Tuesday, March 11, 2008

News from the Past: Alexander Louden

In 1934, my grandfather, Alexander Louden, was interviewed by a writer from the Cavalier Chronicle newspaper. Cavalier is the County Seat of Pembina County, North Dakota and is bout 5 miles or so from Bathgate where he lived. The following article was published Friday, November 30, 1934...

An unknown descendent of Alexander Louden, a former early resident of our area, submitted an old newspaper article about their ancestor a couple of years ago online...

Pembina Pioneers: Tales of Times Now Long Passed as Lived by Early Settlers in This Territory and Who Now Reside Here Or Who Have Recently Moved Away
by Robert Thacker

In the late summer of 1879 an 11 year old boy had the thrilling experience of leaving his old home in Pittson, counties of Leeds and Grenville, Ontario, and traveling westward to the new land of promise just opening to settlement. From that time until recently his life has been full of interesting experiences and adventures. Although past the meridian of life, Alexander H. Louden of Bathgate still is intensely concerned with the trend of human events.

Mr. Louden is the oldest of a family of 13 children, 11 of whom still survive. This family, like many others of those pioneer days, went through many hardships of dauntless courage and zeal that has carved this splendid commonwealth out of a virgin land.

Very shortly after leaving the old Canadian home these difficulties began to develop. Upon the arrival of Mrs. Louden and the children at St. Vincent, Minn., they had to stay at the railroad station for two days before getting out to the home of James Quinnell, six miles northeast of Bathgate. A log shanty thatched with hay and mud was rented from Paul Norman on the Pembina river 12 miles west of Pembina.

Young Louden saw many Red River carts go by his father's house loaded with furs en route to the trading posts. He has seen as many as 100 at a time go by. Mr. Louden Sr., filed on land three miles northwest of Bathgate, which he owned until his death. Howard Vaughn was in charge of the U.S. Land office at that time and the log house that had been purchased "previously" was moved down onto this land.


After the first big spring thaw, the weather turned quite cold so that a very heavy crust was formed on the snow. Mr. Louden Sr. started for Pembina. He met a team of Indian ponies coming over the crust; they stopped when his father met them. The driver asked him if he was cold and would have drink. Louden took a drink with them. One of the men asked Louden where he was going. He said he was going to Pembina to see Jud LaMoure. LaMoure and Goodfellow ran a store at that time. He asked what he wanted to see LaMoure for. Louden said that he had been told that he might get some groceries from Jud LaMoure. The speaker said that Jud was not at home, and he put his hand in his pocket and gave Louden a twenty-dollar gold piece. He said, "That will get you some groceries." Louden did not want to take it. He asked the donor's name, and he said, "I am Jud LaMoure." From that day on, the Louden family never went hungry. At that particular time Jud LaMoure was on his way to St. Joe in company with a priest.

As settlers grew in numbers they deemed it necessary to get some civil organizations. Under the leadership of Con Slagerman, George Roadhouse and Louden, Sr; donated an acre of land, hauled the lumber, and erected the building, gratis, known as the Louden schoolhouse. Miss Viola Yoemans of Joliette was the first teacher. She received $35 a month. This building was used as a community center. Here Protestants and Catholics alike held their religious services, and Sunday schools. Even a night school was established for the boys who had to work during the day. Louden, Sr., and Con Slagerman were the teachers.


As time went on, the conditions of all the settlers became improved. With the exception of frosted wheat, everybody seemed to be getting along well. There were no great hardships or anyone going hungry after 1881. Buffalo coats could be bought for $9 each and robes for $3. These robes were used in homes as bed coverings, and many used them for horse blankets. One Roy Kraft had the first threshing machine in that neighborhood. He did that work from Pembina to Walhalla. Let us now turn to the personal experience and adventures of Alexander H. Louden when he became of age.

After he was 21, he began his formal schooling. He entered the fifth grade of the Bathgate School and went through the eighth grade in one winter. He sawed wood for his room and board after school hours and when he was twenty-four, he decided to go west to the Pacific coast.

He arrived in Seattle shortly after the big fire. There was no work to be secured because of the rush of people out there at that time. W.P. Watson, a civil engineer for the Great Northern, had established his first engineering office. Louden got a job, and was sent to Ballard, Washington to Mr. Stixrud, who had a surveying party there. He finally became topographer for a survey party, which position he filled for some six years. With the completion of the project he returned to Bathgate.

Upon his return he found that there was an election on. Jud LaMoure was seeking election as State Senator from this first district. Louden, remembering the gift of the $20 gold piece and the other good turns Jud had rendered to his father, decided to try and repay him slightly by working for his election. Jud was elected and the Senator further rewarded Louden with an appointment as officer in the State penitentiary. A little later he was appointed bill clerk in the senate. Shortly after this he became a soldier.


