• Category Archives SCHS Blog
  • Stevens County Bands by: Hannah King, Curator

    Stevens County and the surrounding area were home to a variety of bands at the turn of the 20th century. Participating in a music group, whether it was a choir, orchestra, or brass or cadet bands, was a popular, socially acceptable hobby. Both Victorian era attitudes and Lutheran beliefs valued music. Luther believed that “music is God’s greatest gift” that “all Christians would love and regard as worthy.” Victorians saw music as an intellectual, refined activity that could be a relaxing diversion for the rich and a source of pride and respect for lower classes. These two systems came together perfectly in late 19th century Minnesota.

    The Kongsvinger Symphonia Band is one of the better documented groups in our collection. The band was connected to the Kongsvinger Free Lutheran Church in Rendsville Township and existed from about 1907 to 1924. The band put on concerts and played for community events. Originally directed by Reverend Abs from Hancock, it was later directed by Adolph Sherstad. Sherstad was a farmer in the Donnelly area, but also an avid self-taught musician. Sherstad played solo and first chair cornet for 23 years in the Kongsvinger and Morris Municipal Bands. He was a paid soloist with the Morris Band, and often performed in the Eastside Park band shell. Our Collections Spotlight this month features Sherstad’s cornet.


    Other area bands from the time included:

    • Hancock Orchestra, formed 1892
    • Morris Cadet Band, formed in 1896 under the direction of H.B. Lund
    • Modern Woodmen of America, Morris Camp No. 3184, Hodges Township
    • Morris Boy’s Band
    • Alberta Band
    • Cyrus Band, Cyrus, Stevens county
    • Little German Band,
      also known as the Little Thirsty Four
    • Mark Pomeroy’s Band,
      Big Stone County
    • Ortonville Boys Band, Big Stone County
    • Fairfield Big Four Band,
      Big Stone County
    • Windom’s Little German Band, Cottonwood County
    • Grove Lake Band, Pope County
    • Merry Farmer Boys Band, Langhei Township area, Pope County


  • 2017 Horizontal Grandeur

    Our tenth annual Horizontal Grandeur Juried Fine Art Exhibition is in full swing!

    As always, this exhibit is open to all artists from the United States or Canadian provinces with prairie.  The 2017 adult division includes 78 pieces from 44 artists.  In honor of its 10th year, we added a youth division with 50 pieces from 37 artists aged 5 to 17.

    Since the opening reception on June 22nd, there has been a steady stream of visitors for the exhibit.  Remember, there is a People’s Choice Award for both the youth and adult divisions.  Vote for your favorite pieces when you come to the museum or place your votes online at the Horizontal Grandeur Facebook page by”liking” them in the Youth and Adult albums!  Some of the art is also available for purchase.  Award winners will be announced after the show closes on November 10th.

    Museum Hours:
    Monday-Friday 9:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.
    Weekend hours available by appointment.

    Horizontal Grandeur is made possible by its sponsors!

    A big thank-you to all this year’s sponsors:
    Federated Telephone (Acira)
    Big Stone Therapies
    Dental Depot
    Chokio Review
    Pedersen Funeral Home
    Bank of the West
    Morris Lumber
    Law Offices of Fluegel, Anderson, McLaughlin & Brutlag, Chartered
    Edward Jones: Kent Swenson

  • More About Barn Quilts

    Approximately 80-90 people attended the “Barn Quilts and More” event, sponsored by the Stevens County Historical Society at the rural Morris home of Ward and Carol Voorhees on Sunday, June 25 to see the unveiling of their barn quilts. Barn Quilts are large wooden panels painted with a design from a single block of a cloth quilt, and mounted on a building.

    The purpose of this event was to introduce the general community to this art form, with the hope that enough people would be interested in having a barn quilt made for their place of residence or business. If enough people do this, a Barn Quilt Trail can be organized, which can then become a tourist attraction.  There are currently over 120 Barn Quilt Trails in the US, 7 of them in Minnesota.

    Barn Quilts usually have a story associated with each quilt, or have a special meaning for the owners.  Cindy Heffner from Eagle Bend, who made the Voorhees Barn Quilts, explained the meaning behind each one during the afternoon program.  These Barn Quilts are easily seen from the highway, but Voorhees encourages anyone who really is interested to stop in any time and view them up close.  He would be happy to chat about Barn Quilts in general or theirs specifically.  He can be contacted at 320-334-2079.

