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Weather Patterns

Dear Diary,
We've had our fair share of summer storms come through.

Why Do You Explore Cemeteries?

Dear Diary,
A question was asked of me:

Why did you start exploring cemeteries?

It's creepy. It's weird. It's morbid. Are you depressed?

Maybe. Okay. I guess so. No.

(Possibly one of the most emotional cemeteries I've visited - Highland.)

If you've read here for even a short amount of time, you'd be aware that I possess an unrelenting curiosity and an interest in the STORY aspect of our history. Those two quirks inspired my journalism major, my first job out of college, and now that I'm a writer without a proper byline, this blog.

Only recently did it lead me down isolated, abandoned paths into historic cemeteries, where the lives of those who lived long before me commingled with my presence at their graves. I told the story of those who were deemed "unworthy" of a burial on the consecrated gound at Highland. I told the story of Mary Jane Twiliger, whose legacy was twisted into an unfortunate urban legend that inspired a Megadeth song. I found the abandoned, undocumented, and destroyed cemetery from the mid-1800s containing the graves of young children, yet was ironically surrounded by suburban family homes. I also wrote about The Hart Island Project that works to identify those buried in mass graves in New York City's potter's field, and the unsolved homicide of a young woman in 1920s' Minneapolis.

Cemeteries are a window into the past. They're also peaceful and serene. In the words of fellow Minnesotan Bob Dylan, regarding his visit to New Orleans, "the past doesn't pass away so quickly here." The same applies in cemeteries.

(The very detailed headstone of a woman who died of TB.)

I like to read the carved inscriptions on the headstone, if they're still legible. Some are in another language. Some unfortunately, are worn off from the passage of time. I think about what the dash separating the date of birth and the date of death symbolized. Sometimes, a quick google search pulls up the truth. Others, especially if I'm standing before the grave of a child, are a mystery. It doesn't stop my imagination from speculating though.

(Curiously, an address is listed on this baby's headstone.)

Many of the graves in the cemeteries I've visited date to a time when Minnesota was unsettled, and still considered "the wild west." Over two hundred years separate the arrival of the first European settlers to dock in the original colonies to when Minnesota was granted statehood. I'm sure life then was hard.

Related Post: The Minneapolis Pioneers & Soldiers Memorial Cemetery

I am not a born and bred Minnesotan. I'm a transplant - a Minnesotan by choice rather than by birth. Cemeteries have helped connect my place here with a part of the story that preceded my chapters.

In those brief moments, it feels as though my story intersects with theirs.

And from there, I find a renewed purpose to start writing.

Mainstreet Coffee and Wine Bar - Lakeville, MN

Dear Diary,
Recently, I had the opportunity to eat lunch in a century's old bank vault.

(The Mainstreet Coffee and Wine Bar)

Posted on the front facade of the building is a historic photograph of what the downtown once looked like. The building on the far right corner is the bank-now-cafe.

I had to think of it under the context of the First National Bank in Northfield, the restored bank robbed by Jesse James. Using that as the point of reference, I was able to connect to the history of this building. 

Perhaps it would be a good idea for you to revisit the post I wrote.

Imagine it's the mid-late 1800s, and you enter through the door on the corner with a deposit to make. You approach the counter, where a teller is ready to help you. 

Today, there's a bartender ready to pour you a glass or a pint.

I cannot be certain if the wine storage is original but now converted to serve its modern purpose or not, but the vault was certainly recognizable. Like the bank in Northfield, it even clearly states, First National Bank. Today, it serves as storage for the wine and beers served here. But a hundred or so years ago, it would serve to protect your net worth.

(Just imagine the tall privacy walls and you've got yourself a pioneer bank.)

In Northfield, instead of hightop tables, was empty space. I'm assuming it was to accommodate a line of customers. 

From this room, if you take two steps down, you enter into the cafe where your order can be placed for lunch and breakfast sandwiches, as well as their own blend of coffee sourced locally. (It should be noted that unlike the 1800s, staff request that you enter through the side door under the awning to place your order before sitting in the old bank.)

