Thursday, July 31, 2008

Early Days: Tenacity Wins in the End

North West Company coat of arms
If it wasn't the weather, it was disease. If it wasn't disease, it was disagreements with the locals. In the early days of the European and Eastern American settlement attempts in our area, there was no shortage of problems...

During the first years of settlement the nearest market was St. Vincent, Minnesota. This place is situated opposite Pembina on the east bank of the Red river, about fifty-five miles from Gardar. To haul their wheat this distance, over roads that were bad, was not only a slow but a dangerous process; robberies not infrequently took place.

From Collection of the State Historical Society of North Dakota, Vol. I, for year ending June 30, 1906.

In 1793, the North West Company’s Peter Grant built the first Ojibwa-Red River trading post below the forty-ninth parallel, locating it opposite the mouth of the Pembina River at the site of today’s St. Vincent, Minnesota. Within a few years, Grant fled to Canada to escape Lakota hostility. In 1797, Nor’Wester Charles Jean Baptist Chaboillez established Fort Paubna immediately below the mouth of the Pembina River, then deserted it two years later because of the Lakota. In the fall of 1800, Alexander Henry the Younger became the latest North West Company trader to attempt maintaining a presence among the Ojibwas. The Park River Post – his first fort in the region – lasted from September 1800 until spring 1801, when it was replaced by a new fort at the mouth of the Pembina River. Although he held on longer than his predecessors, in the end Henry too abandoned the effort because of Lakota attacks.

From Rotting Face: Smallpox and the American Indian, Smallpox and the Fur Trade After the Revolution, by R. G. Robertson

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Sheriff Charley Brown: Chapter XXII

The ice on the Red River went out in late March, and on April 10 Jerold and Knute began their spring plans. When the new ground warmed enough for cultivation, they planned to plow all the remaining acreage they could, and seed it to a first crop. Necessity demanded a second breaking plow, which Jerold purchased in St. Vincent for twenty dollars.

A new teacher had taken over the Emerson school this past winter, and Mike had completed his first book when school was dismissed for the summer. Both Jerold and Knute had completed their fourth book and had made no plans for their further education.

Their neighbor, Mr. Trail, stopped by to inform Patrick that he had 600 acres he was going to seed to wheat. At the time, Patrick and Maggy were seriously thinking of starting a dairy. They now had 35 head of cattle, and although many were calves, the amount of milk they were getting forced them to churn cream every other day. Each week they sold 20 lbs. of butter for 35 cents a pound each. In addition, they sold a large quantity of milk for 10¢ a quart. Patrick changed his mind about going into the dairy business when the railroad offered him a watchman job at the station. His pay was to be $48 a month.

A heavy influx of settlers began coming through on the northbound trains, nearly 1500 each week. Most were from Europe, but many were from the Canadian province of Ontario. All seemed bound for the land in Western Canada. Freight shipments became heavy, with ten to twelve engines arriving in the yard each day. Five trains left daily for Winnipeg, at least two of which were heavily loaded with anxious immigrants.

Ian, Susan and Maggy planted a huge garden in late April and early May, seeding 20 bushels of cut seed potatoes in addition to a good quantity of necessary vegetables. Ian discussed the future storage of them with Jerold. "We'll have to dig a new frost-proof pit this fall. It'll have to be huge, with a good straw cover. Why, just the potatoes alone should yield 500 bushels."

Patrick ordered five apple trees from a seed house in St. Paul, knowing that it would probably be years before they ever bore fruit. He missed the apples grown back in Ontario and determined to have his own orchard. Apples were available in the stores each fall, but the shipping charges made them dear.

Wild fowl and game were plentiful, so numerous that it took only minutes to shoot a dozen birds. Ducks again covered the lake, and during the brief migration of geese to the north, the boys shot several. Elk were seldom seen now, having been thinned by hunters, although they were still being found in the eastern sloughs, as were many moose. Deer although abundant, were seldom shot nowadays, since beef and pork were plentiful and cheap. Maggy often said, "I'm not crazy about the strong taste of deer."

By May the condition of the newly laid railroad track on each side of the International Boundary was causing deep concern. Rains had turned the earthen roadbed to a quagmire. The rails and cross-ties sank alarmingly as each train passed, causing squishing of mud and water to reach up and strike the under side of the engine and coaches. In fact, it seemed the trains were constantly climbing uphill. The road speed limit was 20 miles per hour, a speed trains seldom reached. Often the engines were forced to stop at creeks for water, or by bushes where wood could be found to raise steam. The train crew, including the engineer himself and any willing male passengers, would get out with axes and crosscut saws to haul in enough fuel to reach the next wood yard. Schedules fell apart when this happened. It was apparent that coal was the answer. A load of coal could carry an engine all day. At the time, the engines were American Standard wood burners, 4-4-0, with large funnel-shaped stacks. The tender had double-truck wheels and the cab, glassed-in sliding windows.

Section crews were busy building sidetracks to bypass trains, and it became apparent that gravel was needed to firm up the roadbed before derailments became commonplace. On the Canadian side of the border a temporary line was constructed to the gravel pits at the ridge, a town site called Ridgeville. Gravel hauling and firming of the roadbed on both sides of the border became a constant chore.

Ian's efforts to improve his position resulted in a five-dollar raise in January. He had been promoted to fireman at the roundhouse. To him, it seemed almost a blessing, thinking back on his boring night job. He soon found that keeping the fires fed and banked in five standby locomotives involved far more work than he had anticipated.

The huge building in which the engines were housed created a problem. When winter arrived the large doors were kept closed, confining both the coal gas and wood smoke, often making him gasp for breath. There were times when he was so sick from the fumes he was forced to slip outside to vomit. Fortunately, when spring came the doors were again left open, alleviating most of the gaseous problem.

Necessity required a rotation of the three shifts: daylight, swing and midnight. When Ian was on the daylight or swing shift, Susan seldom visited, the house and garden taking up most of her time. The evening Ian worked his first midnight shift he received a surprise visit from her. She brought coffee and sandwiches. That night they had their first argument, he deeming it unsafe for her to be out alone after dark. He knew the only night security the Railroad provided was the watchman stationed at the depot, several hundred yards from the roundhouse. Susan pooh-poohed his fear. "Who would bother me in St. Vincent? I know everyone in the town; no one would harm me. Just because I'm three months into my pregnancy, you're babying me."

"Yes, but there are still a lot of strangers carousing in the saloons, especially on Saturday nights. Honey, every payday the railroad pays out to a thousand workers. Why, we have over 100 men working in this yard alone! A drunk has little conscience, and you know it!"

"But I can take the back trail from our house to the roundhouse. That way I won't have to pass the taverns. Oh, Ian, I want to see you every minute possible. We have so little time together when you're working." Her voice held a beseeching quality.

"All right, we'll try it; but at the first sign of danger, you'll stop."

The arrangement worked well that winter, since her visits were brief, only long enough to steal a hug and kiss. When spring came, her after-midnight visits extended to a half hour and they sat tightly intertwined.

Neither Ian nor Susan knew that Pete also disapproved of Susan's midnight visits to the roundhouse. He thought it risky, and on weekends when the saloons were especially busy, he followed Susan surreptitiously to see to her safety. Remaining out of sight, he waited, and then followed her home.

It was the second Saturday night in May when his vigilance was rewarded. As Susan passed the section car shack, she suddenly disappeared from sight. Puzzled, he hurried toward the building to hear sounds of a struggle coming from within. Then he detected Susan's frantic pleading, the sounds being gradually muffled. A section handcar with tools stood at the edge of the building. Hastily grasping a pick, Pete slid the oak handle free. His moccasins enabled him to enter the open-sided building silently. A glance told him a man had Susan pinned backward over the edge of a work car. He was tearing at her clothing.

