WINONA LETTERS

These letters were written by Christi's Great Aunt El
who lived in Winona all her life (1900-2000)


Logging, the Mississippi River, and the Winona Library
undated but probably mid-1970s

Logging and the lumbering industry was important in Winona in the period of 1855 to early 1900. I remember the huge rafts (just like a big carpet) brought down the Mississippi River usually under tow of 2 steamboats; the larger steamers pushed the raft and the smaller boat lashed across the front to steer the unwieldly floating mass of logs.

The logs - virgin timber- were cut by lumberjacks during the winter months in northern Minn. & Wisc. and loaded on sleds & hauled to the river for spring floating to Winona. The big lovely old houses in Winona were built by the Lumber Barons (millionaires) and Winona was rated the wealthiest of its size in the Nation.

The Winona Library, built in that period, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and was 'donated' by a Lumber Baron - Mr. Laird. Our family story that Grandpa Noeske (our mother's father) was an employee (carpenter) on the construction of the Library - and Mr. Laird deducted a donation for the library from the wages of each laborer!!

Fifty years ago there was little commercial use of the river; a few old packets operated excursion boats and on Sundays & even week days there trips to Wabasha or La Crosse Wisc. on the steamers - back paddle wheel. These boats still operate out and below St. Louis. When we were children we anxiously looked forward to special river excursions. Families, with picnic baskets filled with food, spent the entire day on the boat and in a port park at a river city. We "loved" to hear the calliope play before the boat left Winona - at destination & on return to Winona. We had fun on the several 'floors' of the steamer - music -dancing -games -picnic tables -etc or just "watching" the shore and scenery. With the 9 foot river channel, due to the several Locks and Dams built in the 1920's, river commerce has increased. Big barge loads of flour, grain, soybeans and corn move regularly from Winona port; oil and coal, fertilizer and many other bulk products are now received at the port of Winona. The city now boasts a harbor authority established by law to further expand waterborne transportation here.


Aunt El was also sending me clippings from the paper
and adding bits and pieces of family history to go with the article.
For example:

From the Winona County History TODAY dated March, 1975 Vol. 40 No. 3:

There is an article with a picture of Commissioner Steffes being named to the Society Board. In the third paragraph it states - "His father owned a bicycle shop..." My aunt has underlined that portion and has written off to the side of the article the following:

"Nick Steffes and my Dad were good friends and bicycle raced often between villages. Dad received several prizes which we still hold in honor."

Nick Steffes is the father of the Commissioner in the article. The Commissioner's name was Robert Steffes. Her Dad was Otto Brandt.

In another article my aunt writes more about the bicycle races, one being between Winona and Fountain City. These races, according to further notes, took place between 1893-1898. I would like to learn more about these races and find out if a handbill or newpaper article exists.


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