This image from Goodle Earth shows what the historical society's Heritage Cenrer facility looked like from above prior to the July 8, 2011 fire.
This Google Earth image captures what the ICHS Heritage Center looked like after the July 8 arson incident.
A view of the Heritage Center at the end of the day on July 8, 2011, the day an arsonist set fire to the structure in the early morning hours. Little remained inside, and the historical society is still at work on the salvage efforts required.
by Kathleen J. McCully, Exec. Dir.
Here is a photo of the building as of one week ago. The building is very similar, yet very different. Having worked in the old building for 9 years, we have to opportunity to now rebuild it to be more efficient. It always helps to know what worked and what didn't when you set down to plan a new space.
I will be doing a walk-through next week, so I will post another video of the interior and give you a look at the skeleton before it is rocked! I can only tell you that the future does look brighter now that we are this far.
Staff and volunteers that have been on this journey from day one are looking foward to the "old space with the new face" very much. But we can't do it all without you. If you can possibly donate any amount toward our goal of a mortgage-free rebuild, it would be greatly appreciated.
Thanks in advance, and watch for updates.
by Ann Marie Martinson
I am working on documents that have been salvaged from the arson fire that destroyed the Isanti County Historical Society in July 2011.
I take the lid off a cardboard box that is labeled “#54, People History”. The box is stacked full of what looks like loosely wrapped packages in butcher’s paper. Each individually wrapped package is a charred chunk of what were once obituaries and news clippings across the last three centuries. The burned stack of pages is in alphabetical order. Today I am working on the people and life stories with the last name starting with the letter ‘M.’
I gingerly open the package that holds a charred block of paper that is several inches thick. I check each page for information that might fall off if handled. Sometimes I can sand the burned edges of an entire block without losing vital information, sometimes not. Each package has its unique fire brand on it. No two are the same.
I read each papyrus like page, retrieving the information as best I can. Sometimes the name of the person is burned off and reading the article/obituary will unveil the person in question. The retrieval process can be slow and often takes investigative skills. I do know that if enough of the article or obituary can be salvaged the origin of the document can be determined, and the mystery solved. The information’s origin is critical for replacement.
My eyes and mind linger on one particular name, Howard McCarty. I recognize the name from living in Cambridge for years. The American Legion Post bares this name. I sit with this young man’s obituary in hand and wonder. Who is Howard McCarty? Is this the soldier who the Post is named for? And then I think…why? Inquiring minds…mine, want to know.
The wonder of a Historical Society is that there is often more information to make a further investigation. I go the file marked ‘American Legion’, and there I find attending information.
I would like to share with you what I discovered about Howard Tillman McCarty.
I found in the American Legion folder, a four page article from November 1991. The article is actually an American Legion newsletter called the ‘Go-Getter.’ The newsletter is signed by Jack Maki with acknowledgments to: ECRL, Val Arrowsmith, Jim McCarty, Lyle Jeffries, Senator Dave Durenburger, and James Rostberg. I retrieve the following information concerning McCarty:
Howard Tillman McCarty was born on January 14, 1896, at Gilmore, Sarpy County, Nebraska. His family left Nebraska and settled on a farm in Spring Vale Township on February 25, 1913. Howard worked on the family farm for the next five years.
McCarty left the farm on May 26, 1918 to begin his tour of duty in the Army at Camp Lewis, Washington. August 1918 McCarty was sent as an infantry soldier to France. On October 14, 1918, Pvt. Howard McCarty was one of the 42,800 soldiers killed in action, in the clash with the Germans for the Argonne Forest.
McCarty’s body is buried in France along with thousands of American soldiers who fell in battle. PVT Howard Tillman McCarty is buried in Plot E, Row 14, Grave 6, Meuse-Argonne American Cemetery, located east of the village of Romagne-Sous-Montfaucon (Meuse), France. He is one of 14,246 of our military dead in Europe buried there. Most of them were casualties of the Meuse Argonne offensive. WWI ended at 11am, in the eleventh month, on the 11th day, 1918.
The application for a charter to establish the American Legion Post in Cambridge was filed with department headquarters on October 14, 1919. The charter was issued on August 10, 1920. The article I found states that the names of the eighteen charter members are listed behind the framed charter which is on display at the American Legion club rooms.
I continue to read more pages of information about the formation of the Post. It appears that the charter members held the first meeting in France. I found a paper with ‘The American Legion’ state headquarters stationary heading. On it are written the names of the original charter members with several names with an asterisk noting they are surviving members.
Below the names on the same page is a notation that states:
“I understand that Paul Dahlgren was in attendance at the caucus held in Paris, France- the real beginning of the American Legion.”
My thinking now shifts to Paris, France. I wonder what these young men spoke of at this initial meeting across the globe from Cambridge, Minnesota in 1918. It is a world and lifetime ago.
The American Legion, Howard McCarty Post 290 is a present day monument to the men and women in uniform, serving our amazing country. Howard McCarty is an emblem of service. He was one of our own; young, strong and proud to serve…and his name stands as a banner.
I will now pass by the American Legion in Cambridge knowing who and what Howard McCarty was, and what he stood for… freedom… yours…and mine. I Thank you Howard McCarty for your life and service. I honor your name.
About the author: Ann Marie Martinson has been volunteering for ICHS for several months and has soot embedded up to her elbows due to the fact that she has been trimming obits and general interest stories. During her work she did further investigation into Howard McCarty, whom the Legion Post #290 is named after. I hope you found it interesting and enjoyable.
The rebuild of the ICHS Heritage Center continues. As of the end of week 4 we are totally tyvec wrapped and the roof is sheathed. The weather in Minnesota has held out and it has not been unbearably cold or snowy yet, so progress is moving forward. Check out our website and join our enewsletter for the latest updates. www.ichs.ws.
