Sunday, June 29, 2008

Two More to Hudson Bay

Photo by Staff Photographer Fritz Busch, New Ulm JournalThere are two more young men tackling the journey from Minnesota to Hudson Bay. It's just a coincidence, we're told, that their trip happened around the same time as the other did. Both trips - whether meant to or not - are fitting in this, the Sequicentennial of Minnesota.

Their names are Matthew and David Seiffert. They started out from St. Peter, MN on June 2nd. They should be reaching Pembina tomorrow.

I contacted one of the reporters that have covered the story so far, and was put in touch with their parents who have an email list they put out updates on daily. Yesterday, they had this to share; it sounds to say the least, challenging:
When we talked with Matthew early in the day (he called this morning since he couldn't reach us last night) he said that they were wet, tired, "mad at the world," and doing great. Not only did they have to endure a day of rain and showers, but they had a stiff wind in their faces (at least on average, given the way that river twists) all day. Both guys commented that they had to pay attention to which way to set out when they stopped along the shore; it wasn't always obvious which way the current was going. However, they prevailed and tonight are safely in a friend's house in Drayton, ND (the friend will be back tomorrow; don't worry - they didn't have to break in, but the story isn't worth telling here). Their next stop should be in Pembina, after which they will be in Canada.

They have been continuing their round-the-clock strategy for now. To keep both of them from getting their feet excessively muddy when they stopped for a meal, only Matthew got out to do the cooking, which ultimately meant that David spent about 33 straight hours in the canoe. That raised a biological question in my mnd, but we decided that some details we don't have to know. They were glad to hear that the forecast looks better for the next few days, and other than being physically tired, sound like they are still in good spirits. We pray that the wind, if not at their backs, at least won't coninue in their faces.
Tonight's update:
These are from David's friend Kevin in Gand Forks. He noted that he had about ten minutes' notice of their arrival (and no prior knowledge of their expedition) but it seems that he enjoyed the visit.

As of Sunday night, the plan is for them to be on their way to Pembina, where they hope to rest a day. We'll let you know more when we hear from them.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Tales from St. Boniface

A story from our region's past, with local connections (marriage and vocation)...

Elzear Goulet
by Dan Vandal

On September 13 1870, a proud Metis man ran through the streets of downtown Winnipeg, desperately trying to avoid a gang of Orangeman sympathizers intent on doing him harm. When the man reached the banks of the Red River, he jumped into the water in an attempt to swim back to the Metis friendly St Boniface side. The gang was not far behind and pelted him with rocks until one finally struck him on the head, knocking him nearly unconscious. The man continued to struggle but eventually succumbed to the rapid, muddy, cold water. Although there were reportedly several witnesses to the daylight attack, nobody was ever charged with his death. His body was recovered the next day.

That man's name was Elzéar Goulet. On September 13, 2008, 138 years after his death, a riverbank park alongside Taché Avenue in North St Boniface will be dedicated to his memory.

Elzéar Goulet was a captain under General Ambroise Lepine, who served as part of Louis Riel's Provisional government. An avid horseman, Goulet was born in St Boniface in 1836 and roamed western Canada hunting and trading. He married Helene Jerome in 1859, with whom they would raise 6 children. The Goulet family formed strong allegiances with political and economic leaders on both sides of the Red River. Two of his brothers came to hold important positions within the government. Before his involvement with the Metis Provisional government, Elzéar was a mail carrier between Pembina North Dakota and Fort Garry. In 1869, Elzéar Goulet formed part of the seven councillors who decided the fate of Thomas Scott. According to Dr. Phil Mailhot from the St Boniface Museum, Elzéar Goulet never wanted Tom Scott executed, "Goulet offered to take personal responsibility for Tom Scott as an alternative to having him executed, but others felt they had to send the Canadian government a message by executing Scott." On March 4th 1869, Tom Scott was executed by a firing squad.

More than anything else, Elzéar Goulet represents the unknown, non-Riel, Metis leadership of the era. Riel was certainly not alone in the Metis struggle. Who were the other characters? What drove them? We certainly don't know enough about the other Metis involved at Red river in 1870. Goulet fills some of that void.

The Elzéar Goulet story also represents political and civil tension which existed at the time of the creation of our Province and city. His story exemplifies the violence and intimidation which prevailed at the time. Imagine the danger facing the all Metis on a daily basis when revenge was sought against those responsible for the Scott execution. Imagine the stories that have never come to light! His story is as unique and colorful as any in Canada and is relatively unknown even to those who today live in St Boniface and Winnipeg. The park dedication will be a respectful, unique way to attempt to change all of that.

