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2019 Fall Luncheon — Prospect House Museum

On September 24th we gathered together again for the Fall Luncheon at the Prospect House Museum. It was well attended with almost a full house — 30 guests. As usual the volunteers prepared elegant tables and amazing food! Thank you to those volunteers who come back every year to share with the community.


Celebrate the 50th Anniversary of WOODSTOCK — Woodstack at the Prospect House Museum

On September 21st the Prospect House Museum celebrated in style our version called WOODSTACK. I am sure most of you know why and have seen Jay’s big wood stacks.

The band Confusion played for our concert with a list of music heard at the original Woodstock, even the Star-Spangled Banner (Hendricks). It was awesome, drawing a crowd of about 100 people.  We had games for the kids and a picture board for taking pictures of people as hippies. Most everyone dressed the era, whether it was head bands, bell bottom pants or flowers in their hair. They danced as if they were there — reliving the event! It was very fun to be a part of the activities and taking us back to that generation. It was enjoyed by all.


Generous gift from First Baptist Church of Battle Lake

The Prospect House Museum is pleased to accept a $1000 gift from the First Baptist Church of Battle Lake. James A. "Cap" Colehour built the Prospect House — the first tourist hotel (resort) in the area — in 1886 and was one of the founders of the First Baptist Church. "Cap" was on the committee that got the famous architect Warren B. Dunnell to design the new church in 1893. Dunnell designed the State Hospital in Fergus Falls.

The new Church cost $1,359.00. The structure is a shingle and clapboard church; Gothic with a suggestion of colonial revival. It is 24 x 50 feet on the ground. The auditorium is 22 by 36, the parlor 14 x 14. It is pronounced by those who have seen it, one of prettiest little churches in the sate and Battle Lake people think that is right. (Battle Lake Review December 21, 1893)

Cap Colehour's daughter, Kathrina, married Ernest Wilkins in the church on March 2, 1911. Ernest was a deacon in the church and their two children — James Colehour Wilkins and Kathryn — were members. James C. Wilkins passed away in 2017 at the age of 102. When Ernest and Kathrina bought the hotel in 1929, they hired the contractor who built the State Hospital in Fergus Falls, to remodel it into a Georgian Colonial private home. It became a museum in 2010.

Jay Johnson, Kathryn's son and Cap's great-grandson, married Abby Bizzett on March 2, 2011 in the First Baptist Church, exactly one hundred years after Jay's Grandfather and Grandmother were married.

Four generations of Cap's family have been members and supporters of the First Baptist Church, and it is an honor to have their support.

The Prospect House is a 501(c)3 non-profit and is not privately owned.


Minnesota Historical Society Awards Grants

Published June 19, 2019. The Minnesota Historical Society has awarded a Minnesota Historical & Cultural Heritage Grant to the Prospect House Museum for the following: Collection Management Policy Development and Collections Survey.

The Prospect House Museum is so honored to have the support of Minnesota Historical Society. The Prospect House will be hiring a qualified staff person to complete this task.


In Battle Lake, history comes with a side of entertainment

Published April 24, 2019. Bob Collins from MPR News "NewsCut" interviewed our founder, Jay Johnson.

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Minnesota has a Confederate flag and it will keep it

Published Monday, August 21st, 2017. Fergus Falls Journal.

"Minnesota has a Confederate symbol in its possession. It has long caused controversy. And Minnesota is not moving it. The Confederate icon — a scarred and hole-worn Virginia battle flag — was captured by the First Minnesota Pvt. Marshall Sherman at the bloody and brutal Battle of Gettysburg in 1863. Many of the First Minnesota Regiment, a volunteer force, died in the Union battle against the South and Sherman was awarded the Medal of Honor for his role."

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Sad News

It's with a heavy heart that we share the passing of our beloved Captain. Wednesday morning, February 8th, Captain was out on patrol in Battle Lake, on the North side of town. He was hit by a car, and died without suffering.

Captain was a familiar fixture at Prospect House Museum, attending meetings and events, and greeting all who entered. He was also a loyal and loving family member to Jay and Abby, often seen around the region helping Jay deliver firewood.

