Winona County Historical Society

Winona County Historical Society The Winona County Historical Society operates The Winona County History Center in downtown Winona, MN; The Bunnell House in Homer; and The Rural Heritage Museum in St. Charles. We also offer a wide range of activities! Learn more at winonahistory.org
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05/26/2020

#TuesdayTrivia Where did the first governor of Minnesota give a talk in Winona and who was he?

05/25/2020
Another fun page from the 1936 Watkins Cook Book includes recipes for a yummy breakfast.
05/24/2020

Another fun page from the 1936 Watkins Cook Book includes recipes for a yummy breakfast.

WCHS archivist, Walt Bennick, writes a Biography column for our bi-monthly member newsletter, The Argus. This one is abo...
05/23/2020

WCHS archivist, Walt Bennick, writes a Biography column for our bi-monthly member newsletter, The Argus. This one is about Social Activist, Monica Krawczyk.

100 Years Ago: Here is a shot of Mankato Ave. back in the 1920s with Sugar Loaf above in the background.
05/22/2020

100 Years Ago: Here is a shot of Mankato Ave. back in the 1920s with Sugar Loaf above in the background.

#TBT for Throwback Thursday we want to show you this image of a Winona Normal School Botany Class at Sugar Loaf in 1905....
05/21/2020

#TBT for Throwback Thursday we want to show you this image of a Winona Normal School Botany Class at Sugar Loaf in 1905. How many of you have hiked up to or even climbed up Sugar Loaf? Ladies (and gents), could you imaging hiking up there in a full skirt and corset?

Chris did this great program for one of our Food for Thought talks back in January. Check it out now at home!
05/21/2020

Chris did this great program for one of our Food for Thought talks back in January. Check it out now at home!

School's out for a lot of people, but if you want to continue your education, sit in on a History Break with instructor Chris Stout. The topic is Generational Change --explore the history and psychology of Baby Boomers vs. Millennials and everyone in between. It's a sympathetic look at the challenges facing younger generations. https://mediaspace.minnstate.edu/media/History+Break+-+Generational+Change/1_7ka81ixa?fbclid=IwAR0MIbrrpsLEpCtPHoKLfZFa7X0HINhxvTOPf3wzPyvf6VM7B_ofBa533UY

#weirdwinonawednesday We are living in a weird time right now. You are living history today....share it with future gene...
05/20/2020
History as it Happens

#weirdwinonawednesday We are living in a weird time right now. You are living history today....share it with future generations. winonahistory.org/historyasithappens

We are all experiencing a historic time as we navigate the effects of the COVID-19 health crisis. Local history is your history and we hope you can share your story for future generations through the...

05/19/2020

#tuesdaytrivia Who was the first to fight (clue: and fly) in WWII from Winona County?

#museummonday The weather is warming up! How about a picnic? These recipes for some unique sandwiches are from the 1936 ...
05/18/2020

#museummonday The weather is warming up! How about a picnic? These recipes for some unique sandwiches are from the 1936 Watkins Cookbook housed in the Laird Lucas Library and Archives. Share any recipes you try out!

Remember to also check out our website and virtual visit content with online exhibits, videos, coloring pages, and more!...
05/18/2020
Virtual Visit

Remember to also check out our website and virtual visit content with online exhibits, videos, coloring pages, and more! winonahistory.org/virtualvisit

Here you will find an assortment of online exhibits, videos and links to explore local history at home. We will be continuing to add content, so come back again soon. Also stay connected by following...

Ben and Myrtle used motion pictures in their Vaudeville shows and did commercials for local companies. How many places a...
05/16/2020

Ben and Myrtle used motion pictures in their Vaudeville shows and did commercials for local companies. How many places around Winona County do you recognize from these film images?

A favorite from the Huntley Collection is a costume piece we call "the golden bra". Myrtle Huntley, pictured wearing the...
05/16/2020

A favorite from the Huntley Collection is a costume piece we call "the golden bra". Myrtle Huntley, pictured wearing the full costume, was an actress, singer and talented costume designer. She and her husband Ben came to Winona in the early 1900s and had their own vaudeville shows and early film company.

#TBT The Winona Opera House once sat across the street from the History Center (side note: before the Armory was built i...
05/14/2020

#TBT The Winona Opera House once sat across the street from the History Center (side note: before the Armory was built in 1915, it was the site of a livery stable - aka "event parking") This opulent theatre showcased famous performers and local talents. Next door was a lovely hotel, now the Kensington Apartments.

