Itasca State Park Week: Forestry School


In 1907, the state legislature passed a bill that designated Itasca State Park as a State Forest and assigned Park management to the state Forestry Board. The legislature also granted the Board of Regents of the University of Minnesota permission and funding ($2,000) to use land assigned to them by the Forestry Board to conduct forestry work in the Park.

Professor Samuel B. Green, who had begun teaching general forestry courses in the College of Agriculture in 1899, and forestry students from the University began work at the Park by building firebreaks and planting trees. In 1909, formal instruction began at the Forestry School under the direction of professor E.G. Cheney.

In The Itasca Story, author John Dobie described the early development of the Forestry School:

"The Forestry School enrollment in 1912 was ten students who were able to live in the new bunkhouse for the first time. The school also had four faculty cabins that were ready to be occupied."

- "Campus" at the Itasca State Park Forestry School, 1920

- Dormitory bunk house at Itasca State Park Forestry School, 1920

- Library building at Itasca Forestry School, 1920 [built in 1913]

"A bronzed tablet honoring Professor Green was placed on a granite boulder at the end of Bear Paw Point."

- Samuel Green memorial boulder, Bear Point, August 31, 1917, Itasca State Park

Professor Samuel B. Green, who was instrumental in establishing the school, passed away in 1910.

For more on the life in the early days of the Forestry School, read "Itasca Park Forestry School" from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources magazine, Minnesota Conservation Volunteer.

- Entrance to the Experimental Forestry Nursery, 1917, Itasca State Park

- Experimental Nursery Seed Home, 1917, Itasca State Park

- Experimental Forestry Nursery, July 1917, Itasca State Park


- Spruce trees near Library building at Forestry School, August 1921, Itasca State Park. "The man is William Kilgore Jr."

In 1935, coursework in other biological sciences - botany, entomology, plant pathology, zoology - was added to the offerings and the school became the Itasca Park Forestry and Biological Station in name. The name was again changed in 2002 to Itasca Biological Station and Laboratories. The station is currently administered by the College of Biological Sciences.

In 2012, the state of Minnesota allocated 4.1 million dollars to the construction of a new campus center at Itasca to include a 12,000 square foot facility that will house a laboratory, library, auditorium, and administrative offices. The new center will be dedicated in the fall of 2014. You can follow the construction progress on the Director's blog.

Itasca State Park Week: Heinzelman's


Welcome to day three of Itasca State Park Week, the week that Exploring Minnesota's Natural History celebrates the 123rd anniversary of Minnesota's first state park by sharing early images of the park found within the natural history collections at the University Archives.

Beaverbox2-una428347.jpgOn Sunday we shared the story of the introduction of beaver into Itasca State Park in 1901 by way of an international gift. The container that the beavers arrived in was photographed in 1902 by Thomas Sadler Roberts, who traveled with his family to the Park that summer. The caption of the image, written on the envelope that encases the glass plate negative that the image was taken from, stated that in addition to the box and Roberts's two children, there is a "boy from Heinzelman's store" pictured.

What was Heinzelman's store?

- Martin Heinzelman's Store, June 1902, Itasca State Park

- Martin Heinzelman's Residence at Itasca, June 1902, Itasca State Park

On their visit to Itasca State Park in the summer of 1902, Roberts and his family had the opportunity to meet some of the early settlers to the Itasca region. Martin Heinzelman, his brother George Heinzelman, sister Matilda (Heinzelman) Korth, and brother-in-law John Korth, originally from Wisconsin, moved to Itasca in 1899 and 1900 to homestead. John Dobie, in his book, The Itasca Story, included the following regarding Heinzelman:

"Martin Heinzelman came to Itasca in 1900 and settled a half mile north of the lake along the river. Like most settlers near the Park he began as a farmer and later opened a number of cabins for the accommodation of tourists. In December, 1909, Heinzelman was appointed Park Commissioner. In those days the commissioner received very little pay for his work. He was supposed to operate Douglas Lodge and could take any profit he made as a supplement to his salary. Most of the early superintendents did not do well financially because there were very few tourists. Heinzelman changed that by advertising the Park and its attractions...

The legislature of 1911 created the Minnesota Forestry Service and William T. Cox was appointed Chief Forester. In 1912 the Park was put under the jurisdiction of the Chief Forester. Heinzelman was relieved of his duties as Park Superintendent in 1912 but continued as manager of the lodge until 1914..."

