Brainerd artist helps create Crow Wing, Morrison county historical societies
Sarah (Thorp) Heald lived from 1881 to 1954. The 73-year-old artist’s paintings often portrayed Crow Wing County's early pioneer days and the Ojibwe in the area. Four of her works are on display in the historic courthouse with more in the county museum on Laurel Street in Brainerd.
BRAINERD — One of the earliest artists to depict what life was like in the Brainerd lakes area in her works was also a founding member of the Crow Wing Historical Society.
Sarah (Thorp) Heald was the daughter of Freeman Thorp, another prominent painter and early settler who painted presidential portraits, including one of Lincoln on display at the U.S. Capital
She lived from 1881 to 1954. The 73-year-old artist’s paintings often portrayed Crow Wing County's early pioneer days and the Native Americans in the area.
In addition to being a painter, she has works that include a novel, poetry like “The Legend of Wase-Ya” and a brief history of the county, which can be found on display at the county museum.
“Legends are fine things to have,” Heald had said of her written work, “The Legend of Wase-Ya.” “Like mosses and ivies and gnarled old trees, they add the beauty of fine old age to the places fortunate enough to claim them.”
During the 1930s, Heald was secretary of the Crow Wing County Historical Society.
“Sarah Thorp Heald left us with her paintings and writings that speak to us of her life-long interest and dedication to recording the early history of Crow Wing County,” according to the Crow Wing County website.
Four of her paintings are on display in the county historic courthouse: “The Indian Trading Post,” “Attack of the Sioux on Ojibwe at Battle Point, Bay Lake,” "Indians Roping Off the Tracks" and "Jean (Joseph) N. Nicollet Visiting Trading Post at Mouth of Crow Wing River in 1836.”
“Her early subjects were mainly animal life. The remainder of her career was spent painting historically accurate representations of the scenes she loved researching,” according to a museum placard next to a black-and-white portrait of Heald.
The focus of Heald’s art, writing and research were often the Ojibwe in the Brainerd lakes area or Crow Wing County, and “celebrated and preserved the Ojibwe language” and even went so far as to attempt to learn the language of Ojibwe.
She wrote a manuscript titled “Mixed Blood.” The fictional story is about the interracial couples comprised of white fur traders and Native Americans in the region and their families. She dedicated it by stating, “With deepest affection and gratitude for all they have taught me.”
Heald moved to the Lake Hubert area in 1894 and lived in the Brainerd lakes area until her death six decades later.
Heald served as the Brainerd-based Crow Wing County Historical Society Museum and Research Library’s curator from 1935 to 1945. She donated personal artifacts from her archeology collection to the society in 1936.
“In another WPA-funded project and through her work at the society, Heald conducted dozens of interviews to document the history of the area,” according to a display at the museum.
She also served as director of the WPA Indian Handicrafts Project, which “encouraged Ojibwe in the area to explore their heritage while making and selling crafts for income,” according to the museum.
Heald was the Works Progress Administration district supervisor, and a group of citizens convened in 1936 at her request to form the Morrison County Historical Society. Its mission was to collect the history of that county from Zebulon Pike’s 1805 expedition to the present.
FRANK LEE may be reached at 218-855-5863 or at firstname.lastname@example.org . Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/DispatchFL .