Thursday, June 14, 2007

Old Article About Even Older St. Vincent

North West CompanyNOTE: Since writing this, I have been told this article is from the 50th Anniversary Edition of the Kittson County Enterprise, published in the 1930's (of which my mother had a copy, location now unknown but I looked through it many a bored summer day as a child, amazed at my county's history...) - August 1, 2010

Some time ago, I took down notes from an article written about St. Vincent in an old document. I normally take great pains to document source material, but for whatever reason, I cannot find the source documentation for the article, a fascinating excerpt of which is below. I do remember in general that it was written nearly 100 years ago. Although there have been efforts to document stories, there has never been the "ambitious effort" the writer assumed would happen in the near future. As you know I am trying to do that, although I have a feeling that many stories are lost to time, which is a big shame...

As St. Vincent is the oldest city in Kittson County from the standpoint of settlement, we find that the frontier lore and traditions of the Lower Red River Valley on this side of the boundary and west (sic) of the Red River are centered about this old town. Most of the "firsts" in St. Vincent are dealt with in the history of the county in this issue. Here we shall deal principally with the village proper. First however, we direct attention to the fact that there was a trading post at St. Vincent as early as 1780 and that the XY Fur Company erected a post there in 1800 and that prior to that time Peter Grant had maintained headquarters there as a fur trader. Of course, the Selkirk settlers who founded a colony at Pembina in 1812 spread over into Minnesota and later the Swiss and other settlers connected with this colonization enterprise settled to some extent in the St. Vincent community.


But while these settlements opened the way for later development, the harsh conditions of the frontier accentuated by the rivalry of the fur companies, which sometimes resulted in bloodshed, discouraged settlement on a large scale. Then, too, the remoteness of the region, lack of adequate transportation facilities, and improper protection against the severity of the winter operated to check settlement. St. Vincent seems to have been but little affected by the visits of explorers and government expeditions, such as those by [Major] Long and [Major] Woods.


Steamboat traffic, however, had an important bearing, not only on the village beginnings but on settlement in the community. From the early 1870s well into the 1880s, steamboat traffic pumped life blood into the Northern Valley. Then late in 1878 came the St. Paul, Minneapolis, & Manitoba Railway, now the Great Northern. St. Vincent's career as a village began soon after. The St. Vincent township board (the township is the oldest in Kittson County) held its first meetings May 15, 1880. The first officers were: R.W. Lowery, Chairman; G.A. Hurd, F.M. McLaughlin, L.A. Nobles, and F.M. Head. The village was organized April 16, 1881. The first Mayor was James L. Fisk, and J.W. Morrison was the Recorder. John A. Vanstrom was the first Assessor. It will be seen that he also served as Register of Deeds and later was elected Sheriff. The first St. Vincent school board was organized January 7, 1880 with John B. Tree as Chairman, George Ash as Treasurer, and John B. Hutchin as Clerk...


...St. Vincent today is a village rich in tradition and historic incidents. While little attempt has been made to probe for details of the rugged history of the community, it is probable that within the next ten years interest in local history will result in an ambitious effort to assemble and preserve major facts of the record of the region from distant exploration to the present...