Week 52 is this week. One year ago we lost 46 years of history in less than 46 minutes, due to the act of one or more individuals setting fire to the recycling trash barrel. Intentionally, this barrel was moved from the parking lot to the side of the building, started on fire which allowed the flames to burn under the steel siding onto the sheathing, and up into the ceiling space throughout our building. In no time at all, the roof fell and history was changed in Isanti County forever. After one year, no arrest has been made and this arson case remains open and active.
Usually, anniversaries are a cause for celebration. This one is different, however, because of the type of incident and the resulting losses and work it caused. Overnight, all of our job descriptions changed. Every day that we have worked for the past year has been cleaning, trimming, refiling and making decisions on the items that were removed from the fire. From day one, anyone who has worked directly with the fire and its salvaged contents has experienced a wide range of emotions. We are mourning the loss of most of our archives, yet on the flip side there has been joy in finding among the saved items very precious and interesting local history. On this first anniversary we have a better handle on how much was saved and it was not very much in comparison to all that was lost. Recently we were reminded about all of the oral histories and transcripts that were lost when a local resident passed away who had been interviewed in the 1980’s. Our goal is to have all the salvaged materials cleaned and in new files, and cataloged into our museum software before we move into a new building.
We begin this next year having made the decision to rebuild at our former site and have been working over the past two months with preliminary designs and layouts. Our annual membership update and volunteer recognition meeting is being held on July 10, 7:00 p.m. at the Minnco Center in Cambridge. I extend an open invitation for anyone interested in joining us for this meeting as we present our plans for a new building. Now is a great time to get involved if you have a passion for local history as we are literally starting over.
The year ahead is expected to be a very exciting time for our history organization. We have received Legacy grants to help us process documents, to purchase a scanner and microfilm reader, plus microfilm of newspapers. We are working to hone our mission and sharpen our focus to become a premiere resource center for Isanti County history. We will be building upon our successful programs to bring history to life for all generations using current technology and social networking.
Four weeks of Old Time School wrapped up on June 29. In July we will have a display at the Fair in the Snowmobile Club building, located by the Grandstand ticket booth. Our 23rd Annual Swedish Language & Culture Camp will be held in August. Rebuilding is to begin in late August or early September. We will begin taking rental reservations this fall beginning for spring 2013, when our new facility will be completed. Life looks pretty busy and good.
But we will need your help to pull all of this off, starting with rebuilding to moving in, and to planning and holding events beyond 2013. Our goal is to rebuild with little or no long-range mortgage, and for this to happen we will need to raise additional funds. We need support from anybody and everybody to make it happen.
Our marathon journey in continues. If you want to support ICHS, donations are greatly appreciated and can be made by mail, at our website, or directly at Cambridge State Bank. For all other inquiries, visit www.ichs.ws, follow us on Facebook, call us at 763-689-4229, email at firstname.lastname@example.org or drop us a letter at 1700 E. Rum River Drive S., Suite K, Cambridge, MN 55008. We are open by appointment only at this time.
Kathleen J. McCully, Executive Director
Isanti County Historical Society
Students of past classes at West Riverside School enjoy outside races. After making their own spinning toy, students participate in an inside contest to see who can keep it spinning the longest. Not sure who was the winner, but I bet they will never forget all this fun.
This update brings us to Week 45 after the arson fire. Organization, trimming, cleaning, filing and cataloging is mostly complete for the 61 boxes of freeze-dried documents. Many of the books and family histories are yet to either be replaced or trimmed, but the paper files are almost ready for detailed cleaning and scanning, then to be cataloged in further detail so that they will be very easy to locate through a keyword search. In June, we will be moving on to begin the same processes for all of the items that were hand dried by volunteers, so the cycle begins again.
In addition to the salvage work, ICHS has made the decision to rebuild on our existing site. Over the next few months we will be working on the layouts, plans, elevations, and making the necessary decisions to enable us to begin building by sometime in August. We will have a presence at the Isanti County Fair in the Heritage Coral so we can update you about what we will be doing.
An important part of our mission is to promote the history of Isanti County and we do this with hands-on experiences during Old Time School and Swedish Language and Culture Camp. During the month of June we are holding four week-long sessions of Old Time School at the West Riverside Museum School. Students who have finished grades 1-8 are eligible to enroll. Students will find out what it was like to attend a rural school in 1900. They are asked to wear old-fashioned clothes, bring two sharpened lead pencils and an old-fashioned lunch (No junk food!) in a basket or pail. Other unique experiences are the use of old-fashioned wooden desks, ink wells, a pump organ, and my favorite—a real outhouse! There is no better way to experience the life another generation than to literally live and learn in their shoes. These weeks usually fill up pretty quickly so register early. Information about registration is available on our website at www.ichs.ws, or by contacting 763-689-4229 or Karen Lood at 689-2830.
So, as you can see, we at ICHS are working hard to pull everything together and move forward to having a new building and perhaps a few new historical programs. This journey seems never-ending and very slow to me. However, when I reflect on how far we have come in 45 weeks, I see great progress and the hope that we will eventually have a work day that does not include soot and soil. I must thank all volunteers, staff, board members, and committee members for their dedication and diligence and not giving up.
If you want to volunteer or to support ICHS, donations are greatly appreciated and can be made by mail, at our website, or directly at Cambridge State Bank. For all other inquiries, visit www.ichs.ws, follow us on Facebook, call us at 763-689-4229, email at email@example.com or drop us a letter at 1700 E. Rum River Drive S., Suite K, Cambridge, MN 55008. We are open by appointment only at this time.
Kathleen J. McCully, Executive Director
Isanti County Historical Society