Thursday, January 24, 2008

Sheriff Charley Brown: Chapter XVI

It was a wan, worn-out Charley Brown that finally arrived at the St. Vincent depot just as darkness fell. It had been January 3 when he delivered his prisoner to the Detroit penitentiary, now it was February 17.

The very day he arrived in Detroit he had come down with a high fever and an unshakable cold. He had spent over a month confined to a hospital room, most of the time comatose. He was being treated by a doctor whose talents, Charley suspected, were of a limited knowledge. He was subjected to constant hot mustard plasters, and of having his window open to admit freezing cold, fresh air. Gingerly, Charley reached as far down his neck as possible to relieve the itching left by the hot plasters. Having been abed for so long, and being fed only liquids, he realized it would be days before he would again regain his full vigor.

When the train fully stopped, he raised from his seat to remove his carpetbag from the high baggage rack. A sudden light-headiness, accompanied by a blacking out sensation, made him reach quickly to grasp the back of the seat. Hesitating momentarily to regaining his equilibrium, he turned to walk to the end of the car just as a blast of cold air rolled in from the now open vestibule door. Upon his reaching the exit, the porter, noting Charley's unstable walk, courteously reached to take his bag. Finally stepping down to the icy platform, Charley came face to face with Carl Gooding, the St. Vincent depot agent. Gooding reached out to take Charley's valise from the porter.

"Heard you were sick, Charley. I expected you back three weeks ago. John said you sent a note early in January, saying you were in a hospital."

"A touch of pneumonia, Carl. I was sick as the devil for a while, and for a few days lost touch with reality. I'm fine now, just a little rickety." He smiled, "A few square meals will fix me up."

"We wondered about you. Anyway, if you'll wait a few minutes I'll give you a ride over to Pembina."

Charley spied the mail and express carrier who was loading bags from the express car. "Maybe I can catch a ride with Leifer, the Icelander. He should be leaving soon."

"That's fine with me, but he hasn't any robes on his sleigh and it's mighty cold."

They walked to the mail carrier's sleigh where Gooding placed Charley's bag behind the seat. "Got a passenger for you Bjorn. Charley needs a ride across the river."

"Ya, sure. Yump on."

When the carrier's sleigh reached the top of the hill at Pembina, he drew his team to a stop. Charley thanked him, stepped off, and then turned toward his saloon. Entering, he was greeted profusely by old cronies and others who waved perfunctorily. Dropping his bag, he turned to John who hurriedly approached.

"You worried the hell out of me! It's been a month since you wrote. Why didn't you dash off a letter after that one telegram in early January?"

"I was just too sick -- darn near croaked according to the doctor."

"Well, you're going to be a lot sicker when I tell you the news. Highwater Bill has done it again! He's gone and arrested Frank LaRose for murdering that kid of Nancy LeRoque's.

"Be damned, he really did it?"

"He sure did, and furthermore, it's suspected Frank recently murdered his wife."

"When did all this happen?"

"Just a few days ago."

Charley looked stunned. "Bill wanted me to lock up LaRose, then leave him in charge of the jail, but I refused. He has it in his head that if he could get Frank into jail he could force him into admitting he killed Nancy LeRoque's daughter."

"Geez! You've had us all wild. Marguerite has been worried sick about you. She's stopped by several times and she's never stepped in the door of our saloon before. She said she expected you back weeks ago. Also your mother is concerned. She cornered me at Myrick’s store."

"John, I still feel shaky. Guess it'll take a few days to make me right. Now I suppose I'd better look up Bill and find out what's up."

"I'd rest easy tonight if I were you. Your rooms upstairs should be plenty warm. You can see Bill in the morning; nothing's going to change. Bob's watching LaRose at the jail. By the way, you have a new customer there. A darned slicker -- a lightning rod salesman who took money last fall and never delivered the goods."

"How did suspicion fall on LaRose after his wife's death?"

"Dr. Appel, at the fort, thought her sudden death peculiar. It seems he saw the woman the day before her death and found her in good health. Healthy people just don't kick off -- at least not overnight."

Charley bent to pick up his carpetbag. "If you don't need any help, I'm going upstairs and put something together to eat. Guess the trouble will still be there in the morning."

"You haven't been home for a month; your cupboard must be bare. Sit down and I'll make up something from the leftovers in the icebox. It'll only take a minute." He looked at Charley critically, "You know -- you really do look puny!"

As John began fixing a plate for Charley, he turned to add, "Captain Collins and Kneeshaw have both been looking for you. They want to set up an inquest. They'll be glad you're home since they'll need to call in a jury and clerk. That'll be your job to notify those involved. They'll need witnesses lined up, and I suppose much of it will take place at the fort. I heard Dr. Appel has already run an autopsy on Mrs. LaRose, but the results haven't been released. They're keeping everything under wraps until the inquest."

Charley ate little of the plate handed him. He found his appetite playing tricks. John looked at him sympathetically, "Just not hungry, Charley?"

"It looks mighty good, but I guess I'm just not used to solid food yet."

"How about a barley sandwich?" His partner moved to the beer tap.

Charley nodded slowly, "It'll be my first beer since December. Sure, I'll try a glass. They gave me a little brandy now and then at the hospital -- said it was to increase my appetite." Sprinkling salt into his beer, foam grew, gradually overflowing his glass. Morosely running his hand through his hair, he said, "Sure need a haircut."

John said, "I heard Kneeshaw wants to hold the inquest on Thursday, that's just two days away. He probably already knows whom he wants on the jury, maybe the county commissioners. Guess they're pretty well tied up; he may have to pick jurors from town."

Sipping his glass of beer Charley reminisced over his past suspicion of LaRose. The man was a braggart and bully, who in spite of being a married man, patronized the local whorehouses. He doubted Highwater Billwould be able to bluff LaRose into any confession. Moorhead had picked up his nondeplume some years back when betting on the height of water during a flood. He had driven a board in the ground that had an open knothole in the upper end, and had bet five dollars the water would rise high enough to pass through the knothole. He won the bet, but it was suggested by some that he had returned during the hours of darkness and driven the board deeper into the ground. Charley knew that Bill was an exceptional raconteur, but that on occasion he was known to stretch the truth.

He decided he would contact Kneeshaw the first thing in the morning, then ride out to the fort and consult with Doctor Appel. The coroner’s inquest required only a jury of three plus a clerk, but every possible witness who had knowledge of the case would have to be called for questioning. He knew LaRose had a son, a daughter, and sister-in-law, who would of necessity be called. Also any neighbors who had associated with Mrs. LaRose in her last hours might be important as witnesses. Finishing his glass, he waved negligently to his partner, picked up his bag and moved upstairs.