  • Making the Prairie by Hannah King, Curator.

    How do we define the prairie? And how does it define us? At their most basic, prairies are defined as extensive areas of flat or rolling grassland. The open and expansive views of our area were formed by glaciers moving through the area, which also contributed glacial debris like stones and boulders, as well as creating many lakes. The last glacial period ended about 10,000 years ago. As glaciers retreated, melting ice filled in many of the depressions left behind. Rain and snowmelt help replenish these glacial lakes and “prairie potholes.” The glaciers also moved and deposited other materials, which left us with the soils found in Stevens County today. Most of the soil in the area is till, a mixture of materials ranging from fine clay to large boulders. Parts of the county also have lacustrine deposits, which are materials that settled out of glacial lakes. The deposits tend to be sandy and gravelly near where the lakeshore was and have more clay near the middle of the lake. These areas tend to be very flat and level.  Different kinds of prairie are home to a variety of grasses, wildflowers, and shrubbery.

    People followed the glaciers. Rock art and mounds show that the first people arrived in Minnesota at least 5,000 years ago. When European settlers arrived, they found the land inhabited by Dakota and Anishinabe (Ojibwe) peoples. Human habitation had relatively little impact before the arrival of settlers when indiscriminate killing of bison nearly drove the animals to extinction. Around the same time, famers began plowing large fields, which destroyed many acres of prairie. Prairie can be made into one of the most intensive crop producing areas in North America, so very little land was left in its natural state. The availability and fertility of land in Minnesota meant that for decades the main industry was agriculture. Since so much of the land was in constant use, there was not much opportunity to develop large cities and tall buildings, which kept views in Stevens County open even as more people arrived in the area. The landscape, whether agricultural, or built, is still heavily influenced by the prairie that has been replaced.

    Today, many people realize the need for a greater balance between nature and people. Prairie restoration kits, programs, and companies abound. Crop and prairie residue is used as biomass fuel by UMM and the West Central Research and outreach Center. Artists inspired by the prairie share its beauty, perhaps stirring appreciation for the natural landscape in someone new. The openness and richness of the prairie shaped the lives of the first waves of people who came to Minnesota. Later people changed the prairie to suit human needs regardless of nature’s rhythms. Perhaps we are heading toward a time of equilibrium, when people can still make a living off the land while also respecting it.



  • Congratulations, Kate!

    Superior Industries in Morris recently hosted a nine-week Dale Carnegie  course.  The course stressed the Five Drivers of Success which are: Self-confidence, People skills, Communication Skills, Leadership skills, and Reducing stress and worry. There were twenty-three participants including our Director, Kate Sauers. Tasha Rohlfs of Fargo, ND was their able leader.

    They held a graduation ceremony at Superior on March 15. Each participant was required to give a two to three minute presentation. The participants invited their supervisors to attend and the supervisors actually awarded the certificates. Ward Voorhees, Chairman of the SCHS Board is seen awarding Kate’s certificate to her.

    The last item on the agenda was having the participants cast secret ballot votes for who they thought should win four additional awards. The awards were for Highest Award of Achievement, Human Relations Award, Biggest Benefit Award and Business Application Award.  We are proud to say that Kate won the Highest Achievement Award.

    Kate tells us that this course has impacted her personal and work life in an incredibly positive way. “My biggest benefits are improved communication with my co-workers and more confidence,” added Kate.


  • Scandinavian at Heart

    Scandinavian at Heart

    by Hannah King, Curator

    SCHS Collection

    Back in September, Minnesota artist Lucy Tokheim visited the museum to give a presentation about her work and her new online exhibition. Though Lucy herself is not of Scandinavian descent, she is inspired by the traditions she saw practiced in Minnesota and on a visit to Norway. Lucy’s enthusiasm was contagious and we decided to create an exhibit focused on Scandinavian arts and crafts. Stevens County and the surrounding areas are filled with wonderful artists that practice traditional forms of painting, dancing, and sewing. However, we also wanted to invite contributors who do not have a Scandinavian background or who are reinterpreting traditions in a new way, much like Lucy. This spring, Scandinavian at Heart will feature a thought-provoking mixture of historical artifacts, modern traditional pieces, and imaginative interpretations of Scandinavian and Nordic art and history. The exhibit will have painting, rosemaling, illustration, pottery, beading, carving, and weaving. Pieces are inspired by the art and stories of Norway, Sweden, Finland, and Iceland. Our artists come from different ethnic backgrounds, but all have been steeped in the Scandinavian culture that is so common in the Midwest.

