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Life Stories

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The Bloomington Historical Society is especially interested in collecting stories about significant changes in our community...

  • Memories about your life.
  • Your "growing up" years.
  • Your life in the community, at school and in church.
  • Your family history.

Mail stories to:
Bloomington Historical Society
1800 W. Old Shakopee Road
Bloomington  MN  55431

For more information, call 952-881-4327 or 952-888-6089.

 

Interviews of Bloomington Early Residents

By Mrs. Gilderhus' Pupils

Mr. and Mrs. Cameron Interview

By Mary Dahl

I went to interview the Camerons at the Masonic Home for the Historical Club. Mrs. Cameron showed me three pictures of where they lived. She told me that they lived in a hotel by the bridge going to the Stage Coach.

They came to Bloomington in 1874 when their boy, Mr. Cameron, was just a baby. Their boy, John Cameron, and Mr. Cameron's wife went to school together. They went to District Fourteen.

When they were older they got married and lived in this hotel which was built in 1842. In 1905 their hotel was struck by lightening and burned. They lost a post office, jail, store and many other things that were in the hotel.

The Cameron's gave me a boat hook that was made by Hecter Chadwick for the Historical Club exhibit.

The History of West Bloomington

Including the Tapping and Ellingson Family Histories

By Carole Brown

(Taken from the original papers written by Mrs. Minnie Ellingson Tapping)

PART I History of the Ellingson Family

Sever Ellingson's parents came to Keokuk, Iowa, from , between 1840 and 1850. Later they moved to Decorah, Iowa. Sever Ellingson came to St. Peter, and later to Fort Snelling in 1860, returning to Iowa to enlist when the Civil War broke out.

After the war, he came back to this territory and married Emily Laumann, the mother of Mrs. Minnie Ellingson Tapping who left a handwritten history of what is now West Bloomington.

They owned a large tract of land west of South Shakopee Road, adjoining the Minnesota Valley on the north. There are now fifteen or twenty country homes and acreages on this property as well as the property known as the "Tapping Farms".

Mrs. Minnie Ellingson Tapping was born in 1886 and died in 1948.

Mrs. Tapping's father, Sever Ellingson, farmed a large tract of this land trying various crops, including vineyards, and kept considerable livestock, with some red Dwon cattle brought from England. He was elected to the legislature in 1888. One bill which he introduced provided for the construction of the Bloomington Ferry Bridge, which was completed in 1891.

After Minnie Ellingson married Howard Tapping, they lived at 1715 Vine Place in the Lowry Hill section of Minneapolis, where Mendon Tapping was born in 1903 and his sister in 1904.

Mrs. Tapping's description of life in these parts tells of farm wagons traveling up Nicollet Avenue; also, of fancy carriages drawn by high stepping horses with silver harnesses.

In the fall of 1905 Mr. and Mrs. Tapping were spending a vacation at the farm of her father. They were walking with the children along Purgatory Creek when they all sank in quicksand. Mr. Tapping over-exerted himself getting the children and himself out of the hole and was taken to a hospital where he soon died. Mrs. Tapping moved back to the farm and spent the remainder of her life there.

Mrs. Tapping wrote of many interesting jobs performed, such as: herding cattle on horseback, candle-making, soap-making, harvesting, picking grapes.

She wrote about mail that was brought to the early post office at Bloomington Ferry by boat and stagecoach, from whence it was brought to the settlers by Carrier until 1880, when the Star Route was started. After passage of the R.F.D. Act of Congress in 1897 these post offices were closed.

Her descriptions of her flowers, both tame and wild, included the "purple Immortelles", picked for her by Dr. Prettyman, Chaplain of the U.S. Senate, in the Garden of Gethsemane.

After the deaths of her husband and father, Mrs. Tapping had some cottages built and entertained guests at the farm during the summer. Among these guests were many people famous in early Twin City history, with a number from the University.

