Sunday, December 30, 2007

St. Vincent New Era: Oct 1, 1920

I recently received some items in the mail from a Gamble family member (a family who must be packrats, bless their hearts and lucky for us), which included not simply a copy of, but an original issue of, the ST. VINCENT NEW ERA!

Some news from this issue...
WEDDED: Miss Eliza Stranger of this village and Mr. Gail Short of Angus, were united in marriage at the Cathedral at Crookston on Thursday evening of last week. The bride was attended by her sister, Miss Christine and the groom's brother, Mr. Estell Short, performed the duties of groom's man. The bride is the daughter of Mr. Joseph Stranger and Mrs. Delma Stranger of this place and is a popular young lady, whose many friends wish a long life of happiness. The groom is a prosperous young farmer of the Angus section. The young couple left for the Twin City immediately after the ceremony, on a short honeymoon trip. They will reside in Angus.


Directors W.G. Ahles and W.R. Turner of the Fair association were chosen superintendents of the stock exhibit today and exhibitors will find them on hand at the Fair grounds to direct the placing of the stock in a manner convenient for judging and for inspection by the public. Supt. Tri of the Humboldt High School, assisted Mr. Clow in the arrangement of the vegetable exhibit at the hall yesterday as well as helping out in making the display in all departments.

The Alter Society of St. Vincent will provide caffateria lunch at the dance at Reid Hall tonight (Friday).

Vivian Walker Sundayed at home.


Pembina Undertaking Establishment
J.R. Moorhead, Proprietor
Hearse, in connection, furnished free

G.H. Leathers
Veterinary Surgeon
Office at Residence, Phone 65
Pembina, ND

C.B. Harris
Physician and Surgeon
Pembina, ND

Fresh and Cured Meat
Salt Pork, Lard etc.
The best possible service and the best procurable meats is our object.
A.F. Scrimshaw, St. Vincent

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Bicentennial Calendar Photos

I recently obtained a copy of the Pembina Bicentennial Calendar (1797-1997) thanks to one of my readers (thanks, Dan!) Click on the photo above and you'll see more!

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Sheriff Charley Brown: Chapter XV

It was nearing the end of January when Dr. Appel, the physician at Fort Pembina, became concerned about the wife of Frank LaRose. LaRose, who lived just nine miles south, had come to Dr. Appel's office on a Monday morning. Knowing of the man's reputation, the doctor was skeptical and noted with distaste his whiskey breath and dirty, unshaven face. The thought came to mind: Doesn't this man ever wash? I'll make short thrift of him!

"Is it possible that you might be going south today, Doc? My wife is mighty poorly and sickly. She can't do much."

"What seems to be her problem? What are her symptoms?"

LaRose looked perplexed. "Can't say, she just acts funny."

Appel looked at his assistant. "Are we tied up this afternoon, Ira?"

"No, we should have everything finished by noon. This afternoon I'll care for the two men in the infirmary."

The doctor was brief, "LaRose, I'll do my best to get out there this afternoon. The weather seems fair; I should make it by three o'clock."

"Thanks, I'd feel better if you checked her over."

As he left the office Appel's assistant jokingly pinched his nose, he was smiling. "That man stinks to the high heaven."

"He does, doesn't he? However, it isn't too cold outside and it'll be a nice change to go out in a sleigh this afternoon."

Using a cutter from the barn, Appel and his driver attended Mrs. LaRose that afternoon. Except for the furtive and cringing looks the woman gave her husband, who stood nearby, his examination proved fruitless. His only concern was that she was very thin.

"Have you any pain, my dear?

"None to speak of, just a sore throat and a slight cough."

"Let's have a listen to your lungs and heart." After thoroughly checking her over for long minutes, he thumped her back, listening for ominous sounds. He was puzzled, her heartbeat was strong and regular, and her lungs seemed clear of any congestion. Noting the bruises on her arms and her scraped cheekbone, he turned to her husband scornfully. "Treat her with kindness and treat her well!"

The obsequious look LaRose returned fooled Appel not one bit. He realized LaRose was both a heavy drinker and a wife-beater. When he returned to his sleigh, the final look LaRose gave him was of pure hatred. The man's demeanor had changed dramatically, and he said caustically, "She's a lazy bitch, wants to sleep all the time."

Appel was succinct. "Your wife is badly run down physically. She needs good food and rest. Her cure should be on your conscience. I can find nothing life threatening or debilitating about her."

The next afternoon a teamster came in from the south with news that Mrs. LaRose had passed away during the night. Stricken with remorse, Dr. Appel pondered on how he had failed her. Still, many bizarre things had happened in his lifetime. Remembering the strange action of her husband, of his asking for the examination of his wife, and his remarks, Appel became suspicious. Two days later he could no longer restrain his feelings; he decided to approach Captain Collins and relate his misgivings.