Approaching from behind, Pete swung the handle viciously at the man's head. The impact made a sickening, crunching sound. Discarding the handle, Pete grasped Susan's assailant by the jacket collar and flung him to the ground. Susan was gasping for breath when he raised her to a sitting position. Then she began to fight him.

"Ne to nish, [daughter] it's No tah. [Father] You are safe." Her struggles ceased when she realized who was holding her. Then she pushed away in an attempt to cover her breasts.

Helping her to her feet, he led her to the open side of the building facing the track. "We go home now."

"No!" Her voice became shrill. "I've got to see Ian. I have his lunch." The emotional shock of what had nearly happened was overwhelming her. The pitch of her voice indicated that she was becoming hysterical. Pete took her in his arms and held her tightly in an effort to forestall her collapse.

After long moments her body began an involuntary trembling. Tears began to form.

"Did the man hurt you?" Pete was smoothing her hair in an effort to comfort her.

"No, no!" She clutched him tightly. Then she realized what he had first said. He had finally admitted to being her father. She and Marguerite had often wondered about their parentage, suspecting Pete and not Joseph was their true father. They had noticed the nuances in conversation between Pete and their mother over the years, yet they puzzled over the fact that Joseph allowed Pete to live in the same house with them. Now she knew why he had been so protective and concerned over Marguerite's and her welfare these past years. Why had their mother kept this secret from them? Why?

"We go home and you clean up. Then you see Ian, but say nothing. Have courage; take great care."

"What will you do with this man?"

"He is not hurt bad."

They searched briefly outside the section house and found Ian's lunch and coffee bottle. Susan fought determinedly to regain control of her nerves. Although she had never personally been subjected to brutality, she had frequently seen it in the streets, especially among drunken whites and Indians. She wondered how her father happened along at just the right moment.

Tugging at her hand, Pete hurried her down the dark alley. When they reached Susan and Ian's new home, he bypassed it, saying, "We go to your old home to get the mule."

They slipped quietly in the rear shed door and Pete lighted the lamp in the kitchen. While Susan hurriedly pinned her dress, Pete removed Joseph's bottle from behind the stove. Raising it to his lips, he took a long pull, then he slipped it into his pocket.

Putting out the lamp, they left the house and entered the barn. Pete quickly bridled the mule and grasped a small coil of rope. Returning to the section house, he stopped to whisper, "Now go see Ian. Say nothing. Go!"

While Susan continued on to the roundhouse, Pete loaded the assailant's body on the mule. After tying the hands and feet together under the animal's belly he quietly led the mule northeast toward the railroad turn-around.

Susan was afraid she would be unable to retain her composure when she saw Ian. She feared she would disclose her father's secret. She knew he was attempting to allay her fears by saying the man was alive. He was dead, for she would have heard him breathing in the stillness of the building. She also knew he intended to dispose of the body; why else would he have brought the mule?

Ian was waiting on the turntable platform as she arrived.

"You're late tonight."

"I overslept." She hated to lie to him, but it seemed the only plausible excuse. She was grateful for the dim moonlight; it did much to conceal her anxiety and tenseness.

When Ian gathered her into his arms for a kiss, he became aware of her nervous twitching. He also felt the dampness on her cheeks.

"What's wrong? You're shaking and your cheeks are wet. Is something amiss?"

"Just glad to see you. It's chilly." She nervously squeezed tightly to him, hoping to gain some of his warmth and strength. She didn't want conversation; she just wanted to be held tightly.

Ian sank his face into her hair. "After we get our crop off this fall, I'm quitting the railroad for good."

Susan felt relieved that she had been able to control her feelings. Ian had no idea of the danger she had been in. She dreaded going back to the house, knowing she would be unable to sleep. She also knew she would probably suffer nightmares in the weeks to come.

"Sonofabitch!" Pete muttered, wondering how he would dispose of the body. His first impulse had been to contact the sheriff in Pembina and report the attack upon Susan. Then he thought of the embarrassment to his daughter and Ian. He distrusted the white man's justice, deciding it only worked to the benefit of the white man. Then he thought of leaving the body in the section house, or perhaps in the river, where other bodies had been found. No! That was a poor choice, too. Bodies, even weighted down, sometimes came to the surface. And if they arose downriver, the steamboats were likely to find them.

Under the gibbous moon he followed the edge of the bush, leading the mule east to where the railroad tracks curved through heavy brush. He knew it was customary for the morning train to turn into the Y, then reverse and back into the depot at St. Vincent. He also knew that because the engineer was forced to back in blind, the body would never be seen until the entire train had passed over it.

Sliding the corpse from the mule's back, he laid it across the rails. In the dim light he looked the man over carefully. The body was heavy, over 200 pounds. The face was clean-shaven, so recently that the skin was pasty-white in color. To Pete the abnormal pallor indicated the recent removal of a heavy facial beard. Could the man have been attempting to conceal his identity? Pete grunted with satisfaction when he suddenly realized the man was Eck Murphy. Where had he come from? How long had he been in the vicinity without being recognized? He hadn't been seen for some time, and why had he come back now?

Reason told Pete that no one would ever suspect that the heavy-drinking Murphy had done anything other than goes to sleep on the tracks. To insure probability, he removed Grant's bottle from his pocket and, after taking a final swig, poured the remainder of the whiskey over Murphy's face, neck and chest. Tossing the empty bottle aside, he felt relieved. He knew the early morning train would do the rest.

George McCune had been forcibly ejected from Fri's Saloon in St. Vincent that night and was on his way back to Emerson. Tired and punchy, he decided to take a short nap. Bedding down just inside the edge of the brush, alongside the rails -- he dozed off. A few hours later he awoke with a compelling thirst. His mouth and throat felt like dried leather. Sitting up, he fumbled for his flask. The sudden approach of scraping footsteps alerted him to someone close by. Instinctively, he hid his bottle, having no intention of sharing the little Scotch he had left.

He watched silently as a tall man leading an animal passed by only a few feet away. In the dim light he saw the long ears on the animal. It's a mule -- by golly! Something was slung over the mule's back. He puzzled over the identity of the man, then, mystified and tired, gave up. He lay back and slept.

A courier hastily dispatched by the railroad depot agent in St. Vincent reached the sheriff's quarters in Pembina shortly before 7:30 the following morning. The messenger, a young lad, was excited to be carrying the startling news. "Sheriff, a man got his head and feet cut off by the train! He must have been drunk and went to sleep on the rails. The depot agent wants you to come right away."

"O.K., son. I'll be over to view the accident as soon as I can ready up. Thank's for coming over to inform me."

"Sure, Mr. Brown."

Charley could see the lad was proud to have been selected to carry the news. His friends would envy him for days.

Saddling his bay at Mason's new, rebuilt stable, the sheriff rode east into a sun already well up in the sky. There was no breeze, and all signs indicated another warm, dry day. He felt lucky to find the ferry tied to the Dakota side of the river. After a ten-minute delay, he was free to approach the St. Vincent depot. While passing by the ice-house, he noted the huge pile of chicken crates on the edge of the platform. Further on, the stationmaster stood by the door of the telegraph office.

Drawing rein, Charley called, "Hello, C.J. A young lad told me you've got trouble."

"Yah! The brakeman from the early morning train hoofed it in from the Y a short while ago. He says some drunk went to sleep on the tracks and the train backed over him. He's located on this side of the Y, in the heavy bush. The conductor has been holding the train to clear with the law. He's anxious to get going."

Swinging his horse around, the sheriff called over his shoulder, "Thanks, I'll find the place."

Gazing up at the bright, hot sun and clear sky he thought it best to have the body picked up as quickly as possible. Also, an autopsy would have to be done at the fort. Heading north along St. Vincent's main street he stopped momentarily at Dorf's livery to order a wagon sent to the Y.

When he arrived at the scene of the accident, several passengers from the train had gathered around the body, including the engineer and conductor. The latter greeted him anxiously.

