Tuesday, May 30, 2006

"Walk your horses, and keep to the right..."

Although my parents were Americans, and lived in St. Vincent, Minnesota, I was born in Emerson, Manitoba. It was 1959, and at that time, Emerson was the closest medical facility; it also wasn't as unusual then, as it would be now, for people to go back and forth as a matter-of-fact daily act for shopping and other services. We were waved - yes, waved - through the borders, Canadian and American sides. People knew the locals that well.

Emerson has a bridge (may still have that bridge - I don't know since I haven't checked in over 30 years...) - the CPR railway bridge, that was not far from the Emerson Hospital where I was born. A large black truss bridge, it had a small walkway to the right, that had a puzzling sign to me: "Walk your horses, and keep to the right!" I asked Mom about it once, and she explained that the bridge once was used by buggies and early automobiles, and that the sign had been left as a quaint reminder of a time gone by. Even then, I thought that was pretty cool - I've always loved hearing about the past.

I found the photo used in this post of that same bridge when it was newly opened. In the dim image, you can still see that same sign...

Monday, May 29, 2006

The Last Passenger Train

When I was a little girl, there was an amazing silver passenger train that ran between Pembina and Winnipeg. I was even lucky enough to ride on it once when my school took a field trip to Winnipeg. It seemed to be around for such a short time, that I almost forgot about it.

Since starting this blog about my hometown, I remembered that train, and wondered why it was so different than any other train I had ever seen. Researching it, I found out it was a Budd RDC or Rail Diesel Car. RDCs had self-contained engines, came in a few styles/models, but all had the one thing in common - they were made of shiny steel that looked live silver. They were used on branch lines, basically to save money; for a time, they provided service to destinations that might not otherwise get it due to the economic impossibility of running a regular train between such areas.

The standard text on RDC is Duke & Keilty's RDC: The Budd Rail Diesel Car 1990 (2nd print in 1999), Golden West Books. The book has this to say about the Pembina to Winnipeg RDC that I remember:
When the Western Pacific closed out its Oakland-Salt Lake City Zephyrette service in 1962, the NP picked up its two RDC-2's. The NP used them as replacements for regular equipment on the Fargo, North Dakota to Winnipeg, Canada service. The Duluth, Missabe & Iron Range put a single RDC-3 up for sale in 1963 and the NP added this car to the Fargo-Winnipeg service. They soon made application to eliminate the run, using the argument that the Great Northern-Soo Line was operating a competing service between the Twin Cities to Winnipeg. Minnesota gave its immediate okay to stop service in late 1968. However, a stub line between Pembina on the Canadian border and Winnipeg had to be maintained until the government of Manitoba granted permission to discontinue it the following year."

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Profile: Unsung Hero of WWII

His whole life ahead of him, fate cut his life short...

On this Memorial Day, I would like to share a story I just came across about one relatively unsung hero of the 4th Fighter Group named Captain Donald Emerson. He was from Pembina, North Dakota, but graduated from Karlstad, Minnesota (his family moved around the area a bit due to economic circumstances between Pembina County and Kittson County...) Captain Emerson died on Christmas Day 1944 when his P-51 Mustang was downed by ground fire. On that day his group was escorting B-24 bombers which were attacking a target near Kassel, Germany.

Sandra Merrill, Captain Emerson's niece, wrote a book about her uncle. She had become deeply affected by her uncle's wartime letters home which had been saved by her family. She was moved to write Donald's Story - a riveting, bittersweet memorial to a man she knew only as a family legend.
"I was conscious of listening to Donald's Story for nearly 40 years, but I had listened as if it were some homespun fairy tale. It wasn't until I had sons nearing draft age that Donald suddenly became more than a deified storybook figure - a real human being, my own flesh and blood. And then the dormant obligation I had felt to tell Donald's Story began to stir, and I knew that even though he was just one among countless thousands of unknown heroes, he still might speak for many of them - reason enough for his story to be told. I was about to set out on an odyssey of discovery, and by reading Donald's letters, finding his friends and recording old memories, I was going to do my best to remember an uncle that I never really knew."
Captain Donald Emerson was killed during the Battle of the Bulge flying P-51s on Christmas Day 1944, shot down by ground fire. According to this account (towards bottom of page) by fellow officers who were there, it was friendly fire...

Capt. Donald R Emerson, Pembina ND. 336th Fighter Squadron. P-51D 44-13317 VF-B. Photo: D.F. Pierini

Friday, May 26, 2006

Site Search Update

I have updated the site search feature. You can now search this website by using the search in the right-hand column; Google site search was not returning good results, and despite much research the problem was not able to be resolved. Fortunately, I have found that my Technorati account provides a wonderful - and effective - site search feature. What can this do for you? It makes is simpler to search the site for subjects based on keywords. I have found it finds results that Google does not...Anytime you want to see if certain topics related to St. Vincent have been covered, or find a subject you know _was_ covered but you can't remember when - and you don't want to scan all the archives - using this site search feature is the simple alternative...

