Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Maggie's Book: Part I

Back in August, I wrote that once Gamble descendent Alice had time to scan her ancestor's scrapbook (known as the 'Maggie Book'1) - then donate it - she would share with me copies of the pages I had told her I'd like.

Recently I received those copies, and here is the first example...

APRIL 23, 1897


An Awful Storm on Easter Sun-
day Adds Horror and Makes
Havoc to the Already

The flood has kept rising slowly and steadily since our last week's report. On Wednesday morning it came to a standstill, and has fallen about two inches up to to-day noon, (Friday,) and it is hoped that the high water mark of this year has been reached, being about thirteen or fourteen inches above the flood of 1882, a total rise of 42 feet 4 1/2 inches. Here in the city, between the railroad and river, there are yet about a dozen dwelling houses with dry floors. West of the track it is still quite dry and most of the houses in that locality are dry. The stores on the west side of Cavileer street are as yet all right. Some of them however had their floors just on a level with the water, and two or three inches of a rise would make considerable trouble for a good many folks. The Winchester House is still high and dry and the Pembina House is above the level and while the Headquarters is a little moist down stairs yet is doing business just the same. Quite a number of families have gone to the hotels to stay during "the unpleasantness." Most of our towns people however are living "high" but though somewhat elevated have no disposition to look down on more fortunate or unfortunate people. Full preparations were made and as everybody was prepared, the only result to most people is considerable inconvenience for a time. Our people are taking the matter philosophically and are and have been this week taking active steps to aid others, whose troubles are real misfortunes, and whose losses involve nearly all they possess. Of course the general hope is that we have seen the worst and that the waters will speedily retire to their natural bounds.


If the flood had come no higher than in 1882 and the weather remained pleasant, the flood of 1897 would not have been a very serious affair except in some few cases. But most people had made 1882 the extreme possible limit and thought of no danger of anything above that. But the water not only came above that, but the severe wind and storm of Easter Sunday passed over miles of water, raising great waves which beat down houses and barns and sent others floating to distant places.

No tongue can speak the horrors and terrors suffered by many families, by women and children, who were exposed to the pitiless storm and the relentless waves, miles from land. The mariner in his ship has a chance to fight for his life; good seamanship and hard work and he may or can weather the gale, but these poor wretches huddled in rickety buildings, rocking in winds and waves, helpless as babes, without fire, with the spray freezing in fantastic shapes where it fell. Oh! the horror of it.

A few houses in this city were somewhat exposed and the inmates were somewhat frightened, but the railroad grade, the numerous sidewalks staked down, and the surrounding timber broke the force of the sea and wind to most of the houses. At the grade the sight was like the sea shore in a storm. The spray from the waves dashed as high as the tops of the telegraph poles and one side of the grade was badly washed away. One side of the front of William Moorhead's undertaking building was torn off by the force of the wind. One of T.L. Price's large windows was blown in and a section of the shingles on the Episcopal church was ripped off. Fortunately a large proportion of the sidewalks had been staked before the storm and most of it remains in position. Perhaps no one in town had more trouble on their hands on Sunday than Charley Atkinson and his men. Mr. Atkinson had a herd of cattle for shipment about 125 in number. He had driven them to the western part of town beyond the depot but they had no shelter except that they were behind a barn and some hay stacks. It was found impossible to get there from town by boat and Mr. Atkinson made several trips on horse-back through the icy water and waves, the spray freezing on his horse as he went. The cattle came out without loss, and have been driven to Neche for shipment to-morrow.

Gisli Gislason, an Icelandic carpenter, about six in the morning Sunday, saw two boats get loose from Mr. Oliver's hotel in South Pembina; with two other men he followed in a large boat to bring them back. They found themselves drifting before the wind in the middle of the river, with waves mountain high, and in spite of their best efforts they drifted up the river, and landed on the roof of a submerged house on the river bank nearly opposite Fort Pembina. Only a small portion of the house was above water, and there the three remained until Sunday evening, ready at any moment to make a jump for the boat, if the house toppled over. They got to the Fort that evening and arrived back next morning, just as searching parties were starting out for them. Although they suffered seriously with cold yet they were all right next day.

