Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Tracking the James Gang across Goodhue County to their ill-fated raid on the Northfield Bank.

Tracking the James Gang...

The high spirited horses and their gentlemen riders might catch your attention as you take a moment from your chores and watch the dust floating up along the road in the rolling hills of Goodhue County back in 1876.
Some of the stories handed down through the years have been compiled by local historian, Bob Rohl of Kenyon.  And Loren Evenrud of Cannon Falls organized a bus tour to track the Jesse James gang as they traveled to their ill-fated raid of the Northfield Bank on September 7 of that year.  Recently twenty area residents climbed aboard the bus to take part in the historic event.  It was sponsored by the Shepherd's Center of Cannon Falls.
  The finale was a tour of the bank museum and watching the "shoot out" replicating the original robbery attempt.
Interest began... 
Bob first got interested in the outlaw route when he moved to his farm back in 1975. He recalls an older member of the community, Vince Benson, tellling him: “You know, Jesse James camped on your property.”
Bob thought suspiciously... “Ya right!”  But the suggestion put a seed of thought into his mind to find out if it could be so... and he discovered it could! 
Build a case...
What Bob wanted to do was “build a case.” And the result is this tour.  So hop on the bus, watch the rolling fields go by, let your imagination take you back to that time period and listen to Bob describe the possible movements of the James Gang as they traveled across the countryside.
It’s possible that the gang previously considered robbing a bank in Red Wing.  But there were not many escape routes because of the Mississippi River.
And a Mankato bank robbery was possibly foiled but another option is that they were there just scoping out escape routes.  
Their interest in the Northfield Bank might have been triggered by information that some of the bank officials had been involved in southern politics after the Civil War and rumor had it that they had left just ahead of a “tar and feather” posse.
Cannon Falls connection...
Also, a member of the gang, Bill Stiles, had been living in Cannon Falls with his sister, said to be a teacher here.  Stiles would have been able to get good information as to the layout of the area.
Stiles was one of the gang members shot and killed in the Northfield robbery.
Tracking the James Gang Tour...
The tour route began at the G. Anderson farm off Hwy 19 on County 6 Boulevard where the gang is reported to have stopped to ask directions.  Only a steel windmill remains today.  
Then on to White Rock where sources indicate that the gang watered their horses and may have had them shod at a local blacksmith.
Next stop was at what is considered to be the oldest standing residential sturcture in Goodhue County dating back to 1853... the Chandler House on County 8 Boulevard.  The gang may have stabled their horses in the barn.
The tiny town of Hader on Highway 52  was a major crossroad for travel in the mid 1800’s with a major stage coach route passing through.
The James gang was thought to have purchased grain at the Gjemse farm on 90th Avenue.    This was the great great grandfather of Rod Johnson of Cannon Falls.  It was also rumored that the gang bought horses here.  But Bob explained that this is doubtful because most farmers had work horses, not the high powered mounts the gang was riding.
Probably before Aspelund - at County 8 Boulevard and County 30 Boulevard -  it is believed that the gang split up so as not to attract too much attention.
More sites...
They may have gone through other sites including the old village of Norway, no longer there.  And here, the story goes, “a young lad with the name of Brandvold” was stopped by the horsemen and asked where the Brekke Bridge was. They also asked him the way to Northfield.  He told them and they tossed him a quarter - a good sum in those days.
In Northfield they met up with other members arriving from Mankato. 
That fateful day...
   On September 7, 1876 a total of eight gang members entered Northfield and in a period of seven minutes attempted to rob the Northfield Bank , with disastrous results.
Bill Stiles and Clell Miller were killed.  The Younger brothers: Cole , Jim, and Bob were all wounded and later captured at Madelia where Charlie Pitts was killed. Jesse and Frank James escaped to Missouri.
Other memories were given on the bus tour by Meg Judge, Don Reynolds and Don Anderson.

Photos by Loren Evenrud, Cannon Falls Cable Channel, and Rosie Schluter.
  See video on www.paulrosie.com or Tracking the Jesse James gang across Goodhue county on Youtube.

Or click on the links:

Friday, October 10, 2014

Helping is key to enjoying life...

Paul Schluter

Helping is key to enjoying life

Paul Schluter discussed safety issues and the new highway roundabouts with a MnDOT representative at a recent TRIAD meeting.
Although he misses the camaraderie of the folks on the Stanton Planning Commission, Paul Schluter stepped down in 2013 after approximately 17 years due to a time conflict.

