Thursday, March 26, 2020

John K. McCulloch, Champion Skater

John K. "Jack" McCulloch

Jack McCulloch came to Pembina to put on an exhibition skating, the year he turned professional.  It was the year after he won the World Amateur Speed Skating championship in Montreal, Quebec. 


Jack was a local and regional sports celebrity, followed by many in the four corners (and far beyond...) It was an exciting event for him to visit and put on a demonstration, and even race locals!  Pembina residents made sure everything was ready, especially the skating rink...

McCulloch visited Pembina on January 5, 1899.
[Source:  Pembina Express, December 29, 1898]

Pembina  is one of four towns known as the corners.  Of these four towns Pembina is in Dakota, St. Vincent in Minnesota, and West Lynne and Emerson in Manitoba.  Emerson and St. Vincent lie on the right bank and the other two on the left bank of the Red River.  A favorite evening drive is to make the circuit of the four corners crossing the bridge between Emerson and West Lynne and the ferry between St. Vincent and Pembina.

Saturday, March 14, 2020

St. Vincent Union Industrial Association Fairs

In Minnesota fairs are older than the state Itself, having"made their appearance .. . in the early 1850's," just at thezenith of the golden age of such institutions in the UnitedStates.' Compared with later exhibitions the early fairswere primitive indeed, yet they more than justified theirexistence. They gave the isolated pioneer farmer a chanceto meet his fellows, to have a good time; and by showinghim late developments In machinery, fine livestock, and new techniques in farming, they gave him an incentive to improve his own farming. - From a talk called, "Early Minnesota Agricultural Societies & Fairs," presented at the Minnesota Historical Society's annual convention, held July 26, 1941

Walter John Strickland Traill

The first day of the St. Vincent Union Industrial Association Fair was favored with good weather.  

The native pony race was won by Jim, Shylock second, Kate third.  The trotting race was won by Julia, Dan second, Topsey third.  

The judges were Walter J.S. Traill, C.C. Law, and D. Livingstone (The St. Paul Daily Globe, October 10, 1889).

1918 Fair Results-War Gardens
1906 Fair Dates - Always late
Fall, for these local fairs . . .

...and these early fairs, are what were the seeds of our county fairs of today, including the Kittson County Fair in Hallock!

Monday, January 06, 2020

Dakota 38

Abraham Lincoln as the Puppetmaster of Death (of starvation, war, and executions)
Ledger Art by Travis Blackbird

by Prairie Rose Seminole
Remember the #Dakota38, hanged in Mankato, MN on Dec 26, 1862, under the orders of President Abraham Lincoln. It is the largest mass execution in U.S. history.

The hanging of 38 Dakota came at the culmination of the Dakota War, which started because of a treaty broken by Congress. 

The Dakota people were being starved to death.

“Let then eat grass or their own dung,” Andrew Myrick, a trader & store owner who withheld their rations.

Andrew Myrick was among the first to die. He was found with grass in his mouth.

The accused were subjected to sham trials held in English (a language foreign to them), and they had no legal representation. They were also not allowed to discuss the broken treaty, or treaty law. Many were innocent. They were hanged anyway, on a custom made scaffold, in front of a cheering mob.

Dakota women & children were forced to watch the hanging. One Dakota infant was reportedly snatched from the arms of a mother and killed on sight.

Around 1,700 Dakota, mostly women and children, were held as prisoners at Fort Snelling. Disease & death were rampant.

Chief Little Crow, a leader during the Dakota War, was later assassinated. His remains were mutilated by townspeople & displayed. They stuffed firecrackers in his nose & ears and lit them. Local doctors eventually took his body parts to study.

Two more Dakota leaders, Shakopee (Little Six) and Medicine Bottle, were later captured and executed.

After the hanging of the Dakota 38, the Dakota people were exiled from their stolen homelands in Minnesota. Banned from entering, unable to return to MN. The governor put a bounty on their scalps. The Dakota people were separated and sent to prison camps in other states where the women were raped by soldiers.