Upon arising the next morning Charley ate breakfast at the Pioneer Hotel. He was surprised to find that he was able to eat a substantial meal, more it seemed than he had eaten for days. Minutes later, he entered Bird's lumber yard to find Coroner Kneeshaw working on the firm's books. Kneeshaw was a man of slight build, with quick, nervous actions and inquisitive, peering eyes. He looked up at Charley through small steel-rimmed glasses. "Finally got home, eh Charley? I heard you were sick."

"Just home in the nick of time from what I hear. John told me you want to hold an inquest into the LaRose case tomorrow. There's not much time to arrange things."

"Plenty of time -- we can do it day by day. I have two willing jurors so far, George West and Lee Scribner, but we'll need a third. Willoughly Clark has volunteered to act as clerk during the inquest."

"Maybe I can talk John into serving. Business is slow and we've a spare bartender."

"Get him, then." Kneeshaw was rubbing the fingers of his pen hand. "We'll need all the witnesses involved, including his family and neighbors. Best you see Dr. Appel at the fort. He may have more ideas on how to proceed, or of any special witnesses we may need."

At the fort hospital Appel apprised Charley of his findings. "We'll need to ask Wilkens, the druggist, to appear. I'm told he prescribed medicine for Mrs. LaRose, at times. Also, I need to know if she suffered any convulsive fits or similar attacks. Perhaps you can interview her neighbors as to that."

"Why look into fits, or convulsions?"

"It ties in with the symptoms of strychnine poisoning."

"I guess we'd better hold the first day of the hearing out here in your dispensary. Will that upset your schedule? The jurors will want to view the body and hear your conclusions as to the poisoning."

"As far as I'm concerned, tomorrow will be fine. Lieutenant Walker also witnessed the autopsy; I insisted upon an officer being present."

"Great! He can testify too.”

Donning his buffalo coat, beaver hat and finally his heavy horsehide gloves, Charley added, "I'll line up as many witnesses as possible, but I believe the only ones essential tomorrow will be your medical department and Wilkens, the druggist. Kneeshaw says the inquest doesn't have to be done in one day, besides, some of the witnesses may not be readily available."

"Then let's plan on 10 a.m. tomorrow morning, in my dispensary. I'll have everything lined up and can show the jury the tests I performed. If necessary, and if the jury has the stomach for it, I'll do the tests again to demonstrate the presence of poison."

Leaving the fort Charley turned south on the stage road. He was thankful it was a mild and almost a windless day, knowing that by nightfall he would be totally exhausted. He had neglected contacting Marguerite this day and knew she would find out that he was home. He mused, she'll probably feel slighted.

He arrived back in Pembina at dusk, leaving his horse and sleigh at Mason's Livery. Walking through the alley he crossed to Geroux's Hotel, entering the lobby just in time to catch Marguerite putting on her coat. Apparently she had been working behind the desk and was about to leave for home.

"Done for the day?"

Startled, she whirled, dropping her scarf. "Oh, Charley! Where did you come from?"

"Have you eaten supper yet?"

"No, I was going to eat at home."

"Then why not take off your coat and we'll eat in the dining room. How come you're not working there?"

"I've had desk-duty today. Lucien has gone to Minneapolis. His wife is about to come downstairs to relieve me." She slid into his arms, thrusting her body tightly against him. Throwing her arms around his neck she gave him a fierce, clenching kiss. Finally breaking away she scolded, "That's for scaring me! Why didn't you write?"

Taking her hand he led her into the dining room, drawing back a chair to seat her. Sitting opposite, he shrugged his shoulders. "Ended up sick, but I managed to drop a short wire to John. From there on, I didn't know which way was up for over three weeks. Guess I was lucky though, I licked double pneumonia."

"You don't look too spry now. You're pale as a ghost." She looked concerned.

"Just got in last night, then had to go out to the fort on that LaRose case this morning, then south to interview neighbors for potential witnesses. Frank's inquest is set for l0 a.m. tomorrow and not much planning has been done."

"Is it true? Did that horrible man murder his wife?"

"Hopefully, that's what will be decided at the inquest. The hearing will be at the fort and I'll have to see that Frank is delivered there. At present, he's lodged in the jail."

She leaned forward to grasp his hand. "Charley, I missed you so darned much! I imagined every worst thing that could have happened to you."

Tears were forming in her eyes. Taking her hand, he grasped it gently, "John told me that you stopped at the bar and asked about me, said it was the first time you'd ever done that. I'll take you home after we eat. Better yet, would you like to see my new rooms? You've only seen them briefly." His eyes searched hers. "It could be risky."

The waitress appeared to take their order and Maguerite murmured, "Let's discuss it after we eat."

Charley already knew her answer; her eyes burned into his.

All that followed afterward, was full of fire and fury, and when finished, they both lay spent.

It was nearing 4 a.m. when Marguerite awoke. Charley lay in a deep sleep, totally exhausted. Donning her clothes she slipped down the stairs into the frigid winter night, deeming the cold walk home a small price to pay for the wonderful love they had shared.

It was late on the afternoon of February 18 when Charley's mother ran into Mrs. Mostyn at the Pioneer Bakery. "Eliza, have you heard? Charley has returned from Detroit. According to Bob, Charley was sick in the hospital there for several weeks."

"Yes, that's so, Mrs. Brown." Bob Young, the storeowner added, "I ran into Johnny Kabernagel late last evening. He said Charley came in on the late train. He also said Charley looked mighty peaked."

"Well, it seems I'm the last to hear the news," Eliza said bitterly. "He has always been independent, never telling me anything."

"You must have known he took that prisoner to Detroit just after the New Year."

Eliza was loath to admit that Charley had not contacted her since the Christmas dance at Geroux's "Oh yes, I'd almost forgotten that he was to deliver a man to prison." She realized in the past weeks that her scornful treatment of Charley in front of others at the Christmas party had backfired. She had driven a wedge between them that must be eased as quickly as possible.

Her correspondence with Josey had born fruit. She had agreed to make a long visit to Eliza in the early summer, bringing both children, George and Lucy. Eliza was well aware of the fact that a ready-made family might prove a hindrance to Charley, but as she remembered the children, they were both courteous and polite. Eliza was prepared to make any sacrifice to break up Charley's romance with that breed woman.

As she left the bakery she found herself smiling with satisfaction. She recalled Josey's beauty. Why, with the right push and tact, Josey would have him roped within days. She could imagine the look of surprise on Charley's face when they met. She would plan their reunion artfully, arranging parties and picnics, ever pushing the two together.

Cousin Eugene, although agreeable and friendly, was not to be counted on for support. He had obtained a quarter of land to the south and was now busy framing a shed on his town property. When she had scornfully mentioned the breed girl in passing, he had sagely advised, "Eliza, Charley will always be his own man. If you treat that girl as trash, you are being a bigot. It will drive Charley even more firmly toward her. As a matter of fact, I've met Marguerite several times and she seems to be a lovely girl. Outside of her being involved with Charley, I've not heard a disparaging word said about her."

