Sunday, July 10, 2016

Community Recognition Signs are UP!

Dan Ohmann finishes main street sign

It took two years, but the Community Recognition signs for St. Vincent are finally up.

Volunteers Dan and Kris Ohmann, both of whom are on the town council, kindly gave of their time and energy to install the two signs - one at each of town - this past weekend.

New Signs for main street entrance

It all started two years ago, when a crowdfunding page was set up to raise the $800+ it would take to have the signs made, according to MnDOT specifications.  Nine people stepped up to donate to the fund a total of $800.  It took over 6 months to raise the funds, but it took over a year after that to get the signs made. Long story short, they were made and picked up by Kris Ohmann, brought back to St. Vincent to be installed, but had to wait a bit.  You see,  the location signs had to be replaced by population signs prior to the community recognition signs being installed, since they cannot be installed under simple location signs. More red tape. More phone calls and time had to pass.

New signs for Cemetery Road entrance
Finally, over the recent July 4th weekend, the Ohmanns took time out of their holiday to haul bolts, washers, and nuts together with a ladder and wrenches out to Highway 171 and install two signs celebrating the 155th Town Reunion held in 2012, under the two new population signs at each entrance to town.  A very big Thank You to Dan and Kris!

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Boundary Markers: "Soup Plates"

In the September of 1872, some two-hundred and fifty astronomers, blacksmiths, cooks, engineers, medics for the work animals and the working humans, naturalists, surveyors, topographers, wheelwrights, and woodworkers, gathered at the small isolated town of Pembina two degrees south of the parallel. When their American counterparts, flanked by the United States cavalry, arrived, the five-hundred members of the North American Boundary Commission were united in common cause. - From Beneath My Feet
George Mercer Dawson
A few months back, a friend of Jake Rempel - who is also a friend (and a fellow local historian) of this blog's writer - found a dish in an old basement north of Fort Dufferin near modern day Emerson, Manitoba.

How it got there is not known. Oral history has it that the building that used to be upon the foundation, was once a bar and a house of pleasure.

Boundary Marker Plate

Jake said, "I know they used different types of steel markers; I am not sure what they used right in the beginning, pole markers of some kind. George Mercer Dawson followed the survey crew and seems to have placed soup plates as each marker. This reference (below) in his book, Beneath My Feet, is all I have found about this type of marker..."

From George Mercer Dawson's Beneath My Feet

There is still an International Boundary Commission to this day. They describe their ongoing mission " maintaining the boundary in an effective state of demarcation. This is done by inspecting it regularly; repairing, relocating or rebuilding damaged monuments or buoys; keeping the vista cleared, and erecting new boundary markers at such locations as new road crossings."

Monday, June 06, 2016

St. Vincent Girl Driven to Suicide

Recently I was contacted by a descendant of Dr. Alexander Campbell, St. Vincent's first doctor.  She said that another relative had just discovered an old newspaper article about Dr. Campbell's daughter, Agnes.

It was a very sad story:  one of ill health; a vague, terminal prognosis; and inevitable despair that pushed Agnes - a young, promising medical professional - to take her own life.

Wednesday, May 04, 2016

Field Trip: Manitoba Border Churches

At the St. Michael's Ukrainian Orthodox Church cemetery, May 4, 2016

While out in the field taking photographs with Troy Larson on Monday, I realized I had a golden opportunity to get a good shot of myself that wasn't a selfie. Troy was very kind and took a couple of shots of me.

I love them! That's me nowadays. No more glamorous makeup and clothes; nowadays my priorities are pain relief, physical strengthening, and comfortable clothes. And documenting family and local history as much and as well as I can, for as long as I can...

The entire cemetery is surrounded by an old growth oak grove...

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Fundraiser: Straight Outta Kittson!!

Hey, Kittson County homies!

Take a look at a new song all about our hood, written by hometown girl, Nancy Haubrich. Every purchase of the digital single will go to supporting the Kittson County Historical Society, and History Center & Museum.

Have a listen, below...

Monday, March 28, 2016

Six Shots in the Night

Huron City (1883 Plat Map) Source:
I've written about Huron City a few times here before; and of course Charles Walker wrote about it, making it come alive, in his books Sheriff Charley Brown, and Border Town.  This time, I'm sharing another essay about it written by Jim Benjaminson, that was recently featured in the Pembina Historical Society newsletter.

Huron City is long gone now, but once it was a lively conclave nestled along the border...