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Profile: Dr. Charles Harris

Dr. Harris, taken by John Turner when he was 15 years old in 1904 at Turner farm, 1 1/2 miles from North Star Church
FROM: North Dakota History & People, Volume III (1917)

Dr. Charles B. Harris, well known in Pembina and the northeastern part of the state, is there engaged in the practice of medicine. He was born in Charlestown, Jefferson County, West Virginia, on November 6, 1857, and comes of English ancestry, the family having been founded in Maryland at an early period in the colonization of the new world. His father Jeremiah Harris, was born in Virginia and there followed merchandising and farming, cultivating his land with the aid of a large number of slaves whom he owned. His business affairs were carefully and profitably conducted. At the time of the Civil War, he joined the confederate army as a member of Ashby's Cavalry, with which he served for about six months, when ill health forced him to leave the army. He married Susan Martha Boarman, a native of Virginia, and representative of one of the old families of that state, of English origin. The founder of the family in America came to the new world with Lord Baltimore and first settled in Charles County, Maryland. Her father was Charles Boarman, the admiral of the United States Navy, who fought in the War of 1812 against England. The death of Jeremiah Harris occurred in 1881, when he was sixty-two years of age, after which Mrs. Harris came with her family of four children to North Dakota. She is still living at the advanced age of eight-six years.

Dr. Harris pursued his education in the schools of Charlestown, West Virginia, and of Baltimore, Maryland, preparing in the latter city for his professional career as a student in the College of Physicians and Surgeons. He was graduated therefrom March 3, 1880, with the M.D. degree and following his graduation he practiced for eighteen months at Martinsburg, West Virginia. On the 11th of January 1883, he arrived in Pembina and is today the oldest physician in years of continuous practice in Pembina county. His position professionaly has ever been among the foremost and his comprehensive knowledge of the science of medicine well qualified him for the onerous duties which devolve upon him. He is a member of the Grand Forks District Medical Society and the North Dakota State Medical Society and broad reading and study keep him informed concerning the truths brought to light by modern scientific research and investigation. Since 1911 he has been president of the Merchants Bank of Pembina. He also owns and cultivates a large amount of farm land in the Pembina County and his agricultural interests contribute materially to his income.

On the 29th of September 1886, in Pembina, Dr. Harris was united in marriage to Miss Katherine J. Abrams, a native of Canada and a daughter of Mr. and Mrs. George W. Abrams, who resided near Kingston, Canada, but both have now passed away. Dr. and Mrs. Harris have six children - Gladys, Kathryn J., Pauline, Janette, George, and Mary Margaret.

Dr. Harris belongs to the Ancient Order of United Workmen, the Yeomen and the Degree of Honor. He is also a Mason. Politically he is a Democrat and for many years was superintendent of health in Pembina County and for thirty years was one of the commissioners on the board of this county for the examination of cases of insanity. He has also served for twelve years on the local school board but at the present time is filling only the position of health officer of his city. He has always been loyal to every trust reposed in him and has proven a competent, faithful official, discharging every public and professional duty with a sense of conscientious obligation.

FROM: BIOGRAPHY of Dr. C. B. Harris

Charles B. Harris was born in Charlestown, West Virginia, Jefferson County, on November 6, 1857, and is of English decent.

His father, Jeremiah Harris, was born in Virginia in 1819 being a merchant and farmer, his help was a large number of slaves that he owned. At the time of the Civil War he joined the Confederate army as a member of Ashby's Cavalry. He served six months when ill health forced him to leave the army. He married Susan Boarman a native of Virginia. Her people were of English origin. Her father was Charles Boarman, an Admiral of the U.S. Navy who fought in the War of 1812 against England. Jeremiah Harris died in 1881. Mrs. Harris and two children came to North Dakota in 1884. Mrs. Harris died on April 25, 1921 at her home in Pembina.

C. B. Harris received his education in the school of Charlestown, West Virginia and of Baltimore Maryland, preparing in the latter school for the practice of Medicine as a physician and surgeon. He graduated March 3, 1880 with an M.D. degree and following his graduation he practiced for eighteen months at Martinsburg, West Virginia. January 11, 1883 he arrived at Pembina to continue his profession, now being the oldest physician in years of continuous practice in Pembina County.

September 29, 1886, he married Miss Katherine Abrams, a native of Canada and the daughter of Mr. and Mrs. George Abrams, who lived near Kingston, Canada. Dr. Charles B. Harris and Mrs. Harris still live in Pembina. Mrs. Harris is in poor health. Dr. Harris is still at his profession at the age of 80 years. He also has several farms in Pembina County which he oversees. Mr. and Mrs. C. B. Harris celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary on September 5, 1936.

FROM: Historical Data Project (Liberty Memorial Building, Bismarck, ND)

Arrived in Pembina on January 11, 1883 after a 4-day journey; came alone with only clothes and medical instruments. Built own home out of lumber, and lived a simple life with a coalstove and hurricane lamps he had shipped in to the local general store. Water came from wells, not the river.

Offices held:
Pembina Health Officer 1888-1937
Pembina School Board President 1895-1920
Pembina Bank President 1911-1927

Never in the army or navy. Took school in W VA and Baltimore. Didn't care to comment on church activities.

