Sunday, April 29, 2007

Looking Back: Flood of 1997


FLOOD OF 1997: Defiant Pembina
By Kevin Bonham
Grand Forks Herald Staff Writer - 04/26/2007

PEMBINA, N.D. - The community of Pembina was a defiant one, back in April 1997.

With the Red River continuing to rise toward a predicted record crest, the National Weather Service raised the crest forecast by another 4 feet, to between 56 and 59 feet - 2 feet higher than the city's dikes.

Armed with that information, state and local officials on April 24 ordered the evacuation of North Dakot's oldest settlement.

But Pembina's flood committee and community leaders were not about to quit.

"They should give us a chance to whip this," Chuck Walker said at the time. "All we want is an honest chance at it. No one wants to lose their homes."

Walker was a County Commissioner at the time. His wife, Hetty Walker, was the town's mayor.

They called then Governor Ed Schafer, who arrived in town to talk with local and state officials. They contacted Sen. Kent Conrad, D-N.D., who arrived by helicopter to survey the situation.

"The equipment already had left town," Hetty Walker said. "Sen. Conrad borrowed a cell phone and called the Corps and said, 'Get back here. We can save this town.' They were here the next day. Then, the National Guard came, and the Coast Guard came."

Pembina, a town of 650, sits in a precarious location in the northeastern corner of North Dakota, a mile from the Canadian border. It's at the lowest elevation in the state.

It also is located at the confluence of the Pembina and Red rivers, both of which were in the midst of recor floods at the time. Pembina is protected by a rink dike that ties into a concrete levee that protects the main part of the city.

On April 24, water spilling from the rivers was 18 inches deep across Interstate 29.

Except for people working on the dike, the town was evacuated.

"It was real eerie when they evacuated the town," Hetty Walker said.

In a plan similar to one undertaken 20 miles to the south in Drayton, N.D., community leaders decided to build a plywood extension to the concrete section of the downtown dike. With the concrete forming the base, they were able to secure plywood to both sides of the dike and fill the space with sandbags.

The weather service ultimately lowered the crest by 4 feet, as crews were putting the finishing touches on the dike raises.

The Red finally crested at 54.95 feet, about a foot higher than the 1979 record crest.

But it wasn't a total victory.

South Pembina, a wedge-shaped piece of land between the Pembina and Red rivers, flooded when water topped a dike along the Red.

Dave Rector (left), with the Fort Pembina Historical Soceity and former Pembina mayor Hetty Walker (right), look over the Greek Orthodox Bible written in Ukrainian, that was printed in Winnipeg in 1948. St. John's Ukrainian Orthodox Church is used only for special occassions. The church building is still in the flood plain in Pembina, N.D. because it can not be moved cost effectively. Herald photo by Jackie Lorentz.The floodwaters inundated 21 homes, mostly mobile homes, as well as the historic St. John's Ukrainian Orthodox Church, a handful of historic buildings and the Lamoure Memorial Golf Course.

"It was so sad to see all that water over those mobile homes," said Hetty Walker, who now serves on the Pembina County Commission.

Rebuild, Renew

When the floodwaters finally receded, people in Pembina started putting their lives back together. They were grateful that most of the community had escaped serious damage.

They cleaned. They evaluated their flood preparations and their response.

They wrote a new flood emergency manual, which they review each spring, before the snow begins to melt.

They started to strengthen their flood protection system. And they started to build and rebuild.

"We learned a lot from that flood," Hetty Walker said. "The best thing was that we learned there are so many good people. They came from everywhere."

Saturday, April 28, 2007

June Event Yields St. Vincent History

I just got home from a 3-day business trip to a phone call from Wayne Stewart. Wayne is one of the organizers of the Humboldt Centennial/All-School Reunion Committee. One of the things Wayne mentioned was that the DVD they will be selling at the event not only has tons of footage of Humboldt itself, but other events that happened in the area, including around St. Vincent. One of the events he specifically mentioned to me was a train wreck that happened on a bend in the line just outside of town at that time. I didn't get the year, but I assume it had to be quite a few years ago. I told Wayne I had just sent in my pre-registration, including my order for the DVD, so was thrilled to hear it had some St. Vincent footage on it. He also said that in the course of researching for the Humboldt history for the Centennial/Reunion, he came across many interesting historical tidbits from the then St. Vincent New Era that he plans on writing up this coming winter, and will be sharing with me. Dear Readers, I shall definitely pass on anything interesting in connection with St. Vincent, so...Stay Tuned!

Monday, April 23, 2007

A New Cousin

Memories are extremely powerful. Whoever you are, as you read this, you have memories that mean a lot to you. Good or bad, old or new. Memories about people...memories about events...and memories about places.

