Saturday, February 24, 2007

Trends: Rebellion

I've noticed a trend...

- Metis rebellion
- Fenian invasion
- Indian Liberating Army recruitment1

...all of these historical events have happened where I grew up. Is it something in the water up there?! I wonder why the area attracts such passionate movements? Interesting to ponder, that is for sure!

1 ..."General" James Dickson - The 'general' came to Red River to recruit mercenaries who would help him establish a free Indian state in California. The fame of Metis hunters had spread across North America. Dickson hoped to muster them among his fighting men. From Cuthbert Grant history

Friday, February 23, 2007


I've noticed many readers are using the Label feature offered by my blog, courtesy of Blogger. I tweaked my layout today to one of the new templates that better serve this feature, so that now when you use it for keyword searches, you'll get more complete results (long story). Suffice to say, it's a better deal all around...

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Profile: Gabriel Dumont

Gabriel Dumont, Metis leader, was born in the Red River Settlement in December, 1837. According to this biography, Gabriel married a Pembina* Girl in 1858, named Madeleine Wilkie.** 

As a young man he became an expert horseman, accurate with both bow and rifle. In the summer of 1863, still a young man of 25, he was elected permanent chief of the annual Metis buffalo hunt***, and led his people until the virtual extermination of the buffalo in 1881. Source:  Center for Heritage Renewal, NDSU - bison disappeared and white settlers began to settle the prairies, Dumont recognized that the Metis way of life was changing. He led the campaign for recognition of Metis rights in the Northwest and, when it became evident that the campaign would be unsuccessful, called upon Louis Riel to assist the Metis in their fight. During the North-West Rebellion, Dumont was admired and feared for his abilities as a guerrilla leader of the Metis and native forces. 

Gabriel Dumont, 1886. Photograph courtesy of the Buffalo Bill Historical Centre, Cody, WyomingAfter Riel's surrender, Dumont fled to the United States and joined Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show as a marksman. On February 19, 1889, Dumont was pardoned for his role in the rebellion, and returned to Batoche. He died of heart failure in 1906.

* From the Manitoba Metis Federation website comes this interesting information regarding Metis history in Pembina: The town of Pembina, located on the Red River just south of the 49 th parallel is the former heart of the Metis territory. Once the border was drawn at the 49 th parallel and it was found that Pembina was in the United States and not in Canada many of the Metis migrated north to St. Boniface, St. Vital, St. François Xavier and Fond du Lac (now St. Laurent). The first fur trading post was established at Pembina in 1797. This community evolved over the years from a fur trade site to colony, river town, shipping centre, military outpost, and scene of international disputes. Pembina was a primarily Métis town. It hosted missionaries and explorers; it was also a staging centre for surveyors moving west. In 1818, Father Sevine Dumoulin established a mission (St. François Xavior) at Pembina to serve the Metis and Chippewa Catholic converts. In the winter, almost the entire population of Red River would move south to Pembina to winter there, thus avoiding the harsher climate at the forks. At its peak of activity, it had over 500 residents and 40 permanent buildings. Pembina was an important centre for the buffalo hunt and important as a stopping point for the Red river cart trains between St. Paul, Minnesota and Fort Garry. Before the borders of North Dakota were established, Pembina was part of the Minnesota Territory. The famous Joe Roulette was sent to the legislative assembly in St. Paul in 1853 to represent this district on the Territorial Council. He served from 1853 to 1857. At the time the Metis population in Pembina was about 5,000, roughly equal to the Metis population in British controlled Rupert’s Land.

** Madeleine was the daughter of "...Jean Baptiste Wilkie, Metis b-1803 Pembina a hunter married Amable Elise Azure, Metis b-1808 Pembina"; her father was a well-known local leader of the Pembina Metis - "...Jean Baptiste Wilkie of the Pembina party represented the buffalo hunt this year [1851]"

*** Métis buffalo hunts were of colossal size. In 1865, Alexander Ross, a settler in Red River, reported in detail on an expedition which left the Red River Settlement on June 15, 1840. When the roll was called at Pembina, 1, 630 people were present with 1, 210 Red River carts. In 1854, Pére Belcourt reported that there were about 2, 000 Métis living at Pembina. When these people joined others from the Assiniboia District they would mount hunting expeditions with as many as 5,000 Métis and Indians. These parties traveled an extensive route, some as far as the Missouri River to just below Fort Mandan. 

