Thursday, September 28, 2006

Humboldt Centennial

Humboldt, Minnesota will be celebrating its centennial next year.

They have recently put up a website with the beginnings of information for upcoming celebrations in 2007, including an all-school reunion for Humboldt-St. Vincent classes.

I encourage everyone to make plans to attend, and hope to see you there!

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Lena is Found...and more

Yes, Lena has been found (thanks to Keith Finney - MANY THANKS, Keith!) More on that later in the post.

Speaking of whom, Keith is a distant relative of sorts (relatives on my Mom's side of the family married into the Finney family years ago...of course, we married into just about all Kittson County families - as my Mom always says, we're related to everyone up there...!) wrote to say that Dale Webster was one of the two men who found my cousins and uncle. My cousin Delphine took the information and called Dale a couple of days ago, and this is what she found out...
I told him who I was, and why I called, and all he said was, "Yes I do remember that. My brother and I are the ones who dove in to find them. Lena went to the farm and couldn't find them anywhere so she came and asked us to go help look for them. We went to the farm and looked around and then we discovered John's hat floating in the dugout. The girls clothes were all neatly folded and laying on the bank as if they planned to stay there for a while. The banks were real muddy and slick. We dove into the dugout and found all 3 of them laying at the bottom."

Delphine went on to comment that she had always heard that there was like a heal mark in the mud that slid down looking like one of the girls had slipped and fell in and perhaps the other jumped in to help her. She mentioned this to Mr. Webster but he didn't confirm this to be true.

She also said, "I had always heard that uncle John's face was grimaced and he was sort of curled up looking like when he hit the water he had a bad cramp. And people wondered why he drowned as he was a good swimmer so I asked Mr. Webster."
Delphine: I understand Uncle John was grimaced and curled up like he had a cramp when he hit the water.

Mr. Webster: No he was just laying there at the bottom of the dugout. I sure didn't sleep that night.

Delphine: That must have been awful traumatic for you; I never realized it was you who had to bring them out.

Mr. Webster: Yes, it was a very bad day.
My cousin ended by saying "...there was a lot of speculation that John had taken the girls and himself and committed suicide because he just would not accept the death of Elaine. It was known that he used to even go out and sleep on her grave because he didn't want her alone out there in the dark. But it is a mystery that no one will ever know anything about because they only had tell tale signs to go by. It was also told that Uncle John was evidently in the quanset hut shovelling grain while the girls were playing by the dugout and when he heard them scream it looked like he had thrown the shovel aside and ran out to save them but being all hot and sweaty from shovelling grain he got a cramp when he hit the water and that was why they all drowned. Nothing much else to tell or find out about it as it was all speculation as to what and why it happened."
My Mom used to mention (and Delphine reminded me of this just today) about how my sister Sharon was so upset by all that happened that year, that she lost her hair; although she was only 6 years old, it caused her hair to come out in clumps, and she even lost her eyelashes and eyebrows.

As regards Lena now? Well my cousin also talked to her this week after finding out she was alive and well, still living alone...
I just called her and talked to her. She is still living alone at age 92. She said though that she just got out of the hospital as she had gout so bad she couldn't walk. Was in for 4 days. She was still in bed as very weak after the hospital stay but was going to try to get up and make herself a cup of coffee. I am not real sure if she remembered me or not as I told her it was Delphine but she didn't make any comment about that. No surprise or anything that it was me calling so I am not sure. I asked "This is Lena Nordstrom isn't it?" She said yes. I told her my Mom was still living also and was 94. She didn't say much about that either. But she was maybe still groggy from sleep and having been in the hospital. When I told her Mom was in a nursing home she said she thought maybe she would have to go into one too as it was too hard to do all the work she had to do now...When we said goodbye she told me to call her again. will wait for a week or so and hopefully she will be more recuperated and can talk better. Thank you Thank you all for having been so helpful in trying to find her. Now I can tell my Mom, too, that I talked to Lena.
Yes, everyone from back home, a hearty thank you for all the assistance in finding Lena. She has led quite a life, a full, long life with its ups and downs, and truly an inspiration to many...

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Looking for Lena

NOTE: I am posting this in hopes that someone reading this will either know the answer, or will pass on my question to someone else that might know: What Happened to Lena? Our family has lost touch since my mother has grown frail, her being our main link with Lena. If you do know anything, please contact me as soon as possible...

Recently, I posted about a tragedy that happened to my family 50 years ago in St. Vincent. It brought up many memories in my family, and we've been discussing those times once again.

I learned, for instance, that there is much more to the story than what I originally knew, particularly concerning my Aunt Lena; an older cousin recently told me her memories of that time...
In a two year span Lena lost first her Dad, then the daughter [by drunk driver], then her Mom died, then the other two girls and her husband then her brother who was a night watchman was murdered...he didn't come home one morning and upon investigation they found him laying in a ditch murdered. Later, she married Harold who had a 9 yr. old son named John and when he was 21 he committed suicide.

