Sunday, January 20, 2019

In the News: Winchester House (Geroux Hotel)

The Most Elegant Hostelry in Dakota, North of the Columbia at Fargo.
Special to the Globe. 
PEMBINA, N. D., April 21. – One of the most superb and popular hotels in North Dakota is the Winchester House, of Pembina. It is prominently located in the heart of the city, at the corner of Cavalier and Roulette streets, and has a frontage of fifty feet on Cavalier street and sixty feet on Roulette street. It is built with white Crookston brick, and is three stories high. It is at present one of the most elegant and substantial hotel structures north of Fargo, North Dakota. Supplied and equipped with all the modern hotel improvements of metropolitan cities, it is highly prized by all our citizens and the traveling public. Built in the year 1882, at a cost of about twenty thousand dollars, it is a most fortunate investment for its present owner and proprietor. 
J. W. Winchester, after whom the house is named, is the owner and present proprietor of this most popular public resort. The management of this hotel has been given the personal care and attention of J. W. Winchester and his bright and popular wife. Mrs. Winchester has ever been distinguished as one of the most popular and entertaining of hotel matrons, and her popular parlor entertainments have always been most highly appreciated by all the patrons of this hotel and many invited friends, and to her own careful labor in the culinary department in preparation of meals this hotel owes much for its well-earned popularity for its table luxuries. So acceptable are the meals served in this house that the southbound Northern Pacific vestibule train often stops at Pembina sufficiently long enough to enable passengers to obtain their meals here in preference to those furnished by the dining car attached to these trains. This whole structure is occupied as a hotel, and the house can, with adjoining hotel accommodations, accommodate several hundred guests at a time in a most comfortable and acceptable manner.  
This hotel has been for years the “head center” of the political, social and festive activity of the northeast corner of Dakota. In and about this charming resort are clustered some of the most interesting memories of the past political history of this section. Here it was, in this hotel, that the late Jerry Tuohy, one of the most gifted Democratic leaders of his party, planned some of his most successful political conquests in this district, and here it is where, today, the present Republican leader, Jud LaMoure, sways his numerous political cohorts, and plans his most important political battles. Here, too, Jud often “flushes” with great success and raises the “downs” with less than a pair of “breakers.” This hotel is patronized by the very best class of boarders and travelers and for neatness and comfort this house enjoys a most envious reputation. Many of the county officers are remembered among its guests, and as a hotel bonanza for its owner is the Merchants’ hotel of Pembina and this entire section of the Red River Valley. 
The Saint Paul Daily Globe
Monday Morning, April 22, 1889
Volume XI, Number 112, Page 6

From: Pembina and Turtle Mountain Ojibway (Chippewa) history: from the personal collections and writings of Charlie White Weasel

So as you can see, Charlie White Weasel's testimony concerning who built the Winchester House (originally the Geroux Hotel) and first ran it, confirms what Chuck Walker wrote in SHERIFF CHARLEY BROWN.

Also from the same source:
Lucien Geroux ... was then keeping a hotel in South Pembina, the same building, (improved) now being the one in which the county poor are being boarded and cared for, usually called our poor house. 

The large, 2-storey building just east of the Pembina Bridge, sitting in the area where the future Selkirk Park will be, is what I think is the building mentioned above (i.e., Lucien Geroux's first hotel, later repurposed and used as the Pembina Poor House...)

Sunday, January 13, 2019

Tales from Pembina: Starvation

The 1826 flood, the worst flood of the Red River of the North ever known in modern times...

But before that, deprivation...

In the month of January, it was rumored at the Selkirk settlement, that the hunters who were on the plains of Minnesota in quest of buffalo were starving. The sufferers were from one hundred and fifty to two hundred miles from Pembina, and the only way to carry provisions to them was by dog sleds. The sympathy for their welfare was very great; and even the widow contributed a mite to their relief.

It appears from a statement made by one who was in the colony at the time, that in the (prior) month of December, 1825, a snow storm raged with violence for several days, and drove the buffalo out of the hunter's reach. As this was an unexpected contingency, they had no meat as a substitute, and famine stared them in the face.

Says an eye-witness1:
"Families here, and families there, despairing of life, huddled themselves together for warmth, and in too many cases, their shelter proved their grave. At first the heat of their bodies melted the snow; they became wet, and being without food or fuel, the cold soon penetrated, and in several instances froze the whole body into solid ice. Some again were in a state of actual delirium, while others were picked up frozen to death; one woman was found with an infant on her back within a quarter mile of Pembina. This poor creature must have traveled at the least, one hundred and twenty-five miles in three days and nights. Those that were found alive, had devoured their horses, their dogs, raw-hides, leather, and their very shoes. So great were their sufferings, that some died on the road to the colony after being relieved at Pembina. One man with his wife and three children were dug out of the snow where they had been buried for five days and nights without food, fire, or light of the sun, and the wife and two of the children recovered."
When the spring came, the melting of the winter's snow produced a still greater calamity. On the second day of May, in twenty-four hours, the Red River rose nine feet; and by the fifth, the plains were submerged. A panic now seized every living thing; dogs howled, cattle lowed, children cried, mothers wept and wrung their hands, and fathers called out to their families to escape to the hills. The water continued to rise until the twenty-first, and houses and barns floated in the rushing waters. On one night a house in flames moved over the waters amid logs and uprooted trees, household furniture, and drowning cattle, reminding one of the day when "the heavens being on fire, shall be dissolved."

