Staff Directory 6370658

Curt Brown

Reporter | Minnesota History
Recent content from Curt Brown
Carl Simmons 1938-2021  Northwest Flight 573 experienced engine failure shortly after taking off from Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport on Ja

Remembering a pilot's 1985 disaster-avoiding heroism

Carl Simmons, who maneuvered a crippled Boeing 727 to safety, died in January after he was hit by a car.
A remarkable group: the langsjoen family  Seated from left, Trudy, father Nels “Pops,” Harald, Alma “Doopy,” mother Alma and Ralph. Standing,

No black sheep in Langsjoen family

The family name became synonymous with achievement in St. Peter.
The famed architect Cass Gilbert met Julia Finch Gilbert in his career, and again later when he lived in St. Paul and she in Milwaukee. They wrote oft

Architect Cass Gilbert, and a blueprint for love

Passionate courtship letters had lit up the love between the then-emerging architect in St. Paul and his wife-to-be in Milwaukee.
Clarence Ladue Larson Black widower? Granite Falls writer Patricia Lubeck posits in her new book that justice was never served in Clarence Larson’s

New book alleges Minnesotan might have killed his two wives

When it came to antiquing, Clarence and Jean Larson made a good husband-and-wife team in southwestern Minnesota in 1980. He could fix just about anything…
Then 104 years old in 1941, Henry Mack was pictured in a Minneapolis Star Journal photo at bottom right. Five Civil war veterans, according to an acco

Former slave, Civil War vet lived final decades in Minneapolis

Grave No. 384 in Section A-3 commemorates one of the more remarkable lives among the 240,000 military people and family members buried at Fort Snelling…
Norwegian immigrants Olav (Ole) and Martha Leraas married near Kenyon, Minn., in 1870 and later moved to Minneapolis. Two of their young children are

This history buff embraces family's past with gusto

Some history buffs dig into genealogy websites to mine ancestors' records. Some send in saliva for DNA scrutiny. Others comb through photo albums and mildewed…
When her father, John Puckett Gibbs, the Itasca State Park commissioner, died in 1903, Mary Hannah Gibbs took his place and tried to protect the park

Mary Gibbs stared down lumbermen in 1903 Itasca clash

It became one of Minnesota's first clashes between conservationists and industry.
Archer’s Hotel sprung up only a year after citizens drove the James-Younger gang out of Northfield and just as Carleton and St. Olaf colleges began

Northfield mourns burned Archer hotel that reached back 143 years

"It really was the heart of the community," said Northfield historian Susan Hvistendahl.
Roger Vaillancourt, who was 17, died after being hit by two cars near Princeton, Minn., in 1957, but the full story of what happened that October nigh

Mystery still swirls around fatal hit-and-run crash in 1957

It was Oct. 5, 1957, an idyllic autumn Saturday in Foley, an east-central Minnesota town of 1,100 people, and Roger Vaillancourt, 17, was goofing around…
Lois Gildemeister was the pilot of Grand Rapids’ old-time summer variety show known as the Mississippi Melodie Showboat.

Lois Gildemeister was the can-do woman of Grand Rapids

Lois Gildemeister played the organ at the First Evangelical Lutheran Church in Grand Rapids, Minn., for decades of Sundays starting in the early 1930s. The…
Walt Straka, 101, is shown in 2019. Minnesota’s lone survivor of World War II’s Bataan Death March, Straka was a 22-year-old shoemaker’s son and

From Brainerd to Bataan: At 101, veteran recalls the horrors

Walt Straka was a 22-year-old shoemaker's son and one of 64 Minnesota National Guard troops from Brainerd belonging to Company A of the Army's 194th Tank Battalion.
On Dec. 20, 1962, Tom Swain, Gov. Elmer Andersen’s recount administrator, stood in a dark suit, center, as the gubernatorial recount carried on arou

