Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Profile: Charles Hallock

One of the most signal projects which he has yet undertaken was instituted in 1879. It was the establishment of a Farm Colony for Sportsmen, in the extreme northwestern county of Minnesota, adjoining the Manitoba line. There, in the midst of the finest game and grain-producing region in America, he gathered around him many old friends of the rod and gun, and erected a large hotel at a cost of $12,000, which he hoped would become a stated resort for sportsmen during the summer and autumn seasons. His location was on the St. Paul, Minneapolis & Manitoba Railroad, and was called Hallock. It is the county seat of a rapidly developing section. He attempted to place the enterprise in the hands of a stock company because Jim Hill had frozen his tourists out. His scheme included a sylvan park of primitive forest, beautified by a winding river, where sportsmen might locate summer cottages and escape from periodical heated terms, but it failed. Carnegie would not assist. In 1892, Christmas night, the hotel burned up without insurance.

From An Angler's Reminiscences by Charles Hallock

The Hallock Hotel during its heyday

Friday, December 26, 2008

Unique Geography

Image by Mitch Wahlsten 2007I don’t know what it is, but I really like the northwestern corner of Minnesota. It’s a unique part of the state due to its connectedness with Canada. Ecologically speaking, the region is also quite unique, since it lies within Minnesota’s only example of a tallgrass aspen parklands system. As such, the scenery can be described as being a transition zone between tallgrass prairie and aspen forest. There really is no other place in Minnesota that looks exactly the same.

From Mitch Wahlsten

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Under the Influence...of a Book

Ten Nights in a Bar-Room, and What I Saw There, by Timothy Shay Arthur was a temperance novel published in 1854. It was one of the influences on the general public that eventually led to Prohibition.

It was also a book that was part of my grandparents' library. I found it in a closet box of books as a child, where it had eventually been stored many years after being read and re-read. It was well-used and well-considered. At least by some. Although not as much by others!

Prohibition in Canada was a bit different than in the States, and was repealed province by province all the way into the late 1940's...

Monday, December 22, 2008

Similar Views: 1910 vs 1957

July 8, 1910 - View of Pembina, N.D. storefronts on the left side of the street. There are several people on the sidewalk near the two parked carts, one at center, the other in the distance. The street is dirt. Both wooden and brick buildings can be seen.

1957 Pembina Main Street - View of storefronts and bars on left side of the street. Many cars are parked in front of the buildings. There is a lone building in the distance on the right. The foreground is an intersection. A water tower is also visible. The town served as Pembina County seat from 1867 to 1911.

The only building that both photos have in common that I have been able to identify is the one now known as the Corner, a local bar (the tall brick building...) I think this building was once a bank. Down through the years there have been a dentist and others in the back offices. Notice also that in the 1910 shot, the street goes south past that building with no interruption, Stutsman street evidently not in existence yet, but by the later shot it's there...

Commentary: The building is a sad reflection of it's former glory. You can still see its potential even today, if only someone would take down the aging plywood and restore the windows, etc., but there is no financial incentive to do any such thing in small towns like Pembina.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Thursday, December 18, 2008


Chief PegiusFor the beleaguered Red River colonists, who were having trouble becoming self-sufficient in a landscape harsh and alien to them, the summer of 1816 turned into the nadir of their New World experience. On June 19, simmering tensions between the Hudson's Bay Company and the North West Company exploded in a battle at Seven Oaks, which saw twenty-one men die and shattered the confidence of the Scottish settlers, who were caught in the hatred between the rival fur-trade companies and were targets of Métis animosity. Now the weather would not cooperate. Since their arrival near the forks of the Red and Assiniboine rivers in 1812, they had had trouble making the most of the region's fertility. The 1812 harvest, for instance, was so poor that they were forced to journey 100 kilometers south to the better-supplied post at Pembina under the friendly guidance of Peguis, chief of the Ojibway. In 1813, they again wintered in Pembina.