Married 9/29/1886 in Pembina

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Gamble Letters #20, 21, and 22

St. Vincent
Aprail the 2nd, 1883

dear father & mother I hope when this reaches you that it will find yous all well as this leaves us all well at present the weather is getting warmer now it has been a cold winter all through every one here thinks the Water will be high this year again Nothing seems to firghten people from coming to this country every train comes in there is from three hundred too seven and eight hundred yestarday there was fifteen hundred peaple on the train I am sorry about my mother being so porrly if yous would care to have me go down this summer to see you I would go for a month we had a letter from davidson about his farm we told him if he dont sell it to the fall we will make him an offer for it the one at the lake we would not give anything for McNabs old place we will get our deed for this in the fall for this place if we buy a farm there we will give it to yous to live on and rent your own houses we want not go back to live there if yous had that place of davidsons yous could live easier nor [word illegible] we will pay the cash down for a farm when we buy be on the look out for a place with a good orchard there was one of our nebhors froze to death about three weeks ago he lives three miles from us he went to St Vincent for flower for the family and he got drunk and lost his way his boy come to town to look for him thinking he was in some of the taverns the people turned out to look for him and found him half way froze stiff a sad sight the children goes to school every day they are getting good scholars I hope My Mother is all right by this the Warm weather will do her good write soon yous wount be so busey

Mary Ann
A few more letters are written after this one in 1883, the most important feature of which is that the Gambles find out that their mother/grandmother back in Ontario has passed away before anyone can come back to visit her. It is a great shock to the family, and they are very concerned for the older relatives left behind, how they will cope...
St. Vincent
October 20, 1883

My dear Maggie I received your kind and welcome letter and was glad to hear that you were getting better.
There was a big fire in St Vincent on tuesday night - a livery stable and 2 other buildings was burned one of the buildings was not insured some people say there was a man burnt but I do not know if it is true they sent some bones to St Paul to get them examined It has been very cold here it snowed and most of the People has not their potatoes out - and the rain wet the stacks and the wheat is very wet we have not thrashed yet - but I think we will soon it is very muddy here just now but not very cold You asked me to tell you who it was that sent the card it was Jane I guess I have told you all the new I saw in the paper about Lizzie Watsons marriage
Be sure and tell me all the new so good by for the present
Lizzie Gamble
Soon after this, Mary sends a letter that conveys much general discontent among the early settlers of St. Vincent due to companies meddling in the layout of the town; neighbor Emerson, Manitoba is also mentioned, having its own share of troubles during this time...
St Vincent
November 12, 1883

Dear father We received Maggys letter all right and I hope this will find you both well as this leaves us all well at present the wether is nice now the ground is hard frozen too weeks ago we thrashed last week and the grain turned out well we wouled six bushels of wheat and we had a hunred and ten bushels of it the price is very low there is no sale for barly or oats at all people is offring them at twenty cents a bushel the country is full of grain it yealds so well the only trouble there is no market for is there is only one man buying and he can get is for what he likes to offer if another party would buy the railroad company would not give cars to take it away and they are trying ther best to keep other railroads out I thought I would be able to send yous something before this but with paying for our tree claim and keeping such a big family it keeps us busey we had either to pay for it or loose it when we have the deed it will be safe then Next Wednesday is the day the 14 of November and any time after January we can aply for the deed of our homstead we wount have to pay anthing for it the company is going to sell the lots in the new town site in the spring the surveyors has been here for a week they don't carry on any busness in St Vincent it is all done at the transfer the people in St Vincent is thinking of taking an action aginst the company for moving all their buildings they have left St Vincent no worth five cents no body would venture one coller on a lot for when the lots is open for sale at the transfer every one will buy there Emerson is broke down altogether people that owned thousands when we come there first is not worth a doller to day the sherif is selling people out every day They are taxed so heavy that they cant live I think I have told you all the news this time you must write soon and let us know what is going on I think through the winter I will be able to help you we have plenty of everything only money and it is very scarse goo by for the present and be sure you write soon.
Mary Ellen Gamble

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

The Hartzell-Bascom Murder Trial

Actual Photograph taken during the Hartzell-Bascom Murder Trial, with Judge Pollock presiding...
I came across the photograph above when I reviewed the Barry Collection from the SHSND recently. I was intrigued because it was labeled a scene from the "Hartzell-Bascom murder trial in Pembina Court"...I couldn't find anything out about it at first. Then I ran across a fascinating mention of Hartzell when researching at the North Dakota Supreme Court website. Ultimately, it was that source that tracked down the following mentions of the trial in a paper of that time. Please note that these are transcribed from scans of the original newspaper articles, and some words were truncated so I made my best guess as to the original word, and when that wasn't possible, I added dashes to indicate 'unknown'...

[Bismarck Daily Tribune August 22, 1904]
Application will be made to Chief Newton C. Young of the supreme court for an order admitting L.S. Hertzell(sic) and E.T. Bascom to bail. The two men are attorneys located at N and are accused of murder in in the third degree for the killing of Byron Stoddard a neighbor, on July 7th.

Judge Kneeshaw of the district court denied a motion made to admit the two men to bail, and they have been in custody in the county jail at Langdon ever since the afternoon of the shooting.

Application to the supreme court for an order of on bail will be on the ground that Stoddard had frequently threatened to kill both of the accused men on sight, that he had made these threats openly and that they had been communicated to both Hertzell and Bascom. These points are set forth in the application in the testimony of Mrs. Cora Stewart and Mrs. Bascom, who feared the threats made by the man who was killed on July 7th.