#weirdwinonawednesday Did you know that the true money back guarantee was first used by the Watkins Co. in Winona? Even ...
05/13/2020

#weirdwinonawednesday Did you know that the true money back guarantee was first used by the Watkins Co. in Winona? Even today, their products have a “trial mark” and if the product is still above the line, and you are not satisfied, you get your money back. Local actress, Myrtle Huntley is featured in this c.1910s ad for Watkins Co. hair products.

05/12/2020

#TuesdayTrivia Ben and Myrtle Huntley were vaudeville and early film entertainers that travelled the midwest in the late 1800s and early 1900s, but why did they come to Winona?

05/11/2020
Minnesota Historical Society

This book is a best seller in our Museum Shop. Check out this reading on the MN Historical Society's page that goes live in a few minutes!

Join author Molly Beth Griffin on a hike alongside Rhoda as she collects rock after rock, “red ones and blue ones and stripy ones,” from forest and river and lake, on a north woods adventure.

A video of Molly Beth reading Rhoda's Rock Hunt is launching via Facebook premiere at 3:00 pm on the Minnesota Historical Society's page.

The book's charming illustrations are by Jennifer A. Bell.

05/11/2020
KSMQ's "Off 90" Episode 1104

#museummonday One of the most extensive collections we have at WCHS is the Huntley collection. Recently, KSMQ featured the Huntley story for their Off 90 program featuring the Huntley's costumes, images, advertisements and film footage of their vaudeville and early film industry days while in Winona. Watch it here: https://youtu.be/J4eF5Eyjq4Y?t=47

In this episode of Off 90: Some stars from Vaudeville and silent film shine in Winona, glass blower (and some would say performer) Peter Waldman from Austin ...

Winona County Historical Society's cover photo
05/11/2020

Winona County Historical Society's cover photo

Some things don't change. Like Moms needing to know where you are at all times. Happy Mother's Day to all the caring mom...
05/10/2020

Some things don't change. Like Moms needing to know where you are at all times. Happy Mother's Day to all the caring moms! #winonamn #mothersday

Happy Bike Month! The first bike license plate issued in Winona was to Eleanor Dahm in 1947. #tbt #winonamn #bikemonth
05/10/2020

Happy Bike Month! The first bike license plate issued in Winona was to Eleanor Dahm in 1947. #tbt #winonamn #bikemonth

#teacherappreciationweek The Winona Senior High graduating classes of 1881 and 1914 (on the steps of the Winona Public L...
05/08/2020

#teacherappreciationweek The Winona Senior High graduating classes of 1881 and 1914 (on the steps of the Winona Public Library).

#teacherappreciationweek The 1917 Saint Casimir School Eighth Grade Class with Father Grabowski.
05/08/2020

#teacherappreciationweek The 1917 Saint Casimir School Eighth Grade Class with Father Grabowski.

#tbt #teacherappreciationweek The graduates of the Winona State Normal School of 1895. This cool collage of new teachers...
05/07/2020

#tbt #teacherappreciationweek The graduates of the Winona State Normal School of 1895. This cool collage of new teachers was created by the Bauer Studio of Winona.

#wierdwinonawednesday #teacherappreciationweek What was your favorite field trip? How many banks do you know that also h...
05/07/2020

#wierdwinonawednesday #teacherappreciationweek What was your favorite field trip? How many banks do you know that also have an African animal museum? Here is a group of students touring the downtown WNB Financial building that houses an African animal exhibit upstairs. Bank founders, E.L. King and Grace Watkins King liked to go on African game hunts in the 1910s. Many of their mounts are housed and can be viewed in the Bank's museum yet today!

#teacherappreciationweek Winona County was home to many rural schools. The Winona Normal School (now Winona State Univer...
05/06/2020

#teacherappreciationweek Winona County was home to many rural schools. The Winona Normal School (now Winona State University) was the first teacher training school west of the Mississippi. These new teachers went out into the countryside to teach in these small one room schools until they were consolidated in the 1960s.

#teacherappreciationweek #TuesdayTrivia Can you name this Winona County school?
05/05/2020

#teacherappreciationweek #TuesdayTrivia Can you name this Winona County school?

It is National Teacher Appreciation Week and we are going to take a look at some Winona County teachers, classes, and sc...
05/05/2020

It is National Teacher Appreciation Week and we are going to take a look at some Winona County teachers, classes, and schools from our past this week. Thank you to all the educators past and present educating future generations of proud Winonans. (From the Charles Tenney Photograph Collection: Winona Central School, 4th grade classes, undated (c. 1880s) and 1889.