"Sheriff, when we cleared the switch into St. Vincent, we backed over this man. He must have been sleeping across the rails." The official was holding his watch in his hand. "We're nearly two hours late. Can we proceed into St. Vincent?"

"Don't see why not, but let me take a quick look-see first."

When Charley first bent over the body, he failed to recognize the man. Although the size of the man was impressive and the face was clean-shaven, the sheriff doubted ever seeing him before. Searching the pockets brought no identification, but then his eye caught sight of the shaft of a knife partially covered by a trouser cuff. Drawing the blade from the sheaf, he noted the carving on the wooden handle. Eck M. It was then Charley realized the change Murphy had created by shaving off his beard. The boots further substantiated his identification for they were huge -- at least a size 12 or 14. It had to be Murphy, but what was he doing back in St. Vincent? He must have been planning some devilment, but what?

The fact that Murphy was dead was suspicious. He sensed something wrong with the scene. The youngster's report had been accurate; the body had been decapitated and the legs severed at the boot tops. He caught the pungent odor of booze as he bent over Murphy. Reaching under the victim's shirt he found the skin and underclothes damp. Smelling his fingers, he detected the raw smell of liquor; just outside the rail laid an unbroken bottle.

The cork was lying to the side, the bottle empty. Picking up the flask he examined the label: Old Crow.

Casually he slid the container into his pocket as he mused to himself whether or not the doctor at the fort would be able to tell him anything of Murphy's condition. Somehow, he doubted any man, drunk or sober, would pick a spot between the railroad rails to sleep.

While onlookers watched, puzzled by his action, Charley seated himself between the rails and assumed the dead man's position. He propped his neck on one rail and his legs across the other -- mighty uncomfortable! Then he rested the back of his head on the rail. Not bad this way, he thought. Would the man have his head severed at the neck if the back of his head rested on the rail? Charley was almost sure that Murphy's body had been placed on the rails to cover the crime of murder. Rising, he beckoned to a nearby man to help him lift the torso from the track. Then he turned and motioned to the conductor to move the train. He stayed only long enough to supervise the loading of the body parts into Dorf's wagon and instruct the driver: "Take the body to Doc Appel out at the fort. He'll have to do the autopsy."

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Summer of 1922

My mother was born in 1922. So was another resident of St. Vincent...

[NOTE: All photos taken in St. Vincent. If anyone knows anything more about the photo with the boy and dog in front of the store, please let me know - I'd like to know who he was, and more about where in town that was, etc. The rest of the people are members of the Gamble family, which I think the boy might be part of, but the location in town in unknown...]

Friday, July 25, 2008

Refuge: Pembina & the Selkirk Settlers

The winter had been unusually severe, having begun earlier and continued later than usual. The snows averaged three feet deep, and in the woods, from four to five feet. The cold was intense, being often 45° below zero; the ice measured five feet seven inches in thickness. Not-withstanding all this, the colonists felt no dread till the spring was far advanced, when the flow of water, from the melting of the accumulated snow, became really alarming. On the 2nd of May, the day before the ice started, the water rose nine feet perpendicular in the twenty-four hours! Such a rise had never before been noticed in Red River. Even the Indians were startled, and as they stared with a bewildering gaze, put their hands to their mouths, exclaiming, "Yea ho! yea ho!" an expression of surprise, "What does this mean? What does this mean?"

From The Red River Settlement, by Alexander Ross (1856) - [Note: I highly recommend anyone reading this to click on the link here to this excerpt - it makes extremely fascinating reading...]
Lest it might be supposed that the sympathies of the present writer would lead him to picture too highly the struggles of the colonists, let us hear what Begg, a recent writer, in his "History of the North-West," says at this point: "Instead of finding a thriving settlement they found only ruins; but, worse than all, there was no food to feed them, and they had to continue their journey, in company with those who had returned from Jack River, in cold and snow to Pembina, 70 miles farther. Here they set to work to erect rude huts to shelter themselves, but in a month or so they had to leave these temporary houses and journey to the plains in the hope of securing food, there being a scarcity of provisions at Pembina, and no means of procuring any near that place. These unfortunate people had to journey a distance of 150 miles, and as they were ill-provided with suitable clothes to protect their persons from the cold they suffered dreadfully. Meeting with a party of hunters they remained with them during the rest of the winter, performing such work as they were capable of doing, in return for which they were fed and sheltered till spring, when they returned to Pembina, and from thence descended the Red River to Fort Douglas. They then began to cultivate the soil, and everything seemed propitious to their becoming comfortably settled in their new home, when, on the 19th of. June, 1816, an event happened which once more brought desolation to the colony."

That event was a collision between armed forces of the Hudson’s Bay and NorthWest companies at Seven Oaks, in Kildonan. The actual collision was partly the result of an accident, but it ended in the killing of Governor Semple, of the former company, and the killing or wounding of twenty-one out of twenty-seven men who accompanied him. This gave the North-West Company for a time the upper hand, and the colonists had to abandon their homes once more, and go out to Jack River, where they suffered great hardships during the winter. Next spring, however, the tables were turned, and the Hudson’s Bay Company got control, Lord Selkirk, on his way back from Montreal with his hired De Meuron soldiers, capturing Fort William and afterwards Fort Douglas from his rivals. Things had become so bad between these companies that the Imperial Government interfered by commissioners, and the settlers once more returned to their holdings. Law-suits innumerable ensued between the two companies until after the death of Lord Selkirk (who had always steadfastly opposed union), when a coalition was formed, the Hudson’s Bay Company ultimately absorbing the others and continuing unto this day. During all this fighting between the rival companies the colonists endured constant hardships, and experienced one set-back after another.

The historian before quoted tells us that "in the winter of 1817 they were forced to go again to Pembina owing to scarcity of food, but on their return to the settlement in the spring managed to sow a considerable area of land with wheat, etc. The summer was favorable, and the fields soon assumed a promising appearance, but on the 18th of July, 1818, the sky suddenly became darkened by clouds of grasshoppers, and as they descended on the earth in dense swarms they destroyed every green thing before them. The settlers managed to save a little grain, but not a vegetable was left in the gardens." It seemed as if everything was going against them and once more they went for refuge to Pembina during the winter. In the spring of 1819 they returned and sowed again, but the young grasshoppers in swarms began to appear, and devoured everything on the fields and plains. Again they were forced to go to Pembina, and so continued the struggle, subsisting on the products of the chase, until three years afterwards, when they gained sufficient from their fields to keep them from fear of starvation. This was in 1822, or about ten years after the first of them had arrived in the country. Things went fairly well to the year 1826, when a winter of great severity and unusual depth of snow led to great distress in the country. The plain hunters, who depended nearly altogether on the buffalo for food supply, were the chief sufferers, for the storms drove the buffalo beyond reach and killed the horses of the hunters. The settlers did all they could to relieve their brethren on the plains, but in the spring they themselves suffered the severest loss in their history. The sudden thaw of the great snow and ice accumulation caused the Red River to overflow its banks and become a raging torrent of wide extent. The settlers barely escaped with their lives and some of their stock, but their houses and stables were swept away in total wreckage into Lake Winnipeg. Yet, when the flood went down, these undaunted men came back and began all over again; and though we have had floods and grasshoppers, and civil disturbances, since that time the colony was never again uprooted. When we read over this hurried history of disastrous years, we feel that the most sympathetic and vivid imagination cannot conceive the sufferings these settlers endured, and we know that those who passed through the experience found no language adequate to the task of describing it. In my father’s closing years he was often visited by tourists from the Old Country, seeking information as to the early days, and I recall the attempts he made to depict the scenes, concerning which he could say, with the hero of Virgil, "Quorum magna pars fui." I can see him yet, a strongly-built, massive figure, in the old wooden chair, on the arm of which he brought down his hand now and again to give Celtic emphasis, to his words. I can hear the story flow on till he felt the inadequacy of language as recollections rushed upon him, and then he would stop short, saying, "It’s no use talking, gentlemen, I can’t tell you half of it; but I will say one thing, and that is that no people in the world but the Scotch could have done it," and the last party of Englishmen that came to the old farm-house, seeing his earnestness, applauded him with unselfish enthusiasm. Whether my father was unduly partial to his own race or not may be a matter of opinion, but there can be no two opinions as to the difficulties these colonists triumphantly battled with, and if you seek their monument, look around you on the religious and educational as well as the material greatness of the North-West.