The captain listened attentively to Dr. Appel's concern, but was puzzled because of his lack of authority over civilians. "I have no legal power to pursue the matter, but something must be done; the consequences are just too gross to contemplate." He summoned Lt. Walker to his office. "I want you to contact the sheriff at Pembina and request he come to the fort immediately. I'm not sure if Sheriff Brown has returned from Detroit as yet, but he no doubt has appointed a deputy to be in charge."

After a long hunt Walker finally tracked down deputy Bill Moorhead at the St. Vincent elevator.

"I've been looking everywhere for you, Bill. Judas, you're a hard man to find! Captain Collins has a problem and wants you to contact him as soon as possible. I don't know what's going on, but it concerns Dr. Appel."

Moorhead tugged out his watch. "It's nearly four o'clock. Tell the captain I'll be there before supper." He smiled, "Maybe I can bum a meal from your mess."

Walker grinned, "Heck, Bill, you'll be welcome -- that is, if you can stand the grub."

It was after 5 p.m. when Moorhead arrived at the fort. The Officer of the Day immediately had the Charge of Quarters summon both the captain and Dr. Appel to the orderly room. An incensed Appel briefly explained the circumstances, and then asked, "Mr. Moorhead, what action can you take?"

"Well, I know he's a scoundrel and it's suspected he did away with a young girl some years ago, but there was no proof. I'll arrest him tomorrow morning and charge him with the murder of the LeRoque girl. Then I'll consult with the county commissioners to find out what action they want to take." Inwardly, Bill was smiling, knowing it would be his opportunity to work on LaRose.

"I guess that's as far as we can carry it at present," Collins said.

"I think we should carry it even further," Appel said firmly. "Mr. Moorhead, would you advise the county commissioners that I recommend Mrs. LaRose's body be exhumed for an examination at our fort hospital. I am at a loss to explain her sudden demise. Something is wrong!"

"I can contact two of the commissioners tonight, also Kneeshaw, our coroner. One of the commission members lives out of town so that'll take time. It's too late in the day now, so I'll pick LaRose up in the morning."

At 8 a.m. the following morning, Moorhead, accompanied by a backup officer, confronted LaRose at his home. "You're under arrest Frank, better come along to Pembina peacefully."

"Arrested for what?"

"You know darn well. Killing that LeRoque girl in '73."

"That's all bullshit and you know it! Her body was never found. She just wandered away -- probable got herself eaten by wolves. You've got no proof. 'Sides that, you bastards you have no authority over me!"

"I'm serving as sheriff while Brown's away -- you got something to hide?" His voice hardened, "You can come the easy way or the hard way! We'll accompany you inside your house to get your clothes, and then you're going to Pembina with us. Make up your mind, we're both armed."

"All right! I'll go back with you, but you're wasting your time, you'll just have to turn me loose. You have no proof of anything."

Two hours later they arrived in Pembina where the barber, Captain Bob, was roused to build a fire to heat the jail. He also was assigned to stand guard over the prisoner until relieved by a night man.

When Moorhead contacted the county commissioners, it was decided that the responsibility for the investigation rested with Coroner Kneeshaw. Kneeshaw immediately ordered Moorhead to have the body exhumed and delivered to the Fort Pembina hospital for examination by Dr. Appel. Captain Collins cooperated by sending an ambulance, together with a detail of soldiers to fetch the body. Fortunately it had not been interred due to the frozen ground. The men brought the crude wooden coffin to the fort in the early afternoon.

After the retreat formation, and the sunset cannon had been fired, Captain Collins entered the dispensary. He found the surgeon consulting a reference book as he prepared some chemical agents.

"Are you equipped for an autopsy?"

"Yes, I'm just preparing for some tests tomorrow afternoon. Mrs. LaRose's body is frozen solid. I doubt we will be able to proceed with the autopsy until late tomorrow, perhaps even the next day. I'll need one of your officers present as a witness in addition to my assistant. Once we get started it shouldn't take long to determine what caused her death. Frankly, I suspect she ingested some sort of poison. If so, the tests shouldn't take long. The stomach, liver and kidneys will tell the story. There is a remote chance of a heart problem, but I doubt that. When I examined her, she seemed quite normal. The only hitch as I see it, is whether she was subjected to a poison, or if she took something voluntarily. LaRose mentioned she had been taking medication provided by the drugstore in Pembina. We might run into some embarrassment."

"Truthfully, her death doesn't fall into the realm of my command, but since you are the only doctor in the area, I guess we can cover it. Let the chips fall where they may." Collins seemed resigned.

Late, on the second day, after the body had thawed, the doctor, his helper and Lt. Walker were shocked to see the many bruises on Mrs. LaRose's body that had been concealed by her dress. Ira, the doctor's assistant, expressed his disgust. "I've heard he was a son-of-a-bitch, but what sort of a man would beat his wife like this?"

Appel hissed vehemently, "He's not just one of a kind. Many heavy drinkers are wife beaters. Some men don't drink -- they're just mean as hell! We'll start by examining the stomach; I doubt we'll have to go much further." He questioned Ira. "What common poisons do you know? Mind you, there are only a few available to civilians in the area."

