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Posts about Minnesota History

Walt Bachman book tells life of man alleged to have killed his ancestor

Posted by: Claude Peck Updated: April 4, 2013 - 11:12 AM


Walt Bachman, well known in Minnesota as a lawyer, former chief deputy Hennepin County attorney and a member of the family behind Bachman’s garden stores, was back in the Twin Cities this week to launch his new book. 

Bachman, pictured, who lives in New York, has written “Northern Slave, Black Dakota” (Pond Dakota Press, $24.95), a biography of Joseph Godfrey, a fascinating and little-known figure in Minnesota history.

Bachman spoke and signed books Wednesday at the Bachman’s store on Lyndale Avenue South, where the crowd included a dozen Bachman family members as well as about 10 ancestors of Godfrey, who was born in the 1830s in Minnesota, the son of a black slave woman. Godfrey, himself a slave until he ran away from his owner, later married a Dakota woman and lived much of his life with the Dakota people.

Walt Bachman’s great-great grandfather, Ernst Dietrich, was among those killed in August 1862 at the outset of the Dakota War in an attack by a party of Dakota Indians that included Godfrey.

The incident in his family history led Bachman to spend more than six years researching and writing about Godfrey and about the often-ignored fact that slavery was present in Minnesota in the decades leading up to statehood, despite its being unlawful in the territory under terms of the 1820 Missouri Compromise.

“Northern Slave, Black Dakota” is a painstakingly researched and tautly written account that pieces together from scant records the early years of Godfrey, who became much better known to the history books after his imprisonment and trial for killings during the Dakota War. 

Sentenced to hang, Godfrey’s death sentence was among a very few that were commuted by President Abraham Lincoln. Released after several years in prison, Godfrey found his way to an Indian reservation in Nebraska, where he lived a long life, dying in 1909. 

It may seem odd for someone to write the biography of a man who was alleged to have killed his ancestor on a day that is known for a pitiless bloody massacre of whites by Indians in and around what was then Milford, Minnesota. But, said Bachman, he became convinced that Godfrey, while not blameless, has been “unfairly maligned by history,” a wrong he sought to correct. “Northern Slave, Black Dakota” does that with clarity and commitment. The book should compel the interest of all who are interested in 19th-century Minnesota history.

Also see the Star Tribune's recent series about the Dakota War, "In the Footsteps of Little Crow," by Curt Brown.


Joseph Godfrey, pictured on the book cover of "Northern Slave, Black Dakota," by Walt Bachman, was born a slave in Minnesota and lived the first half of his life here.

Don't fear The Claw: Baron von Raschke movie on the move

Posted by: Claude Peck Updated: April 1, 2013 - 12:41 PM


A Baron von Raschke Kickstarter funding campaign that ends tomorrow already has made its $20,000 goal.

The money will be used for post-production costs of a documentary about legendary pro wrestler Von Raschke, aka "The Claw," directed by Phil Harder.

The filmmakers already have spent two years gathering documentary footage from the 1960s and '70s, Raschke's heyday as the Baron. His fearsome German wrestler often attacked opponents with the Brainclaw grip, which was sometimes censored in TV as too violent and disturbing.

Photographer Karl Raschke, son of the wrestler, is on board as a producer of the movie.

Recreated scenes are mixed with film footage to explore the growth of pro wrestling in this era as well as the mild-mannered Nebraskan, Jim Raschke, who settled in Minnesota and raised a family that  includesTwin Cities journalist Heidi Raschke.

As of Monday noon, there were 219 backers pledging $27,286 to help fund completion of the movie. The campaign officially closes on Tuesday.

Painful history meets music in Mankato

Posted by: Claude Peck Updated: November 16, 2012 - 11:02 AM


Kenneth Freed, music director, Mankato Symphony Orchestra. Photo by Travis Anderson

Music and tragic episodes in history come together this weekend in Mankato.

At a concert Sunday afternoon, the Mankato Symphony Orchestra, an 80-piece ensemble, will perform music of composers Stephen Paulus ("To Be Certain of the Dawn") and Michael Daugherty (“Trail of Tears”).

The Daugherty piece was inspired by the 1838-39 forced removal of American Indians from their southeastern U.S. homelands. Paulus' oratorio is based on photographs taken during the Holocaust, some of which will be projected during the performance.

Kenneth Freed, music director (and a violist with the Minnesota Orchestra) will conduct the concert (3 p.m. Sunday at Mankato West High School Auditorium). Guest artists at the concert include Mankato State University Concert Choir; Musicorum; Mankato Children’s Chorus Concert Choir; Minnesota Chorale; Angela Mortellaro, soprano; Abigail Fischer, mezzo soprano; Brad Benoit, tenor; Kimm Julian, baritone; and Jill Mahr, flute.

Concert tickets are $25 for adults. 507-387-1008 or www.mankatosymphony.com.

Mankato State University is hosting a related panel discussion on Friday (noon-2 p.m. at the Centennial Student Union) that is intended to bring attention to the U.S.-Dakota War, and the hangings of Native Americans that occurred in Mankato in 1862. Panelists will include: Kenneth Freed, Mankato Symphony Orchestra music director; Dave Larsen (Mdewakanton Dakota), former tribal chairman of Lower Sioux Indian Community, and former director of American Indian Affairs at MNSU/Mankato; Father Michael O’Connell, co-commissioner of “To Be Certain of the Dawn”; Rabbi Joseph Edelheit,co-commissioner of “To Be Certain of the Dawn”; and Annamarie Hill-Kleinhans (Red Lake Ojibwe), Minnesota Indian Affairs executive director. 

Happiness is...a new Peanuts movie (in 3 years)

Posted by: Kristin Tillotson Updated: October 9, 2012 - 11:43 AM



You're STILL a good man, Charlie Brown -- not to mention box-office gold. Peanuts Worldwide, a joint venture with Charles M. Schulz Creative Associates, will release a yet-to-be-titled film about Charlie, Snoopy, Lucy, Linus, Schroeder, Peppermint Patty et al. on Nov. 25, 2015, 50 years after the premiere of the holiday TV classic "A Charlie Brown Christmas."

"Peanuts," the most popular comic strip of all time, was created by  Minneapolis native Charles Schulz, who died in 2000. His son Craig, head of CMS Creative, has written the screenplay along with his own son, Bryan, and will produce. Steve Martino, who co-directed "Ice Age: Continental Drift,"  will direct the film, to be distrubuted by Twentieth Century Fox.  

Craig Schulz said the family has been working on the project for years. "We finally felt the time was right and the technology is where we need it to be," he said, adding that the movie will be "true to the strip and will continue the legacy in honor of my father."


Minnesota Preservation Alliance hires Alaskan as Executive Director

Posted by: Mary Abbe Updated: October 8, 2012 - 5:19 PM

 Veteran preservationist Doug Gasek has been named Executive Director of the Preservation Alliance of Minnesota (PAM). The Minnesota organization, based in St. Paul, promotes understanding of Minnesota history and education about community preservation and values.

Prior to taking the Minnesota job, Gasek held a dual post as Executive Director of the Alaska Association for Historic Preservation and as State Architectural Historian for the Alaska Department of Parks and Outdoor Recreation. In his preservation role he increased membership, revenue and strategic partnerships with public and private organizations. Previous to that he served as historian and archaeologist for the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

He holds a M.A. in historic preservation from Southeast Missouri State University and a B.A. in history from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.


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