From The Selkirk Settlers in Real Life, by Rev. R.C. MacBeth, M.A.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Seiffert Update: Norway House

An update from their parents, it looks like the boys are making great time...
It took them three tries, but Matt and David finally got through to us on the phone. They didn't call later last night because the people whose back yard they are camping in were gone at work, and they couldn't get to a phone. They decided to camp there rather than get a motel room for a couple of reasons. One is that lodging is not cheap in Norway House, and they are demonstrating a frugal streak that I find hopeful. The other is a matter of security - they figured that it would be less likely for anything to go missing if they stayed with it. It also helps that they were less than 100 yards from a police station and in the back yard of a Mountie.

I learned that their food packages and maps got there OK. They said that as soon as they walked in the door of the post office the clerk (postmaster?) was already going to get their packages. I had sent the postmaster a letter to alert him to the fact that these two tall, lean young men (one over two meters) would be showing up soon, and that must have been an adequate description. As has been the case before, they had more food than they needed, so they gave away some of it (including about twenty of their precious candy bars). Matthew told their host, "I know it's sort of like a cat leaving a mouse on your doorstep, but we can't take it with us and want to give you something." (The guys had also offered to take their hosts out for dinner, but that offer was declined.)

They were able to fill in a lot of the gaps in my knowledge, and either confirm or refute some of my speculation. I'll share some of that in subsequent notes, since I don't expect to have too much new info coming in for a couple of weeks. One thing they cleared up is why they stopped short of the town yesterday. It wasn't so that they could have an easy morning and early arrival (although it sort of worked out that way) but because they had some first-hand experience of why Playgreen Lake has the name it does. According to Sevareid's book, that name derives from "Plague-of-a-lake," a name given to it because all the islands and channels make it easy to get lost. At one point, Matt and David weren't even sure if they were still on their map, and wound up back-tracking a ways, to find that they had been about where they had wanted to be. Matthew commented to me that if they could have had a GPS device for only one day of the trip (remember that their Spot Messenger tells us where they are, but doesn't tell them) that would have been the day to have it. To add insult to injury, David's glasses are now somewhere at the bottom of Playgreen Lake (he still has contacts sufficient to last the rest of the trip). He considered diving for them, but his brother dissuaded him, which even David agrees now was the better choice.

They are off on the last long leg of their adventure in the morning, and estimate that they will get to York Factory about August 10-13. It looks like they will start this part in rain, but they are used to that, and are more than glad to get off the big lake, where even a gentle wind has enough room to build up big waves. Matthew pointed out that once they get over a particular portage in a day or two, the rest of the way is simply going downhill. I admire his confidence, but I certainly plan to keep on praying.
By the way, I found this fascinating website chronicling another trip up to Hudson Bay in 2005 - well worth a visit and a read...

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

MN @ 150: Walking the Trail Update

Isn't that a great header? That's from Orlin Ostby's website, chronicling his walk on the Pembina/Red River Trail with his ox Pum, which he's doing right now! If you go to his website, you can glean some updates between the guestbook and the journal. Originally they intended to update the journal daily but their satellite phone isn't cooperating. Technology strikes again!

Here's a photo taken by Steve Reynolds, who has a few more posted that aren't on Orlin's website, including a few taken when they were in and just leaving Pembina...

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Cemetery Lists

Marcy Johnson has been in touch again, and has kindly shared all her cemetery projects with us. This time, she shared the entire St. Vincent Cemetery, Joe River Cemetery, and Humboldt Clow Cemetery listings, through 2007. Listings like this can be invaluable in tracking down individuals for family history or town history purposes.

Take a look, and let us know of any corrections/additions you are aware of...

St. Vincent Cemetery Listing

Joe River Cemetery Listing

Humboldt Clow Cemetery Listing

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Pembina in 1850: Illiteracy, Flood, and Warpath

From Pembina – The U.S. Deputy Marshal who has been engaged in taking the census at Pembina has arrive at St. Paul. He reports the crops entirely destroyed by the unusually high waters, and many houses swept away. He reports the educational interests of Pembina, not in a very flattering state. The schoolmaster has gone abroad, and of 166 inhabitants, only twenty-six can read and write – fifteen males and eleven females. When three days travel southwest of Pembina a party of seven Sioux Indians were attacked by sixty Chippewas, and six were killed and scalped. These tribes are always at war.

Wisconsin Democrat, page [3], vol. 5, iss. 40
Publication Date: November 2, 1850
Location: Madison, Wisconsin
Headline: From Pembina
Article Type: News/Opinion

Friday, July 18, 2008

Do You Know These People?

Mike Rustad contacted me today with the photo above. He gave me the information below...
Trish, you would not remember either Gunda Rustad Campbell (Grandpa Rustad's sister and her much older husband, James Campbell. I remember James Campbell when I was a toddler. Gunda died many years before me and lived next door to Mary Flankey. My second-cousin was trying to identify the persons in the photo. I believe it was a young Mary Flankey. Maybe you could post these St. Vincent residents picture on St. Vincent Girl. I would love it if you would because they do have a St. Vincent connection. Do you remember hearing the name, Mary Flankey?
The name Flankey seems vaguely familiar, hearing it from my family, but I'm not sure. Anyone reading this can help identify those in the photo, please leave a comment here...

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Nuisance Ground

Alec Mason, a past resident of St. Vincent, used to haul unburnable trash to the local nuisance ground with his horse and wagon. Back in the day, everyone burned their trash - many would compost peelings and leftover fruit and veg - and before there was such a thing known as recycling, people returned bottles for deposit refunds, etc.

When I was a little girl, I looked forward to a run to the nuisance grounds with my Dad. It always meant we would drive there in the '50 Chevy, my grandparents' old car, and use the trailer; the trailer was made out of the bed of an old Ford Model A pickup truck. As we'd drive down our road Dad would let me put my arms out of the car to touch the foxtails as they whipped past. It was as much fun to me as going to the fair to ride a merry-go-round.

Once we got down into town, we'd turn right (going west) to head for the river. The sloping river banks of the Red River of the North was where St. Vincent's nuisance grounds were. I always wanted to hunt around to find treasures, but Dad warned me it was too dangerous for me, so I heeded him despite my curiousity. Once he dumped everything, then I got to ride in the back of the trailer all the way home, a real treat for me!

When the nuisance ground got 'full', or fall came around (whichever came first), the town would have someone bulldoze the whole mess into the river; heaven knows what explorers might find at the bottom of the red near the confluence of the Pembina and Red rivers!

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Monday, July 14, 2008

Retracing the Red River Trail

The names are like historical markers in the tale of America's westward expansion: the Cumberland Road, the Oregon Trail, the Santa Fe Trail. These passages of pioneers and commerce have become the stuff of legend.

But the Red River Trail? Who remembers its place in history? Indeed, how many people know of it at all?

From Retracing the Red River Trail

"The ancient Lake Ridge . . . forms a beautiful dry gravel road wherever traversed, and suffers only from the drawback of being the favourite haunt of numerous badgers, whose holes . . . are dangerous to horses; it is, apparently perfectly level for a hundred miles."
Henry Hind, 1857

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Profile: Lillian Lapp

For some of my grade school years, I attended the St. Vincent School. It was a very special place, and I feel very lucky to have been able to do so. My mother and my grandfather also attended school in it.

One grade that I attended there was 4th grade, taught by Mrs. Bergh. Mrs. Bergh was a traveler in her off-months, and would bring us back tales, foods, and souveniers from exotic places like Hawaii and Alaska.