Friday, February 16, 2007

Gamble Letter #40

1896 Presidential Cartoon portraying the Gold Bugs

In this letter, we read the normal sharing of the 'news', but we read more than that - Alice lets down her guard for a moment and admits to the daily drudgery of life during Minnesota winters. In fact, her words could indicate a condition all too familiar to many of us, SAD...

St. Vincent, Minn.
October 22, 1896

Dear Maggie,

As I had a little spare time to night I thought I had better try and answer your letter about a week ago I commenced a letter, but I was so tired I had to give up. The hurry is pretty nearly all over now, although this week I have been busy from morning till night. Ellen and Willie have been away visiting this week, so I had to milk and do all the [word missing] before school. So you see I [word missing] to get up pretty early.

It has been very cold for Oct although clear and dry they say it has frozen up for good. Aleck has been somewhat better, I think he is going away soon, his wife will not go for a while. The babies are all getting along nicely, did I tell you about Jennies little boy she named William Austin. I am sending you the Prize list. The fair was quite a success this year, some of the exhibits were very good I counted forty one quilts. There is nothing going on except
presidential excitement. There are meetings every night Pa and Willie are gold bugs. I suppose you see all about the campaign. Every winter seems to get duller than the previous. I cannot see much use in living when every thing is so dull. It is just the same thing from one years end to the other. Sammie is growing very fast he is almost as tall as I, did I ever tell you that I am 5 ft. 8 inches I weight 138 lbs. I am getting quite fat Ellen is the smallest in the family. Aleck has been somewhat better lately he is going away pretty soon, his wife will not go for a while Jennie & Jack will soon move out on their farm it is just a short distance from ours. This is all the news this time, so I will finish as usual by asking you to excust the scribbling, but the pen is bad. Goodby for this time from your loving neice Alice Gamble

P.S. I always enjoying reading your letters you state them so well. Pa is always scolding us because we cannot state them like you but I cannot learn. Hoping this will find you well, I remain ...

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Chapter III: Sheriff Charley Brown

Arising early the next morning he found the temperature in the 40's, but noting the clear sky, knew it would warm up by noon. His brief check of the jail found it empty, not surprising, as Sunday night was usually quiet. Often, on weekday mornings, he found drunks locked in the cell, incarcerated either by one of his deputies or by the city marshal. He looked in vain for the cat; she was not around, probably has had her kittens and is hiding them he reasoned.

Relocking the jail he walked through the alley to Mason's Livery. Joe, the hostler, already had the rental team harnessed and was backing them to the rig.

At that moment Mason rounded the corner of the corral. "Long trip, Charley?"

"Out to the Turtle Mountains. I've talked Ian McLaren into coming along with me. Hoped to get soldiers from Captain Collins, but his men are tied up until next week."

"Yah, I've heard them firing on the range -- carries to town when the wind's from the south. Guess they're trying to finish rifle practice so they can get the wood cutters busy."

Charley teased, "I'll take care of your animals like they're my own, George. The Indians won't get them." He smiled at the stable owner.

"I'll not worry, but since you've plenty of room for supplies behind the seat, I'll throw on a sack of oats for my beauties. You'll find hobbles in the toolbox, along with a hammer and extra horseshoe nails. Both animals are wearing light shoes so I'd appreciate it if you'd check them occasionally."

As Charley nodded, Ian appeared from the direction of the jail. Dismounting, he looked to Mason. "Can I leave my animal in your corral?"

"Sure Ian, but it'll cost you two-bits a day."

Ian glanced at Charley, "The County will stand that expense won't they? Darned if I wanted to pack my plunder and rifle over here on shank's mare."

