Monday, July 31, 2006

Bouvette Family

Frank Bouvette
I was contacted out of the blue today by Ayla Z. Who is Ayla Z, you might ask? Well, after looking at her family website, it looks like some of you who might be reading this already know. I see she has had contact with Dr. Bouvette (whom I knew of growing up), as well as Candy Wood from up Pembina way.

It is very special to cross paths with people whose ancestors lived among us once in the places of meaning we hold dear. That's what this website is all about - the places.


My grandfather, Sheldon Albert Fitzpatrick, was a beekeeper; it was one of his many talents. The others included carpentry, farming, and community service (he was town treasurer, mayor, and cemetery caretaker...)

I asked my mother recently about Grandpa's reasons for being a beekeeper, and she said, "To make money!" She went on to explain that there weren't a lot of ways to make money in those days (during Depression); besides selling the honey itself, he used it in his bootlegging. He got some of the supplies for making his brews from Emerson, and the rest he provided himself, including the honey...Mom said it was pretty strong, something like 25% alcohol, and people seemed to like it. He used an old shanty-roofed shed to make it in.

My cousin, another granddaughter, told me, "My Mom, too, often talked of Grandpa & his bees. She said in all the years he had bees he never got stung by them. They did lots of things to make money in those days. Did your Mom say why Grandpa got rid of the bees? I sort of remember Mom saying something about losing them all somehow or something bad happening that caused Grandpa to give up and quit the bee business..."

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

A Book About a Place, & Its People...

I'm currently reading Forgetting Ireland, a local history book written by a woman who grew up in the area written about (Graceville, Minnesota...) She not only grew up there, but is part of the story, in a way.

It makes fascinating reading because many of the types of people in her story, how they related to one another, and the petty squabbles between villages all seem very, very familiar...!

Monday, July 24, 2006

Featured in Home Paper

Patricia (Short) Lewis, Fargo, formerly of St. Vincent, has started a blog (online journal) about St. Vincent and surrounding areas. Take a peek at her blog as it features many interesting entries and photos. Trish is looking to collect history on the area, especially St. Vincent. If you have any information for Trish you may email her at . Or, contact me and I’ll provide her telephone number or mailing address.
In a recent issue of the Kittson County Enterprise, this website was featured in a new column on history of the Humboldt/St. Vincent/Pembina towns and their residents. The columnist is a daughter of a couple who I attended church with the entire time I was growing up. While we didn't know one another well then due to the age difference, I am happy to make her acquaintence now, as we have a lot in common in loving our home area and its history. Thanks, Heather, for the spotlight - it's always good to spread the word so we gather more readers and (hopefully) find out more of our common history...

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Gamble Letter #28

1886 toboggan slide near St. Paul, similar to the one St. Vincent had during the same period...
St Vincent
December 6, 1886

My dear Maggie and Grandpa we received your kind and welcome letter and was glad to hear that you were well as this leaves us all well at present we are having very cold weather just now but we have had a lovely fall it did not freeze up till late and then it did not snow for a long while after it froze up and there was lovely skating on the lake we went down every night till the snow came we had a splendid time there would be lots of people from the town as there was not good skating on the river We have got a nice tobaggan slide in St Vincent down the river hill We went to a dance out in country about 5 miles we had a splendid time we staid till about 4 o'clock in the morning you should go to dances sometimes it is awful nice when once you start Alick and Ellen were at one down town too I guess there will soon be another When Alick was out hunting they shot about 148 rabitts in one day they staid 5 days the first 4 days they were hunting deer but they did not get any they shot the rabbits as they were coming home there was four of them out hunting There was 8 other fellows went out for a month and they killed a lot of game Alice does not go to school since the cold weather begun but we all go to church and sunday school I heard pa speaking about Sam Jones the minister he reads all of what he says out of the papers and he says he is a good man We sent away for some cards with our name and sammy is going to send you one each Alick and Ellen will send you one the next time there was Bishop Gilbertconfirmation in our church there was 14 confirmed it was a new bishop his name is Gilpert wheat is a very low price it is 58 cents a bushel and there is hardly any oats or barley to be bought at all We have not sold any of our grain yet as they think the price will raise it has been very cold this last week past - it has been 30 degrees below zero but it was warmer today and yestarday Lizzie is staying with a woman in Pembina for a while she is well she told me to tell you she could have been married lots of times only she didn't want a man that drinks I think I read in the paper where Sam Jones said he would sooner be a 50-year-old-maid than be married to a drunkard if he was a girl and Lizzie said she would too Alick liked the tract you sent him very much I think I have told you all the news Hoping to hear from you soon I remain your affectionate friend Jannie Gamble Write soon and tell us all the news J.G.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

The Town's Dead

I wish I had had the foresight to copy down some of the names, places of birth, and causes of death, that I saw in the old St. Vincent Cemetery book.