Her teacher's aide was Mrs. Lapp...

Mrs. Lapp was from the old school. She ran a tight ship and would not tolerate foolishness. One day, my foolishness caught up with me.

"Patricia Short, you can't do more than one thing at a time unless you're in the circus!" Mrs. Lapp told me, when I wasn't paying full attention in class. I then proceeded to demonstrate to her that I could, by standing on one leg, rubbing the top of my head, and rubbing my stomach counter clockwise, all at the same time...she was not amused...! And no, I do not remember what happened next.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Profile: Clara Fitzpatrick

Clara, in the middle, serving at a friend's wedding, Church of the Assumption, Pembina ND (1947)

She had a great sense of humor and was always jolly. My Aunt Pat and her used to laugh almost non-stop when together. She was also a fantastic cook. She ran a restaurant for a time in Pembina. She made all the meals and even baked all kinds of stuff and sold bakery items. Made the best raised donuts. Baked bread and sold it, pies, cakes, cookies etc. Plus raising 6 kids. How she did all that baking and cooked the restauant meals too is beyond me. Aunt Pat used to help her out a lot when there visiting. She would not ever give out a recipe though for her bakery items as she said every time she gave out a recipe it would fail for her next time she made it. So she would not give them out.

NOTE: Others in photo are - Harriet (Fitzpatrick) Short (my mother, to Clara's left), Rose Monet & Therese Roy... sure who 5th person is, nor which is Rose and which is Therese!

Friday, July 11, 2008

Sheriff Charley Brown: Chapter XXI

Wednesday, June 23, l881

For the past week Marguerite's thoughts had become more and more unsettled. Although she and Charley met almost daily and spent an occasional evening together, she knew he was frequently seeing Josey and her children. In fact she had seen the four promenading along the downtown streets on more than one occasion. Whenever she brought up the subject, Charley immediately grew cold, obviously irritated, finally saying, "Damn it all, Marguerite, get off that subject."

Revulsion finally came as she was checking the hotel dining room in preparation for the noon meal; Eliza Brown entered the doorway to confront her.

"Miss Grant, I must speak with you. It is vitally important, for my son is preparing to marry soon."

Marguerite was startled, almost speechless as Eliza's words registered. "Are you sure about that?"

"Dead sure! He is going to marry Josey Watson. Hasn't he told you yet?"

"He hasn't said a word to me." A sudden, sickening feeling came; she could feel her world falling apart.

"Young lady, did you think he was going to marry you? Why, you are nothing but a breed! Nothing but a tramp! Used goods! Do you think a man of my son's stature would stoop so low as to marry the likes of you?"

Colors began to swim before Marguerite's eyes; she was beginning to feel faint. Sagging into a chair, she muttered, "I don't believe it. Charley would never marry that woman without telling me."

"Oh no? Perhaps he hesitates to do so. Did you think that after two years he would finally marry you?" Her vicious look suddenly turned triumphant, "Why buy the cow when the milk is free?"

Marguerite suddenly felt an inner strength and rose to her feet -- a sudden rage came. "Get away from me, you old hag! Marry your precious son to that woman who abandoned him years ago. If he marries her after the way she treated him, he'll deserve everything he gets!"

At that moment Mrs. Geroux entered the room. "What is the trouble, Marguerite? I heard loud shouting."

Marguerite's temper had peaked and she pointed her finger shakily at Eliza Brown. "That old woman has just informed me that Charley is marrying the woman who is visiting her. She, the same as called me a slut because I'm of mixed breed, a Métis!

Mrs. Geroux looked coldly at Eliza. "Eliza, up to now we have been pleasant friends, but no longer. Please leave my place of business this instant -- don't ever come back! You won't be served. I happen to be Métis myself, and both my husband and I are proud of it."

The look on Eliza's face was scathing as she hurriedly left. Marguerite almost instantly burst into tears, throwing herself into the protective arms of her friend. Gently, Mrs. Geroux led her to the adjoining bar.

"We both need a lift after seeing that old harridan." Handing a napkin to Marguerite, she added, "Wipe your tears child. Some men just aren't worth a damn!"

Casually she poured whiskey into two glasses and added water. Handing one to Marguerite, she spoke softly, "It's a bit strong, but perhaps that's best." Picking up the other glass she tossed the drink down neatly. Turning, she asked, "What are you going to do now?"

Marguerite barely sipped at her drink. "Paul has asked me to marry him; I'm going to do just that. Perhaps it will be for the best. He's handsome and although I don't believe I love him, perhaps that will come in time."

"Isn't that the young man who was here during the Christmas holidays, the one who escorted you to the Emerson Ball?"

"Yes. He proposed to me that night while on our way back from Emerson, but I was so confused. I still love Charley, but it's hopeless now. I'll wire Paul to see if he still wants me. Perhaps he's changed his mind."

"I doubt it. He seemed to have a serious crush on you. Couldn't you tell?"

Marguerite shook her head impatiently, "I'll soon know. I'll send a wire from the telegraph office."

"Best you wire from the depot in St. Vincent. Anything that's sent from Pembina seems to be on the street within minutes." She put a comforting arm around Marguerite's shoulders. "I know you won't feel like working tonight. Why don't you go home and think things over. Perhaps you're being too hasty."

"You're right. I don't feel up to facing people. I feel more like hiding myself away. But I've made up my mind; if Paul wants me I'll go to him."

Leaving the hotel Marguerite found the street almost devoid of people. A slight breeze from the west filtered dancing spots of sunlight beneath the trees. As she turned down the hill toward the ferry a startled flock of redwing blackbirds rose in a black cloud to twist away up-river, the rust-tinted females mixed with black, shiny males. Trudo, the ferryman was lounging on a bench just outside his small shack on the barge, his hooked pipe resting against his chin. Rising, he walked over to his rowboat and began untying the bow rope. "I'll row you over, Marguerite -- it's quicker." Steadying her step into the flat-bottomed boat, he queried, "Quitting early today? You usually don't return home until just before dark."

"I've got problems, Joe. I'll have to sort them out on my own."

Trudo stepped into the craft and unshipped the oars, using one to push away from the barge a wry smile came to his face. "Everyone has troubles, even me. If the river is high, ferrying is hard work. If the river is low the barge sticks in the mud and I've got to dig it out. Then too, I must lower the cable when each steamboat passes. Either that or they'll break my wire. My only solace is a drink now and then."

Marguerite said nothing, knowing well that Joe was often too drunk to operate the ferry. When that happened teamsters took matters into hand and cranked the ferry across themselves, failing to pay. Determined, she stopped at the railroad depot to wire Paul. She found herself fighting tears that embarrassed her. Her wire was blunt: Do you still want to marry me? If so, where will I meet you? Marguerite.

Her answer came shortly before the supper hour while she and her mother were arguing over her decision to marry Paul. Her mother was advising restraint, when a sudden knock on the door was heard. Opening the door Marguerite found the depot agent's small son holding an envelope. The lad was smiling bashfully. "Pa said you'd want this telegram right away."

"Thank you, Pat!" Nervously she handed him a coin, then as he left she slid her finger under the envelope flap. Unfolded, the message brought a sudden feeling of euphoria and confidence: Yes! Yes! Yes! When can you take the train to Chicago? Let me know the time of your arrival. I will meet you, or I'll come for you if you like. All my love! Hurry! Hurry! Paul.

Handing the wire to her mother, she said, "Mother, my mind is made up! I'm going to look out for myself, and gain all the happiness I can. There is nothing left for me here. There must be a future with Paul."

"I still think you are making a mistake. You should confront Charley."

"After that scene with his Mother? I just couldn't face him. I'm not going to take any more abuse."

"At least talk with Susan. If you do go to Paul you'll have to plan ahead."

