Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Featured: Placeblogger

I was recently approached to be interviewed for the website Placeblogger. The above is a screenshot and excerpt of that interview...

It gave me an opportunity to express why I do what I do, how special my hometown is to me, and all the wonderful people from it and around the area.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Treaty of Old Crossing

Outlined land, colored in yellow, ceded in 1863 Old Crossing Treaty
I grew up with many of the descendants of the early Metis and indigenous peoples. By my time, there were far fewer living in our area than in my grandmother's or even my mother's time, but there were some families still here. The names Jerome, Gooselaw, Parenteau, LeMasurier, Monette, and LaPeire (to name only a few) were not only familiar, but I went to school with some of them.

Since beginning this blog, I have started thinking more deeply about who we were, and who we are as a result. For these families, I wanted to know about what happened to their ancestors on the indigenous side, why, and when. So I started digging...

According to this website, the original tribes in our area were the Arapaho, Cheyenne, Chippewa (or Ojibway), and Dakota (part of the Sioux nation). Also, due to our close proximity to Canada, there are many families with bloodlines from the Manitoba tribes, which included many found in the U.S., but also the Cree and Assiniboine.

Going back to the early days of settlers and natives mixing, it was mostly cordial (I say mostly because human nature always gets all of us in trouble sooner or later!) The more the settlers came, the more the different communities were stressed. One group pushed, the other pushed back. Terrible consequences befell the native peoples, many succumbing or closely succumbing to starvation. Out of this (and other issues) came the 1862 uprising. Not coincidentally, I assume, more aggressive treaties were the result.

One such treaty was the Treaty with the Chippewa-Red Lake and Pembina Bands, 1863 - or as it is otherwise known as, the Treaty of Old Crossing.

You can read the treaty itself here...

NOTE: A very interesting blog post about conditions on North Dakota reservations got the writer banned from the Turtle Mountain Indian Reservation (and rightly so).  While there were insulting comments left on the article, there was also a lot of great discussion on it on many relevant topics concerning the native populations living on them today, as a direct result of the treaty above and others like it. The original blog post was deleted but the link at the beginning of this note has it in-full along with the comments...

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Sheriff Charley Brown: Chapter XVIII

On March 9 the court decision was reached, LaRose must stand trial for the murder of his wife.

Each day the three prisoners, Murray, Godon and LaRose planned their escape. As each new idea came up, it was almost instantly discarded as impractical; the guards were just too alert. They were escorted outdoors daily excepting Sunday, to a nearby cordwood pile, ordered to cut the four-foot lengths into stove size lengths for the jail heater.

Their daytime jailer was Captain Bob, an irascible man armed with a short, double barreled, 10 gauge shotgun. He remained cautiously back from his charges while outdoors, giving them no chance of overpowering him. Finally it was the wily Murray, the man charged with fraud and embezzlement that came up with the most feasible escape plan. It seemed simple, but was beset by certain circumstances for success.

Closeted with his fellow prisoners during an evening in March, he offered his scheme. "No chance of tricking Bob during the day, we can't get close to him. Also he'll not hesitate to shoot any one of us. That shotgun holds buckshot; that means we'll have to make our break at night." He pointed up to the heavy-planked ceiling of their cell, above which Lawyer Ewing kept his office. "We can cut through that ceiling if we can get a saw blade, and, if we can get the night man, Parker, out of the way."

Godon shrugged, "Where in hell are you going to get a saw blade?"

Murray grinned, "That's the easy part. We'll just slip one out of a bucksaw when we quit work."

LaRose shook his head. "Bob picks up both saws each day after we quit. He'd notice the missing blade right off. And how do you figure to get Parker out of the way long enough for us to saw through those heavy planks? That ceiling above is criss-crossed with a double layer of rough-cut, two by twelve planks. You've got to get a blade through both planks in order to start a cut."