Following the U.S-Dakota War of 1862, the United States government hanged 38 Dakota men on December 26 in Mankato. It was the largest mass execution in United States history. A US military commission, tainted by racism and in violation of due process, hastily convicted two of the Dakota men of rape and all of them of murder in trials that lasted as little as five minutes. President Lincoln approved their executions. Here are the names and faces of some of the men known as the Dakota 38.
All things being ready, the first tap was given, when the poor wretches made such frantic efforts to grasp each other's hands, that it was agony to behold them. Each one shouted out his name, that his comrades might know he was there.  - From New York Times article, The Indian Executions

Thursday, December 12, 2019

Postscript to the U.S.-Dakota War

by Curt Brown [Minneapolis Star Tribune, November 8, 2015]

Shakopee, left, and Medicine Bottle were hanged three years
after the U.S.-Dakota War because military leaders wanted to
prove they finished the job.     
[Source:  Minnesota Historical Society]
They were the last two high-profile holdouts.

The bloody U.S.-Dakota War had been over for three years. Thirty-eight Dakota men had been hanged in Mankato. But white military and political leaders weren’t satisfied.

They felt they had to show, once and for all, that they’d handled the Indian problem and the frontier was back in business for immigrant settlers who could replenish the fledgling Minnesota economy.

So just after noon on Nov. 11, 1865, 425 soldiers marched in formation to surround a specially constructed double gallows at Fort Snelling.

More than 400 St. Paul citizens turned out 150 years ago to watch the hangings of two Dakota leaders: Medicine Bottle and Shakopee. They had eluded soldiers for years, escaping across the Canadian border to Manitoba with more than 500 Dakota refugees from the war.
John McKenzie was the man who drugged Little Six (aka Shakopee) and Medicine Bottle after the Sioux massacre and brought them in this condition from Manitoba and delivered them to Major E. A. C. Hatch. Knowing the frailty of Little Six, who was a different man from the old chief Little Six, his father, McKenzie left a bottle of drugged whisky with a woman at the house which he was accustomed to visit, knowing that his greedy appetite would ferret it out. The artifice succeeded, and Little Six and Medicine Bottle were tried and hung at Fort Snelling for killing Philander Prescott. - History Of The Minnesota Valley, Scott County History Archives, 1882
Their flight ended in January 1864, when Shakopee and Medicine Bottle stopped by the home of a white friend near Winnipeg’s Fort Garry. That "friend" - Canadian trader, John McKenzie - was secretly in cahoots with a U.S. Army major across the border in what would become Pembina, N.D.

McKenzie plied both Indian leaders with alcohol laced with drugs. Shakopee, then in his 50s, was dosed with chloroform and rendered unconscious. Medicine Bottle, in his mid-30s, struggled longer but several men subdued him. Both Dakota men were tied to dog sleds and taken to Pembina, then Fort Abercrombie, en route to Fort Snelling.

The Minnesota Legislature forked out $1,000 — big money in the 1860s — to McKenzie as a bounty. Trials were held and both men were convicted despite sketchy evidence that they had committed atrocities during the war. They were blamed in the death of Philander Prescott, 60, who had lived among the Dakota for more than 40 years. He was beheaded on the first day of the war as he fled toward Fort Ridgely.

“It would have been more creditable if some tangible evidence of their guilt had been obtained,” said an editorial in the St. Paul Pioneer Press, published the day before the hangings.

The newspaper said “no serious injustice will be done by the execution,” but warned of a dangerous precedent of “hanging without proving.” Saying the men were probably guilty of murder, the paper nevertheless pointed out that “no white man, tried by a jury of his peers, would be executed upon the testimony thus produced.”

President Abraham Lincoln had been assassinated seven months earlier. He had stepped in to reduce the number of Dakota men hanged in Mankato from 303 to 38.

One of Medicine Bottle’s descendants, Dakota researcher and filmmaker Sheldon Wolfchild, insists Lincoln would have halted the hangings. But the president’s successor, Andrew Johnson, quickly approved the executions of Medicine Bottle and Shakopee.

When Shakopee and Medicine Bottle were captured in Manitoba, a French Jesuit priest and missionary named Augustin Ravoux baptized them and administered their Last Rites, accompanying them up until their final moments on November 11, 1865.

Wolfchild, 68, lives in Morton, Minn., and has produced a film about the era that saw his ancestors swept from the area five generations ago.

After their hangings, some of the witnesses ran up and cut off pieces of the nooses for souvenirs. St. Paul photographer Joel Whitney snapped glass-plate images showing white caskets at the feet of the dangling men.

