Located just 3 blocks from the Rivertown Inn, Stillwater’s Historic Courthouse is the site of many exhibits, concerts, events and weddings. This coming weekend they will be hosting the annual History In Your Backyard. This free event features the rich history of Washington County through old-fashioned games, historic artifacts and photos, refreshments, and activities. Children of all ages may participate in an architectural scavenger hunt and play with old-fashioned toys. The event is designed to bring together, in one location, the purveyors of local history so people can learn about the many historic opportunities there are in Washington County and the surrounding area.
In addition to learning about local history, guests can tour the old county jail, and view an exhibit on the history of Marine on St. Croix, one of Minnesota’s oldest towns. Presented by a committee from the Stone House Museum in Marine on St. Croix, the installation tells the story of the community on the river from the time the first lumber mill was built, until the community celebrated its centennial in 1938. At 2 p.m., Mary Smith of the Stone House Museum will give a short presentation on the history of Marine on St. Croix.
In front of the Historic Courthouse is the local Civil War Monument . This monument was recently restored and rededicated to the memory of the men from Washington County who served during the war. Among the many names on the monument, you will find Edward O’Brien.
Edward O’Brien was the older brother of John O’Brien (the original owner of the house we now call the Rivertown Inn). He enlisted in the 6th Minnesota Volunteer Infantry Regiment, Company I, as an Orderly Sergeant on October 4, 1862. The regiment was first sent to guard the frontier from Native Americans who had been forced to leave Minnesota at the end of the US-Dakota War in September of 1862. After pursuing the Native Americans as they fled west of the Missouri River and north into Canada, the regiment returned to Fort Snelling where they were placed on garrison duty. Subsequently the Regiment Captain resigned and as a result of this, on February 10, 1863, Edward was promoted to Second Lieutenant.
On June 14, 1864, the 6th Minnesota left Fort Snelling and were stationed in Helena, Arkansas, where many men died from disease (the final death tally for the regiment was 12 men who died in battle and 165 men who died from disease for a total of 177 loses). After a few months in Helena, they were sent north to St. Louis, back south to New Orleans and then returned to Arkansas where they stormed Fort Blakely in January of 1865 – one of the last battles of the war.
On March 9, 1865, Edward O’Brien was appointed Captain of the 24th United States Infantry, Colored Troops. He never assumed this post as the war ended a few months later and he was at home on a furlough during this period. The United States Colored Troops were disbanded in the fall of 1865.
If you are interested in local Civil War history, we would recommend “In Their Own Words, The Civil War as Seen by Washington County Soldiers,” by Robert Goodman and Peter DeCarlo. This book was published by the Washington County Historical Society and is available for purchase at the Wardens House Museum, the Historic Courthouse and the Valley Bookseller. Also, on Monday, April 7th, from 7:00 to 8:30 pm, the Stillwater Public Library will be hosting “Bring Home the Civil War” a presentation by Chuck Logan the author of “South of Shiloh.” The cost for this event is $30. and you can register on line at stillwaterpubliclibraryfoundation.org, by calling (651) 275-4338 or emailing to firstname.lastname@example.org.