Minnesota's past proves that every vote matters

If you think your vote really doesn’t matter this week, talk to 99-year-old Tom Swain. Born on the Fourth of July, Swain graduated from Washburn…
Rebecca Marshall Cathcart of St. Paul, said to be the oldest Minnesotan when she died at 95, left “sheafs of remembrance” now viewable on the Libr

St. Paul woman left 'sheafs of remembrance' of Minnesota's settler days

Rebecca Marshall Cathcart was said to be the oldest Minnesotan when she died in her St. Paul home in 1925 at age 95.
Alice Matthews, right, and her sister Jennie, who nearly discovered her strangled body in 1912 but assumed it was a drunken man. Alice’s body, lying

Flour packer's brutal 1912 Minneapolis murder still unsolved

Veteran cops at the time considered it the most brutal crime Minneapolis had seen in the city's 45 years.
Flour milling company executive James Ford Bell was instrumental in leading a U.S. hunger relief effort during World War I, resigning his business pos

Thank-you letters from 1915 point back to unlikely hero

U.S. humanitarian aid had poured into Belgium — including tons of wheat milled in Minnesota — before the United States joined World War I.
Ken Micko, a bomber co-pilot, bailed from his burning plane over Berlin and became a prisoner of war. He’ll never forget that date — March 18, 194

Minnesota WWII co-pilot, 98, bailed out over Berlin as he became a dad

When Ken Micko's daughter was being born in 1945, he was parachuting out of his flaming B-24 over Berlin.
The Grotto Players’ 1947 performance of “On Borrowed Times,” staged by Donald Singerman. The Grotto Players were a St. Paul nonprofessional thea

St. Paul librarian opened eyes with 1930s community theater

Donald Singerman made his community theater group, the Grotto Players, into a force.
An 1818 portrait of Abigail Snelling Chaplin, whose first husband, Josiah Snelling, is the namesake of the fort at the confluence of the Minnesota and

Abigail Hunt Snelling Chaplin was more than a helpmate at the early years of the fort bearing her name

A look at the pioneer woman, who arrived at the confluence of the Minnesota and Mississippi rivers 200 years ago.
John Mrozinski was 21 when he and his father, Joseph Mrozinski, were stopped by game wardens on the river. His father was killed.

Game warden shot fisherman, walked in 1900 murder case

Two unemployed telegraph linemen looking for work on St. Paul’s East Side happened upon a deadly confrontation on the Mississippi River on Sept. 19, 1900.…
Sincere et Constanter: Saint Marys School of Nursing The St. Marys School of Nursing class of 1960 stood after its capping ceremony in Rochester. Duri

Japanese-American nurses traded WWII camps for Rochester

St. Marys School of Nursing won military approval to train nurses of Japanese heritage living in internment camps.
Robert and James Style: Buried together in Europe The four oldest of the 12 Style siblings: Rodney, James, Margaret Claire and Robert. James and Rober

Two Minnesota brothers, side by side, gave all in WWII

The bleeding heart plant, with its pink heart-shaped flowers, was first grown by Elizabeth Style Sullivan's grandmother. Liz's mother, Mary Style, subsequently transplanted some in…
Carolen Bailey in 1991.

Pioneering St. Paul police lieutenant took down crooks, gender walls

During a 36-year career, Carolen Bailey served as a homicide investigator and vice squad commander before working with the state.
As Chief Little Crow’s top soldier, Tawasuota followed orders and took the first fatal shot of the U.S.-Dakota War in 1862. Charles Eastman, an auth

Remembering the Dakota warrior who took the first shot

Almost immediately, Tawasuota regretted killing an unarmed man, according to an account published 45 years later.
This photo from August 1944 — titled “Still Pitching at 61 — captured Charles Bender as the Philadelphia Athletics’ batting-practice pitcher,

White Earth to World Series: Charles Bender's bittersweet baseball story

The swirl of world events threw a few knuckleballs into major league baseball in 1918 — namely a deadly flu pandemic and World War I.At…
Nettie Hayes Sherman ran a St. Paul speakeasy during the 1930s and sang with greats of American music. “I don’t accept anybody’s suggestions or

Nettie Hayes Sherman stood at intersection of booze, voting 100 years ago

She steals in the show in "A Brief History of Women in Bars: A Minnesota Story in Three Rounds," even being in it just in the final minutes.
Carrie Thorson, shown before turning 70 in 1948, left Norway at age 24 in 1903 and joined her husband in Minneapolis. Grandson Paul Arneson called her

Battling goats in Norway put Carrie Kirkeeide Thorson on path to come to U.S.