Tossing his bedroll in the box behind the seat of the buckboard, he leaned his rifle carefully against the seat. Leading the bay into the corral he quickly stripped off the saddle and bridle then returned to their wagon. "Now what?" he asked.

"It's still early -- I haven't had breakfast. Let's eat then I'll gather my gear. We have to stop at Myrick's store for vittles." Charley shrugged, "Figure on buying enough for six days. If we need more we can either shoot it, or buy from locals."

Flies had accumulated on a piece of manure that had adhered to his boot. Grasping the buckboard dash he scraped the offending piece off on the wheel rim.

An hour later they were on their way, and Charley, who was driving, let the horses out. Their trotting rhythm was smooth, but their pace and the northwest wind brought a sharp chill. Occasional rills of dust followed up the rims of the rolling wheels, falling off lightly like sands in an hourglass.

Ian shrugged deeper into his jacket collar. "Should have brought my sheepskin coat. Didn't think it would be this cold."

"It'll warm up by noon. I brought extra blankets and a gum poncho. It's getting near to winter and we can expect a surprise any day. No frost as yet though."

"Charley, didn't you say you came from West Virginia?"

"That's right. I joined the army when I was a kid. Managed to get a brevet lieutenant's commission during the war, but they busted me back to sergeant after the fighting was over. The school along the Hudson took over all the officer positions when they cut back the army. After the war I went home, planning to get married to Jo -- Josey that is. I was nineteen at the time." He smiled grimly and shook his head. "It didn't work out. She dumped me and married a man with money. Had two kids by him. I've heard he died a couple of years ago. After she married him I went back into the army until '75, when I ran for sheriff."

"Ever get back to see your folks?"

"Not since '65, but my mother and I correspond. My father died some time ago."

"Oh!" Ian detected a certain coolness and reluctance in Charley’s conversation. Perhaps I'm being too personal. They passed numerous cabins and casually waved at people while driving through the settlement of St. Joseph, recently renamed Walhalla. Reaching a deep gorge a few miles west, they stopped briefly to eat. Ian would have liked to make a fire for coffee, but Charley objected. "We'd best not tarry. We'll be halfway there by dark if we push on."

Ian admired the smooth action of the team and Charley's knowledge of trotters. Every few minutes the horses were pulled back to a walk and when they seemed impatient, were again allowed to break into the mile-eating trot. When one horse broke into a lope, Charley patiently reined the pair in, forcing the truant horse back into a smooth gait.

By late afternoon the sky was beginning to cloud over, and in the northwest a towering cumulonimbus thunderhead was forming. Around its widespread base flashes of lightning were visible, but as yet not a sound could be heard. A few minutes later the soft muttering of thunder became apparent and a strange fresh, clean scent came with the breeze. Ian wondered if it was rain cleansing the air, or was it a subtle fragrance emitted from the combination of moisture and lightning. He realized that within a half-hour they would be subjected to a violent storm. Wildly rolling white wisps of clouds edged the massive core, indicating probable hail. Ian well remembered his last experience with such a storm; it was the day he and Susan had gone on a picnic and succumbed to their love. They had returned home bedraggled, covered with mud, chilled to the bone, and soaked through and through.

Charley turned the team from the narrow road toward a patch of trees on a sidehill. "Looks like we're going to get a soaking, but at least if it hails, the horses will get some protection under the trees."

Stopping under a large elm, they hastily tied the horses and dug out their ground sheets. When the rain came, only a few pellets of hail fell, but the heavens opened with a wild downpour that lasted a good quarter-hour. Gradually the rain ceased with only a few remaining drops falling from branches above.

Charley was optimistic. "Best we get on our way again. We can still get in another couple of hours travel. The horses are holding up well. We'll rub them down tonight, grain them, and then hobble them out to graze."

Long before dark the trotters were obviously tiring, forcing them to make camp on rolling prairie just off the trail. All evidence of the heavy downpour had disappeared, except for a small, clear pool where they watered the team. The sandy soil seemed to have sipped up every drop of moisture.

