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.
Tonight many families will gather at church for special Christmas Eve services. In the 1870s, young Ella Grimes (born on April 3, 1867) celebrated the holiday at her family's Episcopal church, located near today's 50th and France.
Victorian tree by Dover Books.
By Ella Grimes Eustis
Excerpt from memoir Out of My Mind
"Christmas was a great time. The large Sunday school Christmas tree always came from my father’s nursery. It was lighted with small tallow candles and trimmed with strings of popcorn and cranberries.
"The unwrapped presents, marked with the pupils’ names, hung from its branches. As each gift was taken down the name was called, and the pupil would go up the aisle to receive it. The girls would get a small doll, a bottle of perfume, a book, or a picture. I do not remember ever seeing a toy or piece of clothing, and certainly no pot-bellied red Santa Claus.
"Money for the presents was always contributed by the fathers, and a committee went to town and bought the presents. My brother Everett and Hattie Godfrey usually served on the committee.
"Two or three families who never sent their children to Sunday school invariably showed up in full force for the Christmas party. These children would be given presents which had been marked for regular attendants. My father was by far the largest cash contributor, so when I would come home with nothing after these once-a-year children had been so splendidly rewarded, my mother would have plenty to say to those responsible for the generous handouts. If those unearned rewards had been inducements to attend Sunday school regularly, all would have been forgiven; but we would never see these families again until the following Christmas."
If this were a Hallmark Christmas movie, the incident would have taught Ella the spirit of giving. But in real life, children with no presents under the tree (or in this case, on it) might be more disgruntled with sharing.
What are your Christmas memories? Did you have to memorize Bible verses to tell the Christmas story? Did your church elders give gifts to the children? Please share your memories by commenting here or emailing me.
The Edina History Museum will be open Thursday, Dec. 27, 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Bring your family or get together with your pals from the old neighborhood to see "Growing Up in Edina" exhibit. Free admission.
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.
This article originally ran in a Fall 2004 Edina Historical Society newsletter. We're dusting off the story in honor of apple season and to dispel a few myths still circulating about Edina's contribution to the apple world.
Jonathan T. Grimes
What apple did Edina pioneer Jonathan Grimes develop?
D. A and C
E. None of the above
Although a local newspaper once quoted Grimes descendants as crediting Jonathan Grimes as the developer of the Jonathan apple, horticultural sources say otherwise.
“I think that’s some family folklore that just isn’t correct,” said Grimes' great-grandson Boyd Phelps. The claim is not substantiated by any source, including Jonathan Grimes’ daughter Ella Grimes Eustis, who wrote a memoir Out of My Mind.
“My grandmother was a stickler for detail, and she never mentioned the Jonathan apple,” Phelps said.
The fact that Jonathan Grimes shares the name of the above apple breeds is a confusing coincidence, especially since Grimes was a prominent Minnesota horticulturalist and apple grower. From 1866 to 1883, he owned the Lake Calhoun Nursery, (later subdivided into the Morningside neighborhood.)
Although Grimes did grow apple trees, he achieved his greater fame developing shade trees hardy enough to withstand Minnesota winters.
As his daughter writes, “My father’s evergreens and shade trees were sold and planted in many parts of Hennepin County. The large shade trees that adorned Nicollet, Hennepin, Lyndale and University Avenues came from his nursery.”
Grimes imported some exotic – for the times – tree varieties, including the ginkgo tree from China. “Only one of these trees survived,” Eustis writes. “… (The tree) was only a few blocks from Central High School, and for many years the botany classes came to study it. It grew about fifty feet high... Now ginkgo trees may be found in nurseries but they are scarce.”
If Jonathan Grimes did indeed create any new apple variety, Ella Grimes Eustis had the perfect opportunity to mention his accomplishment when she writes of Peter Gideon, a fellow horticulturalist who bred the Wealthy apple.
But she mentions only Gideon’s well-known eccentricities.
Peter Gideon and the Wealthy apple
“In connection with his nursery and his experiments with new and hybrid shrubs, trees, etc., my father became acquainted with Peter M. Gideon, later the originator of the Wealthy apple. He lived on the west side of Gideon’s Bay, Lake Minnetonka, where he had his orchard. With horse-drawn vehicle it was a long, slow trip to Minneapolis from his home, so he planned his trips very nicely by arriving at our house always just before supper and staying overnight with breakfast included.
“Mr. Gideon was a great talker and bragger, and a strong spiritualist. Mother took his all too frequent visits in her stride, but, having been brought up in a strictly orthodox faith, she did not relish his enthusiastic harangues on spiritualism – especially with children of impressionable ages sitting around with their ears wide open. The last straw came when he claimed he could cure anybody or anything by laying his hands on the individual and calling up on the Spirits. Father had had a prolonged case of rheumatism, so at the height of this emotional discourse my mother said, ‘Mr. Gideon, if you can cure anybody, I wish you could cure Mr. Grimes of his rheumatism.’ This came as a surprise, and Mr. Gideon’s reaction was terrific. He jumped up and down in a combination of excitement, hysteria, anger, and apparent insult; and uttering a tirade of unprintable words, he flew out the door and down the road. Mr. Gideon never returned – but the rheumatism never returned either….
“Mr. Gideon had to find another free lodging to take the place of ours. He selected the Hankes’ on the Excelsior road. As it was late and dark when he knocked on their door, Mr. Hanke opened a window to ask who was there. The answer came. ‘I’m Gideon.’ ‘Who?’ ‘Gideon!’ Whether or not Mr. Hanke wanted to understand I do not know, but his reply was, ‘No, you don’t gid in.’ ‘Don’t you understand – I’m Gideon!’ whereupon Mr. Hanke (a German) said in his broken English, ‘You tank you gid in, but you no gid in!’ And down went the window. Where Gideon went from there, we never knew.”
Despite their disagreements, Jonathan Grimes praised Gideon in his eulogy to colleagues of the Minnesota State Historical Society , saying Gideon would be “known by his fruits” and his perseverance in creating a hardy Minnesota apple, the Wealthy. “…This tree alone would stand as a monument to his memory.”
Minneapolis Tribune, March 25, 1885
Addendum: "An Orange Social"
As for Jonathan's daughter Ella, she was more intrigued by a strange new fruit: the orange. In 1876, she attended an "Orange Social," a gathering of more than 200 people who saw an expert demonstrate how to peel the exotic citrus.
She was not alone in her fascination: the Minneapolis Tribune reported on several such functions during this period.
For more information on Peter Gideon, see MNopedia website created by the Minnesota Historical Society.
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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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