The Elzéar Goulet Park will transform a parcel of former industrial land into a park which will be unique in Canada. The Goulet story will be interpreted in plaques and interpretive art. The Metis Infinity symbol will be inscribed on the ground in white concrete amongst the plantings and grass. Soft, rolling berms will represent the water which in this case was both the giver and taker of life. Unique indigenous plantings will give the site solitude which is found in public parks and spaces. And the Elzéar Goulet Park will be an integral part of the Metis walking tour of North St Boniface, which will commence at St Boniface Museum and conclude at the birth place of Riel in Lagimodiere - Gaboury Park, all the while following the majestic, often wild, nature trail along the Red River to the confluence of the Seine River.

The Elzéar Goulet story is uniquely Winnipeg. The Metis story is uniquely Winnipeg - centered around life on and near the Red River. You can speak of Riel and the Metis anywhere in Canada - from Prince Edward Island to Vancouver Island - and you can rest assured that people will know something about the Red River Metis story. It could not have occurred anywhere else in the world. Our responsibility as Winnipeggers is to appreciate, understand our stories and share them with everyone so that they appreciate and understand them as well. Only then will we be doing our history and forefathers justice…and only then will our forefathers' sacrifices be fully appreciated. Elzéar Goulet is one such Winnipeg story. Undoubtedly there are many more out there. We need to hear those stories.

I am proud to be the St Boniface city councillor. I am proud to be working for the people of Winnipeg. I will be writing this column every 2 weeks. It will be a "Report from City Hall", but it will really be about Winnipeg…the challenges…the opportunities…the stories…and the people. Let me know what you think. Feel free to send me ideas for future columns.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

So Long, Canada?

Americans and Canadians will never be as neighborly as we were in the 20th century. Well-to-do Yanks will still hike in Banff and weekend in Vancouver. But the spontaneous college road trips from SUNY Plattsburgh to Montreal, or the Pennsylvania family taking a day trip to Niagara Falls -- those won't happen as often. The less we cross the border, the fewer friendships we'll form, the less we'll marry each other, the less we'll work together. "I feel like the U.S. are our cousins, and we've lived through so much in the maturing of the New World," a woman from St. Catharines, Ont., told me. "I hate to see barriers."

From So Long, Canada

Canada and the Unites States are siblings in a very true sense. We disagree and even have spats, but in the end, we make up. We depend on each other. We work with each other, marry each other, play together. It's always been that way, and it's definitely been that way in our area of St. Vincent, Pembina, Emerson, and Noyes.

But with the increasing border security it's making it harder and harder to have the intimacy we've had down through years past. And I think that's a damned shame, to put it bluntly. I feel we had something special and neighbors, and a handful of people - some terrorists and some politicans - are trying to take that all away.

I don't usually pontificate on politics here, but I had to say something because this blog is about places, places dear to me and to many of you. This issue is divisive to the places and people we care about.

Monday, June 23, 2008

A Long Tradition

Whenever there is money to be made, wherever there is opportunity, there is smuggling. And smuggling has a long tradition at the border between Manitoba and its neighboring states North Dakota and Minnesota, including my hometown area. It continues to this day, but let me tell you a bit of the beginnings of it all...

SMUGGLERS POINT, Neche and Felson Townships, Pembina County, North Dakota. A well-known ford across the Pembina River here is mentioned many times by Alexander Henry either as grand PASSAGE or the PEMBINA TRAVERSE. By the 1860s there was so much smuggling from Canada into the USA in this vicinity that Mr. Wm H. Moorehead was appointed customs inspector in an effort to curb this illegal traffic.

From the Boundary Trail Heritage Region

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Noyes Roadside Parking Area

If only it was that simple, eh?!

Sadly, the days of driving through the border with only a wave and a smile are long gone.

The site is located on the international border within the small village of Noyes.

Noyes is surrounded by a largely agricultural area. In general, the site is surrounded by Canadian farmland to the north, U.S. farmland to the east, the U.S. Border Station to the west, and residences to the southwest and southeast.


In circa 1929, prior to the construction of the Noyes Roadside Parking Area, a granite marker in the shape of an obelisk was apparently erected at the border. No further information on this marker is currently available.

The Noyes Roadside Parking Area was constructed in 1937 by the Roadside Development Division of the Minnesota Department of Highways. The 692'-long project was designed to create a small wayside rest directly across T.H. 75 from the U.S. border station. The wayside rest was undoubtedly designed to encourage and support early auto tourism, to welcome Canadian visitors, and to provide a resting point for motorists who were crossing the border. At the time the wayside rest was built, the border station building was only six years old, having been built in 1931. The same building exists today.

