Event draws on, showcases regional history
History buffs and art enthusiasts will gather north of Brainerd Saturday for what organizers hope will build momentum for future events.
The event at Madden’s is believed to be the first in nearly two decades that will bring together historical societies from three counties, regional experts and history enthusiasts to talk about projects, share discoveries and generate interest in preservation.
“Historical preservation isn’t just about preserving photos or the foundation of a building, it’s really about preserving the memory and documenting those things,” said Jeremy Jackson, event emcee and railroad researcher. Jackson is working with Doug Birk, archaeologist, on the history of logging railroads in the Brainerd lakes area.
The event which begins at 10 a.m. Saturday at Madden’s Inn Viking Room is designed to bring together a diverse group of people who share a passion for history and discovery.
Jackson, a Brainerd native who now lives in the Twin Cities, is a scheduled speaker. He plans to touch on the Brainerd History Walk developed with the help of area historian Carl Faust and Andrew Hook. Other topics include efforts for an upcoming railroad symposium at the Northern Pacific Center along with initial work to create a railroad museum here.
“There is a lot of brainerd’s history that was lost,” Jackson said, adding part of the attraction in networking is discovering what others have found, retained or preserved. Whatever the subject, they share an enthusiasm for the discovery process.
Research into the logging railroads is a rediscovery, Jackson said. “The logging railroads west of Gull Lake, it’s completely erased from people’s minds.”
Clues come from remnants in the woods, newspaper stories and a handful of photos.
“Otherwise,” Jackson said, “it’s almost a myth.”
Jackson said many people don’t realize County Road 13 from Lake Hubert to Zorbaz was built on a railroad grade. Much of the railroad history for that logging period was lost in a fire in 1917 in Brainerd.
“I think it’s always fascinating to find out what was there before,” Jackson said of how the present is enriched by knowing more of the past. “I think everyone likes to find out property they owned has a really rich history.”
Artist Robert Perrizo is presenting the history of the Dakota and French voyageurs through his paintings. He describes his work as following in the historic storytelling style of Charles Russell and Frederick Remington, N.C. Wyeth and Howard Pyle.
Perrizo focuses on the voyageurs from 1610-1840. A series of his paintings and research is expected to be compiled in a forthcoming book “Rendezvous of the Voyageurs.” Working in oil paints, Perrizo’s work depicts the use of the canoe through waterways as the method of transportation and the early encounters between native people and the voyageurs.
Working on those oil-painting histories led Perrizo to the relationship between the Dakota and the French. The short-lived Fort Duquesne on Crow Wing Island, south of Brainerd, “may have been the gateway to Great Plains history-making for the Dakota Indian Nation,” Perrizo wrote. The fort, built in 1752, was abandoned in 1754. The art exhibit runs from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. July 24-28 and is part of a 150-year historical retrospective of the Dakota since the Minnesota uprising of 1862.
Perrizo said his own French heritage was part of his early interest in researching the voyageurs, who were determined to meet the Dakota. And Perrizo said current efforts honor the work and are in appreciation of the history chronicled by noted Brainerd historian Carl Zapffe.
“There will be a lot of historians there,” Perrizo said of Saturday’s event. “It should be quite a crowd. It should be fun. The history is so rich here, it’s really ideal.”