- From: The History of Minnesota: From the Earliest French Explorations to the Present Time, by Edward Duffield Neill, Secretary of the Minnesota Historical Society (1858))

1 - Alexander Ross

Saturday, September 29, 2018

Union Family

Lena Cameron Mortimer was born into a farming family in St. Vincent, Minnesota.  She became a Socialist Party activist and married the Journeyman Tailors Union of America (JTUA) union leader, John Mortimer in Winnipeg in 1901.  They had several children before he drowned crossing the Red River near Emerson, Manitoba in an accident, in 1910.

LENA MORTIMER:  One Woman's Way of Thinking

As I passed out through the crowd as it was dispersing on Sunday evening after the meeting at which Comrades Pettipiece and Fitzgerald were speaking on the Woman question, I chanced to hear a few remarks from some of the men that had been present at the meeting which struck me as rather amusing.  One of the worthy bunch said in a rather sneering way:  "What!  Give the women a vote?  Not much, their place is stay at home and minding their business, let us men do all the voting." 
To me, of course, it was the same old yarn.  I have heard it so often that I cannot keep silent any longer.  Some of the men do not stop long enough to think just what a very important part a woman does fill in this life.  If we women are fit to be mothers of their children; fit to teach those same children in the schools, and fit to fill most every position in life, then by all that's good and holy we are able to stand shoulder to shoulder with our noble brothers and cast our vote along with them for the one great cause for which we are both fighting, the only cause that will benefit the working men and women of today. 
"Men say that we women do not have sense enough to vote the right way.  Ditto, my brother!  Could we possibly make it any worse than you have made it by your way of voting?"
Men say that we women do not have sense enough to vote the right way.  Ditto, my brother!  Could we possibly make it any worse than you have made it by your way of voting?  Give the woman a chance.  Let her once grasp the situation and see if she won't vote right.  Treat her as an equal and try to help her get hold of a few socialistic ideals.  Help her to see what it all means.  Give her as fair a chance as you would give a man and you will find out that she can grasp the truth just as quick as any man. 
I believe it is up to every woman in...any place on top of this old earth, to get busy, and dig down and find out for herself just where she is at and if some of the men turn up their noses at our feeble efforts, go to it with more heart than ever.  Prove to them that if given a chance we can at least use our vote to as good advantage as they have in the past.  We cannot make matters any worse than they are making them right now.  So go to it, my sisters.  Show them if we are fit to be mothers of the coming generation of Socialists we are fit to march to the ballot-box and vote the right way just as soon as you men give us a chance.  And fit to share equally with you all the comforts that Socialism will bring when the men as well as the women get into their heads sense enough to vote the right way to hasten its coming. 
[Source:  Lena Mortimer, "One Woman's Way of Thinking," Western Clarion (Vancouver, BC), 27 May 1911.]

