched” ironing. A boiled concoction of water and starch would have been cooked up and clothes requiring starch dipped in that after washing and wrung out. They were allowed to dry and then sprinkled with plain water a few hours before ironing. Starching encouraged scorching, so the ironer had to be very fast and efficient. The freshly ironed starched garment looked beautiful when first worn but after an hour or two hung as limp as if it had never seen starch. Nevertheless, starching had to be done. It was part of washing clothes.
The sight of an ironing board brings back childhood memories of coming home from school on a cold winter Tuesday (Monday was wash day and Tuesday you ironed) to find your mother in the kitchen with the warm smell of freshly ironed clothes in the air. It made you feel happy, safe and secure!
The winter of 1898-99 had been an unusually severe one with snow so deep the sleighs rode on the hard crust over the fence posts buried beneath. Unrelenting cold climaxed in January at 60 degrees below zero. Old people and those in "delicate" health were house bound for months into a late spring.
"O! How we longed for summer!" wrote Anna Epley in her history of the cyclone, A Modern Herculaneum. "How we braced ourselves up in the freezing air, saying encouragingly to each other, "Wait patiently till the bright, beautiful summer comes. We will then forget we ever had such a severe winter. We will enjoy ourselves in our hammocks under the beautiful branches of our New Richmond's glorious trees! Where are they now? And the summer came, and brought us death!"
However, when the day of June 12, 1899 started, no one knew of the holocaust in store for them. It was a Monday; school had let out the previous Thursday. It was to be a gala day because of the Gollmar Brothers Circus was in town and the country people started coming in early. No one wanted to miss the big parade and the "monster menagerie and museum" or the "Mammoth two-ring circus." So, by coincidence, New Richmond was more filled with people than usual, many staying over the night after the festive occasion.
Morning is Peaceful Before Cyclone Disaster
Anna Epley described the peaceful city as that Monday began, telling of the milk and baker's carts on their round, the business houses opening for the day wearing "an air of prosperity and expectancy for the brisk trade in view," while the New Richmond Roller Mills ground its "famous flour."
As the day wore on, it became oppressively hot for a June day. By five o'clock the circus was over, and fortunately, because a light rain had begun falling, followed by a sluggish hail. By six o'clock, as people were heading home for supper, a few were beginning to notice the clouds that had formed about 5:30 p.m. above Lake St. Croix.
According to Mrs. Epley, an eyewitness described the cloud formation as follows: "A top-shaped cloud came dancing up along the lake; another mass or column of cloud came from the vicinity of Stillwater. These two clouds were merged together in a funnel-shaped column, or columnar mass, spreading somewhat at the top, and boiling or tumbling rapidly within itself. Thus agitated, it turned eastward, and skirting the hills south of Hudson and hugging the ground closely, it took a northeasterly course towards New Richmond."
On that course it followed, destroying and demolishing the clusters of farm buildings in its path.
Then, with a deafening roar and rumbling, the tornado swept down the length of New Richmond completely leveling what was estimated to be a strip about 1000 feet wide and 3000 feet long. Only the extreme western edge of the town escaped damage or destruction. Because of the timing, about 6 p.m., with many people on the streets on their way home for supper, and because of the crowd in town due to the circus, more than the usual number were out away from readily available shelter. The scene was one of confusion and terror as people belatedly realized what was happening.
Many did save their lives by fleeing to the cellars in the few seconds warning time they had. However, sometimes this shelter was not sufficient. The O. J. Williams dry good store on the corner of Third and Main Streets proved to be a real death trap. People on the streets in front of it rushed into the store for safety with the result that the building held one of the highest mortality rates in the city. The bricks were sucked up by the tornado and hurled back down on the crowd in the cellar.
The impression made by the disaster was carried throughout life by those who were there, both adults and children.
The black cloud was filled with flashes of light giving some the impression the end of the world had come. But before people had a chance to fully comprehend what had happened to them, another wind came up from the northwest, causing panic and people to head for cellars again. The wind brought with it a downpour of rain and falling temperatures, so that the people thinly clad for the day's heat, were cold and shivering without protection. The gale of wind and rain continued for over an hour.
But, there was work to be done. The immediate need was to search out family members and release victims trapped under the debris. Fires in many locations had instantly broken out following the destruction of the buildings. According to one observer, the fire was the "saddest and most horrible part of the whole affair." Any number of bodies were later discovered burned with no way of knowing whether the individuals had perished in the tornado or the ensuing flames.
All over the stricken city, survivors, many of the them in a state of shock and injured themselves, searched for family members or tried to release trapped people from the ruins. All telephone and telegraphic communication had been cut off so messengers were sent to Stillwater and Hudson to request help and medical supplies. The electric light plant had been destroyed, so much of the search was conducted by the light of the same fires which were causing such anguish. The city waterworks plant had been demolished, too, the hydrants and pumps ruined and wills filled up. It was difficult to find water, much less a pail to put it in.
Medical Help Was Badly Needed
Supplying medical help was an immediate need. Of the four drugstores in town, only splinters remained, and of the four doctors' offices, two were completely gone and the remaining two stripped of supplies and fill of dirt and fragments. A temporary hospital and a temporary morgue were both needed. The Congregational Church and the schoolhouse, while both were damaged, sufficed for the first, the Catholic Church for the second. The pastors of both churches, Mr. Adams and Fr. Degnan, were both cited for their courage and assistance in the disaster.
The first message to get out was sent from the telegraph office at Roberts, nine miles south of New Richmond. The first relief train arrived shortly after midnight from Chippewa Falls on the Wisconsin Central line. At each station along the rout, the train had stopped and taken on more willing volunteers. Ten physicians ere on this train as well as medical supplies. Doctors from Roberts and Hammond had arrived earlier. Because of the general filthy conditions and the lack of facilities, it was decided to send the injured to hospitals in St. Paul, extra trains being put on the line as soon as more victims were discovered and ready to transport.
Relief supplies, food, and money soon came pouring in from towns all over Wisconsin and neighboring Minnesota. Several pieces of fire equipment from St. Paul helped control the flames, and members of the militia sent to guard the city were a welcome relief to the surviving inhabitants. There had been several cases of people being stripped of the their belongings while lying helpless and unable to defend themselves.
An impromptu court was established. Two ancient justices of the peace, each seated on a cracker box, dispensed liberal sentences to those who were caught pilfering.
An excerpt from the book "They Built Their City Twice", Mary Sather.