Captain follows a long history of the Colehour family raising champion Labrador Retrievers. In lieu of condolences, friends of The Prospect House Museum suggest making a donation in Captains name. Proceeds will help improve a museum exhibit about the Prospect House's "Golden" history in honor of Captain, the beloved museum dog.


Battle Lake Lions Donate

"The Prospect House & Civil War Museum is pleased to announce the Battle Lake Lions Support in a new project at the Museum." Read more here.

Published in Battle Lake Review on Apr. 13, 2016.


Underwood Students Visit the Prospect House

"Underwood 6th grade class toured the Prospect House and learned more about the Civil War. They also learned how Minnesota fits into the history of the Civil War."

Read more in the PDFs below.

Underwood Student Photos
Student stories about the Prospect House
Student stories about the Prospect House (Continued)
Student stories about the Prospect House (Continued)
Student stories about the Prospect House (Continued)

Published in Battle Lake Review on Feb. 17, 2016.


Battle Lake Reenactment Photos

Dell Eriksson has posted some great photos and video from Battle Lake Wenonga Days.


Preserving history: Prospect House & Civil War Museum a treasure trove

Meredith Holt has put together a nice article about the Prospect House & Civil War Museum. The article is linked below and also includes a video.

Article Page

Photos from Battle Lake Wenonga Days

The Fergus Falls Journal posted pictures from the Battle Lake Wenonga Days this past weekend.


Thank You Donors Newspaper Article

Dear Donors,

Because of you and your support, The Prospect House Museum has had its best year ever!!! Your donations and volunteerism made it possible to restore the face of the Prospect House with new paint; You made it possible for us to dig out and improve the landscape including multiple flower beds and gardens. We have two special funds that have enabled The Prospect House Museum to provide much needed upgrades to the Museum - Beautiful Gardens and the Furnace Fund...

The rest of the article is available by clicking on this link.


First Summer Hotel Being Replaced

Wilkins Building New Home On Site of Prospect Inn

An old landmark is being torn down this week and with it go the happy ghosts of pioneer tourists' paradise. Prospect Inn. Battle Lake's first summer hotel, is giving place to a palatial three story Colonial mansion, built by Mr. and Mrs. E. C. Wilkins. The residence will be modeled somewhat after Mrs. Wilkins' great, great grandmother's home in Deerfield, Mass. in which Mrs. Wilkins still owns an interest. She visited it when east last fall. This building was constructed, in 1772. Read the original article.


Goin' To The Lake: Mike & Natalie Visit Battle Lake

"This week, Natalie and Mike loaded up their luggage into the Mobile Weather Watcher and took off Wednesday, heading three hours northwest to Battle Lake."

More info is located on the CBS website.

Jay at the Antiques Roadshow

Jay and Abby went to the Antiques Roadshow on May 31st in Bismarck, ND. Among the items they brought is an original poster from Lincoln's first presidential campaign.


Glendalough Trail Overview

"The 12-mile paved trail takes you through one of Minnesota's most serene and beautiful state parks: Glendalough. Glendalough's diversity make it perfect for families and avid outdoor enthusiasts. The trail also connects you to the charming city of Battle Lake, offering shopping, eating, lodging and fun events! And it's a loop! You park your vehicle, enjoy the trail, without having to pick a point to turnaround.

The trail offers level terrain, perfect for riders and walkers of all ages and skill levels. Along the trail are show stoppers like the amazing Prospect House & Civil War Museum — recently named to the National Register of historic places.

The trail loop is for non-motorized traffic and consists mostly of 10-foot-wide asphalt." Watch the video now.


Civil War Traveling Trunk Program

The Prospect House & Civil War Museum received a grant of $730 from The Battle Lake Area Community Fund for its Civil War Traveling Trunk Program.

The Civil War Traveling Trunk program provides authentic and reproduction Civil War artifacts and various other materials to utilize in classrooms or on the road at trade show venues. The Trunk fosters a greater interest in the American Civil War and the preservation of our American history by allowing hands-on experiences. You also will hear true stories of James A. "Cap" Colehour's experiences in the Civil War, such as The Lightning Brigade.