Friday, September 28, 2018

KCND-TV: How it Came to Be

This excerpt is from a long article about the early years of TV along the border in our area.  There was a race who got their transmitting tower up first (Pembina won by a day...), and some called KCND a "bargain basement" station.  Maybe so, but they did the best they could with the budget they had, and for many kids growing up then - myself included - we will be forever indebted to Channel 12 Pembina for the hundreds of amazing old Hollywood films they showed on Saturday and Sunday afternoons (not to mention Saturday night's "Chiller Thriller"!!)
We got to know classic comedies starring Laurel and Hardy, Abbott and Costello, the Three Stooges, as well as the Marx Brothers, Jimmy Durante, and W.C. Fields.  Then there were the great dramas starring Tyrone Power, John Wayne, Errol Flynn, Betty David, Kathryn Hepburn, Laurence Olivier, Basil Rathbone, Mae West, Jean Harlow, Burt Lancaster, Peter Lorre, Claude Rains, James Cagney, Charlie Chaplin, William Powell, Robert Mitchum, Joseph Cotton, Orson Wells, etc.  So many names and faces, one cannot remember them all yet they were and are all unforgettable.  All thanks to one tiny TV station in Pembina...
In 1956, a group of investors associated with a Grand Forks radio station won permission from the U.S. Federal Communications Commission to construct a new Channel 12 TV station in the tiny border town of Pembina, N.D. 
Their goal, however, wasn’t to serve Pembina and the sparsely populated surrounding area. It was to serve Winnipeg audiences, 100 kilometres to the north, and hopefully make some money satisfying Canadians’ insatiable appetite for American TV programming. 
The station was slow to get to air, though. It wasn’t until early 1959 — nearly three years after they were awarded the licence — that the serious work of building studios and erecting a tower got under way. Now with a second Winnipeg station under construction at Polo Park, it became urgent for the Pembina operation to finally get up and running. 
Thus began a mad race between the owners of Channel 7 and Channel 12 — which would become better known as CJAY-TV and KCND-TV later in the year — to beat the other station to air. 
“The idea of KCND was to come into the (Winnipeg) market as the second station, but in the interim the licence was granted to CJAY, so they were building at the same time,” former KCND-CKND employee Dorothy Lien told the Winnipeg Free Press in 1989. 
“It was a great race between the stations to see who would get their tower up [first],” she recalled. “I remember driving down to Pembina in September of 1960 to watch our antenna being mounted, and then driving back to Ste. Agathe to see that they were at the stage of getting theirs up, too.” 
The race was as close as one got to a photo finish in the broadcasting industry.
On Sunday, Nov. 6, 1960, Winnipeggers noticed a test signal coming in from Pembina on Channel 12. On Monday, Nov. 7, the half-finished station went on air at 6 p.m. with a limited program selection, owing to the fact that the station was literally not yet connected to the ABC and NBC networks from which it would obtain most of its programming. 
Given that the only other option in Winnipeg was to watch the CBC station, viewers weren’t exactly choosy. 
Five days later, at 5:30 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 12, 1960, CJAY-TV Channel 7 signed on from a brand-new studio next to Polo Park Shopping Centre. 
Though CJAY had lost the race to air, it still had a decided advantage over its cross-border rival. 
“We had very low power and very poor microwave [linking the station to the networks],” Lien told the Winnipeg Free Press in 1989. “We really didn’t make an impact for about six years. People didn’t have the antennas to bring in Channel 12.” 
KCND had been modeled after KVOS-TV, a small outlet in Bellingham, Wash., just across the border from Vancouver, which discovered that there was big money to be made in buying programs at low Bellingham rates and selling advertising at high Vancouver-Victoria rates. 
The practice was controversial, given that KVOS was at times selling advertising on programs for which a B.C. broadcaster had supposedly purchased “exclusive” rights; but it also made KVOS one of North America’s most profitable TV stations for a time.
But there was a critical difference between KVOS and KCND. 
KVOS’s transmitter was only 70 kilometres from central Vancouver and just 45 kilometres from Victoria, close enough to put a strong and clear “Grade-A” signal into those communities, as it still does today. 
KCND’s transmitter was 100 kilometres from central Winnipeg. Its “Grade-A” signal only went as far north as Niverville, beyond which ground clutter and weather tended to interfere with reception. 
Given that there were no cable systems in Winnipeg at the time, it was an oversight on the part of the station’s owners that threatened to bankrupt the station. 
“Our signal was never as strong in Winnipeg as our engineers thought it would be,” lamented Boyd Christenson, an early KCND announcer and program host who was interviewed by the Winnipeg Free Press in the mid ’80s. 
“We weren’t getting the dollars we needed out of Winnipeg to sustain the station,” Christenson said, describing the station’s financially troubled early years. 
The station’s fortunes dramatically improved after the arrival of cable TV in Winnipeg in the late ’60s. 
KCND’s survival in the early years was no doubt driven by the fascination that many Manitobans had for the glamour of Kennedy-era America and a yearning for something different on their screens, which led to a cult following in Winnipeg. 
“KCND was strictly bargain basement,” former Winnipeg resident Greg Klymkiw wrote in a June 2010 article for the Electric Sheep web site. “Though to kids, tired of fiddlers from Newfoundland and joyful Canucks winning useless pen and pencil sets on stupid Canadian TV, KCND was… AMERICA!” 
“I kind of fell in love with KCND-TV Channel 12,” a commentator named Rob wrote to The View from Seven in November 2010. “For some reason the channel 12 logo was very cool!” 
“My dad’s bedroom TV had only local stations, but he got channel 12 by installing an interior Channel 12 Antenna… sometime in ’71 or ’72 but we weren’t allowed to use his TV. My younger brother used to sneak in there and watch reruns of ‘Lost in Space’ at 6 PM while my dad was working evenings,” Rob wrote. 
“Sometimes my dad called us to his bedroom to watch ‘Chiller Thriller’ at 10:30 PM Saturday night,” he added, referring to the station’s popular Saturday night horror movies.

1907 St. Vincent Main Street

The carriage looks suspiciously like our 'Mystery Man' again!  Could it be?!
Source:  Digital Horizons, State Historical Society of North Dakota, via Pembina Historical Society
This shows the main street in St. Vincent, Minn. in 1907. Many buildings line the street and electric lines are visible. Notice the street is unpaved and there are wooden sidewalks present.

