20th Century, Governors, Minnesota

Governor Karl F. Rolvaag

Karl F. Rolvaag: Governors of Minnesota. collections.mnhs.org

March 25, 1963-January 21, 1967
After the one hundred thirty-nine day recount, Lieutenant Governor Rolvaag becomes the thirty-first Governor of Minnesota by just 91 votes. Governing on principle more than charisma, this disciplined leader effectively changed: the junior college system, reapportioned legislative districts, and improved mental institutions. He had the distinction of being the first to serve a four year gubernatorial term. *

Few politicians of this era had more authentic bragging rights as to their Minnesota roots than Karl. Let’s recount a few that would deeply resonate with any Midwesterner of this age:
Karl was born in Northfield, MN. in 1913, and attended St. Olaf.
His father was the iconic Norwegian novelist of “Giants in the Earth”; Ole Rolvaag.
He dropped out of university the year his father passed, 1931, to “head out west”.
He spent six years as a railway “hobo” of sorts, chasing the man-camps and working as a logger, miner, teamster, and various roles on the rails.
He joined the I.W.W. (Industrial Workers of World), and experienced the infamous logging strikes of 1936.
He returned to St Olaf and finished his degree, got married to Florence, and promptly was sent to serve in WW II where he won a Silver Star, and a Purple Heart.
He showed himself to be a man who could work with his brains, and his hands. **
After his military service, he had more education at the University of Minnesota, and earned his LL.D (legum doctor) from the University of Oslo. *

This dichotomy of life experiences shaped his ability to relate and show empathy to all kinds of Minnesotans. For example, he was a 3-term Lieutenant Governor under Democrat Orville Freeman, and also served as LG under his Republican successor, Elmer L. Anderson!? This kind of balanced character was an object lesson of the DFL platform of his era; an educated everyman!

Digging in, we find that his practicality drove his reforms in education; ie “How can one effectively attend junior college unless its nearby?” Formerly, the community colleges were run by local school boards. Rolvaag pushed to place more leadership under the state, capitalize on economies of scale, with the overarching goal to put these junior colleges in both financial and geographic reach of students. ***

During his era, the rural political districts had more representatives than the metro areas. In the session of 1965, rural representatives passed a bill that Governor Rolvaag called a “blatant, calculated, political gerrymander.” This battle lasted 3 more iterations before a consensus was reached on redistricting in a special session. ****

A tertiary set of accomplishments could be found in the governor’s advocacy for Minnesotan’s wrestling mental illness and the Minnesota Mental Health Association, as well as his promotion of groups such as ARC (Minnesota Association for Retarded Citizens). Below is a quote from the speech from the President of ARC circa 1964.

“I am equally certain that an educated, informed and aroused citizenry is absolutely essential if we are to solve and give top priority consideration to the critical problems relating to the lack of community services and gross understaffing, gross overcrowding, herd care, and continued use of some antiquated residential and other facilities in our state institutions for the mentally retarded.
Irrespective of your and my political affiliations, I assure you that we can all be most appreciative of Governor Rolvaag’s leadership and sincere interest exhibited on these tours. Governor and Mrs. Rolvaag were most impressed with the day care centers visit ed at Duluth, Atwater, St. Cloud and Rochester, and the Sheltered Workshop at Fergus Falls. They were also impressed, as were we all, with many of the dedicated and able employees of and some of the new projects being conducted in our institutions for the mentally retarded and mentally ill.” *****

Essentially, Rolvaag did for these two communities as he had done for junior colleges and their students: make them more accessible, make them affordable, provide State assistance and support to staffing and standards, and make the public aware of their pressing needs.

A wonderful summary of Karl’s term in office came from no less than then Vice President of the United States; Hubert H. Humphrey.
“Karl Rolvaag may not be a comet, racing across the sky, but I will tell you this: Karl is as steady and reliable as the North Star. You know where he is, you know where he has been, and you know his record-solid, solid as a rock.” ******

Avna, Ho Lithos, Stone the builders rejected, Capstone of the Universe; we remember You. We applaud Your perfect consistency in authority, truth and justice. Yet, You are as immovable in Your unchanging favor towards the human race!
It seems like Karl Fritjof Rolvaag learned some of this character trait from You, and applied it in the way he led Minnesota. Even his Norwegian middle name, Fritjof, speaks of balance; “thief of peace” or “tranquil”. Will You guide us to acknowledge this moment of his leadership in history?