That's what motivated Angela Lucas in the first place. Back in the late 1990's, she found Dennis Matthew's Red River Valley website, which at that time was virtually the only place you could go to get good information on our area.1 In her emails to me, Angela had this to say:
I just discovered your blogs on the internet. I am so excited to see so much information in one place about St. Vincent and Emerson! I have many ancestors and relatives from this area, namely the Lucas and Lang families. I am also connected to the Turners and Finneys, and one Lucas in my line married a Fitzpatrick. I am familiar with your family names, too. I went to your pictures on flickr and saw Harriet Short. Is this your mom? I think I talked to her on the phone once about St. Vincent. She told me some information about my Lucas family, Hugh and Iva and children, that settled in St. Vincent in 1898. She remembered them and told me about their house and memories about my family. They came over from Emerson. My Lucas ancestors settled in Emerson shortly after 1870, and my great-grandparents were married there in 1895. I have been reading the Gamble letters online with great fascination! Thank you for posting them.
I wrote back right away, telling her "... My family on my Mom's side is also connected to the Finney family - a Fitzpatrick married into that family. As my Mom (yes, Harriet [Fitzpatrick] Short) has always said, we seem to be related to everyone up there!" I encouraged her to share more about her ancestors experience in our area over a century ago, and she replied:
I think I talked to your mom in 1999. I took notes, which I will try to find. She was very sweet on the phone. I only talked to her once. I think it was Keith Finney that gave me her number. We (Keith and I) were emailing back and forth after I found his name on Dennis Matthews' Red River Valley website as a contributor. (I contributed there, too; the notes on the Lucas lineage posted on the site are mostly mine.)

You and I are almost the same age. My dad, Earl Lucas, grew up in Hallock and we visited there a few times when I was growing up, but it was a long trip for us so we didn't go much. I do have pictures of the area...some are from the time period of 1918-1920s in St. Vincent...just a few, though. There is one that I'll try to find for you; it shows one of the family homes in St. V. and a train going by in the background.

My dad's parents were Vernon Lucas and Reta Lang. The Langs, Reta's parents, moved to St. V or Clow township in 1880 and had a homestead there. Vernon Lucas was a pilot and an radio expert, son of Hugh and Iva Lucas. He was a very nice guy, popular and smart, and my Grandma Reta loved him a lot. They were married in St. V. in 1921 and had 4 kids, one of whom was my dad. Vernon died young in a plane crash, and my grandmother remarried after that. People knew her for years as Reta Hord. She stayed in the area, worked at local restaurants, and died in 1995 in Hallock. She was one of 12 Langs that grew up in St. Vincent in the early 1900s. Many of her siblings also stayed in the area and married, raised families, etc. That's how I am connected to Finneys and Turners. So yes, your mom was right; everybody in St. V. was related!

My grandparents were Hugh Lucas and Iva Colby Lucas. They are the ones that your mother remembered. Iva was a nurse and she traveled with a local doctor on house calls. They had 7 kids. Hugh Lucas was a compositor and printer for the Emerson International newspaper in the late 1800s and worked there with J.E. Bouvette. He was also a carpenter and built their first home in St. Vincent with his own hands, or so the story goes. He died in Hallock in 1958.
Later this past weekend, Angela's sister Elaine also wrote to share:
Elaine Lucas Hubbard here. My sister Angela found your blog and sent me the link since we’re Lucas/Lang family and very connected to Red River, Emerson, St. Vincent, Pembina, Kittson County, Hallock, etc. She noted your Fitzpatrick connection, but wasn’t sure how it fits our line. I think this is it:

Ella Lucas married Frederick George Fitzpatrick, son of Sheldon and Margaret Berry Fitzpatrick . They were Stella's parents. Cousin Jackie Zimmer [Note from Trish: Jackie is Stella's daughter and my cousin as well as cousin to Angela and Elaine...] is in this line I think.

Ella Lucas was daughter of William Lucas of Dewittville, Quebec and Portage La Prairie, Manitoba. This William Lucas and our great-grandfather Hugh Lionel Lucas Jr. were brothers.

Our father, Earl Lucas, was born in Fargo, but grew up in Hallock. His parents (our paternal grandparents) were Vernon R. and Margareta “Reta” Lang Lucas.

Incidentally, I may be named for Elaine Fitzpatrick (something Angela may not even know!) It was not in memory of, as she was still alive when I was born, but I remember being told as a child that had the same name, or had been given the same name, as someone (related, family, close-to-family) who had a twin sister and they had both died young and very tragically. I’d always thought they both died at the same time, and before I was born, being told it involved a car accident (a convertible?) Not until I went to your MyFamily site, logging in as guest, and saw the drunk driver reports and all did I make the connection to Elaine Fitzpatrick, and saw that her twin Alice and other sister and father all drowned a few months later in the farm pond. That seems to connect to what I was told in the mid-50s.