While Stoddard was very unpopular at Langdon, where he had lived less than two years, there is a strong feeling against the young men. Hertzell shot and killed Stoddard during a dispute over a certain fence and road and Bascom was with him at the time.
[Bismarck Daily Tribune April 27, 1905]
Judge Fisk and States Attorney Price have refused to sign the petition of S. L. Hartzell, convicted of the murder of Byron Stoddard at Langdon and sentenced to five years in the penitentiary. Petition is being circulated by E. T. Bascom, business partner of Hartzell, and the grounds stated are that Hartzell has been sufficiently punished for his crime. It would seem to the lay observer that five years imprisonment is a light sentence for homicide where the particulars were such that any conviction at all was had. Hartzell has been in the penitentiary only a few months, and if guilty at all the statement that he had been sufficiently punished seems hardly well-founded. The fact that the trial judge and prosecuting attorney had refused to sign the petition would indicate that the application is not such a one as the board of pardons is likely to look upon with favor.
[Bismarck Daily Tribune Monday July 11, 1904 – Front Page]
Murder Reported From Langdon Where One Farmer Shoots and Another Farmer Dies
Byron Stoddard aged 26 years, a --ing a mile from Langdon, North Dakota and instantly killed by S.L. Hartzell, an attorney. Mrs. Stoddard and their daughter witnessed the killing from their buggy nearby. Mr. Bascom, the business partner of Hartzell, was also a witness of the shooting.

Stoddard and the firm of Hartzell & Bascom owned adjoining farms, a fence dividing the properties. There was some trouble over a roadway, making it necessary to cross some of the ---d in leaving the Stoddard Saturday afternoon Mr. Stoddard accompanied by his wife and they drove toward Langdon and --o crossed the land owned by -- of lawyers. Mr. Stoddard had a pair of plyers with him and --ved some wires in order to obtain crossing. After driving through the opening he got out of the buggy and repaired the fence, and --- engaged the lawyers drove --utombile. There were some --ssed; between Hartzell and Stoddard, and raising a shotgun to his shoulder Hartzell fired at Stoddard --ge of gunshot took effect. Stoddard died almost instantly. To a suggestion that he be taken to a hospital he said, "Take me home..." which were the last words he spoke. Hartzell claims that Stoddard pointed at him and that he fired the gun in self defense. Mrs. Stoddard denies this and says her husband had no revolver with him, that it was lying in the bottom of --. It was found that two bullets had penetrated Stoddard’s --en had had considerable -- is claimed, and at one time Hartzell is said to have induced Mrs. Stoddard to agree to start an action for divorce against her husband but it is claimed that the action was not started.

Hartzell was given a preliminary hearing and was held to the district court on the charge of murder in the first degree. Stoddard and Hartzell both moved to Langdon about two years ago from Blue Earth county, Minnesota.
[Bismarck Daily Tribune Monday, November 6th 1905]
Seeks a Pardon – Application has been filed with the board of pardons for the pardon of Seth Leslie Hartzell, who was convicted of manslaughter in the Pembina county district court January 25 last and sentenced by Judge Fisk of Grand Forks to five years in the penitentiary. The application will be considered at a meeting of the board of pardons to be held at Bismarck on December 2. Hartzell, a member of the law firm of Hartzell & Bascom at Langdon, shot and killed Byron Stoddard, a farmer living near Langdon in July of last year.
[Bismarck Daily Tribune December 5th 1907]
Young Lawyer Who Took the
Law Into His Own Hands
Sympathy For Aged Father
Insufficient To Overcome
Duty to Society

The State Board of Pardons has again denied the application of Seth L. Hartzell for a pardon.

Hartzell is a young lawyer, formerly a student at the state law school at Grand Forks and a graduate of that institution. He took a homestead in Cavalier county and after some difficulties with Byron Stoddard, a neighboring homesteader, shot and killed Stoddard, while the latter was on the way to town with his wife.

The trouble that led to the shooting was due to the breaking down of part of a fence by Stoddard. It was claimed for Hartzell that Stoddard was a bad man and that the shooting was done in self-defense. Nevertheless, Hartzell was convicted of manslaughter and sentenced to five years in the Penitentiary.

Hartzell’s father has been a persistent applicant for his son’s pardon. He is an aged man with much love for his son and has been a pathetic figure at sessions of the state board for several years. The board has usually taken the position that no facts had been presented to justify them in overturning The action of the jury that tried Hartzell and fixed the degree of his guilt.

Regarding ND vs Seth Leslie Hartzell and Edward T. Bascom (initially charged with first degree murder of Byron U. Stoddard, with a shotgun), trial was in Pembina because defendants petitioned for change of venue, feeling certain individuals with undue influence would cause prejudice and make a fair trail impossible in the county they were in. Bascom claimed, in a Petition to be Discharged from Custody, that any action against Stoddard was self-defense, that he was in the act of drawing a loaded revolver.

Judge Charles Fisk was the judge in the Hartzell-only trial (Hartzell and Bascom were tried separately...) Jury returned a verdict of guilty of manslaughter in 3rd degree (five year sentence...)

Judge Charles Pollock was the judge in the Bascom-only trial; Bascom was found not guilty on February 21, 1905...

Hartzell Trial, Judge Fisk presiding.
[Click to see full-size, for more detail]
Photo Courtesy:  Jim Benjaminson
Some additional information about the trial, shared by Jim Benjaminson:

Readers of Pembina County Historical Society's "Heritage '76" history book may recall a photo showing the court room in the old courthouse when it was still located in Pembina.  That photo showed a shackled man sitting before a judge and jury and was identified only as a murder case, with no names connected to the photo.  A closer comparison to this photo is in order, also taken at the old court house in Pembina in the same time period but with different jurors and court officers.

Daniel Flanagan was from Crystal and traveled to Pembina to serve on the jury (he's in the front row, second from the right) on the Hartzell murder trail in January of 1905. The Crystal Call newspaper said he had stayed at Pembina for two weeks until the trial was completed.