Our first gratitude is given for the tremendous variety and breadth of his education before office: son of Ole (a giant Norwegian mind), educated in tremendous universities, strengthened by years of heavy labor, and battled hardened in World War II. All of this preparation decries Your hand: an educated man can invite the wisdom of others, a laborer knows the sanctity of the body, and a soldier savors the depths of peace like no other! We thank You that such a man could relate to so many of us because of these joys and trials.

Subsequently, we see these experiences fulfilled in a governorship of balance and boundaries. He was not a partisan, but served the people of Minnesota as Lieutenant Governor under both parties. He wanted fair boundaries for equal representation. He wanted our people to be able to attend a junior college nearby. He drew a circle of protection around our most vulnerable citizens a decade before American society caught up. Will You remember these gifts and examples of his leadership?

On the contrary, we see judgments made of him in this era. Clearly, he believed in government as a force for good, and consolidated some powers of individuals and associations into the hand of the State. He barely won his election, therefore, did not have a perspicuous mandate. For outstate citizens then, he redrew political districts to favor the power of the metro areas over them. Will You forgive this judgment and counter-judgment past, free us from such battles in the present, and bless the future of the integrity of all political redistricting?

Further, another bitter root in our state in Governor Rolvaag’s term is the usurpation of local control of junior colleges, tech schools, and community colleges. Yes, many problems are resolved with state funding of education, and a uniformity of standards. However, this necessitates the locus of choice be removed further and further away from the individual student and the desires of their town. An example of this would be how our schools still take a summer break that is relevant to an agricultural society, even though their urban students will never plant or bring in the harvest. Will You take the dance of state versus local control of education up, out, and onto the Cross? We have gained more education, and yielded our wisdom. Will You free these judgments past, heal this balance in the present, and bless the future of our junior colleges?

Another request, Avno? We honor the actions of Rolvaag in giving dignity to the mentally ill and the developmental disabled among us. There is so much of Your heart in that! Unfortunately, his generosity towards the mentally ill has become, in some cases, enabling dysfunction. Our mentally ill citizens are afraid to move towards wellness or they may lose their benefits. We give You this “catch 22”, and invite Your solutions. We thank You for both the developmentally disabled and the mentally ill among us. May we acknowledge the incredible value of their lives, and invite their participation in society. Will You forgive us our judgments of mental illness and developmental disabilities, and the counter-judgments of those populations towards others? Will You make us like Governor Fritjof; stealing peace from discontentment?

“Dishonest scales are an abomination to the LORD, but an accurate weight is His delight.” Proverbs 11:1 Berean Study Bible *******

Sobel, Robert, and John Raimo, eds. Biographical Directory of the Governors of the United States, 1789-1978, Vol. 2, Westport, Conn.; Meckler Books, 1978. 4 vols. https://www.nga.org/governor/karl-fritjof-rolvaag/
** Ross, Carl interview of Rolvaag, Karl. Northfield, MN. “Twentieth Century Radicalism in Minnesota Oral History Project: Interview with Karl F. Rolvaag”. August 31, 1989. Internet. Minnesota Historical Society. http://collections.mnhs.org/cms/display.php?irn=10362505
*** Internet. Prabook. 2021. https://prabook.com/web/karl_fritjof.rolvaag/672210
**** Nelson, Paul. “Legislative Redistricting, 1959–1993”. Internet. MNHS. https://www.mnopedia.org/event/legislative-redistricting-1959-1993
***** https://mn.gov/web/prod/static/mnddc/live/past/pdf/60s/64/64-RBT-MDH.pdf
****** Quote by Vice President Hubert Humphrey. Speech at Minnesota DFL Beanfeed. October 29, 1966. http://www2.mnhs.org/library/findaids/00442/pdfa/00442-02055.pdf
******* https://biblehub.com/proverbs/11-1.html

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19th Century, 20th Century, History, Intercession, Judgment & Counter-Judgment Cycle, Logging, Men, Minnesota, omnipresent history

Lumbering Maximum 1900

Unknown

1900

“At the height of the lumbering era, 40,000 lumberjacks are cutting timber in the north woods. Minneapolis is the sawmill capital of the world, cutting enough lumber to fill 65,000 freight cars. But Minnesota is running out of pine; within twenty years the lumber industry will be dead in Minneapolis.” *

This interesting oral history by Jim and Bernard Pearson describes the day-to-day lives of the men logging in Northern Minnesota during this era. 

“The Pearsons showed their audience old tools of the logging camps.  There was the pickaroon the camp blacksmith made from a worn-out ax which was used to pull logs by hand.  There was also a grub hoe for removing brush by hand, a broad as to square up logs for building log structures, a cant hook for turning logs, and a come-a-long for lifting logs by hand.

