Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Part III from Pleasant Grove: Saddle up for church February 3, 2017



PUT ON YOUR TEN GALLON HAT, pull on your cowboy boots, and sattle (sic) up your horse or just come as you are in your horseless carriage.

That’s the invitation extended on the Pleasant Grove Church of Christ website for Cowboy Church. Cowboy Church? What exactly is that?




I wondered the same when I happened upon a banner outside the church in the unincorporated village of Pleasant Grove, yet another interesting place discovered on an autumn day trip to southeastern Minnesota. Pleasant Grove. What a lovely sounding name.




But back to that sign. Cowboy Church, according to the website, is a casual bluegrass worship service held at 6 p.m. on the fourth Sunday of the month. It apparently features cowboy musicians and western music, which seems logical given the name. And a meditation.

Past events at Cowboy Church have included an ice cream social; serving of a cowboy’s favorite dessert, pie; and a beef stew supper. Sounds like a good time to me.

TELL ME: Have you ever heard of, or attended, Cowboy Church? Or share a unique church experience outside traditional worship.

This concludes my three-part series from Pleasant Grove, located east of Stewartville or southeast of Rochester. Click here to read Part I and click here to read Part II.

© Copyright 2016 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


Part II from Pleasant Grove: Minnesota’s oldest Masonic Lodge January 30, 2017


Masonic Lodge 22, Pleasant Grove, Minnesota

ON AN OCTOBER STOP in Pleasant Grove, Minnesota, I walked the gravel road from the town hall to the old Masonic lodge. Yes, you read that right. Gravel. Not a single paved street in this unincorporated village that is home to Minnesota’s oldest Masonic lodge chartered in 1858.


Parked next to the Masonic Lodge.

In this settlement, you will see too many vehicles with hoods up, wood stashed in the backs of abandoned pick-up trucks, sizable wood piles and at least one grand brick and limestone house atop a hill.


A garage next to the town hall.

Most motorists likely wouldn’t even bother to turn off Olmsted County Road 1 into this berg. It’s that unassuming. But then I am not anyone. I delight in discovering these mostly unnoticed places that others pass by.

An extraordinarily lovely historic home in Pleasant Grove.

An extraordinarily lovely historic home in Pleasant Grove.

While Pleasant Grove, which lies some 15 miles south of Rochester, may not be all neat and city-ish proper, it is still home to some. Knowing small towns as I do, I expect I was being watched while poking around.




As I climbed the wooden steps to Masonic Lodge 22, I was hoping to get inside. But that was wishful thinking. Nothing’s unlocked anymore. Instead, I settled for peeking inside a front window to view a spacious room with what appears to be a kitchen in the rear.




This structure, built in 1868 and rededicated in 2003, has been home to local Masons for more than 150 years. They meet here twice a month, except in the summer when it’s once/month.




According to a sign out front, Lodge 22 meetings were initially held in the Green Mountain House. Google as I might, I could find no online info about that house.




This historic structure also served as a store and meat market when it was built.




So what, exactly, is a Mason? According to the Grand Lodge of Minnesota, freemasonry is the oldest and largest fraternal order in the world—a universal brotherhood of men dedicated to service, God, family, fellowman and country.




No mention of men laying stone.

FYI: Please check for one more story in this three-part series from Pleasant Grove. Click here to read my first story.

© Copyright 2016 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


Part I from Pleasant Grove: About those pioneer women January 24, 2017



I ALMOST CAN’T BELIEVE what I am reading:

The first “real” settlement, with housekeeping and women, in Olmsted County was made in 1853 by Philo S. Curtis in the village of Pleasant Grove, then known as Curtis. The following year Mr. Curtis opened the Pleasant Grove House, a three-story log hotel at the junction of the Pioneeer (Fort Atkinson) Trail and the Territorial Road (St. Paul-Dubuque Road)…




Reread those first words: The first “real” settlement, with housekeeping and women




What exactly does that mean? The words are posted on a sign erected in 1966 (or maybe it was 1986 at the Pleasant Grove Town Hall; I can’t decipher the decade) by the Olmsted County Historical Society.




Pleasant Grove, as I understand the historical marker, was the first settlement in this southeastern Minnesota County where women lived. And those women were tasked with housekeeping. (Maybe more?) Now there’s nothing wrong with either sex assuming household duties. But I’m bothered by the wording; as a woman, it just strikes me as wrong. This is, after all, 2017, not the mid 1800s. A woman ran for President. Women ran for office everywhere, even in Olmsted County. We can vote. We can march. Perhaps this could be written in a more positive way to honor the early pioneer women who settled here.




And why were so many towns named after men? Did you catch that? Philo Curtis established the village, originally called Curtis. Thank goodness someone had the good sense to change the name to the much more pleasing Pleasant Grove.




Now, if only someone would replace the weathered, nearly unreadable historical marker with something more pleasant.

TELL ME: What are your thoughts on the wording of this sign? Should it be changed? If so, what would you write? Or is it OK given the historical context?

FYI: Please check back as I bring you more discoveries from my stop in Pleasant Grove several months ago, well before winter arrived.

© Copyright 2017 Audrey Kletscher Helbling