Today’s post comes from Cynthia in Mahtowa
The Carlton County Historical Society in Cloquet recently embarked on a project to photograph all the old barns in the county before they are gone. A good number of them have been kept up or restored, but more have not.
When the project was brought to my attention, I asked if they would like to include my little barn, thinking it might not be worthy as it is very small and hardly a barn at all though that’s what I use it for. The volunteer who came to check it out loved it then took photos from several angles plus measurements (14x14x14).
Then I learned that they also wanted to know when the land was homesteaded, when the barn was built, what the barn was used for…and so began another research project — in addition to my previous project: “Why Blackhoof?”.
I retrieved the abstract from my safety deposit box and sorted through the many entries and pages of the land changing hands often, early on for logging purposes, a railroad easement, mineral rights. Then a man named August Wilson bought it in 1915 and likely he and/or his son built the barn. August’s son Herbert and his family owned it until 1948. (The original house is long gone, I live in one built by a widow, her neighbors and relatives in the late 1960s. )
In addition to the abstract I found a neighbor who has lived in Mahtowa most of his 80+ years who was happy to share what he knew and remembered. His Swedish immigrant father told him the Mahtowa area (my land is a mile north of Mahtowa as the crow flies) was once a magnificent, prime White Pine forest. So prime that logging companies fought over and for the right to harvest the trees here…then clear-cutting and leaving huge stumps. My land doubtless was included in the greatly logged so the trees now are relatively young with only a few White Pines here and there.
There still are connections to the Wilson family in the area, so I get a smattering of stories (though so far no one knows when the barn was built). One more connection links me to the history of my land: the eldest Wilson daughter — the Mahtowa postmistress for 48 years — was sister-in-law to a cousin of the woman at MPR who hired me in 1991.
The volunteer committee continues to locate, contact owners and get written permission to photograph and document whatever history they can about the barns. And now I have joined the committee to help continue photographing and collecting histories on other barns in and around Mahtowa and the nearby townships.
What do you know about the history of the land or house you have owned and/or lived in?