The cutting of the logs was done in the winter when sleds could be used to pull the logs from the woods to a river to float them downstream to a sawmill in the spring when the water ran fast.

Loggers didn’t rely just on the frozen ground to sled out the logs, according to the Pearsons, but constructed troughs of ice for the runners.  The troughs were made by hooking a plow to the side of a sled to make troughs in the snow in which water was poured to form ice.  These troughs had to be continuously built up throughout the winter, the Pearsons said.

The Pearsons also talked about the care of horses, which were vital to the logging.  Jim told how some of the loggers would carry a ballpeen hammer to tap snow out of horseshoes.

“My uncle especially loved animals, and his horses were very big,” Jim recalled.  “If any teamster (driver) mistreated his horses, they went down the road (were fired) so fast they didn’t now what happened.”

(Jim) described the lumberjacks as hard working and very honest individuals, who had always given their best. But Bernard, during the interview last week, also portrayed some of the lumberjacks and logging camp operators as not so honest.

Bernard said, for example, that in the worst camps, the operator would hire someone to gather up workers for the winter season that included dropping a knock-out pill into a man’s drink in a saloon.  “The next thing the man would know he was in a logging camp way up north,” said Bernard.  “There were rascals on both sides.” “ **

Father, a lot of time and thought has gone into recording the history of the wealthy and powerful “lumber barons”, but it seems not much is known about the men who actually did the work. Will You guide the author into the stream of Your thoughts on the subject? Will You give us a new frame of reference for these Minnesota loggers, and the effect of this massive harvest of trees?

As for the workers, the physicality of their respective jobs inspires awe: cutting huge trees down by saw or axe, squaring logs by hand, loading them on sleds, and moving them to the river. Once at the river, prepped logs were managed on their journey south by the “river pigs”. These were crews of men men who were responsible to float the logs to their proper destination at a plethora of sawmills. 

As with many things, logging seems simple in principle, but requires incredible endurance, skill, and risk in practice. Eternal Father, will You honor those who poured their soul into this labor? Will You remember their broken blisters, and aching backs? Will You remember those who took joy in working outside, all day, in the numbing cold? 

Will You bless them and their inheritance from this era, to the present, and on to the future? 

Another thought, men often feel validated in their masculinity by performing an epic task together. They sail into the unknown, each man privately harboring reservations, but going beyond those self-imposed limitations by the strength that comes when men are part of a team. Lord, thank You for past loggers’ example of this teamwork. Will You strengthen the bonds of men, and forgive us for emasculating our brothers?

In the present, we may sit in judgement of these people for their contribution to exhausting magnificent forests through clear-cutting. “What were they thinking? Didn’t they know they were acting like shock troops executing millions of innocents? Why would you kill mother earth over a job?” However, we have the historical vantage point of witnessing that natural resources can be used up, and that human interaction with the environment may yield unseen and unintended consequences.

As a witness to such present attitudes, the author wishes to address with You our use of the term “exploitation” as it applies to past Minnesota logging. Will You forgive us the casual use of this label? Will You forgive us if we unfairly apply present environmental and economic standards on our forbearers? Will You forgive our common humanity in Minnesota of viewing Your forests, that You graciously allow us rights of temporary stewardship, as “our forests” or “our property”? We do not often think of property rights as a continuum of which we are a temporary subset. 

Truly, we all are parties in “exploiting” Your forests! We breathe air daily! We live in houses of wood. We write with pencils of wood on paper of cellulose. We use toilet paper, and simultaneously write graffiti on the walls criticizing the “exploiters” of the environment! We apply standards to others that we do not apply to ourselves! We fail to see the log in our own eye, and browbeat others about the speck of sawdust in theirs! 

Furthermore, contemporary history does not often enter the mindset of these predecessors. Perhaps in their age, in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, people exercised a different logic than ours. They had a much stronger sense of agriculture than those who buy 2×4’s at the lumberyard, or food from a grocery store. If they wanted food, they had to plant it, tend it, and harvest it. 

When their corn reached fruition, they harvested it, and took everything. When they saw forests full of mature trees, they brought in the harvest. Is it possible that they trusted that such a generous yield would surely supply their generation? 

In the life experience of most of these workmen, most commodities gathered locally were used locally. Is it possible that such workmen did not conceive of the national or international cravings for the White Pine of Minnesota? Were the men working in these logging camps aware that they tree they just felled was to become a floor joist in an English factory? If they were aware, did that make their labor’s reclassify from “sustainable” to “exploitive”? Hear my questions, Lord, and forgive us all our attempted harvests without Sabbaths of Your forests!

