In 2002 Franklin and Bette Lee wrote clues to direct hunters to Cherry Park. They used the first letter of each clue to spell out CHERRY. However, on day 2, it was found my mistake, taped under the jungle-gym by a young girl, who was playing at the park. Her parents claimed the prize of $200. My clues this year honor Franklin, my friend and former Clue-Master that taught me how this event works. Franklin passed away June 12th 2017. That obituary is here. I went through hunts from past years and drew out words and phrases that they frequently used like “Threw a show” and “beloved ground”. These clues were written in the style of their writing.

The Shoe was found in the middle of the field side (west side) of the brand new “Wheeler Park” which is alongside Jefferson Parkway and Prairie. Last years winners, Jamin and Melissa Taylor found it again (2 consecutive years), this year with their new team members, Paul and Melissa Bernhard. These 4 are a powerhouse, with their tenacity, smarts and years of hunting experience, not to mention many kids to help in the searching. They are out every year, every day, all day long.  Melissa Bernhard’s button was used to claim the prize and was registered. They will be splitting up the $1400 grand prize. Please read more to learn how they did it and what the clues meant.

So what do they mean?

How do you point people to Wheeler park without saying anything close to the word Wheeler? Well, each clue started with a letter that spelled this out.  And yes, the last clue on day 6 would start with “ER” (see below). But, as people asked me for a hint all year prior, I promised I’d be using history and facts related to the robbery and the James-Youngers experience in Northfield and beyond. In fact, my favorite book on the raid is by Mark Lee Gardner. It’s a newer (2013) book called “Shot all to Hell”.  And, coincidentally, after I started writing the clues around facts in this book, I learned that Mark will be in town for Defeat Days promoting his new book, which is a graphic novel based on his book. Really, that wasn’t planned.

Here’s the day by day breakdown.

  1. Team of 4 adults, Jamin and Melissa Taylor (2nd year in a row) along with Melissa and Paul Bernhard (Paul not pictured) and kids.

    I’m going to suspect the serious hunters will try to guess I’m going to Dundas this year. I never have since introducing the city as a hiding spot 3 years ago. “From Northfield to Mankato” may seem to be the getaway route (which it was..roughly) but I’m referring to Wheeler parks residing in both towns. Trying something new again may play to Dundas but I’m talking about the new Wheeler park, about 2 years old along Jefferson park. No digging is not just a reminder but a big clue on Wheeler’s famous “digging up” of the bandits killed during the raid to use as cadavers in medical school. He became a medical Doctor (dock). They had been buried in potter’s field (Northfield Cemetery….which is not public property) when legend has him digging them up in the middle of the night.

  2. Norman Oberto set up Wheeler park in honor of Wheeler, a hero that saved our town. Norm(al) and Honor. The brothers were Jim and Bob riding doubles, Bob, who’s injured arm needed attention and eventually was put into a sling. Wheeler shot Bob. Shelter sets up tomorrow’s clue about an open field and a forest. The big woods the gang hid in but coming out for food and help from local farmers. Trees and no trees. And the key to this clue is the word “point”. There’s a small set of trees on the north side of Wheeler park that is stacked like pool balls in a triangle. They point directly towards where I put the shoe. Looking from above, this perfect triange pointed to where the shoe was.
  3. Needing to start with an “E” I used “Every”. The massive posse to find the robbers came from all over but many lawmen took the train south from Minneapolis and St Paul. Forest and Swale “roughly” describe the unique and odd split of Wheeler park into 2 halves. Describing the in and out of the Big Woods as they moved towards Madelia. The last line is key. If looking from above, the park is shaped like a triangle (arrowhead) with triangles throughout.
  4. You guys are going to kill me with this one. Wheeler took his first shot and missed, killed Clell Miller with his second shot and hit Bob Younger in the elbow with his third shot (From the Dampier Hotel window).  The 4th bullet fell on the floor and broke open. Let’s break down each line. Even the Youngers would make up the news (Focusing on the recent articles on this park…see below). The J&Y gang were notorious at planting fake news and getting rich and powerful people to lie for them. They’d have fake alibi’s and would write to papers saying they had nothing to do with robberies). They used the old rifle to decipher the clues (ahh, the Rifle. The famous rifle and the crown jewel on display at the NHS. Owned and donated by Norman Oberto of Northfield. At this point, I’m well into spelling WHEELER. Deciphering my letters. Riding doubles on horseback they sighted the rocks. Bob wrode doubles on a horse because his was shot and he had a bullet fracture in his right elbow. Of course, shot by Wheeler. The history is really important here. Wheeler park has numerous stone piles. Big rocks, almost as if they were meant to sit on. No fishing around here and watch out for the dock. You’ll find a fish spray painted on the street by the rain runoff grates, telling people not to dump poisonous things down the drain…as it goes into the river. Dock is “Doc”. Dr Henry Wheeler. Watch out for his sharpshooting. And “around” (round)…wheel…Wheeler.

Thank you very much again to all that spent their week playing my little game.  And thank you to the sponsors for putting up that cash for this event.  Bursch Travel, Professional Pride Realty, Edina Realty and Coldwell Banker South Metro (that’s a lot of Realty).  Until 2019!

Tim Freeland

Articles on Wheeler Park

Clue 1. Wednesday, Aug 29th. 2018
“We’re sunk”, he yelled as they scurried from town
Their horse threw a shoe on our beloved ground
They’d get from Northfield to Mankato as sure as there’s a hell
Remember no digging, no climbing as well

Clue 2. Thursday, Aug 30th. 2018
Honor your brothers, they swore till the end
No pointing of fingers, we’re in this to win
Nothing was normal and everything new
The boys needed shelter, a splint and some stew

Clue 3. Friday, Aug 31st. 2018
Every man joined the search from north and from south
They went looking through forest and swale all about
But on what side lay horseshoe and where did they rest
By looking from heaven, you’ll triple your quest

Clue 4. Saturday, Sept 1st. 2018
Even the Youngers would make up the news
They used the old rifle to decipher the clues
Riding doubles on horseback they sighted the rocks
No fishing around here and watch out for the dock


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