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Fall 2016 

President's Column

2016 Board of Directors


James Miller,
Jeffrey Olson, Vice President
Malcolm McDonald, Treasurer
Linda Michie, Secretary
Todd Adler, Past President

Board Members

Susanne Adler
Todd Adler
John Andrews
Dr. Jerald Dosch
Carol Forbes
David Gilberstadt
Jonathan Morgan
Mary Ann Newman
Dick Nicholson
Stephen Osman
Dr. Nelson Rhodus
John Rupp

Honorary Director
Charles W Arnason

Larry Peterson, Fort Snelling State Park

Tom Pfannenstiel, Fort Snelling & Sibley Historic Sites

We had a good and fun annual meeting on September 10th. Stephen Elliott, president of the Minnesota Historical Society, updated us on MHS’s plans for a new visitor center at the Lower Post. Mary Lu Seidel, Chicago Field Director of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, presented a program about available resources and opportunities with the designation of Fort Snelling as a National Treasure earlier this year. Our meeting date was exactly four years from the bicentennial of the founding of Fort Snelling (September 10, 2020).

This is an exciting and challenging time at Fort Snelling. The Minnesota Historical Society continues its efforts to raise funds for a new visitor center at the Historic Fort. The Department of Natural Resources continues to work with Plymouth-based developer Dominium to turn the historic Upper Post into about 190 affordable housing units. The Northern Star Council of the Boy Scouts continues its plans for an administrative and training facility next to its Base Camp at Fort Snelling.

The association management firm administering the Friends of Fort Snelling, Dowell Management, has completed an upgrade of our web site. If you have not visited it lately please take a minute to check it out.

As we near the close of this year and look forward to next please remember your membership in the Friends of Fort Snelling. You can renew your membership at our website.

Finally, the Friends of Fort Snelling upcoming board meeting will be held on November 8th, and will serve as our annual meeting.

Jim Miller

Historic Fort Snelling Advocacy Update: Fall, 2016
David Kelliher - Minnesota Historical Society

It appears that further consideration of state funding to revitalize Historic Fort Snelling will have to wait until January when the 2017 legislative session begins. There had been some optimism throughout the summer that top leaders might agree for the legislature to return for a special session, but these talks have concluded. We are monitoring this closely and will advocate for Historic Fort Snelling to be included if talks resume. We will post updates to www.mnhs.org/HFS2020 if there is further progress.

We are hopeful that the legislature will take up the request for Historic Fort Snelling in the 2017 session and will continue to advocate for funding. The 2017 session will begin in early January and continue through May. We have appreciated the advocacy efforts from Friends of Fort Snelling members and will be back to ask for your help again on this soon.

Coldwater Spring Restoration Update

Visitors to Coldwater Spring this fall experience a sensual delight: asters in vivid blue and white wave amid gold and purple-tinged native grasses, dragonflies and butterflies zip overhead, and migrating birds can be seen gorging themselves on seeds and berries. The years of hard work are beginning to pay off at this former site of the Bureau of Mines office complex. A bio-blitz in July showed that plant diversity increased from 216 species in 2014 to 278 species this year, and the number of mushroom species increased from 83 to 92. Over 100 different kinds of dragonflies were seen.

On the northern end of the property, volunteers planted 5,000 native wildflowers and grasses in the oak understory on National Public Lands Day this past Saturday, September 24. This area was once buckthorn-choked, and it took a lot of hard work by dedicated volunteers and park staff to clear it for planting. The beautiful old bur oaks are visible once again.

The National Park Service’s vision for the land around Coldwater Spring is to create a space for people to experience a glimpse of what this area might have looked like before the first white settlers arrived. Piece by piece, the land has been prepared, and then seeded and planted with native wildflowers and grasses. This is an ongoing work in progress. Volunteers continue to help remove invasive species like buckthorn and garlic mustard. Sometimes the restoration process looks harsh because prior to planting, a lot of weedy species must be killed to prepare the area, otherwise they would smother the desirable plants. Eventually the native plants take hold and things begin to look better.

Why get rid of invasive, non-native plants?  For one thing, they don’t provide the same quality habitat as native plants. That means insects, birds, and other animals don’t find the sort of food or shelter they need from non-native plants. In addition, native plants have extensive root systems that add organic material to soil, and their deep roots help water infiltrate into the soil, reducing runoff and erosion. They are well-adapted to the climate and they don’t require any fertilizer.

The 29 acres at Coldwater Spring managed by the National Park Service is open for people to enjoy, and contains hiking trails, stone circles for sitting, and access to the Mississippi River along the footpaths. Things to do at the park include hiking, birdwatching, bike riding on the paved trails that connect with the Grand Rounds and Fort Snelling State Park, and on-leash dog walking. Several Ranger on Call stations can be found along the walking loop, with more information on the history and landscape just a phone call away. Come enjoy your park today!