This street leads down to the river where it curves to the north for a short way, to where the ferry crossing is that takes people, wagons, etc. over to Pembina on the Red River. At the far end, where years later a bridge will be, you can make out buildings. Down in that area, at this time, is an elevator and a brewery, among other businesses.

St. Vincent Engine No. 1,  on display during the 155th Town Reunion in 2012
The firehall, its bell tower seen on the left (south side) of the street, is new, just built in 1903, housing a new fire engine, St. Vincent Engine No. 1! Directly behind the horse carriage on the right , behind the electric light post, is a short awning. That is the St. Vincent Bank. The larger awning to the right is over the entrance to the Nelson Green store. That same lot is where the Valley Community Church (later the St. Vincent EFC) was located.

Out of view, on the left, is the railway depot, platform, and tracks, which go south of the firehall running east/west. At one point, the tracks also went down to the river and curved around to the north, where the plans had been to build a railway bridge. Unfortunately, that never happened and that change significantly impacted St. Vincent's growth. Those tracks were later removed, and the rails into St. Vincent dead-ended in town. For over 70 years, St. Vincent had freight and passenger service as a sort of consolation prize, but it was ultimately doomed. For its first 30 years or so, it served an important role in bringing thousands - yes, thousands according to many newspaper articles - of settlers north and west, on the railroad. Most did not stay in our area, but only passed through.

In 1907, the town was already quieting down, but still a busy small town around 300 population. Right across the river, its counterpart and neighbor - and in the past, part of the same territory - was Pembina, around 600 or so at this time. So the 'twin city' area has a lively community of citizens, schools, churches, businesses, and surrounding farms. A great place to live, work, and raise families...

Wednesday, August 01, 2018

Headlines: New Year 1908, Bullet Dance, & Ferry Franchise

Pioneer Express
January 3, 1908

The New Year was ushered in by the bells of the city echoing with those of St. Vincent and Emerson, assisted by about a half dozen locomotive whistles, at the roundhouses, proclaiming twelve o’clock. There are not many places on the American continent where two states can join hands with Great Britain and celebrate the dawn of a New Year.

* * * *

Pioneer Express
January 31, 1908

A One-Armed Joker

There was a grim, capital joker at Noyes, Minn., last Thursday night and the details of the affair were kept somewhat quiet by the victims, but at last have mostly leaked out. It seems that a one-armed man, who had lost his limb in the Boer War, was on the train coming south and not being provided with proper credentials, the U.S. immigration inspector had him put off the train at Emerson. The man then walked to Noyes, just across the line, and armed with a revolver and bowie knife held up the employees there about a half dozen in number. He amused himself by shooting out window glass and at other prominent targets. Mr. MacKay, the agent, slipped out and went to his residence and got a shotgun, but the man was onto his game and waylaid him as he came back and took the gun away. There are various stories of how he lined up the employees and made them practice military steps and formation, showing them how to step with pistol shots fired in the direction of their feet. He locked Mr. MacKay up in the private office. He also opened the money drawer in the safe and, observing the small amount there, said he did not need that as he had much more already and showed a couple of big rolls as proof. After keeping guard over the unfortunate crowd for about four hours, but taking nothing from them, he left, went back to Emerson, slept in a barn all night; next day he walked to Ridgeville and took the train from there for the east.

* * * * *

Pioneer Express
February 7, 1902

Meeting notes of the Pembina city council

W. G. Deacon, village recorder of St. Vincent and lessee of the Minnesota site of the ferry, was present and addressed the council on the subject of building a new ferry boat. The council spent considerable time in discussing the matter, and on motion of Alderman Miller, Messrs. Short, LaMoure and Price were appointed a committee to investigate the condition of the old boat and to find the approximate cost of a new boat and to look up any other matters in this connection and to report the same at a meeting of the council to be held on Monday, February 10th, next. F. A. Wardwell, Auditor

Same issue -

The City council are wrestling with the ferry problem. A new boat, has to be built which will cost anywhere from $350 to $600 according to plan. St. Vincent wanted this city to build half the boat, or if they build a boat for us to pay $100 a year rental. It would be preferable for the city not to have anything to do with the boat at all, but let the ferryman furnish his own boat. But nobody would build a boat on a one year franchise and there are many objections to letting it for five years, which would be the least term that anyone would take and build a boat. The fact that there are two ends to the ferry, one owned by St. Vincent and the other by Pembina, makes complications which must be provided for or make trouble. The St. Vincent people seem to be willing to act fairly, and it is probably the matter will be settled all right finally.

* * * * *

Pioneer Express
February 21, 1902

Bids For Ferry Franchise

Bids will be received by the City of Pembina for the running of a Ferry across the Red River, landing within the corporate limits of said city, as follows -

First-Bidders shall state the highest amount they will pay the city for the ferry franchise for the season of 1902, the city to furnish boats ad other necessary apparatus.

Or, Second – Bidders shall state the highest amount they will pay this City for the Ferry Franchise for a term of five years; such bidders also agreeing to furnish good and suitable boats and apparatus for that time at their own cost and expense.

