Smiling to myself at the thought of living in a town called Sleepy Eye, I had to stop by the roadside Golden Gate Cemetery for no other reason than the mental comparison I was making with the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco was too ludicrous for words. The town was named after the nearby lake which in turn was named after Chief Sleep Eye, so-called because of his droopy eyelid. Back in 1824, the good chief was one of four Sioux who met with President James Monroe, along with four Ojibwe. They travelled the whole way to Washington DC for the meeting. That would have taken a few days.
Nearly 30 years later, the same chap was still in play.
Sleepy Eye was an integral player in the 1851 signing of the Treaty of Traverse des Sioux, which gave all of the land but a 10-mile swath on each side of the upper Minnesota River to the U.S. government. His recommendations to traders led to the successful settlement of Mankato, away from flood areas, and the Chief eventually settled his people near the lake now known as Sleepy Eye Lake.
I still wondered though what Golden Gate had to do with Sleepy Eye? Some digging led to this from the website of the Minnesota Historical Society:
GOLDEN GATE, a village in Home Township, section 30, located less than a mile from Sleepy Eye, was begun about 1864, flourished for a period, and disappeared by 1920; it had a post office, 1868-1900. Some local pioneers said the name was too high-toned and nicknamed the village Podunk, a name that clung until the village died; some called it Hell’s Half Acre because of the rough element imbibing in local saloons, forcing the community to endorse strict prohibition. Spring Creek, a tributary of the Mississippi River, supplied power to a flour mill built by John Heimerdinger, and his home is one of the few remaining structures.
And somewhere in the cemetery is a millstone from this mill – all that’s left of it. I missed it.
I had vague recollections of Sleepy Eye from my days of watching Little House on the Prairie because it was here that the fictional school for the blind that Mary attended was located. I hadn’t known though that some of the locals made a name for themselves back in the 1990s when they tried to ban MTV!
But back to the cemetery.
From what little I could find, Ella Pickle was just 15 when she died from diphtheria back in 1829. She’s buried alongside her father Myron, who also succumbed to the disease some three weeks after his daughter. How sad was that?
The length of Fannie Hills’s life is quite exact: 21 years, 2 months, and 29 days. Time must have meant more to people back in the day.
When people wonder why I have a thing for cemeteries, I tell them that each visit teaches me something and signposts paths I’d never otherwise take.