Murray pointed to the northeast corner of the planking. "Take a look. I've spotted a narrow slot next to the wall from which we can start the cut. It's wide enough for a slender blade."

LaRose brightened, "I know how to get a blade, or at least part of one; it all depends upon fooling Bob."

"How you going to steal one?" Godon was skeptical.

"I'll pinch a blade in a log, then pretend to lose my temper and jerk the saw, that'll break the blade. Then I'll pocket the longer piece. I'll file the blade before we begin working in the morning so it'll have a good edge."

"Let's try it, but best you pretend to throw the two parts of the broken blade deep into the snow. If you don't, Bob might not fall for it." Murray shrugged, "Maybe he won't, even then."

"He's lazy! He'll be resting his butt on that far pile of cordwood. Like you say, I'll slip the longest piece into my jacket, and then make a big show of tossing the pieces far away. He'll think I've thrown both of them."

"Knowing Bob, he'll be suspicious of any change, but if we play it up, it'll look like an accident."

The next morning Captain Bob escorted the prisoners to the woodpile, seating himself on his customary spot some thirty feet away. He was a careful man, having been raked over the coals by the sheriff for drinking on the job two years previously. At the time he had been drugged after drinking from a stranger's bottle. The prisoner in his charge had been spirited from the jail, then murdered.

It was nearly 10 a.m. when Murray and Godon picked up an exceptionally heavy log, dropping it violently onto the end of the bucksaw horse. The apparently startled LaRose, who was deep in a last cut, jumped back with an oath. He jerked the saw sideways, snapping the blade neatly in the process.

"You clumsy sons-of-bitches! Now look what you've made me do! I might have cut myself."

Godon feigned anger. "You're a stupid bastard -- should have gotten out of our way."

Murray pretended to intervene. "Sorry Frank, it was my fault, I slipped and dropped my end of the log."

Meanwhile LaRose, his back turned to jailer Bob, was busy unhooking the two pieces of the broken blade. Quickly tucking a length under his jacket he exclaimed in righteous indignation. "That darn blade was nearly worn out anyway. It was only an inch wide." As he spoke he flung the remaining portion edgewise. It spun away with a whirring sound, burying itself in the deep snow. Turning to the jailer, Frank asked, "Got another blade, Bob? That one has been sharpened so many times there was nothing left of it."

Bob looked at him suspiciously. "Just put the saw on top of the cordwood pile. I'll fix it tonight. You still have the spare saw, and you've got nearly two hours until noon. When twelve o'clock rolls around and you've got those blocks hauled into the jail it’ll be eating time."

At noon while the prisoners were being fed in their cell, LaRose buried the stolen length of blade in the mud and straw chinking between the logs. Their further plan of escape depended upon deceiving their night jailer.

Again it was Murray who came up with a further plan. "Parker has got to become sick, so sick that he'll have to leave the job during the night. There's only one way to do that -- that's either by bribery, or poisoning him some way."

"You can't buy off Parker, he's honest." Godon said sullenly.

"What else can we do then?" LaRose queried.

"Murray looked at him and grinned. "Hell, you know all about that. You got rid of your wife. Say! Got any of that poison left?"

LaRose exploded, "You bastard! Say that again and I'll beat the hell out of you!"

Godon quickly moved between them. "Let it go, Murray. Calm down, Frank, he's only teasing you. We've got enough trouble as it is."

Murray brightened, "I have it! Godon, you're going to get sick. You're going to miss a lot of meals!" He smiled, "You can stand to lose some weight, can't you?"

"What do'ya want me to do?"

"You're going to get sick, real sick. You can't eat. Your belly hurts something terrible, and you have no appetite. If you play it up enough, they'll take you out to the fort for observation and treatment."

"What good will that do?"

"Out at the fort you'll be housed in the hospital. There are chemicals out there that will knock a man out, something like Chloral Hydrate. That's what you've got to swipe. With that we can dose up Parker's supper. It might not work, but it's our only chance. The eating table is near the cell so we should be able to distract him long enough to dose his food or drink."