You seem to have Finney connections, as we do. Our Grandma Reta’s sister Dorothy Lang married George Finney.

Your blog and site are very interesting and help to fill the gaps historically and culturally for us. We’re digging in now. Thanks and keep up the good work!!
Nothing makes me happier than to know I'm helping others make connections with each other and with their roots. That's what this is all about.

1 It's still a core reference, and I value it highly and can't recommend it enough.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Hallock Expatriate's Blog

"My family grew up on a farm between Orleans and Humboldt, and they moved to Lancaster in the 1950's and then to Hallock in the early 1960's..."
I recently discovered Mike Haubrich's blog quite by accident when doing general searches for this blog. I regularly do searches on keywords to locate information about our county, towns, and the general region that would be of interest to those from our area. You might be surprised how many people visit the website here, from all over the country and many from other parts of the world. Some are looking for general history that happened in our area, others are just interested in the site because it's a little window into a small part of our world. Others are expatriates like Mike, who grew up here but moved away. Like me, Mike moved away and moved around all over. Eventually, he - like me - moved back to the region. We're still not 'back home', but we are back close enough to have perspective and appreciation of our respective backgrounds.

The Northern Lights:
Sure, Hallock gets very cold in the winter. Brutally cold, as I have written in prior entries. But there are treasures in the north that people to the south don't get to experience. Real rhubarb pie, stands of white poplar and quaking aspen, traces of the summer sunset in the northern sky lasting until 11:30 at night, seeing the entire Big Dipper and best of all, basking in the glow of the Northern Lights.
Death of a Friend and Fellow Hallockite:
Tim Hanson died over the weekend. I only knew him as a friend of my sister. People had suspected but weren't really sure about his sexuality as he was growing up. Turns out he was gay. I partied with him a couple of times after my sister moved to St. Paul. I had gotten out of touch with most of my age-group peers after I moved away from Minnesota in 1983, and when I moved back to Minnesota in 1993 I visited more frequently. When my sister moved to St. Paul I got to know some of the people that had been her friends when she was in school here.

Tim was proud to have been from Hallock. We talked about our background and some of the things we shared by growing up there. It was then that I learned that he had a partner of 15 years. A male partner. Tim was one of the good guys. His life's chosen work was in helping the developmentally disabled, until he died in a car accident on March 17th. His car hit a telephone pole. Phil survived.
Starting With Hallock:
We need to clear up one thing, right now. The weather people in the Twin Cities report on the temperature in "Hal-eck" and I cringe. I would bet that most people think they are talking about Alexandria, which is nowhwere near the top left corner of Minnesota. Hallock is the county seat of the farthest northwest county in Minnesota. Our county borders both Manitoba and North Dakota, and is not in Lake Country.

The name "Hallock" is pronounced differently by the natives than by anyone else. We call it "HAL-lock" and everyone else calls it "Halleck." We stretch the first syllable and make sure that the second is pronounced, while the others try to squeeze two syllables into one. They want to make the name as short as the town is small. We want to remind people that even though the town has a population around twelve hundred, it is the biggest town in Kittson County and worthy of a full two syllables.
Midnight, Midnight Hope to See the Ghost Tonight
Our house on Forest Street was big and old. It had a front porch, which we only used for play. We had a big yard, separated into a north section and a south section by the house. The east side of the yard provided plenty of room for play as well. We took advantage of it.
Minimum Wage in the 1970's
Hallock's furniture store sat in two buildings on Second Street, across from the jewelry and drug stores. Gary Melin took over when his dad, Wilbur was too ill to carry on. Gary was only in his twenties when he took over management, but the people of Hallock liked working with him and trusted him to sell the best quality home furnishings at a reasonable price, considering the size of the town. Melin's carried appliances, paint, carpeting, TVs and of course furniture.

He hired me when I was sixteen to complement his staff of four; his mother Ella, Jan Carlson, me and himself. He paid me the grand sum of $1.95 per hour, which was minimum wage at the time. I didn't negotiate for a higher wage, considering that this was not bad money at the time and I had just completed a temporary job working the harvest for a local farmer at $1.50 an hour and thought I was rolling in tall clover.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Losing Settlers

There were many reasons for Canada's limited success in attracting settlers. Among them was the fact that the American West still proved more appealing to the majority of potential immigrants. In fact, many of the immigrants who originally arrived in Western Canada during this period often eventually headed south into the United States. There they could take advantage of a more advanced economy and a more efficient transportation system. - Competition with the United States

THE MANITOBA FREE PRESS, TUESDAY, June 15, 1880.