By 9:15 on the following morning court members and witnesses crowded into Dr Appel's dispensary at the fort. Because of badly crowded quarters the court was moved to the second floor where the open wooden coffin rested across two sawhorses. Tables and chairs were set and Coroner Kneeshaw assigned the jury of West, Scribner and Kabernagle to his right. To his left he designated a witness chair with Sheriff Brown close by.

As Frank LaRose was escorted into the room by Deputy Moorhead, the coroner turned to Charley, "Please swear in the jury."

Glancing at the court audience, then toward the jury, Kneeshaw said, "This will be an informal inquiry to determine if the death of Mrs. LaRose is anything more than a normal death. Circumstances have indicated otherwise, so every effort will be made to learn the truth." He looked directly at the prisoner.

"Mr. LaRose, are you represented by an attorney?"

"Hell no! Don't need any, didn't do nothin!"

Kneeshaw raised his eyes giving him a withering glance. "Then I believe we'll call Mr. Moorhead. I understand that he went to your home, arrested you and escorted you to jail."

"Mr. Moorhead, will you take the chair to my left and be sworn in?"

Charley performed the ritual.

"Mr. Moorhead, will you tell me of the circumstances concerning your arrest of Mr. LaRose?"

Bill combed through his heavy beard with nervous fingers. "Well, the jist of it is, Captain Collins sent Lieutenant Walker to corral me -- I was at the St. Vincent elevator at the time. When I reported to the Captain, Dr. Appel told me that something was haywire about Mrs. LaRose's death. He asked me what I could do. So I arrested LaRose, charged him with murdering the LeRoque girl."

The coroner appeared confused. "What has the LeRoque girl got to do with the death of Mrs. LaRose?"

Bill turned to Charley with a guilty look, and then looking back as Kneeshaw, said brashly, "I figured it a good excuse for arresting him -- and I damn well figure he is guilty of killing that girl!"

Coroner Kneeshaw shook his head disgustedly, but ignored the inference.

"What problems did you have in arresting Mr. LaRose?"

"Not much, he argued, but we brought him in."

"You had assistance in making the arrest?"

"Yup, Ned Cavalier came along with me."

"I assume you lodged Mr. LaRose in the Pembina jail?"

"Hell yes! Oh! Sorry judge!"

"You may step down." Kneeshaw showed signs of being exasperated with Moorhead.

"Dr. Appel, will you please take the stand."

Again the oath was administered.

"What were the circumstances that made you call for the sheriff."

"At the end of January I examined the lady at her husband's request. I believe it was January 25. Mr. LaRose said his wife was not feeling well, so I went to their home late in the afternoon. She seemed thin and run down, but her heartbeat was strong and regular, also she had no lung congestion. She did have several bruise marks on her arms also a severe mark on her left cheekbone. I advised Mr. LaRose to take better care of his wife."

"Did you prescribe any medication for her at the time?"

"No sir. She didn't request any and I didn't feel she required any."

"Please continue."

"The next day I was informed that she had passed away. I worried that I had failed to detect something in my examination of her, but upon thinking it over, I became suspicious."

"What did you do about your suspicions?"

"I mulled it in my mind for a day or two then decided to inform Captain Collins of my concern. He concurred with my thoughts, sending Lt. Walker to contact Mr. Moorhead. Sheriff Brown was absent at the time."

Coroner Kneeshaw summarized: "Gentlemen of the jury, it was then that I was informed of the possibility that a criminal act had taken place. I ordered Mrs. LaRose's body to be exhumed and brought to the fort for examination."

Charley glanced over at LaRose; the man's head was bent back over the chair, his eyes closed. He appeared either bored, or feigning sleep.

"Dr. Appel, when you examined the body of Mrs. LaRose, what did you find?"

"That she had enough strychnine in her to kill far more than one person."

"And when did this autopsy take place."

"Not until several hours after the body arrived at the fort since the corpse was frozen solid when brought in. I conducted the autopsy with the assistance of my hospital steward and in the presence of Lt. Walker. I removed the stomach, liver and kidneys to run tests upon them. My reference for the testing, is my medical book on poisons. The results were positive -- strychnine poisoning, whether induced, or taken voluntarily. Incidentally, we were appalled to find other bruises on her body that had been concealed from us by her clothing."

Kneeshaw was drumming the fingers of his right hand as he stared accusingly at LaRose.

"You are positive this evidence of poisoning is conclusive?"

"Yes sir!"

"You may step down. Will the hospital steward please take the stand."

Immediately after Charley swore in Dr. Appel's assistant the coroner asked him to state his name.

"My name is Ira Hocking, sir"

"Do you concur with Dr. Appel's conclusion that Mrs. Larose died of poison?"

"Yes sir. I followed every test with interest, as I've never before had the opportunity to learn anything about testing for poisons. According to the procedure and tests the doctor performed, the results coincided with the manual. I believe the doctor is correct in his conclusion."

After the steward was excused, Kneeshaw beckoned to Charley; they conferred in an undertone. Charley suggested, "I believe Wilkens, the Pembina druggist, should be called next. He's here, and says he gave medications to Mrs. LaRose."

As Charley walked back to his chair, the coroner called out, "Mr. Wilkens, will you please take the stand."

The druggist held a notebook in his hand as he was sworn in.

"Mr. Wilkens, I understand that you prescribed some medications for Mrs. LaRose. Please inform us of the details and contents of those chemicals."

"I sent to her house ten powders in all, each consisting of about two grains of quinine and Dovers Powders."

"Could these be construed to possibly cause her death?"

The druggist smiled grimly. "Hardly. Even if they had been taken all at once they could not have caused death. Let me explain." He glanced at his notebook. "Dovers Powders consist mainly of Ipecac which is a tropical South American creeping plant of the madder family, a plant with small drooping flowers. The dried roots are used in treatment of laryngitis, bronchitis and chronic diarrhea."

Coroner Kneeshaw glanced at Dr. Appel who was nodding his head in agreement with Wilkens.

"Then you were treating her for cold symptoms."

"That is correct."

"Mr. Wilkens, you are excused. Mr. Frank LaRose, will you take the stand?"

Frank's head, which was resting back over the chair, suddenly flopped forward as he arose from his seat. He glared at Charley malevolently as he was sworn in.

"Can you explain anything as to the evidence presented? Can you explain Dr. Appel's statement that your wife died of strychnine poisoning?”

LaRose looked around the room angrily. "If she took something, I don't know a damn thing about it. I ain't done nothing wrong and you can't prove I did!"

The coroner waited hopefully for him to continue, but the prisoner sat morosely in the witness chair uttering no further word. After a long minute, the coroner asked, "Are you quite through?"
"Damn right I am!"

