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'History of Hudson’ video has a long and interesting story to tell

This taxi service operated in the vicinity of Fifth and Oak streets back in 1922-23. With a baby buggy hood for a top, a dish pan for a spare tire and a sprinkling can for a radiator, the vehicle was worth the price -- 25 cents a ride. Passenger Wesley V. Erickson, age 2, is being driven by Willis Miller. Photos like this from the Star-Observer archives are included in the Hudson history DVD.1 / 3
The railroad features prominently in Hudson’s history. This Hudson train crew in 1890 included from left Russ Gridley, Ed Lavelle, Lat Frazier, Buck Spoon, Tom Calahan, R.S. Roe, Mr. Quigley, Mr. Prentice, James O’Neil and James McGuire. The boys sitting in the front are Mike and John Fin. (Photo from the Star-Observer archives)2 / 3
The Hudson toll bridge cost 5 cents to cross when the late Dick Mueller crossed it on his bike to run away from home when he was a boy. Thousands of photos depicting the area’s development are included in a “History of Hudson.” The DVD is available for a $15 donation at the Octagon Museum gift shop and at the Hudson Public Library. (Photo from the Star-Observer archives)3 / 3

It has been a project more than five years in the making but it has been worth the wait.

“The History of Hudson” DVD is a project of the St. Croix County Historical Society that was produced by the River Channel with funding from Xcel Energy and the Hudson Daybreak Rotary.

Jacki Bradham of the historical society has been involved in the making of the movie since its beginning and served as the project coordinator. She said the idea got started when the city’s Community Development Director Denny Darnold suggested to the SCCHS that there needed to be a definitive history of the Hudson area.

“There were lots of books out there and photos and interviews but there wasn’t anything that told the story from the beginning to the present,” said Bradham.

Then River Channel videographer Chris Larson worked with Bradham and the late Willis Miller, publisher Emeritus of the Star-Observer and Hudson’s chief historian, on what the film should include. They decided to tell the story in 18 chapters with Miller’s input. Bradham said they expected Miller would act as the narrator and a guiding force on the project.

But a week before his first scheduled interview in fall 2008, Miller passed away. Bradham said that had a big impact on the project. “We had to kind of change directions when we lost Willis. It would have been a different project with him in it telling the story so we had to rethink things going ahead.”

Bradham said they turned to other sources including a number of old videos of history talks that were recorded at the Valley Bookseller and other interviews with Miller and others. They recorded new interviews with longtime Hudson residents like Ruth Burkholder, Dick Mueller, John Hughes and Fred Nagel and spoke with other local historians like Steve Anderson and Dick Larson.

Bradham also took to the Internet and to resources like the SCCHS archives, the Star-Observer newspaper and photo archives and the History Room at the Hudson Public Library to find pictures and information that told the story as well as other sources around the country. She estimates there are more than a thousand photos in the film.

“Hudson was quite a boom town in those early days. It really rivalled St. Paul and Minneapolis and at one time was among the country’s leading wheat producers. Families seemed to move to the area through female connections -- a wife’s sister or other relative lived here. The country also did advertising in Europe to encourage people to immigrate to this area specifically,” said Bradham.

Bradham said with a “beautiful” initial script by Chris Larson, the production was completed by Paul Winkels who brought in the final product. “It isn’t just a slide show of photos with a narrator. It is visually very interesting. I think people will enjoy it. I’ve really enjoyed seeing how people react to it when they see it.”

The movie is three hours long and the goal was to keep it at around two hours. But Bradham said this is a once in a lifetime project and they wanted to do it right. She described the project as a big, fascinating puzzle connecting people and events along the way. “And the film is dedicated to Willis so we wanted to get it right.”

The movie is available as a fundraiser for the Historical Society at the History Room at the Hudson Library for a suggested donation of $15 or contact Jacki Bradham at (715) 386-3826 or

Meg Heaton

Meg Heaton has been a reporter with the Hudson Star Observer since 1990. She has a bachelor’s degree in anthropology and Native American Studies from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire.

(715) 808-8604