In addition to photographing the Heinzelman properties, Roberts also captured the Korth residence. The negative that corresponds to this image is labeled, "First house on the Mississippi River, John Korth." [Meaning the first house you would come upon along the Mississippi River when heading South from the outlet of Lake Itasca.]

- First house on the Mississippi River, John Korth, July, 1902, Itasca State Park

Roberts and his eldest son Tom spent time exploring the lakes and streams found within the Park with George Heinzelman.

- Scene on Nicollet Creek with Tom Roberts and Mr. George Heinzelman, July 3, 1902, Nicollet Creek, Itasca State Park

- View on the Creek with Tom Roberts and Mr. George Heinzelman, guide, July 7, 1902, Nicollet Creek, Itasca State Park

- Elk Lake, George Heinzelman in boat, July 7, 1902, Elk Lake, Itasca State Park

Martin Heinzelman continued to operate tourist cabins at Itasca State Park throughout the first half of the 20th century. The Headwaters Inn, as his property was called, featured a bridge over the Mississippi River, and contained multiple cabins on the site. An advertisement for the Headwaters Inn, found in the Saturday, June 30, 1934 edition of the Winnipeg Free Press, stated, "Log cabins for light housekeeping. Meals served at Inn when desired. Gas, Oil, Groceries and Souvenirs. 'You will like Headwaters Inn.'"

Martin Heinzelman's house and store, as well as his sister and brother-in-law's cabin, the Korth residence, no longer stand at Itasca State Park. In an oral history interview with longtime Park employees Dorothy and Alvin Katzenmeyer, conducted by the Minnesota Historical Society in 1993, Mr. Katzenmeyer shared his opinion on the loss of the buildings and changes to the Park:

"Mr. Katzenmeyer: Well, one of the changes that I saw was made just about the time I retired and was ready to quit was that all of a sudden they became concerned about some of the old buildings... and a lot of the buildings they just let deteriorate because they said it was cheaper to build new than it was to keep for upkeep. That was their philosophy. As a result, a lot of the old buildings have gotten in bad repair because of that. And they should have been repaired and kept up because there'll never be buildings like them again..."

"... that big inn, Heinzelman's inn, was a landmark, you know, in the community here. And the home that Elva Traun was born in down there and that was just a little country farmhouse, you know what I mean (this was the John Korth place mentioned before)... and it was the first white settler on the Mississippi River and it should have been, I always felt it should have been preserved and it would have cost very little to have preserved it, you know, because they could have had a little exhibit in there, they could have had old furniture and things in there and... people go and look at it, and as a result it would be used and would be open and would be dry, you know what I mean... and it could have been preserved forever, you know, but instead of that they just bulldozed it down and covered it up, and that was the end of it, you know."

Though the physical structures of Heinzelman's house and store, and the Korth residence -- the first house built along the Mississippi River -- were not preserved as Alvin Katzenmeyer had wished, the images of those structures, taken from materials within the Bell Museum of Natural History records, help to preserve the memory of Itasca's early settlers and the structures that they lived in.

Itasca State Park Week: Douglas Lodge


On April 20, 1891, the Minnesota state legislature adopted an act to establish the first public park for the state of Minnesota on land that surrounded the headwaters of the Mississippi River at Lake Itasca. "An act to establish and create a public park, to be known as and designated as the Itasca State Park, and authorizing the condemnation of lands for park purposes," established the boundaries of the park, certified the park's name as Itasca State Park, vested authority of the park with the state auditor, and prohibited the destruction of trees and hunting of wildlife within park limits.

Brower-UNA423879.jpgThe act also established the role of a Park Commissioner that was to be appointed by the governor. On May 8, 1891, Jacob V. Brower was appointed Park Commissioner, a role in which he served until 1895. In 1904, Brower published Itasca State Park: An Illustrated History, which included a detailed narrative of the early explorations of the source of the Mississippi River, and also chronicled the establishment, growth, and early development of the park. It is in this book that we learn of another important act in Itasca's timeline, "An act to appropriate money for the construction of a State House in Itasca State Park." Approved on April 21, 1903, the act stipulated that the State House was "for the accommodation of the park commissioners and visitors."

Itasca Park Lodge, which we know today as Douglas Lodge, was constructed between 1903-1905. Brower's 1904 Illustrated History included an illustration of an architect's draft for the lodge, which Brower reported would be located, "at a beautiful pine forest near the bank of Mary Creek, in Clearwater County."

