We have school photos and records, but not all history is recorded on paper.
I'd like to say that I know almost everything about Edina history. I could say it, and I would be wrong. I could research the community for another ten years, and I would still be wrong.
Oh, sure, I can tell you when Edina became a village (1888), and who was the first police officer (Percy Redpath). I can find a photo of your home in our archives, and let you look through your class yearbook. I can find all sorts of information about Edina schools, churches, homes, businesses and government.
After seven years at this job, I don't consider myself too immodest when I claim to be an expert in Edina history. Unfortunately, though, I can't answer questions like: remember eating lunch in the basement of Cahill School? What did our neighbor always yell when we ran across his lawn? What was the name of the girl I had a crush on in third grade?
Researchers look for answers to personal questions like those nearly as often as academic ones regarding community history. They're not writing a class paper, or even a memoir. They're simply searching their memories for pieces of their personal history.
Last Saturday, a man who attended the one-room Cahill School in the late 1930s and early 1940s stopped in. He had moved away as a kid, but had fond memories of growing up on a farm in south Edina. He looked through photos and came across a photo of his best friend and neighbor. He chuckled as he remembered the fun he had and wondered if his friend was still around.
The name wasn't in the phone book. But I knew one of the family members, who was researching the family tree. I contacted him, and he called his brother, who called an uncle... until finally the two former childhood friends made plans to connect.
I don't know everything. But sometimes the old adage is true: it's not what you know, it's who you know (or in this case, who you know who knows someone who knows.)
Ella Grimes Eustis wrote a wonderful memoir called "Out of My Mind," about growing up in Edina. Her father Jonathan T. Grimes owned the Edina Mill for a short time during the Civil War. He later had a thriving business, the Lake Calhoun Nursery. Ella describes the years when her father owned the mill.
Ella Grimes' father, Jonathan T. Grimes
In 1858 my brother John was ten years old, and Everett, about five years younger, was nearing school age. The trip to the schoolhouse involved passing a saloon owned by A.A. Ames, later a mayor of Minneapolis. Upon the sidewalk in front of this building sat a keg of beer with spigot and dipper, ready to dispense free beer to all ages – one way of cultivating in the young a taste for stronger drink in the future. This was too much for my mother, who had been raised in the strict atmosphere of a United Presbyterian home, and for my father as well, who was of Quaker principles. So in that year they decided, with three growing boys, to get away from the beer keg. In late 1858 or early 1859 they moved out into the country, where my father had purchased the Waterville Mill (later the Edina Mill) on Minnehaha Creek, along with 160 acres of land, from Richard Strout, father of A.A. Ames’ wife.
In buying this property my father had gone into partnership with a William C. Rheam from Pennsylvania. He was a trained miller and was to run the mill while my father managed the farm. For some reason this Mr. Rheam went back to Philadelphia and did not return, so my father hired a Mr. Allen Baird to run the mill. Father built a new and better dam and made other improvements. This was during the Civil War, and the government requisitioned the flour for Fort Snelling. Father kept the accounts and delivered the flour by his team of horses – practically the only ones left in the county, since the government had also requisitioned all horses fit for army use. The mill ran day and night, and it was not uncommon to see twenty-five teams of oxen there at one time.
Father also sold vegetables and butter at the Fort. His trips there and back –probably once or twice a week – were usually made in one day, and many were the times that the ground was covered with snow and there were no landmarks over the prairie areas to show were the road lay. One winter night he became lost in a blizzard, and as horses will not, if possible, face into a storm, they took refuge in a ravine somewhere east of Lake Calhoun – probably between 31st and 36th Streets, and Hennepin and Lyndale Avenues. [See Minnesota Historical Society image of Lake Calhoun, 1859] Here the team went round in circles for the rest of the night, while my father lay in the bottom of the sled wrapped in Buffalo robes, doubtless sleeping most of the time. When daylight came he was able to see his way home. Mother never spoke of her reactions during that night, but I can imagine what they were.
My brother George Sutherland, who was born April 4, 1859, remembered going to the mill when lunch was taken to my father during those Civil War days. The mill was about three-fourths of a mile from home.
Since it was no longer so profitable after the war, the mill was sold to James Baird, who in turn sold it to Andrew Craik in 1869. Craik had come from Scotland via Canada, and had learned the milling business at Three Harbors, Province of Quebec. He renamed it “Edina Mill” after his native home, Edinburgh, Scotland.
For further exploration: Via one of the software mapping programs (Google maps, Mapquest, etc.), map out Jonathan's trip from the mill site (at Browndale Avenue and 50th Street) to Fort Snelling to Lyndale Avenue near Lake Calhoun to home, near 4200 W. 44th Street. Note: The trip occurred prior to the family building the "new house," which is now on the National Register of Historic Places.
For further reading: "Out of My Mind" is available for reading at the Edina History Museum.
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Jennifer Adam is the Executive Director of the Edina Historical Society. She welcomes your contributions. Comment on a post or send an email (see below). Traditional mail, of course, can also be sent to:
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