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Sample Minnesota's rich history, courtesy of a microfilm archive

May 25, 1923: Bohemian Flats women defy eviction notice

For more than half a century, the river flats below the Washington Avenue bridge on the Mississippi’s west bank were an entry point for immigrants new to Minneapolis. Housing was cheap, but it was a hard life: Utilities were spartan at best, and spring floods regularly forced people out of the cheapest shanties next to the river.
 
Bohemian Flats, as it came to be known, began to lose residents in the 1920s when landowners demanded they pay rent or move out. By the early 1930s, only a few houses remained, the others torn down to make way for a barge terminal. The last resident held on, somehow, for another 30 years, living in the shadow of oil tanks and piles of coal. The barge terminal has since been replaced by Bohemian Flats Park.
 
Here’s a Minneapolis Morning Tribune account of a tense confrontation between the women of the flats – the men were at work – and police bearing a court order for their eviction.
 

Wives Hold River Flat Homes
When Police Attempt Eviction

Squatters Win Temporarily
With Writ Ordering Stay
of Ejection Move.

Residents Refuse to Pay for
Ground Lease – Ordered
in Court Tuesday.

 
Residents of the Mississippi river flats fought for the squatter sovereignty of their homes under the Washington avenue bridge Thursday, and emerged temporarily victorious.
 
Women of the flats stood guard over their thresholds while police attempted to eject them for failure to pay rent on the grounds on which the dwellings stand. A near-riot was halted when a second court order was served on police, ordering a stay of the ejections.
 
Second Order Revives Hopes.
 
Furniture from the home of Joseph Filek and from that of John Medvec, pioneer of the river colony, was being piled into moving vans when Mrs. Medvec, 57 years old, fainted. Dr. J.L. Everlof, 1501 Washington avenue south, was called and the woman was revived, but she was hysterical until the second court order brought hope that her home might be restored.
 
Under the latest order the contending parties must appear in municipal court at 10 a.m. Tuesday for a determination of the case. Title to the property is held by C.H. Smith, Phoenix building. Acting in his behalf, Clinton A. Rehnke, attorney, appeared on the flats Thursday morning with Police Lieutenant H.M. Burke, and served the ejectment papers on the squatters. They protested.
 
Angry Women Defy Police.
 
Mrs. Medvec barred the door to her home and defied the police lieutenant to open it. The two men tried to force their way in, and an angry group of women gathered to give aid to Mrs. Medvec. Finally the door was opened and workmen began to pile the furniture into the van. Before they had completed their task David Lundeen, attorney representing the flat dwellers, appeared and served the second order. The furniture went back into the house.
 
Spokesmen for the flat dwellers announced that, whether or not they are defeated in court, they will refuse to pay the rent. Rather than this, they announced, the colonists will tear down their shacks and move away.
 
Colony 60 Years Old.
 
For nearly 60 years the squatters have settled on the river shore, have built their homes, and each year, during the spring thaws, have fought against the rising waters of the Mississippi.
 
In 1919 the government high dam project entered as a factor. At that time the land, the rental for which is now in controversy, was owned by a Mary Leland. In an adjustment for the flowage rights which were found necessary because of the construction of the dam, the federal government paid $5,000 to Mary Leland. The squatters looked upon the transaction as a purchase of the land by the government. Mary Leland later transferred her title to Mr. Smith.
 
Squatters Refuse to Pay Rent.
 
Thereafter some of the dwellers refused to pay rent for the ground and on August 8, 1922, Mr. Smith instituted action in municipal court, seeking to collect the rent or to force the residents to move. The case was continued until September 29, 1922, when Mr. Smith won by default. The flat dwellers failed to appear to explain the merits they believe there was in their cause.
 
Then followed two court orders of ejectment, both of which died under the law because they were not executed within 20 days. The third writ was issued Thursday.
 
John Medvec, 70 years old, and one of the spokesmen for the flat dwellers, declared he would fight the case to the end.
 
No Lease Signed, Says Spokesman.
 
“I’ve lived here for 38 years,” he said. “I bought the place from Mike Balog for $208. I never signed a lease on the ground, and I don’t owe anyone any money for rent on the place. It’s all mine, and not any one else’s.”
 
Similar stories of a determination to fight the case were expressed by John Gabrick, 108 Mill street; Mike Sabol, 109 Mill street; Mrs. John Harhay, 113 Mill street; Mrs. Mike Lash, 105 Wood street and Mike Rollins, 79 Wood street.
 
Mr. Smith contends that the flat-dwellers signed leases agreeing to pay rental on the ground. The residents deny the claim. And upon the determination of this issue rests the fate of the river flats.
 
 
Bohemian Flats in about 1890, below the Minneapolis Western Railroad bridge, looking downriver. (Photo courtesy mnhs.org)
 
Bohemian Flats below the Washington Avenue Bridge, in about 1910. (George E. Luxton photo courtesy mnhs.org)
 
Immanuel Evangelical Slovak Lutheran Church, Lowland Avenue and Cooper Street, in about 1925. (Photo courtesy mnhs.org)

Feb. 14, 1885: Some valentines 'are simply vile and they become worse every year'

From the St. Paul Daily Globe:
 

WHO'S YOUR VALENTINE?

 

To-Day Is the Day for Making the Selection.

According to the calendar and the usages of tradition, to-day, the 14th of February, is sacred to the memory of St. Valentine, and no doubt it will be observed with the usual interchange of tokens of love and affection, not to say contempt on the part of naughty and jealously inclined young persons, as has been customary from time immemorial.

According to tradition, St. Valentine, from whom the day takes its name, was put to death by the Emperor Claudius in Rome, and to say the least the latter must have had bad taste to execute so elegant a gentleman, especially if he possessed a tithe of the charms of person or manners attributed to him by the veracious historians.

Foremost among the beautiful traditions associated with the day is the legend that on this day lovers choose their sweethearts, and birds had drawn their mates and valentines.

Anyone in passing down Third street anytime within the past couple of weeks, could not but have their attention drawn to the bright and beautiful display of valentines and fancy cards in the shop windows.

TALK WITH A TRADESMAN.

"The designs this year," said a dealer in speaking of the trade, “are if anything, prettier than ever; everything runs to flowers, the old style of paper lace with bleeding hearts and dagger accompaniments have almost gone out of date. Some of the more elaborate like this one (holding up a magnificent design of plush) come us high as $20, but a girl has got to be pretty solid to receive as costly a token as this."

The reporter was shown a number of exquisite designs in silk, ranging in price from $2 to $15.

As on former years, the handsomest valentines come in the shape of cards, Prang's designs taking the lead, and very tidy and beautiful patterns maybe had for 25 or 50 cents, while $1 buys something superb.

AT THE POST OFFICE.

A call on Miss Hindes, the young lady who presides at the valentine window at the post office, resulted in some valuable information.

"Valentines," said the young lady, "are growing out of date lately, but while the number passing through the mails is less, the designs are far prettier than formerly. There are not nearly so many comics either, and I am glad of it; I think we should have a law keeping them out of the mails, as some are simply vile and they become worse every year. One gentleman, a regular six-footer, received a comic valentine here to-day, and he was so mad that he wanted to fight a duel. I can tell when a gentleman wants to send a valentine; he goes to the stamp window looking as sheepish as can be, and then he drops it into the box and slips away just as if everybody was looking at him."