Godon lay back on the wooden bunk. “I'll play sick right after breakfast tomorrow morning, but you'd better tell me what to look for out at the fort. I don't know anything about pills or medicine."

"Chloral has a funny taste," said LaRose. "How will we get him to take it?"

Murray shrugged, "Doesn't necessarily have to be Chloral, there are emetics available." He turned to Godon, "The doctor out there will probably try to purge you. You're not stupid -- watch and listen. Then try to swipe some of what he gives you."

Godon refused his breakfast the next morning. His plate was not touched and the day guard, Captain Bob, immediately became suspicious. He watched the other two prisoners carefully, suspecting something was up. He hoped to catch them feeding Godon surreptitiously from their plates.

Godon complained of great pain, moaning aloud and occasionally cursing. On the second day of his sickness, Dr. Appel was notified. After checking Godon carefully he could find no outward sign of a serious nature, and prescribed an emetic, which he watched Godon take. "It's probably something in the victuals, Bob. Some people can't eat certain foods."

Bob snorted, "Hell, Doctor, they've all eaten the same stuff and Jud Winchester puts up mighty fine grub. I think he's putting on an act."

Appel laughed, "If it is, look out! I just gave him a massive dose of an emetic and watched him swallow it. You'd better give him an extra pail; he'll soon need it.”

Godon's act ended when he became violently ill with stomach cramps. The next morning he began to eat heartily, but it was apparent he bore a sudden malice toward his cellmate, Murray.

After their meeting at Geroux's hotel in mid-February, and their evening together in his quarters above the saloon, the relationship between Charley and Marguerite returned to a placid understanding. Marguerite decided that to avoid friction, she determined the subject of marriage would never be mentioned again unless brought up by Charley. Opportunities to further their romance became almost non-existent due to the frequent blizzards and high winds. Marguerite found herself wanting more and more, and getting little satisfaction. When Charley suggested another stop at his upstairs quarters she shook her head firmly, determined she would not become a sneak thief to hide their love. Paul's letters became all the more intriguing when he mentioned his new promotion. He was no longer traveling the road full time; he was to be in charge of sales for the states of Wisconsin and Minnesota.

His letters expressed his love in warm, newsy letters, extolling the advantages of Chicago. He was especially effusive about the Chicago Academy of Fine Arts that offered training in painting, drawing, sculpture, illustrating, decorative design and architecture. "Think of the opportunity to further your portrait painting! You could become famous here!"

The thought of such a school appealed to Marguerite's esthetic sense. "Wouldn't it be wonderful if I had such a chance." She knew she had gone as far as possible under Mrs. Mostyn's tutelage. Even that lady had said she should seek advanced training for her obvious talent.

Many of his letters postmarked Evanston were a mystery until Paul explained that Northwestern University was located just north of Chicago. He was now attending a night class in business administration, a graduate course, often dropping his letters to her in a local mailbox at the school.

A strange feeling seemed unveiled within her, questioning her judgment. What's wrong with me, thinking of Paul, a man I hardly know? I've got to put him out of my mind, but I can't!

April arrived with vigor, the bright sunlight pouncing upon and gobbling up the remaining snow. The almost constant sunlight brought myriads of geese, ducks and songbirds. The radiant rebirth of spring caused instant budding of the softwoods. Sleeping dogwood trees suddenly opened white blossoms to view that in turn awoke bees from their deep sleep. For a brief week the streets were a morass of mud and sticky gumbo, then the ruts magically dried to rough, buggy-jarring ridges.

Again Marguerite's contacts with Charley were brief, almost nonexistent, limited to an occasional lunch or cup of coffee together. She knew he made daily trips to his farm to prepare his fields for cropping. She also knew the work was tedious and that he came home at night completely exhausted. More and more she began to re-read Paul's letters, wondering if she was making a horrible mistake by continuing to hope for Charley's proposal. She found discussions with Susan often disappointing, her sister advising restraint. Even so, when Marguerite displayed letters from Paul, Susan read them with obvious interest. At one time she turned to ask, "Do you love Paul?"

