Thursday, July 06, 2017

Across the Alley: The Ryan Siblings

Andy and Toots Ryan (Andrew and Margaret Ryan, to be exact) were brother and sister.  They lived together in a small, tidy house in the middle of St. Vincent, across an alley just north of my grandparents' home.  Toots and Grandma were friends...

Andy worked for the Great Northern Railway; Toots kept house for her brother.

I remember often going over to visit at Toots' home with my grandma.  Sometimes I'd come on up our road to visit Grandma and if she wasn't home, I'd run across the alley, across the Ryan lawn, and up Toots' high, large steps.  Their house was on a very high foundation, probably made that way to avoid flood waters.  Their steps did not match what that foundation needed, and despite the high steps, the last one into the house was a doozy in itself, especially for a little girl.

I remember the inside of Toots' house very well, as well as I remembered Grandpa and Grandma's. When you went through their door, you were immediately in a small kitchen.  It had a stove and small old fridge one-step-above an icebox.  The sink and counters were on the west side of the kitchen, with a window over it.  The sink did not have a faucet, but rather had a hand pump that drew up the cistern water when you hand-pumped it.  The floors - like my grandmother's house - were covered with old-fashioned linoleum.

The door into the next room was on the far right (east) of the north wall.  That led into a parlor where there was a big chair in the northeast corner, that sat on a large, old, threadbare oriental rug.  When Toots wasn't in the kitchen, she would hold court in the living room, sitting in the chair, while Grandma would sit in a rocker nearby.  Her feet sometimes didn't reach the floor, because she was a small woman.  I remember her as seeming as round as she was tall, and having white hair.  She called me "PK", because my first and middle names' initials (Patricia Kaye) reminded her of PK Gum.

When I was very little, I remember being at Toots' house with both Grandma and Mom.  They were visiting as usual, and I think they were laughing over something.  I began to stare at Toots and really take her in.  It wasn't like I hadn't noticed her before, but something about the situation, the light coming in from the nearby window shining on her...I don't know...but I suddenly REALLY saw her. Her hair was fluffy white around her face, she was missing a tooth or two.  As she laughed her face lit up and made me smile, too even though I had no clue what the grownups were talking about.  She had a dress on, with a full apron, and as she laughed her whole body shook including her large belly.  She felt my eyes on her, and looked my way.  I suddenly blurted out, "YOU'RE FAT!"

The room went silent, and for a moment or two, you could hear a pin drop.  Then Toots began laughing, and said, "PK, so I am!"  I had no sense of it being wrong, but my Mom soon told me different.  I apologized, but Toots and Grandma both continued to find much amusement out of the situation.

There was also a very old piano in the northwest corner of the room, with a round stool that you could spin around to adjust the height of. Its four legs ended with cast iron claws that clutched glass balls. As you might imagine, I had a lot of fun sitting on it and spinning!

The piano was a dark walnut, and some of the keys were missing. But of the many keys that were still covered, they were covered with real ivory, and were so beautiful compared to the keys of modern pianos.  The seat was worn very smooth, evidence of many people who had sat upon the stool over the years.  One can imagine the many songs that were played, maybe even sung to, at that piano. Evenings where the piano brought music and joy into the Ryan home. Now, however, despite its beauty and history, it was a shadow of its former self, including the tuning. It sounded like a piano in an old western saloon, so out of tune, it had a sort of tune all its own.  As a little girl, the sound delighted me, and I loved playing little ditties I knew by heart.

My nickname's inspiration
The kitchen and parlor were the only rooms in the downstairs. However, in the southwest corner of the parlor were stairs that came out of the wall and projected into the living room.  There was a curtain that closed the opening where the stairs met the wall, but beyond that was open stairs, upon which were stacked books, and a plant or two.  There was just enough room to allow a person to get up the stairs. I never did get upstairs, although I was always curious.  I was too timid to just go up without asking, and never felt brave enough to ask.

