Thursday, October 20, 2011

United We Stand

I introduced William Drechsler in my previous post.  I recorded his existence in the database at Washington County Historical Society.  I discovered more information about Bill in a longer obituary that came in the following edition of the Stillwater Gazette.  I discovered he was married, raised two sons and a daughter.  He and his family resided on the other side of the ferry in Houlton, WI.  Apparently, his wife was from that side of the river, and everyone knows "If momma ain't happy, ain't nobody happy"  I assume things weren't much different then.

The intriguing item in the second entry was a list of organizations he was a part of.  Knights of Pythias, Modern Woodmen were a couple of them listed.  Other obituaries in the Gazette listed additional organizations Independent Order of Foresters, Catholic Order of Foresters, Knights of the Templar, Masonic Temple, G.A.R, Loyal Legion. 

Secret Societies has been a topic of discussion that has achieved popularity due to books by Dan Brown such as the Davinci Code, and others.  The History, and Discovery Chanel have shown documentaries on the topic.  I wondered.  How secret of a society can it be when they publish the information in the newspaper?

Of course, the real mystery in these secret societies is what happens behind closed doors. 

I have no limit of stories from family and friends that talk about societies that someone they knew was a part of.  For instance, my father mentioned once to me that his grandfather JJ was a part of the Masons.  He was a member of this organization in a rather small rural town, Britton SD.  JJ was a member of the Lutheran church nearby his farm as well.  The preacher of the Lutheran church challenged JJ that his membership in the Masons was sacrilegious, and that he needed to choose which master he was going to serve.  Typical of the German heritage, JJ stopped going to church, and he reduced his involvement with the Masons.  My father has never really wanted to talk about this event.  I learned more from my mother and my aunts.  Exactly how JJ felt about what happened I have no idea, but the one thing I do know is that this has left a mark on my father.

My father has no desire to be a part of the church.  He has never been one to join any kind of organization.  Dad is retired now, and he has been participating more with his American Legion then he did while he was working.  He says, because people who served their country need to organize, because someone needs to stick up for the benefits they were promised when they served in the military protecting our freedoms. 

After watching all the programs I can find about secret societies, my opinion is that these organizations found power in unity based on a common idea or profession.  Masons united based on the profession of building trades.  Knights of the Templar united based on defending Christianity.  The Legion is united based on serving in the military.  I don't really need to tell you about these organizations as they are well documented all over the Internet. 

What I do want to share is that the idea of organizing is a universal noble function of man.  "United we Stand, Divided we Fall"  The United States.  Bottom line, I want to be a part of an organization that takes care of their members.  How is being a part of the Masons, or Skull and Bones any different then joining the AARP?

Right now I could stand to be a part of an organization that would help me find a job. 


Monday, October 3, 2011

Washington County Historical Society Volunteer.

Friday was my first day volunteering with the organization.  They are headquartered in the Warden’s house of the Stillwater Prison along North Main Street. 

Stillwater’s tagline is the birthplace of Minnesota because the initial petitions and meetings to make MN a state were organized there.  Henry Sibley and Joseph Brown were key contributors to the Stillwater Convention.  Minnesota became a state August 26, 1848.

To learn more about these topics go to the Washington County Historical Society web page. (

I’m working on the biographical index.  I’m clipping articles from the Stillwater Gazette and Stillwater Messenger, and adding them to scrapbooks.  The names are then added to the index that is available on-line.

I came across many stories that were intriguing that deserve their own story, but one jumped out at me that deserved to be researched for this entry.

William Drechsler (Bill) passed away on February 6th 1901 as posted by the Stillwater Gazette.  He ran the rope ferry across the St Croix until the Pontoon Bridge was installed.  It cost about $1 to have the rope ferry pull you across the river by horse and cart.

 Bill was born in Germany on November 29, 1834.  He arrived in Stillwater in 1857.  There were no family members mentioned in the obituary by name.

Bill Drechsler is also mentioned in the Polk’s Stillwater city Directory of 1890-1891.

The Minnesota Territorial and State Census of 1875 list William by himself.  The significant information here is that William and both his parents were born in Hessia.  I take this to be Hessen, Germany since the obituary states he was born in Germany.  The largest city in Hessen is Frankfurt, Germany. 

The other thing that comes to mind is that Hessians were the German people that helped the British in the Revolutionary War.  I remember during a public TV broadcast that there were Hessians that chose to stay in America even after the Revolutionary War was over. 

Bill’s family didn’t leave Germany until after his birth in 1834, arriving in MN, in 1857, long after the Revolutionary War.  War may have been a good reason to leave Germany because there were wars occurring in Frankfurt at the time. 

That plan didn’t work very well since William is listed in the US Civil War Draft Registration Records. He is 28 yrs. old and listed as a married laborer. has one member that lists him as married to a Catherine Racher with a daughter Anna Mary.  The location listing is for Houlton, Wisconsin, which would be the other side of the river from Stillwater.  I was unable to find records to verify this information.

Stay tuned for more.