Upcoming Events:

For a list of all upcoming events at Fort Snelling please visit our events page!

Featured events:

 Important Links

DNR Logo

Minnesota Historical Society

Official seal of the United States Department of Veterans Affairs

Geocaching Through History
Fort Snelling State Park
29 Oct 2016

Historic Train Tracks at Fort Snelling
Fort Snelling State Park
30 Oct 2016

WWII Round Table: Sentencing at Nuremberg
Historic Fort Snelling
10 Nov 2016

Pre-K Days: Tractor Time on the Farm
Northern Star Base Camp

14 Nov 2016

Pre-K Days: Snowflakes are Special
Northern Star Base Camp

05 Dec 2016

Support the Fort

Help the Friends of Fort Snelling in its mission to preserve the historic and natural values of the entire Fort Snelling Area by becoming a member or donating today! 

An Election Season Riot in the Guardhouse
Stephen E. Osman

Abraham Lincoln’s rival in the 1864 election wasDemocrat General George McClellan
The fall of 1864 was a contentious time in Minnesota and at Fort Snelling.  A heated election campaign between President Abraham Lincoln and challenger General George McClellan led to arguments, fights, and at least one murder.  The crumbling Fort Snelling guardhouse was overcrowded with drunks, deserters, ex Confederate troublemakers, and other assorted riff raff who managed to stay well behind the battle lines. 

Newspapers that October reported a dangerous guardhouse riot:

During the afternoon a soldier named Michael Ryan, who has spent the greater portion of the summer in the guard house, went to Mendota and procured some whiskey.  The matter had already been arranged with one of the guard named Bishoff, and when it came his turn for duty Ryan passed the whiskey through the window to the prisoners.  The number confined was nineteen, several of them very desperate fellows, and some under sentence of court martial.  By means of this spiritual aid from the outside they became crazy drunk, and then seemed bent on mischief the first act of violence was throwing a junk bottle, which struck [one of the guards] on the head and knocked him down.  They then made a rush to break out, but some other members of the guard fired and drove them back.  The guard fired one or two volleys through the windows, but the prisoners squatted on the floor and the balls passed over their heads.  Buckshot wounded one of the rioters, the duty drummer immediately beat a long roll to alert the garrison, and the women ran about in great fear thinking the Fort had been attacked by Indians.  The prompt action of the guard prevented the escape of any prisoners, and as soon as the matter was understood quiet was restored.  

A few days later the Republican St. Paul Daily Press caste the same incident in a somewhat different light as a McClellan political rally:

About the middle of the afternoon, they began to prepare for it by balancing a few canteens on their teeth with the cork out, said canteens having been over to Mendota and brought back full of pure whisky.  The meeting was held in the Guard House.  It was called to order by knocking down a guard by the name of Wood, Co. K, 2nd Minn. Cavalry, with a spade, then calling for three cheers for Jeff. Davis and McClellan and smashing the windows out of the house, kicking over the stove and breaking up the benches and tables.  At this state of affairs, the guards outside fired into the windows.  With that the band played the long roll, which brought your humble servant in front of the Guard Hose where could be heard such phrases as “Hurrah for Jeff Davis and Little Mac,” and other language calculated to arouse their drooping spirits.  After hearing them speak about ten minutes a squad of soldiers went into the house and all were quiet except one person, a rebellious Rebel who, in his enthusiasm for Jeff and Mac, got in the way of two lead balls.

Brigadier General Henry Sibley was not amused, and doubled his efforts to build a new and secure prison for his District of Minnesota.  McClellan went on to solid defeat by Abraham Lincoln and the soldier vote.  The Civil War ended just six months later and Fort Snelling began its gradual conversion to a much quieter supply base for the new Department of Dakota.

Sibley Site Hosts Ice Cream Social

During the summer, the Women's Organization of the Minnesota Historical Society held an old fashioned Ice Cream Social as a private party at the Faribault House. Vikki Bleise, who was then the President, arranged for this fun-filled event as part of the Organization's fund raising effort to support the Minnesota Historical Society's project to revitalize Historic Fort Snelling. The Women's Organization has set a goal to raise $50,000 for the revitalization.

Vikki is pictured ordering ice cream. The Fife & Drum Corps from the Historic Fort added to the historic ambiance of the occasion. From the perspective of the Friends of the Sibley Historic Site, it seems only fitting that the Sibley Site would assist a project to benefit the Historic Fort, given the close connection between Henry Sibley and Fort Snelling.project.

Contact Us: Office: (651) 300-6597 Email: info@fortsnelling.org

Friends of Fort Snelling, Fort Snelling State Park Association
380 Jackson Street, Suite 287
Saint Paul, MN 55101

Contact Us:
Office: (651) 455-6100

Address:  Sherry Howe
7926 Barbara Avenue
Inver Grove Heights, MN  55077

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