Pioneer school teachers and children in the historic Gainey Schoolhouse.

Winona County Historical Society opening new museum!


Beef Slough Boys
Beef Slough Boys

The new Rural Heritage Museum where the Beef Slough Boys will be performing during the grand opening of the museum.

The Winona County Historical is opening the new Rural Heritage Museum on the Winona County Fairgrounds in St. Charles. The ribbon-cutting and grand opening celebration will be on Wednesday, July 12, at noon and the museum site will be open from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. during the Winona County Fair on July 12-16.

The site hosts a museum building filled with exhibits about Winona County’s rural past and agricultural heritage. Exhibits feature early farming equipment; early pioneer tools; “In the Farmhouse,” where you can try your hand at some chores and pioneer skills; and “Across the County” explores the history of a town each year, with St. Charles being featured this year. Other exhibits include “Journey Stories,” which examines the pioneer spirit and movement of mankind with a Smithsonian-developed poster exhibit, plus a County Fair time line, along with an exhibit that features the annual recognition of Winona County century and sesquicentennial farms. There is also the historic Gainey Schoolhouse, the Hill sisters’ log house, and an early log barn on site. All are originals from around the Winona County area.

Along with the exhibits, hands-on activities and historic buildings to explore, the Winona County Historical Society will be offering the following programs throughout the fair.

Wednesday, noon Grand opening celebration and ribbon-cutting

Come for the grand opening of the Rural heritage Museum with a short ceremony and remarks, free cake, lemonade, door prizes and live music from the original Beef Slough Boys! For the past 13 years, the Original Beef Slough Boys (Jeff Morgan and Scott Lowery) have been offering up free-range vocal harmonies and a colorful mix of musical genres, including river bottom rags, pan-fried blues, heirloom country classics and organic originals. They like to weave the sights and sounds of the Upper Mississippi River Valley into their shows, along with the sort of humor you might expect from two guys who spend too much time together on the back roads and backwaters. They’re comfortable playing for a variety of ages and in all kinds of settings, including festivals, private parties, riverboats, farmers markets, and coffeehouses.

Thursday, 1-7 p.m.
Whitewater Oral History Project

Nearby Whitewater State Park is preparing for its 100th anniversary. Come share your memories of the park anytime this afternoon.

Friday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Schoolhouse activities and games

Pioneer school teacher will be in the Gainey School offering fun schoolhouse activities and pioneer children games. Organizers will have a spelling bee at 1 p.m. with prizes!

Saturday, 1 p.m.
Minnesota county fairs program with Susan Lambert Miller

Ninety-five county fairs are held through Minnesota every year, and Susan Lambert Miller has attended nearly every one of them. Camera in hand, she often visited multiple fairs in a weekend — sometimes more than one a day. Hear her experiences and learn more about the state’s fairs, as well as the Winona County Fair. Her books “Minnesota County Fairs” and “State Fair: The Great Minnesota Get-Together” will be available in the Museum Shop.

Sunday, 1 p.m.
Ten plants that changed Minnesota with Mary H. Meyer

The idea that plants, as few as 10, could shape a state and how it developed economically, culturally, and historically, is at the core of the Ten plants that changed Minnesota project. With careful review by more than 30 experts and scientists and with research drawn from newspaper and journal reports, historical photos, diaries, and interviews, Mary Hockenberry Meyer highlights the importance of the selected plants and their impact — both positive and negative — in the development and future of the state. The book “Ten Plants that Changed Minnesota” will be available in the Museum Shop.

The Rural Heritage Museum will be open again this summer for St. Charles’ Gladiolus Days. Festival organizers are bringing photographer and storyteller Doug Ohman to the Rural Heritage Museum on Saturday, August 26, to present Schoolhouse Memories: Schoolhouses of Minnesota at 2 p.m. and The Heart of the Farm: Barns of Minnesota at 6 p.m. The museum and historic buildings will be open on August 26 from 10 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. and on August 27 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

The Winona County Historical Society is also offering two sessions of Pioneer School at the Rural Heritage Museum’s Gainey Schoolhouse on July 24-25 and July 31 to August 31. Students in first through eighth grade have lessons, play pioneer games, create crafts, learn pioneer skills, and more at this fun and engaging two-day day camp. The cost is $45 for members and $50 for non-members and registration can be done by stopping in or calling the History Center at 507-454-2723.

The Rural Heritage Museum will also be a stop on the Exploring the Back Roads of Winona County Bus Tour the WCHS is offering on August 19. This all-day bus tour will explore various stops in the western part of the county this year, with stops at the Rollingstone Luxembourg Heritage Museum, The Marnach House, Whitewater State Park, the Rural Heritage Museum, Utica, a historic rail car, and the Priory on Stockton Hill. The cost is $55 for members and $65 for non-members and registration again can be done by calling or visiting the History Center, 160 Johnson Street, Winona.

Find more at or call 507-454-2723.


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