Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Scrapbook: Local WWII Veterans


Scrapbook, a set on Flickr.
Hetty Walker recently lent an old scrapbook to Jamie Rustad Meagher. Jamie is a fellow local historian, and she was interested in scanning some of the scrapbook's photos to share online.

The scrapbook was originally put together by a third, unknown person, who gave it to Hetty and Chuck Walker, two other local historians, for safekeeping.

Part of its contents are newspaper clippings, documenting many of Pembina and St. Vincent's WWII veterans during their service in the 1940s.

Monday, February 24, 2014

The “Birdman” of Hamilton

'Birdman' Beachey,  putting on flying show at the Hamilton Fair

[Reprinted with permission, by © Jim Benjaminson, Author]

When Orville and Wilbur Wright first took to the air in 1903, no one could imagine the future aviation would hold for the world. For people living on the flat prairies of North Dakota it would be seven more years before anyone would witness the daring exploits of a “birdman” when Archibald “Arch” Hoxsey gave the first demonstration flight in the state at the Grand Forks fairground July 19, 1910.

First North Dakota flight at Grand Forks Fair, 1910

Hoxsey had met Orville Wright in March of ’10, when Orville opened a school for aspiring aviators in Montgomery, Alabama. It was here Hoxsey learned to fly and joined other pilots in the Wright Exhibition Team, a troupe of flyers scheduled to give flying exhibitions around the country. These flyers would be the first to fly the new Wright Brothers Model B aircraft. Hoxsey’s Grand Forks flight was witnessed by an estimated 10,000 people as he flew 2,500 feet in the air during his 22-minute flight. Hoxsey’s flying career—and his life, at age 26—came to an end that same December during an exhibition flight in Los Angeles when his plane plummeted from a height of 7,000 feet. Hoxsey could not only claim being the first aviator to fly in North Dakota but to also carrying the first (former) United States president when he took Theodore Roosevelt airborne two months earlier in St. Louis.

Residents of Pembina County who had not been present at the Grand Forks exhibition would have to wait an additional three years before the first recorded airplane flight took place in the county. Hillary Beachey—billed as the “World’s Greatest Aviator”—was booked to make an appearance at the 1913 Hamilton Fair. Ads in the Cavalier Chronicle reading “see the dizzy, death-defying aeroplane flights by daredevil aviators every afternoon” drew large crowds to the fairgrounds. After the fair, the Chronicle reported “the program of attractions was perhaps larger and better by far than that of any previous fair held in the county. Perhaps the chief among these were the several flights of Hillary Beachey in his Aero Plane.”

Monday, February 17, 2014

News from the Past VI

First & Last Chance Saloon

More News from the Past...
George Bates Murdered While Intoxicated, at St. Vincent
Wednesday morning the news went mouth to mouth that George Bates had been found dead in his house. The details as they began to develop were highly sensational. Mr. Bates was addicted to excessive drinking. When under the influence of liquor he was apt to quarrel with his family. On Wednesday afternoon he had trouble of this kind. Later, he went to St. Vincent. What happened there is still somewhat contradictory at this writing. 
Wednesday morning Mrs. George Bates came down stairs and found her husband lying on the floor with every evidence of having been severely pounded. She hastily summoned Register of Deeds Chisholm from the office nearby and upon examination it was found that Bates was dead. He had a hole in his skull near the right temple from the effects of a blow of some kind and his face was badly bruised and had been bleeding profusely. As nearly as the facts can be gotten at they are as follows: Last night at 11:30 two young men from St. Vincent, Minn., just across the river brought Bates home and deposited him on the floor. They then notified Marshal Moorhead, who went up to see Bates. He found him apparently sleeping off the effects of a boozer and did not arouse the family. This morning as above stated he was found dead.

Saturday, February 08, 2014

Requiem for a Sheriff

There is a mystery surrounding
Sheriff Brown:  No known photo
has ever been found of him...yet

He has become an icon of our local history.  Much of that is thanks to his young cousin, Charles Walker.

Sheriff Charles J. Brown, popularly known as Charley Brown, came from a distinguished family.  He chose the life of a warrior.  First as a Union soldier in the Civil War, later as a soldier posted at Fort Pembina, and finally as Sheriff of Pembina.