Bids for the one year franchise and for the five year franchise to be in separate envelopes.

Bids for the one year franchise shall be for cash in advance on acceptance of bid by the city.

Bids for the five year franchise shall provide for two equal, annual payments each year, the first payment to be cash on acceptance of bid by the City Council and each other payment to be cash in advance, July 15th, and April 15th, respectively each year.

Each bid must be accompanied by a certified check payable to J. M. Chisholm, Mayor, or by cash, to the amount of twenty-five dollars, to be forfeited to the City of Pembina if the bidder refuses or neglects to give suitable bond for the carrying out of the contract and franchise, if his bid be accepted – otherwise said moneys to be returned to bidders.

Bids should be sealed and endorses “Bids for Ferry Franchise” addressed to the undersigned and delivered to him, or placed in the post office at Pembina on or before 6 o’clock p.m., Feby.24th, 1902

The City Council reserves the right to reject any or all bids.

By order of City Council
F. A. Wardwell, Auditor

Friday, July 27, 2018

Frank "Chicken Stalker" Dickens & Fort Dufferin

Francis J. Dickens, second from the right
From Wayne Arseny, former mayor of Emerson:
I think of the latrine at Fort Dufferin and once read something about it being a 3-hole toilet. To me that was a rare oddity, and kooky as it sounds to write about, something people would want to see inside for themselves after reading it on a sign. 
As a kid we only had an outdoor biffy (one hole style) but when you went to community halls or schools you often saw 4-hole ones. So why was Fort Dufferin only three? So many reasons to guess on why they had to make them that way. I also read in the diary from Francis Dickens, one of the first NWMP officers - and son of the famous writer, Charles Dickens - of men going out to use the biffy in the night with their primitive lanterns on a windy night. The toilets were made from recycled lumber which often had poor fitting boards leaving gaping holes. 
As the wind swirled around the building he said it was often so windy inside the biffy that the lamp blew out. Sitting there in their long underwear with no pockets and no match to relight the lantern, making their way back to the sleeping quarters was difficult in total darkness. No yard lights or lanterns left burning in the building as a guide. So he said they strung a rope on short posts from the biffy to the main house.  A man would just follow the rope back to not get lost.
From Dufferin: Then and Now (Manitoba History, Spring 1992):
In 1874, when Northwest Mounted Police Inspector Francis Dickens arrived at Dufferin, an outpost along the west side of the Red River near the Manitoba-U.S. Border, he was angry and upset, first because he had arrived too late to take part in the original trek west, and second because he would have to remain at what he considered one of the most unpleasant places in the entire British Empire. [1] George A. French, the first commissioner of the North West Mounted Police, described the site [Fort Dufferin/Emerson area], where he would assemble nearly 300 people in preparation for a march into Canada’s far west, as a “small shanty town surrounded by a few brothels and grog shops.” [2] 
1.  E. Nicol, (ed), Dickens of the Mounted (Toronto: McClelland and Stewart, 1989). A series of letters written by Francis Dickens during his stay in the North West Mounted Police. Although often full of disdain for the physical situation he was placed in, these letters provide an insight into the conditions of the time as well as the character and personality of the writer.  
2.  G. A. French, Diary, July 8 - November 7, 1874.
From the Dictionary of Canadian Biography:
His superiors consistently rated him as lazy, alcoholic, and unfit to be an officer in the NWMP.
From Lesser Expectations:  Charles Dickens' Son in North America - Amusing anecdotes:
Calculating that the free time he would have in Toronto would be the last until he was subject to the rigours of military service and a prairie winter that was still beyond his imagination, Dickens indulged in more than his share of intoxicants. Two days behind schedule, he caught the train for Chicago. He chastised himself for his foolishness and took no more alcohol until he reached Pembina. He arrived in a cold spell in late October and Dickens had never felt a chill as bitter as that of the prairies. Like all frontier towns, Pembina contained more than its share of rogues, swells, and desperadoes, wonderful characters whom Dickens found enchanting. He again succumbed to temptation, easily taken in by new-found friends and took what he considered to be a modest amount of brandy to ward off the frigid winds of late fall. This was a momentary lapse, but it launched him into a wave of comradeship with the peculiar people who populated the local saloons. It was three days before he realized with alarm that he would be unable to make the planned rendezvous...

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Water Cooler VII: School Memories - Bullying

Humboldt-St. Vincent School, like any other school, had its share of bullying and bullies...

Michael Rustad: I remember when Dave Boatz sang the Beatle's song, "He is a real nowhere man." He adapted it to Walter Petruska. "He's a real no-hair man!" Dave was a comedic genius. When we were altar boys together, he did his best to get me to laugh at the most inopportune times. He would have a running commentary on the qualities of the tongues at communion time. When Mrs. Friebohl (Grandma) and Toots Ryan went for communion, he had me in stitches with his descriptions!

