Herald JournalHerald Journal, April 21, 2003

Amateur sleuths solve mini mystery of Stumpf wreck

By Lynda Jensen

A bit of detective work by Ed and Sue Claussen of Waverly unlocked something of a mystery surrounding an old time photo submitted to the paper.

Sue Claussen did a fair amount of foot work in determining when and where the photo was taken, including making trips to the Wright County Historical Society, obtaining copies of obituaries and looking up newspaper records for the Howard Lake, Buffalo and Waconia newspapers.

The photo shows a threshing machine in 1908 atop a wooden bridge at the Crow River that dropped from its supports.

The Claussens determined that the Stumpf bridge, as it was known, was located north of Waverly on Wright County Road 8, where it crosses the Crow River.

The bridge evidently was damaged, sending the rig downward toward the river, when crews tried to carry the machine across it, and its weight was too great, said Ed Claussen, who is a steam engine buff.

Looking at the photo causes more questions than answers.

For example, usually threshing crews would unhook the engine off the machine, and carry it across bridges in two pieces when they traveled from farm to farm threshing, Ed Claussen said.

Apparently they didn't do this, he said.

Also another peculiar note is that the belts were taken off the machine, which is usually the opposite when a threshing rig is travelling from place to place, Ed noted; although he said that the time of the photograph is not known ­ which could be possibly days or even weeks after the event, accounting for this.

In those days, the axles were made of wood, Ed Claussen said. He noted that the left rear axle had been broken.

The rig pictured was a fairly new machine, with a 25-horsepower engine. It was probably made by the Minneapolis Machine Company, a predecessor to the Minneapolis Moline Company based out of Hopkins, he said.

Hauling something like that out of the water would be quite a job during 1908, since there was no heavy equipment to do it, Ed noted.

Sue took it upon herself to look up obituaries of two men in involved in the wreck, Dan Herron and Ed Campbell, who were listed as being from Watertown.

Something that threw a wrench in the Claussens' light detective work was a discrepancy in the names, since the name "Herron" was spelled wrong in all three publications.

The Herald spelled it "Hern," the Buffalo paper spelled it "Ehron," transposing the first two letters, and the Waconia Patriot spelled it "Heron."

All three newspapers recorded the "wreck of the Stumpf bridge," the latter so named because members of the Stumpf family lived in the area.

BUFFALO PAPER, August 6, 1908


A threshing outfit belonging to Dan Ahern of Hollywood, Carver County, consisting of a separator and traction engine, broke through the Stumpf bridge near the line between Marysville and Middleville Townships at the Crow River Sunday afternoon.

The bridge collapsed and sank, but sustained the load in a hammock like shape, the engine and separator being folded like a pocket knife half closed.

The owner and a man named Cambell (sic) were injured in the wreck but not seriously. The situation is very bad for clearing the wreck as it is a high bridge with rising approaches on both sides.



The photographer J.H. Pususta had an interesting photograph with him yesterday.

It was a photograph which he took of a threshing rig which broke through the Strumpt (sic) Bridge into the Crow River on Sunday.

The rig, owned by a Mr. Hern, and he and a Mr Campbell were moving it.

The photo shows that when in the middle of the bridge, the span gave way and both the separator and the engine together with the wreckage of the bridge, dropped 15 to 16 feet in the water.

One of the men had a narrow escape from drowning as he was held under the water by some of the timbers and was rescued from his perilous position by his companion.

The bridge had some repairs made upon it within the past year and it seems strange that it would not carry such a load.

WACONIA PATRIOT, August 14, 1908

Ed. Campbell and Dan Heron last week had a miraculous escape from death when they were crossing a bridge near Waverly.

The men were moving a threshing rig over the bridge when it collapsed dropping men, machinery and all into the water below.

Campbell was pinned under some of the machinery, and but for ready assistance would have drowned.

Both gentlemen are Watertown residents.

Dan Herron was born May 23, 1868 and died May 1949. Ed Cornelius Campbell was born Feb. 24, 1879 and died Sept. 20, 1943. Campbell's obituary notes that he raised his grand nephew Robert Karels.

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