It might be more than 150 years later, but Bob Hermann believes that at least a little bit of the pioneer spirit that built the original Forest City Stockade exists today.
Early Meeker County settlers built the original stockade as safe harbor against impending attack in the early days of the U.S.-Dakota War of 1862.
No such threat exists today, of course, but the can-do attitude of the dedicated group of volunteers who run the Forest City Stockade is just as evident these days.
“It’s very impressive how all this turned out,” Bob Hermann said last week as he showed a visitor the finally completed walkway that encircles the stockade interior walls. “We can handle hundreds of people on the walkway. Everything is completed, rebuilt. We’re so proud of this project.”
The walkway project and other Forest City Stockade attractions will be on display again during the 36th annual Rendezvous Saturday and Sunday.
The walkway, which had fallen into disrepair and became unsafe to use but has been rebuilt over the past few years, is just the most recent example of pioneer spirit. The walkway reconstruction project started in 2015, and required hundreds of volunteer hours and about $70,000 in private donations, Hermann said.
“I want people to know ... that was one heckuva big contribution,” Hermann said. “Everybody talks about going to get their grants, but we just started out with the thought that, ‘No, let’s raise the money locally.’”
Local donors supported the effort to rebuild the stockade’s walls and then the walkway by purchasing logs at $25 each. There might have been easier and faster ways to get the job done. But it would not have seemed as gratifying or realistic as the process undertaken, Hermann said.
That’s been the way at the Forest City Stockade, which 20 years ago this year suffered a major blow when its signature settler’s cabin was gutted by an arsonist’s fire. The cabin was rebuilt over a two-year period, and along with it, a small prairie village sprung up just to the north of the stockade walls.
“Historic Forest City,” as it’s been dubbed, today includes a land office, woodwright’s shop, candlemaking shop, school, church, hotel, livery stable, gunsmith shop and newspaper office, among other buildings that house a variety historic equipment, both of the stockade era and newer.
“There was no master plan,” Hermann said when asked if he could have envisioned the expansion of the stockade grounds that has happened during the past two decades. “It’s what we always say, too. This is realistic to how it could have been in any of these rural communities in outstate Minnesota.
“We are like pioneers,” he continued. “We just do it and get it done and hope for the best. But you know, it turns out beautiful. This is as close to how Forest City would have looked back in that 1862 time period as you can get. We’re proud of it, I guess that’s what I’m trying to say.”