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Lesson Plan: Joseph Hancock

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. 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 in general. The sections of this site are not intended to be complete histories of the people or events involved, but rather serve as examples of what students might find in their own research attempts.

Joseph Hancock:
An early settler and missionary, Joseph Hancock was one of Red Wing's first permanent residents and a longtime member of the community. He made many contributions to education, local government, and church work in the Red Wing area.

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, lead them through the following sequence (you may wish to use 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 Red Wing.
  4. Click on Joseph Hancock.
  5. Read the introductory material on Joseph Hancock and click Enter.
  6. This will bring you to a screen with a photograph of Hancock. This is the first primary source the students will encounter. 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 another source to explore.
  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:
Below is a listing of each source provided on the Joseph Hancock section of the web site and a transcript of the activity questions for each source. (The questions are found on the site by clicking on the Activity button.)

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

Hancock and his wife were among the first permanent white residents in the Red Wing area. He taught in the school, was town postmaster, and served as a local pastor.

Object 1

Click on the Object 1 button to open the primary source.
This is a photograph of Joseph Hancock's tombstone.

    2.1) What in this photograph might suggest to you that the tombstone is very old?

    Possible Answer: The faded engraving or carving of the script and the basic rounded shape of the tombstone are both signs that it may be very old. There are not many tombstones today that have this shape or that are made in the same kind of white stone. Inscriptions on tombstones today are also not usually as detailed as they were in earlier years.

    2.2) What can we learn about Hancock from reading the inscription on his tombstone?

    Possible Answer: We can learn his dates of birth and death, when he came to Red Wing, and what he did for a living. Most tombstones today only tell us the name and dates of the person who died.

    2.3) The letters A.B.C.F.M. on the tombstone stand for the American Board of Commissioners of Foreign Missionaries. Why do you think they might have used the initials of the organization on the tombstone instead of the actual name? How can initials like these make our work as researchers more difficult?

    Possible Answer: The name was probably too long (and thus too expensive) to fit on the tombstone. As researchers, initials can complicate our work because the organizations or groups represented may no longer exist, and it requires extra research to know which organization is being referenced.

    2.4) This tombstone stands in Oakwood Cemetery in Red Wing, Minnesota. What information might we learn from other tombstones around Hancock's if we visited the cemetery?

    Possible Answer: Often people are buried next to their spouses and children, so information about Hancock's family relationships might be found on tombstones near his. We might learn that he was married more than once, or that one or more of his children died young.

News 1
Click on the News 1 button to open the primary source.
This is Hancock's description of Red Wing.

    3.1) In Hancock's first paragraph, he mentions that he doesn't need to describe the beauty of Red Wing to the readers. What does this tell us about the area?

    Possible Answer: Hancock doesn't find it necessary to describe the area because it has been described so often by other tourists and visitors, which tells us that Red Wing was a popular spot for vacationers or that he was writing the book for people who either lived in Red Wing or knew the area well.

    3.2) What resources might we use to find out more information about the other missionaries that Hancock mentions in this book?

    Possible Answer: We could use the resources of the Goodhue County Historical Society and books about the history of Red Wing to find out more about other missionaries in the area. Researching the records of the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions might also give us some information.

    3.3) What does this section of the article not tell us about the missionaries involved?

    Possible Answer: Hancock does not tell us where all of the missionaries came from or why they left. He also does not say anything about the specific things they did in the community.

    3.4) Hancock wrote this book in 1893, after he had been in Red Wing for more than 40 years. How do you think his long life in Red Wing might have made his book more factually reliable than if it had been written by someone who was just a visitor to the village?

    Possible Answer: Hancock might have been able to see and hear about many events first-hand, which would help his story of the area be more reliable. He also kept a lengthy journal of his work and life. All of these things would help him to write a book that might be more accurate than one written by someone who had only visited the community for a short time.

News 2
Click on the News 2 button to open the primary source.
This is Hancock's description of his decision to come to Red Wing.

    4.1) Why had Hancock quit his studies at the seminary years earlier?

    Possible Answer: He says that he stopped his studies because of poor health but had since recovered, married, and was teaching school.

    4.2) Why would it have been "too late in the season" for Hancock and his wife to go to Minnesota?

    Possible Answer: If he was invited to come to Minnesota in the "latter part of the year," we could assume that winter was near. Since he says himself that travel was more difficult in those days, we can assume that they had to wait until spring (when the river thawed and roads would be passable) to start their journey.

    4.3) What does Hancock mean when he says that "such a place as Minnesota was not then known"?

    Possible Answer: Minnesota became a territory in 1849, just before Hancock and his wife Maria moved to Red Wing.

    4.4) From these paragraphs, what experiences had Hancock had that would have prepared him for his work in Red Wing?

    Possible Answer: His studies at the seminary and his work teaching school in Saratoga Springs both probably prepared him for missionary work in Red Wing.

Diary 1
Click on the Diary 1 button to open the primary source.
This is Hancock's remembrance of a trip to Red Wing from his journal and a book he wrote years later.

    5.1) What differences in the style of writing can you see between the journal and the book?