The coroner shook his head in disgust. "Then, you may as well return to your seat."

He turned to Charley, "Sheriff, we will continue this inquest tomorrow morning when I want you to have further witnesses available to the court."

He stood, "This court is adjourned until 10 a.m. tomorrow morning, to convene in the Pembina County rooms.”

As Moorhead led his prisoner down the stairs he turned to speak with Charley. "Best you come and see our other prize bird at the jail."

Charley laughed, "I'll do that, I hear he's an authority on lightning rods and swindling."

Moorhead grinned.

Downstairs, in Dr. Appel's infirmary, Charley closeted with the surgeon. "How easy would it have been for LaRose to get his wife to take the poison?"

Appel looked directly at Charley. "You must have taken quinine during the late war. You must remember it's very bitter taste."

"I sure do! You mean he covered up the strychnine's acrid taste by mixing it with the quinine?"

"Well, wouldn't that be the only way? She was taking the quinine and Dovers powders in solution and he simply intermingled the poison. Moorhead never found any of the ten powders Wilkens was said to have prescribed for her."

Charley shook his head. "If that's the way he did it, he's a cold, calculating bastard. Still, it'll be up to the jury to decide if he's guilty."

"How do you feel about it personally?"

"I hate to say it, but I believe he killed her."

"I'll come into town tomorrow morning for the continuation of the inquest. I'd like to hear what his relatives have to say about the matter."

"Yes, and I'd better get out there to round up those people for tomorrow morning's session. It's almost a twenty mile round trip. Thank heaven it's been mild the past few days. Still, if a bad wind comes up with all that loose snow, travel will become impossible."

Returning to Pembina after speaking with relatives and neighbors of LaRose, Charley mused over the recent weeks. He had no forewarning of coming down with pneumonia, not even the slightest hint. The minor innocuous cough that developed had nearly done him in. The doctor had said if he hadn't been in top physical condition, he wouldn't have survived. It was just his luck upon returning home to be thrust into this mess with LaRose, complicated by the recent arrest of a swindler. He decided to stop at the jail when he returned to town, knowing the county commissioners would be concerned about the expense of keeping two prisoners locked up until the July assizes. He wondered how his father would have handled the situation. Probably wouldn't have bothered him in the least, Charley reflected, knowing well his father was a hard, bitter man.

After eating supper he entered the jail to find the night guard, Parker, adding wood to the potbelly stove. "When did you start your shift, Pete?"

"Started at six, until six tomorrow morning. Bob has the day shift."

Charley motioned to the prisoners behind the bars. "They behaving themselves?"

Parker began to grin. "The salesman is a bitcher, but I told him if he didn't shut up he'd get no supper. Frank's no bother, long's he's sober. He's sulking."

Looking through the bars Charley studied the salesman. "What's your name?"

"Thomas Murray. Are you the sheriff?"

"I am."

"You can't hold me, I'm a Canadian."

"According to what I'm told, you're being charged with fraud and embezzlement. You sold lightning rods and copper ground cable to a number of people, and then you ran off with their money. How do you explain that?"

"Ah, hell! I was going to deliver it all in the spring."

"I'm told you promised 30 day delivery last summer. I guess you're going to be a keeper until the court convenes in July."

Murray shouted in anguish, "My God! That's months away. You can't hold me until then."

"Unfortunately, the 3rd District Court, officiated by Judge Barnes, doesn't meet until then. The fall court session in Fargo is over so there is no bail available for you. Be thankful you're warm and being fed for free."

Turning to leave, Charley questioned Parker. "Who's feeding the prisoners?"

"The grub is coming from Winchester's Hotel. Jud is bringing it over himself."

"Good, but you be sure to count the eating hardware after each meal, and no booze for you, or them. No sleeping on the job either."

"Awe Charley, I know what to do. I've done it for years."

"Yes, but you know what happened to Pete Grant."

"I'm not as stupid as Bob. I wouldn't let myself get sucked in like that!"

Charley shook his head. He knew the low caliber of men he was forced to hire as part-time jail guards, because of the slim county budget.

Arriving at the county rooms a half hour before court was to convene, Charley began placing chairs.

Pembina CourthouseKneeshaw and Jud LaMoure were the first to arrive. Jud looked around the room critically. "Well, the new courthouse will sure be an improvement over this."

Kneeshaw began opening a cardboard file case, then said, "Trouble is, it won't be finished until next fall."

Charley said, "I believe we'll all be glad to move into new quarters. There will be private rooms on the ground floor for the county officials and a decent jail of two stories. That'll allow a means of separating the men and women."

"I've discussed the plans with the architect," Kneeshaw added. "The courtroom is to be 30 x 40, connected by two jury rooms."

"I'd better pick up LaRose at the jail." Charley consulted his watch. "It's nearing 10 o'clock. I'll have Bill sit alongside him."

As he was leaving the building, Captain Collins, Lieutenant Walker and Surgeon Appel arrived. After greeting them momentarily, Charley observed two sleighs drawing up near the door, others were already parked across the street. He noted members and neighbors of the LaRose family gathered together, apparently about to enter the building.

Promptly at 10 a.m. Coroner Kneeshaw called the court to order. Turning to the sheriff, he suggested, "It won't be necessary to swear in the jury again, just the witnesses."

In a low tone he added, "Call the Doctor to the witness chair."

“Will Doctor Appel please come forward."

After being sworn in by the sheriff, the coroner asked, "How would it be possible to conceal a poison such as strychnine from detection?"

Doctor Appel related his discussion with the sheriff as to the bitter quality of the poison, and of the similar bitter taste of quinine. He concluded, "Deputy Moorhead told me he searched the LaRose home diligently and found no trace of the quinine and Dovers powders. He did find a quantity of strychnine in an outside entry. Apparently it was to be used for poisoning wolves and coyotes. He has that container in his possession I understand."

Kneeshaw looked grimly at the jury. "Let it be known that there was strychnine on the premises." Turning to the doctor, he asked, "What are the symptoms of strychnine poisoning?"

"Severe cramping and repeated convulsions until death occurs."

"Are there any witnesses who attended her demise?"

"Yes sir. I understand the sheriff has found relatives who witnessed her death."

"Dr. Appel, you may step down."

Kneeshaw beckoned to Charley, to whisper, "Who's next?"

"I'd suggest Mrs. LaRose's daughter. She was present at her mother's death."

"Miss LaRose, will you please come forward and be sworn in?"

"You were present at your mother's death?"

The girl held a handkerchief which she clenched nervously, "Yes sir."

"Please relax. Tell the jury exactly what happened."

"Mother became sick after supper and began having cramps. Then they became like seizures, but she said they didn't hurt much. They kept getting worse and worse until she just curled up and died."

"After she became sick, how long was it until her death?"