"Oh, I'll see Susan, but I'm leaving tomorrow morning. I'll pack my clothes tonight. Thank goodness I've money on hand."

"If you're short that's no problem. You know I keep a little hidden away."

Putting her arms around her mother, Marguerite hugged her affectionately. "Mom, you've put up with me for years. It's time I left the nest. I'll always love you, you know that!"

"Yes, both you and Susan have grown up to be everything I've wanted you to be. You both have talent and I'm proud of you. Susan has married a fine man and I know you'll do well. I did like Paul, he was honest with me when he came to pick you up that New Year's evening. He told me he was going to marry you. It came as a sudden shock and I never mentioned it to you. Perhaps I've favored Charley too much. Anyway, you know I'll always support you."

Marguerite took the telegram from her mother's hand, folding it slowly. "I'm going over to Susan's. If I catch the early train tomorrow, I'd better say my good-byes."

She found Susan in the garden behind their house weeding rows of vegetables. Her small son, Patrick, was rolling on a blanket nearby, bare legs thrust in the air. Susan was obviously surprised at her sister’s appearance.

"How come you're home so early?" Then she detected the signs of distress on Marguerite's face. Rising to her feet she brushed the dirt from her hands. "What's up? Is there trouble?"

Marguerite silently handed her the telegram, then turned to pick up the baby.

"So what are you going to do about this?" Susan waved the wire impatiently.

Fondling the smiling child, Marguerite attempted to explain her encounter with Charley's mother.

"That horrible woman!" Susan's anger showed. "Then you're really going to marry Paul. Is that it?" Suddenly she looked distressed, "Oh, Marguerite, you'll be so far away from us!"

"It's not the end of the world. We'll see each other; the trains still run."

"I've done enough weeding. Let's go inside and make tea." She looked toward the lowering sun as it cast long shadows across the garden. "It's getting late, Ian and the boys will be home soon. Best I get supper started."

While preparing tea, she suggested, "I've that yellow silk dress and the long blue one. I'll never wear them again. They'll be handy where you're going."

"Oh, they've both meant so much to you, I can't accept them."

"Why not? Mary passed that yellow silk down to me when she married Kirby, and I've worn the blue one on three occasions. They'll both fit you. Heck, they're old hat to me."

"In that case I'll gladly take them. I had planned on traveling light, but perhaps I should pack a small trunk. I can check it on my ticket."

"That's what I'd do; you can carry a small bag too. Since Paul will meet you at the station in Chicago there shouldn't be a problem. Why don't I come over after supper and help you pack. I'll bring the dresses. After all, we probably won't see each other for weeks, even months. At least I'll be able to see you off at the depot."

Marguerite found herself tossing and turning in bed that night, unable to catch a firm sleep. She hoped she would be able to relax on the trip, not wanting to appear tired and worn when she reached Paul. At early daylight she awoke to the crunching sounds of coffee beans being ground in the kitchen. Dressing hurriedly, she joined her mother who was bustling about the stove.

"Marguerite, Susan and I will both see you off on the train. I'm taking the day off." She turned to face her daughter, "I can't afford going to Chicago to see you married, but I'll see you on your way."

"Oh, Mom, you'll lose a day's pay at the fort.""

"No I won't. I'm getting $20 a month now and the fort furnishes me rations to take home. That's a lot more than the $13 a month the soldiers get. Ian is coming by to pick up your trunk. He'll drop Susan so the three of us can walk to the depot together.

"Where's Pa?"

"He went fishing at daylight. I didn't tell him you are leaving."

"No matter, I know who my true Father is." She felt an instant guilt, knowing the hurt her Mother must feel.

She could bite her tongue for she knew the remark was uncalled for. Her mother flushed, dropping her head. "Long ago I should have told you girls the truth, that Peter was your Father, but he wouldn't allow it. At least he told Susan the truth before he was murdered."

"Yes, he told Susan and she told me. That was after the night she was nearly raped; the night our Father killed that horrible man."

Marguerite, Susan and her mother walked to the depot at 7 a.m. the following morning, arriving only minutes before the train pulled into the station. The sharp whistle of the engine could be heard in the distance as the train switched onto the St. Vincent spur. The low rumble gradually grew louder and louder, the sound diminishing as the engine slowed to a stop just beyond the depot platform. Clouds of steam immediately surrounded the huge wheels, accompanied by a rhythmic, panting sound. Ian, emerged from the door of the express office with Marguerite's baggage check at the tips of his fingers. Seeing the three women standing together, he joined them, to say, "Your trunk is cleared through to Chicago. It'll be there to be picked up at your leisure." Handing the baggage check to Marguerite, he wrapped his arms around her in a fond embrace to whisper in her ear, "I only met Paul that one time at Christmas, but I really liked him. I know you'll have a good life together."

"Oh, Ian, thank you! I'll bring him back someday to really get acquainted."

Giving her mother and Susan a final hug she boarded the car at the brakeman's warning. Seating herself next to the window she gazed down at her family as they searched for the sight of her. When the train began backing toward the main line she saw her mother wiping tears as she waved. The smile on Susan's face seemed fixed, almost grim. Ian was waving slowly, a worried look on his face.

As they passed from sight she began reviewing her plans. She would arrive in St. Paul the next morning at 9 a.m. then transfer to another railroad for the final trip to Chicago. A sudden dark thought came when she realized she hadn't come around on time this month; she was overdue nearly a week. Could it have been that last Sunday in May when she and Charley picnicked out past the fort? Then she smiled to herself, relieved, remembering the many times she had been late. Things had been so stressful these past days, anxiety was probably the culprit. After all, she and Charley had been intimate before, and nothing had happened. That lack had been frustrating, for she had wanted his child. She realized that during the past weeks Charley seemed no longer close to her. Their lives had seemed not to be blending, more like separating. She knew that a wedding between she and Charley would have been fraught with danger with his mother pulling the strings of dissent. She also realized that even with her stepfather's drinking problem, the affection and love in her family had been constant. Now it was her emotions that were twisting her heart, for Charley's mother had made her feel almost helpless.

As the train cleared the sidetrack and gained speed, she glanced upward through the window, noting the fleecy, snow white cumulus clouds that cast shadowy ocher colors on the terrain. Between their folds she noted the Delft sky that reminded her of a saying she had read, enough blue to make a Dutchman a pair of pants. She found herself suddenly eager to see Paul.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Pembina Chippewa Métis Cemetery

After recently reading about a trip by a teacher and her students to the Pembina Metis Cemetery, I got in touch the instructor, Leslie Peltier.

I asked Leslie if she could share with me about the ties between
Turtle Mountain and the Pembina area by answering the following questions:

1. Why is the Pembina Metis Cemetery important?
2. Does anyone have relatives buried there?
3. Does anyone have any biographical information and/or stories of people buried there?
4. I grew up with many Metis families, went to school with them, but didn't know they were Metis never hearing the term until many years later. I seriously doubt many Metis I knew really knew their own history. They were heavily integrated into our communities. Which is ironic, because after studying the history of our area, the Metis were the first and the majority in the Pembina area when it began being a settlement. Most Metis left, for various reasons, but some stayed. How do you see the legacy of the Metis people to the Pembina area?
5. Why did you choose to study about the Pembina Metis and/or the cemetery?

Their answers are below...
Dear Trish,

Thanks (Miigwech) for waiting for answers. The class is now over and the students are dispersed, doing other things this summer, but are still interested in the ongoing struggle to maintain our generational connections by ceremonies and grounds clean up as was done by our group on May 20, 2008 with tribal councilmen and Turtle Mt. Tribal dept. of Natural Resources. I spoke with the students and told them to answer your questions as they want. I will try now to do so.

1. The Pembina Chippewa Métis Cemetery is important as a direct line to our ancestry, as a part of our people’s gynecological history and to our cultural roots.

2. Yes, there are many Chippewa people here at Turtle Mt. Chippewa Reservation that can trace back to Pembina relatives 3-4 generations.