    Possible Answer: In his journal, Hancock didn't use a great deal of description and did not necessarily write in complete sentences. He basically just listed events in the order that they happened. In the book, the event is written in more of a story, or narrative form.

    5.2) How did the story in his journal change when he wrote the book years later? What details are different? Why might this be so?

    Possible Answer: In the book, Hancock discusses why they decided to travel by water and offers in more detail the locations they were traveling to and what they saw on the way. In the journal, he was writing for himself and probably assumed that he would remember such details, and therefore did not mention them as often.

    5.3) Which of the two sources do you think would be most reliable?

    Possible Answer: Since the journal was written closer to the time of the event, it is probably more accurate. Sometimes we remember things and think about events differently years later than we did while they were happening.

    5.4) What are some of the difficulties in using a diary as a primary source?

    Possible Answer: One difficulty is in reading handwriting, which can be difficult to read at times. A diary also does not give you access to what others thought of the same event or how the event was viewed by the community.

News 3
Click on the News 3 button to open the primary source.
In this passage, Hancock reminisces about his work with children at the school in Red Wing.

    6.1) Hancock considered learning the Dakota language an important part of his work. What does this suggest to us about Hancock?

    Possible Answer: This tells us that Hancock was interested in talking to the Dakota in their own language. He also mentions that the Dakota themselves often tried to help by using signs and gestures to teach Hancock the Dakota language.

    6.2) Hancock says that he purchased a hand bell to call the children to school. Why would this be necessary?

    Possible Answer: During that time, children may not have had watches or clocks in their homes or villages and the simplest way to gather them together would have been with a common signal; in this case, the bell.

    6.3) What other method did Hancock use to encourage students to attend school?

    Possible Answer: He started to hand out raisins at the end of the school day to encourage students to return the next day.

    6.4) Why do you think Hancock would have written down Dakota words and their English meanings?

    Possible Answer: Part of his job in Red Wing was to teach Dakota children to speak English. He also wanted to learn Dakota himself. By creating "word books" of terms and their meanings, he was able to have a resource that would help him in his efforts. Other missionaries in the area are known to have published Dakota-English dictionaries for missionary and school use.

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. Our memories of events can change over time. Hancock's journal writings are different in many ways from his writings years later as he remembered the same events. How might your memory of an event change over time? What things might influence your memory of an event? Do you think your memory of an event years later would be more or less accurate than something you wrote in a journal at the time? Why?

  2. Since Hancock lived in Red Wing for many years, how might his books about Red Wing be more reliable than books written by someone who had just visited the town? What details might a long-time resident be able to provide that a visitor could not? In what ways might the remembrances or descriptions of a resident be more biased than those of a visitor? What kinds of information might a resident who intends to keep living in the area be likely to "leave out" of his work that a visitor or researcher might be willing to include?

  3. Cemeteries can often provide very useful information to the historian or genealogist (person who is studying their family history). Often the information provided on tombstones can show us a glimpse of what the person was like or what their interests were. What details might we find on a tombstone that would help us direct our research? What might we learn from other tombstones near the one we are studying? Where could we go to find out more about the person after we have studied their tombstone?

  4. What role can diaries play in our historical reserach? What might we learn from a diary that we won't learn from a textbook or letter or newspaper article? How might a diary we would keep today help us in the future to remember what our lives were like? What might be some advantages to knowing about the events in our lives and how we felt about them? How might a historian of the future use our diary? How might knowing our feelings about an event make a historian's job more difficult if that was the only source the historian had about our life?

After your students have completed these questions, you may either collect them to be graded and discussed later or go over them in class as a discussion outline. When you downloaded the file with these questions you also downloaded a teacher's key for your use.

Extending the Lesson: Historical Themes Joseph Hancock
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 Joseph Hancock 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 Hancock 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:
Early years of Red Wing

Theme One:
Early Years of Red Wing

The student will be able to:

  1. Describe, identify and evaluate ways in which a community can develop over time
Class Discussion:
In small groups, have students discuss the following questions. You may wish to provide these questions on an overhead transparency or supply a handout for student reference.

  • What is necessary for a community to form and develop? What resources, people, and geographic advantages are important?

  • Why don't cities generally form at the top of a mountain or in the middle of a desert? What struggles will towns face without the proper resources?
Optional activities:
  • Have students research the early development of their community. What issues or events made a big difference in the way the town was formed or how quickly it grew? You may ask for each student to choose a time period to study and present the research in chronological-order reports when the research is complete.

  • Contact your local historical society to request a tour focusing on your community's development. Some historical societies may be willing to lend you some artifacts that represent tools or products of your community's early years for classroom study and examination.

  • Locate (through newspaper files or your historical society) photographs of your community in its early years. Ask the class to identify where these photographs were taken and how the area looks today. You may even wish to take some "today" photographs and make a display of "before and after" pictures. Ask students to evaluate how the community has changed and why. Ask them to comment about whether they think the changes are postive.

  • Ask students to imagine what their life would be like if they were to move to their community just as it was being built. Have them write three or four journal entries describing their first visit to the town, setting up their first home, their first job, and the developments the town might have seen in its first 10 or 20 years. Ask students to read these entries aloud and compare how their visions of the town's early years are similar and different from each other's.

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