Colonel John T. Wilder from Indiana was responsible for being the creator of a new "Special Forces" unit called Mounted Infantry. They were foot soldiers on horses and they would ride to the battle, dismount and fight. The cavalry fought on horse-back. He was young, fearless, and capable. In one of his first battles at Green River, after finding he was surrounded and outnumbered, he chose to surrender rather than let his men be uselessly slaughtered. He led a charge at full gallop in the Battle at Hoover's Gap and his unit became known as the famous "Lightning Brigade" for its powerful, rapid response. James A. "Cap" Colehour of the 92nd Illinois Volunteers was a member of Wilder's Lightning Brigade and his 92nd Illinois Regiment had the honor of being the first Union regiment to fly the American Flag at the Battle for Chattanooga — a major "turning point" in the Civil War and was, at least partly, responsible for Lincoln winning the 1864 election.

The Lightning Brigade had the newest and best innovations of military apparatus available including: the long-barreled Spencer Repeating Rifle capable of firing 20 shots a minute; the new lightweight "racing" saddle designed by General McClellan; hatchets instead of bayonets (hatchets were more useful and could still be used for fighting); and special stirrups designed for shoes instead of boots. Wilder's Lightning Brigade wore infantry insignia, rode with the cavalry and was also called the "Hatchet Brigade". They were the newest and best rapid assault force and were in the forefront of my battles.

Come and see the story of "Cap" Colehour, the Blue Lightning Brigade, and the many artifacts that tell of his adventures with General Wilder. Come to The Prospect House Museum and see his Spencer rifle, saddle, shoe, uniform with bullet holes where he was shot, and the surgeon's report with his blood stains on it, and much, much more! See you at the Museum!

Open May 1st from 10am — 5pm, and tour times beginning at 10:30am, 12:30pm, 2pm and 3:30pm. Please call in advance and schedule your tour time 218/864-4008. All tours are guided tours!

To schedule your school or organization's "Traveling Trunk" Program, call Jay at 218/864-4008.


Veterans of the Civil War Exhibit at Otter Tail County Historical Society

Veterans of the Civil War came to Otter Tail County shortly after the war and made numerous contributions to the county as early pioneers, businessmen, township organizers and much more. This exhibit will explore their contributions to the county and the far reaching effects of those contributions. (Otter Tail County Historical Society, Fergus Falls, MN)

Jay Johnson, Founder/CEO of The Prospect House & Civil War Museum gave a presentation at OTCHS on February 21, 2014 to a group of Civil War enthusiasts. His presentation was about the life of James A. "Cap" Colehour, Civil War survivor, his great grandfather. On display at OTCHS is the life of James A. Colehour and the Prospect House when it was a hotel and home of James A. Colehour and family. There is also a display of a unique structure, Battle Lake Baptist Church, the church where James A. "Cap" Colehour was a founding member.

For more information contact the Otter Tail County Historical Society at 218-736-6038.


Pioneer Public Television Post Cards Episode

On Sunday, December 22nd at 7:00 p.m. CST, watch Post Cards on the Pioneer Public Television channel to hear more about the Prospect House.

"Watch the amazing family story of a Civil War veteran at The Prospect House Museum in Battle Lake. Hear the history of the Morris Movie Theatre and how it came to be a cooperative today. Discover the passion and beauty found in the paintings and jewelry by Marcella Rose from Pelican Rapids." Watch the Episode


Blue Star Museum Group

The Prospect House & Civil War Museum has become a member of the Blue Star Museum Group. Blue Star Museums is a collaboration among the National Endowment for the Arts, Blue Star Families, the Department of Defense, and more than 2,000 museums across America. First launched in the summer of 2010, Blue Star Museums offers free admission to all active duty military personnel and their families from Memorial Day, May 27, through Labor Day, September 2, 2013.


Battle Lake museum may soon be on National Register of Historic Places

Detroit Lakes Online, Wednesday, April 3, 2013. By Vicki Gerdes


Picture of Jay Johnson at National Register meeting

Nomination for National Register of Historic Places

On Tuesday, March 19, we received great news. The Minnesota State Historic Preservation Board met today and unanimously approved the Prospect House to be nominated for the National Register of Historic Places. The National board meets in May so cheer us on!!

Our Nomination Photos


Prospect House on a possible path to the National Register

The Prospect House in Battle Lake is being considered by the Minnesota Historical Society's State Review Board for nomination to the National Register of Historic Places, it was announced last week.