The sky gradually turned to an inky blackness after the sun dropped from sight. Lacking a moon, myriads of stars glittered in the heavens; the Milky Way was boldly outlined above. The immense solar system gave Ian a feeling of insignificance, a sense of his unimportance in this huge universe. He lay awake long after dark listening to coyotes singing from hill to hill. It seemed they would yip, yip, yip from one point, to be answered from another, often miles away. They sounded lonely, as if trying to reassure one other. He noted that even before their cooking fire died, Charley was asleep, tightly rolled in his blankets. Ian suddenly realized the ground was hard and wished he had dug a hole for his hipbone as he had seen Charley do.

After a brief breakfast they again resumed the trail west through rolling hills. In their conversation Ian endeavored to turn the topic to Marguerite, to probe Charley's obvious reluctance at marriage.

Again Charley was evasive, then finally admitted to his dalliance with a Negro slave girl when he was a boy. He had been caught by his father and severely beaten, suffering such ridicule and admonishment from both his father and mother that he finally ran away from home, enlisting in the army. Ian suddenly sensed Charley seemed melancholy and strangely reflective over the incident, he deemed it wise to change the subject. After all, he reasoned, it's none of my business.

Later in the day the subject of soldiering came up when Charley mentioned they might have a problem with the Indians. Ian managed to get him talking about some of his army experiences.

"Sometimes, when under fire, you live a lifetime in a second or minute. At other times life seems to drag on and on. Oh, there are basic ways to stay alive in combat. In fact we broke one just last night. Always move your sleeping place after dark, and don't camp near a watering hole. You'll maybe save yourself an ambush, and you'll allow wild animals access to the water. Another thing, action always beats reaction. In a bind, act first; never shoot unless you can hit, and never use a gun at night without moving after each shot. I could go on and on. Thank the Lord there's no longer much danger from Indians, still, it's wise to be cautious."

They were passing through wetlands occupied by thousands of geese resting on their migration flight to the south. Flocks slanted, banked into nearby waterholes, so many that it seemed no more room. Still they came. Ian looked up at a low passing formation and pointed, “There are a lot of possibilities for the frying pan up there.”

"On the way back we might stop for a few.”

Charley impatiently brushed a mosquito from his cheek.

Late on the second day of travel they sighted a high hill in the far distance. "That's St. Paul Butte," said Charley. "I was here two years ago. Somewhere around here we'll find the Indians, or more than likely, they'll find us. Old Jed Pitman has a cabin just behind that treeless hill over there. Best we stop and see him. He should know what's going on."

An hour later they approached a squalid looking dugout on a side hill, the lower logs seemingly half buried in the ground. Ian was disappointed. "That cabin isn't much!"

"Not for looks, but I'll bet it's warm in the winter. That's common in the hills, building into the side of a slope and digging a trench above to divert the water around the dugout."

They were nearly to the door of the cabin when a small, bent-over man appeared in the open door. "Charley Brown, is that really you?"

"Yup, it's me, Jed."

"C'mon over here and get down. Damned if I expected to see you out here -- last time must be two-three years ago."

Charley dismounted to shake Pitman's hand. “Yeah, it was a long time back. Are you set here for another winter?"

"Sure am -- got plenty of wood cut too!" He looked Ian over. "Who's this youngster with you. Lordy, he's nearly as big as you!

"This is Ian McLaren, my deputy and backup."

Ian shook the offered hand, surprised at the old man's firm grip. He could now see the reason for Pitman's bent over appearance; the man was deformed, a hump protruded far out from his right shoulder. He was also of slight stature and seemingly emaciated.

Deep in conversation Charley and Pitman walked over to a makeshift table alongside the dugout, leaving Ian to secure the team. He could overhear their conversation and listened avidly as it gradually turned to the seizure of the wagon.

"Heck yes, Charley. Those Canadian redskins told me to get out too, but I'm still here. They dasn't push me too far -- they know I'll shoot. 'Sides that, up to now I've gotten along with them. Oh, they posted some warnings on bark and scraps, saying this was all Indian land. It scared a few settlers back across the line to Canada, but they'll be back when things quiet down. Best you get more help if you want that team and wagon back. Betwix you and me, I think the goods are still with the wagon. The Indians are waiting to see if the military will show up. They're probably running a bluff. But if you don't go after it, you'll never see that load again. They'll split it up. We've got more than our share of Sioux and Chippewa around here, but they’re mostly friendly. It's those renegade Sioux from the Minnesota uprising that are the trouble makers."

