Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Serving up history and pie in Faribault April 12, 2011

I EXPECT YOU have no clue what you are viewing above. Perhaps you think this is a piece of art in a gallery exhibit.

You would be wrong. Way wrong.

Rather, this shows a portion of a Civil War battle flag that I’ve switched up with some photo editing tools to emphasize the stars and letters and numbers in the upper left corner.

Lighting conditions weren’t ideal for photographing this flag Saturday afternoon in the Guild House at the Cathedral of Our Merciful Saviour in Faribault.

Honestly, I hadn’t even expected to photograph this flag sewn by a group of women in Fairmont and carried by Company C, 6th Minnesota Volunteer Infantry. The last time I asked to photograph the flag at the Rice County Museum of History, my request was denied by director Susan Garwood.

She didn’t know me from Adam, or Eve, although I gave her my business card and explained that I was a writer and blogger. That didn’t matter.

Thankfully, Garwood changed her mind and I got the go-ahead-and-shoot-but-without-flash OK.

Garwood has reason to be cautious. This battle flag is rare, among about a half dozen in Minnesota. Recent restoration cost nearly $7,300.

Here's how the flag really looks. Faded. The company which carried this flag was comprised of men primarily from Bridgewater Township in Rice County, Minnesota. On the back side of the flag 34 stars are sewn representing the number of states in 1862. You are seeing reflections here on the glass encasing the flag.


Just another, upside down, view of the flag and the reflections of visitors viewing it.

I don’t know the value of the restored flag. But it is valuable enough that a Faribault police officer was guarding the flag Saturday afternoon during “Recognition of the Fall of Fort Sumter–The Beginning of the Civil War” sponsored by the Rice County Historical Society and the Cannon Valley Civil War Roundtable.

Likewise a collector of Civil War era artifacts was standing guard over his tables full of treasures. He had, among Civil War uniform buttons and other items, an original Lincoln photo engraving (used on the $50 bill) and signature. I didn’t ask the values. Sometimes it’s better not to know these things.


A slightly out of focus photo that I took of an original Lincoln photo engraving for a $50 bill on display Saturday.

The last time I photographed parts of his collection at a 2009 Cannon Valley Civil War Roundtable meeting, he made me promise not to reveal his name. I agreed. I didn’t want to go missing and have my family looking for me under a stadium. That’s an exaggeration, but this collector was serious. My lips are sealed.

I did ask him, though, why he didn’t bring his slave bills, which were advertised as being at the event and one of the key reasons I attended. He simply said he didn’t know he was supposed to bring them. He gave the same answer 1 1/2 years ago at the Roundtable meeting. I had gone to the session then specifically to see the slave documents.

But on Saturday I perused a few other artifacts I hadn’t seen before like…

these old bullets


and two Civil War era muzzleloaders which I was allowed to pick up and which were heavy at 18 and 21 pounds.

I also saw…

these costumed reenactors pull up in a pick-up truck

and this unidentified reenactor, left, posing for photos with Sharon and Richard G. Krom of Rochester. Richard is the great grandson of a Civil War soldier and has written a book, The 1st MN Second to None.

Finally, I sat down with friends and family to enjoy…

a piece of delicious homemade pie made by Rice County Historical Society President Jason Reher. He baked 16 pies for the event. (Jason could be a professional baker; his pie is that good.)

Fortunately for me, Jason had baked my favorite pie and apparently a favorite of many as everyone sitting at my table chose blueberry pie over apple, pumpkin or pecan. Most of us wondered if the blueberries were wild, yet never bothered to walk over and ask the pie-maker.

Jason wondered why I was photographing his pie. I just handed him a business card and figured he’d figure it out.

Copyright 2011 Audrey Kletscher Helbling




4 Responses to “Serving up history and pie in Faribault”

  1. Bernie Says:

    Great pictures. I’m so glad that she let you take a picture of the flag now.
    I’m starting to wonder if the guy even has the Slave Documents anymore. It just seems odd that he would not realize to bring them, twice.
    The pie looks yummy!

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      Hmmmm, never thought that he may not have the slave bills. I think he does, though, and there was simply a lack of communication. You would not believe the “stuff” this collector owns. Old coins. Valuable signatures. Civil War era postcards. His collection could fund my son’s college education and more.

      As for photographing the Civil War flag, yes, I was glad to get the opportunity although I wished I could have opened the glass cover and moved the flag into a better lighting situation. But I wasn’t about to push my luck and the flag isn’t easily moved.

      I would like to see Rice County host a Civil War “potluck” event (not talking food here), meaning the general public could come and display any Civil War related artifacts, letters or documents they possess. I know several attendees on Saturday brought Civil War items they own. Wouldn’t it be fun if they could share their treasures and stories with the public?

      • Dan Peterson Says:

        Interesting reading and wonderful pictures. It seems that all of the 160+ people who attended were very very satisfied. I missed it due to being out of the state – but have heard many many comments about the event. Also, people should know that the Cannon Valley Civil War Roundtable meets in Faribault the third Thursday of each month – except June, July, and August. Someone usually brings in one or more artifacts – thinking someone at the meeting could identify it, appraise it, or just to share the story of it.

      • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

        The collective knowledge of your group impresses me. I might add that the Roundtable meets at 7 p.m., on the days Dan specified, at the Faribault Community Center, 19 West Division Street.

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