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Posts about Minnesota History

May 29, 1896: Schoolchildren move a house

Posted by: Ben Welter Updated: December 19, 2014 - 2:35 PM
How many children does it take to move an old, decrepit house six miles? The answer, Minneapolitans learned back in 1896, was about 10,000.

Two years earlier, a Minneapolis Journal reporter had tracked down the oldest wood-frame house west of the Mississippi and proposed to have the city’s schoolchildren team up to move the structure from its temporary address, 324 16th Av. S., to Minnehaha Park, where the Stevens House would be preserved for future generations to enjoy.

The newspaper solicited donations, added its own money and bought the house, then organized the move with the support of the Park Board, the school board, the mayor and the streetcar company. On May 28, 1896, about 10,000 first- through 12th-grade students got a day off from school to handle the big job. In seven relay teams, they latched onto ropes and helped 10 horses pull the house down Minnehaha Avenue to a spot outside the park.

You can imagine the mayhem: Thousands of largely unsupervised schoolchildren, armed with free trolley passes, loosed on the city. This story, from the competing daily, the Minneapolis Tribune, was buried on Page 5. It captures the spectacle beautifully — without once mentioning the Journal.
The Journal illustrated the front-page story with a cheery drawing.



The First Residence Built in Old Minneapolis Given a Final Site at Minnehaha Park – Enthusiastic Thousands of Grade and High School Pupils Join Hands in the Event – Rivalry Between the Central and South Side Schools Breaks Out in a New Place – Seven Relays Change About at the Task – Addresses Delivered at the Park.

Color-coded badges like this identified members of each relay team and allowed the children to ride the trolleys for free all day.

Eight thousand school children from the grades and nearly 2,000 high school students took a long pull, a strong pull and a pull altogether, and after several hours of pulling landed the historical old Stevens house within the sound of the Laughing Waters of Minnehaha yesterday.

It was a gala day in the public schools and every student who was old enough and strong enough was given an opportunity to assist in the event, before the first house ever built in Minneapolis had finished its long journey of some six miles, and had reached its last resting place, there to remain until its timbers have rotted with time. Its final home is peculiarly fitting, as there are blended together in one story two histories, that of the first Indian and the first white man within the lines which now comprise the limits of Minneapolis.

The program passed off smoothly and successfully, and the thousands of people who crowded along the line of march cheered in enthusiasm as the homely, decrepit old house was pulled along the historical Minnehaha road.

The 10,000 pupils did not all pull at once. They were divided into seven relays, each successive division being taken to their respective station in trolly cars, and arriving just in time to take up the long ropes as they were dropped by the preceding relay. Two or three of the relays were somewhat late, owing to the crowded condition of the street, and the delay made the house arrive at the falls somewhat behind schedule time.

Yet for an affair of such magnitude, there were few unpleasant incidents and no accidents. Sergt. Martinson and eight officers from the South Side police detail looked after the children with painstaking care, and prevented any serious mishap.

House-mover Pratt had already hauled the historical old building to the place of starting, at Sixteenth avenue south near Fourth street, and was in waiting at 9 o’clock for the first relay of children. With him were several linemen and electricians, who traversed the route to guard against accidents from wires.

Working in relay teams, thousands of schoolchildren — with help from 10 horses — pulled the Stevens House nearly six miles.

At 9 o’clock the corner named was surrounded by a great throng of shouting eager school children, all anxious to take hold of the big ropes which stretched out for 400 feet in front of the house. Every one was promptly on hand, and Supt. Jordan, of the public schools, and city officials looked anxiously for Col. John H. Stevens, whose hands fashioned the old building nearly a half century ago. But the sad intelligence was soon received that the venerable citizen, and the pioneer of the city, had been stricken with paralysis as the result of the excitement, and would be unable to attend. A committee was sent to offer condolence to the stricken man.

But the children knew nothing of the sad occurrence and were impatient to start on the novel journey. Contractor Pratt appeared in time with 10 strong horses and hitched the teams to the trucks. At a given signal a bugler from the state troops, clad in full regimentals, stepped between the lines of happy children and blew a merry blast. It was the order for “forward march,” and there came a tremendous strain on the ropes. The old house shook for a moment, lurched a little, and then smoothly began its long journey. A lust cry went up, which was taken by the spectators and repeated for a half mile along the line of march.

