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Birk, Douglas A.
Person · 1943-2017

Douglas A. Birk was born on April 26, 1943, in Evanston, Illinois. His parents were Delbert and Esther Birk. In 1950 the Birk family relocated to Pine River, Minnesota, to manage the Camp-Show-Me resort on the bank of Norway Lake. Doug showed an interest in local history and archaeology at a young age including Native American mounds, remains from the early days of Minnesota’s logging era, and the travel routes used by fur traders and early explorers, topics which would hold his professional interest throughout his career.

Birk enrolled at Brainerd Junior College in 1961 then transferred to the University of Minnesota the following year. There Birk revived his interest in archaeology under the mentorship of Professor Elden Johnson and graduated with a B.A. in Anthropology in 1966. Shortly after graduation Birk was drafted and spent the next four years in Army Intelligence, including 24 months in Vietnam. At the end of his enlistment Birk reconnected with Johnson to seek employment as an archaeologist and secured a position as a staff archaeologist with the Minnesota Historical Society (MHS) in 1970.

Birk worked at this position for the next eleven years, gaining experience at archaeological projects statewide. During his time with the MHS Birk began to specialize in the archaeology of the fur trade and Minnesota’s French and British colonial period, developing a reputation for meticulous historical research. An accomplished diver, Birk also pioneered new methods for underwater photography and excavation. He also involved himself in the development of the profession in Minnesota, serving as Secretary-Treasurer of the Council for Minnesota Archaeology (CMA) from 1973 to 1975. He would go on to hold the Vice-Presidency of this organization from 1982 to 1984.

Birk enrolled in the Anthropology M.A. program at the University of Minnesota in 1977 but dropped out the following year. He would return to the same program in 1995 and received his degree after a successful thesis defense in 1999.

Budget cuts in 1981 eliminated Birk’s position and he switched to independent contract work under the name of Northland Archaeological Services. Birk continued to accept Northland contracts until 1987, but in 1982 his focus shifted to a new venture he formed with a small group of colleagues: a nonprofit organization for archaeological contract work, outreach, and education called the Institute for Minnesota Archaeology (IMA).

Birk’s main interest in founding the IMA was to gain institutional support for a project area that would dominate the rest of his career: a tract of land north of Little Falls containing the site of an 18th-century fur trading fort. In 1982 the newly formed IMA conducted a short survey at the site which received the site number 21MO20. The Minnesota Parks Foundation purchased the surrounding property the following year, ensuring its preservation.

The IMA expanded over the following years and undertook projects throughout Minnesota. Birk gained publicity for the organization by locating the site of Zebulon Pike’s 1805 wintering fort south of Little Falls in 1984, but his attention repeatedly returned to the area surrounding 21MO20. In 1987 the IMA purchased the land from Minnesota Parks and began managing it as the Little Elk Heritage Preserve (LEHP). Under Birk’s direction the LEHP was conceived as a Public Archaeology space combining active excavations with educational programs and tourist activities.

Throughout the late 1980s and 1990s Birk pursued development of the LEHP in parallel with multiple research projects. Continuing research areas included the French colonial period; portage routes; and fur trade era artifacts and people, especially the Northwest Company trader John Sayer. New research projects included a history of the town of Little Falls, a study of Protestant missions in Minnesota, and the historic communities of Old Crow Wing and Chengwatana.

This period of great productivity for Birk ended in 2002 when a sudden financial crisis forced the IMA into bankruptcy. In the ensuing rush to preserve the IMA’s collections and records Birk acquired most of the artifacts and administrative records relating to 21MO20 and the LEHP, adding to his personal research collection. The LEHP returned to state ownership in 2003, its archaeological resources protected by a preservation covenant.

Following the end of the IMA, Birk returned to contract work for most of his income including projects for Minnesota Power and the Grand Portage National Monument. He also served on the State Review Board for the National Register of Historic Places (NRHP) from 2000 to at least 2009 and coordinated with multiple local historical societies, including Heritage Group North’s successful attempt to preserve the Pine River Depot.

In his later years Birk focused on writing and publishing the results of decades of research in his areas of expertise. Following his unexpected death on March 8, 2017, Birk left manuscripts in various stages of completion on northern Minnesota railroads, Old Crow Wing, John Sayer, and the Protestant mission movement, among others. At the time of his death Birk lived in Pine River, Minnesota, with his life partner Lynda Weiss. Birk had no children and was survived by Weiss and his brother, Delbert Birk.

Boehm, John C.
Person · 1860-1931

John C. Boehm, M. D., was born in Vienna, Austria on June 12, 1860. His family moved to America in 1867 near Black Earth, Wisconsin. In 1885 he entered the St. Cloud State Normal School, graduating in 1887. Afterwards, he moved to Euclid, Minnesota to teach. He later attended the University of Minnesota to become a physician and graduated in 1893. In July 1894, he began his professional practice in St. Cloud, MN. He married Mittie A. Adamson on November 28, 1896. He was an active member of the community, including serving on the St. Cloud Board of Education and the Stearns-Benton County Medical Society.

Boehm died in June 1931.

Boros, Don

SCSU class of 1967

Brainard, Dudley
Person · 1884-1960

St. Cloud State acting president from 1943 to 1947 as well as History faculty member.

Brainard, Virginia
Person · 1921-2005

Virginia was born on October 5, 1921 to Dudley and Merl Brainard. She was the oldest of five children that included Constance (1924-2000), Eleanor (1926-2001), Charles (1929- ), and Edward (Ned) (1931- ). Dudley was a faculty member and, later, St. Cloud State president from 1943 to 1947.

After one year at St. Cloud State Teachers College, Virginia attended Iowa State University in Ames, Iowa. She graduated in 1943.

After graduation in 1943, Virginia worked at the Clinton Daily Herald. She eventually made her way to the Minneapolis Tribune. From 1962 to 1989 she served as executive director of the Ramsey County Historical Society in St. Paul. Here she founded the Society’s quarterly magazine, Ramsey County History, in 1964. She was author of many magazine articles and fifteen books in the field of state and local history.

On April 22, 1950, Virginia married Richard Kunz in Minneapolis, Minnesota. They had two children: Susan and David. Richard passed away in 1978. Virginia died on January 7, 2005 at the age of 84.

Brown, Andrew A.
Person · 1841-1912

Andrew A. Brown was born in Norway in 1841. Brown served in the U.S. Civil War from 1861 to 1863, achieving the rank of Captain. He married his wife Christine and had five children: Anna, Fenna, Ida, Flora, Albert. Andrew served in the Minnesota state Senate for District 39 from 1879 to 1881. He and his family resided in Alexandria, Minnesota until 1909, when they moved to the State of Washington. Andrew died in 1912 and his wife in 1938.

Buscher, Julius C.
Person · 1891-1964

Dr. Julius C. Buscher, M.D. was born in Germany in 1891 and served as a medical officer in the German Army in World War I. Dr. Buscher studied medicine at the Universities of Kiel and Heidelberg in Germany. He was the author of several medical publication and other writings. He came to the United States in 1924 and in 1925 his wife Elsbeth joined him from Germany. Dr. Buscher practiced medicine in Minneapolis and Albany before moving to St. Cloud in 1929. He worked at the St. Cloud Hospital until 1949, when he joined the Veterans Hospital staff. He retired on November 30, 1964.

Dr. Buscher was a member of St. Augustine Catholic Church, St. Mary’s Physician Guild, and the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons and Minnesota Psychiatric Society. He was also affiliated with the American, Minnesota, and Stearns-Benton Medical Associations. Julius Buscher died at his home on August 8, 1965. He was survived by his wife, an adopted son Walter, and two grandsons.