S.H. Hartzell was an attorney from Langdon who had shot and killed a neighbor, Byron Stoddard, over a trespassing dispute in July of 1904. Hartzell and his law partner, E. T. Bascom (some spelled the name Bascombe), owned property about one mile west of Langdon. The previous fall a threshing engine had broken through a bridge on the property line south of the farm owned by Hartzell and Bascom. The bridge was not going to be rebuilt which rendered the roadway impassible. The day of the murder, Hartzell and Bascombe were at the sight when Stoddard showed up, taking his wife and daughter in a buggy to Langdon for the circus. According to the newspaper story, Stoddard had a wire cutter and was proceeding to cut the fence when Hartzell forbade him to proceed. When Stoddard persisted, Hartzell produced a shotgun and gunned him down.

Both Hartzell and Bascombe were charged with murder in the first degree and jailed on July 7, 1904 where they remained until trial, being refused bail by Judge Kneeshaw. Appealing Kneeshaw's refusal of bail to the North Dakota Supreme Court, the court ruled for the judge. A change of venue moved the trial from Langdon to Pembina, Judge Fisk of Grand Forks being assigned to hear the case.

Hartzell was found guilty and sentenced to five years in the state pen, the charge reduced to manslaughter (although he was released early). Bascombe, in a second trial held in February 1905, was acquitted as he had been nothing more than a witness to the entire affair.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Gamble Letters #18 & #19

St. Vincent
January 7, 1885

My Dear Maggie
I think I will write you a few lines to let you know how we are getting along We had a nice Christmas tree in the School house they gave them very nice presents Jane got a nice big cup and saucer and Willie got a box full of pictures and alice got a box full of another kind they are pieces of pictures and when you place them together they make a picture of some animal and I got a nice big book Alice got a nice silver thimble from her teacher I mean her sunday school teacher she likes alice awful well she had a nice party and alice was there she had a splendid time. Alice has never been to school but she can read as well as I can she can write pretty well. I have not been to school for about a year we always have to herd in the sumer and in the winter we have to feed and water the cows because it is so cold we cannot let them out we have two nice goats a black one whose name is Topsy and the white one name is nellie we have a nice sunday school here I have just missed one sunday since last Christmas and that Sunday was too stormy our class sits up beside the organ and there is about 40 scholars in the school there is only the one sunday school in st vincent I think I have told you all the news so goodby excuse my scribblingw rite soon and let us know all the news alice is going to send you a card I will send you one when I get them so I must finish m[?]
goodby From Ellen

Febury 27, 1883
St Vincent

Dear father & mother we received your kind and welcome letter and we were glad to hear yous all were well as this leaves us at present this has been a very cold winter a good many people got froze the snow is very deep every one expects high water this spring the children goes to School every day there is three Sunday Schools all the time one at 11 and another 2 another at three oclock on Sunday and three churches the english and prespeteren and congreationalest thats the same as methadest there is a great deal of sickness in pembina a docter ross was attending a little boy with deptheria and he took it and died and his wife took it and she died and their little boy died also and a good many more is down with it but none on this side of the river I am sending a st vincent paper and alice is sending Maggie a card do yous get any letters from Joseph or know where he is or do you Know if my uncle Joseph is abrode yet we have had to buy ninty dollers worth of hay this winter we had a stack burned in the fall with prarie fires firewood is very high from seven to eight dollers a cord the track has been blocked up this last while but now they are bushy again there comes in four freights every day and one passenger train there was a big fire in emerson there was a good many houses burned down last week we [5 lines missing] I think I have told you all the news this time write soon the children all sends there kind love to their granma and you all

from you daughter

Peter Grant, Founder of St. Vincent?

Although a brief biography says Peter Grant established an early fur trading post in "Pembina", according to other sources it was actually on the site of modern-day St. Vincent where the post was located...
"...There had been a North West Company post established in 1794 by Peter Grant on the ground where St. Vincent, Minnesota, now stands; Alexander Henry mentions this as the first post established by the North West Company on the Red River."

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Baseball in St. Vincent & Pembina

One of the several teams Eli Gooselaw played on...From The Gooselaw Team:
The Gooselaw team which played in the 20's was made up of entirely Gooselaws - eight brothers and a cousin. The team played all over northwestern Minnesota, northeastern North Dakota, and even played some semi-pro clubs.

Eli Gooselaw, the pitcher, was especially outstanding, having tremendous speed and perfect control. Happy Chandler**, former Governor and Baseball Hall of Fame awardee, said of Eli, "I would say no man ever walked in shoe leather who could throw faster and with greater control than Eli Gooselaw."

Every night, right after supper, the guys got together at the ball park in St. Vincent, Minnesota.
From Eli Gooselaw: Red River's Baseball Hero:
St.Vincent boasted of many good athletes. Eli was one of the best. On the St.Vincent baseball team there were four Gooselaw boys. Eli played the position of a pitcher. Because of his superb skill, Eli was hired by many other teams. He played for Drayton, Hallock, Pembina, Grand Forks, Brandon, Manitoba, and Saskatchewan. These teams hired him for two hundred and fifty dollars a month. They won nearly all of their games. Eli's baseball career continued through his military service*. Later he was offered a job with a Minneapolis professional baseball team. He refused the job because he felt he was getting too old.
* Eli enlisted in the Army at East Grand Forks, in 1917, because they were drafting men. This was the time of World War I, and most of his two years of service were spent in China. Eli is one of the few people who can say he's been to the big cities of China. Tientsen, Shanghai, and Chin-huang-taoo, along with Tokyo, Japan, the Philippine Islands and Hawaiian Islands.

