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MHS President's Message

Greetings Members and Friends,

The Minnetonka Historical Society is happy to announce that we have been awarded a grant from the Minnesota Historical Society for research and writing, which is the first step in getting the History of Minnetonka Town manuscript published.  This manuscript was written by Dana Frear, the first Minnetonka Historian, over a period of 30 years, and it was his dream to have it published. More information on this exciting endeavor is featured in this newsletter.


Our collection information is now available online!  This is a wonderful opportunity for us to share our precious history with everyone.   We are also beginning a new phase of cataloging thousands of paper artifacts, and have an enthusiastic team of volunteers to help with this huge task!


This July, the Burwell House was a featured destination in the first ever “Lake Minnetonka History Month” Visitors were encouraged to visit all five participating museums and have their “Pastport” stamped to be eligible to win a huge historically themed prize basket. 


You can read about all of these exciting and fun topics below and hope you enjoy them!


Finally, we have continued our work on the Heritage Grant with the five other Lake Minnetonka Historical Societies: Excelsior-Lake Minnetonka, Westonka, Wayzata, Deephaven and Museum of Lake Minnetonka (Steamboat Minnehaha).  Funded by the Minnesota Historical Society, this grant has allowed us to consider an array of partnership options with the participating historical societies.  The array of options the group set out to consider – almost a year ago – included everything from simple collaboration to formal consolidation/merger and every option in between.  The impetus of the project was to provide sustainability of history-focused organizations in the coming years.  A few key considerations included shared challenges such as lack of new volunteers and new member recruitment.  


As part of the grant, the group hired Arts Consulting Group (ACG), to research and develop partnership models.  ACG brought a wide range of experience in nonprofit partnership modeling along with a depth of knowledge about data collection and analysis to the discussion.


The project was undertaken in four phases beginning in December 2019 to the present day.  Phase one included the creation of a comprehensive profile of each of the six potential partner organizations. Phase two was focused on collecting member and community feedback about the possibility of collaboration to consolidation. In this phase, the grant partners conducted membership-wide surveys, individual key stakeholder interviews, community Town Halls and a benchmarking survey of similar partnerships.  Phase three work turned toward understanding how the research and information- gathering results translated into potential financial and operational partnership models.  Phase four was dedicated to considering each partnership model and making a choice about the future of our participation.    


After hearing from our members and a long, deliberative process with potential partners, the Minnetonka Historical Society board decided that the Minnetonka Historical Society will remain an independent 501c3 organization with a keen interest in future collaborative efforts with other history societies for the purpose of advancing historic preservation and community education.  We have already begun to collaborate by co-sponsoring and participating with other societies in an education event – the history “Pastport Program” to draw visitors to local sites during History Month in July.  Also, we have had several guest speakers from other societies during our Fall “History Matters” education series and, recently met with the Hopkins Historical Society. 


While we have decided to remain an independent organization, we are excited about future collaborations to ensure vibrant preservation efforts and educational offerings in our communities.  We thank you for your continued support of the Minnetonka Historical Society, your feedback during our exploration of partnership ideas and, of course, welcome questions, comments and ideas from our members. 


Thank you for your continued support!

Jan Cook


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*This project has been financed in part with funds provided by the State of Minnesota from the Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund through the Minnesota Historical Society.

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MHS Receives Research and Writing Grant from MNHS

A big thank you to Bill Jepson, MHS board member, who spearheaded the effort to obtain a Research and Writing Grant from the Minnesota Historical Society. Famed Minnesota writer, Curt Brown, has agreed to edit the 350+ page manuscript “The History of Minnetonka Town” written by Dana Frear. 


Curt Brown spent more than 30 years as a reporter at Minnesota newspapers in Minneapolis, St. Paul and Fergus Falls. He writes a Minnesota history column every Sunday for the Minneapolis Star Tribune; the stories were collected in the e-book publication Frozen in History: Amazing Tales from Minnesota’s Past. Brown was named Minnesota Journalist of the Year in 2013 for his serial narrative on the U.S.-Dakota War. He has also written five other books related to Minnesota history.   


Dana Frear grew up on McGinty Road just across from the Burwell House.  He was Minnetonka’s first historian, and began in the 1930’s compiling information for a comprehensive history of our city.


He attended the University of Minnesota, and graduated from the College of Agriculture with a bachelor's degree. He also earned both a master’s and doctorate, and was the state’s agronomist for over 20 years. Mr. Frear worked on his manuscript for almost 40 years, but in the 1970s, publishing a book was an expensive and difficult process. 

Fortunately, his dream did not fade.  MHS has preserved the manuscript, and with the technology advancements of the 21st century we are happy to be able to set the wheels in motion to finally fulfill Dana Frear’s dream. Through some great detective work, Bill Jepson was able to locate and contact Dana Frear’s descendants, and they have wholeheartedly endorsed this effort.  


On October 6, as part of the MHS Speaker’s bureau fall series, Bill gave us a preview of the manuscript and detailed Mr. Frear’s struggle to have the manuscript published back in the 1970s.


We look forward to keeping you apprised of the progress.  

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You can watch Bill Jepson's presentation at the City Hall about Dana Frear's Minnetonka Manuscript
by clicking on this link to the City of Minnetonka's video channel.

                         Mystery Photo

Do you know that Minnetonka's Groveland Cemetery holds the first soldier who died in battle to be buried in Hennepin County? Who was he and at what battle was he mortally wounded?
(Answers page 4.) 

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*This project has been financed in part with funds provided by the State of Minnesota from the Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund through the Minnesota Historical Society.

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History Month Collaboration

As the warm weather of summer draws to an end, we are reflecting back on summer activities. In 2020, all of our programing was sadly canceled due to COVID.  Other historical societies around Lake Minnetonka were similarly impacted by the onset of Covid in 2020 and were determined to get community residents back to our museums in 2021.

