Workshop Next Week

Cemetery Workshop    MVIMG_20190729_101234Saturday, August 8, 2020  9:30 – 4:00

Led by Northern Bedrock Historic Preservation Corps

Hosted by East Zion Lutheran Church, 28745 Cty Rd 10, Starbuck, Minnesota

Sponsored by the Pope County Historical Society with support from the Gladys Ness Brang Foundation.

This one day workshop on Cemetery Preservation will cover five important steps to long term care of cemetery monuments:  Cleaning, Probing for hidden stones, Edging, Resetting large & small stones, Documenting your work.

Registration fee of $25 includes lunch and a bucket of tools to take home. All workshop participants must wear garden/work gloves and cloth mask.

For more information and to register for the workshop call or email the Pope County Museum:   320-634-3293


Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Is the Museum Open? A little bit…

Our research library is available by appointment. Masks are required.

We are keeping the galleries closed through the winter as we build new exhibits. Look for a grand opening of the Agriculture exhibit in the new building, as well as new and updated exhibits in the main hall.

In the meantime, our entire object collection and many of our photographs are available on-line at Additional photographs are scanned and cataloged each month. You can also follow us on Facebook and Instagram.

 We are also collecting stories of how Covid-19 is impacting Pope County. How has the shut down impacted you? Did you need to coordinate distance learning? How do you feel about the response to the pandemic? Please feel free to share your stories and photos with us in any format: diary, letter, photos, videos.

There is also a survey on our website to get you started sharing YOUR story of the pandemic. Click on the Covid-19 History Project above to answer a survey.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Mitmoen Murders

This article by Steve Nestor about Pope County’s only unsolved murder appeared in the Pope County Tribune, March 30, 2015

The year was 1915. It happened in rural Pope County in Ben Wade Township. The horrific event was the lead story in the May 13, 1915 Glenwood Herald. The ghastly report and “brutal” details written in the style of the day are too graphic to quote by today’s standards.

1985 1950 005

Sven, Johannes and Amund Mitmoen farmed West of Lowry. And on May 12th neighbor Andrew Knutson stopped by to get some hay. What he found not only shocked him, but left the entire county shaken for months. And today it remains a complete mystery.

Knutson discovered the two oldest brothers, Sven and Johannes in the house, one in the front room the other in the kitchen. Amund the youngest was found in the barn.


Sven and Johannes were gagged with handkerchiefs tied over their mouths. They had been hit by a “blunt instrument”. There appeared to have been a “scuffle” and it “seems probable that the brothers had resisted”. “The probabilities” were that Amund was shot. However he had been bludgeoned as well. The scene at the home was described as “gruesome” and that they were “left in a horrible condition”.


The early report said “Robbery was undoubtedly the motive for the murders”. The brothers were known to be “well to do” and it was said they were “known to have considerable money in their possession”. How much was stolen was not known. Two empty “pocket books” were found at the scene. However “currency and gold to the amount of $2700 left in a bureau drawer had been overlooked”. Remember this was 1915! $2700 !



They reported that it appeared the brothers had been dead for at least a few days. They had last been seen alive almost a week before. The authorities promised to leave nothing unturned to solve this case and bring the guilty parties to trial.

But as of July 1st no incriminating evidence had been discovered and the case remained a mystery. Offers went out for a reward of $1250.00 !

However in October two men were arrested and a dramatic preliminary hearing and County court dates were set. John Jacobson and George Nelson were formerly charged with the murders. Both men were from Lignite, No. Dakota. A third man was also held but later released on $2000 bound signed by a few prominent Ben Wade farmers.

Jacobson, who had been born near Lowry and Nelson were arrested in No. Dakota after they had been identified by a local livery stable owner, G.E. Wentworth, who testified he had rented the two men an auto in Lowry on May 3, a few days prior to the murder. He was taken to No. Dakota and identified the two men as those he had rented to. He was positive about Nelson but not so sure about Jacobson. Jacobsen was the nephew of the Mitmoens and Nelson was his brother in law.

By early November when the preliminary hearing ended, the third man was released and all charges against him were dropped. The others would stand trial in mid-November. 12 “honest” men were chosen as jurors. They came from Grove Lake, Rolling Forks, Bangor, Lake Johanna, Langhei, Blue Mounds and New Prairie townships. The case was presented before Judge S.A. Flaherty.

Testimony was heard and the graphic descriptions, a bullet taken from the barn wall were offered in to evidence. Amund’s cap and a hat that was found next to him in the barn, several handkerchiefs that were used to gag Sven and Johannes, and the empty “pocket books” were all presented. It was confirmed that the bodies had lain for days before being discovered.

