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Spring Storms (1894)

130 years ago on May 9, 1894 at 5:15 PM, a spring storm arrived in Stillwater bringing hail and heavy rain. It soon flooded the town. That first storm caused significant street and building damage, and even resulted in a death, but was only the first of four storms that assailed Stillwater over the following five days.

In this photograph, townsfolk view two collapsed buildings at north Fourth Street and Hickory Street, victims of a washout following the storms. As the May 16, 1894 edition of the Stillwater Daily Gazette described, 100 feet of the street was washed out to a depth of 25 or 30 feet into the ravine between Fourth and Third streets. Both buildings were owned by Erik Walquist. One building was apparently used by Walquist while the other was operated as a general store by August Wennerberg. Mr. Wennerberg’s losses were said to be $1,000, over $30,000 in 2024 dollars. Walquist’s house, the smaller building left standing to the north of the washout, was said to be “in considerable danger.” Properties on the east side of the ravine (on the Third Street side) were also damaged.

This photograph is one of several photographs in the Holcombe Family Photograph Collection that document the aftermath of the flood. The collection can be viewed in the library’s St. Croix Collection or online at the Minnesota Digital Library. Thanks to the Stillwater Area Historic Newspaper Initiative for making digitized copies of Stillwater newspapers available that help us understand the events and stories behind these photographs!