25. Wadsworth Trail Mural

Artist: Charles Beck

Wadsworth Trail Mural

This Charles Beck mural was created to tell the story of the Wadsworth Trail, the oxcart trail that passed five miles north of the current location of the Minnesota community of Morris. Established in 1864 as a military route from St. Cloud to Fort Wadsworth, S.D., the trail provided a way west for pioneers until 1871, when the railroad began to make it obsolete.

Symbolizing the restless surge westward, the mural features the indigenous people and the travelers of the trail: settlers, soldiers, clergy, miners, trappers and others. The mural depicts the fears and apprehensions of the travelers but also the indomitable human spirit as people sought opportunity in a free and expanding America. In contrast, the indigenous people faced profound changes to their land and lifestyle and an uncertain future.

Beck was commissioned by Stevens County in 1957 to design and paint the mural for the County Courthouse in Morris. The mural is painted on four wood panels, each 4 feet by 8 feet. It was displayed until the courthouse was remodeled in 1996.

Beck and his wife, Joyce, heard word of the courthouse renovation so drove to Morris to ask about plans for the mural, which they found was still intact and moveable. A maintenance worker told Beck it was fortunate that he’d come because he was thinking of using it to build a fish house.

Ken Peeders, M State president at the time, wrote to Stevens County asking if the mural could be returned to Fergus Falls, and the county ultimately donated it to the college. Beck made repairs to the mural before it was displayed in the college library.