In the summer of 1917, Thomas Sadler Roberts, associate curator of the Zoological Museum at the University of Minnesota, and the University taxidermist, Jenness Richardson, visited Itasca State Park to collect a beaver specimen to be used in a habitat group display in the museum. Roberts captured these images of Douglas Lodge during his stay at the park:

- Douglas Lodge, Itasca State Park, 1917.

- Douglas Lodge, Itasca State Park, 1917.

On a visit to the park in 1921, Roberts captured the vantage point of Lake Itasca from Douglas Lodge:

- View northwest on East arm of Lake Itasca from a point near Douglas Lodge, 1921.

Walter J. Breckenridge, museum preparator and curator, also took pictures of the vantage point of the lake from Douglas Lodge during his visit to the park on September 24, 1937:



- Itasca Park, looking forward toward lake from Douglas Lodge, September 24, 1937

Ned L. Huff, professor of botany at the University, captured Douglas Lodge during his visits to Itasca too. Images from Huff's lantern slides, circa 1940:



Douglas Lodge is named after Attorney General Wallace B. Douglas, who was an early supporter of Itasca State Park. For more on the architecture and construction of the lodge, see the description of Itasca State Park historic properties by the Minnesota Historical Society.

Visitors to Itasca State Park can stay at Douglas Lodge in one of their updated suites or rooms. Make a reservation on the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources website.


- Wallace B. Douglas with porcupine, Itasca State Park, 1902

Remembering Itasca State Park


While I don't claim to have a photographic memory, my work over the past several months on the Exploring Minnesota's Natural History project has fine-tuned my ability to remember images. Having viewed over 12,000 images from negatives, lantern slides, and prints in the Bell Museum of Natural History and Department of Botany records, I regularly find myself mentally "flashing back" to a particular image when it relates to what I am currently working with.

I was recently reading a letter from the correspondence files in the Bell Museum records that Wallace Douglas wrote to Thomas Sadler Roberts, associate curator of the Zoological Museum, in 1917. Douglas was Chair of the Minnesota State Board of Forestry, was the State Attorney General from 1899 to 1904, and also served as a Minnesota Supreme Court Judge from 1904-1905. Douglas Lodge in Itasca State Park was named after Wallace Douglas due to the part that Douglas played in developing the early infrastructure of the park.

In the letter, Douglas recalled to Roberts the history of the introduction of beavers into the park. As I read the letter, I found myself recalling several images from negatives that Roberts produced on a visit to Itasca State Park in the summer of 1902. I have included the images below to illustrate the transcription of Douglas's letter:

December 14, 1917, Wallace Douglas of Douglas, Kennedy, and Kennedy, Attorneys at Law, St. Paul to Thomas Sadler Roberts:

"My dear doctor: My apologies are due for not replying earlier to your favor concerning the introduction of beaver in Itasca Park.

I recall in detail meeting you at the old Park House in Itasca Park in July, 1902 and your kindness in taking Mr. Gibbs, the Park Commissioner, and myself on a trip to visit the first beaver dam built by the beaver, which were introduced there the year prior. You had just located this dam which was situated on Nicollet Creek."

- Itasca Park House, July 1902

- Wallace Douglas and Park Commissioner Gibbs at the beaver dam on Nicollet Creek, Itasca State Park, July 1902.

- Beaver dam at Nicollet Creek in Itasca State Park, July 1902

"The early history of the beaver is as follows:

In the summer of 1900 the Superintendent of Algonquin Park in lower Canada, or someone in charge of the park, wrote Gov. Lind with reference to the subject of beaver in Minnesota and kindly offered on behalf of the Dominion of Canada to donate four beaver to the State of Minnesota. Gov. Lind personally took the matter up with me and assented to my request that they be accepted and placed in Itasca Park. Some time in the summer or fall of 1901, after Gov. Lind had been defeated for re-election, Gov. Van Sent was surprised one day by a call from a Forest Ranger from Canada, named Timothy O'Leary, who announced that he had two male and two female beaver down at the St. Paul depot which he was ordered to present to the State of Minnesota on behalf of the authorities in charge of Algonquin Park. One of the males was dead and he was insistent that an inspection of the animals be had by some public official and a certificate of death furnished him. Gov. Van Sent came in with Mr. O'Leary and submitted the legal question to me as Attorney General as to what disposition could be made of the beaver and was very greatly relieved when I claimed them for the Park. I sent them up to Itasca Park with directions that they be liberated upon the shore of the Little Mississippi, but they were in fact placed upon Schoolcraft Island and it seems, promptly swam over to the Little Mississippi and established their first residence on Little Nicollet Lake just above where you located the dam. These beaver were sent for the express purpose of permitting the public authorities of Minnesota to see what could be done in the matter of propogating them.

