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Revealing history: Cottage Grove documents transferred to Washington County Historical Society

The typhoid fever quarantine sign is one of the rarer documents transferred from Cottage Grove to the Washington County Historical Society. (Photo courtesy of Brent Peterson)1 / 4
John Burbank and Brent Peterson display a wolf bounty law document that was transferred along with several other documents from Cottage Grove to the Washington County Historical Society. (Photo courtesy of Brent Peterson) 2 / 4
Cottage Grove transferred many historical documents to the Washington County Historical Society to preserve and the documents will remain public for viewing. (Photo courtesy of Brent Peterson) 3 / 4
One item held by the Washington County Historical Society is a book presented to the first mayor, Harold Kernkamp, outlining meeting rules and other rules. (Submitted photo by John Burbank) 4 / 4

From 19th-century quarantine signs to wolf bounties, a collection of historical Cottage Grove documents have found their way to a permanent home.

The Cottage Grove City Council approved transfer of city historical documents to the Washington County Historical Society in September, and they were moved to the historical society's Stillwater center March 6.

The collection includes some of the more common documents such as city council meeting minutes, court records and road requests, said Brent Peterson, executive director of the Washington County Historical Society.

Some items are rare, including Cottage Grove road requests dated 1859, a year after the township was founded. Peterson said road requests that old are uncommon.

Also rare: a typhoid fever quarantine sign. Peterson said he's seen old Washington County signs of scarlet fever and measles, but not this disease.

"Back in the day, someone got measles, mumps, the entire house got quarantined," he said. "There were documents and local ordinances, including a poster or card that you would put in the window warning people that that house had that disease."

Wolf bounty forms in the collection also caught Peterson's eye.

"Back in the day, people would kill wolves and would get (a) bounty ... and would get so much per wolf," he said. "Now they're a protected species."

One of the documents, Peterson said, claims $12; another only $2. Per the wolf bounty ordinance document, a full wolf carcass merited $4.

Other documents include justice dockets from the 1890s to the 1940s, a town book from 1858-1890, a town seal and other city records.

Many of these documents are similar to those collected from other communities in Washington County, Peterson said.

"It shows how we all live under the same rules," he said. "On one hand it's all around Cottage Grove, on the other hand it's about the communities around Cottage Grove."

Peterson said there are a few other Cottage Grove records already at the WCHS records center, including scrapbooks of newspaper clippings from 1960 to the mid-1970s. Cottage Grove senior planner John Burbank also found a book of meeting rules gifted to Cottage Grove's first mayor Harold Kernkamp.

The city documents have been in storage for quite some time before the transfer. Burbank said they were in a room that was initially old City Hall's first jail on 80th Street, and they "just sat there forever."

The records were in storage again after the move to the new City Hall, and staff finally decided it was time do something with them.

Due to certain restrictions on birth, stillborn and death records, Cottage Grove transferred those to the Minnesota Historical Society's State Archives.

The transfer comes at no cost to Cottage Grove, and the WCHS must ask permission to move or destroy any documents.

When the council approved the transfer in September, it was requested that some documents be put on display. Burbank said all the documents were transferred to the WCHS and will not be displayed at Cottage Grove City Hall, but the records can be viewed at the historical society research center. Cottage Grove staff scanned some documents before the transfer, and they can be found on the city website, Burbank said.

Most documents at the research center are not scanned, but originals can be viewed in person.

Research center hours are noon to 5 p.m. Tuesdays, Fridays and Sundays, and 3-9 p.m. Wednesdays. For more information visit www.wchsmn.org.

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