His pitching arm was kept in good shape as he played for Company I. The biggest thrilling game of his military service was when Company I won the baseball championship of the Orient played in Shanghai. The score was 4-1. Eli was pleased when the war was over. It was a long trip home from China. It took twenty eight days and nights to sail from Chin-huang-taoo to San Francisco.

** To think that this man who became a Senator and Governor (of Kentucky, where he was born and died), and later a Commissioner of Baseball, played as a hired player in our area at one time...You gotta love baseball!

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Prohibition Story

The Volstead Act of 1919, named for its author, Minnesota senator Andrew Volstead, made provisions for Prohibition's enforcement, but it contained loopholes that invited abuses.

Somehow, I don't think that writer meant my grandfather, but in his own little way, Grandpa Fitzpatrick was flouting the law of the time when he was making beer during this time period, using honey from his bees in the process. They lived in the north part of town, a bit off the beaten track and somewhat private. Maybe Grandpa thought it would be OK if he kept it low-key.

Grandma wasn't thrilled about the idea, since it was illegal at the time, but she put up with it...He was even known to sell a bottle now and then to someone. Grandma herself, after a hard day's work, would drink a bottle against the heat. However, one day Grandpa crossed the line...On that day, my mother, who was around 9 years old, was uptown with my grandma visiting friends. Upon their return a few hours later, they came upon this scene...
Walking up the road to the house, we came upon an unbelievable scene: Men, women, sitting around, having a good time...drinking Grandpa's beer! It was a regular outdoor honkytonk.
Well, if you only knew my Grandma, you could imagine what happened next: She was not amused. People knew my Grandma well enough that just her arrival meant they had better clear off. As they did, she proceeded to grab the remaining bottles of beer within her reach and smash them against the side of the shed.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Gamble Letter #17

1885 Minnesota train wreck
January 10, 1885

My dear Maggie we received your kind and welcome letter and was glad to hear that you were all well as this leaves us at present we got the cards grandma sent us and we liked them very much we were all very sorry to hear about grandma being sick again we are very sorry we are so far away from you when yous have so much to do this has been a very cold month it has been forty four below zero but we dont feel it very bad for we have a warm house a good many got all their potatoes frozen we do not know about ours for we have them in a roothouse and we cannot get into it for it is [4 lines missing] any day there has been a wreck on the railroad and eight engins are lying in the ditch and one engineer is not expected to live it was between here and St Paul they send out two engins on one train when the snow is deep we had a very good time at Christmas and new years we were at a teaparty across the river in Penbno and then there was Christmas tree in the schoolhouse at St Vincent where us little ones all got Preasants we are all going to start to school in a week or two Provisinous are very high Just now yous think wood is very dear there but it is eight dollars a cord here and scarce at that we have got off [2 lines missing] cheaper we think people will get up here for fifteen dollars a head as then emigrants will come by Prince Arthur landing I am sending you some receipts for knitting I think I have told yous all the news Pleas Do not be long in writing as we are always glad to hear from yous

good by for the Preasant
Ellen Gamble St Vincent

"...brief moment of world attention..."

Photo by Robb LambNorth Dakota was...the site of one of the first publicized actions taken in favor of the Allies. This came to the world’s attention when some unusual photographs appeared in early 1940, showing, of all things, a few airplanes being pulled by a horse team across the Canadian border near Pembina, North Dakota.

My mother was a senior in high school in 1940, when the event the quote above happened. She showed me photos she had taken herself of the event. She got the basic facts right, too, from what I recently learned. But the broader story is even more interesting than the overview.

A regional historian, Tom Shoptaugh, wrote an article about 12 or so year ago, that fills in the details...
The transport of military aircraft at Pembina...provided evidence that another belief was no longer valid: the oceans could not provide enough distance to protect America from harm. If Hudsons could be flown in stages from California to England, then it could not be long before other, perhaps hostile, bombers could fly over American soil. In December 1941, Japanese aircraft did just that, putting an end to the myths of American isolation and security.

Pembina’s brief moment of world attention, then, was part of the demise of American innocence. Neither the small town nor the great nation could remain isolated from the course of world events in modern times.

Saturday, May 06, 2006


The station during its heydey, near I-29 on the west side of Pembina...
KCND was the name of a small independent television station in Pembina, North Dakota, which first signed on in 1959. 
KCND was purchased by Winnipeg, Manitoba businessman Izzy Asper in 1974 and relocated to Winnipeg. 
The station signed off as KCND for the final time on September 1, 1975 and signed back on as CKND later that same day.

OK, that's the very short, official history of KCND. But MY history of the station runs a bit more like this...

- Chiller Thrillers! Mom and me, Saturday night, stay up to midnight, scared silly and loving it, chomping away at homemade buttered popcorn; we couldn't get enough of Vincent Price, Boris Karloff, or the old Hammer films with Christopher Lee & Peter Cushing, all thanks to scratchy old films KCND ran.

- Saturday & Sunday afternoon movies! All the classics from Errol Flynn's Robin Hood to Abbott & Costello Meets Frankenstein (I have never laughed harder before or since...); we didn't need cable or Turner Classic Movies - we had KCND programmers who got ahold of bad copies of great films and we the audience were all the beneficiaries.

