Monday, June 28, 2010

The Power of the Press and the Pursuit of Photos

Who says no one is reading newspapers anymore?

Last week, The Crookston Times published an article about my recent trip to Crookston with my parents and our search for more information about my great-grandfather, G. Oliver Riggs (here's the blog entry I wrote about the article).  The day the article ran, I received emails from two men who had read the story and had information to share.

One man had played in the high school band under G. Oliver's successor in Crookston, T.W. Thorson, and has a band program from a 1906 concert where G. Oliver was the director and his wife, Islea, was the accompanist.  He's going to look for it in his files and send it to me.

The other man is the grandson of Harry H. Chesterman, who moved to Crookston with his parents in 1892 at the age of 7 (G. Oliver arrived in town in 1898) and became an amateur photographer as a teenager.  Chesterman later had a photography studio in Crookston at 216 N. Broadway, next door to his father's funeral home.

The grandson who contacted me lives out of state and doesn't have many of his grandfather's early photos, but a cousin has a box of Chesterman's belongings, which may include photos.  He is hoping to get a look at the box in the next couple of months and will let me know whether it contains any band photos (including the Holy Grail of photos, one of G. Oliver with John Philip Sousa).

The Minnesota History Center has four of Chesterman's photos; a 1908 photo of James J. Hill at a birthday celebration in Crookston; a panoramic photo from 1915 of legislators taking a special train trip through northern Minnesota; one of St. Peter's Church in Gentilly, Minn., and one of former Minnesota Gov. Harold Stassen returning from service in World War II.

According to his grandson, many of Chesterman's photos were published, uncredited, in a 1954 book celebrating Crookston's 75th anniversary.  He has looked at the book and says it doesn't contain any band photos.  I may try to obtain a copy through interlibrary loan to see what kinds of photos it does contain.

Chesterman remained in Crookston until the 1930s and died in the mid-1960s.  I am sure that G. Oliver knew him.  I am now intrigued to find out more about this young man, who must have had acquired some fascinating stories as toted his camera around Crookston, snapping photos from the turn of the century through the Depression.  That's one of the fun aspects of this research; it introduces me to people I wouldn't otherwise meet, living and dead.

I look forward to hearing more from Chesterman's grandson, and from the man with the band program, and to meeting others out there who can help me better understand G. Oliver's life and career.

1 comment:

  1. Wow! Very exciting that the story in the Crookston Times resulted in two people contacting you. Can't wait to hear what happens with the program and pictures.

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