I am keeping up my interest in the subject as a member of the Forestry Board and last year visited some of the houses of the beaver in Itasca Park, and was indeed glad to receive information from you to the effect that you had made a careful examination of a large number of their habitations in the Park and believe that from these beaver at least 2000 have been produced in and about the Park. We have taken very great pains during the past sixteen years to protect them in their new home, but have been advised that a very few of them were trapped outside of the park two or three years ago. Mr. Cox, State Forester, estimates that there are upwards of 600 of them now in the Park and we are thinking of introducing some outside specimens to assist slighting in preventing too much in-breeding. During the past month we have procured the approval of the Attorney General and executive agent of the Game and Fish commission to trap seventy-five males in January (when the skins will be prime). The Game and Fish Commission will sell their pelts and we hope to have the money turned into the State Treasurer to the credit of the Itasca Park Fund.

I think with you that this is an interesting and marvelous example of increasing wild animal life under protection...

Douglas included a hand-written note with the typed letter:

"Dimensions of the box in which the 4 Beaver were shipped from Toronto to Itasca Lake in July, 1901. The box was of galvinized sheet iron bound with a wooden casting. It lay on the shore by the landing at the "Park Home" in the summer of 1902, where T.S. Roberts photographed and measured it in August of that year.

The box contained four beaver when started on its journey - two males and two females - but one of the males died before the box reached St. Paul. The three were liberated at Schoolcraft Island in Itasca by the then Commissioner Gibbs, about August 1, 1901. These beaver were small - apparently the young of the year. Box measured 38x22x24."

- At boat landing at Park House with box that beaver came in in foreground, Tom and Catherine Roberts on landing with small boy from Heinzelman's Store, 1902.

Now that I was reminded to recall these wonderful images from the early history of Itasca State Park, I have to continue to share the others - several hundred images of early structures, residents, and landscapes. It just so happens that today, Sunday, April 20th, marks the 123rd anniversary of the founding of Itasca State Park. Follow along as Exploring Minnesota's Natural History celebrates "Itasca State Park Week" with a new post about the history of Minnesota's first state park each day this upcoming week.

Here comes Peter Cottontail...


But he's not exactly hoppin' down the bunny trail...

- Cottontail rabbit in group at Colorado Museum, Denver, mounted by Jenness Richardson, undated.

These Cottontail rabbits are mounted specimens, prepared for a habitat group exhibit at the Colorado Museum of Natural History in Denver, Colorado (known today as the Denver Museum of Nature and Science). These rabbits were prepared by Zoological Museum taxidermist Jenness Richardson, who worked at the Colorado Museum prior to coming to the University of Minnesota in 1915.



Hippity hoppity, happy Easter Day!

Eggs anyone?


In theme with an upcoming holiday, here is an array of eggs:

- Red-eyed Vireo nest and eggs, July 1902, Itasca State Park

- Junco nest and eggs, June 1902, Itasca State Park

- Ruffed Grouse nest and eggs, May 1905, Minneapolis

- Loon nest and eggs, June 8, 1903, King Lake, Meeker County

- Field Sparrow nest and eggs, June 1903, Fillmore County

- Barn Swallow nest and eggs, July 1904, Brook Lodge

Tuesday Tweet: Let's talk turkey


Back in November I shared the only then known image of turkeys from the ~6,900 glass plate and film negatives in the Bell Museum of Natural History records. A good portion of the negatives were produced by Thomas Sadler Roberts from 1898 to the mid-1940s. Roberts captured hundreds of species of birds on multiple occasions while out in the field. Yet there was only one image of turkeys.

I naively accused Roberts of disliking the fowl, Meleagris gallopavo, without looking in to the history of the species. As it turns out, there is a reason to suggest why Roberts produced only one negative of turkeys in over four decades of fieldwork - there weren't many turkeys living in Minnesota.

My error in assumption was brought to my attention by a recent article in the Star Tribune. "Minnesota's wild turkeys: A wildlife success story," by Doug Smith, recalls the demise of the wild turkey in Minnesota in the late 1800s due to the rising population of settlers and unregulated hunting. Despite a few attempts to reintroduce turkeys raised in other states in the 1920s, and again in the 1950s, none survived. It wasn't until 1971, when the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) released 13 Missouri wild turkeys, that the repopulation of Meleagris gallopavo throughout the state was revived. For three decades following, the DNR released over 5,000 wild turkeys in Minnesota.