Tears began to stream down the girl's face and she wiped her eyes futilely, "About an hour and a half."

"Did your Father send for Doctor Appel?"

"No, he said it was no use; the doctor was too far away."

"Did he ever hurt your Mother, abuse her in any way?"

The girl looked frightened as she locked eyes with her father.

"Please look at the jury," Kneeshaw instructed. "Now tell them if your Father ever abused your Mother."

Miss Larose seemed to suddenly gain courage, She stiffened up, defiant. "He struck Mother at times, without any reason. He even kicked her." She thrust her face into her handkerchief, and for moments the courtroom was totally silent. Lifting her head she seemed to gain a final strength, "He usually did it when he was drinking."

Kneeshaw could elicit no more information from the girl so she was excused. She was obviously terrified of her father.

Further witnesses, the son, sister-in-law and two neighbors who were present at her death were questioned. Each substantiated the brutal treatment that LaRose administered to his wife. Nearly all, including two neighbors, recalled the convulsions, which occurred before she died.

The inquest continued for the remainder of the week and on Friday, the jury, after being secluded for several hours, brought in a verdict to the effect that the deceased had died from strychnine poisoning by, or at the instigation of her husband.

At LaRose's request, the preliminary investigation was adjourned until March 9, at 9:00 o'clock, a.m. at which time further evidence would be elicited, pro and con. He informed them that he would have an attorney at that time.

Charley knew the investigation would be a formality, for nearly all the damaging evidence had been presented. It was the very next day when a fight broke out in front of Alex McLennen's Hotel that Charley became involved with a third prisoner who had a murderous reputation.

Monday, January 21, 2008

A Tour of Old Pembina

[This was in a 25 year anniversary (first published on Thursday, August 7, 1879) issue of the Pembina Pioneer newspaper, printed in 1904...note the references to characters you have read about in the Sheriff Charley Brown story...]


Historical Sketch of the Buildings
in Pembina in the Early
Pioneer Days

The picture of the town of Pembina as it appeared in 1877 is a reproduction of a rough sketch drawn at that time by the writer, who then, as now, made no pretensions as an artist. Its chief value is that it represents the general appearance and the existing buildings at that time. I is a bird's-eye view taken as if "the bird" was elevated about a hundred feet high on the St. Vincent shore of the Red river and looking nearly to the westward.

The building in the foreground, on the point, was situated on the exact spot where the flag-staff brought here last summer from Fort Pembina, is standing now. It was a historic building, as it was the first building in connection with the Kittson-Hill trading and transportation business, and was for many years a U.S. bonded warehouse. The building itself was torn down some years ago, but the excavation for the cellar still remains.

The Winchester House in Old Pembina
Back of this building at the edge of the timber was a long, low, log house, which at that time and for some years after was used as a hotel and run by L. Geroux, who afterward built the present Winchester House. It was on the site of the house owned by Mrs. Gerardin an now occupied by Barney Johnson.

On the opposite point at that time was the "business" part of the town. The first building, with what appears to be a long low ell running towards the river but which was really a separate building used as a steamboat warehouse, was then the residence of F.C. Myrick. It was a saw mill originally, run by Mr. McKenney, and afterwards transformed it into a dwelling. It was quite a large house and was at times afterward used as a boarding house and hotel. It was burned a short time afterwards.

...Smith [of the Hudson Bay Company] reminded his listeners that at that time there had been bitter feeling between the United States and England and her colonies, and that "without railways, with a trackless wilderness and some five hundred miles to traverse, it was impossible in less time than two months" for Canada to get a single soldier into the men like Sanford and Smith, the fact that a nondescript frontier village of log and mud huts known as Pembina was booming was not without significance. McDougall watched anxiously as more and more of the villainous-looking newcomers assembled in the Robbers' Roost, Dead Layout, and Ragged Edge saloons; he cursed his irresolute superiors in Ottawa, and gratefully swallowed the boasts of the Canadian handful at Fort Garry that they were more than a match for "a few ignorant rebels." - from Strange Empire: A Narrative of the Northwest By Joseph Kinsey Howard
Across the street nearest the levee the building partly on piles, was the "Ragged Edge,", a saloon and bowling alley run by Louis Johnson, who went west and some years ago was in Alaska. The building was afterwards removed and is now the residence of Mrs. S. Ardies.

The two log buildings together, next up the street, was for many years Pembina's only first class hotel. It was run originally by George F. Potter, a local celebrity, a sort of attorney. His fame rests largely on the fact that while he was the first land officer in the state, he turned over to his successor the cleanest set of books ever seen in the land department. There wasn't the scratch of a pen in any of them. At the time of the sketch the hotel was run by J.B. Fisk. Perhaps no building in the state, if it could have written its autobiography, could have told more stories of wild western life than the old "Robber's Roost." The old buildings were long ago converted into firewood. A small building next in line up the street was the city meat market, also run by Fisk.

Next in order, with it's long sign running out over the sidewalk, or rather where the sidewalk ought to have been, was "The Flat Boat Store," which was kept by the then leading merchant of the town, F.C. Myrick, who was also register of deeds and steamboat agent. R. Aylen was his right-hand man. This old building was standing in the rear of the house now occupied by Register Gill up to a couple of years ago. Its name originated from the principal method of commerce with the outer world at that time.

Just across the street from the Flat Boat store, near the centre of the picture, where the T.L. Price store now stands will be seen a curious structure. This was an elevated platform o which was placed the instruments of the U.S. weather bureau. This platform was perhaps 12 or 14 feet square and was about that height from the ground. The year previous, being the Centennial year, the citizens sent below and got a large supply of fireworks for the Fourth. A good part of the male adult population climbed upon the platform with the "works." The kids and the ladies stood below to see the things go off. They all went off together, "works" and men. It must have been an exciting time for a few minutes. Most of those old pioneers have had a prejudice against fireworks ever since. St. Vincent, being in a state, took advantage of our weakness in territorial representation in Congress, to steal our signal station a few years after, but later lost to St. Paul in the same manner - and Pembina had the last laugh.

At the left of the picture is the old log post office, from which Postmaster and Mrs. Charles Cavileer dispensed a generous hospitality for many years. Farther along the street to the right is the present Pembina House, now owned and run by Mrs. Gerardin. It was the most pretentious building in town and at the time it was built was really a splendid structure, being constructed of squared logs, pinned together. Honorable Enos Statsman, the owner and builder, was perhaps the most able man of the early pioneers and he occupies on the highest places in the memories of those who still survive. For many years it was occupied as the U.S. Custom House and at the time of the picture it was used as a dwelling for several families. A year later it was converted into a hotel and occupied by Judson Winchester as a landlord until the new Winchester House was built.