The first relay consisted of 1,100 children from the Clay, Jackson, Peabody, Corcoran, Irving, Greeley, Washington, Madison and Motley schools. They pulled the house to Franklin and Minnehaha avenues, where the ropes were dropped and a rush made for waiting trolley cars.

With equal impetuosity the second relay jumped into line, and after a short pause the house was off again. This time the Longfellow, Rosedale, Clinton, Whittier, Bryant, Sumner and Lincoln schools were pulling and tugging at the rope. Everything went smoothly, and at Twenty-sixth street the relay gave way to another from other schools.

At this point there was something of unexpected interest. Waving their school flag in triumph from the gable window of the old building the lads from the South Side High School shouted their school yell and BAD DEFIANCE TO ALL COMERS.

At this point the Central High School scholars were billed to relieve the South Siders, and consequently surrounded the building.

The Minneapolis Journal devoted much of its front page to the big move, featuring a fanciful illustration of children pulling the house — and the sad news of a killer tornado in St. Louis. [Click on the image to see the full front page.]

The spirit of school rivalry broke out, strong and bitter. The South Siders refused to surrender the fortress and flaunted their banner from the window in spite of all entreaties and orders. Contractor Pratt could not oust them. Supt. Jordan could not oust them, and finally Sergeant Martinson called for a detail of police and made a rush for the house. But the South Side lads were still game, and did not give up until several had been made to feel the force of police authority. Then they made a break. As they dashed from one door the Centrals entered by the other, and their banner was soon flying from the gable amid vociferous cheers. The South Siders were chased up the street by a detachment of Centrals, and for a moment it looked as if the rush would result in some bruised heads. However, good nature was restored and again the house started on its way. There was no hitch in the proceedings, and at 1 o’clock the house had passed the Minnehaha Driving Park. As each relay finished its work it was carried to the park, there to await the formal ceremonies in the afternoon.

The site for the building had already been prepared and the house was hauled to it rather late in the afternoon. The entire distance covered by the different relays was about four miles.


The house arrived at the park a little after 3 o’clock. Here the proceedings were delayed, owing to a shower of rain, and it was not until 3 o’clock that the house was brought to the spot that it will occupy in the years to come. An impromptu platform was erected in front of the old doorway, from which the speeches were delivered in the presence of the many that gathered around.

Ald. Frank B. Snyder, who was born in the house, presented it to the city.

“It is both fitting and proper,” said the speaker, “to glorify the relics of by-gone days. I remember the house as it stood amid the lilac bushes beneath the foliage of overhanging trees on the green banks of the Mississippi. Many changes have come since then, and the old landmark was swept away. The old house has no commercial value, but only stands as a monument of the past. Old Home! I greet you. You are endeared to me by memories of the past. For many years you have been an outcast, forsaken, neglected, almost forgotten, I rejoice that at this late day, there has come to you, as to an old man, a second childhood: that henceforth as of old, you will nestle on the green banks of a flowing stream, beneath the foliage of overhanging trees, and that you will again feel the mist and hear the roar of the falling waters. Mr. Mayor, in behalf of the children who have brought this old building here, I now transfer the first house build in minneapolis, to you, by delivering the key, to have and to hold, for the use of the public, from this time forth, forever.”

The Stevens House in 1894, before the big move.

Mayor Pratt accepted the house in the following words:

“Honorable President of the City Council — I have the honor and pleasure, on behalf of the city of Minneapolis, to receive from you, representing the press and the school children of this city, this historic house — historic, because it was the first house built upon the site of our great and beautiful city.

“It has been a silent witness to a transformation more marvelous than any conjuration of Aladdin’s lamp. Forty-six years ago it stood alone on the border of a trackless prairie, on the west bank of the Mississippi, on the very spot that is now the center of the industrial and commercial life, not only of a great city, but also of that vast tributary region of which we are the metropolis. Forty-six years ago, a solitary house, hundreds of miles from any railroad; today, a railroad center , whose gigantic arms reach from sea to sea.

“Then it stood in a region inhabited only by savages. Now, in their place, are churches, schools and thousands of Christian homes. …”

[His honor waxed on for several more minutes, quoting a passage from Longfellow's "Song of Hiawatha" and praising the city's "wonderful progress" before, at last, introducing the parks commissioner, Prof. W.W. Folwell, who waxed on for several minutes himself, finishing with a call to greet the old home "with a mighty hurrah."]

