Wednesday, August 30, 2006

The Other End of the Valley

Fargo-Moorhead waterfront in 1887
"When the spectators reached the gallows, Brown was standing on the drop, on either side being a priest, all engaged in half audible prayer… Sheriff Jensen then tied Brown's feet, and adjusted the noose about his neck, the knot being behind his right ear… In a weak and trembling voice, almost inaudible he bade the jailor, Sheriff and priests goodbye, shaking hands with them and wishing them well. He then turned to the spectators, half smiled and nodded a farewell. The black cap was then pulled over his head and fastened under the chin..."
Historical stories and photos from the southern end of the Red River Valley...

Sunday, August 27, 2006

The Roundhouse & the 1893 Flood

Click to enlargeFrom an essay by Mrs. Dick Lapp, featured in a book called "Our Northwest Corner", this photo shows a scene from the 1893 flood. The camera faces east going out of town, the tracks leading off to the St. Vincent roundhouse (where Alick Gamble worked...), which you can see in the distance. The flood waters are spilling over the tracks, where a curious dog is checking things out. Further east past the dog, you can make out the tracks having been moved off the railroad bed, as well as a boat with some people traversing the flood waters. Telegraph poles follow the railroad line out of town...

Here is the essay the image was taken from; simply click on the essay image to enlarge and read...

Click to enlarge

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

William Gamble

William Gamble built this home in St. Vincent in the early 1900s; his descendents tell me that "...the house was by the railroad tracks across the field from Alexander and Mary Ann's."

He was one of the Gamble children, brother and son of those whose letters you've been reading in this blog over the past several weeks...

If you have wondered what William looked like, here is a photo of him in his later years taken by one of his grandchildren.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Gamble Letter #30

When I was growing up in St. Vincent, we had a lot more things to do - radio, TV, faster transportation to get from town to town and even to larger cities for shopping and other entertainments - so living in a small town wasn't so isolating. However, when the Gambles lived in St. Vincent, the younger members of the family especially felt cut off from life during the deep winter months. In this letter, you can read between the lines and tell that Alice is greatly looking forward to spring, and to a future of possibilities...
St. Vincent Minn
Feb. 24, 1894

Dear Auntie:

I received your letter a long time ago and as I had forgotten it you must excuse me this time. Jennie's address is Mrs. John H. Griffith, Jr. just as it was in the paper. Lizzie has a dear little baby girl, she was born the 22nd of Jan., she is a sweet little thing, and hardly ever cries. We are all quite proud of her, you may be sure. I only attended school one month this winter Sammie has attended quite regular and is getting on nicely Ellen is going to teach again in a week. Her term is for five months It has been a beautiful winter so far, the warmest they say it has been for many years, it is so warm now we expect spring anytime.

The winter has been very dull, no amusement of any kind except a dance now and then. But I seldom go to any of them. We find it very lonely now since Jennie, Lizzie, and Aleck are married, and especially when Ellen is away for so long I expect I must stop writing as it is late. You must excuse this letter for I am not accustomed to writing letters. But I will try and do my best next time. Write soon and I will answer directly.

From your loving niece,
Alice Gamble

I believe I forgot to say that we are all well, and hope this will find grandpa and you well too. Alice

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Anatomy of a Town Tragedy - 1954

It was the the late 1940's. Life was good. It would be nearly 10 years before it would all end in a series of tragedies, one of them that affected not only this family, but the entire town of St. Vincent and beyond...

This is a photograph of my uncle John Fitzpatrick, my aunt Lena, and their three cousins Marlene, Alice, and Elaine (the twins) - it was taken around 1946 when tragedy was the farthest thing from anyone's mind.

It is now several years later, in 1954. It is early spring, and Elaine is walking home from Catechism class at St. Anne's Catholic Church with one of two small groups of kids. Unbeknownst to the groups, bearing down on them was a very drunk man named John Slater. Witnesses that day later say that the driver was weaving all over the road as he came off the bridge and down into town. When he approached where the two groups were walking, one on each side of the road, he hit one group, then swerved wildly and hit the other. Among several victims, my cousin Elaine died at the scene within minutes. My grandfather ran down the street, knowing something was horribly wrong. The scene was chaos, shock, and death where moments ago was peace and laughter...

It is now June of the same year. It's the midst of a hot spell. The ladies aid is meeting at the North Star Church. Down the road a ways, at the Fitzpatrick farm, Marlene and Alice are about to cool off in the dugout, their father working nearby.

There were no witnesses to what happened next, only conjecture.

At some point, uncle John must have noticed something was wrong. Maybe there was a cry for help. Maybe he heard loud splashing. Whatever it was, he knew his daughters were in trouble and jumped in to help.

John was my mother's older (and only) brother. He had been an athelete in high school. The girls knew how to swim. John, now in middle age, was a strong man and known to be a good swimmer. For whatever reason, none of those factors were enough.

Later that day, when --- stopped by, no one could be found at first. Finally a hat was noticed floating on the dugout's surface. The Webster brothers, from the next farm over, were called upon to search the pond. They found all three of them at the bottom.

Although no one to this day has confirmed it to me, I have often wondered if they found at least one of the daughter's arms in a frantic embrace around their father's neck. Sometimes a drowning victim will panic so badly, they will pull down their rescuer and take them with them into a watery grave. On the other hand, there were (mostly) unsaid rumors that grief may have played a role. Maybe at some point my uncle gave up. Maybe it was even a darker scenario. He was known to have never been the same after Elaine died in the drunk driving accident. We will never know.