There came a time, after my Grandma got more ill from her diabetes, that her friendship with Toots waned and we saw her less.  She was friends with the Friebohle family, through St. Anne's, who took her under their wing and helped her out to get to the store, or to the doctor.  I'm not sure what happened to Toots, except that she outlived her brother Andy, who has forever lived in my memory as a stout man in striped overalls and a trainman's hat, as he appeared every so often upon return home once upon a time.




Tuesday, May 23, 2017

The Men Who Built Fort Pembina: William Nash

Portrait of Nash, Compendium of
  History & Biography of North Dakota,
Geo. A. Ogle & Co., Chicago, 1900

WILLIAM C. NASH enjoyed the distinction of being the first to settle in the vicinity of Grand Forks; but before that, among other things:
He was engaged in carrying United State mail in the early days from Fort Abercrombie to Pembina, and used dogs and sleds for the purpose, and he served four years as postmaster in East Grand Forks... 
He then accompanied General Hatch on his campaign through the northwest after Indians, and accompanied the expedition as far as Pembina, spending the winters of 1863-64 in Fort Garry and Pembina, and while there acted as agent for the government, and succeeded in bringing Little Six and Medicine Bottle, two Indian chiefs, back to the United States under arrest.
[Source: Compendium of History and Biography of North Dakota, Geo. A. Ogle & Co., Chicago, 1900]

The following fall, he was appointed sutler at Fort Abercrombie, and held that position five years, during which time he was contracting.  In 18701 he helped build the post at Pembina, making the first brick used in Dakota.

____________________
1 - Prior to 1870 the Hudson Bay company had absolute control of practically all the trading interests west of the Canadian provinces. They even appointed the governor for Prince Rupert’s land, which, until the boundary was established in 1823 by Long’s expedition, was held to embrace much of present day North Dakota. A portion of the Selkirk settlement of 1812 was on American soil, as indeed was the old fort of Capt. Henry, and even later establishments. The old policy was to confine their business principally to the fur trade, but when Donald O. Smith succeeded Governor McTavish it was to trade with all the people.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Update: Ephraim "Eph" Clow, Pedestrian Racer

Boston Daily Globe, May 27 1881, Page 1
Boston Daily Globe, May 27 1881, Page 1

I recently wrote about a Kittson County native, Ephraim Clow, who went on to become a well-known sportsman of a late 19th century sport, Pedestrianism.

'Eph' also features in Chapter 22 (Rose Belt) of the book King of the Peds in a race in which he finished with 460 miles in that 6-day race.

Here are a couple of extracts from Chapter 28...
Out of the thirty men that started the 70-hour walking match at the Music Hall in Boston, Massachusetts, between the 16th and 21st of February, 1880, only seven finished. The winner was Peter Panchot with 345 miles. Jimmy Albert came in second with 330, Clow, third with 326, McEvoy fourth with 321, Dufrane, fifth with 318, Campana, sixth with 300, and Barrett seventh with 304. During the early part of the match, Albert had denied charges that he had been abusive in language towards a Mr. Hanson, who he allegedly struck with a cane.
---
Jimmy Albert was awarded $300 and a gold watch for winning a 75-hour go-as-you-please match (12½ hours per day) which took place at the Opera House in Brockton, Massachusetts, between Monday, the 22nd and Saturday, the 27th of March. The scores at the end were: Albert 435; Hughes, 423.16 ($200); Clow, 411.6 ($100); Hourihan, 385.14 ($75); Geldert, 361.4 ($50): The Boston Globe in its report on the match stated: The track not having been measured by a professional the above records will not stand as it is undoubtedly short. Campana, Colston and Mignault were also in the race.
There are many other mentions of the 'Canadian Champion of Toronto', in King of the Peds. For example:
In the 72-hour go-as-you-please “Toronto Walking Tournament”, which started on the morning of June the 7th 1880, Clow, of Prince Edward Island, had beaten Faber's celebrated record in Buffalo.
Ephraim "Eph" Clow, Champion Pedestrian
Courtesy of: 
www.kingofthepeds.com

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Frederick A. Bailey: An NWMP 'Original'

Sgt. Fred Bailey
[Source:  RCMP Veterans Association,
Vancouver Division]

Let me introduce you to an ordinary man who happened to make a bit of local history by just doing what many in his day did - living life, making choices, taking risks.  