The hurrahs were given with a will, after which the South Side High School brought out yells for the different personages who had each taken party in the exercises.

Minnehaha Falls in about 1895. ( photo)

As each relay was released, the children took the next car and rode to the falls. They had all been given souvenirs that insured them a free ride, and soon the part was one mass of children. They were everywhere. There was not a spot in the large park that they did not visit; the falls, looking down at the water as it struck the waters below; down through Longfellow Glen they thronged like so many “Brownies.” At the Soldiers’ Home they made themselves perfectly at home, and here they received a cordial welcome, and were shown everything that could be of interest. They had all taken lunch baskets, and by noon the who park was a large picnic ground. Many of them became so absorbed in the different things that were to be seen that they paid no more attention to the old house after they were once at the park. Many, however, became so interested in the old landmark that they followed every move it made, lustily cheering it as, creaking, it slowly moved towards its last resting place. Many of the children began to leave as soon as the exercises were over, but it was nearly dark before the last little curiosity seekers, tired, turned their footsteps homewards to seek their beds and dream of how the little fairies had drawn the old Stevens house out to Minnehaha Park.

Here’s what the Stevens House looked like in 1900, nestled in its new surroundings near Minnehaha Falls.

At 8 o’clock last evening the railway gave an exhibition of fire works at the Falls, which in effect has never been equaled in this part of the country. The falls itself, was the object worked upon, and the result was more than human mind can comprehend without seeing it. Colored lights were placed on the rocks immediately behind the falling water, at the sides and at the bottom. Calcium lights were thrown on the water, giving the falls the appearance of a sheet of fire, and increasing the volume about six times. Fully 1,000 Japanese lanterns were strung through Longfellow glen, thereby adding to the romantic beauty of the whole.


The Twin City Rapid Transit Company deserves considerable credit for the manner in which it handled the school children yesterday. The scholars were all given badges which entitled them to free rides in the cars and the youngsters improved their opportunity all day long. Not content with riding to Minnehaha Falls and back, they put in extra time riding about the city, some traveling on as many as five different lines.

Altogether the company carried about 10,000 children. Nearly all went to the Falls after they were through pulling the Stevens house, and the majority remained there until late in the afternoon. The time limit was supposed to be eight o’clock, but there were many children who did not leave the Falls until after that hour. The rain in the afternoon helped out wonderfully, as it started the crowds toward the city, and there was not such a crush later on as there would have been but for the rain. The company had no trouble in handling the children and there were no accidents.


John H. Stevens, shown here in his twilight years, built the house in 1849 near what is now the Federal Reserve Bank building in downtown Minneapolis.

Yesterday’s event did not pass off without certain criticisms from various sources, and for various reasons. There were many parents who objected to sending their children out on such an excursion through anxiety lest something should happen through the day, and yet they felt as if they were called upon to do so on account of the way in which the matter had been put before the public. There were mothers who have no children, but who are interested in educational matters, and who think that there are enough holidays for the children, without an extra day being given them. If such an event was to take place it was their opinion that it should take place on some regular holiday instead of breaking in on the regular school routine. Then the park commissioners and the park policemen objected to the way in which the children took possession of the park and everything in it. There was no such thing as controlling them, and they ran over everything in sight. It would have taken a small regiment of policemen to have kept that throng in check.

STRICKEN WITH PARALYSIS.Col. J.H. Stevens Temporarily Overcome by Excitement.

Col. John H. Stevens, whose continued good health, although he has arrived at a very advanced age, has been a pleasing commentary on the salubrity of Minnesota’s climate, suffered a slight stroke of paralysis yesterday. He passed a restless night, being in a somewhat excited state of mind presumably on account of the popular demonstration in connection with the moving of his first Minneapolis home. Early in the morning, shortly after arising, he was afflicted with a paralytic stroke which for a time prostrated him completely, rendering him powerless to move a muscle in the entire right side of his body. His physician was called and rendered prompt assistance, and within a short time his condition was considerably relieved.

Jan. 24, 1951: No smell test for lutefisk

Posted by: Ben Welter Updated: December 7, 2014 - 4:16 PM
Minneapolis Star editors used a funny-looking spelling (ludefisk) for Scandinavia’s funny-smelling food (lutefisk) in this page one story from January 1951.