* http://www.mnhs.org/about/dipity_timeline.htm

**  Stottrup, Joel. “Logging White Pine.” Princeton Union-Eagle, May 1993. Web. 20 June 2013. http://www.baldwintownship.govoffice.com/index.asp?

 

 

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19th Century, Architecture, History, Intercession, Judgment & Counter-Judgment Cycle, Labor, Minnesota, omnipresent history

James J. Hill House Completed

unknown

1891

“Rugged stone, massive scale, fine detail, and ingenious mechanical systems recall the powerful presence of James J. Hill, builder of the Great Northern Railway. Completed in 1891, the red sandstone residence was the setting of the public and private lives of the Hill family.” *

Lord, what is the importance of home construction in Your economy?  Albeit this is an impressive home, but why does it matter now? Will You guide my heart and mind toward Your thoughts on the matter?

Eternal Father, a commencement thought; our home reflects our character. Mr. Hill spent much his life on the epic tasks of building a railway. His home reflects a willingness to solve difficult problems: custom shaping stones, miles of board feet of trim, and making a castle comfortable enough to live in Minnesota’s weather extremes. 

So I want to bless the heritage of Mr. Hill’s patience, long-range planning, and tenacity to face both expected and unexpected problems.I want to bless the myriad of workmen who truly put their sweat and soul into their trades to make this home exceptional. Will You bless them and all their generations of tradesmen in the present? Will You help us view the trades as an act of worship?

I’m reminded that my Messiah chose to be a carpenter, and apprenticed under His earthly father. (Joseph) Will You help us, especially men, see that worship is not just obscure and ancient songs and rituals in a church, but in fitting pipes, framing walls, running electrical lines, and every kind of working with our hands? May all who labor in tasks that go unseen and unnoticed be blessed this day in Jesus’ name! 

Another idea that attaches to character; we can build to serve a function, or build to impress others. Lord, I will not condemn this man for the pursuit of greatness. I think You get the credit when we succeed at exceptional endeavors, I think a fractal of the light of Your character shines through any human who dares to do what they love.

But Lord hear this prayer, our lives are often like homes! We build for ‘curb appeal’. We erect lovely facades. We spend considerable time and effort on the way things look to the detriment of the way things are. We already possess the favor of the King of the Universe, but how we work for the favor of our fellow human beings?! 

Will You forgive James J. Hill the past sins of empire building? Will You release his heritage, our state, and even the ground that those objects of empire occupy from separations past, present, and future? Will You forgive us for the empire building in our hearts? Will You forgive us for maintaining facades we build to our own greatness? Will You help us humbly acknowledge the efforts others have spent in our successes? Father, have mercy! Christ, have mercy! Counselor, have mercy!

* http://www.mnhs.org/about/dipity_timeline.htm

 

 

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19th Century, Agriculture, Architecture, Business, Civics, Energy, History, Industry, Intercession, Labor, Minnesota, Mississippi River

Industry at St. Anthony Falls 1872

640px-Stanthonyrecession.jpg

1872

Minneapolis industries cluster around the power of St. Anthony Falls. The Minneapolis Board of Trade estimates that the 95 waterwheels at the falls produce 6,000 horsepower.*

Lord, thank You for the gift of the Mississippi and those who harnessed its power. Thank You for the individuals and groups that contributed to its’ planning and investment? You work through those who skillfully manage money! Will You bless the entrepreneur? You work through those who take major risks to create business?

Too often we are guilty of failing to properly acknowledge the reflection of Your glory through the wonderful skills of tradesmen and women! Do You enjoy watching your people build? Will You bless these and their generations’: the cement worker, the engineer, the steel worker, the electrician, the riggers, the teamsters, and any other who labored on these projects?

Lord forgive us the sin of loving ‘science’ while simultaneously negating your creation. You had a plan for this city far before we began to envision what was possible. You created many electrical systems as well as the principals of hydraulics and physics in nature long before we were alerted to their existence.

How many more mysteries do You have to reveal to us? Forgive this root of ‘scientific pride’ in Minnesota. Will You replace it with humility and eternal curiosity that makes us better stewards of Your creation, technological advancement, and more receptivity to Your ideas?

*P.T.H. cites timeline formerly at this URL: mnhs.org/about/dipity_timeline.htm
The Minnesota Historical Society Web site, http://www.mnhs.org , is fantastic! Check it out! Images are from https://images.google.com/?gws_rd=ssl; again, an amazing resource!

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