As owner of the mill that gave Edina its name, George Millam is arguably one of the most photographed "founding fathers" of Edina. We have several photos of him in our collection, all taken near the end of his life when the long idle mill was about to be torn down.
Here the 80-year-old sits in his abandoned mill in about 1932. The photo ran in the Minneapolis Tribune.
But those photos don't provide a complete picture of the many decades of George Millam's life in Edina. Thanks to a recent meeting with George's great granddaughters, however, we now have photos from George's life as a young husband and father.
Here the young couple is pictured with early in their married life, with an unidentified daughter, possibly Lillian, who died at age three from drowning in a cistern.
Karen Frederickson, whose grandmother Mary Edna was George and Margaret's daughter, provided additional family photos that help provide a more complete view of the "old miller of Edina." The community called him the miller long after the Edina Mill quit operating due to low water and competition from the Minneapolis industrial mills.
The Millams were among the founding families of Edina. George Millam was one of 47 milling community residents who signed a petition to form the independent village of Edina in 1888. By then, the Scottish immigrant had lived in the community for almost 20 years. He came to Edina in 1869, hired by then-owner of the mill, fellow Scotsman Andrew Craik.
After saving for three years, Millam paid for his sweetheart Margaret Gibb's passage from Scotland to Edina. The couple, married 62 years, would raise nine children, in addition to Lillian. One daughter Mabel would marry Frank K. Willson, from another Edina founding family.
His descendants,along with other families of Edina's founders,will be honored at a Founders' Day program on Thursday, Dec. 12. The community celebration of Edina's Quasquicentennial, or 125th anniversary, will begin with an open house at historic Cahill School and Minnehaha Grange Hall, where the historic 1888 vote took place. The celebration moves across the street to Edina City Hall at 6 p.m. for a social hour and a concert by the Edina Chorale. A 7 p.m. program with short readings and songs that retell "125 years of history in 45 minutes" will be followed by cake in the lobby.
The public is invited to attend all or part of the festivities. The program is a free Quasquicentennial event, sponsored by the City of Edina.
Photo Friday is back, after a too-long hiatus while I tried to catch up on cataloging a huge backlog of donated artifacts and photos. More about that on Monday.
Today, let's take a look back at a photo donated in 2001 of an earlier Edina. I'm guessing this dates from the 1950s, but you car aficionados may be able to get more specific. (I can't tell a 1958 Oldsmobile from a 1960 Ford, but I know many of you can.)
Any guesses of this photo's location? For those who grew up in southwest Edina, this question is a no-brainer. But the rest of you might have more difficulty, since the area looks (almost) nothing like this today.
Take a good look.
Give up? It's the intersection of Cahill Road and 70th Street, the heart of the Irish Cahill settlement dating from the 1850s.
First settled in the mid-1850s, the Irish Cahill community almost immediately built a church, school and store at this important crossroads. Nearly a century later, the same institutions stood at the same corners (although some in newer buildings.)
Cahill School was built in 1864. Although a modern brick Cahill School was built in 1948, the pioneer era school still was used for kindergarten classes until 1958. The school stood vacant for more than a decade, until it was restored in 1969 and moved to Tupa Park. Today, the Edina Historical Society runs living history programs in the historic building.
Hugh Darcy's son Moses built a general store across the street from Cahill School. Destroyed by fire in 1918, the store was rebuilt on the same site. From 1944 to 1965, retired Edina teacher John Cameron owned what was then called "Cahill Grocery" in the phone book, but was more commonly known as Cameron's Store by neighborhood residents.
St. Patrick's Church, not pictured, served the community at the southwest corner of the intersection. Although the church was also destroyed by fire, the congregation rebuilt a new church at the same corner.
By the 1930s, Protestant families had moved into the predominantly Irish Catholic neighborhood and, by all reports, felt welcome. They held services at Cahill School until they built Calvary Lutheran Church in 1938. Both churches have since moved. The old St. Patrick's church is gone, but Calvary's first church still survives as a single family home and the only reminder of a bygone era.