Smell Ruled Out as Test of Good or Bad Ludefisk

There wasn’t much to smile about in a 1950s lutefisk factory. Arthur Boscher, left, and David Arneson of Lyon Food Products hoisted some slimy goodness. (Minneapolis Star photo by Jack Gillis)

There wasn'€™t much to smile about in a 1950s lutefisk factory. Arthur Boscher, left, and David Arneson of Lyon Food Products hoisted some slimy goodness. (Minneapolis Star photo by Jack Gillis)

District Judge William C. Larson admitted today there is no way to tell good ludefisk from bad by smell alone — and he put the problem squarely up to the bacteriologists at University of Minnesota.
The question came before the judge when two ludefisk — one, unquestionably good, the other, allegedly bad — were brought into his courtroom within sniffing distance.
They were designated as Exhibit 2 in the case of Ivan Bogen, representing the InterState Brokerage Co., versus Olsen Fish Co., 815 5th street N.
Bogen was demanding payment of $1,396.18 as balance of his bill for delivering 47 bales of “dry stock fish” to the Olsen firm in November, 1948.
The fish company rejected the shipment on the ground the fish were spoiled and declined to pay.

April 6, 1950: Test your horse sense

Posted by: Ben Welter Updated: December 4, 2014 - 8:11 AM
The Minneapolis Star’s editorial page folks challenged readers to this offbeat Asimov-style quiz in 1950. Resist the urge to peek at the answers and give it a shot. Be sure to annoy 20 of your Facebook friends by sending them a link to the quiz. Ben scored a 9 (”very superior”); can you beat Ben’s score?

Test Your Horse Sense

Score: One point for each correct answer in first five questions. No. 6 counts five points. Total score: 0-2 poor, 3-6 average; 7-8 superior; 9-10 very superior.
Hint: This is a Guernsey. Count its legs. (Photo courtesy <a data-cke-saved-href="/web/20100407171303/;Page=2&amp;Digital=Yes&amp;Keywords=Guernsey&amp;SearchType=Basic"></a>) href="/web/20100407171303/;Page=2&amp;Digital=Yes&amp;Keywords=Guernsey&amp;SearchType=Basic"></a>)

Hint: This is a Guernsey. Count its legs. (Photo courtesy

1. Which species has only two feet? Muscovy, Clydesdale, Persian, Guernsey.
2. When an athletic team is badly beaten, which term applies? Painting, Varnishing, Shellacking, Gluing.
3. The sports term “lure” suggests Strike, Punt, Bunt, Pass.
4. Cypress trees suggest which type of terrain? Desert, Plateau, Swamp, Prairie. 
5. The area under the dome of the U.S. capital building is called Foyer, Narthex, Lobby, Rotunda.
6. Match these five characters from literature or fiction with appropriate items on the right.
Robin Hood   Oriental lamp
Little Red Riding Hood   Gingerbread man
The Flying Dutchman   Bow and arrows
Hansel and Gretel   Mythical ship
Aladdin   Wolf
1. Muscovy (duck). 2. Shellacking. 3. Strike (fish). 4. Swamp. 5. Rotunda. 6. Robin Hood – Bow; Red Riding Hood – Wolf; Dutchman – Ship; Hansel and Gretel – Gingerbread; Aladdin – Lamp.

July 14, 1890: Sea Wing capsizes on Lake Pepin

Posted by: Ben Welter Updated: December 2, 2014 - 8:57 AM
Powerful thunderstorms moved through Minnesota on a steamy Sunday afternoon in July 1890. A huge tornado, later immortalized in a Julius Holm painting, churned across Kohlman Lake, “a little summering place” in what is now Maplewood. At least seven people were killed and dozens injured.

That evening, about 70 miles to the southeast, on Lake Pepin, a much larger tragedy unfolded. A “cyclone” blew in from the west, capsizing a steamer carrying more than 100 passengers and crew up the Mississippi River. A Minneapolis Tribune correspondent who happened to be on the scene told the tale in gripping — if maddeningly chronological — fashion.

[Originally posted in April 2008, this entry was among hundreds that evaporated in a server purge on or about Aug. 1, 2014. Reposting in connection with Curt Brown's excellent piece in the Star Tribune. Thank goodness for's Wayback Machine.]