The Times says that the Emerson International says that Mr. Lindsay Hussoll says that there was no further use for a Dominion Land agent at Emerson, as whatever information was to be obtained there could be had at the immigration office of which office, Mr. Hussoll said, "...he would see well supplied with maps phamphlets for free distribution." This is a truly refreshing bit of roundabout information. There is a degree of innocent playfulness about it which cannot fail to be highly appreciated by the people whose interests are put to one side in such an airy manner. Of what consequence is the fact that people are daily seeking for information at Emerson regarding land, and cannot obtain it, when a Government official assures the International, which afterwards assures the Times, that there is no need for any land office to which the desired information could be obtained. Let the unfortunate seekers after lands go to the immigration office. True, they have not at present any maps or pamphlets or other means of giving information at the immigration office. But, then, the intending settler can course, [---] not be in a hurry to locate his land. The government will see, after a while, that the immigration office is well supplied with maps and pamphlets for free distribution. If the immigrant wants to settle the NorthWest let him wait until the government is ready to give him information. The Emerson land office has been closed for a month or more, and the Government has only yet got to the point of seeing that the immigration office shall be supplied with all pamphlets. When will it get to the point of doing something to remedy (the unfortunate series of blunders by [---] has so materially injured Manitoba and the NorthWest that there no necessity for a land office at Emerson? We do not believe that the experience of that place will hear out the assertion that there is not. The Emerson [---] certainly does net take that view. It says "Every day our town has its inquirers after land, who want information of an official nature, but are unable to get it and immigrants often times get discouraged and seek land elsewhere, whereas, if proper information could be furnished them they would have been settlers. What we should have is this: An office established here which would receive weekly reports of the unoccupied lands in all the the outlying districts and land offices in the Province, then when an immigrant entered Canadian territory, we would not be compelled to tell him that probably the information he seeks can be obtained in Winnipeg, but at once so before him the unoccupied lands of the whole Province and then avert the danger of losing our would-be settlers. On the other side of the line, in St. Vincent and Pembina, do you suppose any information is withheld from an inquirer by any means. Everything in their power is done by the agents and officer to give any information, and they will often accompany parties out to show and locate them on available land. There is both force and truth in this and a wise government would recognize the fact. Immigrants are being driven into Dakota through the lack of means of obtaining information about the NorthWest. Hundreds and thousands of valuable settlers have been lost this year to Canada through this cause. While the eminent - sustained in its delusions by the unpatriotic conduct of its [---] the NorthWest - remains blind to the fact, and persists in its destructive policy. The future of the NorthWest is being jeopardised. The settlors who should come here are going to the United States and the realisation of Sir John Macdonald's prophecies about the immigration to country is hopelessly prevented by Sir John Macdonald's own policy. The process of depopulation so casually going on in the Eastern Provinces is vividly illustrated by the following paragraph from the St. John Telegraph 62nd Battalion, New Brunswick Volunteers, loat men out of Ii50, between the time of the visit of the Governor-General and the Princes and the late anniversary of the Queen's birthday. The battalion had actually to call for 166 recruits to take the place of the young men who had gone away, mainly to the United States. These and other figures show the nature and alarming extent of the work of depletion that is going on all over the country.

Chapter VI: Sheriff Charley Brown

The next morning Charley was busy saddling his horse when Shawn Kirpatrick's troops clattered up the street to Mason's Livery.

Shawn looked disgusted as he dismounted. "See my army? I was to get two squads; instead I was lucky to find twelve horses fit to ride. Not hard to find men though, everyone wanted to get in on the excitement of chasing Indians."

A quick glance told Charley that Shawn had only eleven mounted men in addition to himself. Behind the men an army ambulance was just drawing to a stop. On the seat Charley recognized the commissary sergeant of Company I, and Doctor Flint's medical assistant from the fort.

"If they've all got rifles it should be enough firepower." Charley was smiling as he tugged the girth strap snug.

"We've got the same old Springfield 45-70's, and sixty rounds of ammo per man." Shawn looked at Charley critically, "Thought you'd be taking a buckboard along instead of your horse."

"Seeing as how you are all riding astride on those McClellan saddles, I didn't want to create hard feelings. I see you've brought an ambulance with all the necessities of life, including a cook. As long as you've got Sergeant Langlar along, we'll eat well. The army can feed me too!"

"If you can stand our rations!" Shawn laughed.

"If worst comes to worst, we'll pick off some geese, maybe even a deer." Charley suggested.

"What do you want me to do? How do we go about this maneuver."

"You and I can lead off, but when we get out to Indian country we'll have to play it smart. No need to post flankers until we get near them. If they see your men, they'll scatter. We'll have to force them into a meeting with us."