My grandfather and father were caretakers of the cemetery, so I had ready access to the book for many years. I saw how many died of 'consumption' or 'old age', or 'hardening of the arteries'. Their names and lot numbers where they were buried, carefully plotted out on paper and on the earth itself, by my father in front of me.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Red River Valley WWII POW Camps

Algona POW Camp System was based out of Iowa during World War II. The camps held prisoners-of-war of the Allies, including many Germans.

The northern-most camp in the system was in Grafton, ND, just a stones-throw relatively speaking from the St. Vincent/Pembina area...

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Gamble Letter #27

St Vincent
July 26th 1886

My Dear Maggie and Granpa

We received your kind letter and was glad to hear that you were well as this leaves us allw ell at present I thought sure there was something wrong you were so long in writing and you may be sure we were glad when we got your letter

We are having very dry weather here there has been very little rain this summer We will start to cut some of our grain next week the crops are not very good on account of the dry weather the gardens does not look very good either they say there will not be many patoes this year there was a big day in Pembina on the 5th of July the 4th came on sunday so they held it on the 5th in the fore noon there was Speech and reading in the grove and in the afternoon there was a game of base ball played by the Pembina boys and the boys from Bathgate the Pembina boys got beat then after the base ball there was races of all kind and at night there was fire-works and a ball Alick and Ellen went to the Ball and they had a splendid time

It is haying time Just now we have up about 30 ton it is not very good this year. I suppose there is lots of berries there I wish we lived near where there some rasp berries every other year there was a few but this year there is none Lizzie and I went out picking one day last and we got 2 cups full there is no fruit here of any kind not even cranberries there is no hazel nuts either I think the frost in June must have killed them

This is ahorrible letter all blots and half of the words not spell I was never a good writer there was talk of being another picnic here and a game of base ball but they say it is too busy a time

I said when Ellen was so long in writing the last time that I would write this time But I think i will have to stop this scribbling or I will be ashamed to send it - we all join in sending our love to you and granpa hoping to hear from you soon I remain

Yours truly
Jannie Gamble

Alick told me to tell you that he never does be sick now and to write soon and tell us all the news J.G.

Excuse mistakes please I am sending you a card it is not very nice but the verse on it is lovely He that loveth not knoweth not God for God is love

Friday, July 07, 2006

From the SCRIBE TRIBE archives...

Dick Lapp's Reminiscences
of the U.S. Customs Service
by Don Keller

Prohibition was the name of the game when Dick Lapp entered the Customs Service in 1928. It was the era of John Dillinger, flappers, booze, speakeasies and Silent Cal. It was probably one of the most exciting times to be in the Customs Service. The Immigration Service, plus the Border Patrol and the Customs Service with the Customs Patrol, formed a very thin screen between Canada, with an unending supply of liquor, and a thirsty American public.

A smuggler awaiting arraignment told Dick that he was crazy to work for the Customs. He told him that he could make $2000 to $3000 a week running booze from Winnipeg to Minneapolis. He said that a single load of thirty cases meant a thousand dollars profit.

One winter evening a Border Patrolman became curious about the driver of a Ford coupe in Pembina. The patrolman had been on his way to pick up his partner at the bank corner and together they were scheduled to check the northbound NP passenger train. The driver of the Ford coupe cooperated beautifully as he drove past the bank. He evidently realized that he was being followed as he accelerated considerably going across the bridge. The Border Patrolman stopped to pick up his partner and they took up pursuit. As they cleared the Red River bridge [NOTE: By now, they must be in St. Vincent as I read it ] they saw taillights turn off the highway on the road leading to the school. About a block north of the highway they came upon the abandoned car. A quick search of the neighborhood failed to turn up the driver. They called for reinforcements and the area to the north was thoroughly searched, as they felt he would make an attempt to get across the border. The search was in vain, but when they got the car back to the barracks they emptied it of 711 bottles of whiskey. The next morning they returned to the scene of the abandonment and discovered the driver's tracks leading to an overturned water storage tank. Lifting up the tank they estimated from the amount of cigarette butts, that the driver had spent most of the night inside.

In 1928, the customs office at Noyes did not open for car traffic until 9:00am. By that time during the summer, cars were lined up back to where the Canadian office is now located. The Canadian office was in the post office building in Emerson. The Noyes office was located in the present Great Northern and Soo Line Depot and the highway ran alongside the Great Northern tracks.

During Mr. Lapp's first summer of work as an inspector at Noyes, they had orders to go through every car thoroughly for undeclared and prohibited items, particularly liquor. The Great Northern kept one steam engine stationed at Noyes. Mr. Lapp remembers how on hot afternoons the crew enjoyed backing their engine to the section of track nearest the inspection area. Between the hot afternoon sun and the panting steam engine both trying to outdo each other in the release of heat, and the mounting irritation of the auto's occupants, it was a very warm occupation.

One day they received a call at Noyes that a young man, his wife and baby had just checked out of a hotel in St. Norbert. They were U.S. residents and the hotel keeper suspected they would be heading to the United States. When the man had paid his bill, she placed the money in the safe but before she locked it she was called to another room. When she returned, the man, fifty-four dollars in currency, and a lady's #75.00 wristwatch had departed. She gave a good description of the car and its occupants and in due time they arrived.