An Awful Disaster At Lake Pepin, Minn.
A Steamer Capsizes With 150 People Aboard.
The Wind and Waves Have no Mercy on Them.
Only Twenty Succeed in Saving Their Lives.
People Watch the Awful Struggle From the Shore.
But No One Could Lend Any Assistance.
The Storm Drowned the Cries of the Unfortunates.
A Disaster Never Before Equaled in the Northwest.
LAKE CITY, Minn., July 13. – [Special.] – What may prove the most disastrous storm in many years passed over this place this evening killing probably 100 people and damaging property to an extent that at this writing cannot be estimated. Your correspondent was visiting friends in Lake City and was sitting in the yard when what appeared to be an ordinary electric storm was noticed coming up from the West. In half an hour the whole heavens were converted into a complete canopy of lightning which was watched with interest by the brave citizens of the little village and with fear by the timid women and children. A little before dark a terrific wind struck the community and your reporter sought the shelter of the house just in time to escape being caught under a huge tree that came crashing down against the house. Windows were closed instantly and none too soon, for the cyclone was upon us and trees and houses were fast being demolished in its path.
The steamer Sea Wing about a year before the tragedy. ( photo)

The steamer Sea Wing about a year before the tragedy. ( photo)

While my wife, in fear and trembling, sought the seclusion and protection of the cellar in company with the ladies, I assisted in closing shutters and making preparations for the worst that could be expected while trees were heard to be crashing down and missiles were striking against the house. The building proved strong enough to weather the blast, and in half an hour the worst of the hurricane had passed. As soon as the trees had been cleared away from the front of the house your correspondent started out and soon learned
Had befallen the place, that had not been equaled since the St. Cloud cyclone several years ago. People began to gather on the streets, and in a few moments the news was scattered abroad that an excursion boat with over 200 people on it was capsized in the middle of Lake Pepin. The boat proved to be the steamer Sea Wing, which came down the lake from Diamond Bluff, a small place about 17 miles north of here, on an excursion to the encampment of the First regiment, N. G. S. M., which is being held a mile below this city. The steamer started back on the homeward trip about 8 o’clock, and although there were signs of an approaching storm, it was not considered in any way serious, and no danger was anticipated. The boat was crowded to its fullest capacity, about
from Red Wing and Diamond Bluff being on board, and about 50 people on a barge which was attached to the side of the steamer. When about opposite Lake City the boat began to feel the effects of the storm; but the officers kept on the way. The storm increased as the boat continued up the lake. In 15 minutes it was at its height. Nearing Central Point, about two miles above Lake City, the steamer was at the mercy of the waves, which were now washing over the boat, and all was confusion. The boat momentarily ran onto a bar and the barge was cut loose, and the steamer again set adrift in the lake. A number of those on the barge jumped and swam ashore. As the barge also floated again into the deep water those on the barge saw the steamer as it was carried helplessly out into the middle of the lake, and as they were being tossed about on the raging waters, they were horrified a moment later to see the steamer and its cargo of 150 people
Those on the barge remained there until they were drifted nearer the shore and they were all rescued or swam ashore. Among them were two ladies who were brought to the beach by strong and ready swimmers. There were about 50 in all that were on the barge.
The events that transpired on the steamer after it separated from the barge are probably most clearly stated by those who were rescued from it about half an hour ago. It is now 12 o’clock midnight. As soon as the [storm] had begun to affect the progress of the boat, Capt. Weathern [Wethern, actually] gave instructions to run the boat into the Wisconsin shore but it was a too terrible force of wind and wave. In five minutes more the waves began to wash into the boat and fill its lower decks, and while hailstones as large as hen’s eggs came down on the heads of the poor helpless creatures which were huddled together on the top, a huge wave struck the craft on the side at the same moment that a terrific blast of wind, more horribly forcible than the others, came up and carried the boat over, all of the people on board; 150 or more were thrown into the water, some being caught underneath and others thrown into the waves.
The boat turned bottom upwards and only about 25 people were observed to be floating on the surface. These caught hold of the boat and climbed upon the upturned bottom, those first securing a position assisting the others. In 10 minutes more than 25 or so who had obtained momentary safety on the boat could observe no others of the boat crew or passengers floating on the surface of the continuing high sea of waves. Afterwards, however, as a flash of lightning lighted up the surface of the lake, the sight of an occasional white dress of a drowning woman or child was observable, but it was impossible for those who witnessed the horrible sight
Those remaining began calling for help from the shore as soon as the storm began to abate and in half an hour lights were observed flitting about on the pier at Lake City, opposite which point the upturned steamer had now been driven. Before help could reach them, however, the creatures who remained to tell the horrors of the night were again submitted to another battle with the elements, with no word of warning; and as they were just beginning to hope that they would be taken off by the citizens of Lake City, the boat again turned over, this on its side and again all of the 25 remaining souls were hurtled into the water. Of these several were drowned before they could be brought to the boat by those who succeeded in remaining afloat and again securing hold of the boat’s side. As the men hung on to the railing, in danger each moment of being washed away by the waves, one man observed the forms of two women wedged in between a stationary seat and the boat’s side, both pale in death, as the lightning gleams lit up their upturned faces. Another man saw two little girls floating past him as he hung with desperate efforts to the steamer’s side.
National Guard members survey the wreckage of the Sea Wing. ( photo)