Nearly 50 years after she died in 1974 at 95, her life story has been captured in a book compiled and published by her grandson.
Dorance "Dip” Alquist and his friend Bob Coll, during Army training at Fort Bragg, N.C. Alquist served in the Pacific during World War II, and his l

Grandson's mission keeps World War II letters alive online

Finding Grandpa's letters home can be a moving experience, if not necessarily rare. But what the Burnsville man did with them embraces a new approach.
“Tornado over St. Paul” Julius Holm’s 1893 painting hangs at the Minneapolis Institute of Art. It was derived from a photo of a tornado taken by

1890 cyclone twists on in old photo, museum painting

Research connects the dots between the St. Paul photographer and the artist, who was a Minneapolis house painter with higher aspirations.
Molly Ivins, Minneapolis Tribune reporter, insisted in 1969 that her new, red maxicoat was no fashion statement: “I honest to God bought the thing b

Two voices spoke up during Minneapolis riots in 1969. They both carried

Molly Ivins' stint in Minneapolis was comparatively short, 1967 to 1970, but memorable.
‘Nine kids trapped upstairs’ This photo appeared on the cover of the Minneapolis Tribune on April 14, 1952, of rescuer Ed Steffen lifting 1-year-o

One kid's lesson of resiliency from hard times of 1952 flood

The radio crackled with an urgent message for the exhausted volunteer rescuers aboard a Red Cross amphibious duck boat."Go to 56 West Fairfield," the dispatcher…
memoir and memories Dr. Henry Buchwald, 86, recalls the “Wangensteen Era” in his new book. He and his wife, Emilie are shown at home in Edina.

Surgeon storyteller's new book recalls golden era at 'U'

Dr. Henry Buchwald operated on more than 10,000 patients as the longest-serving University of Minnesota surgeon. Now the renowned Edina doctor, teacher and researcher, who…
Attorney William R. Morris, above, was hired by white Linden Hills residents to help prevent a black minister, the Rev. William Malone, from buying a

Lake Harriet neighbors rejected black minister in 1909

Keys in hand, the minister went to check out the bungalow he’d just purchased at 4441 Zenith Av. S., near Lake Harriet in the Linden…
Retired church secretary Millie McQuillan, shown holding her granddaughter Valerie, disappeared in 1975 on a visit to see friends near Park Rapids. He

What happened to Millie? Northern Minnesota woman vanished 45 years ago

No one has ever been arrested in what is still an open case. Her daughter and son assume she was murdered.
Russell B. Rathbun • 1889-1987 Russell Rathbun was a University of Minnesota track and field athlete who would later become a banker and investment

Letters from earlier pandemic echo with resonance today

Holly Hannah Lewis shaped the letters into a 125-page book for family members.
Pfc. William Regan from St. Paul was killed by Japanese small-arms fire in the Solomon Islands during World War II. He earned a Distinguished Service

Volunteer researchers chip in to remember World War II's fallen

An all-volunteer army of history buffs is trying to make sure the servicemen and women we lost aren't forgotten 75 years later.
Ramona Kitto Stately embraced Rita Davern, whose Irish great-grandfather William Davern owned part of an island sacred to Stately’s Dakota ancestors

New film explores St. Paul family's complex roots

The documentary debuts Sunday as part of the virtual Minneapolis St. Paul International Film Festival.
Pvt. Milburn Henke, a Hutchinson, Minn., native selected from among the first U.S. troops sent to the British Isles in World War II, stepped down the

Minnesotan was among the first wave of U.S. troops to join World War II in Europe

Milburn Henke, a 23-year-old cafe owner's kid from Hutchinson, was the first American combat GI to set foot on European soil in World War II.
The day before Ann Bilansky went to the gallows in St. Paul, the prosecutor in the case asked that her sentence be commuted, saying he had “grave an

Case of only woman executed in Minnesota is clouded with doubt

More than 160 years later, Ann Bilansky's execution remains punctuated with question marks.
Yousuf Karsh caught Sister Kenny’s expressive hands in a portrait. “They are full of healing,” another nurse once said.