It is one of seven total properties from around the state up for consideration.

The National Register of Historic Places is the federal government's official list of historic properties worthy of preservation.

The state review board will meet on Tuesday, March 19 at 6 p.m. to consider the nomination. This meeting is open to the public and will be held in the Cargill Commons Room of the Minnesota History Center in St. Paul.

Preservation office staff will present a brief presentation on the history of Prospect House and the board will entertain comments from people in the audience. Following discussion, the board will act on the nomination, rendering an opinion of whether the property meets national register criteria.

The Prospect House is located on Lake Avenue North in Battle Lake.

According to the nomination materials, Prospect House was originally constructed in 1887 as the Prospect House Hotel. In its day, the hotel would accommodate up to 100 guests in 27 rooms at $2 per day. It was nearer to the lake than any other hotels, and it offered pleasure parties, fishing parties, hunting parties, accommodating hosts and scenic picnic grounds.

It is now operated as a Civil War and house museum by the Friends of the Prospect House, formed in 2010.

Published March 14th, 2013 at Perham Focus


March 2013

The Minnesota Historical Society has informed Jay Johnson, that the Prospect House at 403 Lake Ave North, Battle Lake, Otter Tail County, will be considered by the State Review Board for nomination to the National Register of Historic Places. The National Register of Historic Places is the Federal government's official list of historic properties worthy of preservation. Listing in the National Register assists in preserving our Nation's heritage. The State Review Board meets on Tuesday, March 19, 2013, at which time the nomination will be considered. The meeting is open to the public. Preservation Office staff will present a brief presentation on the history, correspondence will be entered into the record, and the board will entertain comments from people in the audience who wish to speak. Following discussion, the board will act on the nomination, rendering an opinion of whether the property meets National Register Criteria.


March 2013

The Minnesota Historical Society has awarded a Minnesota Historical Cultural Heritage Grant in the amount of $4,221 to The Prospect House Museum for the StEP's Program Assessment Project.


Museum a Civil War treasure trove

Published Tuesday, February 19th, 2013. Fergus Falls Journal.


A Fargo couple shows the true meaning of endless love — Prospect House & Civil War Museum Board member, James Colehour Wilkins, celebrates his 97th birthday and gets married the next day. Published October 12th, 2012. WDAY News. [link no longer available]


The Prospect House & Civil War Museum is sponsoring a soda booth at the 2012 Minnesota Renaissance Festival in Shakopee, MN. Volunteers will be manning the booth during all 16 days of operation from August 18 through September 30. A percentage of the profits will be donated to the Museum by the Castle Kitchens Corporation. Come by and visit us at our booth across from the Children's Realm at the Fest!


Prospect House Museum Benefit in Battle Lake

Monroe Crossing will give a benefit dinner and concert for The Prospect House Museum beginning at 5:30 p.m. Friday, Aug. 10, at the Lakes Area Community Center (LACC). The concert begins at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $22 for dinner and concert, or $15 for the concert only. Tickets can be booked ahead by calling 218-864-4008 or purchased beginning at 5 p.m. on the day of the concert at LACC, 112 West Main Street. The benefit is for The Prospect House Museum in Battle Lake, a non-profit organization formed in August 2010. The Museum offers a glimpse of history beginning with the Civil War right though the early 20th century. It is located in Battle Lake at 403 Lake Avenue (Highway 78).

Published August 7th, 2012. Fergus Falls Journal.


Thanks to a generous donation the living room furniture was rebuilt and recovered with new fabric. The furniture was assembled as closely as possible to the 1930s era. Thus in July 2012 the living room was opened up to tours for the first time.

In early July 2012 two new road signs were installed on either side of the Prospect House driveway. They were a donation from Warren Colehour's memorials. The large and handsome signs add a missing feature to the tourist experience.


The garden tour event of July 14 & 15, 2012 was very successful earning a large donation toward landscape renovation of the Prospect House grounds.

In late July 2012 six historical markers were placed around the grounds of the Prospect House telling the story of the early days of the Inn and showing pictures of the house in different eras. The markers were also a donation from Warren Colehour's memorials.

