History Mystery

Last year our anonymous donor threw down the gauntlet, challenging us to a $10,000 matching grant competition. Together, we embarked on the History Mystery and met the challenge.

This year, the plot thickens. Our mischievous donor has joined forces with another donor! They are challenging the History Center's staff, volunteers, members, friends, and even distant relations to raise $20,000 to unlock a matching $20,000 from the mystery donors.

Accept the challenge of our mysterious anonymous donors and Help us unlock the $20,000 matching funds!

Recent Clues

historyHISTORY MYSTERY: DANGER FOUND IN ROCHESTER "A quantity of explosives, sufficient, according to the statement of city officials, to do serious damage to a section of the business center of the city, was found this morning stored in the old boiler room of the former electric light plant, just off Main and Third streets. It was said by Alderman Herman Kruse of the public grounds committee, that the explosives constituted a distinct menace to the safety of a part of the community." - Daily Post and Record, August 24, 1917 WHO ALMOST EXPLODED PART OF ROCHESTER?


“Alderman Herman Kruse investigated the matter and called in the fire warden, William Cudmore. They took a survey of the stock and learned the ownership of the property. It appears that the Sullivan Harwick Hardware Company has received permission from the city to use the old power house as a temporary store room. A member of the firm asserted this morning, when questioned, that the explosive was put there for a brief time only before turning it over to purchasers who need this sort of material in the business in which they are engaged. Evidently the hardware company believed the explosives were safe inasmuch as they were in a metal chest.


The city last winter passed an ordinance prohibiting such storing of explosives. The owners were ordered to take the dangerous articles to a place which will be less dangerous.” - Daily Post and Record, August 24, 1917

historyHISTORY MYSTERY: A Distinguished Chair The owners of 106.9 KROC FM presented this chair to Grace Nye Wilson in 1959 at a dinner given in her honor at The Kahler Grand Hotel as a thank you for her 24 years of service to the History Center and her role in establishing our organization. Grace later donated the chair to our collection. WHO SAT IN THIS CHAIR?

This chair was used by President Franklin D. Roosevelt at the presentation of Distinguished Service Citations to Drs. William and Charles Mayo at Soldier’s Field Park in Rochester, MN in 1934.

historyHISTORY MYSTERY: What is this shaft and where can you find it at the History Center?

Answer: This shaft is in the Stoppel Farmstead Smokehouse attached to the farm hand's quarters. It was used to smoke meat. Can you imagine your bedroom smelling like bacon all the time?

history🕵️‍♂️History Mystery: CHICKENS STOLEN FROM WIDOW! "The hand of the meanest man in Rochester is discerned in the act committed last night at the home of Mrs. Isaac Daniels. Mrs. Daniels is a widow. She had 21 hens and a rooster in her coop. Selling eggs laid by her hens was one of the means by which Mrs. Daniels made her livelihood. When she entered her hen house this morning. Mrs. Daniels could not see any of her chickens.


Unfortunately for poor Mrs. Isaac (and the even poorer chickens!) this tale has a grim conclusion. "An investigation disclosed the fact that all but one of her fowls had been stolen. The head of the one chicken, which had been left there by the person who committed the contemptible act, had been severed from the body."  - Daily Post and Record, January 6, 1917


historyHISTORY MYSTERY: Where did these windows come from? Hint: They are currently in the Stoppel Barn.

Answer: Some windows are from the Stoppel Smokehouse and Stone House. Others are still a mystery!

historyHISTORY MYSTERY: "LOST - On Broadway, a perfectly good coffin. Never been used. Finder Please Notify, etc., etc.


"The Main reason by such an ad. was not inserted in the papers a few days ago, is that the coffin came back.
An undertaking firm on Broadway, recently ordered a fine metallic coffin. When it arrived, the drayman unloaded it in front of the store and departed. One of the men in the store attempted to take it in, but finding it too heavy went for help.
In the meantime, a well known farmer not far from this city, had sent his man to town with a load of wood and instructed him to bring out some furniture which he would find ready packed outside a certain undertaker's establishment. The man drove up to the place and seeing the box containing the coffin, concluded that was what he was sent for. He found it rather hard loading, but he managed it some way and drove home with it blissfully unaware of the nature of the "furniture."
The surprise of his employer when the rig drove up and the box was unloaded may be imagined, but it was nothing compared to the hired man's feelings when he was made aware of the kind of furniture he had brought home. As there was no prospect for immediate use for the casket, it was taken back, greatly to the relief of the undertaker, who knew that no one ever stole coffins and could not imagine a spontaneous disappearance, by combustion or otherwise."
-The Daily Post and Record, March 16, 1917

historyHISTORY MYSTERY: Up, Down, or Sideways? What are you looking at?

Answer: The steeple tower on the Stoppel Farmstead Smokehouse as seen from inside the farm hand's quarters.


"D.V. Sattertlee, moving picture operator picked up a piece of quartz rock in Mayo park one day several weeks ago. He was attracted by the brilliancy and seeming hardness of the rock. The more he examined it, the better he liked it. He looked around and picked up another smaller. He took the stones to L. A. Orr, who sent them away to a gem cutting concern. When they returned there were two sparkling gems, one closely resembling the Mexican diamond; the other a sapphire. The larger weighs two carats, the smaller is about three fourths of a caret.

Mr. Satterlee does not know just what he will do with them, but he may sell them." Story taken from the Rochester Daily Post and Record, 1917.



The stones were picked up out of the gravel washed out of the road bed on the island by the early freshet. Where the gravel came from originally has not been learned.


"An unscrupulous thief, but one who has a fondness for first class, home made pickles entered the home of Mrs. Marietta Cummins, 414 South Pearl street, yesterday, and made away with twenty two quarts of dill pickles. Mrs. Cummings recently put up twenty seven jars of pickles and of the results of her labor, but five quarts remain." - Rochester Daily Bulletin, October 2, 1918


Unfortunately for Mrs. Cummings, the lid on this mystery was so tight that it was never successfully opened. With 22 quarts of dill pickles in his system, we find it surprising that nobody "nose" the identity of the Pickle Thief.


historyHISTORY MYSTERY: Where can you find this heater at the History Center?

A: Stoppel Stone Farm House in the Living Room


historyHISTORY MYSTERY: 1903 Thief escapes!

One Sunday morning it was discovered that Toronto Jimmy and two other prisoners, held for burglarizing a hardware store in Stewartville, escaped their cell and were nowhere to be found. Rewards have been offered and thorough search made. HOW DID THE PRISONERS ESCAPE? Information taken from page 254 of "History of Olmsted County" by Joseph Leonard, published in 1910.


Toronto Jimmy was arraigned in the Rochester, MN district court and pleaded "not guilty" for the theft of bags of gold and silver in Wisconsin. He remained in jail to await trial along with Jimmy and Charles Reynolds prior to their escape. They cut the steel bolts and bars and escaped out the window. The detectives of the Bank Insurance Company, who are said to never give up the search for a robber, eventually recaptured Toronto Jimmy in another state.