Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Mohammed Ali Bhamrahad, Peddler

When Mohammed was born (August 1, 1892), the countries we know today didn't exist. During the Ottoman rule "Syria" was the name of a region that was otherwise known as the Levant. The word "Syria" did not depict any separate entity/state but a geographical area the same way we use today the words "Western Europe", or "Far East". Lebanon was in the region of Syria but it was a semi-autonomous mutasarrifiyya (like a country) which was established in 1860. The leader of Lebanon was chosen by European nations and it was off-limits for the Turkish army.

When France took over the (Syrian) region, there were actually 6 countries: the state of Aleppo, state of Damascus, Jabal el druze, Alexandretta, Allawite state and Greater Lebanon. Some of the five other regions were annexed by Lebanon.

Toward the end of the mandate, Alexandretta got annexed by Turkey, Lebanon gained full independence, and the other four were merged together into a new country that adopted the name "Syria".

Lebanon has always been a de facto separate entity since the 1500s even if many historic maps don't show it; France simply decided to put it on paper and make it official.

Mohammed Allay Bomrad was born near Beirut (?) in Damascus, Syria in 1892. He arrived in the Edinburg, North Dakota area in 1915, using that town as his mailing address while he traveled around Walsh, Pembina and Cavalier counties, selling his wares and working on farms during the busy seasons.

As a country peddler, he first made his route with a sack on his back selling notions, toiletries, dress goods, medicines, jewelry and other essentials.

In 1917, he bought his first horse. In 1922, his "one hoss shay" was replaced with a wagon when he bought a second horse, making a team - Bud and Biada, which he treated with utmost care. When talked sharply to them, he would say: "I'm talking Irish."

He wasn't "fussy" about where he slept - hay stacks, hay lofts - but later, when he was better known, he would find lodging and a bite to eat at some farm homes. For a number of years, he frequently stayed at the Sigurdson home west of Gardar.

Although he was thrifty, he was known for his kindness and generosity. During the flu epidemic of 1918, he spent weeks helping farmers who were victims of the "flu bug," never mentioning pay. He loaned money, trusted his customers when they were unable to pay. He sent much money to relatives in Syria and retained his Islamic faith by reading publications. He made regular trips to Vang on election days to mark his "X" as he had received his citizenship papers in Cavalier County. He stated it was a privilege for an American to vote.

"The Syrian Muslim, Mohammed Ali Bhamrahad...He lived among the Icelanders in America his entire life. He was
quite a legend and a very sweet man." - Janet Muldoon.  [Photo taken west of Mountain, ND and up the hill on the
Pembina Escarpment, also known as Schroeder Hill, on the Swanson farm, rural Cavalier County, North Dakota]

Although he had enjoyed good health, he had been the victim of several accidents, runaways and once losing all his wares when his horses stepped off a bridge crossing a flooded area.

While all his material possessions could be contained in his wagon, he stated his wealth was immeasurable. His unfailing health permitted him to be amid the beauties of nature, the joy of music and most of all - the hundreds of friends he had acquired while living in this country.

Eventually he retired to Canada where he expected to enter a nursing home among relatives. He passed away in February 1989 at age 97.

