A.D. Ferris had a vision for a grand opera hall in Pipestone. He did not have the personal means to finance it, but he still saw that it was done. He “subscribed” a number of seats in the future opera hall for $5 each. He also convinced 15 people in the community to back the project by putting up $100 each. After gathering that financial support, Ferris still needed funding and he took a silent partner. For years we did not know who Ferris’ silent partner was, who helped to finance the building of the Ferris Grand Block in 1898. M.A. Manuel was the name on the date-stone, originally set high in the building’s front façade. It was a twin to the A.D. Ferris stone. Both were removed when the Masons purchased the building around 1916.
In researching Mr. Ferris, in order to better understand the building, it was discovered that M.A. Manuel was in fact Ferris’ daughter Mittie. She was born in 1855 and married Fred Manuel in Sibley County, Minnesota about 1878. She never lived in Pipestone, her father and stepmother moved to the area in 1878 and she and Fred were soon making their home in California.
Fred Manuel died in 1897 leaving Mittie with the small fortune he had accrued from the mining industry. She invested in her father’s vision. Her son, Charles Manuel, represented her at the opening night of the Ferris Grand Opera House. It was Mittie Manuel who sold the building to the Masons around 1916.
Back to the datestones. Miraculously, the A.D. Ferris datestone has been in the Museum collection for years. It is miraculous because the Museum opened in the 1960s, so where that stone was in the meantime is a mystery.
After the Pipestone Masonic Bodies gave the Ferris Grand Block to the Historical Society in 2013, the Manuel date stone was discovered in the attic of the building. Both are on display right now in the Museum’s exhibit “Building Boom!” which features the grand quartzite buildings of Pipestone County.