Next to this is a building that still stands on Cavileer Street and now used by F.S. Cheney as a butcher shop. At the time the picture was made it was the general store of W.H. Lyons, who lived and had another store in Winnipeg. St this time the Pembina store was under the management of a young man, who has since grown older and who now occupies a dignified position as His Honor, W.J. Kneeshaw, Judge of the Seventh Judicial District.

The next two buildings going to the right on this street were occupied by the U.S. Custom House and Charles J. Brown's saloon. Brown was a discharged soldier of the U.S. regulars at Fort Pembina and was at this time sheriff of the county. The buildings were destroyed by fire from a lightning stroke in 1879. The upper story of the larger building was occupied by H.R. Vaughn, then Clerk of Court, and the records of the office, including citizen papers were entirely destroyed.

At the rear of the above two buildings is the now vacant building which for later years did duty as the Headquarters Hotel. It was built by Antoine Gingras, a well-to-do trader, and was a very fine structure for the time it was built.

Across the street from the old Gingras house is the building which for many years was the home of Edward Piche. Like many larger houses of that time it also did service for a long time as a hotel. Oliver Matthews was the land lord at the time the picture was made and Mr. Winchester kept the place for a time afterwards. Far to the right is the old Catholic church on the site of the present structure. Back of that is the first public building belonging to the county - the jail. It was built of heavy, squared logs by Robert Ewing and cost the county something over $900. It is still in use in the rear of the court house as a stable.
Emil Wendt, a young German immigrant who was fiat-boating down the Red River from Fort Abercrombie to Pembina, tells how "On arriving at Pembina he was accosted by Mr. McKinnon [sic], who ran a sawmill and store, who conveyed the intelligence that Joe Rolette had died [May 16, 1871] and that they wished to get pine lumber to make a coffin but there was none in the place. Mr. Wendt told him to go to his boat and get what lumber they wanted." - from The Man Who Created the Corner of Portage and Main
The log house on the next street back and in the rear of the Pembina House was at different times the residence of various old pioneers. H.R. Vaughn and Emil Wendt, now of Cavalier, being of the number, and at the time of the sketch was being prepared as the first home of a young bridal couple, lately married at Paris, Ontario, Mr. and Mrs. W.J. Kneeshaw. The site is now occupied by the Presbyterian church.

In the far left background is the school house, of which we give a picture by itself and a description.

To many of the older settlers who have passed through or lived in Pembina in the early days, this picture, with the assistance of their memories, will cause them to remember many things now almost forgotten; while to the younger ones it may prove of interest to know how and where their fathers and predecessors lived.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Profile: Charles Cavileer

Charles Cavileer, the "father of Pembina," Pembina County, North Dakota, is the oldest living settler of that locality, and has been prominently identified with the local business, political and official interests of the Northern Red River Valley since 1851. His name has been indissolubly connected with the prosperity and progress of Pembina, one of the most thriving and vigorous cities in the Northwest, and to him belongs the honor of laying the original town plat, supplementing it with an extensive addition as soon as the railroad communications, in 1878, decided the future properity of the embryo city.

Mr. Cavileer is a native of the State of Ohio, born in Springfield on the 6th day of March, 1818, and is the son of Charles and Rachel (Trease) Cavileer, natives of Maine and Pennsylvania, respectively. Our subject's boyhood days were spent in his native city, with the usual educational advantages of the common schools, until he had attained his seventeenth year, when he removed to Mount Carmel, Illinois, where he served an apprenticeship to the saddler's trade, until he was twenty-one. Then, until 1841, he served as a journeyman, and at the expiration of that time went to Red Rock, six miles below St. Paul, Minnesota, where he remained a short time, and the succeeding year traveled around about Duluth and Lake Superior, and then again returned to Red Rock, across the country, with no trail and only the sun as a guide. He then worked about one year on a farm near Red Rock, and in 1845 went to St. Paul, and opened the first harness shop in the State. In 1847 he sold out, and in the following year, in company with Dr. Dewey, established the first drug store in St. Paul and in Minnesota. They remained together for two years, when our subject sold out to the Doctor, and was appointed by Governor Ramsey as first Territorial Librarian, which position he held until 1851.

Charles Cavileer standing on downtown Pembina street, year unknown
We then reach the period from which our subject has been connected with the history of the Red River Valley. In that year he was appointed United States Revenue Collector of the customs1, and the duties of that office in those days, although not necessitating very close application of the Incumbent, were, nevertheless, of a rather varied nature. Besides being collector of customs he had to manage the post office arrangements, give some attention to signal service business, and, in fact, was representative of every branch of the United States civil service. These various duties Mr. Cavileer performed for four years, and at the expiration of that time he moved westward to St. Jo and engaged in fur trading, and afterward he moved to Fort Garry (now Winnipeg), where he was engaged in quite an extensive general merchandise business. In 1864 Mr. Cavileer returned to Pembina, and a regular post office being then established there, he received the appointment of postmaster, which he retained until. 1884, when he resigned in favor of his son, who is the present postmaster. In 1853, in addition to his official duties, he engaged in the fur trade in partnership with Commodore Kittson and W.H. Forbes, with whom he remained three years. At the expiration of that time, Forbes having drawn out, Kittson and Cavileer formed a partnership with the following gentlemen included in the firm, viz.: Kittson, Culver, Farrington, Sargeant and Cavileer. This continued for two years. In 1863 Mr. Cavileer engaged in haymaking for the Government, employing fifteen men and two machines.

Mr. Cavileer was united in marriage on the 13th of March, 1857, to Miss Isabell Murry, the daughter of Donald and Jane (Heron) Murry, and this union has been blessed with the following children - Edmund K., the present postmaster; William M., Albert D., Lula, Belle, and the oldest child, Sarah, who died at the age of four years. William married Jennie Bradshaw, and resides in Pembina. Edmund and William were at Kildnan, then Prince Rupert's Land, at the time of the Reil Insurrection, and helped Scott run bullets some time previous to his murder.

In the early days of his settlement in Pembina he was a regular correspondent to the Smithsonian Institute, Washington, District of Columbia. From his first settlement Mr. Cavileer has taken a deep interest in the progress of the district, and since the formation of the village no man has done more for the building up of the same. He is a public-spirited citizen, and one who is highly esteemed and respected by all who know him.

Mr. Cavileer is a stanch republican in politics. He voted for General Harrison in 1840, and now that North Dakota will soon become a State he may possibly live to vote for the grandson of the old General for a second term. It would be a strange coincidence if the only two votes he ever cast for President should be cast for the two General Harrisons.