"We'll work something out." Shawn answered. "You know Sergeant Hoffman, I suppose."

Charley grinned at the career sergeant. "Sure! Pete, aren't you ashamed of yourself, chasing Indians at your age! Thought you got it out of your system when we were after Apaches a few years back."

The grim-faced Hoffman smiled wryly, "Just following orders Charley, doing same's I did for you back then."

According to Charley's reckoning they made only about 45 miles that day. It had been cold in the morning but overly warm by midday. As Charley thought, Hot enough to broil brains at noon, and cold enough for frostbite when the sun goes down tonight! The ambulance had been a hindrance, forcing them to a slower pace than Charley had hoped.

That evening it became apparent that some of the men suffered thigh chafing and blistering. Bitching among the men indicated the problem was that they were infantrymen, unaccustomed to the hard leathered McClellan saddles. One man grinned at Charley wryly, "My butt feels like the saddle is eating it alive, but it doesn't seem to bother my horse."

"See the aid man for some grease," Charley advised.

In addition to his cooking abilities, Sergeant Langlar had thoughtfully brought along extra blankets in the ambulance. He admonished the men, "I want them back each morning before breakfast, shook out clean, and folded."

Rolled in their blankets after dark, Charley queried Shawn. "How come you didn't use the mules at the fort? Aren't most of them broke to ride?"

Shawn brooded over a last smoke. "Sure, but the captain is going to unload them on the unwary public. He got his orders from the Inspector General. The general said we're infantry and don't need all those animals. Personally, I think it's because he doesn't like mules."

Charley speculated, "They're twice as smart as a horse, but some are mighty razor-backed. Some are cussedly mean too, kick like hell! Guess it's due to the way they were broke in. By golly, when we get back I've a mind to look them over -- might buy a matched team.

"It'll take two more days to get out there at the speed we're traveling. We'll stop short of Jed Pitman's place on Wednesday. You and I can check with him and scout out the Indians around St. Paul Butte. They must have a camp, or are staying near some settler's cabin. More than likely we'll have to get behind them in a squeeze play to force a confrontation. Wherever they're located, I hope they'll have the team and wagon hid nearby."

Long before daylight Shawn had his men up and fed. At first light they struck out on their second day of travel. An old cavalry tactic was frequently used, the men occasionally dismounting, walking their horses to avoid stiffness and to ease the strain on their mounts.

This prairie country was rolling, turning to large pothole areas with thousands of geese resting on their migration flight south. Other large flocks moved about, circling, looking for food -- deep honking persisting the entire day.

It was early on Wednesday afternoon when Charley announced, "Jed lives just over that hill. Best we camp in a low spot; we don't want to be seen."

Their camp was made in a wooded draw near a creek. The side hill on each side of the ravine had good stands of grass, albeit of mighty poor quality for the horses, to Charley's thinking.

Kirkpatrick called the men together. "We're only a few miles from the Indians. No fires until after dark and then only in deep dug holes in the ground. I don't want any flames or smoke spotted. Also, I want absolute quiet, no roaming away from the camp."

Charley approached Shawn. "Let's you and I ride over to Pitman's. Maybe he's had some contact with the Indians since last week. He might have some idea of where they're located." He began walking toward his horse.

Shawn called, "Sergeant Santly! Take over! I'm going with the sheriff. I'll be back at dark. Post a guard and graze the horses nearby until near dusk. Then bring them in close, hobbled and tied, under separate guard. Sergeant Hoffman, I want you to come along with us."

The three took a roundabout route to Pitman's to avoid being sky lined. Approaching Pitman's cabin Jed was seen sawing wood with a bucksaw. Charley noted the rifle leaning against the woodpile. He approved. Old Jed is being cautious.

"Hey Jed!" He shouted to give advance warning.

They saw the old trapper hastily drop the saw and reach for his rifle. Shading his eyes as he turned toward them, he looked long moments. Finally recognizing Charley, he waved them in.

"Back again! See you've got some army with you."

"Yup, and more hidden back a half-mile or so. Jed, this is Lieutenant Shawn Kirkpatrick, a genuine Irisher. And this is his platoon sergeant, Hoffman."

"Was an Irishman," said Shawn smiling, "I'm a Yankee now."

Jed craned his neck to look up at the tall Shawn, and then thrust out his hand. "Welcome to the hills. Does Rosie still run that cathouse in Pembina?"

Charley burst out laughing at Shawn's embarrassment.

Shawn looked puzzled, wondering if his leg was being pulled. Still grinning, Charley explained. "Jed asked me that question too, but I didn't answer him. He's just a horny old woodsman and trapper, knows Rosie from the old days."