The roadside parking area was developed as part of a larger highway project in which about 19 miles of T.H. 75 were paved. T.H. 75 was a gravel road at the time. Within Noyes, the highway was widened to six lanes between the customs station and the proposed wayside rest. The three miles leading southward from the Canadian border were paved with concrete, while the next 16 miles (to a point one mile north of the town of Hallock) were paved with bituminous.

The T.H. 75 improvements were built during the 1937 and 1938 construction seasons. The wayside rest was apparently built in 1937.

The T.H. 75 project had been supported by several northern communities who lobbied for the improvements. For example, in May 1936 while planning was underway, representatives from northern Minnesota towns including Crookston, Hallock, and Warren, as well as nearby Canadian communities met to discuss signage and methods of "securing traffic" for T.H. 75. Proponents hoped to entice tourists to travel T.H. 75 and to encourage travelers to cross the Canadian border within Minnesota, rather than using a North Dakota highway located a few miles to the west. Highway improvements on the Minnesota side were met with improvements on the Canadian side including the paving of the highway from Winnipeg to the border.

In June of 1937, the proposed roadside park -- which would be Noyes' only park -- was described to the public by the Kittson County Enterprise:

Noyes to Have Beautiful Park

Efforts of beautification sponsored by the Minnesota State Highway Commission, will soon be appreciably recognized at Noyes, Minn., where work is steadily progressing on what will perhaps be the most attractive park in the northwest corner of the county. An asset to Highway 75 and its tourists will be this triangular formed garden of nature, now taking shape on the left side of the highway, upon entering Noyes from the north. A rare sight to greet tourist Canadians.

The land, a donation to a worthy cause by Mr. McKay of Noyes, is receiving the hands of experts in tree and shrubbery planting. Beautiful elms, spruce and many other lovely plantings numbering 2,000 individual sets, will make their home in the rich soil. Ideal walks and an inscripted monument will form a border for the numerous flowerbeds. We urge you to make a visit to this lovely park, that symbolizes America's welcome to Canadians ("Noyes To Have" 1937).
The park was designed by A. R. Nichols, the Roadside Development Division's Consulting Landscape Architect. As befitting the importance of a site on an international boundary, Noyes Roadside Parking Area Noyes site is among the most formal of his MHD wayside rests. The original plans even include a drawing of an elegantly dressed man and woman standing near the flagpole.

Plans for the roadside parking area were presumably drawn in 1935 or 1936. Among the signatories on the plan's cover sheet is Harold E. Olson, head of the MHD Roadside Development Division. The plans were approved May 4, 1936.

The T.H. 75 highway project was apparently built mostly by private contractors. Federal dollars probably helped fund the highway project, but there is no direct evidence of Depression-relief labor being used. If built in another part of the state, the accompanying wayside rest would probably have been built using unemployed workers under a New Deal federal relief program such as the WPA. There is no evidence, however, that federal relief workers were used for the Noyes Roadside Parking Area. It is possible that, because of low population in this remote rural area, there were too few unemployed workers available. (During the Depression the MHD Roadside Development Division encountered this situation in some rural areas where there were not enough unemployed workers to use federal relief labor on construction projects.)

Details of the proposed highway work were reported in the Kittson County Enterprise in September of 1937. The article stated in part, The paving will start at a point where the international boundary line intersects the highway, which is a few yards beyond the customs and immigration buildings. From this point east and south three miles of concrete will be laid and from the point of the beginning of the concrete for a distance of 400 feet the pavement will be six lanes wide with a parked boulevard dividing each three tier section, making in all a total width of 83 feet. Throughout the length of this 400 foot stretch of wide paving the intersection will be provided with trees and flowers, beautifully set off with concrete curbing ("Highway Dep't." 1937).

The Enterprise article concluded, "When the concrete is completed at Noyes, an excellent road bed will present itself to thousands of tourists who have for years been patronizing the Dakota highway on the other side of the Red River" ("Highway Dep't." 1937).

The highway project at Noyes was completed in July of 1938, with the Enterprise commenting: "The new highway is a beautiful auto road and a great improvement to Noyes. Canadians entering the U.S. at Noyes should get a good impression of neighboring country if a good road creates a good impression" (Kittson County Enterprise, July 13, 1938).

The Noyes work was completed about the same time that The WPA Guide to Minnesota was published in 1938. The Guide wrote about Noyes, Noyes is a small village and a United States port of entry, with an almost cosmopolitan air of bustle and excitement emanating from the U.S. Customs and Immigration Offices. The American and Canadian flags flying not far apart, the trim uniforms of the officials, and the constant commotion usual to international boundaries contrast with the quiet of this remote north-woods country. A large force of railroad officials is necessary to take care of incoming and outgoing passengers and freight on both the Soo Line and the Great Northern Railway passing through Noyes (WPA Guide 1938/1985:335).