"I can't say I do. I've been in love with Charley for the past two years but my love for him seems hopeless. I'm beginning to wonder if he really wants a wife. Perhaps my future is with Paul. I think I could grow to love him; he's everything a girl could ask for. I realize I only knew him for that week, but it was a week of excitement."

Susan commiserated, "Sometimes, the people we love don't love us the way we expect them to."

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Bad Blood

Early on - and according to my grandmother and mother, well into the last century - there was strong competition between the new towns in our area that was often reflected in the area's newspapers...and it wasn't always very friendly either. It's not known if it was friendly competition gone awry, or if a specific incidence or set of incidents set it off. From an 1890 issue of the St. Vincent New Era:

Last week, the Enterprise chump returned to his congenial mire, and vividly describes the high old time that he and his Jack-in-the-box candidate had together the previous Monday.

The manner in which the brainy Enterprise editor gets "onto" things, the reverence and awe even the small boy feels when in his august presence, also the etiquette to be observed in the Enterprise office, its editor gives away, and gives himself away at the same time, as follows: "A small boy came down from dead city on Monday, after sauntering about town dropped into our office, took a fresh chew of tobacco, spit on the stove and began to ask questions."

From the article we refer to it appears that "Old timer" of the previous week, degenerated into a "small boy" lat week, who carefully loaded up the smallest specimen of a man in the county, and the little man loaded up his little popgun, which he persists in calling a newspaper, and then let it off, regardless of consequences, at the mutual victim of these terrible conspirators.

Kittson county is only beginning to realize what a horrible thing the wrath of the great Hallock journalist is, when touched off by the "small boy" from St. Vincent, and the butterflies, this summer, unless they are of very daring disposition, will do well to keep posted, and govern themselves accordingly, or some time the twins may raise such a clatter as would ruffle the down on their wings if they happened to be in the path of the rumpus liable to be kicked up any moment.

The conundrum people are asking themselves, with bated breath, is, if the "small boy" can kick up such a dust in the Enterprise office what sort of a racket would a busy, able-bodied man, from St. Vincent create in that hole? At very thought of which we are almost driven to drink - a glass of very weak lemonade.
In another issue that same year, the subject was taken up again. A letter-to-the-editor written to the New Era had these wise words to say:
Cities of Destiny: St. Vincent, Pembina, Emerson and West Lynne

May 5, 1890

When will our town have a boom? is a question which is asked, almost daily, by some one of the long-suffering and patient citizens of the "Four Corners." The writer will not pretend to prophesy when that much desired event is to occur, but he has a suggestion to offer, which, if followed, may possibly help to expedite the matter.

I read regularly, and with great interest, each of the three enterprising journals published at the Corners, and it frequently strikes me as strange, that I scarcely ever see a favorable item in any one of them respecting the neighboring towns, and very often months pass by without even a mention of each other.

A stranger to read any one of these papers would never imagine that there was any other town within fifteen miles of the place where it is published, although the distance from the southern boundaries of Saint Vincent and Pembina, to the northern boundaries of Emerson and West Lynne is about the same as the area embraced in the river front of Fargo or Grand Forks.

In the pride and zeal which individual citizen naturally feels for the particular town where his own home is located he should not lose sight of the fact, that between Pembina, St. Vincent, Emerson, and West Lynne there is a common interest and a common destiny, and that, therefore, there should be mutual sympathy and assistance.

The slurs, which are often made by the citizens of each town against the other towns, are very unwise to say the least of them, and "while they may make the unskilful laugh, cannot but make the judicious grieve." And they tend to depreciate all the four towns in the estimation of every disinterested person.

