Minnesota Historical Society M-Flame Logo

Back to Lesson Menu

Lesson Plan: Ard Godfrey

For Teachers - An Introduction:
This lesson is designed to introduce your students to historical research with primary sources. They will be presented with a set of six primary sources relating to a person in Minnesota history. Your students will be provided with source data, online activity questions to direct their study, and a worksheet designed to help them draw conclusions about the sources they have seen and about primary source research itself. The sections of this site are not intended to be complete histories of the people or events involved, but examples of what students might find in their own research attempts.

Who Was Ard Godfrey?
Ard Godfrey moved from Maine to St. Anthony Falls at the request of Franklin Steele, who hired Godfrey to build the first sawmill at the Falls. After completing the mill, Godfrey worked in a number of other professions, eventually mining gold in the West during the Civil War. His family moved to St. Anthony and the Ard Godfrey house is still in use today as a tourist attraction. As one of the first permanent settlers and businessmen in the area, Godfrey offers a good opportunity to study St. Anthony's early years and its rapid development with the rise of industry at the Falls.

What You Will Need for This Lesson:

  • Access to a computer lab with Internet capability for at least one 40 minute class period.
  • Photocopies of the worksheet and a printed key (download both in the Student Materials section of the site).
  • If you have not already done so, we encourage you to explore the site for yourself ahead of time to become familiar with the navigation and features available to you and your students.

Skills Objectives:
The student will be able to:

  1. access primary sources online for research and study
  2. identify and summarize the different kinds of sources in the exercise
  3. identify advantages and disadvantages to using particular primary sources
  4. explain and synthesize source information to evaluate its usefulness and reliability

Using This Lesson in Your Classroom:
When the students are in the computer lab, instruct them to do the following in this order (you may wish to do this with them on an overhead projector screen):

  1. Go to the Communities web site.
  2. Click on Communities on the left hand side of the screen.
  3. Click on St. Anthony.
  4. Click on Ard Godfrey.
  5. Read the introductory material on Ard Godfrey and click Enter.
  6. This will bring you to a screen with a photograph of Godfrey. This is the first primary source the students will view. Let them know that they can see a larger version of this photograph by clicking on the View button underneath the thumbnail image. Show students the Activity button and have them click on it to view questions and possible answers about each source.
  7. Once students have studied this photograph and read the appropriate questions about it in the Activity section, direct them to the other sources that are accessible through the blue menu bar running across the top of the page. Each of these buttons will take them to a different source to examine.
  8. Remind students to use the Activity button on each source to help direct their research.
  9. When the students have completed studying each source and reading the questions for each item, they should be able to complete the worksheet they were given (see below).

What Your Students Will See In This Lesson Online:
What follows is a listing of each source provided on the Ard Godfrey section of the web site and a transcript of the activity questions for each source (these are found by clicking on the Activity button on the Ard Godfrey page).

Photo 1
Click on the Photo 1 button to open the primary source.

Ard Godfrey brought his family to Minnesota from their home in Maine in response to a request from Franklin Steele to build a sawmill at St. Anthony Falls. He was one of the first permanent settlers in the area.

Photo 2
Click on the Photo 2 button to open the primary source.
This is a photograph of the Ard Godfrey house at St. Anthony Falls.

    2.1) What features in this photograph are clues that it was not taken recently?

    Possible Answer: The carriage to the right in the photo is one clue. The style of clothing that is being worn is another.

    2.2) What occasion is being celebrated here? How can you tell?

    Possible Answer: This is a photograph of a wedding party. The woman in the center is wearing white and what appears to be a veil.

    2.3) Why do you think the terms "S. P. Cox" and "Minnehaha Falls" are printed at the bottom of this photograph?

    Possible Answer: S. P. Cox was the photographer, and his studio was located in Minnehaha Falls.

    2.4) The boy in the white shirt seated in the front has a blurred face. What might have caused this?

    Possible Answer: Photography at this time required people to remain very still. The boy probably moved his head as the picture was being taken.

Letter 1
Click on the Letter 1 button to open the primary source.
This letter was written by Godfrey to his wife while he was gold mining in the West.

    3.1) While he was out West, what skills was Godfrey relying on to make money?

    Possible Answer: The letter says that he was working on a sawmill, which tells us he was using his milling skills.

    3.2) What in his letter shows that Godfrey isn't completely convinced that his gold-mining expedition will work out as well as he'd hoped?

    Possible Answer: He mentions that some people get a lot of gold out of one pan of dirt, and some take weeks to get any gold from their claim.

    3.3) Why would Godfrey being out West mean that his son wouldn't become a soldier during the Civil War?

    Possible Answer: By being away from home, Godfrey was able to make sure that his oldest son would be allowed to stay home to be head of the family and not have to go to the war.

    3.4) If Godfrey already had a sawmill at St. Anthony, why do you think he left his family and went west?

    Possible Answer: Godfrey's mill at St. Anthony was closed by this time. He had gone west looking for ways to make money. He not only did more work there with sawmills but also tried looking for gold as well.

Letter 2
Click on the Letter 2 button to open the primary source.
This letter was written by Godfrey while he was working for Franklin Steele at the Falls.

