Whipple Sermons
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German Union Cemetery:
A Three-Generation Genealogy
National Register
View or search the Rice County National Register of Historical Places
Doing research at the Rice County Historical Society
MON - FRI: 9AM - 4PM
Additional Summer Hours:
SAT: 10AM - 2PM
Othertimes available by appointment.

Program: “The Unpardonable Case of August Ruther” with Ariel Butler

Posted on: May 13 2022 by admin

Thursday, May 19, 7pm

Join us on Thursday, May 19, at 7:00 pm as Rice County native Ariel Emery Butler presents her research on “The Unpardonable Case of August Ruther” who was convicted of murder in Rice County, MN in 1918.

August Ruther, served in the German army in the 1890s and moved to the US in 1907. He eventually to Rice County in 1914 where, he met and married Josephine Fiske, whose father had left her a farm. Josephine also had charge of her older brother, August Fiske, who did farm work but was developmentally disabled.

On September 9, 1917, August Fiske was found dead at his brother Henry’s farm and two months later, August Ruther was charged with poisoning his brother-in-law in Rice County. 

Throughout his trial and sentence, Ruther maintained his innocence, yet, despite any direct evidence, a jury convicted August of murder in eighty minutes. Was he convicted because he was guilty, or was the anti-German nativism that was presented in the US during World War 1 the reason he was convicted? 

This program will be held at the Rice County Historical Society at 1814 NW 2nd Ave., Faribault, MN 55021. For more information or to make a reservation, please call us at 507-332-2121.

The program is free and open to the public thanks, in part, to a grant from the Minnesota Humanities Center.

“Bison Bone Discovery Days”

Posted on: Apr 11 2022 by admin

Larry Richie, a retired farmer and local historian is bringing his Bison Bones and other local archeological discoveries to the Rice County Historical Society to share them with the community at an open house, 1-4 pm, April 20, and an evening program on at 7 pm on April 21.

Bison Skull

Richie has spent the last two summers in a swamp in Walcott Township, Rice County, digging in a sinkhole near his farm. There he has recovered hundreds of bison bones, many bird bones, and other interesting geological findings. With support from friends and other supporters, Richie and the Rice County Historical Society have had four of the bison bones Carbon Dated.  The results say the bones range in age from 2,500 to 3,600-year-old.  The sinkhole has given up over 8 bison so far, and Richie plans to spend another summer working the same spot.

On April 20 and 21, Richie will discuss how he found the bones, the process of recovering them, and how they were dated. He will also discuss the geology of the area, and how it changed over the course of several thousand years.

There are two times that the general public can come look at the bones and talk with Larry.  The first is an open house on Wednesday, April 20 from 1-4 pm.  The second is an evening presentation by Richie on Thursday, April 21, at 7 pm.  Those who reserve in advance will be sent a link to some of Richie’s writings about his discovery and some additional material beyond what he will be presenting in the session.

Admission is $5.00/each – $2.00 for RCHS Members. To place a reservation please call RCHS at 507-332-2121.

In-Person Program: “Early African American Experience in Southeast Minnesota” with Mica Anders

Posted on: Mar 7 2022 by admin

Thursday, March 31, 7pm

Mica Anders will present her research on “Early African Americans in Southeast Minnesota” at the Rice County Historical Society Museum, Thursday, March 31, at 7pm. Reservations are encouraged.

Over the last year, Anders has been a Minnesota African American Heritage Museum and Gallery’s History Fellowellowship, exploring  “Early African Americans in Southeast Minnesota.” Anders researched at many Southeastern Minnesota Counties, looking through archives, photo collections, school records, and more for footprints of the many African Americans who made this corner of Minnesota their home before the turn of the century.

RCHS was among those counties and although many of the histories of the African American men and women were familiar to us, Ander’s efforts enabled us to discover so much more.

