WASIOJA — When the Civil War began, a small law office in Wasioja became a recruiting station for local men who wanted to enlist in the Union army. One day, a group of students from the Baptist seminary up the road marched in to sign up.
Those men went on to form the core of Company C of the 2nd Minnesota Regiment, and they were remembered Saturday at the Wasioja recruiting station. After a lengthy process, the station has been restored to its 1861 appearance thanks to a $103,825 grant from the Minnesota Historical Society. It was reopened Saturday.
“It’s exciting any time they can restore something like this,” said Sharon Krom, of Rochester, whose family once lived in Wasioja.
History buffs, Civil War re-enactors and local citizens gathered at the recruiting station Saturday to take a look inside, and to commemorate the men of Wasioja who marched off to war more than 150 years ago.
Twenty men from Wasioja, including 10 students and two professors from the seminary, were part of Company C. One of the professors, Clinton Cilley, received the Medal of Honor for his bravery at the battle of Chickamauga.
It was a huge contribution of manpower from a small rural hamlet.
“That was the American Civil War,” said Michael Eckers, who has written a book, “The Boys of Wasioja,” about Company C. “Everybody was, in the vernacular of today, ‘all in’ to preserve the union.”
Besides, few if any of those who enlisted had any idea that the war would drag on for four bloody years. They thought they were marching off on a glorious adventure.
“They’d be back in time to harvest the crops,” Eckers said. “That’s what everybody thought. It didn’t turn out that way.”
By the time the 2nd Minnesota was deactivated from service in July 1865, 74 men had been killed or mortally wounded in action, 167 had died of diseases, and 277 had been discharged for disability.
As far as Eckers has been able to determine, only one of the Wasioja students, Edward Garrison, settled in the town after the war. He died in 1922 and is buried in Wildwood Cemetery in Wasioja.
In the years after the war, many of the hopes for Wasioja — that the railroad would come through town, that the village would become the county seat, that the seminary would prosper — were dashed.
As Wasioja hit hard times, so did the recruiting station. The building served a number of functions over the years, including as a residence and as a storage unit for auto parts. The Dodge County Historical Society bought the building in 1960. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1975.
Restoration work on the building included removing and replacing the roof.
Along with the seminary — the ruins of which still stand nearby — the recruiting station is a reminder of how even the smallest, most out-of-the-way settlements were affected by the Civil War.