I ordered the Turkey Avocado sandwich, and as I was hungry, I didn't remember to take a picture until after my first bite. Let this image convey to you how delicious it was. Turkey, lettuce, arugula, sliced cheese and of course, mashed avocado on whole grain bread, and well - I'm a guaranteed return customer. I made a mental note to return in due time to try their coffee as well.

(I am not a professional blogger, I am merely human - and a hungry one at that.)

Here's the thing about this cafe - I love the fact that they repurposed the building rather than let it be torn down. The coffee and wine bar has certainly breathed a new life into it. However, if it weren't for my past tour of the infamous bank in Northfield, I wouldn't have been able to find my bearings in what is obviously, a historic site. 

As I ate, I pondered the stories this place had to tell considering the transformations it had.

Mostly, I wonder about its reaction to the Jesse James robbery since Northfield is a mere 20 miles away.

Still one thing is for certain, history is alive and well-preserved and absolutely delicious.

If you visit:
20790 Holyoke Avenue, Lakeville, MN
Hours vary

The Minneapolis Pioneers & Soldiers Memorial Cemetery - Minneapolis, MN

Dear Diary,
Traveling north into the city brings you alongside an old cemetery.

At first glance through the old stone columns, wrought iron fence line and perfect patina on the old sign, the cemetery looked to have fallen into disrepair.

The grounds were overgrown, and in desperate need of mowing. Large tree branches and sticks littered the grounds, and I wasn't sure if it was due to weather or vandalism. Trees outside the cemetery walls hadn't cast their branches upon the busy city streets, so I wasn't sure what to make of it. I parked my car a little over a block from the entrance and walked inside, because I could tell there was no way my SUV could navigate the narrow road.

The gates were open, and the public was welcome to enter per the signage I read. City employees were beginning to clean up the mess. I was half relieved, half shy to photograph beside them but thankfully they didn't comment on my presence there.

With the first burial occurring in 1853, this is the oldest cemetery in Minneapolis. The prominent territorial pioneers Charles Christmas (the first Hennepin County Surveyor), Edwin Hedderly and Philander Prescott are buried here. Two hundred military veterans who served in the War of 1812 and up to World War I rest within these walls, as are the city's early African-American citizens and people tied to the abolitionist movement in Minnesota. Also, thousands of immigrants are buried here, many of whom came from Scandinavia, and its said that half of the 20,000 graves belong to children.

I found it interesting that this headstone listed the address on this headstone of a child.

The headstones are sinking.

I encountered many graves of veterans of the Spanish-American War.

According to my research, it was because of the caretaker's cottage and monuments to the Pioneer Mothers plus the notable buried that qualified this site for a place on the National Register of Historic Places. As you can see from the signs in the pictures above, this cemetery is also known as Layman's Cemetery.

I cannot imagine the sadness felt by Erne and Erma's parents.

This gravestone lists the cause of death from tuberculosis.

A few hours north of here in Duluth is the now abandoned Nopeming Sanitorium, which tried to treat TB patients. Nopeming is said to be extremely haunted due to the high volume of deaths, but also heavily monitored against trespassers. I have no verified connection that Anna Mathilda was treated at Nopeming especially since her place of death appears to be in Minneapolis, but I can tell you that my mind immediately went there.

There were broken and toppled stones everywhere I walked.

And I immediately identified with this person, a photographer.

Another veteran of the Spanish-American War.

It is my understanding that a lamb is symbolic of a child's grave. Unfortunately, it sunk too deep into the earth for me to see for sure.

One of many Scandinavian immigrant graves I saw.

These two pictures of Elise's headstone immediately reminded me of the graves of babies at Highland Cemetery who died before they could be baptized. Like those babies, she was buried far from the others, perhaps also deemed "unworthy" due to how young she was and the fact that she likely wasn't baptized.

I cannot explain it, but after about an hour, I was overcome with a feeling that it was time for me to get out. There was an entire back section I had yet to see, and a part of me wonders if it was because those interred felt the city workers were "dressing" them.

I respected what I felt and left. But I have unfinished business.