Since the earliest days of settlement in what would become Pembina County, many little communities sprang up over the years, many have totally disappeared. Communities such as Hyde Park, Bruce, and Tyner have all but disappeared – leaving behind only the graveyards holding the remains of those early pioneers. Other communities such as Svold, Hallson and Leyden still have a presence, if you know where to look.

During the course of the past years, I’ve given several presentations and each time I’ve asked those in attendance, “Do you know where Huron City was?” Only one person – Ken Gardner – ever raised his hand to reply in the affirmative. Although most of its history has been lost to time, Huron City played a role in Pembina County’s history – most of it, not for the better.

Huron City, Pembina County, Dakota Territory, was located in the extreme northeast corner of the county tucked against the International Boundary to the north, adjoining the Hudson’s Bay company town of West Lynn and the Red River to the east, about two miles north of Pembina.

Newspaper ad for the Half Way House hotel in Huron City
Located on property owned by James H. White, the town-site of Huron City was platted prior to a public auction held September 4, 1879. Advertisements promoting the land sale touted the fact Huron City would be the “terminus of the St. Paul, Minneapolis, and Manitoba Railroad and the Manitoba Southern Railroad”, as well as being located on the main wagon road from Winnipeg where a new “International Bridge” would be built, connecting the two railroads.

The fledgling city already boasted Jim White’s saloon. The saloon was unique in that the building actually straddled the border – a red line painted on the floor indicated whether you were on the Canadian side of the border or the U.S. It was here that a Texas train robber was employed as a bartender – an outlaw who would die in a shoot-out in the Pembina post office in November of 1878 while resisting arrest by a deputy U.S. Marshal, who also died as a result of the affair.

White offered “100 business and residential lots – with no use restrictions”. Sale terms included cash payment of 10% of the sale price the day of the sale, with an additional 40% due within one week. The remaining balance could be paid off within one year at “normal rates”. Paying cash for the entire amount the day of the sale got the buyer a 10% discount. The Pembina Pioneer reported sales were good.

Closeup of Huron City platted streets; note 'Wharf St' in NE part of map...
Unlike many of the previously mentioned neighborhood communities, Huron City was platted into lots and streets – Anna Street, Elizabeth Street, Matheson Street, Huron Street and May Street running at an angle (southwest to northeast) with cross streets of First Street, 2nd Street, Third, Fourth and Fifth Streets (only 2nd street was marked with a numerical number, others were spelled out in full) and Wharf Street – leading to the river and presumably a river boat landing.

Article in the October 20, 1892
edition of the
Winnipeg Tribune
In addition to White’s saloon, Dan Rogers was the proprietor of the International Hotel, which along with an attached residence, burned to the ground September 4, 1885. For the “sporting crowd”, there were also two houses of ill-repute, one run by Pearl Gould, the other by Nellie Dunn1. Both establishments closed their doors after an incident the night of October 19, 1892 when a party of men from Emerson attempted to enter Pearl Gould’s but were refused entry. Pearl and her “soiled doves” retreated to the safety of Nellie’s, where the same parties were also refused entry. During the ensuing fracas, an Emerson hotel keeper named John Wagner was shot and killed.

Nellie Dunn was arrested and brought before a Grand Jury at Pembina. Although there was some question as to whether Nellie had actually fired the fatal shot, the jury determined Wagner’s death was justifiable homicide due to threats he had made to harm Nellie. Following the not guilty verdict, Nellie, Pearl and the other “ladies of the evening” were advised it might be advisable for them to return to Canada. Local papers remarked that the Gould name was “more than familiar” to law enforcement in Pembina County.

Although little more is known about Huron City, it remains a unique experiment is establishing a thriving community. Within a few square miles of land encompassing what is now North Dakota, Minnesota, and Manitoba, seven communities were established - Pembina, Huron City, West Lynn, Emerson, St. Vincent, Noyes, and Interapolis. Six had established residences and businesses; five still exist.

Interapolis, Minnesota, which would have been directly across the Red River from Huron City, never materialized. Huron City, Pembina County, Dakota Territory is unique in that it was documented in Pembina County Atlas’ as late as 1909, long after it had faded away to nothing more than a fleeting memory.

1 - A sidelight to the Nellie Dunn story. After she was "invited" to leave the U.S., she ended up in Spokane, Washington, in February 1893; still plying her trade, where she "shot and killed her boyfriend". The locals weren't as understanding as Pembina -- they took Nellie out and lynched her.

Monday, February 29, 2016

Norval Baptie Revisited

Click HERE to see this recent video about Norval Baptie...

I have written about Norval Baptie before, but at the time it was short and sweet due to limited research resources.

But since then, much more has been written about Baptie, a Bathgate native.  This write-up for instance - I couldn't do any better than that!

