"In 1964, construction of a second junior high, Valley View Junior High, began. The school got its name from the fact that it sat on top of a hill and overlooked a valley. Construction was slowed during the early phases because several unmarked graves were found on the site and needed to be moved and re-buried. However, the school opened on time in September 1964."
That Wikipedia entry for Edina Public School raised all sorts of questions for former student Tom Berg. "An unmarked cemetery? I have always wondered who the graves were related to- settlers or Dakota/native Americans? How old were the bodies/were they modern graves? Where were they reburied? What cemetery - with no names? ****Where on the school campus grounds were they originally found?***** ANYONE KNOW THE STORY/HISTORY?" he asked fellow followers of the "You know you're from Edina when..." Facebook page.
We can answer most of those questions. And by "we," I mean Frank Cardarelle, second-generation Edina surveyor and member of our board. He's my go-to guy to answer any property-related questions, and sure enough, he knew what happened because he was there surveying the property at the time.
"I was out staking the property and Danens (Excavation) was out grading when we hear from the neighbor that children were buried there. So everything stopped," Cardarelle remembered.
This sounds pretty sinister, but in fact, many pioneer landowners had small family cemeteries on their property, with graves often marked by a simple pile of stones or homemade wooden cross. Local cemeteries weren't established in the 1880s or were too far away for easy transport of the bodies. And unfortunately, children accounted for a high number of deaths in this time period.
Remember that this was an age before childhood vaccinations. Diseases practically eliminated by 2000 -- diphtheria, and pertussis, measles -- killed thousands of children each year before 1900. Death was much more commonplace among the young in 1900: 165 deaths per 1,000 births in 1900 compared to 7 per 1,000 in 1997. (Source: PBS The First Measured Century)
The land that became Valley View Junior High belonged to Ernie Davis, whose ancestors owned the land as far back as 1898. Cardarelle remembers that the bodies were pioneer children, and that the grave sites were on the western edge of the property near Valley View Road. Construction halted while authorities located and moved the graves. Cardarelle doesn't know where they were moved.
Someone with time to research could look through the spring of 1964 newspapers from Minneapolis or Edina to see if a news article provides more details. That decade is not digitized, so research requires hours of sitting and reading microfiche. If you're up for the task, contact me!
While these graves were located and moved, many old cemeteries get bulldozed or lost during development or even when old farms get new owners. (See MPR story "Pioneer cemeteries fall under plow's threat.")
Do you have a "history mystery" and want some answers? Comment here or email me with your question. I probably won't know the answer off the top of my head, but I have thousands of documents and photos and interesting people like Frank Cardarelle to consult.
We want your stories for the Edina Reads writing contest. Deadline is Oct. 1. To inspire you, here is a wonderful story from our collection. We shared Chuck Gilbertson's essay about his horse Copper with Edina Sun Current readers during our past "Growing Up in Edina" exhibit, but for those who missed it, here's a sweet boyhood tale from 1950s Edina.
By Chuck Gilbertson
I was eleven years old in 1951, and I wanted to be a cowboy. About a mile from my house in Edina was McNellis Riding Stable at 66th and France Avenue. I rode my bike out to the stables one day and asked Mr. McNellis if I could have a job. “Yes,” he said. “I cannot pay you, but if you want to go riding after you are done working, you can.”
When I got home from work the first day my mother would not let me in the house as my tennis shoes and jeans were covered with manure. Mom hosed me down. My dad asked me all about it and was pleased that I had a job.
I spent the entire summer working for Mr. McNellis. At that time, 66th and France was about the end of Edina, as far as residential communities were concerned. Southdale shopping center did not exist.
(Editor's note: See Historic Aerials website for a view of the dramatic changes at 66th and France from 1947 to 1957. Southdale and related development changed Edina from a rural area with riding stables, chicken coops and dairy farms to a thriving suburb. The image below is from 1947, but use the slider tool at the website to compare and contrast two years. This site is not affiliated with the Edina Historical Society, but it's a great resource for researching land changes over the years and you can purchase prints from them.)TV cowboy Roy Rogers in 1951
Copper was my favorite horse. He was good humored and easy to ride. Mr. McNellis taught me how to bridle and saddle the horses. Quite often he would let me go with him on trail rides. Sometimes Mr. McNellis would let me ride Copper out to the fields in the morning to bring the other horses back to the stable. I felt like a real cowboy.
Summer vacation was coming to an end. Mr. McNellis told me he was going to sell Copper for $75. I rode my bike to the bank and withdrew $75 of my paper route money. Then I went back to the stable and gave Mr. McNellis the money. Riding home down France Avenue I was proud as could be. When I turned on to Brookview Avenue where I lived, all the neighbor women came out in the yards to watch me. My mom came out the front door with her fist in her mouth, which she did when she was nervous. She said, “Oh, Chuckie, what have you done now?”