It will be apparent to anyone who will investigate the subject, that these towns within two miles of where the International Boundary Line intersects the Red River, will, in time, become the greatest railway centre northwest of Duluth.

The construction of fifteen miles of railroad, over a level prairie, south-west from Pembina and twenty-five miles north-west from Emerson, (already graded) will give them seven miles of railway, beside which, there are favorable prospects for the early construction of tow more roads, to the south-east, through Minnesota.

It is not possible to find a spot on the globe where nine or even seven lines of railway are centered on a navigable stream, where there is not a city of considerable magnitude; but in order to attain our predestined greatness, within a reasonable period, it will be necessary that our citizens realize that anything which is benefit or injury to one of the Corners, will have the same effect on the others.

Let us not only "gather together" but pull together and advertise our collective advantages to the world; debate, if we wish, the comparative merits of the several towns and the enterprise of their citizens, but don't forget and don't let the world lose sight of the fact, that although divided by state lines the "Four Corners" are, for all social and commercial advantages, one City.

We might well adopt as our joint motto, that on the arms of the state of Kentucky and Missouri, "United we stand, divided we fall..."

Friday, April 11, 2008

Photo Portrait: Gust Sandberg

Gust Sandberg with artificial legs, 1908 – Hallock Township, Kittson County (Minnesota). What is Gust's story?

Well, I was able to find him on the 1930 census, where it said he was 61 (therefore born circa 1869), born in Sweden, and was a widower.

But then I found ANOTHER Gust Sandberg, aged 58, on the same 1930 census who had a wife and children and lived in Township 162 (Granville/Hampden) in Kittson County. Oh dear - too many Gust Sandbergs!

I found Gust on the 1910 census also, living with his brother Chas (Charles?) in "Red River, Kittson...", born 1869, but he was single at this time.

So, what waas Gust(av)'s story? Farming accident? War veteran?

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Minnesota Safari: Kittson County

In a recent article, a heretofore unknown project was featured. It is the passion and some would say, life's work, of a Kittson County resident, and something I am proud to say our county has been a part of.

The natural world is precious, as we all know only too well in this modern world. Our home county has a great diversity, being both open plain and wooded in parts. On top of that, we have plenty of marshes, sloughs, and the Red River itself, which is very good indeed considering we're on a major migration route for waterfowl in North America (as well as Monarch butterflies...)

Thanks to William Ash for alerting me to this information

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Captain Emerson, Revisited

Too many people too quickly forget. With that thought in mind, Bob Tullius of Winchester, Va., will be flying into the airport at Pembina, N.D., today in a World War II P-51 Mustang. He has restored the plane to look exactly like the one Air Force Capt. Donald Emerson of the Pembina and Karlstad, Minn., area was flying when he was shot down on Christmas Day of 1944. And the restoration is precise, right down to the painting of Donald Duck on the nose. (August 28, 1992 - Grand Forks Herald)

Friday, April 04, 2008

Historical Essay Vault: Eulogy for St. Vincent

It looked like St. Vincent was blessed with everything a good town needs: easy transportation, jobs, and good soil, and water. But somewhere they lost whatever it was they had had. For St. Vincent is no longer a little town with a lot of growing to do - but now St. Vincent has little to look forward to except a slow death. In 1909 these words were written:
"Today we have abundant evidence that we are standing at the threshold of a new dominion that is to arise on this plateau of North America...With unshackled hands, free thought and liberty of conscience, the people of the valley of the Upper Mississippi and Red River of the North may add much to the luster of the Great Republic, born on the 4th of July, 1776. Let us pursue no narrow policy. Let us welcome the Dane, the Swede, the Norwegian, the Russian, the German, and all newcomers..."
Somewhere along the line we forgot how to use this potential, and now we are paying for it. We will probably never regain our way of life and the promises it showed, but this area will always be rich with the memories of the bright past.

- St. Vincent, by Barbara Bostrom