It was very hard work and attended with some danger to navigate the icy sidewalks, and an "alpen stock" was almost absolutely necessary to prevent being blown into the water. Our sidewalks and crossings though generally well staked were badly scattered in some parts of town, by the storm, and it will be no small expense to put our sidewalks and bridges in shape again. A peculiar incident of the storm was the sudden fall of the water. Beginning about 7 o'clock Sunday morning the water fell over an inch an hour for five or six hours, and continued until about five o'clock in the evening dropping nearly twelve inches. Of course this cleared the water from the floors of most of the residences and there was much rejoicing, but the next day it was all back again and two inches more. It was doubtless the action of the wind on the surface of the water.


On Wednesday evening the steamer "Grand Forks" sounded her whistle opposite Pembina and in a few minutes nine-tenths of the male population and even some ladies, were at the Pembina bridge to meet her. The steamer tied up at the edge of Cavileer street, her bow pushing in the floating sidewalk on that side. She was under the charge of Mr. O.W. Pennison as manager fro the Great Northern railroad company, her owner. Capt. Bruce Griggs is captain and Capt. Perrault, pilot. The steamer and crew is furnished by the Great Northern railroad company, the fuel is supplied by towns and counties along the river, Grand Forks merchants sent a large quantity of supplies under the charge of Capt. James Elton and East Grand Forks merchants an additional amount under the charge of Mr. DeWolf. This is the third trip of the steamer for the relief of the flooded farmers. She left Drayton Wednesday morning and the history of her trip northward is similar to the report given us by Messrs Colley and Hogg who came by sailing skiff the day before. Hundreds of farm buildings wrecked and floated off, considerable stock drowned, and a repetition of the terrors suffered by people caught miles from land in half-floating and rickety houses, and of people and stock on roofs and rafts exposed to the waves and winds. We have not space nor time to give a tenth of the stories that are told of the sufferings and but a small part is yet told, and much will never be known.

The steamer had on board three women, a widow Johnson and two daughters who, lived near the river ten miles west of Hallock on the Minnesota side. A part of her house had floated away and she had fifteen head of cattle. These were taken on board the boat. Besides these cattle there were also about thirty head of horses and cattle belonging to Messrs Murray, McLellan, McKean and McLean from near Bowesmont. These will be landed at Drayton on the return trip.

The steamer left early on Thursday morning to continue her relief service as she went southwards. On her trip north she left several men and boats to go through the Snake river country east of Drayton, where considerable suffering has been reported and she will pick them up on her return and do what may seem necessary for the relief of the flooded farmers.

And here we may say, that both the Great Northern and Northern Pacific companies have not spared expense or trouble in sending relief boats and trains, and the liberality of Grand Forks and East Grand Forks is certainly very opportune and kind hearted. The party of Drayton people who took their boats on a special N.P. train to Bowesmont on Monday and spent two days of hard work in rescuing people and stock deserve particular credit for their thoughtfulness as well as willingness.

On board of the steamer as passengers were Messrs Wylie, Wallace, McCrea, and Crandell of Drayton, Cashier D.C. Moore of the First National Bank and H.L. Hausseman druggist, of Grafton. These gentlemen ame down to look over the situation, so as to be better informed as to the relief needed, and which they have to some extent initiated. Besides these mentioned were Messrs Thos. Murray and Mr. McClellan, in charge of part of the stock on the barge, and the three women, Mrs. Johnson and daughters before mentioned. Capt. Elton and son were also passengers.


Mr. J.T. Colley and Howard Hogg came down from Drayton on Tuesday evening in a small sailing skiff. Mr. Colley was interviewed by the Pioneer Express and his story of the voyage will give our readers an approximate idea of the troubles and misfortunes of the farmers who reside in the flooded district. Of course in just a sailing trip of forty miles or so from Monday noon to Tuesday night, the information gathered is must necessarily be fragmentary and sometimes erroneous as to detail, but enough is certain to show what an awful state several hundreds of our friends, neighbors and citizens were placed in during the terrible storm of wind and wave during Saturday night and Sunday, and the particular instances given are only examples. For it must be remembered that an extent of country averaging at least five miles on either side of the river from about Grand Forks to Winnipeg is and was submerged with the flood, and hundreds of farm buildings are or were standing in water, some as high as the eaves, and many from three to five miles from the nearest land. In this county the country east from Bowesmont is low and the flood is a mile or two beyond the railroad track at that place.