"Where'll I find them?"

"Just keep heading toward the big butte. You won't have to find them, they'll find you." Jed looked up at the sky. "Too late to move now. Put your team in the corral and fork them a little hay. Stay the night, I'll make up some grub."

Ian began to unharness the team, saying, "I'll take care of the horses and rub them down.”

"We'll stay overnight, but I'll do the cooking. We've brought plenty of food along -- can even leave you some coffee beans. Bet you haven't had coffee for awhile."

Jed slapped his thigh as he laughed. "Golly! Lots of things I do without lately. Say! You married yet?"

"Nope, still single. Why ask? You still thinking of women at your age?"

Jed's eyes brightened. "That old bat, Rosie, still got her house in Pembina?"

"You planning to visit her?" Charley was amused.

"Hell no! Just wondering. Ain't much good any more -- getting too old and things don't work like they used to." Gaining his feet, he said, "Put your team away and I'll stoke up the fire for supper; be nice to have someone else do the cooking for a change."

That night the two men slept under the stars, neither man wanting to bunk in Jed's cabin. Only a few feet away, Ian could hear the rhythmic breathing of Charley that inchmealed to a gentle snore. Eyeing the constellations above, he wondered about the temper of the local Indians. Then his thoughts turned to Susan, their son, and home.

It turned cold during the night and as the pale gray dawn approached, both men awoke, aware of the frost that had formed on their blankets near their faces. Fighting the weight on his eyelids, Charley sat up to pull on his boots. With a blanket tightly wrapped around his shoulders he hesitated near a woodpile to urinate, then, glancing slowly around the yard he finally turned toward Jed's cabin.

Ian remained snugly trussed in his bedroll aware of being totally alone for the moment. Hearing a thudding sound from the house, then the clang of a stove lid, he pushed the blanket from his cheek to see a goodly amount of smoke rising from the rusty chimney. Rising from his blankets he felt the biting cold. After putting on his jacket he stooped to roll up his bedroll, securing it with a leather strap. After tossing the bundle into the back of the buckboard he entered the cabin to find Jed and Charley sitting near the stove, absorbing its warmth. Once inside, the sour odor of food scraps and rank body odor assailed his nostrils. The back wall was of raw earth cut into the hillside, the interior dark as a cavern.

Jed turned to Ian. "Finally up, son? Told you both to sleep inside last night. Knew it was going to get mighty cold by morning."

The iron stove leaked flickers of light along its top, and damper; the battered, brass coffee pot began to rock gently as the coffee began boiling.

"We'll head out soon's we eat, Ian. Might as well find those Indians and see what they're after. Jed says they plan on kicking all the white men out of these hills, but that's not going to happen.” Charley looked complacent.

Chief Little Shell"It's all the doings of that damned Little Shell. He thinks he's the big chief now," Jed said bitterly.

By the time they were ready to travel the sun was showing, gradually dispelling the morning chill. They were only a few miles from Pitman's when they became aware of several mounted Indians blocking the trail ahead. Charley pulled the team to a halt only a few feet from the renegades. At the same time he slowly moved his coat clear of his revolver.

Ian murmured softly, "Fourteen of them, mighty poor odds."

"Just sit tight, but be ready if need be. Let me do all the talking." Boldly addressing the Indians, he said, "I come for that wagon you took from the freighter. The government wants it back. Where is it?"

The Indian party was gaudily appareled; most wore full headdresses adorned with golden eagle feathers. Two wore only two or three feathers in their headband. Each carried either a coup stick, staff or firearm. Charley noted only a few rifles, most of their weapons appeared to be old trade shotguns. An impressive looking warrior carrying a coup stick decorated with feathers along its entire length moved alongside the buggy. He appeared to be their leader and spoke fair English.