Dave was never mean-spirited but did these pranks always in a spirit of fun. Ok, he went a step too far in dropping cherry bombs in the boy's toilet or putting Elmer's Glue in Martha Roberts lotion bottle. Martha would often use moisturizing cream and then wipe with her hanky She did this by habit not realizing that Dave had substituted glue for lotion! The class did not dare laugh, but did after class. He would also pick vegetables and flowers from neighbor's gardens and then with his angelic smile try to sell them back! I can tell you so many stories about Dave. Dave had a moral compass in always sticking up for any person with a handicap,. His brother Stevie was profoundly developmentally undeveloped and I think that his love for his brother was key in being empathetic. Randy Younggren, who as deaf and had difficulty speaking, was a case in point. Dave was so good to Randy and he had Randy drive out to our farm on his motorcycle nearly every evening. He was just happy to see us and it did not matter whether he could not speak many words.

Steve Ritter: No Way! Dave never did any of those things! Lol! Dave is one of the best...He has a heart of Gold!

Michael Rustad: I also think that Velma Isely did a great deal to stand up for those being bullied. There was bullying in Humboldt. When we moved to the farm when I was 7, I had to ride the bus and it was an ordeal. They took my stocking hat, did not leave a seat open, etc. It was relentless until around 6th grade. I could name each of the bullies and some were older girls with no moral compass.

Trish Short Lewis: You are so right, Mike. I was bullied a LOT by both peers and older kids, when I was little and up until junior high. My mom went to bat for me, but she also told me to ignore them, which was very hard but I did it so they had no satisfaction. To cope, I withdrew into myself, humming tunes, saying words or phrases over and over, closed my eyes, plugged my ears, read books, etc.

Michael Rustad: Our school bus was parked outside the Post Office and everyone was picking on Barbara Norberg. Mrs. Isely boarded the bus and essentially told everyone how ashamed she was and gave a long speech about compassion. She eluded authority and people stopped bullying her after she deboarded the bus and were off to Lake Bronson. I remember well how I dreaded the bus because Tony and I were bullied.

Steve Ritter: I think when we're young we all say things a little quickly. I am certainly not innocent. Sometimes it's a misunderstanding between young kids. Sometimes the physical side is how many of us have learned to deal with issues. I know that some of the meanest things I've heard came out of the mouth. I remember recesses when I was young being tormented by older kids. Being dogpiled and being on the bottom of several. It was not as much fun as people would think. I finally stood up and took on one of these people. I knew it would let my parents down if I got into a fight because my father and mother didn't believe in physical violence of any kind. But I'd had enough. I did get in trouble and was grounded for a period of time. but no one bothered me again. No one dogpiled me again. It's too bad people treat others in a negative fashion but sometimes and for whatever reason it happens. Most of the time it happens just straight out of ignorance and sometimes pain. Mrs Isley was a wonderful person!!

Trish Short Lewis: I agree with *most* of what you say, but I also think some people are just plain mean. Many who are mean got it from their role models, i.e., their parents. Either their parents are authoritarian, or abusive, or both. I wasn't perfect - I was a chatty girl who never knew enough to keep her mouth shut sometimes (not always) and that would get me in 'trouble' - it wasn't being mean, it was being inappropriate, interruptive, and/or loud. I definitely feel that is a LOT different than saying unkind and downright mean things to someone, or physically hurting someone, etc. That's a horse of another color entirely. So the bullying I and others suffered was mean and wrong. Period.

Monday, July 09, 2018

PROFILE: Captain John A. Vanstrum

I present to you, one of St. Vincent's early pioneers - John A. Vanstrum. A veteran of the Civil War, he became very civic-minded, serving the town and later Kittson County, in many positions. One of his longest-held was as Sheriff.  Serving at roughly the same time, he was Sheriff Charley Brown's counterpart across the river!

Captain John A. Vanstrum, register of deeds for Kittson county for the past decade, a pioneer citizen of the great northwest and a valiant soldier of the Civil War, is now a resident of Hallock, Minnesota, where he enjoys the esteem and confidence of a wide circle of friends and admirers. His portrait [seen here on right], will be appreciated by his host of friends. Captain Vanstrum was born in the province Gustaf and Elizabeth Vanstrum. The parents died in Sweden, their native land. Captain Vanstrum received but a limited education in his boyhood, having to assist his father in a paper mill from his tenth to his sixteenth year. On June 22, 1855, in company with about two hundred emigrants, he left his native land, sailing from Gutenberg on the vessel Ann Washburn, commanded by Captain Winchell. The vessel was heavily laden with Swedish iron for Boston merchants. He arrived in Boston harbor August 6, 1855, and proceeded to Chicago, thence to Batavia, Illinois, where he spent the winter of 1855-6, working for his board and attending school. In September, 1856, he went to Minnesota, via Dunleith, now East Dubuque, Illinois, thence up the Mississippi river, and located at Redwing. Minnesota, where he engaged as clerk in a store.