We did come across one additional image of turkeys after all of the negatives in the Bell Museum records were scanned. This image is from a glass plate negative that was not indexed and has the illusive "M" number caption which appears on the envelope enclosure. A series of negatives marked with the prefix "M" are still a mystery to us, as is "Englis Glen farm," where this particular negative of Roberts's daughter Catherine and son Carroll with turkeys was produced.

- Catherine and Carroll feeding turkeys at the Englis Glen farm, June 1907.

I was surprised to learn that there once was a time when turkeys were rare in Minnesota, as during certain parts of the year I see turkeys on a daily basis. Though they have yet to reappear this spring, last fall there was a family of turkeys living on the west bank of the Mississippi River that would occasionally drop in for a tour of the University of Minnesota campus.

Campus turkeys from the view from my office window, Andersen Library, University of Minnesota - Twin Cities, Fall 2013:



Friday Flora: A rock far away...


We've all heard of "sittin' on the dock of the bay."

We give you... "Sittin' on a rock far away."

- Rocks at Granite Falls, Minnesota, undated.

(From the Ned L. Huff lantern slide collection in the Department of Botany records)

Pioneer Life


Earlier this week we introduced you to Ernest M. Brown, a taxidermist in Warren, MN who served as a field guide to Thomas Sadler Roberts when Roberts visited Warren and nearby Thief Lake and Mud Lake in the summer of 1900. Brown wasn't the only resident of Marshall County that Roberts met - and photographed-- while on his trip.

Meet the Tores Treftlin family.


According to the envelope that encloses the glass plate negative that this image was scanned from, Treftlin was the "last settler on Moose River." Another caption scrolled across the envelope reads, "pioneer life."


I wanted to see if I could track down this family in the United States Federal Census for 1900. A quick visit to produced the 1900 United States Federal Census for Marshall County, Township 157 N Range 39 20, upon which the Treftlin family is recorded:

PioneerLife1una430748.jpg Torres Treftlin, 55
Carin, 48
Charley, 13
Tilda, 12
Nina, 10
Elvin, 8
Seselia, 6

The Treftlin's stood in order of age for their family portrait close up.

For more on the settlement and development of this area of northwest Minnesota, read a History of Marshall County.

Wild Animal Wednesday: Ask the Expert


Yesterday's Tuesday Tweet featured an image of an albino Grackle. That is not the only image within the Bell Museum records that documents color abnormalities in animals. In the 1940s, museum taxidermist Walter Breckenridge prepared a mounted display of three gray squirrels. One of the squirrels exhibited the typical gray coloration, another was of a squirrel specimen that was afflicted with albinism, and a third squirrel displayed melanism.

- Squirrels, gray, showing melanism and albinism, circa 1940

"What is melanism?" I thought to myself as I entered the caption information on my metadata spreadsheet. An engaging Google search ensued.

Melanin, a pigment that gives dark coloration to hair and skin, is overdeveloped in animals that have melanism. For a scholarly scientific explanation, read "The genetic basis of melanism in the gray squirrel (Sciurus carolinensis)" by McRobie and Thomas.

On the occasion that I am introduced to an unfamiliar topic while managing the Exploring Minnesota's Natural History project I have more than just the search capabilities of Google at my disposal. I can also turn to my subject matter expert - a biologist and animal enthusiast who also happens to be a childhood friend.

I am most comfortable scrolling through census records and transcribing 19th century handwriting. LaToshia, on the other hand, has a degree in biology and spent several years working with manatees at a marine research station in Florida and later trained and cared for elephants at Busch Gardens.

Each time I come across a new and previously unknown (to me) fact about the animal world, I ask the expert. Such was the case with the image of the nictitating membrane of an owl I encountered back in October. My latest discovery also resulted in an email to my longtime friend. "LaToshia, Did you study melanism in your biology coursework?"

She replied with an experience she had when she worked at the Mote Marine Laboratory:

"We had a turtle at Mote who was amelanistic, (she wasn't a true albino). Years ago she had come in as a hatchling and someone decided to keep her because she would have been picked off in the wild (she also had a myriad of health problems related to the genetics of it). We had hundreds of hatchlings come in every year and there was a time or two another like her would come in."

For a picture and to read more about this turtle, Edgar, visit the Mote Aquarium website.

Now back to squirrels. The weekend after I saw the image of Breckenridge's mounted gray squirrels from the Bell Museum records I was looking out the window in my apartment and saw an albino squirrel sitting on an adjacent building.

That's nuts!