In observance of Labor Day, the Rice County Historical Society will be closed on Monday, September 7, 2020. Our offices will re-open on Tuesday, September 8 at 9:00 a.m.
In the meantime, please enjoy this gallery of Rice County employees from the past.
Join Samuel Temple and Logan Ledman as they scour Faribault and Northfield history for stories big and small, and present their findings on “1855″. Various episodes feature interviews with historians, experts, or historic people themselves. Several episodes feature local middle school students who did research on the episode’s subject as part of community involvement outreach from the 1855 team. Nearly every episode features original music from local musician Sam Dwyer.
The video series, begun in the Fall of 2015 when both young men were in 9th grade, continue to be researched, written and presented by Logan and Samuel. These videos are made possible by a grant from the Faribault Foundation and by support from Faribault Community Television, where it is broadcast. Every episode is available for free online following the links below.
In Season Four and Five, 1855 expands its topics beyond Faribault to Northfield.
- Alexander Faribault – Released in September of 2015, this episode tells the inspiring story of the town founder.
- Bruce Smith – Released in October of 2015, this episode shares the All-American saga of the Heisman-winning athletic legend from Faribault.
- Liz Strohfus (Betty Wall) – Released in November of 2015, this episode brings the delightful icon herself, Liz Strohfus, to the screen as she shares memories from her high-flying service as a Women Airforce Service Pilot during World War II.
- Bishop Whipple – Released in December of 2015, this episode shares the life of the profound leader who chose Faribault as his base from which to advocate for Native American rights through his sermons and Presidential correspondence.
- Fleckenstein Brewery – Released in February of 2016, this episode serves up the tale of Bavarian immigrants coming to town with nothing but their brewing experience and building up their name to become a local landmark.
- Bethlehem Academy – Released in July of 2016, this episode lays out how the pursuit of academic excellence, technological advancement, and faith can all fit under one school’s roof for over 150 years.
- Tilt-A-Whirl – Released in August of 2016, this episode tells the proud story of the internationally-loved amusement ride invention of an eccentric Faribault craftsman and his family’s legacy.
- Tedd Nelson – Released in August of 2016, this episode of 1855 MINI runs through the story of the Faribault-born Olympic track contender.
- Howard Bachrach – Released in September of 2016, this episode of 1855 MINI attempts the extraordinary feat of detailing this scientist from Faribault’s prolific accomplishments in eradicating harmful diseases such as polio.
- Olaf Hanson – Released in January of 2017, this episode shares the uplifting life story of the first deaf architect in America and the deaf community he helped build up in Faribault.
- Faribault Woolen Mill – Released in March of 2017, this episode details an internationally-recognized industrial powerhouse with a history and culture that has a following of its own.
- The Season Two finale: the Peoples of Faribault episode. In the longest and most impactful installment to date, Logan and Samuel interview four local experts, in addition to the students of the Cannon River STEM School, and tell the story of the major ethnic groups and nationalities that have populated Faribault since the beginning.
- Burkhartzmeyers – Released in October of 2017, this episode charts how one remarkable Faribault family and their prominent local business has touched the lives of countless individuals for over half a century.
- Faribault Foods – Released in March of 2018, this MINI episode shares the history of Faribault Foods with the help of the sixth grade history students of Shattuck-St. Mary’s.
- The Buckhams – Released in May of 2018, this episode shares the compelling journey of the relationship between Thomas and Anna Buckham, a story that will give you a new pride in the beautiful library deep in Faribault’s downtown.
- River Bend Nature Center – Released in June of 2018, this episode discusses River Bend Nature Center, a beautiful and wholly unique asset to the town of Faribault–one that was only made possible by countless hours of work from a myriad of volunteers and community members.
- Ivan Whillock – Released in June of 2019, this episode shares the story of artist Ivan Whillock, a world-renowned woodcarver, painter, musician, and author who plays a prominent role in Faribault’s artistic landscape.
- Agriculture in Rice County – Released in July of 2019, this specially produced episode charts the innovation-filled, tumultuous history of agriculture in Rice County–a story that spans thousands of years and reflects the impacts of massive social, technological, and economic changes.