In retirement as an electrical engineer since the 1990s, Schluter has not slowed down much.
“I found a Bible College that I was interested in attending (which was) opening a branch in Minneapolis. Attending classes part time included the night of the planning commission meetings. Things appeared to be going well in the township so I wasn’t leaving under duress,” explained Schluter. “There are good people who carry on.”

Schluter said he likes the way of life he and his wife Rosie have enjoyed in their rural home and has always liked being a part of government at its lowest level, trying to follow the township ordinance.

“One resident told me that they appreciated being informed personally when I thought a project might affect them. I liked to keep people informed on what was going on in the township. We worked to accommodate people when they wanted building permits,” he said clarifying, “The problem is that you’re not going to be able to please everyone.”

While he calmed the nerves of people impacted by township matters, his continuing passion is helping people.

On the Library Foundation since 1998, and the board of the Shepherd’s Center of the Cannon Valley since it began 20 years ago, Schluter still found time to help people file their taxes with the free program sponsored by AARP/IRS for 15 years.

Another opportunity arose when Schluter was in extended care at Angels Care Center following back surgery. He developed friendships and now goes back to visit those new friends. “I take some of them out to our farm for a golf cart ride on the trails,” he shrugged, minimizing his kindness.

Now, following balloon angioplasty and insertion of a stent to his heart, Schluter is adding Meals on Wheels to his community involvement, and is facilitating the group of citizens and law enforcement professionals in the TRIAD organization which is working to promote a safer community. He just returned from their state convention and plans to help host that conference in Goodhue County next year.

To the community he advises, “There are lots of opportunities around here. I think you get more enjoyment out of life by helping people. I encourage people to get involved.”

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

"Amazing moments" 
part of TV family's life

In the background the music flowed from the radio and 18 year old Matthew Nelson, one of the identical twin sons of 1980’s teen idol Ricky Nelson, was at home where he was living with his dad, his “best friend”.
But on this night his dad wasn’t there.  He was on a concert tour.
And then Matthew's attention was drawn to the radio when heard the disk jockey announce that Teen Idol singer Ricky Nelson had just been killed in a plane crash.  Matthew passed out. 
He explained, “Usually in a tragic death the names are withheld from the media until the family is notified.”  But, Matthew continued, “when you’re in the public, those rules go out the window.”

Conversation a month earlier

It was just a month earlier that Ricky - who would come to Matthew and Gunnar's concerts but “hide in the background” -  would share how much he loved them.  
Matthew continued, his dad also said, “‘I admire you as my peers in music.’  And we all kind of cried.  It was one of those amazing moments.” 
“It was nice to get that kind of validation from my musical and personal hero.”
 A month later, Ricky Nelson was dead.
Matthew added, “The fact is that if you choose to be in entertainment you open yourself up to scrutiny and I’m okay with it... it toughens you up a little bit.
“But I must say that I enjoy being who I am.”

What was it like growing up?

Ozzie, Harriet, David and Ricky

In a recent interview with Matthew in respect to the twins’ upcoming concert in Cannon Falls on October 18 as a fundraiser for the Shepherd’s Center, he recalled some moments being the son of Ricky Nelson and the grandson of Ozzie and Harriet Nelson - who had one of the longest running sitcoms on television...  “The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet” which involved their whole family.
Matthew felt he got a good upbringing by being in the Nelson family.  He explained, Grandma and Grandpa always took time to relate to people.  They never acted like they were above anyone.
They were very humble about it and my Dad was the same way.  We were taught that we were fortunate to be able to do what we love to do.”

Matthew was about ten years old when Grandpa Ozzie died.  But Grandma Harriet would come to his sports activities.  And, he recalled, while she was in the grandstand she spent a lot of time talking to people.
Harriet had been a singer with the big bands before they started their show, Matthew continued, and actually took a little step back to be in her husband’s radio show.  And then the TV show ended up being one of the longest running sitcoms on TV.

Ricky’s surprise!

Although Ricky Nelson was on the road entertaining a lot, he came back for a special birthday party for the boys when they were 12 years old.  But he had planned a “twist” to the story!
You see, Ricky had told the boys they had dentist appointments that day!  (Bummer!)  Their mom (Kristen Harmon) was in on the deception and picked them up at school and dropped them off at the “dentist’s office”.  She told them she would park the car but they were late and had to get in the chair and get their fillings.
But as they walked into the building, Matthew noticed his brother’s drum set was there!  And then his guitar!  And the boys found out that it was really a recording studio!
Their dad had set up a recording session for them!  