Wolfchild says rocks went in the caskets that were buried in a nearby cemetery, with onlookers thinking they had witnessed the interments of important Dakota figures.

Their bodies, instead, were taken away in a horse-drawn cart at the behest of two doctors with offices near 7th and Jackson Streets in St. Paul. Some accounts say the doctors dug up the bodies the next day.

Wolfchild says Shakopee’s body was preserved in a wooden whiskey barrel and sent to a Philadelphia medical school where a professor Pancoast used it in anatomy lessons. St. Paul doctors dissected Medicine Bottle’s body.

“Who is the savage here?” Wolfchild asks. “Running to the scaffold to get a piece of the rope? The bottom line is they had to dehumanize us to where we were little more than beasts so they could get rid of us.”

Wolfchild says that his grandfather five generations ago, Medicine Bottle, didn’t die instantly when his body dropped at the Fort Snelling gallows.

While Shakopee’s neck snapped immediately, he said, Medicine Bottle dangled for 10 minutes before dying.

“He was saying: ‘We don’t die like that. You cannot kill us with a rope,’ ” Wolfchild said. He’s trying to find any remains that might still exist of the two men, pointing to the Missing In Action banners popular since soldiers went missing in the Vietnam War.

“We feel the same way about our ancestors, they are missing in action and their bodies are in universities, museums and private homes,” he said, “waiting for proper burials so they can continue their journey to the spirit world.”

Scaffold:  Shakopee and Medicine Bottle, moments after the execution
[Photographer:  Joel Emmons Whitney - Source:  Minnesota Historical Society]

Thursday, November 28, 2019

Water Cooler V: Aunt Mildred's "Books"

In this edition of the "Water Cooler":  A wonderful visit among old friends and neighbors brings up some interesting recollections and memories - plus a tantalizing clue about Aunt Mildred's "books" that could provide a treasure trove of local Humboldt history!  Read on...
Darlene Liedle Daugherty What are you doing up? 
Cleo Bee Jones Same ol' same ol' gets old, doesn't it?  
John Nelson Home on the prairie. Homesick! 
Geo Howry Did you attend classes in the Elevator or the grain storage buildings? 
Cleo Bee Jones Actually, George it was in Selmer Locken's restaurant! I studied Buddy Holly's music... 
Bernie Marek I think my dad went to school there. 
Cleo Bee Jones Bernie, what is your Dad's name ? 
Keith Finney George, I later studied at the elevator with Punky. 
Bob Bockwitz Selmer's restaurant goes back a couple years... 
Michael Rustad Selmer - Selmer and Sandra Locken. The old bank building made a pretty good restaurant. I wonder why they tore it down as it was a brick building. And when was Selmer's restaurant torn down? Who remembers the It Cafe? Dotty Boatz had an amusing story about Bob going for lunch there until he discovered one of the kids pounding out hamburger patties with their feet! I remember that the Voits ran the It cafe and conceived of it as a dinner supper club with music. It missed the mark. I wonder what years that Ward and Ruby Finney had the restaurant. The Voits had it in the mid-sixties. Does anyone know what year Mayme's Fairview Grocery Store closed? The building stood for a decade of so after the closing. 
Cleo Bee Jones Keith, we are waiting for you to tell us... 
Bob Bockwitz Yes, Keith, we're waiting... 
Harry, when he worked for the Great Northern 
Bob Bockwitz The years back then all seem to turn to mush in my head, but I would say that the It Café would have been open through '63 and '64. Run by Kenny and Jean Voit. Kenny helped my dad for a short period of time. My dad and Harold Borg would take the football team there for hamburgers. Ward and Ruby would have been in there about '60-'61. Years may be a little off, but would be pretty close, based on 1964, when I graduated. Ruby had a pin-ball machine with a corner broken out of the glass. On the wall next to the machine hung a 'tool' made out of a coat hanger. The tool was bent just right to reach through the hole in the glass to give yourself a couple of games to start with. Ruby (bless her heart) thought it was cute, and never took away the 'tool'. I remember, too, Warren Reese. Warren had lost his legs and as we went to school in the morning, we would pick him up and carry him into the café. These conversations trigger a lot of memories. 
Bob Bockwitz I think Mayme would have closed at the very tail end of the sixties...? 
Cleo Bee Jones I recall Warren Reese when he had the little tiny restaurant in Pembina, the best malts ever, way before your time...! It was across from the Immigration bldg. Just a tiny little hole in the wall ! I wonder what happened to her [Aunt Mildred] "books", journals, as with Viola gone, too. 
Bob Bockwitz You got me there. I wasn't even aware he had a café. All I really remember of him is carrying him in and out of the café in Humboldt. I have a book that I acquired after Mom got killed. She had written almost everything about the family in it. Mostly family, though, and not so much about the community at large. I'll have to dig it out again and read through it to see what tidbits I can find. I know Ruby is mentioned because they were such close friends. 
Cleo Bee Jones I am trying to recall if he was son of Sid and Hattie Reese? Was Lorraine his story about her, I was singing at the Golden Nugget in Vegas and got a note that said, Do a song for the gal from across the "big ditch" was from her, as she and her husband had known I was there and come over to Vegas from LA (I think it was) to see me. I loved it. She was friends with Virginia and the family and I thought she was beautiful... 
Bob Bockwitz I think you're right. For some reason I don't recall Lorraine, though. Rodney is at the lake, so I can't ask him. I really need to get him talking some time and take notes. 
Cleo Bee Jones It was always sort of a joke, about Aunt Mildred's "books" as she must have stayed awake 24 hrs a day, to know everybody's moves in Humboldt, but I thought the world of her, even until she was quite up in age, as she really liked my late hubby...I know I have talked about this before, but worth another stab at it...after an appearance at Hallock Fair she got right up on the stage to visit with him. I was just so surprised and loved it. Quite a gal!! 
Michael Rustad Thanks everyone. Now this is one of the really useful and brilliant forms of communication on Facebook. 
Bob Bockwitz I know. I can look in Mom's book and see what day in 1954 she got a new sewing machine, or the day I got my hand in the lawn mower. Unfortunately, she didn't write too much about out in the community, even though she loved the community so much. 
Keith Finney I think Mildred knew when the Pope Pooped. She wrote everything down. 
Trish Short Lewis This has turned into another Water Cooler post, Michael...!