At the breaking out of the Civil war Captain Vanstrum was residing at Redwing, Minnesota. He immediately offered his services and assisted the late Colonel H. Mattson in recruiting Company D, Third Minnesota Volunteer Infantry, and was mustered into service in October, 1861 at Fort Snelling. The Captain went to Chisago county, Minnesota. where he raised some thirty volunteers (Swedish) for Company D. These men he transported in wagons all the way from what was then known as Center City via Taylor's Falls, Marine Mills and Stillwater, through St. Paul to Fort Snelling, where they arrived October 18, 1861, and on the following day were mustered into service. Captain Vanstrum was appointed sergeant of Company D in October 1861, was promoted to second lieutenant March 30, 1862, first lieutenant May 30. 1862, and Captain of Company D August 2. 1862. He re-enlisted with the same company as a veteran, under the veteran enlistment act, at Little Rock, Arkansas, early in January, 1864. He was honorably discharged with his regiment at Fort Snelling September 17, 1865. His record in war, as it has continued to be, is that of a brave and fearless defender of the Union and the old flag. In 1879 Captain Vanstrum went to Kittson county, Minnesota, and located at St. Vincent, where he was postmaster from 1879 until 1885. In the latter year he resigned his office and during that period the post office at St. Vincent was of more than ordinary importance. It was the international exchange office for all registered mail matter passing between the United States and the northwest Canadian provinces. All registered letters are re-registered at the St. Vincent office. From 1879 to 1885 this office ranked third in volume of registered mail from Minnesota.

Captain Vanstrum was sheriff of Kittson county from the date of its organization, April 8, 1879, to January, 1889, and is at present register of deeds of said county, having held that position continuously since the fall of 1891. Politically the Captain is an uncompromising Republican. He is a member of the I.O.O.F., and is one of the representative men and pioneers of the northwest. (International Order of Odd Fellows)

Source:  Collections of the State Historical Society of North Dakota, Vol. IV (1913)

Thursday, July 05, 2018

History of the Kittson County Bench & Bar

"The term was finished in two and a half days, and the balance of last day, awaiting the arrival of the train south, was spent fishing by the court and attorneys, after each catching his own frogs for bait. To the younger members of the bar it was rather an amusing circumstance to see Judge Stearns, then well up in years and of a very dignified and patriarchal appearance, lay aside his judicial dignity and pursue the diminutive amphibians with an agility which surprised them all."
And such were the salad days of early Kittson County law!

To learn more about it, read on...

Bench and Bar of Kittson County
By Peter H. Konzen

Foreword by
Douglas A. Hedin, Editor
Minnesota Legal History Project (April 2008)

The article that follows is a highly personalized history of the bench and bar of Kittson County written by Peter Henry Konzen, a prominent attorney. After devoting two pages to early terms of the district court, Konzen announces that he will avoid “the monotony of legal routine” by describing two amusing trials—the prosecution of Kate Rafferty before Ozora P. Stearns, a legendary judge of northern Minnesota, in 1883, and a civil suit for damages for the killing of a dog, in which he represented the plaintiff, in 1888. Konzen’s client was awarded an amount somewhat less than he sought.

In the style of most county legal histories of this period (it was published in 1909), Konzen includes biographical sketches of eight lawyers who practiced in the county, the longest being of himself. Apparently finding the opportunity irresistible, he wrote, Mr. Konzen is recognized as one of the ablest and most prominent attorneys north of Crookston, and during his residence at Hallock has amassed a snug little fortune, besides building up a professional and business reputation of which he may well be proud. He has helped in an eminent degree to shape the destiny of his city, and when the history of Kittson shall be written he will appear as one of its most conspicuous figures.

There is an ironical footnote to this flattering self-portrait. Konzen died on July 15, 1935, twenty-six years after the publication of his article on the county bench and bar. His death was headlined on the front page of the Kittson County Enterprise on July 17, 1935. The newspaper described not only Konzen’s final days but also, under the subheading “Biography,” his youth, education and early years in the county. Almost all of that “biography” was taken verbatim from Konzen’s earlier self-portrait. Thus Peter Henry Konzen was placed in the unusual position of writing much of his own obituary.

Passes To His Eternal Reward
Peter Konzen, Pioneer and Highly
Respected Citizen Passes Away
After Long and Useful Service
to City and Community

Peter H. Konzen
Today Hallock mourns the passing of one of her most outstanding venerable citizens and townsmen. Peter H. Konzen, who died at his home in this city on Monday, July 15th at the age of 78 years, one month and 18 days—he has gone his reward. Hallock never had a finer citizen and more devoted father.

Quiet, unpretentious, wonderfully human and amazingly competent, he represented the best that a city can expect from its citizens. His more than half a century of life in our city was a precious gift to his fellows. He had done much good and was ready day or night to serve the needs of anyone who called on him. He never made any fuss about living—he just lived, which is a priceless legacy to those of us who are inclined to philosophize.