In the early days, after the Bloomington Ferry was established and steamboat service became regular, a frame hotel and post office were built. Mr. Dean built a log house near the post office where he was Postmaster. Some historians regarded this as the first log house built in Hennepin County. This log house and post office stood on the former Cameron Place, just above the hill (probably on the present Charles Taylor Place).

As the settlement grew, two four-horse stage coaches stopped here every day. Many cattle and much merchandise came by water.

Many people thought a town or city would grow up near Bloomington Ferry and they surveyed and staked out a number of streets and lots there. The streets, however, were never built.

PART II The History of Mrs. Sever Ellingson and Her Children

(Mrs. Tapping was one of these children)

Mail came three times a week. The mailbag were thrown off at Barden Station and contained weekly papers, seeds from the Agricultural Department, parcels of clothing from the East for the settlers, black-edged letters of mourning, and regular letters. The first Postmaster was Joseph Dean. Mr. A.E. Keuter was second Postmaster. Then Mrs. Tapping's father, Mr. Ellingson, took over the Postmaster's job and held it for twenty-seven years. A bus was driven along with the mail to make it a financial success. The "Bloomington Stage" left Tapping's at 8:00 A.M. , stopping at Bloomington, Bloomfield, and Richfield. On the return trip, it left Wilbur House at 1:00 A.M. , stopping in Minneapolis to pick up mail bags.

The Ellingson children did many things during their pastime. They modeled clay into many forms at the brookside and made a kiln in which to dry them. All the neighbor children competed to see who was the best sculptor.

Another pastime was hunting camelion stones and imbedding them in clay statues, which were then varnished for ornaments.

While Mrs. Tapping and her brother were quarantined in the house, another brother, Robert, made a playhouse of oak trees with a table and chairs made from stumps. He then thought he'd make a better one and dug into the side of an Indian mound where he struck a ton of clamshells, which the Indians had stored there.

Indians once lived all over the Ellingson and Tapping farm and there are a series of Indian mounds there. The children found battle axes made of granite, arrow-heads, clay bowls, bones, etc. (Mrs. Ellingson often saw Indians peeking in her windows).

On rainy days the children played in the attic, dressing up in their father's old-fashioned clothes. Much of their clothing had been made in Europe.

Another relic which the children admired was a gold embossed jewel box which their uncle had made when he returned from the gold mines in 1849. It contained coins, paper money, a large amber bead, a sapphire, an uncut diamond, a small silver trumpet, carved ivory birds, a gold brooch, a necklace, a wide bracelet, and a ring set with garnets and pearls. This jewel box was made of pure gold from the mines.

In the attic was also a pieced quilt with the initials of friends and relatives sewed into it.

Another pastime was playing around a steamboat on the Minnesota River while the men loaded their cord wood or wheat.

Adjoining the Ellingson's was a ford in the river, where Indians crossed in large numbers. The ferry was built here, consisting of a flat barge with railings, large enough for one heavy wagon or two smaller vehicles. It was pulled by cables wound on a capstain, a sort of spool. The original owners of the ferry were Chambers and Goodrich.

In 1888 Mrs. Tapping's father secured passage of a bill by the legislature, replacing the old ferry with a bridge.

PART III Neighbors

On the hillside, north of the ferry, stood the Chamber's home made of bricks made from clay from the river bottoms. Here many meetings were held, and treaties were signed with the Indians.

To the east lived Hector Chadwick, who had a blacksmith shop "near the big oak" and a house in the "thick woods".

Other neighbors were the W.W. Ellison, George Ames, John Brown, Thomas Vessey and the Goodrich and Eidsvold families.

The Ellison place now belongs to the Currys'.

Mr. Ames sold property on the bluff to F.A. Chamberlain, who later built four houses on it: one for himself, two for the Lee families. The other today is owned by the author, Fieke Fiekema (Frederick Manfred).

The John Brown home is occupied by Mrs. John A. Brown and her sons.

A.D. Tiegen bought property on the bluff from the Browns.

