Jessica Potter, director of the Blue Earth County Historical Society, hasn’t simply waited out this spring’s media storm about identity of the “timber” in their store-room (above). Potter announced in her column in the Summer 2012 edition of The Blue Earth County Historian, that BECHS has consulted with the Minnesota Historical Society to develop a research plan to illuminate the story of the beam, believed to have been part of the scaffold that executed 38 Dakota men in Mankato on December 26, 1862. Potter is working on funding for the investigation, and is overseeing the tedious archival work of uncovering more clues.
The latest revelation: The scaffold was not auctioned off in 1863 as the legend reports. According to an August 27, 1864 article in the Mankato Record cited in the Summer 2012 edition of the BECHS newsletter, the scaffold timbers were not sold until August 1864. That’s what I speculated in my report when I found no mention of the reputed auction in 1863 Mankato newspapers. It also seems that Meagher did not own the building in which he installed the timbers until 1864, which also fits better with an actual auction date of 1864.
The new twist is that the August 27, 1864 Mankato Record reported the scaffolding timber was purchased that month by a “Dr. Brown,” not John F. Meagher, the subsequent owner/donor who has gone down in history as the man who purchased the scaffolding timbers at auction in 1863.
Can you imagine: the gallows loomed for twenty months over the Mankato waterfront –plenty of time for visitors to carve off souvenir fragments like the one in a tiny glass bottle said to be from the 1862 scaffold donated to the Brown County Historical Society in New Ulm.
The Blue Earth County Historical Society has declined to exhibit the beam publicly. But I was recently fascinated to talk to a woman who, four or five decades ago, made a field trip to the BECHS museum in Mankato where she and her school friends took turns triggering the drop on the scale model reconstruction of the gallows: “Hands-on history” a la the centennial commemoration of the Dakota War of 1862.
Photo Credit: Mankato Free Press via Google Images.