- Christmas Concerts! All area schools would be invited to come and present mini-concerts on "Live TV", as a community service to the viewers at Christmas time.

- I met my first best friend! Thanks to KCND, I met a great friend when her Dad moved their family from Indiana to take an announcer job in Pembina where we met at a church youth group.

KCND Trivia: A modern pop band (once known as The Lucy Show), one of whose members lived in our area and grew up listening to KCND, eventually wrote a song directly relating to KCND, an homeage to their beloved Saturday night horror film series. It is aptly named, Channel 12 Chiller Thriller (KCND 10:30)!

Friday, May 05, 2006

Gamble Letter #16

In another recent post on this same story, I admitted I couldn't remember where I had read about it in the first place. Chalk it up to advancing senility, dear readers. I read about it in none other than the Gamble Letters!

Yes, I remembered when I was once again skimming through them today, and realizing that the NEXT letter (below), was where I had read it some weeks ago.

Without further ado, here is the second-hand account of the crooked Postmaster of St. Vincent...

St. Vincent
August the 8th, 1883

Dear father & Mother I now sit down to write a few lines to yous hoping these will find yous Well My family is all well but myself I am better today than I have been for three months back last week I took Nuralga* in my face and it all sweld up like a loaf When it is windy my teeth starts to ache I had good health til Now but that is enugh about Myself I hope My Mother is some better We would have wrote Sooner but they are all so busey now with the hay and the wether is very Showery there is all apearance of a good crop this year it was very dry all sumer and warm there has been great robbery in the post office here this last while regestered letters would be opened and the money taken out there come detecteves from the government and they went to Winnipeg and sent decoy letters to St. Vincent with money in them and marked the bills and then came themselves and got drinking with the post master and he pulled out there own money to treat them and they took him prisnor right there every one says he will get ten yers at least [2 pages missing]

Mary Ann Gamble

* - Nuralga, or Neuralgia: In old medical terminology of the period, it described discomfort, such as "Headache" was neuralgia in head

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Gamble Letter #15

An early Pembina July 4th parade...
St. Vincent
July 9, 1883

My dear Maggie we received your kind and welcome letter and we were sorry to hear that Grandma was not better this is the dryest summer we have had since we came here there is a bad prospect of any crops this year ma has been sick all this summer ma thought she would go to see yous this summer but she is to sick to go We had a good time on the fourth of July, there were all kind of races and dancing and the band was from Winnipeg and there was fireworks at night there was a procession in the morning there was a bad accident here on Thursday night a man got run over by the train they say he fell asleep on the track and the engine passed over him before they could stop it his name was James Woods he was just up from Ontario and was taking up land we go to sunday school every sunday now you asked me how Mr. Cowan lost his stock they all died I do not think they take very good care of their stock. The station and Custom house is going to be built quite near us they are going to be large buildings. There has been a good many sudden deaths here but you do not know the people.

There is to be a large circus in Emerson on the 20th of July, it is one dollar to get in. We be very busy now time are rather dull here just now there is a great many travling around out of employment. Alick is still at the pump. We all hope that Grandma will get better write soon for we all think the time long when we do not hear from you. I think I must finish now we all send our kind love to yous all

Ellen Gamble

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Children's Blizzard of January 1888

On January 12, 1888, "...the mercury fell within twenty-four hours from 74 above zero to 28 below it in some places, and in Dakota went down to 40 below zero. In fine clear weather, with little or no warning, the sky darkened and the air was filled with snow, or ice-dust, as fine as flour, driven before a wind so furious and roaring that men's voices were inaudible at a distance of six feet. Men in the fields and children on their way from school died ere they could reach shelter; some of them having been not frozen, but suffocated from the impossiblility of breathing the blizzard." - from The Big Brash Blizzard of 1888, by Dick Taylor

The Gamble letters have a gap with no letters in 1888, so they are unfortunately silent concerning this storm.

But one source - a biography of a storm, if you will - is David Laskin's "The Children's Blizzard", which I can't recommend highly enough. It covers the communities and individuals - through news accounts, officials records of the time, and narratives by the survivors - of our region, and what they saw and experiences that day they never forgot...

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Purdy Horgan & the Pembina Museum Saga

I was just informed yesterday, that the items I requested from the State Historical Society of North Dakota in Bismarck, was picked up in Bismarck last Friday, and is now available for my perusal at NDSU's Institute for Regional Studies here in Fargo, where I live. To say I am excited is an understatement! I'll be going in tomorrow afternoon and taking my first look at the contents, and spending all day Friday (which I am taking off as another vacation day especially for this occasion) at the Institute taking a closer look. This weekend, if not before, I'll definitely be posting my first take on what I find, right here...

Today I received a response to a letter of inquiry to a Purdy Horgan from Cavalier, ND. I had never heard of Purdy, but was put on the trail to him via a lady I found thanks to a fellow Freecycle Fargo person (long story, but let us say, it pays to network!)

Purdy is an elderly man who has had involvement in the historical preservation community in the area I come from, on the North Dakota side of the Red River, in Pembina County. I had asked Purdy what he knew about the contents of the former Pembina Museum, how they were dispursed, since I knew I didn't know the whole story yet.

I will quote his letter in full, since it is an interesting and colorful read...I think I would really like this Purdy...
Cavalier, N.Dak.
April 27, 2006

Dear Ms. Lewis:

If you have a couple of seconds to squander I will be happy to tell you all I know about the "Icelandic Museum".