The county coroner H.J. Berry (Yes, Berry was the Coroner and mortician. In fact his partner was Toombs and I am not kidding – Toombs & Berry!) and Sherriff Gilbertson and other key witnesses were all called. A relative specifically told about how most knew of the money the men keep on hand in a tin box in their bureau and that it had not been seen since the day of the murders. It was also noted that Jacobsen commonly transacted business for his three Uncles. Another testified that he sold a 32 caliber pistol on May 3 to a man who gave the name “Iver Johnson” a few days before the murders, but at trial identified John Jacobson as being that man. Another man testified, as did others, that he saw two men in an automobile stop in front of Chan’s saloon in Lowry the evening of May 3 and that he was positive that George Nelson was one of the men. He also said the other man wore the hat that was found in the barn near Amund’s body.

However the defense led by Senator J.D. Sullivan of St. Cloud presented a witness and associated documents that declared that Jacobson was seen on several occasions on May 3-10 in Lignite No. Dakota.

So there, the evidence was in and the prelim trial was complete. One week later the entire matter would be turned over to the Grand Jury as reported in the Glenwood Herald of November 11, 1915. More specific information, corroborating testimony…… alibis for the two charged men and their whereabouts at the time of the murders was revisited. The rest would now be left up to the Grand jurors. Pope County Attorney Julius Grove would again present the prosecuting case. Jacobson would have Sullivan as his defense. Nelson had no defender.

Numerous witnesses corroborated that Jacobson and Nelson had both been seen in and around Lignite in the first 10 days of May. Nelson, age 34 and Jacobson, age 32, both testified and related there accounts of those days, which “closely matched what had been given by the evidence already offered on their behalf”.

By Dec. 3, the verdict was in…… a decision had been made on the first ballot. The testimony and witness accounts, which supported the defendants, corroborating their innocence were the deciding factor….. The verdict was “Not Guilty”!

Judge Flaherty ordered the two men be released on their own cognizance and the only unsolved murder to ever occur in Pope County was History. To date no one has been charged and no arrests have been made in what is Pope County’s most heinous and horrific homicide, The Mitmoen Murders, May 1915.

The evidence – the actual hat and cap presented at trial and a rock which was used to bludgeon Amund is in the collection at the Pope County Museum.


Posted in Local History | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

Mamie’s Legs

In July 1948, two-year old Mamie Fischer of Villard ran toward her father as he used a power mower. She had been sent to the house with the mail, but ran back toward her dad before anyone knew what she was doing. He had been adjusting the power take off didn’t see her when he got back on the tractor.  She lost both of her feet above the ankle.


Her story was picked up by George Grim in the Minneapolis Sunday Tribune. He encouraged readers to send her cards and to contribute funds. And they responded in an overwhelming fashion. Her hospital bills and the cost of her prosthetic legs were covered.

The hospital room was filled with dolls and toys, which she personally delivered to other hospitalized children.


She quickly re-learned to walk, using her new prosthetic legs. The artificial legs didn’t slow her down. Here is a photo of her rollerskating!


As she grew, she need larger legs. In 2012, she donated her first 4 sets of prosthetic legs to the Pope County Historical Society.


Posted in Local History | Leave a comment

Morning Glory Gardens

While the Pope County Museum is closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we will be highlighting historic sites around Pope County. We hope that you can walk or drive to visit these sites while maintaining appropriate physical distancing.

Morning Glory Gardens


Testing the mettle of the Minnesota Conservation Department and a 1961 law specifically allowing Minnewaska property owners to fill in lakeshore lots, Ed Barsness began hauling rocks and dirt to a swampy lot on the north shore of the lake.  Conservation officers routinely advised Barsness and his crews to cease the operation. “We ignored their demands. All we wanted to do was to make desolate swamp land a place of beauty, and in another year we shall make a flower garden out of it, that will be open to the public,” said Barsness in a 1967 article.  He continued, “The name of the place will be “Morning Glory Gardens.” We saw the sun come up over the broad waters facing Glenwood early one morning and the heavens were filled with brilliant colors, full of glory. That is where “Morning Glory” came in. To you, the motoring public, take a look as you go by that last filled lot on this side of the Minnewaska House.  We will have some flowers this summer.”

The Challenge Homes Chapel was moved to the site in 1981.  



Posted in Local History | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Glacial Lakes State Park

While the Pope County Museum is closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we will be highlighting historic sites around Pope County. We hope that you can walk or drive to visit these sites while maintaining appropriate physical distancing.

Glacial Lakes State Park


The idea of the park was conceived by Bennie Signalness, a farmer who lived just north of the park.  Beginning in 1960, 1400 acres of farmland were purchased and park development began. The park has expanded to 1860 acres today.  Located about five miles south of Starbuck, Glacial Lakes State Park embraces a unique segment of hills and a large valley formed as the last glacier receded some 11,000 years ago.  Native prairie plants are a highlight along the park trails. Glacial Lakes State Park boasts a very active Friends of the Park group to promote, maintain and improve the park.