Sister Elizabeth Kenny: A 'raging tiger, merciful angel' who challenged the doctors on polio

Her methods largely rebuked in Australia and fell on deaf ears around the U.S., until she got to Minnesota.
Olga Dahl King 1894-1974
A teacher at the Round Lake school in northern Itasca County, she was dragged into the woods at gunpoint, raped and shot in t

Itasca County teacher displayed amazing resiliency in 1916

The glass eye sat in a box on a high kitchen window sill. Olga Dahl King left it there because she found it uncomfortable, preferring…
George Oliver Riggs directed more than 20 youth bands from Crookston to St. Cloud in the early 1900s. His St. Cloud Municipal Boys’ Band grew to 300

Crookston's G. Oliver Riggs struck up a band like few others did

In a new book, a great-granddaughter reveals an instrumental character in the Minnesota music scene from 1898 to 1946.
During the 1946 polio outbreak, the University of Minnesota radio station KUOM aired more than 150 hours of children’s programs, including a show ca

Echoes from an earlier Minnesota outbreak: Polio in 1946

More than 70% of Minnesota's cases and half the state's deaths hit those under 15.
The Battle of Trafalgar was painted around 1900 by Scottish artist James Kay. It was donated to the University of Minnesota in 1996 by businessman Rod

The old painting and the U and the owner of the Thunderbird Hotel

A painting in Burton Hall of the British battleship HMS Victory at the Battle of Trafalgar was donated by the late Rodney Wallace. But where did he get it?
Morris Rudensky spent his early years as a criminal and inmate. He knew the likes of Al Capone and other gangsters, but after a stint in prison, he fo

Safecracking gangster turned things around in St. Paul

After spending the first half of his life in crime, including with Al Capone, Morris "Red" Rudensky redefined prison reform during his later years.
In this photo from the spring of 1957, John Teresi, left, in his role as umpire, oversaw a YMCA youth program softball game in Golden Valley. Teresi w

St. Patrick's Day plane crash killed group from Minnesota in 1960

Tom Teresi and Mark Kaplan had to be grinning as the sun rose over Minneapolis on March 17, 1960. By nightfall, sorrow would shadow the…
“I think I can proudly say that I played my part in awakening that region to the appreciation of good music, and in making Minneapolis the center of

Music lover is unsung hero of Minneapolis

Between her time on the stages of Europe and as a voice instructor at Juilliard in New York, Anna Schoen-René spent 16 years in Minneapolis.
Little is known about the life of St. Paul barber Maurice Jernigan, save for his bold effort to demand equal treatment for himself and his fellow blac

Obscure St. Paul barber took a stand for racial equality

Maurice Jernigan asked early Minnesota legislators to remove just one word from the state Constitution: white.
Al Sieber’s life as an Army scout inspired film characters based on his life: Charlton Heston’s Ed Bannon in “Arrowhead” (1953); John McIntire

From Gettysburg to Geronimo, Minnesotan Albert Sieber led a Wild West movie-worthy life

His story arced from his days as an early Minneapolis cop, lumberman, teamster and wounded Civil War soldier to an Army scout in the Arizona Territory of the late 1800s.
The St. Olaf Band traveled the western coast of Norway aboard the 800-ton luxury boat the Andenaes in 1906.