Ira's face lit up. "How about arsenic? Cripes, you can get that anywhere. Most farmers use it to kill wolves."

"It's quite possible. It is a metal whose salts are poisonous, yet it can be applied medicinally. It's odorless, but it has a metallic taste. However, there's also strychnine. It's readily available to all. The sheriff will have to look for any witnesses who may have been present at her death."

"Why so?"

"To find out if she had convulsive fits when she died. I'm guessing strychnine was used. Large doses of it cause convulsive fits and a tightening of the muscles, accompanied by a feeling of suffocation. If that's what killed her we'll find it in her kidneys."

After an hour of methodically testing the contents of her stomach, liver and kidneys, the doctor turned to Ira and Lt. Walker with a grim look. "I guessed right! She's loaded with strychnine, enough to kill more than one. How did he get it into her, or did she take it herself?"

"She could have committed suicide," Ira concluded. "Living with that scoundrel may have led to it."

Appel shrugged, "I saw her only days ago and she did show a definite fear of her husband. Somehow, I suspect he tricked her into taking it. As I said, it has no smell but a bitter taste that could have been concealed as a medicinal application. It's a shame that trappers use it so freely, because it turns in a deadly cycle. When a predator is poisoned, other birds and animals feeding on the carcass will die from the same poison. It repeats itself. In fact it's almost the same as arsenic in that respect.”

"Ira, pack her organs with ice and fill her abdomen with cotton batten, then sew her up. I'll walk over and give the captain my report if he's around."

Appel found the captain in the orderly room involved in a conversation with the 1st Sergeant. After being apprised of the situation, Captain Collins advised, "Let's store the body in the warehouse, but keep your findings a secret. We'll pretend we're puzzled until we can notify the sheriff and county commissioners. You say you've retained the stomach and other organs for future reference?"

"Yes, I've had Ira store them on ice. We'll have to await the commissioner's decision as to their wishes. I imagine they'll arrange a coroner's jury, with the aid of the county coroner."

Monday, December 24, 2007

Trouble in River City

Seen this week in the "Days Gone By" section of the Kittson County Enterprise:

1907 - 100 Years Ago - The grand jury last week continued its crusade against the saloons in the county and before it adjourned last Friday night indictments were found against three saloon men in Hallock, two in Lancaster and two in St. Vincent including some restaurant keepers in different parts of the county, who in ignorance of the law made use of cards and dice in their business. The fines imposed by the judge ranged anywhere from $25 to $85 and cost swelled the treasury of the county to nearly $600. The judge expressed himself with much certainty regarding those who sell cigarettes, tobacco and snuff to minors, and added that saloon men were not the only ones violating the law, that sooner or later others would get into the clutches of some officer.

Saturday, December 22, 2007


I created the one-page flyer above this past fall, to share at a genealogical conference. I'd like to share it with you, my readers now, with this favor to ask...

If you have found this website valuable for local history - or any other reason - please consider printing the flyer, and distributing it where you think appropriate. Alternately, you could save it and send as an attachment to an email to someone with a connection to this region that hasn't visited the site, to let them know what it's all about. Many thanks in advance; some of the information presented here has been found by just such networking!

Thursday, December 20, 2007

St. Vincent Brewery

We have seen him before in the history of St. Vincent.

From Land of Amber Waters:
St. Vincent (Kittson County)
Raywood & Company (Raywood & Lennon) (1879-1880?)
Location: Fourth Street and Atlantic Avenue

Raywood and Lennon (spelled Lemon in Salem's List) began work on their brewery along the Red River in July 1879. According to the Pembina Pioneer, in 13 days they had the brewery building completed and the first batch of ale underway. The staff of four men was headed by George Raywood, a 38-year-old English native who had previously been a brewer in Winnipeg, Manitoba.

After two brief mentions in the Pioneer, the brewery largely disappears from the records. It is listed in the Polk 1880 Gazetteer, but the Pioneer ceased publishing in 1880 and no information about the end of the brewery is known.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Gamble Letter: 'New' One Found

Another 'Gamble Letter' has been found! Lori Bianco, Great Granddaughter of the writer, recently found it among her familiy's papers; it had been given to her by her grandfather Neill Alexander Gamble, Lillie's son...

Lillie Maude Griffith Gamble, wife of William Neill Gamble wrote this letter to Margaret Neill.
St. Vincent, Minn.
Oct. 28th, 1917

Miss Margaret Neill
Beaverton, Ont.

Dear Aunt Maggie,

It is a long time since I have written to you. But although I don’t write often. I think of you just the same. We are having an early winter here this year we had snow now for two weeks & guess it is going to stay. Sammie has sold his farm & personal property & has gone to Wyoming to locate. Mrs. Forster has come to St. Vincent to live & Grandpa stays with her. Her husband is a traveler & don’t be home very much. Grandpa comes out to the farm every other day. It seems he cant stay away from the place any length of time.