National Guard members survey the wreckage of the Sea Wing. ( photo)

Half an hour after the passage of the storm your reporter went with others to the dock where the steamer Ethel Howard was anchored safe from the storm. It was presumed that the steamer would at once proceed to the rescue of the drowning, but when I asked the captain, Mr. Howard, if he was going out to the rescue, he replied that he was not going to run his boat away from the shore until the indication of another approaching storm had disappeared. He said also that he did not propose to run the risk of losing his boat in order to look for dead people out on the lake. Citizens of Lake City, who heard Captain Howard’s remarks, were most severe in their denunciation of this position he assumed in the face of the statements made to him that every minute might mean the saving of a half dozen lives. Many talked of taking the boat away from him by force, but there were not enough to put the threat into execution, and other means of rescue were resorted to. In a few minutes a dozen or more rowboats were manned and put out from the shore. The upturned boat was at last discovered;
Clinging to the boat were rescued and brought to the shore, most of them being men who could swim.
Among those who are known to have been on board the steamer and who are undoubtedly drowned are: Two children of C.H. Reberick, Peter Goken, his wife, five children and hired girl, Fred Sebes, wife and daughter, Mrs. Capt. Wethern and her two children, F. Christ, Wm. Blaker and family of three, Mrs. Hempting and daughter, Gus Beckmark; a Miss Flyn, Bose Adams and Ira Fulton. A full list of the 150 passengers, which are pretty certain to have been drowned, is not obtainable at this writing. A large majority of them were women and children. Those being saved being nearly all strong men, who were able to swim, and cling to the boat, after it had capsized. On the return from the capsized boat with three or four people who had been rescued, one of the row boats encountered two floating bodies, each with a life preserver attached.
In Lake City the damage to property by the cyclone is great, although no fatalities have been reported. Collins Bros.’ saw and planning mill is totally demolished. The roof of the opera house, owned by Mr. Hanisch, was carried away and the stores underneath more or less damaged by the rain and hail.
Up to this time, 1:30 a.m., 62 bodies have been found and laid out.
Julius Holm's 1893 oil painting shows the Kohlman Lake tornado as it skirted the edge of St. Paul.

Julius Holm's 1893 oil painting shows the Kohlman Lake tornado as it skirted the edge of St. Paul.


July 16, 1931: Angry white mob surrounds Minneapolis home

Posted by: Ben Welter Updated: November 26, 2014 - 12:44 PM

In June 1931, Arthur and Edith Lee bought a two-bedroom bungalow at 4600 Columbus Av. in south Minneapolis. The Lees were black; the neighborhood white. Despite threats from the neighborhood association, they moved into the home in July, along with their 6-year-old daughter. A group of neighbors offered to buy the home back for $300 more than the Lees had paid. The family declined.
Lena Olive Smith

Lena Olive Smith

“Nobody asked me to move out when I was in France fighting in mud and water for this country,” Arthur Lee, a World War I veteran, told the Tribune. “I came out here to make this house my home. I have a right to establish a home.”