The Vessey place was purchased by the Minneapolis Automobile Association for their country club house.

The Minnesota Valley Gold Club bought its present property from the John Browns also.

There were three families of Goodriches which came from Vermont, and were a branch of the Adams family, famous in colonial history. Some of the Goodrich property was purchased by Gideon Pond Junior. A granddaughter, Ruth Pond Heydo, and her family live there at this writing. Some of the original Goodrich property is owned by Dr. C.E. Willcut.

The Allen Goodrich property situated on the corner, opposite the railroad station of Hamilton, was purchased by M.W. Savage, who built his large mansion on the hill where he could look across the river at his mahogany finished barn and his race track, the home of the famous Dan Patch. Most of the early settlers of Bloomington were present at the State Fair when Dan Patch set a new world's record of 1.55 for a mile.

The station at Hamilton was renamed Savage. Mr. Savage later built a railroad of his own, our present Minneapolis, Northfield & Southern.

After the death of Mr. Savage, this property was bought by the Minnesota Masonic Lodge and the Masonic Home Buildings were constructed on the site.

West of this location a man named Eidsvold bought some property and built his house on the bluff overlooking the valley. He purchased hay land in the valley and built a small ferry for hauling the hay across the river. He then shipped hay by steamboat to St. Paul.

Our neighbors to the north were the Bunkers from Ithica, N.Y.; the Knotts, Bagleys, Coopers, Thompsons, Leighs and Balms from England; the Wrens, Ray Brewsters, Kellys, Stewarts, and Logans from Ireland, and the McClays from Scotland.

Jean Pascal Baillif from Normandy, France, settled four miles to the east of Ellingson's and established a hotel called the Half Way House that did a good business on a much traveled road. There stopped the four-horse stage-coaches; fur traders, interpreters, missionaries, government agents, geologists map makers, surveyors and the ever present Indian.

A lady who was born in 1830 lived there for awhile. Her daughter became Mrs. Emanual St. Martin.

South of Ellingson's lived Andrew Fisher and his father who came from Germany. This was valuable timber land and was later purchased for lumbering. Farther south were two grandsons of Gideon Pond, Fred and Donald; also the Fewers, the Camerons and the McCall's and the vast hay meadows of Pat Kearney and W.M. Regan.

Interview with Mrs. James Dean

8715 Lyndale South

By Frances Schmidt

Mr. and Mrs. James Dean, Sr. came from in 1854 with the Chadwicks, Kells and the Harrisons. James Dean, Jr. who is now the resident of 8715 Lyndale South was one of their children.

Mr. Dean, Sr., was in his twenties when he arrived here and had just been married a short time before. After arriving here they had seven children, three girls and four boys.

The house at 8715 Lyndale was built in 1861 (the northern and center sections). The southern section was added later. The first year of which the house was built, blankets were used as doors. Before this house was built they lived in a shack southeast of where the home is now about one-half block.

James Dean, Sr. had 160 acres in District Eleven which then extended into Richfield. They raised grain mostly.

Mail was gotten at Shultz's store on 78th Street about one-half mile west of Cedar Avenue.

James Dean, Sr. and family attended Oak Grove Church.

Mrs. Dean, Sr. had a leather box which had colored tacks on the outside of it. The Indians seemed fascinated by the box. They would walk right into the house, take the box from the shelf, empty it, put it back and then go away, putting the things back in, of course.

When Mrs. Dean, Sr. had her first baby she laid it in a crib, the Indians would come in, look at the baby and walk around the crib and then walk out.

One night the Dean Srs. were sitting by the fire when some Indians came in. Mr. Dean's hair was very curly so they put in feathers and whooped and hollered. Then they picked up Mr. Dean's gun and pointed it at Mrs. Dean, nothing happened. But it scared everyone, especially Mrs. Dean.

Mrs. Dean also made biscuits. The Indians would come in, eat them and then walk out. Mrs. Dean didn't object but it would have been dangerous if she did. The Indians were very good to the Deans.