Monday, November 18, 2019

Junction Drive Inn

These are photographs from the Larson Family Collection. Before there was an Interstate Drive-In (just west of the old KCND-TV building), the Larson family started their drive-in business on the Minnesota side, at the (St. Vincent) Junction.

It was a much smaller affair, but much loved in its time. So much so, they had to build a larger one. It was right around the time that I-29 was being built, and the Larson family wisely thought it might be a great location for the new Drive-In. My older sisters Sharon and Betty Short were among the many young ladies who worked there in high school as waitresses...

Saturday, November 16, 2019

St. Vincent Murder Trial

Matters of jurisdiction happened quite often in our area, due to the fact that we are close to an international border, as well as two states side by side, separated only by a river.

As you'll read here, such was the situation in the case discussed below; the method used to resolve it was, shall we say...creative!

[NOTE:  Any new information is courtesy of Jim Benjaminson, Pembina County Historical Society]

George Bates Murdered While Intoxicated, at St. Vincent

Bismarck Weekly Tribune, March 24, 1899
Courtesy:  State Historical Society of ND and
the Library of Congress' Chronicling America
Wednesday morning (March 8, 1899) 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. Geo. Bates came downstairs 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 booze and did not arouse the family. This morning as above stated he was found dead.

Bates’ collar and a piece of his shirt were missing and this morning they were found in front of a saloon in St. Vincent kept by John Smith. Smith denies any knowledge of the affair, except that several Pembina parties were in a row in front of his saloon last night, but he had a badly swollen right hand and fails to account for it. He has been placed under arrest to await the verdict of the coroner’s jury.

George H. Bates, the deceased, was a heavy set man, aged about 50 years. He leaves a wife and two grown daughters in this city and one son, who resides in Grand Forks, who are much respected by our citizens and have the sympathy of the community.

Mr. Bates was naturally a bright man and but for his unfortunate habits would have been a prominent man in the community. In past years he had occupied responsible positions and has been well off peculiarly. He was for some years a customs officer at St. Vincent.