I like this photo because it shows an important crossroads, both the physical location and the moment in time. By the late 1960s, new retail and housing had transformed the formerly rural landscape forever.
Many people know that the Morningside neighborhood was originally the farm of Jonathan and Eliza Grimes. But few know that the Grimes were not the first owners of the property that lies in northeast Edina. That man was Richard Strout, a land speculator who wanted to create a new community around a mill on Minnehaha Creek. The mill was built in 1857, just as the land values crashed in a nation-wide financial crisis. Guest blogger Fred Johnson, author of the book Suburban Dawn: the Emergence of Richfield, Edina and Bloomington, sheds some light on Edina's "founding father."
By Frederick L. Johnson
Land speculator Richard Strout’s determined attempts to make it big in territorial Minnesota Territory produced decidedly mixed results. Was he a founding father of Edina, a founding failure or perhaps a bit of both?
In May 1857 he earned election as a founding commissioner of the town of Richfield and led a small group of investors who planned establish, in the western part of that village, the flour milling hamlet of Waterville (the future site of Edina).
But the disastrous financial Panic of 1857 destroyed Strout’s plans and his group sold out at a ruinous loss in January 1859. He righted himself when chosen Hennepin County sheriff and won another distinction when selected, at the outset of the Civil War, captain of Company B in the newly-forming Ninth Minnesota Infantry. More misfortune, however, lay ahead.
On August 18, 1862 a new Minnesota civil war broke out when young Dakota men, frustrated by the federal government’s late land treaty payments of cash and food, attacked white settlers and traders living near them in the upper Minnesota River valley.
Bridge Square, 1867. Minnesota Historical Society photo.
For assistance Gov. Alexander Ramsey, bereft of well-trained reserves because of the raging Civil War, called upon Capt. Strout’s Company B. On August 23, the 43-year old officer gathered 40 members of his unit and 20 citizen volunteers at Minneapolis’s Bridge Square.
Ramsey ordered the under-strength, under-trained unit—labeled in one history as “virtually a sheriff’s posse”—to advance west to Forest City (Meeker County) and then south to Glencoe. Strout’s men traveled in nine wagons. Only two men were mounted.
Company B found the prairie “nearly deserted” as they trekked west. The soldiers discovered abandoned homes and evidence of hurried flight, but saw no Dakota or signs of them. Strout reached Glencoe on August 31, pleased to see the community well defended; he then began a return to Minneapolis.
Strout ordered his men to make camp at Acton on the night of September 2. When moving out next morning, the captain reportedly bragged to his soldiers, “All the Indians between us and hell can’t keep us from moving our way through them…”
Little Crow. Minnesota Historical Society photo.
What did stand in Company’s B path were about thirty-five Dakota under the capable leadership of Little Crow and another group of about sixty led by Walker Among Sacred Stones, two miles to the northeast. Shortly after leaving camp, the Indians attacked, trapping Strout’s men between them. Strout ordered Lt. William Clark to launch a bayonet charge and clear the road.
Wagon drivers raced their teams through an opening halting long enough to load wounded. They left the dead behind. The retreat turned into a stampede; soldiers heaved food and equipment from the wagons to reduce weight. Company B suffered three soldiers and one civilian killed in action and another eighteen wounded. Strout and his men fled to Hutchinson.
To many the “Battle of Acton,” as the action came to be called, reflected badly upon Capt. Strout and his men; arguments over their performance raged for decades. Strout stayed in command until March 1864, when he was dismissed from command, tainted by the charge of making a false statement. He did, however, receive an honorable discharge on March 9, 1864.
Richard Strout returned to Minneapolis and later moved with wife Sarah to Emporia, Kansas. He died there in 1899 at age 80.
Richard Strout is listed as the first owner of record on many northeast Edina properties, like this one on Scott Terrace. Because of the financial crisis, Strout's dream of creating the town of Waterville died. He sold the mill and the land that would become the Morningside neighborhood to Jonathan Grimes in 1859. Grimes had no milling experience so he established a partnership with William C. Rheem.
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