Interview with Edwin Chadwick

By Frances Schmidt

The Chadwicks came to Bloomington in 1854 with four other families: The Harrisons, the Kelleys, the Deans and the Oxboroughs. (This was Hector Chadwicks's father, and Hector was one and a half years old at the time). Hector Chadwick had six children, of which Edwin is one.

Nine Mile Creek got its name because it was nine miles from Fort Snelling.

Old Shakopee Road was so-called because it was the stagecoach route between Fort Snelling and Shakopee. The stagecoach went by the spot where Edwin Chadwick's present home is located. The house is built over the original foundation of an old inn.

In the early days food was kept in basement-like cellars. These were dug into the earth and lined with stones. Vegetables were packed in boxes of sand. Salt pork and other meat was kept in barrels of brine.

In summer perishable food was lowered into wells.

There were no trading places in Bloomington so people had to go to Fort Snelling for supplies.

There was a mill on Nine Mile Creek, where wheat was ground into flour. This was whole wheat flour, the outer covering was not removed from the wheat.

There was also another mill where sugar cane was made into molasses and sorghum.

People did not fence their cattle in. Fields were fenced to keep the cattle out. The cattle roamed at will, and wore bells so they could be located. Each family knew the sound of its own particular bell.

There were only two churches in Bloomington in the early days: Oak Grove Presbyterian, and later the Ferry Methodist. Many Indians came to the Oak Grove Church.

Father Mahoney conducted Catholic Services for the Catholics of the community.

At Fort Snelling there was a lumber mill. Lumber was very cheap. Most of it was floated down main rivers from the northern part of the state, and sawed at the Fort.

Some homes in Bloomington were constructed with this lumber. Other buildings were made of logs.

Excursion to the Edgar St. Martin Home

By Francis Schmidt

The Edgar St. Martin home is located at 401 West 104th Street in Bloomington, near the backwaters of the Minnesota River.

The house is one of the first homes built in Bloomington. It was constructed by Gideon Pond in 1856, and was used as a mission house. The bricks for the house were molded by hand from clay on the farm and baked in an oven. The walls are made of four layers of bricks. (The same brick mold was used to make the bricks for the house by the Bloomington Ferry where the Stewarts live now).

The Mission House was purposely built without a porch so the Indians could not stand there and peek in the windows.

The first mission constructed by Gideon and Samuel Pond had been built in 1834 by the shores of Lake Calhoun. The total cost of the building was twenty-five cents which was spent for the door hinges. Christianity and better ways of living were taught the Indians at the mission.

Later a new mission was built by the Minnesota backwaters, down the hill from the St. Martin home. This was in 1843. Two families lived there and church services were also held there. This building was moved to the spot where the Bloomington Cemetery now it. Later the Ponds gave Bloomington the land to the cemetery. The building was moved to the present site of Oak Grove Church.

Gideon and Samuel Pond came from Connecticut. Their families did not approve of their going into the wilderness. Samuel left home when he was twenty-six years old. Gideon was twenty-four. The Pond family had come to with Governor Winthrop of Massachusetts Bay Colony.

Most of the Indians who came to the mission belonged to the Sioux Tribe, but sometimes Chippewas came and then there was trouble.

Mrs. St. Martin showed us several copies of the Dakota Friend, a newspaper published by Gideon Pond. All articles in this paper were printed both in English and in the Sioux Language. Gideon Pond had worked out an alphabet for putting Sioux language in writing.

Mrs. St. Martin also owns a clock which was sent to Gideon Pond by his brother Noah. This clock tells the day of the month, as well as the time of day.

Another heirloom in the St. Martin home is an apothecary's scale which Gideon Pond used to weigh medicines for the Indians who came to him when they were ill.

There is bronze plaque on the outside of the St. Martin home which gives the date and circumstances of its origin. This plaque was placed there by the D.A.R.