John Smith, the saloon keeper, over whom hangs so dark a cloud, has an excellent family, consisting of a wife and three children, one of the latter being a young man of about twenty one years of age.

A further note – Later Smith was given a preliminary hearing and arraigned for manslaughter, to be tried at the next term of the criminal court at Hallock, Minn.

Reprinted from the Pioneer Express, in the St. Thomas Times - March 17, 1889, Vol. XVII No. 42


From the Neche Chronotype
April 1, 1899

The trial of John Smith, the St. Vincent saloon keeper, who is charged with having caused the death of George Bates at that place a short time since, and which was to have taken place this week, has been postponed owing to the serious illness of the defendant. It will be remembered that at the time of Smith’s arrest one of his hands was found to be badly lacerated, as a result of the row in which poor Bates received the injuries that cost him his life, so it is claimed, and blood poisoning having resulted, his recovery is thought to be extremely doubtful.

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Ox Cart Trails: WOODS BRANCH

History of the Woods Branch of the Red River Trails (1844-1870)
Written By: John Crandall, Special to Wadena Pioneer Journal | 

The oxcart trail on the open prairie.
Photo courtesy Wadena County Historical Society
The oxcart trail on the open prairie. Photo courtesy Wadena County Historical Society

Commencing in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada the Red River Trail squirreled its way down the Red River Valley and down the Minnesota River Valley to Mendota and later St. Paul, Minn. Thus began a half century of commerce between the Selkirk colonies in Manitoba, Canada and St. Paul.

In 1812 Thomas Douglas, fifth Earl of Selkirk was granted thousands of square miles of land in Manitoba where the Assiniboine River and the Red River meet (Winnipeg) by the Hudson Bay Company (HBC), which had been founded in England in 1670. Portions of this land grant extended West and Southwest into what we know today as Minnesota and North Dakota. Selkirk dreamed of establishing an agricultural colony for Scottish settlers in the New World. But the Earle’s dreams would not continue peacefully. It only infuriated the Northwest Fur Company.
With the British traders entrenched in the region around Hudson Bay, the struggle for the soul of the interior of North America and the riches provided by the lucrative fur trade industry began.

The French traders and voyageurs began exploring the Great Lakes and west at the start of the 18th century, establishing many fur posts along the waterways that followed the future Canadian and American boundaries. With the signing of the Treaty of Paris in 1763 ending the French and Indian War (1754-1763) France gave up over a century of control of Canada to England.
With the French relinquishing their claim to Canada, exploration and trade began to expand into the interior of America. First, in 1784 came the reorganization of the Northwest Fur Company (NWC), which sought to challenge the monopoly the Hudson Bay Company had on the fur trade industry. Between 1783 and 1821, there was an immense increase in the amount of bloodshed and open hostility between the HBC and NWC ending only after the two companies merged in 1821. Secondly, came President Thomas Jefferson’s Louisiana Purchase in 1803.

Even after the end of the American Revolution, the northern boundary of the newly formed American States was unclear. The British continued their incursions into the Red River Valley. It wasn’t until after the War of 1812 that America put a total end to the British occupancy of the United States. In order to stop British traders from enticing the Native Americans to continue trading with them, Secretary of War John C. Calhoun convinced Congress to build a contingency of forts along the Mississippi River and West to the Yellowstone River to protect American interest. In 1819 construction of Fort Snelling commenced.
"On the 3rd of August, 1818 - three weeks after the arrival of the missionaries - clouds of grasshoppers descended on the fields, and in a trice devoured nearly everything. The few grains of wheat remaining barely sufficed to seed the garden-bed farms the following spring. To add to the misfortune, the grasshoppers deposited their eggs, thus insuring another scourge the next year..." 
"...the grasshoppers had again devastated the fields, this time destroying all vegetation, even to the bark of the trees."
- Father Provencher  
During the first two decades of the 19th century the Red River colonists became more disgruntled with the Hudson Bay’s monopolistic control of trade. In addition, several years of grasshopper blights and the inability to obtain seed for planting prompted the residents of the Red River colonies to begin looking south to Fort Snelling. So, in 1821 the first group of Red River settlers migrated to Fort Snelling and were allowed to settle on the Fort Snelling military reservation. This was to be the first of numerous migrations that would use the Red River Trails as an avenue for reaching and establishing trade with American traders at Mendota.