3. Such information would have to come from the elders memories. To do that and record it are another matter. It would be on an individual to individual family basis, family stories.

4. ...Yes it is ironic that the very people who worked so hard to make money for the big fur trade companies all moved on and were left penniless and unwanted, or ashamed to admit to being Indian. That is the one essential element that the faculty and students here at the Turtle Mt. Community College insisted on upholding in our research – that our sense of pride in being Chippewa extends to those ancestors buried there in Pembina and in all the other yet to be discovered places along the Red River cart trails extending from the Red River all the way across the present-day state of North Dakota. Today we teach that we (members of T Mt. Band of Chippewa) should have pride in our people’s knowledge of the land, the methods and techniques of the hunt and in our Indian customs.

5. Because there is so much unfinished and misleading information out there about us as a people. We also felt that a serious injustice has been done to our people that needed to be addressed. We studied it to uncover the truth and to look at the alternatives we have available to make wise decisions in the future if other burial sites are in peril both here on the reservation and off.

Hope this is what you wanted. Miigwech! Leslie

They are maintaining the cemetery now, showing respect by keeping the grass mowed and fixing the markers as needed. The tribe is also talking about sponsoring an archeological survey to verify grave locations and individuals' indentities in those graves.

Custody of the site was given to the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa after an unsuccessful bid to make the area a state park by the Union Nationale Metisse, a Manitoba-based organization founded to preserve Metis culture. Earlier the same year, the group from Canada planted simple, wooden crosses to mark the graves of some of those buried at the site.

Controversy stirred in 2005, when the Union Nationale Metisse said members of Turtle Mountain weren’t taking proper care of the cemetery.

That’s not the case now, according to Brady Grant, the tribe’s natural resources director. For the past three years, he’s made the 300-mile roundtrip about six times a year to mow the grass and re-seed bare spots at the site.

Learning About the past

Leslie Peltier, who teaches Contemporary Indian Issues at the Turtle Mountain Community College, stood for the first time Tuesday at the cemetery’s edge. She offered tobacco — a sign of respect — as she stepped onto the site. It wasn’t until she glimpsed an eagle overhead that she said she felt their visit was the right thing to do, she said.

The visitors prayed and performed ceremonies of respect to honor the dead. A drum group from Turtle Mountain sang and prayed there as well.

Peltier and two of her students, Symone Morin and Alexis Zaste, visited the site as part of a class project.

“Since these are our ancestors, we decided to look into it. We didn’t know the history of it; I didn’t even know this was here,” Zaste said. Her class put together a presentation about the site, titled “Plowed Over,” and presented it to other students from tribal colleges in the state.

There are about 50 markers at the site on about two acres of land, but there’s an additional eight acres preserved. The additional acreage is covered by tall, unkempt grasses and possibly hides the remains of many more unidentified Metis.

Those in attendance talked about ways to improve the site, including adding a place for prayer and possibly planting trees.

Wilkie said the tribal council should fund an archaeological survey on the rest of the site.

“We need to take this back to the council and expand on it. I’m 85 years old, and I want to see the fruit of it come around,” she said.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Travel Writers of our Past

Ojibway encampment along the Red River of the NorthThe train from Red River had just brought news of the murder of a young teacher sent last year from St. Paul to the Selkirk settlement, by a party of Yankton Sioux, who are hostile to the inhabitants of Pembina, it is supposed on account of their relations to the Chippewas. It is well known that there has been a feud from time immemorial between the Sioux and Chippewas, two of the most powerful Indian nations in the territories of the United States.

From Summer Rambles in the West by E.F. Ellet (1853)

Monday, July 07, 2008

Young Artist Documents Early Area

View of the two company forts (fur trading companies, Hudson Bay on the left and the Northwest Company on the right) on the level prairie at Pembina on the Red River of the North, with the smaller tributary the Pembina River between the two forts.  As seen on May 25, 1822, and painted by Peter Rindisbacher (1806-1834).

I have seen other artistic renditions of the early fur trading posts on the Red and Pembina rivers (where Pembina and St. Vincent are today), but never such a well done one before. This perspective shows what is now considered south Pembina and Pembina proper (on the right), the Pembina River branching off the Red River in the foreground, dividing the two.

This is a rough sketch by Rindisbacher, of the interior of the HBC post at Pembina in the 1820's.

It shows (from left to right) a Swiss wife, German man, Swiss husband with children, a Scottish Highlander, and a Metis man.

A fascinatingly diverse group, which was not uncommon at trading posts across the region during the fur trade era.

The painting below shows a winter scene at Pembina in the 1820s, of men fishing out on the ice (another Rindisbacher).

As this documentary painting shows, not all buffalo hunting was done in the summer, on horseback, as is often assumed.  Many times, hunters would be on foot, sometimes disguising themselves under animal skins and slowly creeping towards a grazing animal, using stealth, patience, and skill to eventually bring the giants down.  At other times - like above and below - they would go out, and using their dogs to chase, surround, and weaken an animal, would then come in for the kill shot.  It is easy to imagine a big animal like the American Bison, that they may weaken, get shot and go down, but that the hunter may have had to cut a throat to end the life entirely.  Note that all these particular scenes were painted from events that Rindisbacher the artist, witnessed himself in the Pembina area [Images:  Google Image Search, various sources].

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Rail Line Celebrated as West's First Railway

Countess of Dufferin locomotiveRight on the heels of the transcontinental railroad in America, the first rail line in Western Canada came to be. It connected our neighbors to the north, down into the heart of Minnesota, going right through the Pembina/St. Vincent towns.

From Saturday's Winnipeg Free Press comes this bit of news concerning history of our area...
July 5 at 02:30 PM CDT - A plaque marking Western Canada's first railway was unveiled today in Dominion City by Provencher MP Vic Toews.

The Pembina Branch, completed 130 years ago, connected St. Boniface to St. Paul, Minnesota via Emerson and Pembina, N.D., giving Western Canada its first rail route to eastern Canada, via American lines.

The route brought immigrants and manufactured goods west, while providing a cost-effective way to get western grain and other farm produce to the east.

"The completion of this important rail line in 1878 heralded the era of railways in the Canadian West and represented Canada's commitment to connecting the West and East," Toews said in a news release.

New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and British Columbia joined Canada on the promise of a transcontinental railway.

Sir John A. Macdonald had proposed an all-rail link, but his eagerness to realize his vision led to the Pacific Scandal and the downfall of his Conservative government in 1873, according to Parks Canada. That gave Prime Minister Alexander Mackenzie's Liberal coalition an opportunity to implement his own vision of a combination of water and rail routes across the continent.

The Pembina Branch, built by the St. Paul, Minneapolis and Manitoba Railway Company, followed the Red River and old cart paths.

The last spike was driven Dec. 3, 1878, when western Canada's first locomotive -- the Countess of Dufferin -- met an American train at Dominion City.

"It is my hope that the plaque will educate Canadians on the monumental importance that the construction of this railway had for the development of Canada," Toews said in the release.

The Countess of Dufferin steam locomotive, named after the wife of then governor general Lord Dufferin, is on display at Via Rail's Union Station in Winnipeg.
Trivia: October 9, 1877 - Locomotive Countess of Dufferin arrives at St. Boniface on a barge towed by the steamer "Selkirk". It was brought in by the contractor Joseph Whitehead to work on the Selkirk - Emerson line and was the first locomotive in Manitoba and on the Prairies.

From Colin Churcher's Railway Pages

Saturday, July 05, 2008

Hallock Images

From the Minnesota Digital Library's Minnesota Reflections photograph database, comes these early images of Hallock...