Allan & Lewis are both going to High School. They are getting to be big boys now. I have a little boy 4 months old. William Leslie he is not very big but is commencing to grow now I think. I have no girl & it keeps me busy with eleven of ourselves & two hired men. Well since I heard from you we are all in the Big War. We had a second call for Liberty Bonds last week & St. Vincent was supposed to give $5,000, & they made $6,000. That wasn’t bad the Gambles, Lapps & Griffith girls put in $13.00. Thirteen boys have enlisted from St. Vincent & about six were drafted.

We had a good crop this year although we didn’t have much in as he has a lot of summer fallow. We do quite a bit of Red Cross work here. We have completed 14 sets of sweater, wristlets pair of socks and a muffler, and have started on 14 more. Besides making hospital shirts & pajamas.

How are you getting along I suppose the weather is fine down there. I think I will quit writing as you will be tired reading this scribble. I hope you are well as we are all well here. With love from all I will say Goodby. Write sometime.

I remain
Yours lovingly
Lillie M. Gamble

"Sammie" = Samuel Moses Gamble, youngest son of Alexander & Mary Ann, and brother to William
"Mrs. Forster" = Alice Gamble, daughter of Alexander & Mary Ann, and sister to William
"Grandpa" = Alexander Gamble -- would have been in his 80s by then
"Allan & Lewis" = the two oldest sons, would have been teenagers
"William Leslie" = youngest son

Monday, December 17, 2007

Before Minnesota

John Smith's Map of Virginia (1612)
My apologies on the quality of this image; it was the best I could find of this particular map, which shows what would one day be Minnesota, as part of the vast Virginia Charter of 1609. Note that the Gulf of Mexico was at this time known as the Virginia Sea, and the delta areas were much out of proportion.

From Parke S. Rouse Jr.'s Planters and Pioneers:
Although Virginia shared the Back Country with other colonies, she claimed the lion's share because Virginia's 1609 charter defined her boundaries as "from sea to sea." For this reason, the Old Dominion fought off all claimants to the Northwest Territory until she reluctantly ceded it to the Union in 1784, to form Ohio, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Wisconsin, and part of Minnesota...
Of course, that 'other part' of Minnesota, surrounding the Red River Valley, still had a strong connection to the British, and despite boundary surveys by this time, would go back and forth between Minnesota and Dakota Territories until the states formalized themselves.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Profile: Norval Baptie

I came across this blog entry about Norval Baptie, born in Ontario but raised in Bathgate, ND, and it intrigued me that once again, greatness can come from anywhere, and here was one in our midst that I never knew about until now.

Baptie won his first world speed skating championship in 1895, and went on to many other amazing accomplishments. And it all started in Bathgate, just down the road from Pembina.

A settler to Pembina County (and Bathgate) had this to say about Norval: "...He kept Bathgate in his heart. Jim never turned away anyone from Pembina County. He kept track of the Bathgate “boys and girls,” who remained young to him, and took personal satisfaction in their accomplishments. One I remember was Norval Baptie, the French-Canadian speed and figure skater, who Jim claimed had perfected tubular shoe skates, which he tested on the Tongue River." From I,Witness to History

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Laughing Over the Fence

Who are these two women?

I'll tell you who...

They are my grandmother, Elizabeth (Fitzgerald) Fitzpatrick - known to most as Liz - and her mother-in-law and my great grandmother, Margaret (Berry) Fitzpatrick.

Note in the background, is the St. Vincent School; it still had the school bell AND the bell tower at this point in time.

Although I don't know the exact date, it was not long before my great grandmother died, meaning it was the late 1920's.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Local Museum/Society Wins Scholarship

The Kittson County Historical Society has been chosen as one of the 6 pilot sites for an AASLH Small Museum Scholarship.

This is a fantastic opportunity for the staff and volunteers of our local historical society and museum. Congratulations!

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Minnesota @ 150: The Pembina Trail

Delmar Hagen during 1958 Minnesota Centennial oxcart trek
"Why don't you do the same in 50 years?" - Delmar Hagen

Orlin Ostby, who will be making quite the trip this coming year, has opened a website that will be documenting it all.

Orlin has been thinking about this trip for 50 years, inspired by a neighbor who did the trip in 1958.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

1882 Emerson Stereoview

A stereoview shows the bustling town of Emerson hit with a catastrophic flood, taken on April 25, 1882. Floods like this was one factor that caused Emerson's boom to bust around this time...

Source: Archives of Manitoba, Emerson 63, N16080.

Friday, December 07, 2007

1950 Flood Memories

A reader recently submitted a scan of an article looking back at the 1950 flood, mentioning a St. Vincent resident. I can only assume, but I'm thinking that the 'nursing home' the article mentions, is probably my grandmother's...

I'm wondering if the last name of the person mentioned may have actually been Dorion, and not Doran?

