The Free Press, Mankato, MN

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April 30, 2012

Turnabout on ‘gallows’ beam

Hanging artifact draws historical dispute



In a Free Press story earlier this year, Potter said she did not intend to display the beam because its provenance was in doubt, because the museum was tight on space, and because it would be offensive to some people.

The county Historical Society chose to focus heavily on the Dakota history and culture this coming year and the bulk of its museum display regarding 1862 is dedicated to the Dakota and Winnebago Indians (who lived near Mankato at the time). 

Some historians and the public argued that a wide variety of artifacts from the time should be displayed, even those items that carry powerful emotions. 

Less than a week after that Free Press story, Potter announced she had researched the beam and determined it was not the “gallows” beam but a bridge beam.

Mike Lagerquist, president of the Board of Trustees for the county Historical Society, said he has no reservations about how Potter handled the situation, or that she unequivocally re-christened the beam as a bridge beam.

“You go with what you’ve got at the time. The (descriptions) we had of the beam did not indicate it was from the gallows. We see this as the staff doing its job,” Lagerquist said.

He said that they now know the beam was the one removed from Meagher’s building. “But whether it is a beam from the gallows, we’re still investigating.”

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