Friday the 13th during World War I

If you think that Friday the 13th is an unlucky date, you are not alone. 99 years ago, Northfield resident Homer Mason agreed with you in principle, but his experiences during World War I made him begin to think that perhaps Friday the 13th was not such a bad thing, after all. Homer served in the Signal Corps in Tours, France, south of Paris during the fall of 1918. As a radio operator, he was well aware of news from the front as well as from home. In two of his letters, he makes reference to the unluckiness of Friday the 13th, but considering...

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Defeat of Jesse James Days through the years

It’s that time of year again, when Northfield celebrates the defeat of the James-Younger Gang when they dared to rob the First National Bank! Over the years, the community has commemorated this event by hosting reenactments of the famous 7-minute street fight – many of which were photographed and included in the historic collections of our town. Here are some of the highlights: Also, somehow we got Tony Oliva of the Minnesota Twins to visit during DJJD in the 1980s, wear a cowboy hat, and pose with the re-enactors! Somebody get on...

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Homer Mason in the Signal Corps

Highlights of the World War I digitization project, part 2 Today I am continuing to share with you some of the great resources I have been able to digitize as a part of this World War I project. I have been able to scan and share more details of individual soldier experiences through the letters and photographs of Northfield resident Homer Mason. Through Homer’s letters, we can learn from his experiences at training camp, traveling to Europe, and serving in the Signal Corps of the U.S. Army. Homer Mason, a 1918 graduate of St. Olaf...

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Rice County World War I Soldier Records

Highlights of the World War I digitization project, part 1 Today I would like to share with you some of the great resources I have been able to digitize as a part of this World War I project. One of our partners, the Rice County Historical Society, is home to an amazing collection of World War I records created by the Rice County War Records Committee. This committee was formed while World War I was underway primarily to create a historical record of those who served in the war from Rice County. The RCHS’s collection includes a basic...

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Pvt. John Fredrickson and the 54th Pioneers

Item of the Week: Here is Private John Fredrickson’s handwritten poem about his unit in World War I: Company L of The 54th Pioneers, who were cross-trained in combat engineering and infantry tactics, and often were responsible for building the roads for their fellow troops – all while under heavy bombardment. Apparently the Pioneer Infantry units were often overlooked in stories about the war, and Fredrickson felt the need to laud their efforts when he wrote: We read about the dough boys and their valor, which is true, And of the...

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The St. Olaf Victory Viking Yearbook

In the spring of 1919, St. Olaf College published an annual yearbook commemorating the classes of 1919, 1920, 1921, and the Freshmen. It was a special year for St. Olaf students, since many of them in these classes had participated in World War I service at home, on military bases, and in Europe. For this reason, the yearbook was dedicated to those who served in the cause of world freedom. They called it the Victory Viking. Hints of war service appear on many of the pages within this yearbook. Illustrations of tanks and ships appear below...

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