    4.1) What can this source tell us about Godfrey's work at the Falls?

    Possible Answer: He was working for Steele and considered building a sawmill, but he had some trouble with another of Steele's employees.

    4.2) Why do you think Godfrey (whose family was in Maine at this time) might want to work so far from home?

    Possible Answer: Godfrey wanted to make a good living for his family. During this time, many men went all over the country for jobs that had better wages. They would often be away for months at a time.

    4.3) From this letter, we know little about Godfrey's official arrangements with Franklin Steele. What other kinds of sources might help us find out more about Godfrey's work for Steele?

    Possible Answer:Agreements were drawn up that explained exactly what an employee was expected to do and how much he would be paid for their work.

    4.4) Looking at the close-up of the source, what might be the cause of the "backward writing" that makes this more difficult to read?

    Possible Answer: Ink may have seeped through from writing on the back of the page, or pages of the letter may have been stored together and transferred their messages to each other. It is also possible that the hand pressure from writing on the pages transferred the images.

Document 1
Click on the Art 1 button to open the primary source.
This is the contract between Godfrey and Steele regarding Godfrey's work at St. Anthony.

    5.1) The document identifies Godfrey as living in the Territory of Wisconsin, but we know St. Anthony is in Minnesota. Was there a mistake in the document?

    Possible Answer: No. At the time Minnesota was not yet a territory and the land belonged to the Territory of Wisconsin. Minnesota became a territory in 1849, the following year. 5.2) According to the document, what does Godfrey --the second party-- agree to do?

    Possible Answer: He agrees that during the next two years he will construct machinery and manage (superintend) workmen to help him in constructing the machinery.

    5.3) What does the document identify as Steele's part of the agreement?

    Possible Answer: Steele -- the first party -- will pay Godfrey $1,500 a year and will provide him with an acceptable place to live. It also says Godfrey will get some stock in the mills.

    5.4) What is role of the other two men whose names are at the end of this document?

    Possible Answer: The line "Sealed and delivered in presence of" indicates that they were witnesses. Legal documents require someone present to act as a witness in case there are any disagreements in the future.

Diary 1
Click on the Diary 1 button to open the primary source.
This is a reminiscence of 1962, written by Godfrey's daughter Harriet.

    6.1) What had caused work to stop at Godfrey's sawmill at St. Anthony Falls?

    Possible Answer: Many of the men who worked in the mills had gone to fight in the Civil War.

    6.2) What did Godfrey choose to do in order to save his home when the sawmills closed?

    Possible Answer: He joined an expedition headed West to what is now Idaho. Those on the expedition were looking for gold.

    6.3) Can you tell from this source who Abner was?

    Possible Answer: No, you can't. No much is said about him. From other diary entries that don't appear here, we know that Abner was Godfrey's son.

    6.4) Why might a daughter want to take notes like these?

    Possible Answer: She may have been trying to preserve her family history by writing it down.

Thought Questions for Online Exploration:
During the online lesson, your students should complete the accompanying worksheet for this section. (Download from the student materials the .pdf file containing the worksheet and key.) The questions for this worksheet are provided below. Since questions relating to specific sources are used during the online activity, the following worksheet questions are designed to help students synthesize and apply the material they have learned from the online activity and to analyze the kinds of information and the credibility of various types of primary sources when taken as a whole.

  1. Godfrey wrote letters to his family when he was building the mill in St. Anthony and on his gold-mining expeditions in the West. What details can we learn about someone from the letters they write? What perspective are we missing if someone has not written letters about important events in their life? What sources other than personal letters might you need if you were writing a biography of someone?

  2. Legal documents like the agreement between Godfrey and Steele can give us much information about what life was like during a certain time period. What specific kinds of information can we learn about life and work during this time from documents like these? What can we learn about how people worked and how they were paid? How might a document like this help us to have a better understanding of the way in which businesses were run during this time?

  3. It is quite common for people to write in their diaries or scrapbooks about their experiences when they were younger. Why might Godfrey's daughter have made a point of writing down information like the notes shown on this site? How does that information help researchers today who might be studying Godfrey? How might this source be more or less accurate than some others we would study?

  4. Seeing primary sources from different periods in someone's life can give us a clearer picture of what their life was like. Why does this help us get a clearer picture of who the person was and what they did during their life? What challenges can we face if we research someone using sources from only one time period in their life? Why might you have to use sources from only one part of a person's life?

Extending the Lesson: Historical Themes in Ard Godfrey
You can also use the sources provided on this site to encourage higher-order thinking about a number of historical themes and issues that relate to Godfrey's life in Minnesota. Below are possible activities and discussion starters to extend student application of the content material provided in the sources. The information provided in the sources about Ard Godfrey does not give us a comprehensive picture of these issues, but it can serve as an introduction to a theme or as supplementary material to enhance your work with a theme that is already part of your curriculum.

