Sunday, May 14, 2017

Looking Back: Freidell Photos Capture Dorchester As It Was A Century Ago

Every now and again, we come across photos of the Dorchester area that will take all of our readers back to a time that we can safely say nobody alive today experienced.

And for this Mothers Day, we  wanted to share a few such photos taken by the celebrated Saline County photographer Russell Freidell.

Russell Freidell was the son of William Freidell, the legendary dry goods store owner and retailer who ran his business in Dorchester for more than 50 years. 

Russell Freidell was a 1907 Dorchester High School graduate.  

He would go on to become known for his photos and his parents' beautiful home on Washington Avenue.  (That Victorian home was renovated in the late 1990s and today it looks nothing as it once did.)  

The Freidell's dry goods business also managed to survive a 1896 fire that destroyed much of Dorchester's business district, when the buildings were mostly wood.

First, we feature a 1908 photo that Friedell took of the Big Blue River north of town.  (Click on the photo for a better view.) Notice the family gathered in the covered boat.  

Back then, boating and fishing on the Blue River was popular activity -- pastimes of the very early 20th century.  

Also, notice how thin the tree cover was more than 100 years ago.  With the lack of broken prairie grass, the river's water appears a bit clearer than it is today.

Another photograph captures an area country road -- with no road signs and certainly no wider than the width of a Model T or a horse-drawn carriage.

We are guessing this photo was taken circa 1908 just outside of Dorchester. 

Both photographs were turned into postcards, a common practice for Friedell.  

These particular postcards were sent to an acquaintance of Freidell's in Kansas; both were postmarked in Dorchester.

One of our favorite Freidell photos shows Dorchester's Independence Day in 1908.  It gives viewers a front row seat at the village's celebrated Fourth of July parade, which continues today, 109 years later. 

The theme of Dorchester's 1908 Fourth of July Parade was "Comic Parade." 

Another photograph by Freidell shows a clear, crisp view of the 1909 Dorchester baseball team. 

Back then, games were often played south of town in the space now occupied by the Saline County Museum.

Another popular spot for baseball was a cow pasture northwest of town called Grant Horner's pasture. 

Yet another location was Bankson's pasture, just on the outskirts of Dorchester.  

Most games were played during free time on Sundays, according to old timers quoted in the Dorchester centennial history book.

Freidell's postcards are occasionally available for purchase online and make a fine gift for any Dorchester native or resident who enjoys studying our area's history.


  1. I also notice that there's no 20-foot banks on the river as there are today thanks to the practice of farming right up to the edges of bodies of water.

    1. Maby its because there used to be dams on the river

  2. Love love love when you guys do these types of stories

  3. Whatever happenend to Russell Friedell? I assume his dad died in Dorchester.

  4. The best part about those days is there werent any mexican drug gang members interrupting our blue river cruises.

  5. hey village dweller. Is friedel on your photo staff for your little blog?

  6. Maby those banks were caused when they took the dams out? Pretty hard to farm the edge and have a twenty foot drop off occur

  7. I live Mount Prospect, IL. A few weeks ago I bought (or won) a Russell Freidell postcard of the Gevena Reds Battery (post of baseball players, and since it is a battery, must likely pitchers and catchers) Is or was Geneva Reds team in the area?

  8. good to see that the old Thompson mansion is still intact and being used as a business............... <3

  9. I am 81 years old and I remember Russell Freidell very well. When I was a young kid my folks bought a life insurance policy for me from him..He was quite a character..I also remember the Blue when it looked like the picture. We used to take a row boat out on the river. I also remember digging clams out of the sand bottom below the Plouzek dam just north of Dorchester..When those clams got to stink real good, they made great catfish bait....The river was a lot nicer in those days.


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