Mr. Lapp had been called from Pembina to assist in the search as nothing had been discovered the first time through. When Dick arrived he noticed that the young man exhibited extreme nervousness. After searching the upholstery for a small tear where the money and watch could be secreted, Dick asked the other inspector if he had looked under the floor mat. Before the inspector could reply, the young man jerked out a pack of cigarettes. In his haste to take out one, the watch came flying out. Then lifting the floor mat the fifty-four dollars was discovered.

On day a letter came to Noyes from a disgruntled gentleman in Winnipeg. He said that he was sick and tired of listening to four young men, with whom he worked, brag about smuggling four, forty-ounce bottles of whiskey into the United States each weekend, which they would sell for twenty dollars apiece on their arrival at Detroit Lakes, Minnesota. Their profit covered all of their expenses for the entire weekend. The gentleman did not know where they secreted the whiskey but he gave a good description of the car.

The next Saturday morning the four young men, all well dressed and nicely groomed, arrived in the described car. A reasonably thorough search disclosed no liquor. One of the older inspectors suggested they take the car over to the gas station and put it over the grease pit. (For you younger readers, gas stations were not equipped with hydraulic hoists in those days.) The older inspector, having several years of seniority and being rather rastidious, suggested that Dick get down in the pit. Dick looked it over from stem to stern but noticed nothing amiss. He did happen to remark, however, that he did not know that Fords had two mufflers. The other inspector said they didn't and brought a hammer to Dick and told him to tap them. The first "muffler" he tapped gave off not metallic clang whatsoever. It turned out to be an innertube and with the four forty-ounce bottles inside, it closely resembled the other muffler. After paying the five dollar penalty for each bottle, the young men declined the opportunity to continue their trip to Detroit Lakes and returned to Winnipeg.

Most of the information received by customs was good, but sometimes it went awry. One day they received a tip that a quantity of liquor would be coming through the border in a blue Cadillac. The car was described in detail. The inspectors were given specific instructions that if the Cadillac showed they were not to let it go until they had located the whiskey.

In short times a blue Cadillac appeared, driven by a dapper man in his late forties. A thorough search of the car revealed no liquor. One of the inspectors went into the customs office and secured two long hatpins. With these in hand, they began probing the backs of the fronts and rear seats. The driver who had told them repeatedly that he had no liquor, now became irate. Undaunted, the two inspectors continued their probing to no avail. One finally remarked to the other, "We've looked everywhere. It's gotta be in the tires." Beginning with the spare they let the air out of all the tires. Still no whiskey. They had neglected to move the tar over to the gas station near the air hose and the driver lost his composure completely. He told them they "bloody well better" blow up his tires and that he would see someone about getting them fired. About fifteen minutes after the two perspiring inspectors succeeded in blowing up the tires with hand pumps and had given the gentleman permission to proceed, an identical blue Cadillac showed up, complete with the whiskey.

Several years before Mr. Lapp joined the Customs he was employed by a customs broker. He happened to be at Noyes one evening when three special trains, two on the Soo Line and one on the Great northern, arrived. They continued members of an organization which shall remain nameless. They had been attending a convention in Winnipeg and evidently the huge majority sought to lay up an entire year's supply of liquor. Customs had barely started their inspection when it became apparent they would have difficulty carrying off all the whiskey. So they requisitioned a quantity of pillow slips from the sleeper cars and it was soon necessary to recruit members of the train crew and the section crew to help carrying it off.

One of Dick's co-workers at the brokerage house was watching the fun with him. Suddenly he remarked, "You know, Dick, all of that liquor is not going into the customs office." As they watched, they noted some of the rail crew helping to carrying it off, slipping into a passageway through the depot leading to the Soo Line tracks. Dick's co-worker disappeared for a short time and he came back with a self-satisfied smile. He had moved some of the liquor from the crew's hiding place to a hiding place of his own.

The penalty for attempting to smuggle a bottle of liquor into the United States was five dollars a bottle regardless of the size of the bottle. On smuggler learned this to his dismay. He had removed all the lining fabric from a Model "A" coupe. He then carefully packed three miniature (two ounce bottles) into the exposed space and then replaced the fabric. His fine amounted to fifteen hundred dollars. The gas station operator at Noyes cashed his check after Customs refused to accept it and the would be smuggler went on his way a sadder but a wise man.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Becoming a Citizen

While on a trip to the twin cities this long weekend, I visited the Minnesota Historical Society headquarters' library and did a bit of research. I found both of my great grandfathers' paperwork concerning naturalizations. I had noticed years before there was no confirmation in the census record for my great grandfather William Fitzgerald for actual naturalization and citizenship. I got conformation of it this weekend. He only did what is called a declaraction of intent, but never followed up on it. I have no idea why...

On the other hand, my other great grandfather, Sheldon Albert Fitzpatrick, did finish the process and become a citizen. The strange thing is, it didn't seem to make any difference since the Fitzgeralds stayed and never had problems being deported, and their descendents have always been considered American citizens.