"Damn right I knowed her!" Jed was grinning. "She was a wild one when she was young. 'Course I was too . . . at the time. Not much use anymore, but I still remember the good times. I was always broke, but I never starved."

Charley was anxious to get down to business. "Jed, where are those Indians bedded down? I don't want them scattering. If that happens we'll never recover the goods."

"Don't know for sure, but probably at Campbell's place. It's about 5 miles to the northwest. He's a crotchety old Scotsman, a Hudson Bay man, probably still trades with them. He's none too friendly, should have had his arse kicked back across the border long ago."

"Can we get close enough to see his cabin?"

"Sure, it's in a sheltered draw -- hills on both sides. I'll take you out there. Just give me time to saddle up." He questioned, "Ain't going to do nothing tonight are you?"

"No, I just want to make our plans for the morrow."

As Jed saddled his pony, Charley subtly made suggestions to Shawn and the sergeant, being careful not to let Shawn get the impression he was usurping his authority. Although he knew Shawn had little experience dealing with local Indians, he wanted Shawn to have the prestige of making the final decisions.

"Shawn, we should look for a way to get behind them. We can move your men out before daylight and get them in place if it's agreeable with you, Hoffman can take some men around to the northwest. The rest of us can come in from the opposite side. They may have dogs with them, but the wind is out of the northwest now. They shouldn't be a problem tonight if we stay downwind. There usually isn't any wind in the early morning, so if Hoffman makes a wide swing, the dogs won't catch scent of his men until it's too late.”

"Sounds good to me, Charley. But I'm not taking any chances on losing men. If the Indians want a fight, we'll give it to them." He studied Charley's face. "Don't feel guilty about giving me advice -- I'm new at this!"

The sun was beginning to set when they tied their horses well back from Campbell's cabin and proceeded on foot. Creeping cautiously on hands and knees along a side hill covered with long prairie grass they peered down at the cabin below. They counted twenty-four horses in the corral and two tethered near three tepees located north of the cabin.

"Scruffy looking ponies, aren't they?" Hoffman said.

Jed turned to look at him. "Son, they may not look like much, but they'll eat anything. The Indians don't put up hay for the winter. When the snow flies those scruffy looking critters are turned loose to eat brush and tree bark. They survive too!"

A well-worn trail meandered north from the cabin, bending around a hill. Jed offered softly, "They won't fight. They've got women and kids with them, even some dogs. They ain't breeds either, them look to be all full-blood Sioux. That trail behind the cabin's the one that leads to Canada. The border is just a few hundred yards north."

Shawn spoke up, "Hoffman, you skirt that hill in the early morning and block that trail north. I'll give you four men. The rest of us can come in from this side." He turned to Charley, "I don't see the wagon."

"Must have it stashed in the woods somewhere," Jed said. "When we get them penned, they'll dig it up if they have it.”

Dropping Jed off at his cabin they returned to the troop bivouac area. As it was nearly dark, Shawn shouted, "Don't shoot boys, we're coming in!"

By 7:00 the following morning Hoffman's men were judged to be in place. In the growing light Charley and Shawn, with the remaining troops, approached the Indian camp. Shawn had his men formed into a wide skirmish line. Instant pandemonium broke out among the Indians when the soldiers were seen, the braves making a rush to Campbell's corral for their mounts. At that moment Hoffman and his four men came into view from behind the hill. They were on foot and spread out to block the trail north. The Indians froze in place, realizing they were trapped. Their women and children disappeared within seconds, darting into the tepees; the warriors grouped together with looks of frustration on their faces. Although they outnumbered their attackers nearly two to one, they realized the futility of fighting the soldiers.

Approaching the Indians, Shawn demanded loudly, "Who is chief here?"

Charley said grimly, "I think it's that brave man hiding behind the others over by the corral." He shouted, "Hey you!" He beckoned with his hand, "Come over here!"

Both he and Shawn detected the dour looks cast at the Indian leader by his companions. It was apparent he had lost their respect.

Charley nudged his horse near the man. "Maybe I should take all your horses now. You were so strong before. I want that team and wagon, and I want it now!"

The chief, in an attempt to regain his pride, sneered, "Maybe we fight you."

Charley laughed, "And when you all die, what will happen to your women and children?"

Shawn closed with Charley, addressing the Indian. "If you don't give us the team and wagon with all the goods immediately, I will take you all to jail. If you bring me the team, wagon and goods I will let you all go, but you must never come across from the Grandmother's land again. Where is this trader called Campbell?"

The Indian hesitated, then pointed to the north.

"Tell him not to come back. He won't have a cabin when he returns. I'm going to destroy it."

Charley was tickled, realizing that Shawn knew what he was doing. This lieutenant was no namby-pamby! Charley knew he would have made the same decision himself, but he also knew he lacked that authority.