It was a terrible time. I can still see those white coffins. When Elaine was killed by that hit-and-run driver, Aunt Lena and Uncle John insisted on having the open coffin with Elaine in their living room for viewing. You had to go through the living room to get upstairs to the bedrooms. I can still see that beautiful girl laying there in that white coffin. There were roses filling the area and for years and years I could not stand roses and still have trouble today as every time I smell a rose I see Elaine laying there.

Then just 4 months later back for a triple funeral. Lena was Catholic but Uncle John wasn't so we had to go to his funeral at one church then go to the Catholic church after for Marlene and Alice. Lena was in the hospital from shock after the drownings and had been released just for the funerals. We were getting ready to go but Lena went into convulsions from all the pain and hurt and I believe had to go back into the hospital. I am not sure that she could even go to the funerals. I am not sure about that though but it seems she went right back into the hospital and didn't go to the funerals.

Many years later after having met and married Harold Nordstrom she got ill and went to the doctor for a check up. After a few tests the doctor asked her if she had suffered a great tragedy in her life so she told him of the past and he said he thought so as the muscles around her heart were like stone they were so hard.

She had one tragic life.
Lena's full name is Lena Rose Paul Fitzpatrick Nordstrom; Rose is her middle name, Paul is her maiden name, Fitzpatrick was her first marriage surname, and Nordstrom was her second marriage surname. If you know how to contact Lena, please let me know...

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

St. Vincent in the New Century

I walked up and down the sidewalks of St. Vincent, including this section, more times than I can count. My Mom told me that those sidewalks were once so smooth and straight, that when she was a little girl in the 1920's, she could rollerskate from one end of town to the other. By the time I was a little girl, grass was growing up between the sections, and in some places pieces of concrete had disappeared entirely.

But despite their imperfections, and even at my young age, I saw the passage of time and sensed a connection to my town's past and my family's roots, that only increased and became more special to me as the years rolled by. Others may have passed through, and still others may have left and forgotten, but I will never forget St. Vincent. Insignificant to most, unknown to even more, it was my home. My dreams abound with references and memories of it; its people and places, around each corner a new discovery, a secret trail, an abandoned house to explore, a secluded path that seemed like it was there just for me and only me.

I ran across this collection of St. Vincent photos taken recently by a former native of Thief River Falls now living in Seattle...

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Gamble Letter #31

The Gamble family has prospered much since they came to St. Vincent 25 years before. Children have grown up, and now they are having children of their own...

St. Vincent Minn
October 15, 1894

Dear Aunt Maggie,

I am going to now try and answer your last letter. The reason I did not answer sooner was because we have been so busy. The work has been very hard this last while we were preparing for the fall show, we took considerable prizes. I will send you the prize list next time I write. Jennie has a little girl, she is about three weeks old. I think, I forget the date, but will try to get the paper and send it to you, she is going to call her Mary Alice, Mary for short. She is as fair as she could possibly be. I think she will be very pretty. Lizzies baby is as pretty as a picture and so sweet, she has never been known to cry yet with bad temper. I think her father thinks the most of her, of any person I ever saw, neither babies will have red hair.

Ellen is still teaching school, Sammie has not started to school yet. I always forget to mention Willie when I write, he is much bigger and stronger than Aleck now, and if ever there was a good boy lived Willie, is one, but as "Comical". Sammie is a dear little boy too. I always miss they two more than any of the rest. I am about 5 feet 7 or 8 inches tall and still growng but the growth is all upwards for I am very thin. A person said Ellen and I were the two slimest girls they ever seen please excuse this terrible letter. I think I will stop now hoping this will find you and Grandpa well I remain your loving niece

Alice Gamble

It is 10 oclock and I am up all alone, and am gettng tired, write soon. Good by I am going to dress Lizzies old Doll for her little girl I suppose you remember it we have the same head but it has had different bodies. Good by

Saturday, September 09, 2006

News from the Past

I must say that hours and hours can be spent before you know it, perusing Google's newly released newspaper archives!

Below is a snippet of the news of St. Vincent and Pembina many years ago...

The Alexandria Post
Alexandria, Douglas County, Minnesota
Saturday, January 13, 1872, page 4, col. 2

A soldier from Fort Pembina, a short time ago followed a deer track, accompanied by a musket and a bottle of whiskey. A party from the fort found the soldier next day, and he will keep anywhere hung up on a peg until the ground thaws so they can dig a grave.

[Transcribed from microfilm copy of newspaper at Minnesota History Center, St. Paul, MN]

The Freeborn County Standard
Thursday June 02, 1881
Albert Lea,Minnesota

Name Changed Alice, Kittson county, to Northcote.

