Tricounty News

Civil War digest: This week 150 years ago Dec. 16-22, 1863 Dec. 2-8, 1863


Major Highlights for the Week

Wednesday, Dec. 16, 1863

The Confederate government announced several major command changes. General Joseph E. Johnston was named to command the Army of Tennessee, succeeding Lieutenant General William J. Hardee, who had temporarily taken over for General Braxton Bragg. Lieutenant General Leonidas Polk was left in command of the Army of Mississippi at Brandon, Miss., replacing Johnston, who headed to his new command at Dalton, Ga.

Federal Brigadier General John Buford was promoted to the rank of major general just a few hours before his death in Washington of typhoid fever. Upon the recommendation of Major General George Stoneman, President Lincoln assented to the promotion and wrote, “I am informed that General Buford will not survive the day. It suggests itself to me that he will be made Major General for distinguished and meritorious service at the Battle of Gettysburg.” When informed of the promotion, Buford asked, “Does he mean it?” When told that it was a genuine promotion, Buford replied, “It is too late, now I wish I could live.” He passed away at 2 p.m.


Memories of Christmas include visits from Santa, sledding

Who doesn’t have fond memories of the Holidays when they were a child?

Old Kimball City Hall-RGBAnd as the years pass, those memories become stronger.

Old timers in Watkins remember a Christmas tree being placed in the middle of the downtown during the Holiday season to brighten everyone’s spirit.

Bill May, the proprietor of May Theatre, would make sure that the children always had a bag of candy and a Christmas movie to watch. And, for outdoor fun, a parking lot would be flooded and iced over to provide for figure skating and ice hockey fun.

Bill May’s generosity in Watkins is legendary.

“We believed that he financed many of the activities and gratuities available to young people,” remembered the late Eugene McCarthy, who grew up in Watkins and would later become a U.S. Senator and presidential candidate. “He was a Santa Claus to the town of Watkins.”


Kimball City Hall recognized by Preservation Alliance

The Kimball City Hall, originally Kimball Prairie Village Hall, was named by the Preservation Alliance of Minnesota (PAM) as one of 18 successfully revitalized civic landmarks in the state. Eighteen sites are representative of a wide range of historic projects completed in Minnesota.

Preservation or demolition of historic sites and landmarks pose difficult decisions for communities. According to the PAM brochure, “Choosing rehabilitation instead of demolition will provide long-term rewards for communities and benefit all Minnesotans through our strengthened Civic Legacy.”

An exhibit of banners depicting each of the 18 sites will be provided by the Preservation Alliance to display in the year ahead. In an ambitious project spanning seven years and six phases, the 1908 original Kimball Prairie Village Hall and Kimball City Hall is the only City Hall in Stearns County on the National Register of Historic Places still in full use as a City Hall.


U.S.-Dakota War documentary set to air

Wiping of Tears-RGBA documentary examining the U.S.-Dakota War will air statewide on public TV starting Dec. 26.

The two-hour production is entitled, “The Past Is Alive Within Us: The U.S.-Dakota Conflict.” It was created through legislation Rep. Dean Urdahl, R-Acton Township, authored as chairman of the House Legacy Division in 2011.

“The program combines historical information and contemporary stories,” Urdahl said. “The goals are to provide a better understanding of the events which took place, explain how Minnesotans are still impacted today and to spur critical thinking. Footage from a ceremony at Ness Church in rural Litchfield is included.”

Twin Cities Public Television – Channel 2 in most cases – will first air the film 8 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 26, with repeat showings also available. Check local listings or visit, for more information.

Long ago and far away

Christmas at our home began on Christmas Eve morning, one I remember well. My sister, Dad and I took the sled and went to the forest behind our home and found a nice tree. Dad cut it down and we took it home and it was decorated with homemade ornaments. Since no one had electricity, there were no lights. In the evening we could hardly stand the excitement as we were told we could go to Midnight Mass, which was by horse and sled, the children sat on the floor with straw and warm blankets wrapped around them. It was seven miles, I remember. Everyone kind of left at the same time, with bells on the harness of the horses. We were so happy. We went to the main church; the horses were tied up to the trees, blankets from the sled were put on them while we were in church. The church had large white pillars inside with fir boughs fastened around all the way up. The altar was lit up with lots of candles, the choir sang.

If I close my eyes, I can almost hear it again. When I went home again, we went to the same church. It now is a landmark, everything looked exactly the same.

At Christmas today, I bring out my memories and feel I’ve lived one hundred years, then put them away in a special place in my heart until next year.

Happy Holidays to all.

Note: Mary was born and raised on the island of Newfoundland which was a British Colony until March 1949.