1920s postard promoting Norval Baptie ice folly, or 'tank show'...

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Ferry Command Article

Pembina’s brief moment of world attention, then, was part of the demise of American innocence. - "Earth Angels Rising", by Ted Beaudoin
It has been reported that the opening scenes of the 1941 Tyrone Power-Betty Grable movie, “A Yank in the RAF,” shows airplanes on the Pembina border being hauled into Canada. The narrator says, the way to get around neutrality restrictions is “Yankee ingenuity and a stout rope.” - Horse-drawn planes part of N.D. history (Bismarck Tribune, Jan. 16, 2011)

Emerson International Airport
by Bill Zuk (Nov 3, 2012)
Copyright © 2015 CAHS

Prince & Fred help make history! 
January 15, 1940

It was miserably cold that morning when Joe Wilson hitched his team of horses to a wagon. He looked up in the sky to see two aircraft circling overhead. Joining a procession of cars and a truck laden down with fuel barrels, he lumbered his way to the front, coaxing his workhorses, Prince and Fred, forward along the wind-swept field. The assembled crowd began to gesture at the swooping twin-engine planes now clearly in view. Piling out of one of the lead cars was a film crew that hastily set up a tripod and movie camera.

Approaching the 'landing strip'
on Pembina side of the border.
Jimmy Mattern, the famous test pilot, peered out the side cockpit, astonished at the sight below. It was a wind sock planted in the middle of the prairies. After the long cross-country excursion from Burbank with numerous stops along the way, he was nearly at the end of his ferry flight. Lining up for an approach, he maneuvered the Lockheed Hudson bomber downwind for a landing short of the international border that straddled his landing site. Following closely behind was an identical Hudson bomber, also painted in a dark drab, with only civilian markings on the underside of the wings to identify it. The subsequent touchdown was hard, the second bomber swerving off the improvised runway and nearly tipping on its nose, before righting itself.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

"Teddy" the Bear

"I remember the bear quite well - it was the talk of the town [Humboldt], it used to ride in the car with them. My dad told me of one time when they were going somewhere in the car, it got its collar hung up on the turning signal lever and almost ripped it off...
- Donald Reese
"Teddy" the bear...
He called her his "playmate".

Bob Bockwitz - whose family had the famous Humboldt bear - shares:
"The bear was one of three orphaned cubs that were adopted by individuals. (Things were a little different in those days) The two people in the picture are my dad Virgil, and my brother Rodney. When dad brought Teddy home (yes, for want of a better name, we called her Teddy) she was about the size of a football and snuggled into his jacket. She was bottle raised, and lived in the house until, as she got pretty good sized, my mother said 'OUT!' In most respects she was similar to having a dog. She rode with Dad in the pickup, and loved attention. She grew to be quite an attraction in the area and was a regular at meetings of what in those days was known as the 'Conservation Club'. She was still fairly young when this picture was taken, and did get considerably larger than shown here. There are so many stories that it would be impossible to tell them all. Some are hilarious. The question was asked what happened to her. That is best left unanswered. I will say that in a manner of speaking, she is still with us. It really amazing that her picture sparked so much interest."
Virgil Bockwitz (his son Rodney behind him...) with "Teddy"

Bob also shared:
"Only once did she ever get out of her cage and go 'visiting'. It's not known where her adventure took her, but it is known where she decided that she was tired and wanted to go to sleep. It happened to be about 5:00 in the morning when she found herself outside a trailer house inhabited by an unnamed individual who had probably returned home shortly before and was apparently sound asleep when the bear joined him on the bed. It's not know how long she was there before the gentleman woke up, but what IS known is that at some point they both realized something was not right. The gentleman ended up in the yard and the bear was headed for the safety of home. I'm sure that only those who are my age or older would have any recollection of that "adventure", but it's the type of story that can't be made up. What has been really interesting over the years, is hearing the various renditions of this story, as told by old-timers."

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Radio Interview!

Tonight, Christian Cassidy of the West End Dumplings - The Radio Edition, will be interviewing me about the St. Vincent Memories history blog.

In his own words... guests are: Trish Short Lewis of the blog St. Vincent Memories; U of W history prof Dr. Jody Perrun and Susan Algie of the Winnipeg Architecture Foundation. Join me at 7 pm on 101.5 UMFM. Only three episodes left! If you want to listen: Since UMFM can be heard in Winnipeg at 101.5 UMFM but it doesn't go much beyond city limits, people can listen online or, tomorrow there will be a podcast generated. The link will be in a companion post for this episode.
An alternate permanent link to the interview can be found here...