In mid-July, thousands assembled nightly at 46th and Columbus in protest, many hurling taunts and rocks at the home. Friends gathered in the Lee home to show their support. Police stood outside, urging the crowds to disperse as tensions rose. On Friday, July 17, an end to the “race row” appeared near. The Tribune reported “definite progress” in negotiations over the sale of the house, and said it appeared Lee would move soon, perhaps within a week. The protests waned, but neighbors continued to pressure the Lees to move. Years later, they finally sold the house and moved to another part of the city, but only after waiting long enough to prove they could not be forced out.

The “Miss L.O. Smith” mentioned near the end of the Tribune’s dramatic account below is Lena Olive Smith, then president of the Minneapolis branch of NAACP. Smith, the first black woman licensed to practice law in Minnesota, advised the Lees through much of the conflict. Before earning her law degree, she had practiced dermatology, studied embalming, owned a hair salon and sold real estate. Ann Juergens, a professor at William Mitchell College of Law, wrote about this fascinating civil rights pioneer for the school’s law review in 2001.

[Reposted in November 2014 to note the passing of Pearl Lindstrom, who owned the home for more that 50 years and embraced its recognition as a historic site. Scroll to the end to read a brief interview with her in 2006, the year this was originally posted.]
Edith and Arthur Lee (photo courtesy of the Lee family)

Edith and Arthur Lee (photo courtesy of the Lee family)

Crowd of 3,000 Renews
Attack on Negroes’ Home

Stones Again Hurled at House on Columbus Avenue.
Neighbors Walk Out of Meeting When Peace Is Urged.
While city leaders tried desperately to effect a peaceful settlement of the affair, the rising tide of protest against occupancy of a home at 4600 Columbus avenue by a Negro family Wednesday night resulted in another, more violent demonstration outside the home.
More than 3,000 persons assembled outside the home, occupied by A.A. Lee and his family, to hurl defiance at the police and openly threaten Lee and his friends.
Every available police gunsquad was rushed to the scene to keep the crowd under control.
Stones Are Thrown.
From the windows of his darkened home, Lee and his friends looked out, as from a barricaded fortress, on a sullen, angry semi-circle of humanity. They heard themselves threatened continually, from all directions. They heard stones strike against the house and heard windows crash as some of the stones took effect. Now and then a firecracker exploded on the lawn.
A mass meeting of white home owners of that vicinity, held early in the evening at the Eugene Field school, was apparently unsuccessful. Half of the more than 100 persons who assembled at the school walked out indignantly as speakers were urging patience in the matter.
Police Guard Home.
“Let’s go over to Forty-sixth and Columbus and settle the matter right now,” shouted some as they left the meeting.
By the time the meeting was over the Lee home was once more surrounded by angry home owners, spectators from all parts of the city and a squad of 25 policemen.
During the early part of the evening the police were successful in keeping the crowd moving. Groups were broken up quickly and effectively. By 10:30 p.m., however, the crowd had grown so large that the police were forced to retreat toward the Lee home where they formed a protecting cordon. Standing 10 feet apart, they waited.
Patrolman Attacked.
Inch by inch the crowd moved closer to the Lee home, muttering threats, and loud in their denunciation of the police. More police reserves were sent for. A squad of motorcycle men mounted their machines. They drove straight at the crowd, turning sharply as they reached the front lines.
This only served to rouse the throng. One motorcycle policeman was pulled from his machine and a squad of patrolmen went charging to his rescue. Word was handed around that someone had struck a woman spectator. There was an ominous roar of disapproval.
Mrs. A. B. Blomberg, 4925 Columbus avenue, was injured in the leg when struck by the machine of a motorcycle patrolman near the scene of the demonstration at the Lee home. She was taken to her home after lacerations were treated by a doctor.
At 11 p.m. a hurry call was sent to police headquarters and every available gunsquad car was sent to the scene.
The crowd also was incensed by a practical joke that brought a fire department hose cart and a hook and ladder truck clanging up to the Lee home. The firemen were greeted with a loud chorus of boos by the crowd which took it for granted that the fire department had been called as an emergency measure.
The firemen, plainly confused by their reception, immediately turned their trucks around and left.
By that time the crowd extended along Forty-sixth street from Park to Chicago avenues and for a block along Columbus avenue. Refusing to obey the policemen’s orders to stay out of the street they advanced almost to the sidewalks in front of the Lee home, standing almost face to face with the line of policemen. The shrill piping voices of small children were heard over the lower, more deliberate tones of adults.
Fire Hose Asked.
Traffic was blocked completely on Columbus avenue and on Forty-sixth street. Cars were parked for several miles along adjoining streets.
From time to time during the evening groups of Negroes appeared and entered the Lee home. It was estimated that more than 20 friends of the Lee family were assembled in the house at the time the demonstration was at its height.
Toward midnight Captain William Walsh at police headquarters received a call from a man who said he was at the Lee home.
“Send out the fire department and turn a hose on the crowd,” the man suggested.
Captain Walsh replied that he had no authority to do that.
By 11:30 p.m. the crowd was in a dangerous mood, ready for any excuse to jeer at the police. When a detective, seeing a youth about to hurl a stone, arrested him, there was a movement toward the detective which was frustrated by the prompt arrival of motorcycle policemen. The youth was hustled into a gunsquad car and taken to a precinct station.
The appearance of several Negroes in the crowd also caused a commotion. Police immediately rushed the Negroes to police cars and hurried them away, fearing a racial riot independent of the difficulty regarding the Lee home.
Urban President Speaks.
Mayor Anderson