[From: Red River Valley and Park Regions of Minnesota: Illustrated Album of Biography of the Famous Valley of the Red River of the North (1889)]

1 - Customs collectors were responsible for collecting duties; recording financial transactions; admeasuring and documenting merchant vessels; administering customhouses and, until 1852, lighthouses; collecting and accounting for funds for marine hospitals; and, until 1871, administering revenue cutters. Captains of vessels arriving at U.S. ports from abroad were required by an act of March 2, 1819 (3 Stat. 489), to submit a list of passengers to the collector of customs. Upon occasion the collector acted as the depository for federal funds and collected taxes for the Bureau of Internal Revenue.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

An 1890 Traveller's View

In the last two decades of the 19th century, St. Vincent and it's neighbors were growing by leaps and bounds. Even from as far away as New York City, people could see that amazing things were happening on the developing frontiers of our country; they were coming of age.

From a New York Times archive article comes this excerpt, of a man traveling through our area in 1890...
At the Kittson County Fair held at Hallock Oct. 3, there were cabbage heads and cauliflowers which measured 22 inches in diameter, beets and turnips which weighed 20 pounds apiece, and potatoes a foot long. Eight-rowed white corn was shown which ripened on the stand, and savory peppers, large and pungent. Creameries are established at prominent points, and cheese and butter are produced in considerable quantities. A good deal of attention is paid to beef and horse stock. There are some flocks of sheep. The exhibit of fine stallions exceeded any similar collection on record elsewhere.

It is cheering to note the hopefulness which pervades the Red River Valley at this time. It seems to be the reflex of a like feeling which possesses the whole Northwest. There is no doubt that the entire region is on the threshold of another great advance. The promise is in the air. A remarkable business year is anticipated for 1891.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Pembina Pioneer Looks Back...

Refugees from Minnesota Massacre aka Dakota Uprising on the road eating dinner

From the special 25th anniversary issue of the Pembina Pioneer, published in 1904...
The First American Fort Pembina

It is probable there have been quite a number of fortifications at the confluence of the Red and Pembina rivers. As we have elsewhere observed, it is probable that this point has been occupied by man since man occupied the country. Certainly the earlier white settlers of Selkirk's colony and the Swiss who came shortly after would find it safer if not necessary to arrange their rude log swellings in the form of a square, with a stockade fence of heavy posts in the vacant spaces between, which was the usual form of frontier posts, and is that shown in the picture. The Selkirk fort or stockade, however, if any, disappeared without record, except by inference from the writings of the older historians.

The fort as presented, however, was the first American post at this point. Our readers should not confound this with the Fort Pembina of later days built some ten years after and situated one mile farther up the Red River.

The picture presented is taken from a sketch made by a soldier who was a member of Hatch's Battalion and who helped to build it.

It is just forty years ago since this Fort Pembina was erected; not a long time in history; not so long that there are still many men yet in vigorous life who were members of the battalion.

As late as 1880, the ditch or moat that ran across the point at the base of the stockade was still visible, but was obliterated at the time of the grading of the streets of the city. One building of the many that were built at that time and afterwards, is still in existence, being used by William Fowler as a stable.

To many however the query may come, why was this fort built and who and what was Hatch's Battalion?

We can in this place give but a short account of this little phase of history, which if it had occurred at any other period than it did would have occupied a far more prominent place in the annals of our country.

It was in the dark days of the Civil War. The Indians of Minnesota, encouraged by the fact that the nation was apparently in the throes of self destruction, attempted to drive out the white settlers from their former hunting grounds and without warning they swept down upon the defenseless frontier killing and scalping as they went until they reached the more thickly settled part of the state in the vicinity of the Twin Cities. Notwithstanding Minnesota had already sent a large portion of her able-bodied citizens to the armies which were fighting the rebels, yet almost every man able to bear arms rose, forming irregular companies and battalions and went to meet the Indians and preserve their homes. Without going further into this part of the history it is enough for the present to say that they were successful and beat back the murderous wretches in several pitched battles, some being fought on the soil of what is now North Dakota, culminating at last in the trail of two or three hundred who had been taken prisoners, of whom forty were hung on one scaffold at Mankato.

Indian prisoners in Manitoba on their way to Fort SnellingA large number of the remaining Indians fled to the country just across the line north of this county. There were several hundred of these renegades in the party and they were a perpetual menace to the few white people who resided in this vicinity, and the people of Minnesota were afraid of possible raids for the sake of plunder and revenge. On the other hand the Indians were anything but welcome to the authorities on the Canadian side.

To those who are at all familiar with the history of the rebellion it was be easily understood why the government had no troops to spare in the year 1863 to protect the northern border. That was the time of the darkest days of the war, when the result was in doubt and volunteers hard to get and every man possible was hurried to the front.

In this emergency, the men of Minnesota had to help themselves and while Hatch's Battalion was authorized and raised under the orders of the government, yet it was recruited in Minnesota and a part of the Minnesota volunteers.

During the months of August and September 1863, three companies were filled and the fourth partially filled with recruits. The battalion (a battalion is a body of military less in number than a regiment) was under the command of Major E.A. C. Hatch, who is described by the historian as a man intimately acquainted by experience with Indian customs and manners. Captain A. T. Ohambehn, George C. Whitcomb, Abel Grovenor and Hugh S. Donaldson were in charge of the respective companies.

They began their march from St. Paul on October 5, 1863, but were delayed several days at St. Cloud and then with their wagon train drawn by oxen and horses they started on their long journey for Pembina.

It was the 15th by the time they arrived at Sauk Center and there they encountered the first snow storm. From that time to their final arrival the journey was one of extreme hardship. The storms and blizzards were almost continuous, the snow was a foot deep and in many places piled in enormous drifts. Warmer weather at times only made the roads worse with mud and such, so that sometimes they were compelled to march by night when it would be frozen. They could only travel from ten to twenty miles a day. They were sleeping in tents. To make matters worse the supplies for the oxen and horses (part of which they expected to get on the way and part to be purchased in advance and stored for them) were not to be had, as they were not in the country. Some hay that was found was seized from the half-breeds, but for a large part of the latter part of the weary march there was nothing for the animals to live on but the young twigs of the trees.

The consequence of this was that the road was lined with the dead bodies of animals that perished from hunger and fatigue. At one time when the neighborhood of Georgetown (near Fargo) there was great pressure on Major Hatch by his officers and men to go into winter quarters there, but the commander after deliberation decided to leave part of the stores, take the best of the horses, and press on.

The battalion arrived at Pembina on November 13th after a month of about as had journeying as is often done by men with success. Immediately upon their arrival they began to build their log huts and form the fort illustrated. The weather was extremely cold, the thermometer ranging from 20 to 40 below every day, 60 below being the record on January 1st, and it was no until after the first of January that the buildings were completed so that all the soldiers were sheltered. The labor and hardships involved in the erection of these dwellings and the stockade by about 300 men in the cold northern winter may be imagined. Here again they were disappointed in not finding supplies of forage for their animals. The quartermaster went to Fort Garry (Winnipeg) and with the assistance of some of the citizens there secured all that was possible to buy, but the amount was very deficient and only the working teams and a few of the best cavalry horses could be allowed grain, and that in small quantity.