Sunday, October 02, 2016

Water Cooler VI: A Tiny, Magical Gas Station

Elmer Maxwell's tiny gas station
A woman who wore black and often wore a veil, and would garden early in the morning to avoid being seen by others. Was she simply eccentric, or did she suffer from a grief or depression so personal no one else understood? Her husband was a kind man who was kind to the town's children, ran a matchbox-sized gasoline station, and had a love for his state's sports. Read below for another Water Cooler Memories from Humboldt...
Michael Rustad: It's these details Maury that make for great historical accounts. 
Kathy Ohmann: I loved his treasure chest of coins. We got to open it ourselves and take a penny out for each empty pop bottle we brought. Janine and I walked miles of ditches to find more bottles. 
Michael Rustad: He paid 5 cents for the 10 ounce bottles and 2 cents for the 6 ounce. The ditches were a treasure trove as in those days there was no social pressure against tossing empties. 
Donald Reese: Looks like Mae and Elmer's place, we use to go there and get white gas to run the lawn mower. 
Michael Rustad: What is white gas? Did you ever speak with Mae. In our day, she was a woman dressed in black who seemed very mysterious to us. She was a real Juliet of the Spirits. Elmer, on the other hand, was very friendly. I wonder whether this was built as a tiny gas station like a tiny house or was it a shack used for other purposes. 
John Bergh: We sat in there and watched the Winnipeg to Minneapolis snowmobile race. The school couldn't find us. 
Michael Rustad: Elmer was always welcoming. That's a great story. I wonder if there was heat in the shack. I see there is a chimney pipe of sorts. 
John Bergh: The principal or teachers were afraid to go in there. Needless to say we were in big trouble when we returned 
Keith Finney: Coal stove. It was about 200 degrees by the stove and freezing at the door 
Michael Rustad: If we could be released to see Alan Shepherd or John Glenn, why not the Great Snowmobile Race. Good for you! Humboldt rebels! 
Richard A. Olsonawski: What a place to go an have a soda an chat with Elmer. He was quite a guy in that little shack.
August 2016
Stever Ritter:  I remember this building and the wonderful people that ran it...wow, takes me back. 
Becky Clow: Thanks for the picture Michael. 
Karen Hylland Pearson: Bought "pop" from Elmer Maxwell in this little station--we hung out there sometimes....so many good memories of life in Humboldt. 
Richard A. Olsonawski: Elmer was good to all the kids. I think most kids from Humboldt spent some time at this little gas station. 
Brad Clow: Elmer and Mae Maxwell. 
Michael Rustad: Mae was always dressed in black flowing and sometimes veiled dresses. She was a mysterious figure. I never remember saying more than hi to her. Did anyone ever talk to her in our H-St. V. group. We all enjoyed a cold bottle of pop with Elmer. I loved talking to him about the Twins. He also followed the Golden Gophers football. He was a very calm, thoughtful man. He always wore coveralls and I think long-johns--even in the summer. I bet Elmer never once wore shorts and a t-shirt. He was good to us all. Jeff and I would sell pop bottles (Tony too) to Elmer. He would always take the ones that Mayme turned away. She was more particular. I though much later that he loved the kids so much that he would take a loss on a pop bottle or two as a cost of doing business. 
Brad Clow: I used to go over and buy pop on the weekends. I would go to the house door and Mae would answer. Nice person to talk with. She would do her gardens early morning so she didn't have to be around people. Grandpa Clow said she was extremely smart. 
Michael Rustad: When he paid us, I remember that he had a large leather coin purse with metal hasps and he would carefully count out the money. We would often hand it right back to me for a cold soda or two. They tasted so cold out of the coke cooler that Bill Ash wrote about recently. 
Marion Anderson: I also remember that gas station on the corner. Good memories. Would like to see Humboldt, as it was, back in the early 50's. 
Trish Short Lewis: Do what I do, Marion - dream about it. Most of my dreams in recent years (and sometimes in years past) are of St. Vincent and Humboldt... 
Maury Finney: I remember the "free air" hole in the outer wall that had a cork in it. When I would stop to pump up my bicycle tires Elmer or May would go inside and push the hose out.