Possible Themes:
1. Change over time
2. Communication

Theme One:
Change Over Time

The student will be able to :

  1. describe and evaluate changes over time in their town or community
  2. compare and evaluate their own life changes over time
  3. use photographs as a means for examining change over time in others
Class Discussion:
Godfrey lived during a time of great change in St. Anthony. The beginnings of the milling industry and the growth of the city presented challenges and opportunities for the young frontier miller and his family. Discuss the role of change in your own community using the questions provided below.

  • What changes have occurred in your community during the time you have lived here? Which changes (in your opinion) have been for the better and which have been for the worse?

  • How would an increase or decrease in your community population affect your life and your school? How would your school or community adjust to these changes? What major events in your community have caused changes to occur (natural disaster, new industry, major construction projects, etc.)?

  • What positive changes would you like to see your community make in the next few years? What can you as students do to help your community make positive changes?
Optional Activities:
  • Ask students to research a major event in their community's history and write or present a report describing the event and how it changed their community.

  • Have students create and present dramatic scenes from Ard Godfrey's life (gold miner, miller) based on the information provided in the source on the web site. Encourage them to use costumes, props, and creative drama techniques to demonstrate changes Godfrey experienced. You may ask them to act out the possible reactions of Godfrey's family to these life changes or speculate about why these changes might have been made. You may wish to split your class into three or four groups and assign each group to present a period or theme from Godfrey's life (gold mining, milling, family reaction, Ard's decisions to make the changes).

  • Ask students to think about and note what their major interests were when they were younger (you may wish to pick a specific age -- or more than one age -- to focus their thoughts). Then have students list their current interests and compare the two lists in small groups. How have their interests changed? What was important in the past that still seems important today? What surprised them about the changes? Do they think the changes they have undergone are positive? Can they see what might have caused some of the changes? Ask them to use their two lists write a journal entry (or a letter to themselves) describing their growth and what their interests and concerns are today. You may wish to save these entries and return them to the students at the end of the school year or term.

  • Have students bring in a current photo of themselves and a baby picture (or picture of themselves as a child) to compare how they have changed. You may wish to make photocopies of the pictures for the students to use so that the real photographs will not be lost or damaged. Put each pair of photographs in a numbered envelope (you will need to create a key for whose photos are in which envelope) and hand out one envelope to each student. Each student should pretend to be a historian researching this person's life. Have students write down what they observe about each photograph (you may wish to design a worksheet to guide them in this) and then compare the two photographs to draw conclusions about the person's life and the changes they may have experienced. When students are finished evaluating the two photographs, they should get into pairs with the person whose photographs they studied. Have the "historian" explain to the "subject" what they found and ask the "subject" to provide feedback about the accuracy of the observations. Complete this activity with a class discussion about what you can learn from comparing photographs from different periods of a person's life and also about value of using more than one or two sources to make assumptions about a research subject. What other sources could the students have used in addition to the photographs that might have made their conclusions more accurate?

Theme Two:

The student will be able to:

  1. discuss and examine the role of written communication in their lives
  2. evaluate the role and use of written forms of communication (letters) in historical research
Class Discussion:

  • When was the last time you got a personal letter in the mail? Who was it from?

  • In Godfrey's time, letters were the most widely used form of personal communication. What are some advantages to writing letters as a way to communicate? What are some of the disadvantages to letter writing?

  • We sometimes take it for granted that everyone is able to read. What information might you not receive if you are unable to read a letter someone has sent you? Think of all the mail that comes to your house every day. How might it affect your life if you couldn't read it?

  • What information is important to include in a letter? As historians, what pieces of information (other than the body of the letter itself) in a letter can help us with our research? How can we use a letter that might not include all of that information?

  • Imagine that your great-great-grandchildren are going through your attic and find a bundle of letters you have written and received. What kinds of things might they learn about you? How might the letters they find tell them more about who you were and what was important to you? What information about their family history might they learn from those letters?

Optional Activities:

  • Ask students to write a letter to someone who is important to them. This can be a family member, friend, or personal hero. Discuss the parts of a friendly letter and give students an envelope if they wish to mail the letter. Encourage them to write about what interests them and how important the recipient of the letter is to them.

  • Show students two copies of an identical (this can be created by you as an example) letter -- one handwritten and one typewritten. Ask them to study both as historical sources. Which one tells us more about the person? Which one is more interesting to read? If you found a letter like this from a family member years later, which one would might give you a feeling of being more connected to that family member? Encourage students to write letters in their own handwriting.

  • Discuss the role of letters versus email. What problems might historians of the future have when many letters that used to be saved on paper are now sent via email and deleted? What information will it be harder for us to find in the future? What might their children and grandchildren be missing if they can't read their ancestors' letters?

  • Have students create a folder of different kinds of letters in their proper form to use as examples. Letter forms they can include are friendly, business, thank you, request, etc. You might ask them to make these comical in nature as long as they follow proper letter form.

  • Ask students to study letters from family members (if possible) and discuss some family history that can be learned using those letters.

  • Have students write a letter to their future children, next year's class, or themselves giving advice about how to make good choices as a teenager. Save these letters and return them to students at a later date.

 Minnesota Historical Society· 345 Kellogg Blvd. West, St. Paul, MN 55102-1906· 651.296.6126  Copyright © 1999