In April, 1898, when war was declared against Spain he was a member of the Governor's Guards, Co. A., Bismarck. He resigned his office at the prison and enlisted in the volunteers for two years or for the duration of the war. North Dakota's quota was two battalions of 670 men. They were moved westward to the Pacific coast where they embarked for the Philippine Islands. The outfit landed in Manila August 7th, after a 37 day voyage across the Pacific. They were taken as near the shore as possible in small boats on account of the shallow bay, and then waded ashore, and camped in a peanut patch six miles from Manila Aug. 11. On Aug. 13, they went into battle against the Spanish. "At two o'clock the same afternoon the Spanish flag was pulled down and the Stars and Stripes put up where it has remained until this day," says Mr. Louden.

He further says, "We surrounded the walled city on the night of August 13 to keep Aguinaldo and his insurgent army out so they would not kill foreigners and the Spanish remaining there. From then until February 4, we did outpost duty. On February 4, the insurgent army attacked us. From that time until next August we campaigned in nine different provinces after the insurgent army. About half of us had intermittent malaria, dysentery, dolor itch, (a disease of the skin contracted from wading in the tropical jungles). The regiment was in 36 engagements; of this number I was in 23. We had no right to stay for the insurrection, but we volunteered to stay until President McKinley could organize an army to take our place.

"During our campaign in the Philippines we never dug in. I was color sergeant, and I will swear that we never retreated one foot in all the battles. There was no rear to go to. We were front, rear, and everything else. In the Province of Moron was the only American town known in the Islands. We took it and never let a Philippino reenter. There was small pox and black plague, (bubonic plague). When the natives died we burned their houses and bodies. No American had bubonic plague, but some Chinamen that we had allowed in the commissary department died from the disease. We burnt their bodies and houses.


"When we were relieved at Moron there were 27 out of 84 men that did not answer sick call; a good many should have done so, but did not want to take quinine. The doctors finally lined the men up in the company formation, and gave each man his dose off a spoon seeing that each man swallowed it. The food, part of the time, was very poor, especially on the trip over. Fresh water was short, due to inefficiency on the part of the government being poorly prepared for war. Stories of the embalmed beef were not too highly exaggerated at the time. During the last part of the insurrection and on the journey home the men received the best of treatment. We returned on the transport Grant and received the best accommodations.

"Upon our arrival at San Francisco we received a welcome a rousing welcome from both the citizens of California and the U.S. Government. We were mustered out; turned in our accoutrements; returned home on money sent to us by the State of North Dakota. Out of the 670 mustered, less than 100 of the old North Dakota regiment returned. We have a reunion on August 13, every year at Spiritwood Lake near Jamestown, ND. We eat, drink and be merry, and tell more lies than I am telling here. The boys are all good Americans, white headed, and a good many went to France as officers, and I believe are ready to go again if the call comes."

Mr. Louden has a numerous collection of Spanish-American, and Philippino war souvenirs and mementos including some of the personal possession of the late William G. Lamb of Hamilton who was Pembina County's one soldier slain in the Philippino Insurrection. A large monument was erected to his memory in the Hamilton cemetery. His body also rests there.


Among Mr. Louden's special keepsakes are: Spanish American War Medal, Congressional Medal, known as the McKinley Medal, given for Loyalty, Fortitude and Patriotism.

Mr. Louden has a wonderful record as a rifle marksman. In the army rifle matches, he shot down all regiments, regular and volunteer, at the presidio, near San Francisco, Calif. He was requested to join the National Rifle association, which he did and has competed with all teams at the association from Bangor, ME, to Pasadena, Calif. He says, "Our team, known as the Dickinson, N.Dak., took second place. Individually, I was beaten once."

Among other experiences of Mr. Louden were those of visiting the Hawaiian Islands on the voyage to and from the Philippines, where they were royally entertained. He also had the opportunity to visit a number of the leading cities in Japan where his outfit received excellent treatment. During his time in the Philippines he had the pleasure to be in the presence of Admiral George Dewey the hero of Manila bay He also has seen and been near the famous Philippi no leader, Emilio Anginaldo, who immediately following the Spanish-American war led the Philippinos against the American forces in the Islands, only to be finally defeated.

When one hears or reads of the experiences and adventures that some of our fellow citizens have during one short life time we sometimes wonder how they can lead the simple life again and seemingly enjoy it as our old friend Mr. Louden seems to be doing. May the coming years be full of peace and happiness for him and his family.