"This I believe is the diary of Frederick Bagley when he enlisted in the North-West Mounted Police as a trumpeteer at 15 years of age; They left Fort Dufferin in 1874 to secure the Medicine Line!" 
- J. Rempel

I will be sharing portions of that diary here on this blog at a later time. But for now, let us learn a bit about Sub-Constable Fred Bagley, Trumpeteer ...


According to a fascinating online biography (which I quote here in-full since so many such pages seem to disappear):
Fred Bagley’s musical talents and leadership provided a major contribution to the Force and to the communities he served in.

With regarding setting records, he was first in the following areas: 
a) being the youngest member to be sworn into the Force; 
b) first Trumpeteer in the Force; 
c) present to guard and witness the first person to be hung in the North-West Territories at Fort Saskatchewan; and 
d) first member to lead a musical performance before Royalty.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

James J. Barry, Pugilist

Louis Edgar Rogers, aka
Jim Barry, was born in
St. Vincent, Minnesota.

Jim Barry was a pugilist...and a mystery. His real name was Louis Edgar Rogers.  He seems to have left the US in December 1912 and returned in 1915. One document that was found - an application for a passport - showed he was in England at the time. Did he go to England to get treatment for his drug and alcohol problems? Then, a record showed he fought his old nemesis Sam Langford in Australia, most likely as part of a hopeful comeback? Or, was it an exhibition fight?  He has some more fights later but he lost them all. While in Panama, he was murdered at the age of 32. A short life of a promising young boxer - he was considered a capable, durable fighter in his prime - that took a wrong turn, that led to a sad end.

 
Barry lists St. Vincent, Minnesota 

as where he was born, on this 1915 
emergency passport application...
Louis was born on August 12, 1886 in St. Vincent, Minnesota.  In the 1900 US Census, Louis is listed as age 15 and going by Lue Rogers. Lue is a variant of the name Louis (English and French), and on the same census, Mary is listed as his mother, age 55 and widowed.  His father had been from Ireland, but his mother was French-Canadian.1 Very likely she would have called him Lue for short - or it could have been a simplified version of how Louis is pronounced in French.  

Barry's 1915 passport photo
According to the same census, Lue could neither read nor write. Nor could his mother.  It was not unusual for that time, but just like today, it limited job opportunities for a lifetime.  Lue was also listed as a 'Day Laborer', but that wouldn't last for long. Sometime during the next few years, probably sooner, Lue learned the art of boxing, left Drayton for the wider world, and became Jim Barry.


Sam Langford
Jim's start up the ranks of boxing are not known, but he eventually made a modest name for himself. He was characterized as a "hard-hitting white cowboy" ... who did not mind fighting the top black heavyweights of the Chitlin' Circuit. Although he did not beat Sam Langford--only to a draw, in their many fights--Barry did deck the Boston fighter on two occasions.

According to his May 1915 passport application, Barry was born in 1886 in St. Vincent, Minnesota, and called Drayton, North Dakota, his place of residence. He listed his occupations as "engineer and boxer" - what kind of engineer, we do not know, but if true, it was as a vocation between 'day laborer' and 'boxer'.

After returning from London, Barry went into treatment for cocaine addiction.  He was released from a New York hospital after taking the "Coke Cure" in July 2015.  The government was starting to crack down on cocaine and other drugs that had previously been unregulated. I think Barry had to get straight or risk losing chances to fight, or even get arrested.  So he was trying to straighten up. 

An article in the Pembina Pioneer Express for March 30, 1917, has this notation:

Thursday, February 02, 2017

StVHS Sports: 1927/28

Vintage St. Vincent High School pennant from 1920s

[Guest article by Michael Rustad, originally from nearby Humboldt, MN]

In the summer of 1999, my daughter Erica and I visited the town of St. Vincent.