He only lived to age 39, but he packed a lot of living into those years.  I, for one, am glad he shared 14 years of them with us.

NOTE:  What you read below, is thanks to new information shared by Jim Benjaminson...

Sunday, February 02, 2014

Kittson County Poor Farm

Aerial Photo of the Kittson County Poor Farm

In the early 20th century, if you had nowhere to go, the choices were few. One of them was the "poor farm".
The Hallock Poor Farm was constructed in the early 1900s to meet the needs of just such individuals. Its construction and rules of operation were guided by state law, through each county’s board of commissioners.

It was built and began operations in 1909, and closed in 19371. Kittson County's Poor Farm had a capacity for 12 at a time, as of December 1913. The farm's land and buildings were valued at $7,900.00.2
To be more specific, the county poor farm provided a home for the homeless, needy, and sick, young or old. It was on an 80-acre tract located northwest of Hallock along the north side of the Two River. Mr. and Mrs. Erick Norland were the first managers. The residents of the farm who were able to work had a job or chore to do. The farm tried to be self-sufficient. Chores were plentiful as there were gardens, animals, and grain fields to be cared for, housework and cooking to be done, firewood to gather, and nursing care for the bedridden. Other managers were the Mons Andersons, Carl Carlsons, and Theodore Bengtsons.3

My own cousins lived there during the 1920s.  My cousin Jackie (Jones) Mananga-Zimmer is the daughter of one of them.  She recently shared with me about that difficult time for her family...

Monday, January 27, 2014

Chewing the Fat @ the Virtual Water Cooler

Recently, on a social media site, a few individuals who grew up in or near Humboldt, MN were reminiscing...

Deacon Jim Hunt One of my fondest Humboldt memories was living across from the Tri Honey Apiary. Old P.N Tri would let us go in when they were loading the extractors and get gobs of wax and honey on our fingers to chew. It was delicious and fun for a small boy growing up in the 50's in the little Minnesota town.Still love that honey and think of the Tri family every time I taste it.
Keith Finney I have lots of fond memories of them and the honey as well. Only got stung once and PN put a gob of wet mud on it. My eye still swelled shut. Ha. Tony and I used to stop by his grandma's after school for peanut butter and honey snacks.
Deacon Jim Hunt Henrietta - Very kind old woman.
Michael Rustad I used to worry about the bees but never once got stung. I spoke with Helen Tri often in her last years and I learned that Humboldt honey was mail-ordered around the world. They had a large number of dedicated customers in Germany, Switzerland, and Austria to name just a few. We had our specialty food business right in Humboldt across from the Hunt house. And speaking of that house, it was huge! We had some really big houses in Humboldt and some really small ones too. The Boatz house, built by the Elevator Association, was tiny. Our house later occupied by my Grandparents and still later by Dick Gatheridge was a nice size. Does anyone remember Ree Schoenberger and their house. I think Bill Sylvester lived there before Ree and his wife.
Does anyone remember an incident when a massive tree was cut down near or at the Hunt's place by an unknown vandal. I wonder how that could have happened.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Monitor Steam Engine: EXPLOSION!

The steam engine has not yet been restored in this photograph and the
seat is visible. [An unrelated piece of machinery is in the background.]

In 1893, when steam was king down on the farm, an engine exploded, killing both man and animal.  This happened across the river from St. Vincent not far outside Pembina.

After the original incident, the damaged engine was buried on the spot of the accident - a field on the Frank Moris farm near Pembina. Seventy-four years later, the late Ben Fisher of Bowesmont, ND, dug up the steam engine in 1967 and restored it to its present condition.

After the restoration in 1967...

The engine is now owned by Dr. Roland Larter of Hallock, MN and is on loan to the Pembina County Historical Museum, Cavalier, N.D.

An excellent engraving of the Canton Monitor portable steam 
engine, made by C. Aultman & Company,  Canton, Ohio...

The Pembina engine is more accurately described as a Canton Monitor portable steam engine. Describing the Canton Monitor, an Album (aka industrial encyclopedia) published back during the 1890s says it is 'cheaper and better than any power operated by horses.' It continues . . .