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Sheriff Charley Brown: Chapter XIV

It was nearly 7:00 p.m. when Paul arrived at the Grant home. He was in a jubilant mood, for he had made his decision that afternoon. Since his college days he had been a thorough thinker, never jumping into any proposition without checking every detail. He had known women intimately during his school years, yet he had never desired a permanent relationship. Now he realized he was deeply in love with Marguerite. This evening, when the proper moment came, he would ask her to marry him. He sensed she had been involved in some manner with the sheriff, still he felt that attachment had gone nowhere. He was confident he could win her love and acceptance.

Drawing up in front of the house, he stepped from the cutter to snap the lead of the iron weight to the horse's bridle. As he walked through the gate, now shy of the warm buffalo robe in the sleigh, he realized the unrelenting cold. His boots made crunching sounds on the path to the door, a path faintly illuminated by moonlight and rays escaping from nearby windows.

His brief knock resulted in the door opening to disclose an attractive woman. Although she was a bit shorter than her daughter, the resemblance was unmistakable; she had to be Marguerite's mother.

She stepped aside to say, "You must be Paul Evans, please come in! Marguerite is nearly ready, she'll only be a few moments." Closing the door as he entered, she added, "I'm Marguerite's mother. Please call me Annette."

Her figure was trim and her face uniquely attractive. Her cheekbones were high and a bit plumpish, her eyes piercingly obsidian, her lips full, but not overly large; her chin was small but firm, complimenting her oval-shaped face.

"I hope I'm not too late. It's about seven and I know Marguerite wanted to be in time for the grand march at the ball."

She smiled, "Oh, it's only a half hour ride to Emerson; you'll be there in plenty of time. Pass me your coat and we'll have a cup of coffee. It's so very cold outside." She looked up at him mischievously, "After all, since you are escorting my daughter to the ball, I have the right to get to know you." Placing his coat across a chair, she beckoned, "Come, we might as well sit in the kitchen until Marguerite comes down."

Leading the way she casually reached to the middle of the kitchen table to turn up the wick roller on the kerosene lamp. While she tended the stove he glanced around the room to note the smooth log walls of the cabin and the carefully cut trim around the window nearest him. The high ceiling of the room was finished with tongue and grooved unvarnished white pine boards. From above he could hear faint sounds of movement, no doubt Marguerite's footsteps as she made preparations for the dance.

"Unfortunately, my husband is not here. I'm sure he would like to meet you." Annette placed a cup and saucer before him. "He left to visit neighbors this afternoon and hasn't returned." She smiled wanly, "He's no doubt having sport and has forgotten the time. Marguerite tells me you are engaged in selling farm machinery. Are you on the road a lot?"

"Yes, much of the time, but I hope to settle down in the near future. I've been traveling a good deal these past three years and although it's been a learning experience, I realize that it's time to quit the road." Suddenly aware of the over-warm room, he thrust a finger under his tight fitting collar in an effort to loosen it. The odor of fresh baking hung in the air, as did the pungent odor of burning kerosene oil from the lamp.

Sitting opposite him, she daintily sipped at the hot coffee. "I understand you've met my daughter Susan and her husband, Ian. Marguerite mentioned that you were at the Christmas party at the hotel."

"Yes, I was. You have two lovely girls; both are exceptionally beautiful. To be very frank with you, Annette, I want to pursue a closer relationship with Marguerite. In fact, I plan on asking her to marry me."

Annette's face froze at the intemperate announcement; it had come as a complete surprise. Then she relaxed, realizing this man was blunt and honest. Still, she knew that her daughter's choice, either this Paul, or Charley, was Marguerite's decision and hers alone.

"You must realize that this is between you and Marguerite. I'll not attempt to influence her in any way. She is a country girl, raised without the niceties of a big city. To be perfectly frank, I don't know how well she would adapt to city life."

Their conversation was interrupted when they heard Marguerite's steps as she came down the stairs to the living room. "I heard you arrive, Paul. Has Mom been pumping you?" She smiled, "She's been anxious to meet you."

Paul stood as she approached, his eyes taking in her narrow waist and lithe figure. Her long, yellow silk dress seemed to swirl around her legs. It was apparent he was captivated at the sight of her, his delight obvious.

"You look gorgeous!"

Smiling, he turned to Annette, "I'll be fighting off ardent swains all evening."

Annette said nothing, but smiled. Finally she arose from her chair to say to her daughter. "I'll get your coat." Then she turned to Paul, "I hope you have blankets or warm robes in the sleigh. It's so very cold outside; fortunately there is not much wind."

Paul nodded, "I brought two robes and a heavy wool blanket. We can sit on the one robe and cover ourselves with the other. We should be plenty warm."

Annette helped Marguerite with her long overcoat, tucking her daughter's scarf snugly as Paul donned his coat. Marguerite briefly hugged her mother as they reached the door. "Don't wait up for me, Mom. We'll probably be quite late."