A heated conversation took place among the Indians. Two youths, hardly more than boys, mounted the pair of horses tied near the tepees. One spoke to Shawn brokenly, "We get wagon." They rode up the trail to the north, slowing cautiously while passing between Hoffman's men who watched them with caution. The women and children began emerging from the tepees, evidently not fearing the soldiers any longer. A brave spoke to them and they began taking down the tepees, and arranging travois for the move. A long hour later the two young bucks were back with the wagon, one was driving the team, the other leading his companion's horse.

Charley dismounted to briefly check the wagon. It was obvious the goods had been examined, bundles of blankets were in disarray. He had no way to determine what had been pilfered; he had forgotten to bring the manifest. But from the quantity of goods remaining, he suspected that a few of the blankets were missing.

"Guess most of it's here, Shawn. We'd better stick around long enough to see these bow-and-arrows get back to Canada."

Shawn nodded, then pointed north, ordering loudly, "Go back to the Grandmother's land. Don't come back. If you do, you'll go to prison. The people living in these hills don't want you coming here; you stay away, or go to jail.

He turned to Hoffman. "Sergeant, take your detail and escort them back across the border into Canada. Mr. Pitman says it's only a short distance. Santly, you touch a match to the cabin and its contents. The rest of you men tear down that pole corral and everything of value. Toss it all on the fire. I want everything destroyed, nothing left.

He turned to Charley. "Probably that Campbell is the man responsible for this trouble. He's been squatting here illegally. The English traders go too far. They've sold guns to nearly every Indian in Canada, and to many on this side of the line too!"

While Hoffman escorted the Indians to the border, Santly sent three men to retrieve horses previously used by Hoffman. By the time his men returned with the animals the cabin was well ablaze. Approaching Lieutenant Kirpatrick, Santly said, "Sir, that cabin was filled with trade goods, it was like a store. He wiped his forehead grimly, "Jeeze, I hated to burn all that good stuff, 'specially the spirits!"

Kirkpatrick was unmoved, but chuckled, "Yes, but he's out of business now, and out of our hair. He won't come back!"

When Hoffman and his men returned, the entire group moved back to Pitman's yard. Shawn sent Santly back to bring his ambulance to Jed's yard, saying, "We're going to eat before leaving. We should be back at the fort by Saturday night if we push hard."

Charley went to his horse and opened his saddlebags. Unrolling a burlap bag, he lifted out two quart bottles. Handing one to Shawn and the other to Hoffman, he smiled, "Forgive me if I break regulations. Two quarts among sixteen men won't go very far, but we've earned a reward. We got off easy, not a man scratched. Think of what happened to that damned fool, Custer!"

Shawn grinned and pulled the cork on a bottle. Looking around at his men, he said, "I won't mention this in my report, so don't you men spill the beans."

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Small Town Minister - ARRIVAL

Upon discovering the roots of the church I grew up in, by overhearing a casual reference made by family or friends, I asked my Mom to elaborate. This was when I was still at home. As I remember it, she said there were several people in the town's Episcopal Church that were not happy there. I'm not sure what inspired the group to start their own meetings, but they did. Perhaps there was a nearby revival they had been challenged by. Whatever the genesis, they took that step. Eventually they had their own building, and called it the Valley Community Church. It was non-denominational at first, then decided to affiliate with the Evangelical Free Church. The EFC isn't a denomination, but rather an affiliation of independent churches. (Some may quibble with the semantics, but it's an important component to the people of those churches for many reasons...a story for another time!)

I'm not sure if the pastor in the letter below was the first pastor of the church, but the letter has the sound of it. The congregation was obviously excited to have the new pastor, and wanted him to have the best they could offer.

Pastor Erickson's daughters have graciously offered to share their father's memories of those times of his early pastorate through his letters. Although he is passed on, we'll revisit those times through his words, about what it was like to be a small town minister. Read below of how the pastor and his family were welcomed, and their first impressions of St. Vincent...
__________

Excerpt of letter written to friends by Rev Edward Erickson… February 12, 1955 (upon arriving in St Vincent January 27, 1955)…
“…We loaded up the big International truck, that the St Vincent Free church people sent down (Liberty, Nebraska), on Monday, January 24th. As big as the truck was, it looked quite inadequate to take all of our belongings. But by careful planning of the load, the good crew of men from the Pleasant Grove church led by Pastor Skoog himself, found a place for most everything, and still placed padding between, so that everything arrived here in good condition…

…arriving at St Vincent about 4 o’clock (on Thursday, January 27th). We discovered that the truck had arrived without trouble and was already unloaded. The parsonage is a fair sized house (6 rooms and bath) and it appeared for awhile to be full of boxes and boxes of our things. But we managed to find a place to sleep after having a delicious supper with the Kochendorfers, one of good families here.