St. Olaf College band sailed into history on notable 1906 Norway tour

In the summer of 1906, 48 members of the St. Olaf College band sailed into history. Playing 26 concerts in Norway that July, the all-male…
A.J. Rockne shares the record for the longest tenure in the Minnesota Legislature at 44 years, which included a record 36 years in the state Senate. H

At Capitol, at home, A.J. Rockne was a Depression-era budget hawk

During a Depression-era summer, a state highway patrolman drove Gov. Floyd B. Olson 55 miles south to Zumbrota, Minn. The socialist-leaning governor wanted to talk…
Adelphi Club, circa 1950, with Eva Neal and her husband at center.

Dressmaker Eva Bell Neal recounts growing up black in 1890s St. Paul

Minnesota's entire black population stood at one-third of 1 percent in 1890, when Eva was a toddler. Today, St. Paul is home to nearly 50,000.
Jay C. Hormel, seen here in 1952, blended groundbreaking innovation with a talent for promotion to build his company.

Jay Hormel's amazing (piggy) backstory

Jay Hormel became one of the first Minnesotans to enlist when the U.S. entered the Great War in 1917.
Swede Hollow, seen here in a 1910 photo, began as a Swedish enclave along Phalen Creek, but soon drew other groups.

St. Paul's Swede Hollow evolved as an ethnic patchwork

Razed in 1956 and now a public park, Swede Hollow became home to a revolving cast of poor immigrants on St. Paul's lower East Side.
The Rochester High School class of 1894, with Roy Allis and his shock of dark hair, left, standing above Anna Barnard, reading and wearing the wire-ri

Love letters reveal Minnesota family's old secret

Those letters surfaced in 1975. But the breakthrough that put a face with those words didn't come until 2017.
Hosiah “Hosey” P. Lyght with his wife, Stella, and their children in front of the family’s home in Lutsen, Minn., in about 1940. Lyght grew up i

Hosiah Posey Lyght left racial violence behind for the North Shore

The government was offering a 160-acre parcel near Lutsen, about 100 miles northeast up the shore from Duluth.
Joseph Elsinger, Golden Rule department store founder, was dismissive and worried that $50 million might “harden the heart of man.”

St. Paul residents get asked $50 million question in 1899

The more things change, the more the issues stay the same 120 years later.
Before advances in modern medicine brought dramatic improvement to the care of premature babies, many were relegated to carnival sideshows, like the o

At Wonderland in Minneapolis, preemies were the main attraction

Part freak show, part pioneering neonatal hospital, the brick structure at 31st Avenue S. and 31st Street is all that's left of the amusement park.
Guy Flanagan: Despite the fact that he could not swim, the ensign was instrumental in getting fellow sailors to jump into the burning waters as the US

Mankato ensign's reported death at Pearl Harbor turned out to be wrong

Guy Flanagan was among the last sailors off the USS Arizona, making him luckier than more than 1,100 entombed on the bombed battleship.
Adelbert Goheen was hanged for the murder of Rosetta Bray, whose body was found along some train tracks in Otter Tail County. Goheen maintained his in

Did Otter Tail County hang the right man in 1891?

Two hours before he was hanged, Adelbert Goheen penned a statement, still insisting his brother killed Rosetta Bray.
John “Tooze” Rogers climbed from cash-strapped hotel bellhop in 1880 to own a series of saloons, theaters and an elegant Nicollet Avenue hotel tha

Minneapolis hotel-saloon owner had a big heart, especially around Thanksgiving

John "Tooze" Rogers climbed from cash-strapped hotel bellhop in 1880 to own a series of saloons, theaters and an elegant Nicollet Avenue hotel.
Hy Berman, who died four years ago at age 90, with a portrait of Hubert Humphrey.

Historian Hy Berman was in the thick of Minnesota politics

The new book, "Professor Berman: The Last Lecture of Minnesota's Greatest Public Historian," is full of his delicious insight.
Dr. Martha Ripley established Maternity Hospital for unwed and destitute pregnant women, offering them social support, and also helped care for their

Suffragist, pioneering obstetrician was never silent to injustice

Martha Rogers Ripley didn't arrive in Minnesota until she was 40, but her 28 frenetic years here were frenetic ones.
Mark and Lorraine Hertz honeymooned in Florida in 1944 before he shipped out to serve as a bombardier in World War II. The pair had met as students at

Hope helped Jewish POW endure ordeal in WWII

Despite the squalid conditions, Marcus Hertz knew sticking it out as a prisoner of war was his best chance to get home.
Nick Cullop, left, of the Minneapolis Millers shoot hands with local legend Elmer Ellsworth Foster in 1930.