Annette looked at the couple shrewdly, "Have a good time. At my age I have no intention of waiting up for you. I just hope Joseph comes home soon."

Finally outdoors, Paul helped Marguerite into the cutter, solicitously tucking the robes firmly around her. Detaching the iron weight from the horse's bridle, he placed it on the cutter floor. Then, stepping up, he rearranged the blanket and robe with Marguerite's help. Untying the reins from the whip socket he urged the horse to a trot. The small sleigh rode lightly on the hard packed snow, sometimes sliding sideways over the irregular icy surface with hissing, scraping sounds. Shifting the reins to his left hand, Paul reached under the robe to slip his arm around Marguerite's waist. Pulling her gently but snugly toward him, he looked down into her eyes. "It's much more comfortable this way, don't you think."

Once on the north road to Emerson the horse trotted rhythmically, requiring only an occasional encouragement. As the animal slowed briefly, the acrid odor of horse apples hung momentarily in the air.

"Where is the dance to be held?" Paul asked.

"Oh, Paul, you've bought tickets and don't even know where the dance is to take place. It's at the Masonic hall of course. There's a large room with plenty of space for dancing. We can go directly there -- people won't bother checking into the customs port tonight." His closeness brought a feeling of warmth and security, nearly lulling her into a lethargic state.

He could feel her warm breath on his face as she spoke and turning his head he nuzzled his face into her hair. The faint odor of scented soap came to him -- Lilac, he thought.

Long moments of silence followed, broken only by an occasional slap of the reins to encourage the horse to maintain a steady pace. Finally the outskirts of Emerson appeared and windows emitting faint light began to drift by.

"Turn right at the next street, the lodge is in the next block."

Rounding the corner Paul exclaimed in surprise; both sides of the street were lined with sleighs. "Gosh, everyone in town must have come to the ball. I'll drop you off in front of the door, then find a place to tie up."

"Tennant's stable is just ahead, only a half block. He's a friend of ours. You can leave the rig there, they keep a night man."

Stopping in front of the lodge, Paul helped Marguerite from the sleigh. She was smiling, "Don't be long. They should start shortly."

"Don't worry, I'll be back as soon as I care for the horse."

When Marguerite entered the hall she was surprised at the huge crowd and the volume of noise. The practice tuning of orchestra instruments added to the seeming confusion. A roguish group of men were gathered around the punchbowl. Studying them, she suspected that several were already well into their cups. Mrs. Traynor, the owner of the local millinery shop approached her.

"Oh, Marguerite! I'm so glad to see you here tonight. Where is Charley?"

Marguerite felt embarrassed, but forced a smile. "I'm not with Charley this evening. My escort is Paul Evans, a recent visitor to Pembina."

"Well, where is this young man?"

"He'll be in soon. He's putting our horse away."

At that moment a woman called to Mrs. Traynor, "Come, Emily! We've got to find seats before all are taken." As Mrs. Traynor hastily waved goodbye, Marguerite turned to the room set aside for the ladies; a private room designated for the storage of coats and other final preparations. Hurried greetings were exchanged in the crowded room as she hung up her coat and hat, then she sat to remove her over-boots. Briefly she stood to gaze into a mirror, checking her hair. Then she entered the ballroom just as Paul came in the front door.

"I'll just be a moment, Marguerite. I'll be with you as soon as I find a place to hang my coat."

Smiling, she took his arm, "I'll show you the cloak room reserved for the men. It's also reserved for the many bottles they hide there too." Impishly, she added, "Don't you dare allow anyone to entice you into partaking."

He squeezed her hand. "I'm already drunk with the sight of you. I sure don't need anything more." As he hung up his coat, he asked. "What's next, when does the ball begin?"

The orchestra was still tuning up in a rear corner as Paul and Marguerite moved toward the hors d'oeuvre table. Men standing nearby moved aside to allow them access to the punch bowl and tidbits. George Newcombe, the Dominion Land Titles agent, greeted Marguerite with a bow. "Miss Grant, it's good to see you again -- and who is this gentleman escorting you?"

"George, this is Paul Evans. He has been visiting in Pembina for a few days." As the two men shook hands she introduced Paul to other acquaintances nearby. Newcombe looked at Paul jokingly, "Evans, if I were 30 years younger and single, you wouldn't have a chance with this lovely lady."

Jerry Robinson, another merchant, spoke up. "George, if we were all younger, you'd have to stand in line."

From they’re jocular but attentive manner; Paul could see Marguerite was well respected. He could barely conceal the sudden feeling of pride that came. Filling two cups with punch from the bowl, he handed one to Marguerite, then touched his glass to hers. Boldly, in front of the other gentlemen he proposed a toast, "Here's to our future, may it be grand and glorious!"