As part of the Heritage Grant – as described in the President’s letter in this issue of the Millwheel – five of the six grant partner organizations plus the Streetcar Museum decided to band together to create a fun, new program aimed at getting people excited about history again.  After a brainstorming session with the group, it was decided to create the first-ever program to encourage areas residents to visit all six area museums with a “PastPort” in hand and a prize at the end.  To be eligible to win the prize – a huge history-themed gift basket – each participant had to visit each of the six museums to have their “Pastport” stamped at each location.  The winner of the Pastport contest was Ike Phelps.  His four-year-old grandson, Isaac, loves trains so the gift basic was appropriately bestowed at the Depot in Wayzata – one of the participating museums.  The Minnetonka Historical Society featured the Burwell House and Museum.  In a lovely note from Isaac’s grandmother, Theresa Phelps, said, ”We all want to thank you and your museum group for the lovely gift basket.  What a bounty of history and toys for our entire family.”    

It was a fun event for everyone…we are sad to see summer come to an end and hope to collaborate again next summer.

Lisa Fowler


*This project has been financed in part with funds provided by the State of Minnesota from the Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund through the Minnesota Historical Society.


Theo Coggin, Isaac Phelps and grandfather Ike Phelps enjoying the day at the Depot. 

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Grandfather, Ike Phelps, his 4-year-old grandson Isaac, and Theo Coggin, a child visiting the Depot the day the gift basket was bestowed.

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Don't forget to check out our Facebook page with many interesting posts about Minnetonka History to share with your friends and family!  

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Collective Access Project Update

Last fall, the Minnetonka Historical Society was awarded a Minnesota Historical and Cultural Heritage Grant of $9,325 to transition to a new collections database, CollectiveAccess. Project work started in January, and we are now nearing the end of it. All of the data from our previous database has been successfully transferred to the new database, and we have started cataloging items in our collection in the new database. MHS board members and volunteers will take part in a half-day training in November so we can learn all the ins and outs of our new system. 


We are excited about all of the ways this new database will benefit our community. It will enable us to organize and digitize our collection, and thus make better use of it when answering your research questions, developing programs and presentations, and sharing the rich history of Minnetonka! The new database has also made it possible for us to share our collection on Just click on "Minnetonka Historical Society" and you can see some of the wonderful and interesting items in our collection! We will be continually adding to it, so check back often! (And while you are there, you can also check out the many other participating historical societies. is a wealth of local history!) 


We are not actively seeking collections volunteers at this time, thanks to the great response from our recent call for volunteers. However, opportunities may arise in the future for ongoing collections volunteer work or single day "catalog-a-thons," so keep an eye on our website and Facebook page if you are interested!

Stephanie Herrick


*This project has been financed in part with funds provided by the State of Minnesota from the Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund through the Minnesota Historical Society.

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Mystery Photo answer

Captain Dudley P. Chase of the 2nd US Sharpshooters was wounded at the Battle of Antietam in the Civil War. He then went back to fight at the Battle of Chancellorsville where he was mortally wounded in the arm and died a week later in Washington DC. His death left six orphan children back in Minneapolis in 1863, one of whom was Clara Chase Frear, the mother of Dana Frear. Dana wrote the long manuscript about the history of Minnetonka that we hope to get published finally in the next year or so. The captain’s grave in Minnetonka was rededicated in 2014 with a new memorial stone by the Minnesota Civil War Commemorative Task Force.


For more about Captain Chase here is a Mpls Star Tribune article written by Curt Brown in 2012.

Page 5


Halloween Spooktacular


Wear your best costume and have a spooktacularly good time at this FREE fall event! 


Burwell Spooktacular  Friday, Oct. 29   5-8 p.m.
Burwell House Grounds, 13209 E. McGinty Road,  Minnetonka

  • Ages 12 and under recommended

  • Spooky scavenger hunt

  • Live performers

  • Activities, crafts, food vendors and more 


Spooktacular 2019
The first annual Spooktacular was held at the Historic Burwell House in Minnetonka on October 29th 2019. 
It was a huge success with 1200 people attending; lots of children in costumes playing games, making arts and crafts, 
touring the house, and roasting marshmallows. Of course it had to be cancelled last year because of the pandemic. 
Click here for a gallery of photographs of this fun event!

Spooktacular Gallery 2019

Spooktacular video 2019

Burwell House decorated for a Victorian Holiday

This year, while we will not be able to host the traditional Victorian Holiday Tea due to Covid 19 concerns. However, the Historic Charles H. Burwell House will be decorated for a Victorian Holiday and will be open on Sundays between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Stroll through this beautiful house, and enjoy the colorful decorations. Admission is free, although donations are welcome.


Sunday, November 28   1 – 4 pm

Sunday, December 5     1 – 4 pm

Sunday, December 12   1 – 4 pm

Sunday, December 19   1 – 4 pm


The Burwell House is located at 13209 McGinty Road E., on the NW corner of Plymouth Road and Minnetonka Blvd in Minnetonka.

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Minnetonka Historical Society Board

Jan Cook - President -
Lisa Fowler - Vice President -
Jim Whisler - Treasurer -
Stephanie Herrick - Secretary -
Bill Jepson - Millwheel, Website -
Rick Kruger - Social Media -
Ian Baxter - Technology -

MHS Calendar: Fall 2021

Historic Burwell House Tours:  Sundays 1-4  Nov. 28 to Dec. 19

MHS Presentation: The History of Glen Lake Minnetonka.

Dec. 8th Wed. 1:00PM  in the community room at Minnetonka City Hall

Spring 2022 (No dates yet) -
Look for us to schedule another Antique Assessment Event!

And a possible Minnetonka Trivia Event!

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