    Scandinavian at Heart will open Thursday, April 13, with an opening reception that evening from 6-8pm. We will also have our own Norwegian version of a sip and paint night! Local artist Clarice Dieter will show participants how to create a rosemaling pattern. Watch for the date announcement soon. We hope everyone can come out to enjoy the exhibit, whether you are Norwegian, Swedish, or just Scandinavian at heart.

  • Scandinavian Immigration and Influence in Minnesota

    Scandinavian Immigration and Influence in Minnesota

    by Hannah King, Curator

    More Norwegians live in Minnesota than any other state in the U.S. Just over 20% of people in Stevens County have Scandinavian ancestry. Many of us grew up with Johnsons, Andersons, and Olsons and came to love treats like sandbakkel and krumkakke. How did the Midwest, and Minnesota specifically, come to be the center of Scandinavian American culture?

    Minnesota has been an immigration destination since the early 1800s. Norwegians began to flee overpopulation and poor farming conditions in the mid-1800s. They first settled in Wisconsin and Illinois, both of which had rich and plentiful farmland. From there, they moved west into Minnesota and the Dakotas. Other Scandinavians and Nordic immigrants followed suit. In 1850, Swedish writer Fredrika Bremer wrote, “What a glorious new Scandinavia might not Minnesota become.” That dream essentially came true, with many important historical figures, cultural practices, and even regional dialects influenced by Scandinavian immigrants.

    Governors Knute Nelson, John A. Johnson, Floyd B. Olson, John Lind, and Adolph O. Eberhart were all of Scandinavian descent. The strong presence of cooperatives for everything from fuel to telephone services is largely due to Scandinavian influences. The same can be said for the widespread nature Lutheranism, agricultural communities, and hotdishes.

    Even the way people speak in the Upper Midwest has been affected by all those Scandinavians. Linguists have given the regional accent that you hear in Minnesota, eastern North and South Dakota, western Wisconsin, and northern Iowa its own name – Upper Midwestern English. Most residents in these areas know that things like the long ‘o’ (such as in Minnesooota) and the phrase ‘uff da’ aren’t something you hear elsewhere. However, even our phrasing is different. The Upper Midwest is the only area in the U.S. where people say ‘come with.’ John M. Spartz, who wrote his doctoral dissertation on the “come with” construction, said the phrase is basically a direct translation from the German and Scandinavian languages — languages once spoken frequently in states such as Minnesota and Wisconsin during a period of heavy German and Scandinavian immigration. “I would say, ‘Come with,’ and people would look at me like I’m crazy,” Spartz said. He added that it sounded to the person like he had not finished his sentence. People in Minnesota and Wisconsin also sometimes use the word “borrow” when they mean “lend.”

    It turns that all Midwesterners, even those who don’t have a drop of Norwegian blood, still carry the mark of Scandinavian immigrants who started to arrive over 150 years ago. Throughout this newsletter and upcoming exhibit, we’ll be exploring Scandinavian culture and heritage. We hope you come with.


    This Norwegian dish set is part of a collection donated by Agnes Gaarder Steiler and was owned by her aunt, Andrea Ihler. Andrea lived on the Korsmo farm in southeastern Norway before immigrating to Minnesota. The largest container is a butter dish and was brought over from Norway. The second largest dish is a sugar bowl. The two small pots with spoons are for salt and pepper. The bowl lid and the spoons all have “Norge” (Norway) burned into the wood – this part of the design and the lack of wear imply that these items may have been souvenirs rather than practical objects.

    All the dishes are made out of wood and have designs painted in red, yellow, and green. The two larger dishes are made in the style of a tine (pronounced tee-nah), a traditional bentwood box where the lid fits into the prongs on each side. While the dishes have a traditional top, a true tine would have a base made out of a single piece of bent wood. This style of container dates back over 1000 years in Norway.