The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Local News

February 10, 2013

Researcher, local group face off in gallows authenticity debate

— Two new research projects on a timber purported to be from the gallows used to hang 38 Dakota men in Mankato come to widely differing conclusions about its authenticity.

An article by Dale Blanshan in the winter 2013 edition of Minnesota’s Heritage magazine argues the timber in the Blue Earth County Historical Society collection can only be from the gallows, used in the nation’s largest mass execution on Dec. 26, 1862, following the U.S.-Dakota War.

Blanshan study here (with input from Blue Earth Historical Society report also)

Blanshan is a retired minister, attorney and educator.

A study by staff and volunteers at the local Historical Society, however, concludes there are numerous problems with claims the timber is from the gallows and suggests the donor of the timber lied.

(Blue Earth County Historical Society video on gallows timber study.)

(Blue Earth County Historical Society website report on gallows timber study)

Historical Society Director Jessica Potter said their research used historical records of the time that described the construction of the gallows and its sale at auction afterward, while Blanshan’s research was more superficial.

“We really studied the information from 1860s and ’70s. He’s using his eyes to have it fit into history,” she said. “He didn’t spend the time on it that we did. It’s just a difference of opinion.”

Potter, who has never displayed the timber publicly, said she doubts there will ever be a conclusion as to whether the timber is from the gallows.

“There’s not that definite piece that gives all the answers, there’s a lot of unknowns and a lot of research that needs to be done. There needs to be some major document that comes forward that sheds light on it.”

Most valuable artifact?

The timber is “arguably the most valuable artifact in Minnesota history,” wrote Blanshan of Rochester. “Of all the artifacts in Minnesota museums, no other could sum up the Dakota War as powerfully and effectively.”

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