"You get the hell out of here white man or we take your buggy and horses. This Indian land now."

From the other Indians came grunts that both Charley and Ian recognized as sounds of approval.

Charley looked the speaker in the eye, and then opened his coat to show his badge. "I am the law. I want that team and wagon and those government goods you took. Maybe you have many braves but I have many soldiers."

The Indian sneered and put his hand to his forehead to peer in the direction of Pitman's cabin. He made a mock show of looking to the left and right, then spit onto the floor of the buckboard, narrowly missing Charley's boot. "No soldiers. Maybe we take your horses now!"

Charley flared. "Try it and many will die. You will be the first!" His right hand moved slowly to his hip as he spoke.

Although Ian's Winchester was still pointed at the floor of the buckboard, the hammer made an audible click when he eased it back to full cock.

The Indian chief began backing his horse cautiously. "Go! Don't come back!"

"I'll be back with plenty soldiers. You'd better have the trade goods still in the wagon too!"

Ian knew Charley wasn't bluffing; the sheriff showed no fear. He could also see the Indian knew Charley meant what he said. The expression on the chief's face showed uncertainty. The looks on the faces of the other Indians showed disappointment. Their chief had lost face.

Charley cut the team around in a short turn. "Don't look back, but be ready if they start anything. If they do, we'll take a few of them with us."

At any moment Ian expected a hammer blow between the shoulders, but long seconds after the team broke into a fast trot, he couldn't resist the temptation to peek. The Indians had turned back toward the butte at a gallop. Turning to Charley, he said sarcastically, "You sure took a chance with our hides!"

Charley exploded! "All this time shot to hell by those bull-headed bastards! They weren't Chippewa either, all were Sioux -- probably the dregs of the uprising of '63." He turned to face Ian. "Sorry I brought you this far for nothing. Now I'll have to do it all over again with Kirkpatrick." After a long silence, he mused aloud, "Wonder what Anderson is doing back in Pembina -- hope he doesn't do something stupid."

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Noyes Depot

Hudson Leighton from the GN Goat shared with me these great photos of the Noyes Depot* and border crossing area, from the early days until 1970; I found a newer image online myself to finish it all off, not sure how new, but it looks fairly recent. Hudson also shared stats on the depot, which I found rather fascinating since my Dad worked there for many years. It's also interesting to me because it was one of many such towns across the country lining the US/Canadian border that ensured trade between our countries over generations, and still do.

This is an extract from the stats file...

GN RPC records:

Noyes is in Valuation Section # 224 - which starts just north of Barnesville went to Crookston and ended at Noyes. Anything I have ended with BN merger in 1970

A depot was built in 1922 - 30' x 138' frame, w/ customs & immigration quaters.
In 1924 is was extended - 10 x 20 to provide room for an immegration office
1944 building was insulated and additional lighting installed
1948 - building was rearranged to provide room for R.E.A.
1952 - toilets were installed
1953 - new lighting provided & fuel oil heater
1966 - remodeled removing 32' of same and place concrete foundation on remaining building
1967 - new depot built using wood from old depot

This is a joint use building w/ SOO Line.

I found this online - a summary of original proposal to close Noyes port and consolidate port entry for rail to be covered by Pembina port. The latest word about line abandonments does not list the line going up to Noyes into Canada as such, but other lines in the region are being abandoned for economic reasons due to decreasing traffic.

Emerson has its supporters also for their recent loss of the port just north of Noyes. I didn't realize until I read this article that "In Emerson, the history of protection is not restricted to the presence of Canada Customs. Known as Manitoba's First City, Emerson was home to the original headquarters of the Northwest Mounted Police. Like many border towns, Emerson has a proud heritage of standing on guard for thee...."

* An interesting piece of railroad trivia about the Noyes Depot is, it's the only depot in Kittson County still on its original site...

Friday, February 02, 2007

"Portrait of a Blacksmith as a Young Man"

This is Philip Ahles.

You may remember earlier posts about the Ahles family posted here.