The Freeborn County Standard
Wednesday, January 7, 1885
Albert Lea,Minnesota

Dr. G. Demars has held an inquest over the remains of Henry Eustrom, who under a spell of temporary insanity, shot himself through the left lung under the nipple. The diseased was the son of Capt. Eustrom, auditor of KITTSON COUNTY. He was manager of the large Kelso farm, twentv-seven years of age, sober, honest and respected by all. On January 6th he was to prove up his land, on the 7th he was to get married to a charming voung lady, Miss Christie Murray. He seemed to be happy, and no other cause but temporary aberration of mind can be ascribed for the sad deed, which he committed on the 27th day of December 1884.

The Freeborn County Standard
Wednesday, January 14, 1885
Albert Lea,Minnesota

- Henry Eustrom, son of Capt. Eustrom, auditor of KITTSON COUNTY, was accidentally shot by his own revolver while cleaning it at St. Vincent. He was twenty-four years old and unmarried.

- Charles Fox, deputy clerk of Clay county, skipped suddenly from Moorhead and was arrested at St Vincent He is charged with official crookedness.

The Standard
Thursday January 04, 1883
Albert Lea,Minnesota

Peter Johnson, a respected farmer living near Two Rivers, KITTSON COUNTY, started home from Hallock. His horses returning home without him, excited suspicion concerning his safety, and his family started in search of him. As the night was stormy and cold they did not succeed. All neighbors in the locality were soon on the search for the missing man, and not until Monday was he found. It seems he had been walking behind his team to keep warm, when the horses, being very spirited, took fright and left him too far behind to find his way on a night so cold and stormy a night on a pathless prairie. His dead body was found by Mr. Sniet not far from his home.

The Decatur Morning Review
Tuesday, August 26, 1884

ST.VINCENT, Minn.: An August severe frost visited this part of KITTSON COUNTY on Friday night, and did considerable injury to beans, peas, and in a few instances to potatoes. The most minute inquiry failed to learn whether any inquiry was done to wheat, corn or oats.

The Freeborn County Standard
Thursday December 24, 1885
Albert Lea,Minnesota

John Burnett was arrested at St Vincent of horse stealing. John Burnette was arrested by Sheriff [Taistrum?] of St Vincent on a charge of stealing a horse about a week ago.

The Democrat
Tuesday March 13, 1883
Olean, New York

The House bill to create three additional land districts in Dakota passed. Also the bill making St. Vincent, Minn., a port ot entry instead of PEMBINA. [NOTE: Now I wonder if St. Vincent ever really was a port of entry, or if it just was in name only for a time, then it permanently went to Pembina where it has been since I ever knew...]

The Manitoba Daily Free Press
Thursday February 21, 1884

Lost in the Storm. St. Vincent, Minn., Feb. 20. News was just received today of two young men, named Bernard Hault and Thomas Tuffault, being badly frozen, near Pembina, D. T. On the night of the 18th they started for their homes, six miles from PEMBINA, but being overcome by the storm, which was very severe, lost their way and were badly frozen. When found yesterday evening Hoult was conscious, but his comrade was not. Fears are entertained that they will not recover.

The Freeborn County Standard
Thursday April 12, 1883
Albert Lea,Minnesota

Mr. Lockwood, deputy commissioner of customs says that Joseph Bookwalter of St. Paul, the recently appointed collector for the new St. Vincent custom house, has filed his bond at the department, but no information has yet been received that Mr. Bookwalter has entered upon the duties of his new office. The office will pay the collector, in salary and fees. About The old office at Pembina is of course, to be abolished. Mr. Lockwood says that the principal import of this point is wheat, which is brought to this country to be ground, and is then exported by way of Montreal and Boston. The facilities for shipment are believed to be better than they were formerly at Pembina.

The Manitoba Daily Free Press
Monday June 28, 1880

On Saturday afternoon two freight cars ran off the siding to the steamboat landing at St. Vincent and dumped in the river. One car contained general merchandise and the other was laden with agricultural implements, and both are now lying in thirty feet of water.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Profile: Charles Walker

Shortly after noon a messenger arrived from regimental headquarters with orders for me to report to the 9 Station Hospital in Pieta, to be evacuated to the States. The month before I had had a bout of heart trouble after five days and nights without sleep, while we made repeated forced marches. I had been hospitalized for two weeks. I'd been released back to my unit temporarily as wounded Marines from Guadalcanal began to overcrowd the hospital. I was determined to fight with the unit so I consulted John. "I'm going to the Canal with you!" "Charley, you've got to go to the hospital. If I allow you to come with us, I'll qualify for a court-martial." He mused for several moments then began to smile. "We're to load on the McCawley, but there's another ship going to the Canal, the Zeilin. I'll lend you a jeep tonight, and if you can get on that ship, good luck! Heck! I can say I don't know where you went!"
Click to enlarge and read