- Joseph Lee Heywood – Released in July of 2019, this episode–the first to feature a story from Faribault’s neighboring community of Northfield–unpacks the life of Joseph Lee Heywood, a Northfielder and Civil War veteran whose tumultuous life was filled with sorrow and heroism–a heroism that would find itself consummated by his infamous, tragic death at the hands of the James-Younger Gang.
- John Scofield – Released in August of 2019, this episode follows the story of an eccentric doctor as he flees his previous life and rises the ranks of Civil War medical leadership while also establishing himself as a prominent figure in southern Minnesota.
- John North – Released in February of 2020, this episode serves as a comprehensive history of John North’s life, from his time as a firebrand abolitionist in college to his work as a utopian integrationist after the Civil War, and how he built three cities–including Northfield–in between.
- The Pandemic and the Zeamann Family This story explores how Faribault and Northfield, two cities in Rice County, responded to and overcame the Spanish Flu–the restrictions, the anxiety, and how neighbors came together when they needed each other most. This is also the story of one Faribault family of Lena and Gottlieb Zeamann, a German immigrant couple, as they struggled through the world-changing events of 1918: the dramatic end of World War One, the onset of the terrible pandemic, and unbelievable heartbreak.
- The Orinoco Company. In the late 1800s, Faribault tycoons set out to colonize Venezuela in the pursuit of fortune. They banded together to invest in The Orinoco Company, led by the larger-than-life former Mayor of Faribault: Donald Grant. Logan Ledman and Sam Temple, the team behind the documentary series 1855, are excited to share their latest episode about The Orinoco Company and how the calamitous actions of Faribault investors nearly sparked a war between much of Europe, South America, and the United States.
The Rice County Historical Society turns 90 years old this year!
Join us at the Kick Off event for our 90th anniversary celebrations – a Historic Movie Night at the Village Family Theater on Saturday, March 19, starting at 3:00 PM.
RCHS will be showing “The Quiet Man” in the historic Village Family Theater. Visitors will have a chance to see this iconic moving picture the way they would have when it was first released.
The event will begin by showing amateur silent movies from Rice County’s past, including clips from the Fleckenstein Brewery, 1920s car races at the Rice County Grandstand, and more.
The main event is a showing of director John Ford’s Academy Award winning film “The Quiet Man.” Preserved in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress and starring John Wayne and Maureen O’Hara, the film is truly a classic piece of cinema. The film revolves around an enchanting story of love and familial ties that are tested when a boxer from America finds his way back to the village of his birth in Ireland. While there he crosses paths with a stunning woman who is to be forever intertwined with his path.
After the movie, ticket holders will get a chance to tour the restored Village Family Theater for no additional cost. The tours will allow visitors to see behind-the-scenes look at the theater building. Visitors will also get to see how the theater was converted from an Armory to a movie theater; including how they angled the floor to accommodate a movie theater slope.
The program will begin at 3:00 pm on March 19, 2016 at the Village Family Theater, 20 2nd Street NW, Faribault MN. Admission is $7.00 for non-members and $5.00 for members. Preregistration is encouraged. Concessions will be available. Please contact the Rice County Historical Society at (507) 332-2121 with any questions.
Rice County’s Natural History
The large topographic map of Rice County at the entrance to the main exhibit gallery shows the geographic layout of the county before Hwy 35 was built. This map illuminates the numerous lakes in the western half of the county, the source of the Cannon River at Shields Lake, the confluence of the Straight River into the Cannon River at the site of Faribault, the diagonal course of the Cannon northeasterly through Dundas and Northfield on its flow to the Mississippi at Red Wing.
The Dakota have lived in Minnesota for thousands of years. The Wahpekute are one of seven tribal bands that make up the Dakota/Nakota/Lakota Nation. We acknowledge that the land that is now Rice County, MN, was their homeland and for many tribal members today, it is still their home. They also included the Milacs area in their seasonal movement until the late 1600s when all Dakota were driven south by the Ojibwe. Their winter homes were teepees made from American Bison skins. During the summer the Wahpekute made their homes in elm bark lodges near the lakes and rivers. The land that is Rice County was opened up to European Settlement after the Treaty of Mendota was signed in 1851. This created great opportunities for those coming from other places, but it came at a great cost to the Dakota.