There is no longer a bridge connecting the central business districts of Pembina, North Dakota and St. Vincent. The old bridge connecting the towns that I remember as a child has long been dismantled. The places that I remember in St. Vincent have long since closed. Short's Cafe, Sylvester's Store, the Curling Rink, St. Ann's Catholic Church, and the St. Vincent Fairgrounds. The curling rink is now neglected and in state of decay. The Church is a private residence. The St. Vincent School, too, is in a state of benign neglect. The school is in disrepair and the fire escape slide detached.

It was difficult for me to explain to my daughter that St. Vincent was once a bustling community. We attended catechism each summer in the basement of St. Ann's Catholic Church. We had a large number of ball games in the yard outside the church which is now overgrown and marred by abandoned cars. When my sister and I visited the Kittson County Museum in Lake Bronson, I was amazed to find some high school yearbooks [called Borderlines] from St. Vincent High School. St. Vincent High School closed in the late 1930s and never reopened. Instead, it eventually consolidated its school district with Humboldt from 1957 to 1991.
[Note from Trish:  In-between StVHS closing and St. Vincent consolidating with Humboldt, students had the choice of attending Pembina High School, or other schools in Kittson County like Hallock...]
It was an unexpected joy to find yearbooks from the St. Vincent High School from the 1920s. This was a yearbook from a small town in NW Minnesota prior to the Depression. High school life in St. Vincent was marked by lots of school spirit judging from the many activities. St. Vincent fielded a football team, basketball team, hockey team, track team and baseball team in [school year] 1927/28.

"If you could walk or run, you were in the starting line-up."

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Ephraim Clow: Professional Pedestrian

Masthead of newspaper that had article about race Ephraim took part in, then resigned from under suspicious circumstances

I have been one acquainted with the night.
I have walked out in rain — and back in rain.
I have out-walked the furthest city light.... 
~Robert Frost
Ephraim Clow was a cousin of mine on my grandmother's maternal line.  Family oral history said he was a long distance runner and had run in the Boston Marathon and won.  I had to find out if this was true or not.

I first found out that the Boston Marathon began in 1897.  Ephraim was born in 1854.  In 1897, he would have been 43.  Above-average age to be doing a marathon.  So I wondered, could this be a situation where the family oral history had a nugget of truth, but it wasn't quite how it was remembered?  In fact, it was.

First, I checked to see if Ephraim had ever been in Boston.  I found that he had.
Ambrose Clow, and his brothers, Charles, George, and Ephraim, went to Boston to seek their fortune. Around 1878-1880, he received word that land was available in Minnesota. Charles was sent to check out the territory. What he saw (in Kittson County) pleased him so he advised his brothers to join him in this new venture. Ambrose brought his new wife, Mathilda Crewye, who was also born on Prince Edward Island. Ambrose had a house built in Humboldt where he and his wife lived the rest of their lives. They had a son, George Victor, who was born 19 Nov 1880.  
 - From George Clow family lineage on Red River Valley website
A racing Pedestrian, being avidly
observed by spectators mid-race
I found out that during the early 1880s, Ephraim was a competitor in pedestrian  races, or "go-as-you-please" races. I've found him mentioned in newspaper articles during the right time period, and in Boston.  I had found my cousin.  And I had confirmed that the family oral history was true - just a bit wrong in the details!

To find out more about what race walking was like in its 'Golden Age', check out this podcast that features the author of the book - Pedestrianism: When Watching People Walk Was America's Favorite Spectator Sport – Matthew Algeo.

A passage from the book mentions Ephraim, alleges a possible scandal he may have been part of:
Early on the morning of the final day of the race, the Boston Globe reported, “...an utterly unexpected and exciting incident occurred...” - Ephraim Clow of Boston, who had been backed heavily to secure second place, and who stood third on the score-sheet, with every prospect in his favor, as he was undoubtedly the freshest man on the track, suddenly left the track and went to his room.  Inquiries were at once made as to the reason for his action. He gave various excuses, all of a flimsy character.  
I could find nothing else about the matter, or how it was resolved.