Pony hitched to child's sled (toboggan?) Taken near Hallock, man is Dr. Muir.
Photograph Collection ca. 1890
Location no. HE2.9 r1
Negative no. 7205

July fourth parade, Hallock.
Photograph Collection 7/4/1894
Location no. MK6.9 HL r1
Negative no. 7202

Chippewas getting up a dance at Hallock.
Photographer: Hartvig Studio
Photograph Collection ca. 1895
Location no. E97.37 r17
Negative no. 88446

General view of Hallock.
Photograph Collection ca. 1905
Location no. MK6.9 HL r2
Negative no. 7210

Hallock School.
Photograph Collection, Postcard ca. 1909
Location no. MK6.9 HL r6

Courthouse, Hallock.
Photograph Collection, Postcard ca. 1910
Location no. MK6.9 HL r4
Negative no. 39055

Hallock Community Band.
Photograph Collection 1912-1915
Location no. N5.21 p60
Negative no. 11844

Friday, July 04, 2008

Dakota Datebook: Civil War & Us

From Dakota Datebook comes this bit of trivia about a 'first' in our area...
On this date in 1914 the Jamestown Sun announced the death or Nelson E. Nelson, the recipient of the first homestead for what is now North Dakota. Born in 1833, Nelson immigrated from Norway in 1849 and grew up in Wisconsin. He began working as a clerk in land offices in Wisconsin and Minnesota. On May 17, 1861, at age 28, he enlisted in the Minnesota First Regiment and saw action at Bull Run, the Shenandoah Valley Campaign and the Battle of Antietam Creek which was the bloodiest single day in the Civil War; 23,000 men were killed or wounded on both sides. His regiment lost one hundred and forty one men.

Returning to Minnesota, Nelson E. Nelson first became a judge of the probate and then register of deeds for Sibley County. In 1869 he accepted a job as deputy collector of customs at Pembina, Dakota Territory and St. Vincent, Minnesota. When the land became available for homesteading near Pembina, Nelson , along with a number of other individuals, filed for a homestead in Section 8 of Township 163, Range 51 on December 19, 1870. He then obtained the first patent for Homestead in what is now North Dakota and his Patent was #1. Officially his patent is listed on page 29 of Land Office Tract Book #85, which shows it as #_ and he may have initially shared the patent number with Joseph Rolette, Senior. Rolette actually filed on June 15, 1868 but due to difficulties with land office recordings and rules, his final patent number was given as #1152. Among Nelson’s neighbors were Charles Cavalier who obtained the second patent and Margaret Renville, whose patent #5, made her the first woman in Dakota Territory to obtain a patent.

Nelson E. Nelson served one term in the Territorial Legislature in 1883 taking the House seat formerly occupied by his son-in-law, Judson LaMoure. Nelson was one of the leaders in removing the territorial capitol from Yankton to Bismarck. Later in life he moved to California to live with his daughter whose husband, Alex Montague, had served with the San Diego Customs Office for more than forty years.

Individuals such as William Morehead, Charles Cavalier or Judson LaMoure are more recognizable names in the history of Pembina and had lived in Pembina long before Mr. Nelson. It was the timing of his filing and the fact that he actually obtained a final proof on the application for a homestead, instead of using script or commuting the application to a cash sale, that made Nelson’s patent the first official homestead in what is now North Dakota.
Howard StansburyWhen searching around the web I also found this entry about a Civil War veteran who lived for a time in St. Vincent, after several years post-war travails. As in wars before and since, it leaves permanent marks on people that can never be removed.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

The Civil War & Us

When I was younger, I mistakenly thought Minnesota was either too young or too far away from the center of action to have been involved in the American Civil War, but I eventually learned that was a very wrong assumption.

Not only was Minnesota involved, but men from Kittson County (or Pembina County, depending on when we're talking...the lines kept being redrawn - and renamed...)

Below are lists of a several of those local men; you will notice that many deserted...

Click to enlarge
Surname: Donaldson
Given Name and Rank: Hugh S. Captain
Age: 33
Induction Date: 19 NOV 1863
Regiment: D HATCH
Birthplace: CANADA
Town of Residence: PEMBINA KITTSON D.T.
Notes: DISMISSED 19 Nov 1864

Surname: Le Claire
Given Name and Rank: Joseph Pvt
Age: 19
Induction Date: 31 Oct 1863
Birth Place: B.A. [British America]
Town of Residence: Pembina
State of Residence: D.T.
Notes: DESERTED 18/JUL/1864

Surname: LA Pierre
Given Name and Rank: Louis Pvt
Age: 26
Induction Date: 3 Oct 1863
Birth Place: B.A.
Town of Residence: Pembina
State of Residence: D.T.
Notes: DESERTED 20/JUL/1864

Surname: Borbeau
Given Name and Rank: Antoine Pvt
Age: 21
Induction Date: 21 Jul 1863
Birth Place: Canada
Town of Residence: Pembina
State of Residence: D.T.
Discharge Date: 02/MAY/1865

Surname: Busha
Given Name and Rank: Paul-James Pvt
Age: 19
Induction Date: 4 Feb 1864
Birth Place: B.A.
Town of Residence: Pembina
State of Residence: D.T.
Notes: DESERTED 05/JUN/1864

Surname: Dagneau
Given Name and Rank: James Pvt
Age: 24
Induction Date: 31 Oct 1863
Birth Place: B.A.
Town of Residence: Pembina
State of Residence: D.T.
Notes: DESERTED 18/JUL/1864

Surname: Dechan
Given Name and Rank: Francis Pt
Age: 18
Induction Date: 17 Aug 1863
Birth Place: D.T.
Town of Residence: Pembina
State of Residence: D.T.
Notes: DESERTED 18/JUL/1864

Surname: Dilley
Given Name and Rank: John S. Pvt
Age: 19
Induction Date: 19 Aug 1863
Birth Place: D.T.
Town of Residence: Pembina
State of Residence: D.T.
Notes: DESERTED 21/NOV/1863

Surname: Foive
Given Name and Rank: Manuel Pvt
Age: 19
Induction Date: 10 Nov 1863
Birth Place: B.A.
Town of Residence: Pembina
State of Residence: D.T.
Discharge Date: 03/MAY/1865

Surname: Gognon
Given Name and Rank: Joseph Pvt
Age: 30
Induction Date: 11 Oct 1863
Birth Place: Canada
Town of Residence: Pembina
State of Residence: D.T.
Discharge Date: 01/MAY/1866

Surname: Minnie
Given Name and Rank: Charles Pvt
Age: 41
Induction Date: 11 Aug 1863
Birth Place: D.T.
Town of Residence: Pembina
State of Residence: D.T.
Notes: DESERTED 05/JUN/1865

Surname: Moyres
Given Name and Rank: John Pvt
Age: 29
Induction Date: 19 Aug 1863
Birth Place: Scotland
Town of Residence: Pembina
State of Residence: D.T.
Notes: DESERTED 20/NOV/1863

Surname: Morgan
Given Name and Rank: Peter Pvt
Age: 28
Induction Date: 11 Aug 1863
Birth Place: Switzerland
Town of Residence: Pembina
State of Residence: D.T.
Discharge Date: 01/MAY/1866

Surname: Mulligan
Given Name and Rank: James F. Pvt
Age: 20
Induction Date: 11 Oct 1863
Birth Place: England
Town of Residence: Pembina
State of Residence: D.T.
Notes: DESERTED 01/APR/1865

Surname: Mulligan
Given Name and Rank: George P. Pvt
Age: 18
Induction Date: 4 Feb 1864
Birth Place: B.A.
Town of Residence: Pembina
State of Residence: D.T.
Discharge Date: 01/MAY/1866

Surname: Primeau
Given Name and Rank: Francis Pvt
Age: 22
Induction Date: 24 Oct 1863
Birth Place: B.A.
Town of Residence: Pembina
State of Residence: D.T.
Notes: DESERTED 15/SEP/1864

Surname: Case
Given Name and Rank: Alvin
Age: 19
Induction Date: 12 Sep 1863
Birth Place: Ohio
Town of Residence: Pembina
State of Residence: D.T.