Michael Rustad: Humboldt in the 1950s was quite vibrant. I remember that the farmers came in to the store and restaurant, and the town had some life on a Friday night. I remember that the town hall was a gathering place for card games. Virgil's old films show a dance where Jim and Dora, and Don and Marion are coming into the dance. They were young guys in the 1950s. Jim had a big smile on his face. It was also so nice to see on the film Willis Finney attending to and fixing Joyce's skates. She and Sandy were skating at the rink with the other Humboldt kids. I also enjoy that we have established a community of sorts on Facebook. We may have different religions, political creeds, and outlooks and live far away, but all of us share that bond with Humboldt [and St. Vincent - Trish]. It is a deeper bond than any thing else. I came all the way back from Vermont for the reunion and saw Maury's band. That night, the band played all of my favorites brilliantly. And Al was there in the band too! Doug Finney sang Elvis songs later in the night. And there were Fireworks. I would have thought it was a dream--fireworks in Humboldt. And that parade and the concessions were so wonderful. I don't know of any event that I have enjoyed more, seeing Humboldt so spruced up and making memories with friends and family. I kind of botched my limited role introducing students from classes. The sound system was not working, the heat and humidity was intense. I have spoken in public for forty years but speaking at Humboldt made me a little nervous. 
Trish Short Lewis: Yes, the heat was so bad I almost got heatstroke and had to leave early and missed the evening events, which I greatly regret. 
Michael Rustad: I tried to find information on Elmer and Mae [2nd cousins, 1x removed - Trish] on Dennis Matthew's website. There was only the Samuel Maxwell family. I wonder if Marion May was a niece of Elmer and Mae. Just a guess. 
Suzanne Dexter: The Maxwells were cousins of my Grandma Elsie Thomson Dexter [2nd cousin, 1x removed - Trish]
Michael Rustad: I knew Elsie but had no idea she was related to the Maxwells. She was a nice lady. How old were you when she passed? 
Suzanne Dexter [3rd cousin, 1x removed - Trish]: I was a senior in high school 
Donald Reese: I remember this station, you had to pump the gas up into the glass container on the top and then gravity feed it in to the auto, we always bought white gas here for the lawn mower, don't know why but it was thought that regular gas was bad for lawn mower engines. 
Michael Rustad: Don, that's a very cool memory. It was like that in my early years too but I could not explain it nearly as well! I really do not know what white gas was I am trying to rack my brain and wonder why I never heard of it! 
Donald Reese: I believe the white gas didn't contain any lead, and lead was believed to be bad for those little motors, made them run too hot. Don't really know for sure. 
Keith Finney: Who was it that called Elmer " Elmo "?
September 2016
Mayme Jury's store
Jerry Bernath: Anybody remember a tractor tire?!?  Just sayin'. 
Keith Finney: Yes I do 
Cleo Bee Jones: Mayme Jury's store...Louise and I used to take Grandpa's eggs for the store...sometimes we would dress up in big overalls and awful looking shirts...just to be "stupid" - I was going to say silly, but stupid covers it... 
Carnalee Cleem Lykken: Awe...great memory! 
Doris Giffen Miller: I used to babysit the people who lived upstairs here. Don't remember who they were tho. Fibro-fog. 
Rodney Bakken: Sat on those front steps solving the world's problems hundreds of times. 
Lynda Johnson Cassels: If only those steps could talk, what stories they could tell. 
Becky Simmons: I remember that store 
Michael Rustad: Becky Simmons, when did you live in Humboldt? 
Michael Rustad: Dad worked with Mayme in 1948-49 while Jim Florance wintered in California. They fixed up the entire store. Who remembers when there were no aisles and the store keeper would fetch everything behind the big counter. This was before I was born. When Mr. Florance came home in April 1949, he told Rustee and Mayme that they had wasted all of that work because he was joining Fareway as a franchisee and the store would be modernized with aisles. Don Reese is the only one I know who may remember the store before it had aisles! 
Lance Loer: I remember it too! 
Doris Giffen Miller: I take it back. This was Mayme's store and I babysat someone above the bar and restaurant. 
Michael Rustad: Would you have been a babysitter for a family living in the apartment. I think Virgil owned the building for a period. 
Michael Rustad: Did Quintin Dieter and famiy live there at one time? 
Jerry Bernath: Mike, I think you are on to something here. That rings a bell. (Unless of course, my bell was rung enough, so I don't remember so good.) But, I'm thinkin' they did live there. 
Michael Rustad: Voits (lenz kids) lived there while Ken and Jeanne ran the It Cafe. 
Jerry Bernath: That may be who I'm thinkin' of. 
Keith Finney: I lived there Doris Giffen Miller, that would be a stretch if you were my babysitter. All of Kenny and Jean's kids would have been too old as well. Brad Clow's Great Grandma was our neighbor as well. Babcock. 
Dan MacFarlane: Mayme Jury was a cousin of mine. I recall the store and Mayme living above it. That would be early 60' maybe late late 50s. 
Keith Finney: That is right. I knew that for some reason.
And the conversations around the virtual water cooler will continue...

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 "...as 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:  HistoricMapWorks.com
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.