Sunday, May 05, 2013

Mystery: Progress...!

Although I have not obtained a photograph of the mysterious
Mrs. Rasche yet, I did come across one of her children in a
Maryland history book; The two young ladies sitting were born
in Kittson County.  
 [Source: Western Maryland Historical Library]

Recently, I challenged the readers of this blog to help solve a mystery.

While I waited for responses, I dug around online.  First I learned that a  Henry and Katherine Rasche -  mentioned in an old newspaper article as attending a Kittson County funeral - were not just visiting.  Although from Maryland, they had moved for a time and had lived in Kennedy, Minnesota.   I then found a name attached to some genealogy records, and contacted that person, only to learn that he was their grandson.  William Owen Treacy  shared that "...My grandmother, Katherine Rowan Rasche, did indeed live in Kittson County, Minnesota in the 1890s and she was a prolific music composer, poet and artist. I have a number of her compositions but sadly, no St.  Vincent March. She had a number of her compositions copyrighted and were published and sold nationally, so you may wish to try searching that avenue.  Also, you may wish to explore the local newspaper archives as i know that the local paper(s) frequently published articles about her and her works.  Lots of luck. Let me know if you meet with any success."

I had not received any responses to my solicitation on this blog, so my next step was to take my new information and post it on the St. Vincent Memories Facebook group page.  Marcy Johnson, responded, saying, "There was an Oakland Hotel in Kennedy with Mrs. McKee as the manager listed as one of the businesses in 1900. I found this in the Kennedy Centennial History book from 1989..."

Shortly after Marcy responded, William Treacy send me more information concerning his grandmother, including a biography he had written about her.  Within that biography, it mentions why they moved to Minnesota in the first place, and why they eventually returned:
...Kate was mistress of the Rasche household in Oakland [Maryland] from her 1879 marriage until 1888 when the family moved to Minnesota...where Henry assumed the management of the Oakland Hotel and of many farms owned by his son-in-law, Dennis Ryan. From there, in the fall of 1888, she composed and had published a campaign song called "Cleveland's Grand March"...In [Kennedy], Kate Rasche was the matriarch of the community. There was no doctor, clergyman, dentist, or undertaker in Kennedy. Kate was consulted by the Swedes in sickness, and she helped to lay out the bodies of the dead for burial. She set up one room of the Oakland Hotel as a chapel, and in the long periods between visits by the clergy, read Catholic services frequently attended by Lutheran Swedes. Kate organized the first ever July 4th celebration in Kennedy and was given credit for its great success in the press. She also wrote prolifically for the county seat newspaper in Kittson County, Minnesota. Kennedy itself was too small at that time to support a newspaper. She had published many poems and articles concerning topics of interest in that time. Additionally, she composed and had published several songs, one of which "A Maryland Exile" reflects her homesickness for her mountain home back east. 
In 1894, that homesickness finally propelled the Rasche family to leave Kennedy and return to Maryland.  On the way home, Henry went on ahead to the Mill he owned in Oakland, Maryland, while Katherine and the children stopped off to visit her parents in Pittsburgh.  While there word arrived that Henry had been caught in the mill machinery and had met a violent death.  As sad as that was, Katherine went on to raise the children and accomplish much more, but that is another story.  Kittson County was lucky to have her influence and community spirit during the six years the Rasche family lived here.  I continue to hope to track down the song she wrote for my hometown, the St. Vincent March - stay tuned!