In 1823 Major Stephen Long reached the settlement of Pembina (in what is now North Dakota) while on an explorative mission to determine where the 49th parallel lay. Upon determining the boundary between Canada and U.S., it became clear that Pembina now resided on U.S. soil. So, the tie that binds was broken between the Red River Colonies and Hudson Bay Company.
Throughout the first part of the 19th century little trade flowed south along the Red River and Minnesota River Valleys. The trickle of traffic that did traverse the Red River Trail during this time frame were seeking a safe haven from the horrific violence between HBC and NWFC. Once migration between Pembina and Fort Snelling began in full swing it would peak around 1826, but continued well into the 1830s and 1840s.
"...the fight for the fur trade was suicidal. As competition with the Hudson's Bay Company intensified, the Nor'Westers kidnapped Indian trappers, laid siege to bay posts, terrorized women and children. Dozens of bay men were murdered. The solution, Mackenzie said, was to merge the two companies before they destroyed one other."
- Empire of the Bay
When given their royal charter in 1670 the Hudson Bay Company was given total monopolistic control of all commerce occurring within their jurisdiction. As the population in the Red River Valley increased, HBC began placing higher prices on their goods and less compensation for the furs traded. In time, the Red River Colonist began to seek other sources for conducting trade.

Upon arrival of the American Fur Company in the valley, the Red River Colonies’ chance came. With the American Fur Company absorbing the holdings of the Columbia Fur Company in 1827, the American Fur Company acquired full control of the fur posts that the Columbia Fur Company had along the Minnesota and South Dakota border linking them to the Red River Valley.

During the 1830s, with an increasing growth of settlers in the Red River region and increased production of furs and agricultural products the Hudson Bay Company could not keep pace with the economy. This overflow of productivity induced the Colony traders to seek closer connections to the traders located at Mendota.

With an ever-present increase of settlers in and around Fort Snelling, the American government became increasingly concerned. With negotiation of the Treaty of 1837 with the Dakota and Chippewa, large tracts of land were opened east of the Mississippi River for white settlement. With increasing concerns about the number of settlers homesteading on military land, the government, in 1840, concluded a survey of their holdings around Fort Snelling. The results showed many Red River colonists residing on a military reservation. In the end, the Federal Government expelled them from their homes, forcing them across the river to what was to become St. Paul, and eventually the commercial hub for Red River trade.

The Red River Oxcart trail began its journey south from Winnipeg linking with Pembina and then followed a network of trails south on both sides of the Red River and eventually crossing the continental divide at Lake Traverse. Upon arriving at Big Stone Lake, the trail turned eastward and followed the Minnesota River into St. Paul.

The Valley of the Red River traversed by traders from Pembina to St. Paul was land that had been in contention between the Dakota and Chippewa for over a century. The incursion of the Ojibway into Minnesota and Dakota land began in the 1700s. By the early 1800s the Sioux had been pushed south of the Minnesota River. The Dakota still claimed the Long Prairie and Sauk Valleys as their hunting grounds after tragic losses.

With trade beginning to increase between the Red River colonies and Mendota, this area became an area of concern for the Federal Government. In 1825, the administration tried to work out a demarcation line between Dakota and Chippewa holdings. The line ran from St. Paul on the Minnesota River northwesterly to present day Moorhead, Minn., but to no avail.

As hostilities between the Chippewa and the Dakota fluctuated over the decades it became apparent to the Red River traders that alternate routes should be established in order to avoid conflicts. The middle route was established early in the 1840’s starting at Breckenridge, Minn., and heading east, skirting the northern boundary of Dakota, holding in Minnesota, and followed the Sauk Valley, terminating at St. Cloud, Minn., on the Mississippi River. After fording the river, the Middle trail followed the east bank into St. Paul.

A photo of a group of oxcart travelers taking a rest along the Red River Trail.
Photo courtesy Wadena County Historical Society
A photo of a group of oxcart travelers taking a rest along the Red River Trail. Photo courtesy Wadena County Historical Society

Although easy to follow, the Minnesota Valley trail and the Middle Branch of the Red River trail traversed land held by the Dakota. Most of the Teamsters that handled the oxcarts were “Mixed Blood” or “Metis” with ancestral ties to the Ojibway who were long standing enemies of the Dakota. One such conflict occurred in 1844 when a group of Metis attacked a Dakota hunting party and killed them.