Well, it happened again. Out of the blue, I got a call, this time at work. It turned out to be a rather industrious young man who took the time to track me down. He wanted to share some St. Vincent history he had come across in his family history research. His name is Mike Schlenker, a descendent of the Ahles family who settled in 19th century St. Vincent around the same time as my own families.

We decided to meet for lunch, which we did earlier this week. He brought several copies of photographs, as well as other written information such as a photocopy of a title page and entry page of an 1884 regional business directory. I always wondered if there was a way for smaller communities to get listed when they didn't publish a local city directory, and there was as it turns out!

From the 1884-5 Gazetteer, came this business listing for St. Vincent.  Note that at this time, the town's population was around 1200...

You will notice in the listing above, under St. Vincent, several businesses listed of many sorts. One of them was "Ahles, John - brewer". According to Mike, John and his wife Louisa came up to St. Vincent from Fairbault, MN. John was a German immigrant who, according to Ahles family history, came over as a very young man with fellow German - and brewer - Jacob Schmidt.

The man in the center was identified by an Ahles family descendant as Philip Ahles.  However, to me he looks like photos I've seen of Wallace Cameron, who was the Constable of St. Vincent at around this time...
Here we see front and center, Philip Ahles. Mike swears Philip was never known to the family as being a law man, despite the star on his chest, and speculates it was there as a joke. Who knows what the reason may have been - a joke, a temporary deputization - it's one of those family mysteries we will never know. Suffice it to say, there is enough intrigue in the picture as is. For instance, it shows a winter scene with little snow but a sled in use for cutting firewood by the looks of it. We can see an engine of some sort, probably steam, mounted on the bed, with rather fancy advertising painted on it stating "P. Ahles Blacksmith St. Vincent". A large saw with a guard can be seen at the back. The photo was taken somewhere in St. Vincent, but there's not enough clues in the photograph to estimate where exactly. It's possible it was around back of the Ahles blacksmith shop. No matter. I love a taste of the everyday of the old town, and here it is! Speaking of which, continue on below for more...

P. Ahles (far left) and friends, circa 1905...
Here is the fabled (I say fabled, because I was told of it often enough growing up by first my Grandmother, and then my Mom...!) blacksmith shop owned by Philip Ahles. That's Philip on the left, by the way. Philip was born January 31, 1882 in St. Vincent. AP lifelong resident, he opened his blacksmith shop when he was 22 years old. Over the years, he did other jobs in the area, working as a carpenter, tool sharpnener, as well as a lineman for the local rural telephone company.

Notice the wooden sidewalk out front. I came across a mention of those wooden sidewalks recently in some other research I've been doing but can't remember what the context is at the moment. I remember that they were considered quite an addition to modernizing the town, and residents were quite proud of their installation.

Here we see the interior of the smithy. Philip is at the anvil in the picture. You may or may not be able to make out, on the left-hand side of the picture, part of a sign. Even on the original from which this came, it was partially cut off, but enough was visible at the bottom of it to make out "...Please Don't Ask!" - we speculate it may have been a sign about asking for credit!

Eventually, Philip did what many in his position did due to changing technology - he adapted. He made over his blacksmith shop into an auto repair shop.

Mike said that older relatives had fond memories of Philip. He was a bachelor uncle (my Dad had one or two of those that he greatly admired!) and nephews and nieces envied what they perceived as his freedom to do what he wanted, when he wanted. He in turn enjoyed them. Teasingly, it was said of him that he had, however, an allergy to soap and water. Well, when you live alone, and work with machines, it is not to be unexpected. I can tell you about many people years ago that smelled of their work mixed with a little sweat, whether it was grain chaff or from cutting onions in the kitchen, digging dirt in the garden, or whatever. Good hard work and the results thereof was (and is) nothing to be ashamed of...

Philip passed on, on October 19, 1967. I was 8 years old then, and faintly remember his name being mentioned. I can't say I remember the man, unfortunately. Today, Philip hangs out where many older residents ended up, the St. Vincent Cemetery. There his body lies, as the old phrase goes, with many other loved ones, including my father, my grandparents, my great grandparents, and many cousins and an uncle. But that, THAT is another story...