Mayor Anderson

At the meeting of the Eugene Field school, H.W. Rubins, president of the Urban league, representing Mayor Anderson, pleaded with the assembled home owners to be patient in the affair and to respect as much as possible the principle of property rights.
“This is a time for sanity and patience, not hasty action,” he told the assembly. “This government has been founded on certain principles of human and property rights. We must respect those rights.”
Rubins had addressed the home owners for a scant 10 minutes when a decided unrest began to evidence itself. Several rose and left the room. Then there was a massed departure which interrupted Rubins. Muttering angrily, those who left their seats hurried from the school to join the crowd outside the Lee home.
Let Committees Work.
To those who remained Rubins continued his address. He pointed out that he was present as an impartial, unbiased observer, in the interest of a satisfactory settlement of the problem. He asked that the committees which have been appointed be given a fair chance to work out a solution to the problem.
Albin J. Lindgren, 4621 Park avenue, chairman of a committee of home owners which has been meeting with a committee appointed by Mayor Anderson and Lee’s attorney, presided over the meeting and also urged that residents of the district be patient.
“Let’s give the committees a chance,” Lindgren suggested, “to see if we can’t reach a satisfactory settlement. I suggest that everyone stay away from the corener of Forty-sixth and Columbus tonight.”
Lee Won’t Move.
Lee himself, in a statement issued through his attorney, H.E. Maag, made it known Wednesday that he has no intention of moving as long as his neighbors continue their demonstrations. He said he is willing to meet with a committee of residents and his attorney and settle the matter in a peaceful manner. Then, he said, after the attention of the city had been diverted from the house he would move quietly to some other part of the city.
Efforts to settle the controversy over Lee’s purchase of the home were made Wednesday by interested groups on Mayor Anderson’s office. A definite decision was not arrived at.
The Minneapolis Urban league, an organization devoted to the advancement of amicable relations between whites and Negroes, also held a meeting in an effort to mediate the trouble and influence the parties concerned into a settlement.
The National Association For the Advancement of Colored People Wednesday charged the police department with laxity in dispersing what it termed an “unlawful gathering” at the Lee home.
Miss L.O. Smith, president of the Minneapolis branch of the organization, called on Chief of Police William Meehan and charged that the police department had been wilfully negligent in its duty in permitting the crowd to form. She said that if the demonstrations continue she will appeal to Governor Olson for aid.
Mayor Anderson, after conferring with representatives of the Negroes and white property owners in the district, asked the latter to “be patient.” He asked that some sort of truce be effected pending settlement of the affair.
April 2006 update: 4600 Columbus Av. is now owned by Pearl Lindstrom, 84. She is white. I stopped by to photograph the house and spotted her holding the front storm door open, peering out at the intersection where I stood, camera in hand. I climbed the steps to the house and introduced myself. She said she had learned about the 1931 protests only a few years ago when another man stopped by to take pictures.

Lindstrom and her first husband bought the house from a white family for about $12,800 in 1958. Were there any black families in the neighborhood when she moved in? “None whatsoever,” she said. How about now? “Probably about four,” she said. How about race relations? “There’s no problem,” she said, with a surprised tone that suggested that such a thing would be an impossibility in 2006.


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