He was a man of quiet, retiring disposition and minded his own business, both with reference to himself and others. In his youth, he was of good physique, but of late years had suffered afflictions incidental to advanced years, which at times confined him to his bed and home. About a week before his death he again became afflicted and gradually and slowly sank, growing weaker and weaker, with but little pain until about three days before his death when he became overcome with chills. At the last, however, death came peacefully and quietly, and while apparently in sleep, his breath came slower and slower, until the last. All of his family were at his bedside excepting a daughter, Mrs. F. V. King, who in a race with death across the continent failed to arrive in time to see her father alive. During his final illness he was watched over by members of his family and friends and a special nurse.

The funeral services were held from St. John’s Episcopal church Wednesday afternoon with Rev. S. J. Hedlund officiating. The cortege was the largest ever gathered in Hallock, which testified to the high esteem in which the deceased was held in the community. The active pallbearers were members of the Kittson County Bar Association of which the deceased, was a member. They were: A. D. Bornemann, Wm. L. Peterson, J. E. Sundberg, C. J. Hemmingson, John Matt Brendal, Lyman Brink. The honorary bearers were twenty pioneer citizens of the town. The district bar association also sent delegates to attend the funeral. These were: L. S. Miller, Martin O’Brien, Wm. P. Murphy, W. E. Rowe, F. A. Grady, Crookston; H. O. Chommie, C. M. Bishop, Theodore Quale, Thief River Falls; Judge B. B. Brett, W. O. Braggans, Oscar Knutson and Rasmus Hage, Warren.

The remains were laid to rest in the family lot at Greenwood cemetery, beside those of his wife who preceded him in death several years ago, and thus has passed away another of our old timers—they are passing away and soon only their memories will be left. May they all leave as pleasant recollections as does our friend and venerable townsman—God rest his gallant soul.


Peter H. Konzen was one of the pioneers of Kittson county, having located here in the spring of 1881, when a young man of 24 years. He was born on the 27th of May, 1857, in Chickasaw county, Iowa, on a farm now embracing the site of the village of Lowler. His parents emigrated from Germany in 1852 and the following year located on the farm upon which deceased was born. He was the third child of a family of five, all of whom have since passed away, excepting one, Mrs. Kate Buchholz living at Forest City, Ia. He was educated in the public schools of Lawler, afterwards attending an academy at Bradford in that county and completing his education at the University of Iowa City and at Boyleer’s Mercantile College at Keokuk, Iowa. His boyhood life was spent upon the farm until the age of 17 when he began teaching while completing his education.

In 1878 he began the study of law, first in the office of Judge H. H. Potter at New Hampton and afterwards under the direction of John R. Geeting, a gentlemen who later rose to considerable distinction as a criminal lawyer in the city of Chicago. Mr. Konzen first came to Minnesota in 1879 and entered the law office of a Mr. Parker at Sleepy Eye, where he remained until the fall of that year when he again returned to Iowa to enter the newspaper business, editing the Lowler Herald until the spring of 1881, when he sold out and returned to Minnesota and locating at Hallock, then a hamlet numbering not more than half a dozen buildings, where he opened a law office, and in the words of the immortal Horace Greely, “grew up with the country.”

In the fall of 1881 Mr. Konzen was elected superintendent of schools for Kittson County which position he held for several years, having been three times re-elected. He had since held various public offices, as County Attorney, president of the Kittson County Agriculture Society and in 1898 was the Republican nominee for member of the state legislature. Although defeated by the tide of populism at that time, he received a creditable vote and conducted a model campaign. In 1916 he was again the nominee for his party for member of the state legislature and this time was elected by a comfortable majority. Mr. Konzen was one of the most progressive and public-spirited citizens in Kittson county. He was for many years a member of the Hallock school board, and it was chiefly owing to his push and perseverance that this thriving little city can now boast of a high school second to none in the state. Mr. Konzen was elected mayor of Hallock in 1897 and held the office for a dozen or more consecutive years to the eminent satisfaction of her people. He had also served as a member of the state drainage board, probate judge and in his time had filled various town and village offices, so that he had helped in an eminent degree to shape the destiny of his beloved city and community.

During his early career in Hallock, he was associated in the law business with W. H. Alley, now deceased, and in 1901 Mr. Konzen and J. D. Henry formed a co-partnership for the purpose of conducting a real estate, loans, insurance and collection business in connection with the law business. Mr. Henry is not a lawyer but handled the insurance, loans, collection and real estate business of the firm and was very successful, especially in the sale of real estate. Konzen’s article appeared first on pages 944 to 951 of the second volume of History of the Red River Valley. It has been reformatted. Page breaks have been added. His spelling and punctuation have not been changed.

Bench and Bar of Kittson County


Including an Account of the Counties, Cities, Towns
Villages of the Valley from the Time
of Their First Settlement and



Bench and Bar of Kittson County.
By P. H. Konzen.