In South Joliette the water is four or five miles inland. The water near the banks of the river is about five or six feet deep on the average and then shoals up very gradually to the dry land, as the country is so nearly level. The Minnesota side is generally somewhat lower than our side and the water is farther inland. The water on Monday was eight and a half miles out of its banks eastward and only one and a half miles from Hallock. The Minnesota side is not so thickly settled over here, but there are farmers all along. On this side, in the flooded district, there is a farmer on almost every quarter section; and as we stated last week a large proportion of them had no crops last year owing to the heavy rains. This much for the general situation, the following cases of loss, and hardship, as we said, are simply examples, and the reader will be able to imagine the rest. In only a few instances where people had exceptionally good buildings, was there an attempt to remain in the upper stories until the flood subsided. Nearly all the farmers along the river had driven their stock back to high land, but in many cases, some one or two persons were left at the house to take care of things, or rowed there in bats on Saturday and were caught by the storm, not daring to face the waves in their rude boats.

Messrs Colley and Hogg left Drayton as stated, about noon on Monday. They had heard it reported before they left, that there were no particular cases of suffering towards the north. On their way down towards Pittsburgh, they saw many buildings badly wrecked. When they came to the house of Mr. George Reid Sr. they found it badly wrecked, granary and out buildings, with seed and contents all gone. Mr. Reid and family consisting of his wife, daughter and niece, were in the house and had been badly frightened by their terrible experience of the day before. Another boat came about this time and between them the family was carried to the nearest dry land, the railroad grade, two and a half miles distant. Here a rescue train from Drayton was found standing on the track. Word had been sent out from Bowesmont and a car had been loaded with boats and men and on arrival they went promptly to work at rescue and relief. After leaving the Reid family safe but still suffering from their fright, Messrs Colley and Hogg sailed to the north again.

At the house of Mr. Campbell three or four boys, his sons, who were there taking care of things, had to abandon the house during the storm on Sunday and go through five feet of water to the barn, where they remained on the roof until Monday morning in their wet clothes without fire. They lost some cattle as well as other property.

Frank DeLong son-in-law of old Mr. Reid, before mentioned, was in his house during the storm with his wife and several children. The house rocked violently with the waves, and they expected every minute to be dashed to pieces. They were rescued Monday noon. They had no fire and though wrapped in bed clothing they were very cold.

George Reid Jr. lost part of his buildings. Himself and family were at Nowesta on high ground. Israel Black also lost part of his buildings but fortunately was away.

Robert McLean's house washed away and both he and his brother Lemuel lost seed grain. The father, old Mr. McLean, is very ill and on his account the family had moved to high ground, and thus were saved from a watery grave.

The house and buildings on the farm of Joseph Shaw, who resides in this city, and rents the farm to Tunis Simmons, was destroyed, with seed wheat and other stuff.

James Craig and W.H. Purdy lost all their buildings, with seed wheat and other stuff. Themselves and families had removed.

James McClellan's fine house built to stand above 1882 mark is badly damaged.

Joseph Lareva lost buildings and everything in them including seed wheat.

On W.P Goff's place rented by Tom Murray, Murray was in the stable and the hired man was in the house. The house is gone, and there is no news from the hired man. So far as is heard this is the only probably loss of life.

District No. 12, two miles and a half southeast of Bowesmont has lost its school house.

All the buildings on the David Murray place were destroyed. James Nicholson lost part of his house and some stock. Two boys and two girls who had been left to take care of the stock were rescued on Monday.

Adam McKibben lost all buildings and contents. High Patterson's buildings are all gone.

When about a mile west of the house on the Joliette road, which was formerly the residence of Joseph Muir now deceased, and now owned by Geo. Switzer, Mr. Colley, who sat looking backward in the boat saw something like a flag flying from the top of the house. After some discussion and hesitation, as it was getting late and they wanted to get to Pembina, they concluded that it night be possible that some one was there and in trouble. So they retraced their course and went over. They found Switzer and High Patterson there. Switzer said, "How much will you take to put us ashore?" and could hardly realize the fact that Messrs Colley and Hogg had come purposely to help them. A part of the out buildings had floated away and tone whole end of the house was just attached by the top to the building. They had gone out to the buildings on Friday , the wind got up and they did not dare to venture back on account of the waves. Next day the boat had drifted away. All day Sunday they stood by the open windows ready to jump if the building should fall, hoping in that case to get to a part of the stable which still stood.

1 - It had once been a chemistry book over 100 years ago, but Maggie O'Neill used it as a scrapbook, pasting in all the newspaper clippings she was sent from the Gamble family about events concerning the family and/or St. Vincent over a 50+ year period.