Winona County Historical Society's cover photo
05/04/2020

Winona County Historical Society's cover photo

#museummonday Check out some of our favorite postcards from our collections and color your own Winona postcard. http://w...
05/04/2020
Winona Postcards

#museummonday Check out some of our favorite postcards from our collections and color your own Winona postcard. http://www.winonahistory.org/postcards.html

Postcards are a favorite collectable for many people. The WCHS’ Laird Lucas Library and Archives houses many postcards of Winona County. An online exhibit is a great opportunity to share some of...

What a beautiful May weekend! Is anyone enjoying some ice cream in this wonderful warm weather? WCHS curator of collecti...
05/02/2020

What a beautiful May weekend! Is anyone enjoying some ice cream in this wonderful warm weather? WCHS curator of collections, Andy Bloedorn has been thinking about ice cream and we would like to share his Collection Corner article with you that was featured in the latest issue of our newsletter.

#AprilFlowers We conclude our series featuring the wildflower watercolors now on exhibit at the History Center with more...
05/02/2020

#AprilFlowers We conclude our series featuring the wildflower watercolors now on exhibit at the History Center with more about the artist and this amazing collection. Starting in 1958, Lydia E. Curtis (1886 - 1973) collected, sketched and then painted in watercolor the wildflowers she collected in season. Her primary haunts were around the Twin Cities when she lived in St. Paul and then Morris, Minnesota, where she lived from 1964. She also found subjects in her native Iowa when she visited the homes of two children who lived there. She kept detailed records on each specimen with notes on unique aspects of the flower such as the site, growing conditions and the plant itself.
In parallel to painting, she utilized contemporary scientific books to identify the specific species and variations. This information was the basis of narratives she wrote for each completed painting. Beyond the scientific information, she also collected lore from the pioneer and Native American cultures. These also were woven into the narratives.
It is now 55 years since she last wrote these narratives. In the interim period change in the scientific classification of plants has occurred. The narratives are presented as originally written. In the instances where scientific classification has changed, an Editor Note is provided. The primary source for this information is the Minnesota Wildflower website: www.minnesotawildflowers.info. where you can explore even more.

The current exhibit was developed by the immediate family – her one surviving daughter and two of her grandchildren. We hope we are able to open our doors again soon while this lovely exhibit is in Winona.

"In presenting these sketches of spring wild flowers of Minnesota, I have not attempted to show all plant structures in scientific detail. Others more able than I have done this with clear pen and ink sketches accompanied by scientific notes. Among these are F. Schuyler Mathews, Edgar T. Wherry, Norman Taylor and many others. I have tried to show the coloring and beauty of these flowers so even a child may recognize them and enjoy them when found. With the rare, hard to find flowers I hope to help preserve the memory of their beauty.
Even during the span of my lifetime vast prairies of the Midwest have been subdivided into farm tracts and are now cultivated. Many swampy, marshy areas have been tiled and drained, so are now making up the fertile acres that produce America’s fabulous yields of corn, wheat and other grains. Woodlands, too, have been cut over, cleared and either cultivated to pastured. Stately or pleasantly comfortable homes have been built. Cities and industries of many kinds now greet the traveler who utilizes the network of paved highways that link city to city.
All of this has helped build up our material prosperity and our culture as we know it. However there has also been a loss. Our unexploited woodlands, prairies and swamps had a wealth of plant growth which has been replaced with cultivated crops. Among these plants are many of our choicest wild flowers. To simplify travel conditions even roadsides are mowed at regular intervals, too often cutting down any change wild flowers before they have had time to form and ripen seed. Hence our wild flowers are becoming less abundant; many varieties are rare. Only the more hardy ones remain with us in appreciable numbers.
Flowers in all of their varying color and form have always intrigued me. As chemists we can find only minute differences in their composition - - mostly carbon with hydrogen and oxygen in proportion to form water. We can but bow in reverence to our Creator who has so generously endowed us with the wealth of their varied beauty in both color and form.
Thus in humble reverence I offer these sketches fully aware they do not show the glow and glory of the flowers themselves, but in the hope that they may help others to experience the joy I have known because of our native wild flowers.
I am indebted to Mildred Helming, Anstice Abbott and especially my daughter, Dr. E. Louise Curtis for helping me find the flowers that were used for the sketches. For the Latin names I am indebted to the “Fieldbook of American Wild Flowers” by F. Schuyler Matthews; “Wild Flower Guide” by Edgar T. Wherry, “A Guide to Wild Flowers” by Norman Taylor; Gray’s “Manual of Botany”, 8th edition; “Flora of the Prairies and Plains of Central North America” by Per Axel Rydberg, PhD.; ‘North American Prairie” by J.E. Weaver; “Handbook of North Dakota Plants” by O.A. Stevens; “Wild Flowers Every Child Should Know” by Frederick William Slack; and “Wild Flowers and How to Grow Them” by Edwin F. Steffek."
- Lydia Curtis, 1973

