Ramsey County History Spring 2024

Ramsey County History Spring 2024
Volume 59
Number 2, Spring 2024
Paul Nelson, Drew Ross, Wendy Rossi, Meredith Cummings

Volume 59, Number 2: Spring 2024

Link to download PDF of full Ramsey County History Spring 2024

Articles in this issue:

The Fraud of the Century

Author: Paul Nelson

According to author Paul Nelson, “The human desire for wealth without risk and the capacity for self-delusion make an irrepressible pair.” And so, Nelson, pens a masterful accounting of St. Paul’s “fraud of the century” in the 1920s. The telling involves a widow who inherited her late-husband’s German-language newspaper, conniving conmen and their eager-to-make-a-buck sales force, a bumbling government official, fake business entities, worthless stocks and bonds, and hundreds of unsuspecting German Americans who thought they’d make a little money. Instead, most lost nearly everything to a handful of unrepentant swindlers.

Plympton’s Reserve, St. Paul’s Founding, and Desnoyer’s New Bridge Square

Author: Drew Ross

One person’s decisions can affect the destiny of others, including people and places. And so it was with Maj. Joseph Plympton, commandant of Fort Snelling from 1837 to 1841. Plympton, for various reasons—a few practical and one, perhaps, in his own self-interest—expanded the boundaries of the Fort Snelling Reserve, not once, but twice. Author Drew Ross explores how the major’s decisions played a role in determining the early settlement location of St. Paul. It wasn’t the greatest place for an embryonic city to grow—swampland on a bluff with less-than-ideal access to the Mississippi River. Still, early residents adapted and made do. Then there was Stephen Desnoyer, who profited off Plympton’s decision and had great expectations for the future of his property—expectations that didn’t pan out the way tavern owner Desnoyer had hoped

Growing Up In Frogtown: Little Women, Little Houses, Lots of Work, (and a Little Play)

Author: Wendy Rossi

In 1941, young Wendy Ham’s Gumpa Guy Metzger built a dollhouse—a replica of the family home at 435 Charles Avenue in St. Paul. In 2023, Wendy Ham Rossi donated the “two-story,” six-room dollhouse complete with “indoor plumbing” to Ramsey County Historical Society, a gift for which we are grateful. She also penned a companion memoir about growing up on Charles and, later, at 554 Arundel Street surrounded by the love of her grandparents, parents, and little sister, Joyce. And she graciously recorded a reading, which you can hear online. The retired St. Paul public school teacher weaves memories of the dollhouse and her two childhood homes, her love of books—especially Little Women—and her absolute distaste for household chores into a delightful story that will bring smiles to readers’ faces and likely spur memories of your own growing-up adventures from decades’ past.

Book Review

Spirits Dancing: The Night Sky, Indigenous Knowledge, & Living Connections to the Cosmos

Photography by Travis Novitsky; Text by Annette S. Lee