The first display cases hold a portion of our large collection of Native American artifacts which date from 10,000BC to 1600 AD – all of which were found in Rice County. Also included are three Mammoth bones which are over 10,000 and were all found in three different locations in Rice County.
Schimmel Piano Company
There are several pianos in the entry area of the museum, all of which were made by the Schimmel Piano Company of Faribault (1883-1920). Most remarkable is the “VertiGrand” piano. Only one of five remaining in the world, this piano has the sound and scale of a grand piano in an upright. Fred Schimmel was innovative and exacting in his work. He even invented several wood planing tools that were used to mill the wood for his pianos.
Most of the paintings in the entry area to the gallery were painted by Grace McKinstry, a Faribault artist. (1859-1936). Grace was well known in Minnesota, across the country, and internationally. She was described in 1907 as, “an artist whose growing fame is placing her in the front ranks of American painters.” Her works can be seen at the Minnesota Historical Society, Minnesota State Capital, and the Smithsonian among others. Of all the holding institutions, the Rice County Historical Society has the largest collection of her works totaling more than 40.
Bruce Smith was the winner of the Heismann trophy in 1941. Currently, he is the only Minnesotan to win this, the highest award for college football. Born and raised in Faribault, Bruce graduated from Faribault High School in 1938. He was playing for the University of Minnesota when he won his Heismann in 1941. The Heisman trophy on exhibition is an official Heisman trophy, acquired by RCHS from the New York Downtown Athletic Club. The plaque on the face of the trophy has been replicated with Bruce’s award details.
Bishop Henry Benjamin Whipple
The center exhibit is dedicated to Episcopal Bishop Henry Whipple. Whipple was encouraged to come to Faribault by Alexander Faribault and liked it so much, that he made it his home. He built the first Episcopal Cathedral in Minnesota as well as several other Episcopal churches around the state; including the Holy Innocents Church which is now located in the museum’s Village. Whipple also founded several schools in Faribault: Shattuck, St. Mary’s, St. James, and Seabury Divinity. Whipple was also a friend to the Dakota and Ojibwe people. They called him “Straight Tongue” because of his honest dealings with them. Many of the items on display are part of the collection that can be found at St. Mary’s School, the Sibley House Historic Site, the Minnesota Historical Society, and the Science Museum of Minnesota. Whipple lived from 1822 to 1901 and is buried in the Cathedral of Our Merciful Savior in Faribault.
Military History in Rice County
The items in this case date back to the Civil War and Spanish American War. Minnesota was the first state to volunteer troops to fight in the Civil War. Men from Rice County fought in many of Minnesota’s Regiments. Look through the list of names to find soldiers from Rice County.
Across from this case are artifacts from WWI and WWII soldiers and around the corner is our newest portion of this exhibit featuring artifacts and experiences of those who fought in Korea and Vietnam.
The Sellner Company
Herbert Sellner founded Sellner Manufacturing Company in Faribault in 1914. The Company’s first products were furniture, kitchen sets, and lamps. Herbert Sellner, an inventor at heart, created a water toboggan slide that he thought would be popular in Minnesota’s 10,00 lakes. He was right. It soon became the firm’s main product and forever changed the company’s focus to entertainment products. In 1926, Herbert Sellner produced his most famous amusement ride of all, the Tilt-A-Whirl. The tilt-a-whirl quickly became popular and over the past 75+ years, more than 850 rides have been made and sold worldwide.
The RCHS Main Street Exhibit comprises one wall of the museum and is a timeline of businesses found in many small towns of Southern Minnesota. It begins with an 1880s train station and concludes with a 1920s home. While this is not intended to represent any specific town, all of the objects are from Rice County.
The Fleckenstein family, which had been in the brewery business in Bavaria since 1577, came to America in 1850. Upon arrival in Minnesota, they began to build the family business here. Faribault was an ideal location because of its artesian water, ample grains, and the Straight River Bluffs, which offered a good location to make cool lagering rooms for the beer. The Fleckenstein Brewery began operation in Faribault in 1856 and would produce assorted beverages for the next 108 years. The exhibit features a wide range of photos and objects from the Upper and Lower Breweries.