The next day, with the help of some husky men here, we got the bigger and heavier furniture in its place, so by Saturday night the house was quite livable. The coldest weather of the winter had come on, so we surely appreciated the new automatic Lennox oil heating system that was just installed and completed the day we arrived. As a result the house is very comfortable even in this 20 to 28 below zero weather we have been having the past several days. I am using one of the upstairs bedrooms for a study, and Danny has his bed here also, but so far it has worked out quite well.

The church is about a block away, in this town of some 300 people. There is a Catholic and an Episcopal church besides our own. Also a Plymouth Brethren and a group of Cooneyites (commonly called 2 by 2’s) that meet in homes in the community. Most of the people we are told, consider some church as their own… The people of the community appear to be very friendly, yet I can detect that they are looking us over quite carefully…Most of our people of course are farmers, and I have been told that all but one family owns their farm. Some of the farms are quite big I understand, being a section or more. As a general rule they have good crops up here in the Red River valley, but last year the army worms did considerable damage. They were able to control some of it by airplane spraying. What seems to be the main crop, but there also are other grains, and potatoes. Some farther south in the valley they raise sugar beets too.

The first Sunday here, January 30th, we found 67 in Sunday School and a few more for the church service. Again in the evening there were about 40 out. At the Mid-week Bible Study and Prayer on Wednesday after choir practice, there were over 30 out. It is good to see such a good number for these services, bringing their Bibles with them & revealing by their questions and discussion that they had a spiritual hunger for a greater knowledge of the Word. Even last Wednesday evening when it was 20 below zero and a sharp, cutting north wind, that really would penetrate, there were 19 out.

On Friday evening, February 3rd, we were given our official welcome, by an invitation to a tasty Fellowship Supper at the church. This was followed by an informal program led by a nearby Baptist pastor, who serves in Emerson, Manitoba, Canada (we are only 2 miles from the Canadian border). After the kind & friendly welcome, to which I responded with a few words of appreciation and meditation from 1st John, concerning the blessed privilege of fellowship with the Lord and His people, we were invited to come upstairs. Upon going up, we were amazed to see a big assortment of canned stuff, flour, sugar, meat, etc. It pretty well filled our car, both in the trunk and back seat. We should not need to visit a grocery store for quite some time.

And that was not all. They gave us 100 gallons of oil for the new furnace, a new linoleum for the downstairs bedroom floor (all the other floors had some good covering of rugs or tile already furnished by the church). Then today, a new gas range (Caloric) arrived and was set up to take the place of the combination range, that was no longer needed for additional help to heat the kitchen.

This church group is only about 6 years old, but they have come a long ways, including spiritually

Our address is simply – St Vincent, Minnesota box 81 and telephone VA3-6245 (St Vincent)…”

Monday, April 09, 2007

Pastor Erickson

The above photo is one of many from Joan [Erickson] Swanson. Her father was Pastor Erickson, who served as pastor at the church I grew up in, the St. Vincent Evangelical Free Church (now known as the Pembina EFC...) It started out as a small non-denominational group that came to be known as the Valley Community Church. At some point they affiliated with the EFCA. Anyways, back to the photos and Joan...

I was doing a search on Flickr to see if there were any images posted from my old hometown area. Lo and behold there was. It was an image of a home I didn't recognize at first, but after contacting the user found out it was the parsonage, and she was the daughter of a former pastor of my old home church, serving from 1955 to 1957.

Although I never knew the Erickson family, I felt I did in a way thanks to my parents talking about them. Pastor Erickson had a special place in my parents' hearts since they were led to dedicated themselves and their family more to the Lord due to his influence. Pastor Erickson lent a helping hand and showed Christian love in practical terms, when assisting my father in building a much-needed addition to our humble home. It was acts like that, that cemented in my parents' minds that their faith was more than words.

I contacted the user, who turned out to be Pastor Erickson's daughter Joan. During our brief exchanges since then, she has kindly posted more photos of their years in St. Vincent, including group shots of the St. Vincent EFC congregation, choir, and parsonage, and a few of the town itself.

Friday, April 06, 2007

1948 Red River Flood

Click to enlarge
The view from South Pembina

"The winter of 1948 was long with steady cold. The Red River Valley filled with snow right down to Breckenridge, Minnesota..."


Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Storytelling (R)evolution


There is a story evolution/revolution going on. They are the same stories as always, but people are just finding new ways to share them.

I for one think it's marvelous. Inspired by home movies or Ken Burns, whatever the reason, people are taking advantage of new tools and telling their stories like never before...