I put Copper in our one car garage and left the door open. I tied rope back and forth across the opening. A small crowd gathered by my homemade horse stall. My plan was to keep Copper in our garage and ride him to deliver papers down Lakeview Drive and Golf Terrace. When school started, I would ride him to school and tie him to the bike rack.
I am quite sure that dad must have noticed the minute he turned the car onto Brookview as he was coming home from work. He got out of the car and walked toward me asking mom what was going on. She told him.
I was sure he would be proud of me because of his farm background. Instead, he said to me, “Get on that horse this minute and take him back to Old Man McNellis. He is blind in one eye and older than the hills.” Tears started rolling down my cheeks, but I did what I was told. When I got back to the stable, Mr. McNellis was laughing. “I figured you’d be back,” he said as he reached into his pocket for my money. I never saw Copper again.
Chuck Gilbertson lived just over a mile and a half from the McNellis Stables. His trek with Copper back in 1951 took him through a much less populated area than it is today.
Minneapolis and St. Paul consistently rank among the top cities for "most literate." We read. A lot. I suspect that part of the reason are weeks like this past one -- with below zero temps, wind chill advisories, snow, sleet and slick roads. What better thing to do than curl up in a blanket with a book?
While the rest of America has been reading 50 Shades of Grey or perhaps the Lincoln biography, I have tried to catch up on history reading for the museum, such as this memoir From Danmark to America: The American Dream recently donated by a former resident Paul A. Thompsen.
Paul chronicles his family roots in Denmark and the hardships his immigrant "parents endured so that we could have greater opportunities that weren't available to them in the old country," Paul wrote in a letter to the Historical Society.
On Dec. 29, 1937, when Paul was two years old, his parents bought a farm in the Cahill district of Edina. "Our farm sat just below the highest point on Valley View Road which provided a beautiful view of the valley and rich farm land. The southernmost property line was at the intersection of Antrim Road and Valley Road. The location of the house and farm buildings was about where Lois Lane and Valley View Road intersect today." (See Google map.)
Here's an aerial of the farm in 1947, courtesy NETR Online Historic Aerials. You can go to the web site and zoom in, as well as look at the development of the land throughout the years.
The Thompsen farm, located in the Irish Cahill community, became a gathering spot for Danish immigrants living in the metro area. Every June, the Thompsens hosted the annual Fugle Skydning festival, which commemorated bird hunting. One year, the shooting drew the attention of Edina police who "tried to confiscate the guns to halt the shooting but when they found out all the action was on our property with safety precautions observed, they had to apologize and leave," Paul wrote.
Paul included some great photos of the farm, his one-room Cahill School and classmates, and family gatherings.
I enjoyed Paul's descriptions of life on the farm, which didn't have electricity until 1941.
At the same time, the Thompsens installed an indoor bathroom for the first time with running water, a toilet and a bathtub. "No more outhouse, thank heavens!" Paul writes. "Prior to electricity, we had to the pump house to draw the water, about 125 feet away. Then we had to carry the water to the house for drinking, cleaning or bathing."
On Aug. 1, 1942, a lightning bolt struck one of the barns, filled with 5,000 bales of hay, and set the building ablaze. The Hopkins and Edina fire trucks had to drive to Nine Mile Creek about a half-mile away to keep refilling their tanks. They could do little but prevent the house from catching fire, and two barns burned to the ground.
Despite the setback, Thompsens rebuilt and paid off the farm in 1944, and Paul's father "considered becoming a gentleman farmer." Within a few months, however, he was feeling unwell and sought out a chiropractor. He died at age 56 after climbing the stairs to his first appointment.
Paul was just nine years old, with three older sisters. Although the family tried to continue farming with the help of hired hands, the farm was sold in 1946 and the family moved to 5255 France Avenue in Minneapolis.
I enjoyed the memoir as much as any bestselling novel. The self-published book isn't for sale, but can be read during regular museum hours at the Edina History Museum.
Paul now lives in San Diego and when he called recently, he (like every warm weather transplant I have ever met) asked about the weather, "It's 70 degrees here... what's it like in Minnesota?" This week, I'd have to say, "Good reading weather."
Back when Highway 169 was known as County Road 18, Edina looked like this:
Alfred and Rosalla Pavelka lived here (6001 County Road 18) in 1959 with their children Diane and Lee. Alfred is listed as a farmer in the Edina phone directories. His brother (I'm guessing) Francis and his wife Delores, and their children Donald and Richard lived nearby at 5917 County Road 18. Francis worked at Superior Separator Co. Matriarch Mrs. Matilda Pavelka also lived at 6001 County Road 18.
If you can't quite envision the property from the address, here's what the area looks like now (Google satellite image).
Edina has changed dramatically since the farmhouse and old barn stood on the property. The area is now Manor Homes of Edina, condominiums built in 1981 or 1982. (I've seen both dates in various sources. The city's tax assessor card says 4/22/82.)
