NU woman digs into Leavenworth’s early history
With help from her son Paul, Patricia Windschitl Schieffert of New Ulm recently published “The Three Leavenworths.” Patricia Schieffert did extensive research and calls her book “a short synopsis of Leavenworth’s history.” The book includes photos, original sketches and writings and includes her memories of growing up in the third Leavenworth. The first printing of the book is sold out. Schieffert said a copy of it will be placed on the Japanese Martyrs Church on County Road 24 in Leavenworth.
“It’s an historical little town. Leavenworth was at one time on the Minnesota map when it had about 50 people,” Schieffert wrote in the forward to her book. “There were several stores and saloons, the District #12 School. St. Joseph’s Hall, Church and Rectory. In 1953, a new school and convent opened.”
Schieffert said Leavenworth elders told her many stories about the different Leavenworths. “I often had my notebook and sketchbook along. If not, I would journal when I got home.”
Schieffert dedicated the book to her parents George M. and Ross Poss Windschitl. She thanked her dad for taking her along when he toured historical places, talked to area folks and kept notes. She thanked her mother, who had a writing scholarship, for journaling all her life.
Patricia thanked her son Paul for putting the book together for her.
In her first chapter entitled the First Leavenworth, Schieffert wrote that the first people of the Leavenworth area were what she called the Mississippi Indians who first appeared in the South.
She wrote about the first area settlers locating near the banks of lakes and rivers where timber was abundant which provided for fuel, water and fish.
Schieffert wrote that many families homesteaded on both sides of the Big Cottonwood River. Leavenworth Village was created in Section 14 in October 1857. Plotted by a company of town speculators, it was named after Col. Henry Leavenworth, who came to Minnesota in 1819 to St. Anthony, which later became Fort Snelling.
Leavenworth was on a well-used wagon trail. There were many trails between New Ulm, Lake Shetek and the Big Sioux, James and Missouri Rivers. A post office was designated in Leavenworth on Feb. 23, 1858.
The Shetek Trail was an east-west road through Leavenworth that linked Mankato to Lake Shetek, a large lake a few miles south of Tracy.
The first Leavenworth was abandoned during the U.S.-Dakota War of 1862. Schieffert wrote that many of the First Leavenworth residents were killed in the battle or never returned to Leavenworth after the battles.
After the Dakota Conflict, the second Leavenworth was established on the Big Cottonwood River on land owned by the George and Rose Windschitl family, according to a historical marker placed on George and Rose Windschitl’s land in 2012. The footings of several stores remain on the land.
Schieffert’s book includes Schieffert’s sketch of Leavenworth in 1869 that included a creamery, out house, saloon, horse stalls, log church, mill, blacksmith shop, drug store, District 12 schoolhouse (aka Riverside School) and a cemetery.
“The Second Leavenworth was a booming town that grew after the U.S.-Dakota War. Businesses included a general store and sawmill. A shoemaker and doctor did business there. The saw mill, driven by water power, became a flour mill that produced 25 barrels a day before it burned down in the early 1900s.
Schieffert wrote that the downfall of the second Leavenworth happened when the railroad ran through Sleepy Eye instead of Leavenworth.
The book includes Schieffert’s sketch of (the third) Leavenworth in the 1930s and 1940s that includes the schoolhouse, two stores, the Japanese Martyrs Church, rectory, cemetery, and the Mathiowetz shop.