Thursday, April 23, 2009

J.J. Hill Farm in Northcote

My grandmother1 left home at an early age to make her way in the world. She had many older and younger siblings, and with so many mouths to feed, advancing her education just wasn't an option. One of her first jobs was working at the J.J. Hill farm in Northcote. She was a servant girl, helping where help was needed, whether it was the kitchen or the dairy barn.

I contacted the J.J. Hill Reference Library in St. Paul to see if they had any records from the Northcote farm that might reflect her employment there. They did have records from the approximate time period, and were even kind enough to look at other years surrounding the years I estimated she would have worked there, but to no avail. They did, however, explain that sometimes temporary or seasonal workers were not listed the same as regular workers, so she may not have been recorded by name.

One person who was listed by name, however, was my Great Uncle Dick, Richard Fitzpatrick. If you look closely at the page to the left, you'll see his name listed as having worked 11 days at $2 a day - a very respectable wage in those days!  He did not work at the Northcote farm, however, but instead worked on the Humboldt farm (Hill had two farms in our county...)

1 - You could tell she was a daughter of an Irish carpenter. I still have his carpenter's saw box, and use it to hold books I'm reading. It's dark with age, but still strong. His old saw is with me now, part of what I inherited from my parents after they broke up housekeeping in 2001. The wood on the handle has a soft glowing patina from many years of use. Great Grandpa Fitzgerald married a Prince Edward Island wealthy farmer's daughter, took her half-way across a continent to America, where they did whatever they had to, to make a living. All I know of him besides his carpentry is that he died drunk, run over by a train, ground to pieces and decapitated, 5 years after his wife died shortly after giving birth to their 14th child. R.I.P....