Minneapolis-born baseball star was a most colorful character

Elmer Ellsworth Foster, who played in the 19th century, is maybe the best Minnesota baseball player you never heard of,
Henry Carlson, above, quit his accounting job in Duluth 100 years ago and rode an early Harley-Davidson motorcycle 1,400 miles to Spokane, Wash., in 1

Pair of Duluth men dropped everything in 1919, hopped a Harley and headed west

At age 21, bookkeeper Henry Carlson got a crazy idea 100 years ago.
Busy St. Paul streets are named for Harwood Iglehart, above,and cousin Charles Mackubin, both from slaveholding families.

New book traces slavery's reach into early Minnesota

It is a complex legacy for a state that prided itself as an anti-slavery bastion and outlawed the practice in its territorial and state constitutions.
Volunteer researcher Carol Kissner helped solve the mystery of a broken headstone at Eden Prairie Cemetery. It turns out, it belonged to a soldier who

Tireless volunteer unravels graveyard mystery in Eden Prairie

Some people play pickleball when they retire. Others knit or play cribbage. Carol Kissner had a different idea. She became a volunteer cemetery sleuth, poking…
John Leslie and Jean Savage The couple were married in 1929, after exchanging dozens of ardent letters. Their granddaughter recently rediscovered a tr

Letters from 1927 an echo from lost era of communication

Handwritten during a couple's courtship, the 100-plus letters were laced with their beliefs, passions and dreams.
Nurses Elizabeth Gearson, left, and Beda Danielson prepared food trays in the Swedish Hospital’s diet kitchen, 1902.

Low-profile HCMC museum holds medical gems

It’s a museum hiding in plain sight. Take the elevator down from the chaotic lobby to the basement of Hennepin County Medical Center in downtown…
Engla Schey devoted her life to reforming state hospitals as an attendant in the 1940s. Her father had entered Fergus Falls State Hospital, setting th

Minnesota state hospital worker used angel's touch to bring reforms

Engla Schey was determined to make life better for 10,000 Minnesotans locked in seven state institutions in the 1940s.
Dorothy Swenson, right, with Victors teammate Jan Norton Berkland in July 1952. The team enjoyed great success.

Softball, Sears filled Dorothy Swenson's active, lively life

Until her retirement in 1987, she spent nearly 45 years as a cog in that giant Sears retail machine, taking her frustration out on the field.
A Sonnen has worked at the pet store for the past 88 years. The business actually started in 1892, and its continuous operation makes it one of downto

Downtown St. Paul pet store is one for the ages

Sonnen's Pet Shop oozes history at 408 St. Peter St. in the Hamm Building.
Myrtle Cain 1894-1980
This is from 1923, just after her election, along with three other women, as the first of their gender to be seated in the Legis

Trailblazing legislator fought fiercely for equality

Not surprisingly, Myrtle Cain's dark brown hair had gone gray. After all, she'd been waiting 50 years for this moment.Now 78, she sat in the…
After becoming the first woman elected school superintendent in Mower County, Gertrude Ellis Skinner continued her trailblazing work to become co-edit

Gertrude Ellis Skinner, trailblazing educator and editor, honored by Austin

When her southern Minnesota hometown came calling in 1890, she faced a career quandary rare for women of the era.
Clarence Penaz was stationed aboard a “tin can” destroyer in World War II. “The job of the destroyers was to go in harm’s way,” he said, “

World War II Navy veteran survived a kamikaze attack

"I was one of the lucky ones," Clarence Penaz said of the day when 19 sailors died and more than a dozen were injured.