The Museum you refer to is the Pembina County Historical Society Museum. DUe to building deterioration and lack of handicap accessability it was necessary to abandon the old location in town. Consensus of the opinion of many people OK'ed the selection of a site in the Icelandic State Park (what a misnomer - this is not an Icelandic State Park...it is a North Dakota State Park) five miles west of Cavalier, at Lake Renwick.

Four hundred feet north of the Museum complex and across Highway #5 is the entrance to the park. The park offices are located there within the Northeastern North Dakota Heritage building, which is often mistaken for a museum - which it is not. It is a Pioneer Interpretive Center covering the settlement days to the present, in the northern Red River Valley of Pembina County. It is difficult to keep these enterprises in their proper perspective.

There is one more Museum in the county - the North Dakota State Museum at Pembina.

Elmer Barry's collection was on display in the old Pembina City Museum for many years. Due to possible Red River flooding every spring, it was necessary to move all the artifacts to higher ground. The transportation was furnished by high school students excused from class for the chore. It was a blast for those who were capable but age and responsibilitiy allowed a certain amount of horse play resulting in like amount of carelessness and toll on the objections of salvation.

One spring - perhaps ten years ago - the City, unwittingly asked the North Dakota Heritage Association [Note: I may be wrong here, but I think Purdy actually means the State Historical Society of North Dakota here - I searched extensively online and cannot locate a North Dakota Heritage Association anywhere...] for help while there was still some unbroken artifacts left. Of course the NDHA was more than happy to help. In a few days several trucks arrived, loaded the entire collection, and took it to Bismarck.

Now - with the exception of a few items donated by other people, the rest of the stuff belonged to Elmer's daughter, Mrs. Cummings, living a long ways from Pembina County. Try as she might there was no way NDHA would relinquish control of the exhibit. THey did make one last seemingly safe offer. She was informed the exhibit would be returned if she had a safe place for it to be stored. In desperation she contacted the NEND Heritage Assocation.

Ninety percent of the exhibit would not be used by the local HC but there was a brand new full basement under a recently renovated Town Hall on the Center grounds. A deal was made between the PCHS and the NEND HC whereby the museum would take the exhibit and the Heritage Center would store it temporarily (it is not difficult for the two entities to deal - most of the members of the Society belong to the HC and vice versa...)

I was working in the HC the day a large truck came in from Bismarck with the load of the smaller items of the Barry collection. Being the Vice President of the Historical Society at the time, I was honored to sign for and also unload the truck, plus put all the stuff in the basement of the old Town Hall. Although there were several items missing (that is ANOTHER story...) Mrs. Cummings was so happy to have the exhibit back in Pembina County where it belonged she donated the whole shebang to the museum and made a substantial cash donation besides!

About the only way you could borrow anything from either place would be if you formed and registered a non-profit organization with an excellent credit rating. All of the books, papers, documents, and artifacts either on exhibit or in storage are available for research at all times but not to be removed from the premises. For further information you might need or clarification of my offer, contact:

Zelda Harje - Curator
PCHS Museum
13571 Hwy #5
Cavalier, N.Dak. 58220

Rosemarie Myrdal, President
NEND Heritage Assn.
13571 Hwy #5
Cavalier, N.Dak. 58220

Purdy Horgan

Monday, May 01, 2006

Gamble Letter #14

A typical prairie root cellar...
St. Vincent Minn
Oct 30th 1881

My dear Maggie we received your kind and welcome letter and was glad to hear that you were all well as this leaves us at present we were sorry to hear that Grandmama was so sick we thrashed on Thursday and had 140 pushels of oats and 40 bushels of barley we had 100 bushel of potatoes we go to school every day I got the first prize in American History it was an Album with lots of lovely pictus in it I did not go to Sunday School on sunday it was to muddy Samy is growing a big boy Willie is growing a big boy too he is in the third book - 19th century primerpapa has left the station and is going in Alick's place Alick has not been well all sumer he is going to school all winter Alice is going to school She is learning well She is going to write you a letter pa has made a root house to hold the potatoes and turnips - we are going to have a party on thanksgiving day we are going round gathering money We got 12 D on friday there is nothing particaular here just now Alice send you a picture you must write soon to us

Ellen Gamble

Silo Circuit Vaudeville

Marguerite Burnet Tambourine All Stars - Roy Studios (Petersborough, Ontario)
I asked my mother recently if movies were ever shown in St. Vincent and Pembina. She said yes, but in town halls, not movie houses.

She also said there were live acts that put on shows in the halls, but wasn't sure if it was strictly amateur, or also professional (vaudeville, etc.)

There very well could have been professional shows. According to Frank Cullen, American Vaudeville Museum, this area "...was on the 'death trail' or 'silo circuit' of vaudeville; an excerpt from my forthcoming two-volume set, Vaudeville: Old & New: an Encyclopedia of Variety Performers in America (to be published by Routledge, September 2006)":
The 'Death Trail' was a patchwork of theatres on several small small-time circuits, such as Ackerman & Harris, and Webster's. George Webster sometimes booked only one live performer and one film and demanded as many as ten shows a day. Among the Canadian outposts on the 'Death Trail' were Winnipeg, Regina, Moose Jaw, Saskatoon, Medicine Hat, Calgary and Edmonton. The situation on the USA side of the border wasn't much better, with dates in garden spots like Fargo, Jamestown and Deadwood in the Dakotas, Duluth in Minnesota, Butte and Missoula in Montana and Coeur d'Alene, Idaho.