Ander’s initial research included looking through decades of US Census records. She identified more than 70 African American men and women who called Rice County their home between 1857 and 1875. The 1857 censuses revealed that the Adams family of four was the first African American family in Rice County. Just three years later, 11 African Americans were living in Rice County and by 1870, there were 32 African American men, women, and children calling Rice County their home. They were farmers, laborers, students, and business owners living in Northfield, Faribault, and Walcott.

Ander’s research identified the names for us to look for which enabled us to identify Walter Holmes as the first African American student to graduate from Faribault High School, doing so in 1882. Walter continued his education and became a physician, in Ada, Minnesota. His brother, Eugene was the second African American graduate. A member of the Faribault High School class of 1888, Eugene became a dentist in Minneapolis.

Ben Day (center) with other members of the Faribault Chorus – Photo from the Rice County Historical Society Archives

We learned more about Ben Day who ran a barbershop in Faribault in the 1880s and who was a member of a local men’s chorus. We learned of Charles and Lucy Wiley who moved to Faribault in 1888 and lived here for almost 40 years. Charles operated a barbershop in downtown Faribault and his three sons joined him over the years until Charles died in 1915. Lucy continued to live in Faribault until she passed away in 1926.

Jeff Sauve’, Rice County Historian, shared his research on John Alfred Boone with Anders. Mr. Boone and his family came to MN from NC in the late 1850s as a part of a group of freeborn African Americans. They settled in Tyrone, Le Sueur. Some of them then moved to Northfield in the 1860s. The Boone’s lived near St. Olaf College and Mr. Boone ran an orchard there.

Alex Robinson – Photo from the Carleton College Archives

Thanks to the help of Tom Lamb at the Carelton College Archives, the college shared photos and the biography of Alex Robinson who came to Northfield because of John Boone, who was already living in the area. The two served together in the Civil War. (Robinson’s photo and biography are on the Northfield-Rice County Digital History Collection.) “Alex’s official title was Engineer and Custodian at Carleton; but he was also called Gridley Hall’s watchman, or master mechanic, or ‘Jack-of-all-trades’ at Gridley. Robinson’s story is that he was born a slave in Missouri, in 1844, ran away when the war broke out, became headquarters cook for the 10th Missouri Infantry, and in 1864 enlisted as a private in Co. H, 18th Infantry (colored), in which he served until honorably discharged early in 1866. That summer he married Miss Eliza White, and the pair moved to Northfield a short time later came to Northfield, where he continued to live until his death in 1900. Carleton’s president James W. Strong was one of the members of a quartet that sang graveside hymns at his Northfield cemetery funeral service.”

Although not all of our stories be shared in Anders’ presentation, we are inspired by her work and are dedicated to continuing this important research in Rice County’s Early African American experience.

This program will be held at the Rice County Historical Society at 1814 NW 2nd Ave., Faribault, MN 55021. For more information or to make a reservation, please call us at 507-332-2121.

Preserving Your Family Archives

Posted on: Feb 11 2022 by admin

Thursday, February 17, 2022 at 7pm. This is an Online Program.

Join Dave Nichols, Rice County Historical Society Curator, to learn how to preserve your family archives on Thursday, February 17, at 7pm

Due to COVID concerns, this program will be held online at https://meet.google.com/gng-swif-dwk

This program will focus on preserving your family history, both digital and physical. Nichols will touch on the best materials to use to keep your photographs and documents safe, as well as ways to properly store digitally scanned photographs and documents. Additionally, he will provide background on the kind of information most people forget to include for future generations, and how to capture your family history in a digital format.

Dave Nichols has 5 years of experience in Collections and Preservation. He received his Master’s degree in History and Museum Studies from Minnesota State University, Mankato. He has worked for Steele County and Goodhue County Historical Societies before becoming the Curator at Scott County Historical Society in 2018. He has worked in the University Archives at MSU and has been an advocate for digital collections. He joined the Rice County Historical Society as its Curator/Assistant to the Executive Director in March 2020.

This program will be held online using Google Meet at https://meet.google.com/gng-swif-dwk. You can also find that address on the museum’s website, http://rchistory.org. For more
information, please contact the museum at 507-332-2121.