And what happened to my aunt Lena? She had a nervous breakdown. Little wonder, considering that she lost her entire family within three months. She later remarried, and had a happy second half to her life, thankfully. That is when I met her.

I never knew my uncle, or my cousins - I was born five years after they passed away. I often heard the stories of that summer, and many times saw their graves at the cemetery. It would have been nice to have known my uncle, and my cousins, and grew up near such close relatives. But it wasn't mean to be.

Around 2001, I was contacted out of the blue by Kevin Slator. He sent me an email by way of introduction. He explained that he was the grandson of the man who killed the cousin I had never met. He wanted to collaborate with me on family histories where our two families had intersected, i.e., the accident. He ended by saying he would understand if I did not want to.

I wrote back to Kevin saying that was your grandfather, not you, and I was very interested. We ended up having a fascinating correspondence over many months, where I learned a wealth of information from Kevin about the incident that affected both our families so deeply. Kevin had done extensive research, which he summarized in a series of tables; be sure and check them out below, to see a chronology of what happened, and a "Who's Who" of the people involved in the story...

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Gamble Letter #29

St. Vincent, Minnesota
December 17, 1893

My Dear Maggie

I will now try to answer your welcome letter which I received some time ago I sent you a paper containing my Marriage notice about a month ago. But you cant have got it or you would have mentioned it. I was married on the 19th of October. I am living in St. Vincent now we have a nice house with three big rooms down stairs and three up stairs, it is quite different from living on the farm. We are having very cold weather now and have had it cold for a long time back. I would have written long ago but we had our photos taken six weeks ago and I was waiting to send you one. And I thought I had better not wait nay longer. As there was not any word of them coming. But I will send you one as soon as they come We had a grand dance here last week There is a younge man dying of consumption and is quite poor so the dance was got up for his benifit. We made over twenty six dollars at it. Ellen is teaching school out at Jadis again she will be home on Christmas. Samie is attending school. Alice does not go there is to much for her to do at home. Willie does most of the work out there now he built a nice big barn this fall he is quite a good carpenter and built it all alone. He has eleven head of horses to klook after and has to haul hay and wood. How is the weather down ther? is it cold? How is Grandpa keeping, I hope the cold weather coming on will not make him worse. There is nothing going on around here at all and I have not any more news to tell you. As soon as we get the photos I will send you one. I will close with wishing you both a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year and ask you to writer sooner than I did with kind Love from all to you both, I remain

Your affectionate friend
Jennie [Gamble] Griffith
St. Vincent

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Ma Short

Casey Dorion contacted me this week to ask, since my maiden name is Short, if I was related to "Ma Short" as he called her.

Liza Short - popularly known in her day as Ma Short - was the better half of the husband and wife team Gail and Liza Short, who ran Short's Cafe in St. Vincent. I'm not sure when they started the cafe, nor when it officially stopped, but I do remember Liza still living in the building when I was a child in the 1960s. I still possess, from my parents, an old cafe calendar from 1939, as well as a bottle opener that says "Short and Stranger", which indicates to me that they must have been business partners before marriage, since Liza's maiden name was Stranger.

Anyways, back to Casey's email...I responded to him explaining yes, in a way I was. My Dad was Gordon Short, Gail's nephew. I would be Liza's grand-niece, and she would be my great aunt through marriage. Jean, her daughter, was good friends with my mother Harriet (Fitzpatrick) Short.

I was quite amused by Casey's further comments about his memories (I assume good ones) of his and and friends being able to obtain 3.2 beer from Ma Short when they were in high school. I laughed when I read that, because it triggered a memory of my mother saying if there was a way to make a buck, Liza would find a way! This would have been after February 1933, by the way, because prior to the Blaine Act, all alcohol was illegal due to Prohibition.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

The Cowan Family

A descendent of the Cowan family, who lived in the St. Vincent area during its early years, recently contacted me with what they knew of their family. So far, I haven't found much beyond what they already know. If anyone reading this knows more, please let me know...
Names: Capt. Mathew Cowan, born Brock Ontario, Canada, buried St Vincent October 23, 1907
Mary Caroline Cowan nee Gibbs, born Brock Ontario, Canada, born April 10, 1836. died April 6, 1901, buried St. Vincent

Immigrated in 1870 from Brock or Cannington, Ontario, Canada to St. Vincent.
They settled on a quarter section of land now owned by Lloyd Symington just north of the Seed farm.

They had the following childern: (most are buried in St. Vincent Cemetery)

1. John Charles Cowan
2. Robert Thomas Cowan
3. Willam Gibbs Cowan
4. George Richard Cowan
5. Elizabeth Ann Cowan
6. Ellen Nellie Cowan
7. James Francis Nicholas Cowan
8. Frederick Nicholas Cowan
9. Arthur Glover Cowan
10. Margaret Caroline Cowan

"My grandfather was Arthur Glover Cowan and I was wondering if he or my great grandparents were American citizens. I really don't know where my grandfather was born, all I know his he was born October 30,1878 and died in Winnipeg Man. November 4, 1953."

Featured in...OddTodd?

Until today, I had never heard of - but... this website was featured on it today because a current St. Vincent resident wrote him a letter...