Quoting from our historian: "Prior to this time but little attention had been given by the inhabitants of this country to agriculture. A very large majority lived by hunting and trapping. The ordinary products, such as potatoes, onions, cabbage, and other vegetables were produced in very limited quantities; in fact, the greater portion of the people raised nothing at all. A number of the soldiers were in the hospital afflicted with scurvy. Dr. Armington, the surgeon, urgently recommended the use of vegetables, especially onions, potatoes, and cabbage. Diligent efforts were made to purchase two hundred or more bushels of potatoes, fifty bushels of onions, and a large quantity of cabbage. The entire country was canvassed with the result of 18 bushels of potatoes at $6.00 per bushel and 7 bushels of onions at $8.00 per bushel, and not a cabbage to be had at any price..."

Capturing the Indians

Meanwhile, through all the trials, hardships and difficulties incident to the long march and the building of the fort, Major Hatch had not forgotten for what he had come to this country. He had not come to stay indefinitely and protect the border by his mere presence. He had something more specific in view to capture the Sioux who participated in the Minnesota massacre and have them punished; and thus not only bring them to the punishment they so richly deserved, but also to strike terror into any other Indians who might be inclined to go on the war path in the future.

His plan was beset with difficulties. The Indians occasionally came across the line, but they were so mixed in with the half-bloods, who to some extent sympathized with or were afraid of them that the Indians had no difficulty in finding out if Major Hatch sent men out after them. However, in December Major Hatch, after several fruitless expeditions, sent out a small detachment of about twenty picked men to get after a lot of Indians who were camped in the vicinity of St. Joe. The Indian camp was surrounded about three o'clock in the morning and several Indians were killed and none escaped. A few soldiers were wounded, but none seriously.

The news of this affair soon spread among the remaining Indians in Manitoba and they were much demoralized. Meantime the citizens of Fort Garry, the Hudson Bay officials and the Canadian authorities were doing what they could to assist the Americans in getting the Indians. They even went so far as to intimate to Major Hatch that if the American troops by accident or otherwise happened to get across the line in pursuit of the rascals, that there would be no notice taken of the affair. Major Hatch, however, assured them that while he would do all that he could to capture the Indians, he would not send his armed forces across the line into foreign terrority. While Major Hatch was thus particular in official statement, there appears to be no doubt from subsequent events that he was not averse to meeting his Canadian assistants at least half way.

A very short time after the St. Joe affair, the Indians sent word for a council. The council was had, but the Indians wanted to surrender with the assurance that none of them should be punished, but Major Hatch would accept only unconditional surrender. They would not agree to this, but soon afterwards about two hundred voluntarily gave themselves up and later other parties came in, until something like four hundred were made prisoners. The chiefs, however, still held back. Finally, in the early part of January, Messrs. A. G. Bannatyne, John McKenzie and other citizens of Fort Garry, by sagacious and successful scheming, captured Little Six and Medicine Bottle, who were the principal leaders and worst villains, and brought them to Fort Pembina. This practically completed the job. Only one chief of prominence - Little Lead - with his family, and less than a dozen all told, were left in Manitoba, most of whom died of starvation or disease within the next year.

For the rest of the winter all that the soldiers had to do was to guard their prisoner's. In February a part of the soldiers with the most of the Indians went southward to Fort Snelling.

On May 1st the steamer "International", the only steamboat then on the Red River, came down to Pembina and the battalion, in pursuance to orders, got on board with their prisoners, Little Six and Medicine Bottle, and departed for Fort Abercrombie on May 5, 1864.

Little Six boasted that he killed not less than fifty white men, women and children during the massacre in Minnesota.

The battalion continued in frontier service at various posts until the summer of 1866, and was afterward commanded by Col. C. Powell Adams, who succeeded Major Hatch, he having resigned in June 1864.

The buildings were sold to and taken possession of by the residents here and gradually rotted down or otherwise disappeared, so except as noted at the beginning of this article there is nothing left but one, and it is doubtful if that was a constituent part of the original structure.

There is much to moralize over this old Fort, but it is all included in this: Only forty years ago next October Little Six was hung at Fort Snelling for his murderous participation in the Minnesota massacre, and now - look about you, no transformation could be greater. Then it was far beyond the wildest dreams of the most sanguine, today it is fact. We look upon a thickly settled land, rich in all that civilization and prosperity can give. The buffalo have disappeared forever, the Indian is but a miserable remnant. Fort Pembina and Hatch's Battalion are history, glorious but past. A campaign that began in St. Cloud in the fall of '63, that included a march through the snow to Pembina, that built a fort, that killed 28 Indians, that captured 300, more out from a foreign country - all during one of the coldest winters ever known - and all finished successfully to the extreme by May '64 - is worth a place in the memories of us, who have succeeded them.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Town Ephemera

A school certificate, signed by (among others), Duncan Cameron...

A sale bill for an auction of the Hugh Griffith farm in 1916...

It Could Be Worse...

If it wasn't snow, it was fire...

Friday, January 04, 2008


William Ash recently put me to the wise on the above video, which includes a clip from Fargo that was filmed in Hallock - probably old news to many Hallock residents, but news to me!

"...the lake is named after the first people who settled along the South Branch of the Two Rivers...which forms the lake....Bronson was named after the first settlers in the area, Giles and Margaret Bronson. It became Lake Bronson in the late 1930's after the dam was built and their homestead became part of the lake." - Comments on YouTube by Lake Bronson resident

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

CPR Empress: A Grand Old Lady

The Empress near Noyes, Minnesota; Photo by William Ash
I didn't know about this until today, but just this past fall, a legendary steam engine passed through our area on a very special passenger train trip...

William G. Ash wrote to say, "... I went down to Minneapolis, MN in early Sept. 2007 and rode behind the Canadian Pacific Railroad steam locomotive on 2 seperate trips on 2 days. The first round trip was a round trip from Minneapolis to Glenwood, MN on the Canadian Pacific Railroad mainline which is the old Soo Line Railroad and return that evening. The following day we went from Minneapolis, MN to Dresser, WI and return across the St. Croix River." The photo above was taken by Bill, who described it, "Here is a photo of the Canadian Pacific Railroad locomotive #2816 that came thru Noyes, MN in August, 2007 heading for Minneapolis and Chicago. This photo was taken a few miles south of Noyes, MN behind my parents farm on the old Soo Line Railroad." (Thanks for correcting me on the photo, Bill, and for the additional information!)

Bill also caught a fleeting glimpse of a Hiawatha 'Sky Top' observation car; to be able to ride on this trip, and view the countryside from this car, would have been amazing!

Another rail fan caught the engine as it passed through Manitoba...