Although she smiled back at him, a feeling of disquietude clouded her mind. Apprehension set in, and she knew instinctively that this evening Paul was going to propose. What should I do? How should I respond? I like and admire him, but I'm not in love with him. And what about my feelings toward Charley? I Love him! She knew the turmoil of emotions she felt would remain with her the entire evening, perhaps even for days. She felt totally at a loss to cope with her problem.

A skirl of pipes was heard as a Scottish piper appeared; couples began forming for the grand march. The founders of the town of Emerson, Messrs. Carney and Fairbanks, together with their ladies had been honored to lead the march. Pairs hastily formed immediately behind them. Several of the men near the head of the column wore military uniforms, complete with colorful decorations. Others wore Scottish and Irish tweeds of their clan, a few even wore regalia of wars long past.

Paul and Marguerite quickly joined the end of the line as the piper began to play MacCrimmon's Sweetheart on his bagpipe. Formally striding down the center of the long room, the couples solemnly split apart at the end, men going to one side and ladies to the other, to rejoin together at the next circuit of the room when finally the piping suddenly ceased. At that moment the orchestra swung into the haunting strains of Strauss's Blue Danube Waltz.

Snug in Paul's arms Marguerite murmured, "I forgot to pick up a dance card at the table."

"Then you have to dance every dance with me."

"It would be nice, but I don't think it's going to work that way."

As the first dance ended, men clamored for her attention; several men instantly surrounding her. Smiling agreeably she filled in a hastily obtained card, reserving several dances with Paul.

When they began their second waltz of the evening, Marguerite said, "I'm going to introduce you to some of my friends when this set is over. Perhaps you'll find one of them interesting."

"No chance! I'll dance with them dutifully, but I won't flirt with them. I'm a one-woman man." He drew her snugly to him.

She almost groaned in frustration. He was holding her so close it was almost embarrassing. Thrusting back, she whispered, "Paul, I like you very much, but you're holding me far too intimately. Everyone is watching."

"Let them, I've nothing to hide. I'm in love with you and I don't mind what other folks think."

"There are proprieties even in Emerson. This isn't Chicago."

He began to smile, then held her away at arm's length. "Fine, do you prefer this?"

She moved a bit closer, smiling nervously. "Well, I'll meet you halfway."

When the dance ended Marguerite steered Paul aside, introducing him to Annie and Julia Jasper. They were conversing when Marguerite's new partner claimed her for the next dance. Paul was left to fend for himself. Marguerite was never alone after that -- she whirled, swung and swayed to the gay music with occasional laughter, facing a hubbub of excited talk.

By the time midnight arrived, Paul felt stymied. He realized the crowded dance floor and the jovial atmosphere was not furthering his cause. Marguerite seemed content to match his movements in a dream-like state, which discouraged all meaningful conversation. He felt his frustration building, knowing there was little chance to propose until the dance was over and they were on their way home. The groundwork he had planned to discuss; a future home in Chicago, and his parents approval, all would have to be reviewed on the short trip back to her home.

Because of the large crowd in the hall the temperature had risen and people were perspiring freely. He rued the heavy wool suit he wore, finally realizing relief when someone opened a rear door allowing a cold draft to circulate into the room. Running a hand through his damp hair he realized he must rouse himself out of this sullen disposition into which he was drifting. He must bide his time, then attempt to get Marguerite into an intimate conversation while on the way homeward.

Marguerite enjoyed the affair, dancing every dance until it seemed she would drop. Slow waltz steps changed to reels, then to square dancing, some steps slower, others vigorous and athletic.

Nearly each dance with Paul was a waltz and she eagerly accepted his arms in a languid, romantic fashion. Often she danced with men who smelled of questionable breath, holding them at arms length. The roving hands she slapped off laughingly, but with a warning glance. The Scottish piper who claimed his dance swung her clear off the floor during the square dancing while the crowd smiled at his antics. For a small orchestra they were innovative, for they played many old-country ballads. The three violins carried dreamy melodies, sometimes almost melancholy, and at other times gay and daring. When a reel was called the entire building seemed to shake from the wild antics of the revelers.

Lunch was served at midnight, a crowd-pleasing buffet that again gave Paul no opportunity for serious conversation. It was nearing three a.m. when the orchestra finally broke into Auld Lang Syne. Paul reached to tilt Marguerite's chin up for a kiss. At first the kiss was gentle, but a growing passion grew that found both of them clinging tightly. Sensations arose in Paul and he felt tenderness, yet a surging desire to fully possess this woman. For long seconds the kiss was held, then the magical moment passed, for Marguerite suddenly attempted to draw back -- afraid of the hurt that could come, of not knowing Charley's love and arms again, a feeling that was still lacking for Paul.

He could feel the sudden coolness of her ardor and released his hold, finishing the dance in total silence. People began scurrying for coats at the finale, but Paul held back. "Let the crowd thin out a bit, then I'll get the sleigh and pick you up at the door."

"That's not necessary. I'll get my coat and boots and go along with you to the stable."

He looked at her questioningly, "If that's what you want, so be it."