Matthew and Gunnar had started playing instruments when we were about seven  years old.  And now they recorded one of the songs they had written.
The Pointer Sisters sang back-up vocals!
Then more family members showed up and they had cake in the control room!
Matthew recalled, “Only my dad could put something together like that!”

 What would you like to know?

  I had asked Facebook friends for questions so here are some of Matthew’s answers.

Wisdom from a teen idol?

Practical advice from his father, Ricky and his Grandma Harriet.  He was made to understand that because of their name, he and his brother would be given a “listen” as to their breaking into the music industry.  
But, they added,  “your talent will bring you in.”  
Also, “people will be more critical of you.” And Matthew recalled, “So we had to work harder”.  

                           Advice from Dad

They had their father’s experience to learn from.  Ricky had had to “re-invent” himself during his career.  After the teen-idol phase he went into a country-rock sound.  Ricky explained to the boys: “A career is a series of comebacks.”
He also advised, “Do what you feel is right and keep doing what you’re doing... and believe in what you’re doing.”  It’s persistence and integrity.
And... after five years of trying for a record deal they got their first one.  

What is important to you?

Matthew quickly responded, “My family and friends.  I enjoy being on stage... and making new friends...and to provide for my family and friends. Nothing else means anything... at the end of our lives the question is: did I make a difference to someone else’s life?

Living in the spotlight

Living in the spotlight of the Nelson family Matthew revealed,  “There were far more blessings than curses.  My father would love to play live concerts and my brother and I are the same way.  

      I kind of feel him around when we do the show.”

He confidently predicted, “You’ll see.”

(Video interview on www.paulrosie.com

Sunday, October 5, 2014

"To the good times…"

Ricky Nelson Remembered

Here’s to the good times!

It was with nervousness that I awaited the call from singer/composer Matthew Nelson... one of the twin sons of “Teen Idol” Ricky Nelson, a Rock and Roll Hall of Famer whose music has touched millions.
I had contacted his publicity agent and asked if I could take some pictures at their concert on October 18 in Cannon Falls - “Ricky Nelson Remembered” - a fundraiser for the Shepherd’s Center.

But first they wanted to interview me.
I guess that went OK because I was told I had three choices of times that I could interview one of the Nelson twins, stars of the show.  
I hadn’t expected to talk to anyone!
And I don’t know why I began to panic.  I’ve done interviews for years.  

I’ve always been hyped up for them.  And I still struggle to get over the advice from my junior high school adviser who warned me that I was too shy to be a journalist.
And lately I prefer to just hang around and pick up the story as it unfolds.  Like taking pictures behind the scenes.
No pressure if I think it’s not going to turn out all right.
Except for the pressure I put on myself.
That can be brutal.

Any stupid questions?

What if I asked some really stupid questions?
Well, to solve that I got on my Facebook page and asked friends what they would like to know about the musicians.
Got some great questions, like one from former “Cannonnite” Kari Pohl LeVan.  She suggested:  How did your dad influence/inspire your path from glam rock and beyond?  
Keep in mind that I don’t even know what “glam rock” is!    But when I asked Matthew the question, he answered as if I would know just what he was talking about!
I had to admit to him that I didn’t have a clue. I’m more of a country melody person.

A “Minnesota Nice” question!

Then I explained that I was from Minnesota and so I had to ask: “How’s the family and how’s the weather?”  I also suggested that he could say: “Fine” because being “Minnesota Nice” I didn’t want to pry!  (Not a very good interviewer I guess!)  
Also keep in mind that in my research I had “googled” the name... Ricky Nelson.  I later decided that wasn’t such a good idea.  
I’ve done it before - to find out about some favorite singers of mine.  But I usually found out too much.  Most of it was bad. Didn’t even want to listen to their music again.
Same thing happened when I looked up Ricky.
So how was I going to interview one of his sons?  How did they survive in a situation that appeared chaotic and painful?

“More blessings than curses.”

But talking to Matthew Nelson changed my mind.  He explained: “There were far more blessings than curses.”
He told me about the fantastic surprise their dad planned for the boys’ 12th birthday.  He told me about the integrity that his dad and grandparents, Ozzie and Harriet Nelson, had taught them.  And their humbleness and concern for people.  
Matthew’s love and compassion for his father came through.
That interview is coming next week.
And I’m looking forward to the Nelson twins’ concert of memories.

And so now I will toast:  “To the Good Times!"