Road Sign PhotoYard Sign Photo Cannon Photo

The Civil War 150 year celebration on July 28 & 29, 2012 proved to be an exciting weekend. There were Civil War reenactors, a teaching booth for making bullets, quilt and lace makers, Abraham Lincoln and two cannons. The large cannon was fired several times and if you were standing nearby you got a real feeling of what the original soldiers went through. There were many people walking the grounds of the Prospect House with the Museum and House tour being the epicenter of the weekend.


July 14 – 15 Garden Tour in Battle Lake, Underwood

Published Thursday, July 6th, 2012. Fergus Falls Journal.


"Prospect House is a state and county gem"

Published Thursday, May 17th, 2012. Fergus Falls Journal. By Mara Mackay


On March 1, 2012 Jay Johnson gave a fifteen minute interview about the Prospect House with KBRF radio station in Fergus Falls, MN. All reports were that it went very well and was very informative.


Great News! On February 13, 2012 we received confirmation of our 501(c)(3) IRS status, retroactive to the date of our founding in August 2011.


Cap Colehour's grandson, Warren Colehour, died on January 28, 2012 in Waconia, MN. This passing leaves James Colehour Wilkins of Fergus Falls, MN as the last surviving grandchild of Cap Colehour.

Warren Irving Colehour's Obituary

Colehour, Warren Irving 91, of Waconia, passed away on Jan. 28, 2012 at Ridgeview Medical Center. He was born at Deaconess Hospital in Minneapolis Jan. 21, 1921, the son of Robert Colehour and Alice Wardwell. He married Donna Sewell in 1942, they enjoyed almost 69 years of marriage before Donna's death in 2010. Preceded in death by his parents, two brothers: Robert and Richard Colehour; three sisters: Doris Plotnico, Bettie Crose and Barbara Pickering. He is survived by two sons: Corey Colehour (Joyce) of Littleton, CO and William Colehour (Jean) of Waconia; one daughter, Sally Myrom (Gary) of Redwood Falls; six grandchildren and nine great-grand- children. Warren graduated from Minneapolis West High School in 1939. He enlisted in the U.S. Navy in 1942 and served on the Destroyer USS Bailey, D.D. 492 during World War II. He was an Electrician Mate First Class during the war, serving in the North and South Pacific, taking part in nine campaigns. He was a 38 year employee at Northwestern Bell Telephone Company, retiring in 1978 as a PBX Installation Supervisor. He spent twelve years in Desert Hot Springs, CA moving to Eden Prairie in 1992 and Waconia in 2009. Warren was a member of the Richfield American Legion Post 435 and Lifetime VFW Post 5555. Memorials to the Prospect House and Civil War Museum (the ancestral home of Warren's grandfather), 403 Lake Ave N., Battle Lake, MN 56515. A memorial service will be held Feb. 2 at 1 PM at the Cremation Society of MN, Edina Chapel, 7110 France Ave. S. Private interment at Fort Snelling National Cemetery. Cremation Society of Minnesota Edina Chapel 952-924-4100.


On October 26, 2011 Jason Davis of KSTP Channel 5 News (Twin Cities), host and executive producer of the famous "On The Road" series, visited the Prospect House and Civil War Museum. He filmed the house and museum and interviewed our founder, Jay Johnson. Look for this to air on TV in the near future! [No longer available]


"Actors commemorate the 150th anniversary of the Civil War" Published July 23rd, 2011 WDAY News out of Fargo, ND.


"Civil War history on display at BL" Published Tuesday, May 3rd, 2011. Fergus Falls Journal. By Tom Hintgen


"Love At First (and Second) Sight!" In Good Company, Winter 2011 edition. By Reba Gilliand


Our Founders Wedding

Wedding Photo

On the evening of March 2, 2011, our founder, Jay Johnson was married to his fiance, Abby Bizzett. The wedding took place at the First Baptist Church of Battle Lake, MN. The date was specifically chosen as it was exactly 100 years to the day that Jay's grandparents, Ernest and Kathrina (Colehour) Wilkins, were married. Jay's great-grandfather, James Allison Colehour, was a Trustee for the First Baptist Church and helped to purchase the chapel on November 1, 1884. At the time it was the only church in town where English was spoken.


Petticoats & Pistols Civil War Museum — A Work in Progress August 19th, 2010.


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