Caledonia Argus archive available online

Caledonia Argus header

Minnesota Historical Society’s Minnesota Digital Newspaper Hub has made available a free, searchable archive of several dozen papers from around Minnesota, including the Caledonia Argus.

The Argus archive dates from Volume 9 in 1888 through 1922, with most years being complete.  It is a good source of information on families east of Spring Grove, with birth, marriage and death announcements and obituaries, but also property sales general news items. Since Caledonia is the county seat, the Argus archive also includes news on legal and government-related matters, such as naturalization, political campaigns, lawsuits, etc., which includes much of the Norwegian Ridge area.

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Winona Newspaper Archive online

Nearby News CollectedWinona State University has published an online archive of four Winona newspapers. This archive includes available issues of the Winona Argus, the Winona Daily Republican, the Winona Republican Herald and the Winona Daily News from 1855 to 1976 and is an excellent resource for obituaries, wedding and birth announcements.

I’d highly recommend searching for regional history articles published by Percival Narveson; he endeavored to preserve fading memories and forgotten places through his frequent contributions to local newspapers. (An example: Landmarks Fall at Spring Grove.) A regular chronicle on mid 19th-century Spring Grove social happenings by Laura Rauk was something like the Facebook of its day – “Miss Laura Anderson was visiting in the home of Mr. and Mrs. Iver Johnson on Saturday afternoon.” According to the University:

The newspapers can be read page-by-page, issue-by-issue or searched by keyword. Please note, however, that due to the poor quality of the original, some pages are difficult to read and keyword searching may not find every occurrence of a word. Also, not all issues were available for digitization. For example, this project does not provide full coverage for the Winona Argus due to limited issue availability in the microfilm format.

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Help identify this farm near Caledonia

Zoom right in to a high-resolution view into a panorama of life on the family farm.  This photo dates from around 1910 and was printed as a postcard, however there is no information to identify the exact farm pictured. Circumstantial information points to its location being near Caledonia, and possibly closer to Wilmington, and the style of barn is definitely Norwegian. Is that a massive boulder in the background, or a large stack of hay? Enjoy the rich details below, and please post a comment if you can help identify the farm.

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Log cabin simplicity: recrafting pioneer tiny homes in corn Iowa

Local preservationist Paul Cutting reviews his work on pioneer log cabins.

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Panoramic photo of Spring Grove, 1908

The “Model T” went into production in 1908, but no trace of cars is yet evident in this view of Spring Grove, Minnesota, that year.

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Halloween special: Belle Gunness, Norwegian-American Serial Killer

Hell’s Belle, as she became known after her quiet hobby of murder was discovered, is reported to have murdered more than 40 people between 1884 and 1908 before disappearing without a trace. Belle was a lonely-hearts killer in pursuit of insurance money. Here’s her chilling story, just in time for Halloween. Continue reading

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Highlandville Farmer’s Telephone Company organized in 1902

In 1886, the Iowa and Minnesota Telephone Company ran telephone lines through Decorah, connecting the region to long lines to the east, and Decorah became the central station for Winneshiek county lines in 1895. Farmers were slower to connect their farms and villages to the telephone network, as they had to organize and finance the enterprises on their own. Decades before being swallowed up into the “Bell” network, small private or co-op companies were founded in each community, and were extended and interlinked as communities raised money for the projects. Telephone service came to Highlandville and surrounding farms in 1902. Continue reading

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Essential reference: Nybyggerhistorie fra Spring Grove og Omegn (Settler History of Spring Grove and Region)

When his chores were done, farmer Ole S. Johnson, who lived just east of Spring Grove, traveled around the region in his horse and buggy and talked with those early settlers who were still around in the 1910s. Their generation was on the way out, and Johnson endeavored to interview as many as possible – over 260, in the end. Continue reading

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Panoramas of Highland, Big Canoe, Hauge & Iowa River Lutheran Churches

On a recent sunny afternoon I took some panoramic photos at some local cemeteries. Some are pretty quiet but thanks to everyone in the community they are all well-maintained. Click and drag in the windows to change your view, and go full-screen for the best experience.

Highland Lutheran Church, Highland Township

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Norwegian-language family relationship diagram

Universitetet i Bergen posted this really helpful family relationship chart showing almost all conceivable relations, including in-laws and half-siblings. There’s no translation provided, but the point of the chart is that you won’t need it. Continue reading

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1940 census now indexed and searchable

A legion of volunteers have manually indexed the 1940 census line by line to come up with a searchable database of the census records. Though the entire country has not (as of today) been completely indexed, Minnesota and Iowa are complete and ready to search. 

If you’d prefer to download images of the census (so you can see the actual form that was carried by the census-taker), I made a list of links to each county/district.  

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1966: ‘Ghost town’ of Quandahl auctioned for $15,330

A once-thriving village nestled into the Bear Creek valley, Quandahl’s history followed the path of so many other small country towns in the mid 20th century, except for how it ended: On an early October morning in 1966, the entire village went up for auction. Continue reading

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Visit your Norwegian ancestors’ farms without leaving home

Nothing can match the experience of traveling to Norway to visit the towns and farms where your ancestors were born and from where they emigrated, but you can now get a 360-degree drive-by view of many of those places through Google Maps Street View. Recently, Google added Street View to all of Norway, so anything seen from the road is now available to you at home. The experience is enhanced for Google Earth users, who can create virtual tours and can “drive” along a road.

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Panoramic photo of Decorah c1908

Brunt & Parman, a wholesale and retail pharmacy in Decorah, commissioned this panoramic photo around 1908.  The pharmacy produced and sold postcards and other photographic products. Founded by Isaac W. Brunt and E. J. Parman in 1893, the pharmacy operated for almost 20 years until Brunt sold his interest to Parman in January 1911 and was appointed secretary of the American Drug and Press Association.

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Bear Creek Woolen Mill and Highland grave mystery revealed

Picture taken by Kevin WergesReader Randy Freese asked about a lonely tombstone on a scenic bluff over North Bear Creek. The grave site provides a broad view over Bear Creek valley and the site of the former Bear Creek Woolen Mill, which was founded by the grave’s inhabitant John Munro. Continue reading

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