#AprilFlowers Long Plumed Avens; Prairie Smoke; Torch Flower(Geum triflorum)This lovely prairie flower, once so plentifu...
05/01/2020

#AprilFlowers Long Plumed Avens; Prairie Smoke; Torch Flower
(Geum triflorum)
This lovely prairie flower, once so plentiful, is known by several names such as Torch Flower, Plumed Avens and Old Man’s Whiskers. It cannot survive cultivation is frequent moving. Now that the virgin prairies are mostly cultivated it is becoming very rare.
Many years ago when I was a little girl we lived in north central Iowa in an area between a large native prairie and some timberland. The prairie was not fenced and farm houses were far apart. My father rented some of the prairie land and hired a man to herd cattle on it. Sometimes he would drive out to see how the herdsman and cattle were doing. Frequently he told me and my sisters with him. In June and July we would find patches of Prairie Smoke growing in the grass. We were always delighted to find these flowers so different from most plants.
At the base of the plant there is a roseate of attractively notched base leaves 3-6 inches long. They are broader at their tips than near the base. From this base almost naked red stalks arise which are divided into three branches. The branches are terminated by ruddy red buds. As the blossom opens the white petals are small and insignificant, but there are an abundance of pistils which grow into a hairy head with numerous hair-like appendages. These are delicately colored and make an unusual showing with the ruddy sepals surrounding them and the ruddy stems holding them to the wind. From a distance they give an impression of a cloud or smoke, hence the common name of Prairie Smoke. In some area they are known as Old Man’s Whiskers.
The specimen sketched was found in a bit of prairie turf a short distance south of the Minnesota-Iowa border near Chester, Iowa.

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About WCHS

The Winona County Historical Society is a private non-profit educational institution, and our mission is to be dedicated to the collection, preservation, exhibition and interpretation of materials that document the history of Winona County, Minnesota. The Society currently has over 1400 members and 60 active business supporters. The Society operates three museums. The Winona County History Center in downtown Winona houses the main museum facility, Laird Lucas Library and Archives, Society offices and program and event spaces. The Bunnell House is located in Homer and the Rural Heritage Museum is on the Winona County Fairgrounds in St. Charles.

The Winona County Historical Society was founded in June 1935 at a meeting of interested citizens in the Winona County Courthouse. The first president was William Codman, a local attorney and amateur historian. The first secretary was Mildred Sebo, a local 4-H leader in the county. The year before, Mildred organized a Winona County historical pageant in Whitewater State Park that was very successful, and it was from that event the idea of starting the Society emerged.

The Society had its first headquarters in the courthouse and later acquired space in the Arlington Club and at Phelps Hall at Winona State University. During and after WWII the Society was relatively inactive. In 1954, a group of Winona citizens sought to revitalize the Society and approached Dr. Lewis I. Younger, a local physician and well known collector. Dr. Younger eagerly took on the responsibility, and under his leadership over the next 21 years, he helped make the Society one of the most active and well-respected county organizations in the state. During his tenure the Society’s offices and collection were moved into the second floor of the Lumberman’s building across from the Winona Public Library. The Society’s current home in the former National Guard Armory building (1915) was purchased and given to the Society by the Laird-Norton Co. in 1971 and dedicated in 1973. In 2009 construction started on the 12,000 sq. ft. modern Laird Norton Addition, designed by award winning architect Joan Soranno of the firm Hammel, Green and Abrahamson. With a historic $1.5 million challenge grant from the Laird Norton Company and donations from over 1000 individuals, businesses, local governments and foundations the $4.5 million project was a great success and was dedicated July 18, 2010 to celebrate the Society’s 75th anniversary.

The Armory part of the Winona County History Center was restored the summer of 2012. Thanks to a Minnesota Cultural Heritage Grant from Minnesota’s Legacy Funds and the Elizabeth Callendar King foundation the 1915 Armory was reenforced, tuck-pointed, and its battlements and turrets are back! In 2017 WCHS opened the Rural Heritage Museum on the County Fairgrounds that includes a museum building, historic schoolhouse, log house and log barn. The Bunnell House has had various restoration projects since the Society acquired it in 1954. It stands the test of time and is a continued testament to the first Euro-American settlers that stayed in what would become Winona County.

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