Mn/DOT Site Development Unit files indicate that in 1961 the wayside rest had an entrance and approach marker, a parking area, a pump or well for drinking water, three tables, three picnic fireplaces, one refuse container, a flagpole, and an informational marker highway.

In the 1980s Mn/DOT apparently drew plans to rehabilitate the site that were not implemented (S.P. 3709-17).

The site was rehabilitated in 1997 by Mn/DOT (S.P. 8809-198). The project included cleaning and repairing the stonework, installing some new vegetation, and adding a metal interpretive marker.

Because of current U.S. security concerns at international border crossings, visitors are no longer allowed to stop at the wayside rest, to stop on the highway shoulders near the site, or to take photographs in the vicinity.

This property may require further evaluation for potential archaeological resources.


The St. Paul and Pacific Railway (later called the Great Northern) built a line through this portion of Kittson County in 1878-1879. The line met the Canadian Pacific Railway near present-day Noyes and thus linked Minnesota railroads with lucrative markets in Winnipeg and other Canadian cities. The village of Noyes did not yet exist, and the U.S. customs office and the St. Paul and Pacific depot were located in the nearby town of St. Vincent.

A competing railroad company, the Minneapolis, St. Paul, and Sault Ste. Marie, constructed a line to the international border at present-day Noyes in 1904. The village of Noyes was then established in 1905. In 1905 the U.S. customs office was moved from St. Vincent to Noyes. (The village, in fact, was named for J. A. Noyes, a U.S. customs official.) The village of Noyes remained small. A post office was established in 1927. Noyes was platted Nov. 15, 1933, but has never been incorporated. Noyes has a current population of about 65 people.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Hamilton Fair Loses Carnival

Pembina County Fair - Hamilton, ND
Photo by:  Bruce Wendt
When I was growing up in St. Vincent, we attended the Kittson County Fair in Hallock, and the St. Vincent fair itself in the fall, but we also looked forward to the Hamilton fair, with its harness racing. My Dad and I would attend the races together and have a grand old time cheering them on, Dad taking the opportunity of sharing about his father having seen the great Dan Patch in his time.

Now things are winding down, sadly. Populations grow smaller in the rural areas, and the results are that the fairs are slowly fading...

Hamilton, N.D. -- In the heyday of the Pembina County Fair, about two dozen carnival rides filled up the fairground midway. The Ferris Wheel. The Tilt-A-Whirl. The Octopus.

Neil Fleming saw it all in his 55 years as fair organizer: from food to farm animals, clown shows, girlie shows, freak shows.

"It was really something," he reminisces.

The aroma of funnel cakes, the barnyard odor of fattened farm animals, the resplendent beauty of fancy quilts will still exist at the three-day fair July 10-12. But for the first time in 115 years, there will be no carnival rides on the quarter-mile-long midway.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Boundary Commission Tales - Part II

Major Long...Yet this [boundary] line which may be so simply described as "west on the 49th parallel" was not as easily marked on the ground. Perhaps the first attempt to fix its location was made by the Hudson's Bay Company. In the spring of 1823 it abandoned the fort at Pembina on the Red River, taken over from the Northwest Company two years earlier. Astronomical observations had placed the site too far south to be in British territory. A United States surveying expedition soon reached the spot, under Major Stephen H. Long of the Topographical Engineers. His astonomer, after four days' observations for latitude, determined a point for the parallel as it crossed the Red River. On the west bank an oak post was forthwith planted bearing on its north side "G.B." and on the south "U.S." This was the mark that some wag later turned around. Major Long issued a proclamation August 8, 1823, claiming the land south of the post for the United States. Yet neither his action nor that of the Hudson's Bay Company had lasting effect.

...Major Long's post on the Red River was renewed substantially in the same place by Captain John Pope, also of the Topographical Engineers, when he visited Pembina in 1850. Meanwhile the Hudson's Bay Company had in 1845 reinstated its fort or store a quarter of a mile to the north, in a position which later observations by Mr. Nicolay, an American scientist, confirmed as being in British territory. When Capt. John Palliser, the British explorer, visited the Hudson's Bay post in 1857, he "adopted" Nicholay's fix, although his own observations brought the 49th parallel 370 yards farther north. This multiplicity of positions may have inspired the citizens of Pembina to erect in 1860 what became known as the "whiskey post,"1 about a mile north of Long's and Pope's, to stop the smuggling of liquor into the United States from a house near the line. In effect, their action created a no man's land and perhaps opened the door to more serious encroachment ten years later.

