An intriguing tour of our 'Hidden History'

REDWOOD FALLS -- All these years later and there's still reason to question whether William Rose murdered Moses Lufkin on Aug. 22, 1888, in Redwood County.

REDWOOD FALLS -- All these years later and there's still reason to question whether William Rose murdered Moses Lufkin on Aug. 22, 1888, in Redwood County.

No question about this: Rose had no luck but bad luck.

His first two trials ended in hung juries, but a third trial resulted in a guilty verdict and a judge's order that Rose "be hanged by the neck until dead.''

Years earlier Rose had punched out the one guy who might have commuted his death sentence, and now Governor William Merriam said: "Let that @#%* hang!"

He did, twice. A large crowd was on hand Oct. 16, 1891, to watch as Rose was ushered to the scaffold in front of the Redwood County courthouse in Redwood Falls. Rose made one more claim of his innocence, and the trap door was sprung. Rose fell, the rope snapped and the condemned man landed on the ground unconscious.


He was put through the paces again, and struggled and died slowly at the rope's end a second time. "More of a hog-killing than a judicial execution,'' declared a Twin Cities newspaperman.

Just one of many quirky, but intriguing stories from the Minnesota River Valley that Elizabeth Johanneck tells in her first book "Hidden History of the Minnesota River Valley.''

Johanneck has uncovered lots of river valley history that is not often known or told beyond the communities where it occurred.

At the Granite Falls City Hall, she pored through a stack of letters spanning many years penned by J. Edgar Hoover, director of the FBI, and sent to Laura Volstead, daughter of Congressman Andrew Volstead.

In Brown County, she visited the allegedly haunted gravesite of poor Annie Mary Twentes, who was stricken with diphtheria at age 6 and by all evidence, mistakenly buried alive.

There's much more to discover, and Johanneck leads her readers to it all in a clear and determined manner.

While her book tells all manner of interesting stories, it is driven most of all by a desire to speak truth about its most important history.

She tells and decries the injustices inflicted on the native people, everything from Governor Alexander Ramsey's signature on a proclamation offering a bounty for the scalp of any Sioux to the grave robbing by Dr. William Mayo of the bodies of the 38 Dakota men executed on Dec. 26, 1862, in Mankato.


Johanneck grew up on a farm outside of Wabasso, where she graduated from high school in 1974. Her appreciation for the Minnesota River Valley's history came in the early 1990s, while she served in the Redwood Falls tourism office.

She lives today in Minneapolis, but is a frequent day tripper to all kinds of Minnesota River Valley destinations. She credits it all to her friend Melanie Dunlap, who has a major case of "wanderlust" and suggests all kinds of one-day adventures for them, according to Johanneck.

The author said she realized a few years ago that the sites and stories that her friend led her to deserved an audience. She tried something entirely new to her. In 2007 she started a blog, the Minnesota Country Mouse, and posted photos and narrative about her visits in a friendly and folksy sort of way.

Today, that blog counts more than 500 to 600 visitors a day, or 1,200 to 1,500 page views, and features interviews and video footage.

The blog caught the attention of editors at the History Press in Charleston, S.C., and they contacted her about the possibility of a book on the history of the river valley as seen through the eyes of the Minnesota Country Mouse.

Johanneck said the tone of her book was set when she started her quest with a visit to Chief Ernest Wabasha and his wife, Vernell. She came away with some understanding of the Dakota perspective on this history.

The author said she hopes the book will help convey some of this perspective to its readers. She also hopes the book will perk their interest in the many other interesting tales from our past, and motivate them to visit the places she has toured.

The book serves up plenty of reason to learn more, offering everything from insight into Wanda Gag's life before her famous children's book to how a scam shipment of watches to North Redwood Falls prompted Robert Sears to launch a company.


Johanneck is staying closer to home these days, exploring the prohibition era "speakeasies'' of the Twin Cities for her next book.

Her blog can be viewed on the Web at

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