Mark Olson has lived and worked in Chaska for seven years. He is editor of the Chaska Herald, a newspaper founded in 1862. In his spare time, Olson is working on the third volume of "Chaska: A Minnesota River City" for the Chaska Historical Society. The volume covers the city's history, from 1950 to present.
Why should people care about history?
It's cliché, but past is prologue. The longer I work in the newspaper business, the more I realize this. For instance, I'll stumble across 1800s Herald articles bemoaning the kids of today.
It's a mistake to underestimate those who came before us. We can learn from our ancestors.
History is a map that tells us how we got here, to the present. It gives us a sense of place.
Most importantly, the past is a heck of a story. Everyone loves a good story - it's entertainment of the highest order. Our communities are full of blockbuster tales of heartache and triumph.
What people or events helped spark your interest in history?
I'm a research geek. When I have time, nothing makes me happier than holing up in the Minnesota Historical Society library digging up relevant and irrelevant facts.
The more I research, the more my interest in history grows.
A few months ago, while researching a newspaper story about the demise of Chaska Township, I ran across a list of dogs in our community, circa 1866. Charles Warner founded the Weekly Valley Herald (now the Chaska Herald). At the time he owned a large seven-year-old dog named Isaac.
That little fact tells me a lot about the guy who printed stories in one of the state's first newspapers, telling Chaska readers about the Sioux Uprising and Civil War.
What are compelling stories from our communities?
Wow. Where do I start?
In the town where I live:
These are just a few things that pop into my head. Every day I learn another compelling story.
- Wooly mammoths walked the earth.
- Woodland Indians buried their dead.
- The county sheriff executed a convicted murderer.
- Hundreds of German brickyard workers, many of them children, toiled in clay pits.
- Chaskans labored in vain to protect the city from floodwaters.
- Boys whiled away hours in the ballpark one summer and fought in Korea the next.
- The revolutionary concept of urban planning, via the New Town of Jonathan, took root.