From West on the 49th Parallel: Red River to the Rockies 1872-1876, by John E. Parsons

1 - This later post was never taken very seriously as it was put in for a special practical purpose. A man from the Red River settlement built a house close to the "Pope's Marker" and used it as a base to smuggle liquor into Pembina, a location convenient to both exporter and importers but too easily accessible to suit the good people of Pembina. It was to strike a blow at those liquor dealings that the more northerly post was erected and aptly dubbed "Whiskey Post." - From Adams George Archibald, First Lieutenant-Governor of Manitoba

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Chaska to Hudson's Bay in Seven Weeks

I'm slow in coming to the story folks, but I'm amazed at what I have learned now that I have. Two young men, just out of high school, have recreated a journey done in 14 weeks in 1930, in half that time.

A few weeks ago they were on the Red River of the North as part of the journey, paddling right past Pembina and St. Vincent.

As I write this, they are about to achieve their goal. Of course, journeys like this were done as a matter of course once upon a time, in our neck of the woods, as part and parcel of the fur trade. And they've been done since 1930.

But still, it's damned interesting to read of two modern young men doing it again, and about what they've discovered about themselves. They will never forget this for the rest of their lives...

Monday, June 09, 2008

News from the Past: Robbers

An air of "wild and wooly west" was seen as the train passed through last Friday evening. Inside were a gang of four supposed to have been connected with the bank robbery at Stephen last week. They were linked together with handcuffs and shackles and were closely guarded over by a posse of sheriffs with Winchesters in hand. They had been arrested in the vicinity of St. Vincent and Emerson and were being brought back to Stephen for examination.

From Kittson County Enterprise (May 1908)

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Boundary Commission Tales - Part I

Treaties and Preludes

The boundary between Canada and the United States, where it sweeps westward along the 49th parallel of north latitude, was once marked by a single oak post, carved on one side "G.B." and on the other "U.S." But some humorist among the settlers living in the vicinity of Red River or perhaps a passing cynic, uprooted and turned the post around, so that the "U.S." faced north. So little did the mark matter, however, that it was allowed to stand thus until it rotted away.

As late even as 1875 the westernmost settlement in the Red River Valley was the Metis village of St. Joseph, about thirty-five miles from Pembina. Beyond that point in the northern border country not a single permanent habitation existed as far as the Rocky Mountains, if a few Indian tepees at Turtle Mountains and some log cabins where half-breeds wintered at Woody Mountain be disregarded. Much of it arid and treeless, with great extremes of temperature, the land was peopled by roving bands of Sioux, Assiniboine, Blackfeet, or Metis hunters who lived off the receding buffalo herds. Through this remote and austere wilderness, a part of the west still unwon, the boundary surveyors of the early 1870's were to make their arduous way.

From the Lake of the Woods to the Pacific Coast the border along the parallel is, between nations, the longest in the world formed by a continuous curve. For many years this 1300-mile line existed only as an imaginary concept, its beginnings going back to the early eighteenth century, when the 49th parallel of north latitude was first suggested to the commissioners under the Treaty of Utrecht as a southern limit for the Hudson's Bay Company in western North America. Although it appeared on several mid-century maps, mo such limit was actually fixed by these commissioners, or by subsequent treaty, when Great Britian took over French Canada in 1763 and France ceded Lousiana to Spain...

From West on the 49th Parallel: Red River to the Rockies 1872-1876, by John E. Parsons

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Hallock's 125th

Hallock will be celebrating 125 years of being a town this year. Check out the events being planned for this summer!

Sunday, June 01, 2008


The jailhouse in St. Vincent still exists. I'd hate to have been a prisoner in it - it seems to be impervious to the test of time, at least so far!

I was just up to St. Vincent with my sisters over Memorial Day to see our parents' graves and visit all the local sites. As we drove around St. Vincent, we went past the jail, and sure enough, it was still standing, flat iron bars and all. I always wanted to see inside it, and kick myself that I didn't get out to take a closer photo and try and sneak in.

Then again, maybe it was good I didn't. According to Bob Cameron, who recently told me his ancestor Edwin Cameron built it, there was a cistern underneath it. It was common for most residences to have cisterns in the old days. But despite the cistern and walls being built to last, alas the floors were wood; knowing my luck, I'd have fallen through the floor and killed myself in the cistern below...!

My grandfather, Al Fitzpatrick, was the town constable at one time. I never had the opportunity to ask him, but I suspect he probably knew the inside of the jail.