Here's what the area looked like back in 1957, around the time the house and barn images were taken, courtesy of HistoricAerials.com. If you want to play a little and see how the area changed over time, go to HistoricAerials.com and type 6915 Langford Way, Edina, MN in the search field.
Have fun! Happy Friday, everyone.
Edina High School was built at 6754 Valley View Road in the fall of 1972 on the Ernie Davis farm.
The farmhouse, 6740 Valley View, stood on the north side of the road (see below).
Here was the house.
And the barn.
Here's a closer look with what looks like a police or fire vehicle on the left side of the photo. I don't know more without further research, but it looks like the farm was not operating at the time these photos were taken (estimated 1970). The Davis's are not listed in the phone books of that time period, either.
Edina's student population grew rapidly in the 1960s, and overcrowding forced the district to build a second high school. Because the the original 1949 high school was located on the east side of town (5701 Normandale Road), the district looked for land on the west side and selected the Davis property. Logically, the schools were named Edina East and Edina West. (Or for you sports fans, the Hornets and the Cougars.)
The old school closed in 1981 and became the Edina Community Center and Edina once again had one high school.
Clarification: I should have noted in the original post that Edina West was the second school building constructed on the Davis farm. Valley View Middle School (square lighter building at left) was built in 1964. West was built in 1972. The photos were most likely taken prior to the construction of Valley View, not circa 1970.
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.
This is Southdale... before Southdale. Photographer Chester Fredon took this shot just as construction was beginning at the site, at 66th Street and France Avenues. The photo caption reads "March 16, 1955 Looking west at east side of tenant & Dayton's, Dayton's Southdale Project."
I enlarged just one small corner of the photo to see what was in the background for a visitor researching her family farm, then located just north of Southdale site on 66th Street. The Bove' family's truck farm doesn't quite appear in the photo, unfortunately. We figure it's behind the big pile of dirt on the left side of the photo. However, we had to wonder about the two-story building on the right.
I know. This is not why she came in. This did not pertain to any project I am currently working on. But we were curious. The building looked like a hotel to us, when we knew there were no hotels in that area.
We consulted a large aerial photo of the area taken in 1951, which showed a long building with a circle of small buildings in the rear (just north of 66th). We didn't get any answers from the reverse directory in the phone books for that period. (Not that surprising. In those days, some farmers still didn't have phones, and some businesses listed themselves only in the Minneapolis phone directories.)
Fortunately, Frank Cardarelle, a life-long Edina resident and a land surveyor, happened to drop in and he had the answer: Ben-Twin poultry farm. Frank went to Edina schools with the Benson twins in the 1940s and even worked there as a kid. Yes, that hotel-looking building housed the chickens and there were additional chicken coops out back.
Frank had an additional piece of trivia: the Benson twins' father owned the Covered Wagon, a famous Western-themed restaurant in downtown Minneapolis.
As it happened, the researcher had brought along a news clipping of her ancestor John Bove', who was featured because he killed a "chicken-stealing" wolf. The undated clipping from an unknown newspaper (at left) reported that after several chicken thefts in the area, Bove' followed the trail from the hen house until he sighted the animal and shot it.
"The wolf is the first to be shot this season at the city limits where wolves are rarely found at this time of year," the article stated. "Bove' today collected a $15 bounty from the County Auditor Al P. Erickson. Chicken raisers have given him an informal vote of thanks."
Although it seems shocking today, the state paid a bounty on wolves until 1956. Wolf population fell so dramatically that by 1974, killing a wolf could result in a fine of up to $20,000 or up to a year in prison or both.
As we talked with others at the museum that morning, we found out that a large commercial flower field was located north and east of the poultry business and the Peterson dairy farm operated on France Avenue just west of the mall.
You can see why scoffers questioned building a shopping mall "in the middle of nowhere," but in just a few months, the wide open farmland was filled with suburban homes, retail businesses and the Southdale medical center. If you have information or photos about any of Southdale's former neighbors, please contact me.
To envision how much Edina has changed over the past few decades, drive along 78th street near Highway 100 and look north. Instead of office buildings and businesses, in the 1950s you would see a scene like the one pictured above.
The Bernie Nelson family operated a dairy farm on land bounded on the east and west by Highway 100 and Cahill Road and the north and south by 70th and 78th Streets. I haven't driven by recently to compare views but Steve Nelson, whose grandparents owned the farm, said the stand of trees (in the background of this picture) can still be seen on the west side of Highway 100 on 70th Street.
The land was known as Hill Home Farm. Steve has another photo that clearly shows why. A beautiful home sits at the top of a hill overlooking pasture and the barn. The family plans to donate a decorative iron gate that was at the entrance of the property as well as more photos.
To some, the 1950s isn't "historic" because they lived through those times. I happen to disagree. As this photo shows, dairy cows and barns are no longer part of the landscape in Edina. We collect items from each chapter of Edina's history, even as the page has just been turned.
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