Sunday, January 05, 2014

Walhalla Chautauqua

Among the most beautiful summer resorts is Walhalla, "The Garden of the Gods." Here nature has been particularly lavish in spreading her charms. Here every summer the Chautauqua Assemblies are held in the far-famed Mager Grove, which is almost encircled in the embrace of the Pembina River.

Chautauqua Auditorium in Walhalla, ND (circa 1920).
The delightful shade of the tall stately trees, the running spring water, and the carpet of green, makes this an ideal place for rest and recreation. Here visitors find bathing facilities, either in deep water or along a shallow beach, where even the smallest children are perfectly safe. A motor boat makes regular trips up the river to accommodate those who enjoy boating through the ever-changing charms of the beautiful Pembina. An abundance of row boats are also kept, and these are rented at nominal rental to visitors.

William Jennings Bryan spoke here on July 4th, 1918.

Within easy distance are many interesting spots—the State Park, which is cared for by the state appropriation, is only a scant quarter mile from the Chautauqua grounds. A half mile in another direction brings one to the Cemeteries with the Martyrs' grave and monument. The monument was erected in memorial of three missionaries who were murdered by the Sioux Indians in 1852. Visitors often make side trips to the Mennonite village, six miles to the north into Canada, and to old Fish Tray, eight miles to the west, where the magnificent Canyon of Pembina, a mile wide and five hundred feet deep, leaves a picture impressed on the mind that time can never efface. The Walhalla Chautauqua draws a large patronage from Canada, as well as from the state. Many of the visitors bring their own tents and cooking facilities. As the Chautauqua is in session for several weeks, a most enjoyable time is assured.

- North Dakota of Today (1919)


The Rev. Allen O. Birchenough, pastor of the Pembina and Jolliette, ND [Methodist] churches, preached at the Walhalla Chautauqua on Sunday, July 2, to an audience estimated at 2,000. His sermon is receiving high praise.

- Northwestern Christian Advocate, Volume 64 (1916)

Wednesday, January 01, 2014

"As mentioned in..."

To find out more about the book,
referencing Pembina & St. Vincent
The two rooms would be filled with fiddle music, he said, and sit-down dancers, when his St. Boniface relations came visiting in winter.  He vowed that he and Sara would cross the Red River to the French side to attend the winter carnivals, the snowshoe, horse and dog races a new priest in the parish of Ste. Agathe had taken to organizing.  Go from house to house on New Year's Eve, and celebrate the French way, as he used to do, firing his rifle into the wind, begging the favour of a drink and a kiss.  I have relations coming out of my ears up and down the river, he told her.  As far south as St. Joe and Pembina.  The Carons, Berthelets, Branconniers, Dubois, St. Germains, Delormes.  He recited the names, the syllables like a church bell tolling across the snowbound land.

Emilie would not have believed that at that moment Oliver was going farther away from them, the lit-up town of Emerson beckoning. There was a small hotel there, he knew, and a cafe where he would get something to eat.  Then he thought perhaps he would bypass the town and cross the border, go to Pembina, where he'd heard there was a tavern.  Leastways, there had been years ago, and a woman named Ma Shorts who rant it.  She had a room at the back, and for a price she would let people sleep off a drunk or have a quick romp, whether or not the couple was married.  The night air had chilled him through, and he was no longer inclined to sleep under the stars.

From: "Children of the Day", by Sandra Birdsell

Sunday, December 15, 2013

The Mists of Time

A recent newspaper article reminded me of how quickly we can be forgotten.

I have often imagined the St. Vincent of the future as being a Brigadoon.  Every 100 years, it will come back for a time, rising amidst the mists along the Red River. Nothing left but memories, but memories so strong, they materialize.

I also have imagined the St. Vincent Cemetery residents as characters like in Our Town's third act, remembering for a time who they were, but slowly forgetting.  For a time, they hold conversations, remembering the past, looking onto the living, their comments both insightful and bittersweet.

And then there is me (Trip to Bountiful).  I cannot let go of the powerful memories that invade my dreams and daytime thoughts, that compel me to write about the places and people who were, and are now gone. But no, they are not gone.  They live in my memories.  They live in many of your memories reading this.  And for all we know, they live on past this life in a way we cannot yet comprehend.

Each one of us affects far more than we ever realize...