As news of the attack reached St. Paul, a group of Red River traders who had arrived earlier became stranded in St. Paul. So, in 1844, Peter Garrioch or William Halliet, depending upon which source you read, decided that they needed to find a safer route, which would take them through Chippewa lands thus avoid any contact with the Dakota. Following the Mississippi River, the party traveled northwest to the Village of Crow Wing situated on the Mississippi River and across from the mouth of the Crow Wing River. Here, fording the Mississippi, they began their trail following the Crow Wing River. Upon fording the Crow Wing River at the sight of what would become “Old Wadena” they followed the Leaf River west. The only real forested area of the Woods Branch was the region from Detroit Lakes to Crow Wing Village.

Over the years some changes were made to the Woods Trail. In 1855, Congress passed an appropriation of $10,000 for building a military road from Fort Ripley, established in 1848, to improve travel conditions. The original survey of the route took place in 1858 and followed the Woods Branch all the way to Pembina.

At a point known as Grand Marais, a swampy area some 8 miles east of “Old Wadena,” completion of the road halted because the government had not appropriated enough funds for completion of the route.

In 1857 an economic panic hit the United States. To improve trade relations with the Red River Valley settlements, a study of steamboat navigation on the Red River was taken. The study reported that the Red River could be open for steamboat navigation for five months. The result of this study prompted the St. Paul Chamber of Commerce to post a $1,000 bonus to any man who could get a steamboat on the Red River. Anson Northrup proposed building a boat for such a purpose. In the fall of 1857 Northrup’s vessel, the North Star made an extensive excursion up the Mississippi to Pokegama Falls, (near present day Grand Rapids, MN). Upon returning down the Mississippi River, the North Star ended up being docked at Crow Wing Village. There Northrup began the construction of the steamer he would transport over land to the Red River. He loaded the machinery, cabin, furniture and lumber to build the boat, on 34 teams and with sixty men started for Lafayette on the Red River. (“Opening of the Red River of the North to Commerce and Civilization” MN Historical Society collections, Vol III, 1898). The route Northrup used for transporting his boat was the Woods Branch of the Red River Oxcart Trail, which took them right through “Old Wadena”. The “Anson Northrup” was launched in the spring of 1858.

During the 1860s, commerce along the Woods Branch dwindled and when the Northern Pacific Railroad company extended its railway from Brainerd through Wadena County in 1871, the era of the oxcarts was dead.

Monday, September 02, 2019

St. Vincent Railway Post Offices

The railway mail service was...

The state’s first international RPO, the St. Vincent & Winnipeg, initiated service from that Kittson County town to Canada in August 1881.

My great uncle, Charlie Fitzpatrick, and later his brother, Dick Fitzpatrick, both worked at the St. Vincent depot, and one of their daily responsibilities would be to switch out the mailbags, both incoming and outgoing.  Some of the sorting for the various towns on the particular RPO was done on the trains, separating for each town they were responsible for.  Once delivered to St. Vincent, for example, then the town's postmaster would do the final sort for each postal customer.

In Pembina, History is the Attraction

A historic postcard touts Pembina's attractions. (Photo from State Historical Society of North Dakota Digital Horizons)
A historic postcard touts Pembina's attractions. [Photo Credit: State Historical Society of North Dakota/Digital Horizons]
Pembina, N.D., has accumulated a cast of characters and logged a number of firsts that belie its current existence as a town of 600 people.
By: Mike Jacobs (Grand Forks Herald Publisher Emeritus) 
PEMBINA, N.D. – History is the attraction in Pembina and there is a lot of it – more than 200 years of it.

A look at the map of North America shows why this is so.

Pembina is close to the center of the continent, and a direct line drawn from northeast to southwest would pass between two of the continent’s great watersheds, one feeding Hudson’s Bay and the other the Great Lakes and the Atlantic. Plus, it’s near the source of the continent’s greatest river, the Mississippi, flowing southward to the Gulf of Mexico.

Draw an international boundary across this expanse and history – dramatic, sweeping history – becomes inevitable in Pembina.