Ephraim eventually came to Kittson County as his brothers had done.  He and his family settled in the Humboldt, Minnesota area, where Ephraim farmed for some years.  By the time of the 1910 and 1920 censuses, the family is living in St. Vincent. Evidently they moved there from their farm, in their later years.

This article mentions Ephraim Clow in the middle of the final paragraph; he is
included among those with the best records in the O'Leary International Belt,
held in the old Madison Square Garden in New York City, in January 1881...

[Source:  New York Tribune, May 23, 1881 - chroniclingamerica.loc.gov]

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Mrs. Roberts Wins History Award

"An annual award, History Educator Hall of Fame is presented to the teachers, one in each county, who are the most effective in teaching history of the region..."
Education Manitoba - Volume 2 by Eileen Pruden (1975)

Mrs. Martha Marie (Beck) Roberts,
was the recipient of the first annual
Red River Valley History Educator
 Hall of Fame Award
, 1972
[for Kittson County...]
Among the Red River Valley Historical Society's many projects over the years was establishment of liaisons between various historical organizations, educational institutions and individuals, and sponsoring a high school historical essay contest...

[From Red River Valley Historical Society Records collection at The Institute for Regional Studies (NDSU)]

The contest began as the “Historical Research Essay Contest" in 1965.  It was sponsored in the schools of the Red River Valley of Minnesota, North Dakota and Manitoba.

In a letter regarding the 1968 contest the stated purpose was:
“A. To alert youth of the Red River Valley to the wonders of its rich pioneer heritage; 
B. To acquaint our youth, through interviews and other research, with the fascinating lives of those who developed the Red River Valley;
C. To encourage scholarly research and writing among our high school students; and
D. To record matters of historical interest for the benefit of future generations.” 
Most years a specific theme was chosen by the society. In 1966 and 1967 it was biographies of local pioneers or places of historic interest, and in 1968 an artifact of historical interest was added.

In 1965 only four essays were submitted, but quickly grew to well over 100 a year. The first place award the first year went to Theresa Scholand of Mount St. Benedict Academy, Crookston, Minn. The 1966 winner, Rebecca Hole, was the first to be published in the society’s periodical, the Red River Valley Historian. Later years they established winners in junior high and senior high categories Future winners were published in issues of the Historian, succeeded by its Red River Valley Heritage Press. Essay contests continued into the 1990s with submissions after 1987 retained by the Red River Valley Heritage Society at their offices at the Heritage Hjemkomst Interpretive Center in Moorhead, MN.

[From Red River Valley Heritage Society Essay Contest Entries, 1965-1987 collection, Institute for Regional Studies & University Archives, NDSU) Collection number: Mss 5, 44, 69, & 252]

Dennis Matthews
[Senior Portrait 1944]
The inimitable, amazing, Mrs. Roberts. She was a memorable teacher in the best sense of the word. She expected the best and thus propelled you to give your best, time after time. For some of us, with her reputation proceeding her, we arrived in her classroom intimidated. For those that gave her a chance, they found out she was tough but fair. She was definitely...unforgettable.

It was Mrs. Roberts who promoted and inspired the students in her school in Humboldt, Minnesota, to find and preserve their local history via the Historical Essay program.

A portion of all the essays written for this contest -
those written by Humboldt-St. Vincent High School students
- were preserved by Dennis Matthews on the
RED RIVER VALLEY website.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Emerson Hockey Memories

Photo Source:  James McClelland

The team in the picture above is from the early 1960s. It was made up of players from Emerson, Dominion City, Letellier, Noyes, and players from UND.

Back row, left-right: John Mathes, Al Hayden-Luck, Ben Comeault, Unknown, Tony Loiselle (Goalie), Unknown, Ed Mackay, Alfred "Babe" Ayotte, Doug Gruenke, Gary Beckstead1.

Front Row left-right: Clayton Grey, Tom Forrest, Dean Beckstead, Donny Kernihan, Barry Solnes, Sam Leathers, Wilf Beaulieu (playing coach). "The unknown players probably were imports from Grand Forks; the team was often accused of bringing in imports", says James McClelland

James McClelland [formerly of Emerson] shared the photo with me, and the following commentary:

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.