Posted in Local History | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

DNR Fish Hatchery at Glenwood

While the Pope County Museum is closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we will be highlighting historic sites around Pope County. We hope that you can walk or drive to visit these sites while maintaining appropriate physical distancing.

DNR Fish Hatchery at Glenwood


The Department of Natural Resources Fish Hatchery at Glenwood has been in continuous operation since it’s opening in 1905.  In early years, the hatchery superintendent lived on premises in the office building. Many seasonal employees stayed in bunkhouse accommodations as well.  The property is ideally suited for the spring fish hatch due to the 95 acre natural catch basin of spring water which flows through the property into Lake Minnewaska.  Concrete bass ponds along the shore of the lake were filled with earth in 1930 to create the boat landing and parking area. The Hatchery grounds were also a popular picnic area in the early 1900’s.

The new Glenwood Area Fisheries office was built in 2017. According the Kraus-Anderson website, “It was designed to promote and highlight sustainability in Minnesota. Every aspect of the building was developed and constructed with nature in mind. It earned a zero energy rating, representing a 100% reduction in carbon producing fuel. The building has earned recognition for its environmental leadership and innovative design, including a 2018 Best of B3 Design and Best of Sustainable Buildings 2030 awards. The project team went the extra mile to ensure the new facility was both high-quality and of minimal disruption to its surrounding land.”




Posted in Local History | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Mount Lookout

While the Pope County Museum is closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we will be highlighting historic sites around Pope County. We hope that you can walk or drive to visit these sites while maintaining appropriate physical distancing.

Mount Lookout


The wayside rest overlooking Glenwood was donated to the city in 1934 by Mrs. E.M. Webster.  The five acre site was developed as a scenic overlook in 1938. Highway 55 was completed in 1938 and the overlook was predicted to be a stopping point for thousands of tourists along this new route.  Constructed by the National Youth Administration, the Mount Lookout wayside rest is eligible to be placed on the National Register of Historic Places. In 1948, 200 citizens including 110 children excused from school, and local business and professional men, planted 22,000 coniferous trees on the property.  “They did more than plant trees. They showed a community spirit that enriched every individual who participated and in the same token left a lasting monument for their splendid deed.”





Posted in Local History | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Holly Skogen

While the Pope County Museum is closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we will be highlighting historic sites around Pope County. We hope that you can walk or drive to visit these sites while maintaining appropriate physical distancing.

Holly Skogen


Holly Skogen is a little gem of a park on the west edge of Starbuck.  Privately developed by Arne Pederson, the three acre Holly Skogen pays tribute to Starbuck’s Scandinavian heritage and to nature’s beauty even within the city limits.

By the way, Skogen is Norwegian for “forest” or “woods”, so Holly Skogen means “Holly Wood!

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The Fremad Building

While the Pope County Museum is closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we will be highlighting historic sites around Pope County. We hope that you can walk or drive to visit these sites while maintaining appropriate physical distancing.

The Fremad Building and the original Pope County State Bank

34a IMG_0589 Fremad block

The Fremad Association building (1893 & 1919) and the Pope County State Bank building (1906) were nominated to the National Register of Historic Places in 1982.  The Fremad Association (Fremad is the Norwegian word for forward or progressive) was formed by Michael, Casper and Nels Wollan and several stockholders in response to the promotion of cooperative warehouses and stores by the Grange.  The Fremad’s stores at White Bear Center, and later at Starbuck, were phased out at an early date and business consolidated at the Glenwood store.

Trenham U - Labels

First known as the Wollan Brothers Hardware Store, the Fremad occupied a frame structure at the present location in 1874.  The business expanded to general merchandise, banking and lumber. The south portion of the current two-story brick structure was built in 1893 and included an auditorium and professional offices on the second floor.  


Fremad Association Store built in 1893

The banking business was crowded out of the busy Fremad building in 1906 into its own building next door.  Two years later it was chartered as the Pope County State Bank. The main Fremad building was extended and remodeled to its present appearance in 1919.  The Fremad Association was in business until 1949. The Pope County State Bank remains in operation today as Eagle Bank. White marble from the 1906 building teller windows is incorporated into the new building’s décor.  

An example of a cooperative company formed jointly by small town businessmen and surrounding farming interests, the Fremad Association played a pivotal role in the commercial life of the county.  In addition, the neo-classical revival façade of the Pope County State Bank building remains as a distinctive turn-of-the-century component of downtown Glenwood.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment