Several weeks ago, Wifey “poked” me — or “tagged” me? Maybe she tweetered me or something — on Facebook and drew my attention to the Downtown Fergus Falls Mystery Tour. The Otter Tail County Historical Society does historical tours of town as an outreach program, something more engaging and interactive than touring a stuffy ‘ol museum. The tour began at 8pm yesterday, June 6th, at the River Inn hotel building. It had been converted to apartments, but in its day it was a big deal — fireproof, even.
The tour was led by Otter Tail County Historical Society Executive Director Chris Schuelke, who started us all out with a story of an old woman beat to death with the blunt end of an axe. They were right when warning people that the tour wasn’t for the faint of heart, but throughout the stories were — despite death and mayhem — kept light and entertaining.
The tour then moved down the street, in front of a former bank building, to tell the story of financial woes, graft and theft in Otter Tail County. Then, around the corner to the old city hall, where we heard about a nude painting that caused an uproar (and maybe sold some couches, too)
Back to the main road, and in front of the Schacht Block we heard of the untimely demise of a crooked dentist for whom the building was named:
The Hotel Kaddatz was the fourth stop, and the first with a reenactor: the wife of a former proprietor, who favored young ladies more than business sense (the husband, not the wife, that is):
She was immediately followed by Gus Comstock, the record-setting coffee drinker that called Fergus Falls his home. His story was less tragedy, unless he had difficulty finding a bathroom after his record-setting eighty cups of coffee.
A little further down the block, in front of a former department store, we heard stories of the cyclone that tore through town, picking up citizens and tossing them about, and smashing whatever buildings it saw fit:
The last stop on the tour was the current City Hall, where we heard a various stories about attempts to clean up Fergus Falls, and enforce prohibition despite everyone’s desire to do anything but:
All together the tour lasted about an hour, which was just about right, given the setting sun and people’s tolerance for walking and standing these days. It was a perfect night for it, though: no bugs, moderate temperature, no wind. We were surprised at the size of the crowd, about forty people by our estimate, which goes to show the appeal the Otter Tail Historical Society has built for itself. At the end they announced a few other tours and events; hopefully we can fit more into our schedule!