While Paul entered the barn to get the horse, Marguerite rearranged the robes in the sleigh. It took only moments to hitch up the animal, and bundled snugly they turned back down the street. As they left the outskirts of town Paul brought the trotting horse to a walk and turned to Marguerite.

"I've serious things on my mind. It may not sound very romantic since it's so darned cold, but I've got to say them. I love you and want you to marry me. If you say yes, I'll stay a few more days to settle matters." He pleaded, "I've tried all evening to tell you my feelings but there was no opportunity."

"Paul, I hardly know how to say this, but you've only known me a few days. I like and admire you, but a week is hardly sufficient time upon which to build a solid relationship. I know so little about you, your desires, your thoughts and ambitions; why, I don't even know your parents."

"What have my parents got to do with it?"

"I'm part Indian, you must know that by now. I'm scorned by many of the people both in St. Vincent and Pembina because of my mixed heritage. If I married you, you would probably be jeered as an Indian lover, or even worse, called a squaw man."

"That has nothing to do with it; I know my Father and Mother will love you, regardless."

Marguerite remained silent for long seconds, and then she said, "Paul, we may have a life together, but it's not in the immediate future. We've both got a lot of thinking and soul-searching to do. I'm Catholic and I'm sure you're not since you haven't once mentioned going to church." She shook her head slowly, "The difficulties we would face could be tremendous."

"Yes, but I'm willing to take the chance. Why aren’t you?"

They were entering St. Vincent when she finally answered. "It's too risky now. I've got to have more time." She peered up at him, "We can correspond regularly can't we? Let's see if you still want to marry me after a few months pass. Truthfully, I don't know my own feelings. I don't know if I really love you. Give us both some time and we'll see."

Arriving in front of her home he escorted her to the door. "Since I'll be leaving on the train early tomorrow morning I won't see you, but I'll write every few days. My feelings won't change, darling."

Their final kiss was tender and long, but when Marguerite entered the house she felt a curious sense of relief. While undressing in her room she puzzled, have I done the right thing? Have I extended a false hope to him? Have I thrown away a chance at happiness? Attempting to sleep, her thoughts turned to Charley. Why hasn't he called on me this past week? Has he lost all interest in me? I certainly hope not.

The sense of relief Marguerite felt after Paul returned to Chicago soon changed to a nagging worry when Charley failed to contact her during the first two weeks of January.

Although Paul's glowing letters began to arrive in the mail, her frustration over Charley's apparent lack of interest in her was almost overwhelming. Gathering courage she entered Charley's saloon in the early morning hours of mid-January, early enough to hopefully avoid any early drinkers.

John was surprised to see her, but broke into a smile. "This is a welcome surprise! It must be the first time a woman has crossed this threshold since we opened."

"John, I'm looking for Charley. I haven't seen him since Christmas. I'm concerned, where is he?"

"Well now, there's a problem. He took that horse thief, Jackson, to Detroit just after the New Year. Three or four days later I received a telegram saying he had become sick. Honest, Marguerite, I haven't had a word from him since. I'm just as puzzled and concerned as you."

"Isn't there somewhere we could telegraph to find out where he's staying?"

"Detroit is a big city. It's hard to tell where he is, or if he's still there. He could be anywhere, even on his way home by now. Hold on, I'll get you the telegram he sent, it's in the back office." Returning momentarily with the wrinkled copy he handed it to her. "Doesn't say much, Charley was never very loquacious, evidently he's not much of a letter writer either." Looking at her suspiciously, he asked, "Say, did you two have a falling out?"

"Not really. I haven't done anything wrong. We were to go to the New Years ball at the fort together. Then things fell apart and he avoided me, so I went to the Emerson Ball with Paul Evans."

John looked at her accusingly, "Yes, and you went riding with that same gentleman on Christmas day too. White, from Huron City, blabbed to Charley, said he saw the two of you drive past his place -- said you didn't come back either. That's probably what set him off."

Marguerite became defensive, "Yes, we drove to Emerson and had a brief lunch, and then he took me home on the east side of the river. That's all there was to it."

It was obvious to Marguerite that John didn't want to become involved in her problem, for he said, "Well, I'll keep you posted if he contacts me again. Hopefully he's not in any serious trouble."

Turning to leave, Marguerite said, "I'd appreciate it if you would, John. I'm worried, it's not like him to leave us both in limbo."

Monday, December 03, 2007

The Spooky House

This photo was taken in the early 1970's in front of the house of one of the people in the photo. The house was located directly east of my parents' home, across a field with a slough in it. I often looked across at the house at night, especially on nights with a full moon, because the moon would reflect each time in the upstairs' window of that house, making it look even spookier than it already did...

My Great Aunt Hannah wrote on the back of the photo: "Margaret, Eli Gooselaw, and I - we used to herd cattle with brother Charley when we were kids...the house is STILL not painted, and black!" [Margaret (Balderson) Diamond was her niece, her sister Lil's girl...]