Interview with Allen Baillif

By Deanna Sheppard

John Baillif was born in the village of Rouen, Department of the Seine, lower Normandy, in August 15, 18__. He came to __ in 1835. He was married to Marie Victorine L'Avocat on January 21, 1847. She was born in Bournois, Canton of L'Isle sur Douba in Eastern France, December 6, 1830. They lived in Hamline, in what is today St. Paul's Midway district.

The family moved to Bloomington in 1854 where they pre-empted the N.E. 1/4 of Section 20, Town 27, Range 24, Hennepin County. The intersection of Penn Avenue and 102nd Street is the northeast corner of this land. The Baillif family has the original land grant signed by President James Buchanan.

The Baillifs engaged in farming in a small way and kept an inn where the Old Shakopee Road crosses the Nine Mile Creek in Bloomington. This stopping place was halfway between St. Paul and Shakopee. Nine Mile Creek was so-called because it was nine miles from Fort Snelling. (The name had nothing to do with the length of the creek).

Here John and Marie Baillif raised seven sons and one daughter:

Rene Louis born in Hamline, December 9, 1847 died in Bloomington, May, 1919

John Victor born in Hamline, November 7, 1849 died in Minneapolis, June, 1882

Earnest August born in Hamline, December 7, 1851 died in Bloomington, May, 1935

Jules Adolph born in Hamline, November 16, 1853 died in Bloomington, July, 1929

Marie Adele (St. Martin) born in Bloomington, June 22, 1856 died in Bloomington, September, 1940

Alfred Eugene born in Bloomington, August 25, 1858 died in Bloomington, January, 1953

Albert Sever born in Bloomington, March 8, 1860 died in Everett, Washington, November, 1918

Charles Emile born in Bloomington, December 11, 1865 died in Minneapolis, July, 1949

John Baillif was the first Postmaster in this part of the country outside of Minneapolis and St. Paul. The old Bloomington Store on Penn Avenue and Old Shakopee Road was a Post Office. Alfred Baillif lived above this store until he died in 1953.

Interview with Mrs. Kelley

By Gordon Johnson

The Kelleys came from __ in 1854.

Mrs. Kelley walked four miles to school each day.

Her father often hired Indians to work for him.

Among the family heirlooms owned by Mrs. Kelley are a gun, powder horn and pellet holder, a spinning wheel, an Indian dictionary and old newspapers.

Interview with Mrs. Susie Bradbury

By Georgia Thomas

Mrs. Bradbury's mother and father came from Main in 1852. Minneapolis was then called St. Anthony. There were not any streets.

The Bradburys lived in a house between Fort Snelling and Shakopee. There were no army regulations at Fort Snelling at that time. The soldiers used to walk back and forth from Fort Snelling to Shakopee.

Their (the Bradbury's) home was visited by many travelers going from Shakopee to St. Anthony, as it was the only house between Shakopee and Fort Snelling.

Many Indians used to stop at the house. Once some Indians were caught in a blizzard and stopped at their home. Mrs. Bradbury's mother was making bread. The Indians broke her bowl which was filled with bread sponge and got it all over themselves and all over the house.

Mrs. Bradbury went to Oak Grove Presbyterian Church which was then located where the Bloomington Cemetery is today. Often when she went with her mother to Ladies' Aid they would hide in the bushes while parties of Indians went by.

There was only one organized activity for the men of the territory. It was the Modern Woodmen Club, a life insurance group. The ladies' club was the Royal Neighbors.

The only means of lighting their home was with candles.

Interview with Mr. James Moir

By Richard Downey

When Mr. Moir was a boy he was visited by a relative who became friendly with an Indian boy. The Indian boy made a bow for him. This bow had many inscriptions on it which are supposed to bring good luck to the hunter.

As a boy, James Moir sat on a fence and watched the prairie schooners go by.

On Sundays he watched the Indians go by, single file, followed by their squaws with papooses on their backs.

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