Cottonwood historical society to conduct cemetery tour
WINDOM — The Cottonwood County Historical Society will open the doors of its museum Sunday afternoon for a special program on local veterans.
The society, which has conducted cemetery strolls in other years, is putting a new twist on the event by having volunteers share the stories of military men and women on the museum’s stage.
“The Cemetery Stroll: A Tribute to Cottonwood County Veterans” will begin at 2 p.m. at the museum, 812 Fourth Ave., Windom. Doors will open at 1:30 p.m.
Linda Fransen, director of the historical society, said the past year has been dedicated to archiving military memorabilia and collecting stories from the county’s veterans to establish a database, thanks to a grant the society received from Minnesota’s legacy program.
To help build awareness for the program, Fransen said portions of the historical society’s collection have been used throughout this past year at the county fair and community parades.
“We are encouraging veterans to complete a form … and we’re creating a database for all of the people that served from Cottonwood County,” said Fransen, adding that the work Rock County has done with its military museum was the impetus for the project.
So far, more than 50 veterans have contributed information or stories for the effort, but Fransen said, “We know there’s a lot more out there who haven’t.”
The stories to be shared during Sunday’s Cemetery Stroll will focus on six Cottonwood County natives who served during the war.
“Our prerequisite was that they were buried here,” Fransen said, with an exception made for Julia Maude Parson, who graduated from Windom High School in 1908 and went on to travel considerably as a Red Cross nurse.
Parson wrote a letter to her mother on Armistice Day 1918, providing a woman’s perspective on her time in France during World War I. An excerpt from that letter reads:
“We have now taken over a sector of the hospital and are running it independently. We are handicapped at present for things to work with but are getting them as fast as reason will expect. When one stops to consider that we have equipped and filled 40 wards and taken care of some of the most terribly wounded men I ever hope to see all in the space of two weeks. It sounds like the good old Yankee way of doing things, doesn’t it?”
“This letter, you can just visualize as she’s writing the letter what she’s going through,” Fransen said.
Parson is one of three women featured in Sunday’s event. The other two include Minnie Schmotzker Brill, who served during World War I, and Kathryn Campbell, who served in World War II.
A Civil War veteran, Clark Workman Seely; World War I veteran Morris Severson; World War II veteran Charles Willsher and Korean War veteran Marlin Schmidt will all be featured in the Cemetery Stroll.
“All of the people we picked really contributed back in their community, with the exception of (Parson),” Fransen said. “She was quite the traveler.”
Volunteers will read about each of the veterans during the stroll, and Fransen said she will have on display the graphics panels created for the military exhibit.
The Remick Gallery will also be open Sunday afternoon, and the public is welcome to view the latest exhibit, featuring the photography of Mark C. Christianson, a Windom native who now lives in the Twin Cities. Christianson’s exhibit, “Borrowed Light,” features pictures of his extensive travels, with a focus on the ordinary turned into works of art, Fransen said.