In 1816, Peguis came to their rescue once more. This time he took the struggling settlers to his village at Netley Creek, sixty kilometers north of present-day Winnipeg. They were not to know what global conditions were making their sojourn so fraught, but in 1819 HBC trader and Red River surveyor Peter Fidler observed:
Within these last 3 years the climate seems to be greatly changed the summers being so backward with very little rain & even snow in Winter much less than usual and the ground parched up that all kinds of grass is very thin & short & most all the small creeks that flowed with plentiful streams all summer have entirely dried up after the snow melted away in the spring.... Wheat, Barley, & potatoes have been cultivated here a few years back to a considerable extent last summer a considerable quantity was sown & planted of the kinds above mentioned but owing to the very dryness of the season not even a single stalk was reaped or potatoes taken up and here before when showery summers the wheat would produce above 40 Barley 45 and the potatoes 50 fold. Even all the smaller Kinds of vegetables failed from the same cause but the first week in August last clouds of Grasshoppers came & destroyed what little barley especially had escaped the drought.
The world the Selkirk settlers knew was a cooler one than our own. They were living in the Little Ice Age, the interval between the 1450 and 1850 when global temperatures were between 1.0 and 2.0[degrees]c cooler than they are now. Within that, the settlers were living in what some climatologists say was a cooling trend between 1809 and 1820. And in the middle of that came the 1815 eruption of Tambora. For settlers living on the edge of existence on the central North American plains, its effects were very nearly the last straw...

- From Volcano Weather: The Story of 1816, The Year Without a Summer by Henry Stommel and Elizabeth Stommel. Seven Seas Press, Newport, Rhode Island, 1983.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Smugglers Pointe

SmugglersSmugglers Pointe: This was a famous pioneer locale on the trail between Pembina and Walhalla in Section 29-164-53, Felson Township one mile northeast of Neche. It was the only point where the heavily wooded valley of the Pembina River straddled the border with Canada, and therefore offered smugglers a natural cover to perform their affairs. William H. Moorhead operated a store and tavern here 1864-1878 (Source: North Dakota Place Names, Page 180)

...Which is interesting since the same William Moorhead was at one point the local official whose job it was to stop smuggling. Can anyone say "conflict of interest" here?!

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Early Multiculturalism

Stephen Bonga, son of Pierre BongaI recently posted about a photograph that featured what appeared to be a black American in a boat during the 1897 flood; I also hinted at the identity of the first non-native child born in St. Vincent/Pembina.

Although unusual, I have learned that it was not unprecedented for our area to have had some non-native minority citizens in the 19th century and even before. Some say they were here well before the white man. It shouldn't surprise anyone - the world has always been prone to multiculturalism when there are places to explore, money to be made, and opportunities to be had. And despite what you may have been taught, it not only isn't always the white man who breaks the barriers, but a person of color...

George Bonga, son of Pierre Bonga"Childbirth was one of the greatest causes of anxiety to women on the frontier. Emotional problems resulting from births appeared to be every bit as serious as the physical. Medical science was crude and doctors were lacking, so women had to suffer. The first non-Indian child born in what is now North Dakota arrived on March 12, 1802 [some say March 14, 1802], in the Alexander Henry trading post at Pembina. She was the daughter of Pierre Bonga and his wife, who were both Negroes. The first child of two white parents in the Red River Valley was born on December 29, 1807, at the mouth of the Pembina River...The second child born of white parents arrived on January 6, 1808, on the open prairie a few miles from Pembina with only a wigwam for shelter. This girl, daughter of Pierre Lagimoniere, a trapper and fur trader, grew up to become the mother of Louis Riel...Marie Anne Lagimoniere had her second child under no less trying conditions. While traveling with her husband across the prairie on horseback in search of game, with their three-year-old daughter strapped in a moos bag on one side of her saddle and provisions in the packet on the other, Marie's trained pony spotted some buffalo and gave chase. During the chase Marie Anne was unable to control the horse and just before she was about to fall, her husband managed to overtake them and stop the horse. Marie Anne dismounted and shortly after gave birth to a son..." - From Challenge of the Prairie, Chapter XVI Heal Thyself: Childbirth, by Hiram M. Dache

If you follow some of the links above, they repeat that Pierre Bonga had "four sons", but there are sources that say he left "many" offspring. I don't find it strange a daughter isn't mentioned, since often during that period sons were considered of greater value. But then I found this reference which does mention a daughter, however one born earlier than the date above, and in a different location. Alas, history is not always an exact science, and when strong evidence does not exist (yet), one must either take things on faith, or with a grain a salt.

In this case, however, I will side with the reference to a daughter born in Pembina. Why? Because it was stated by a very reliable source - Alexander Henry, in his journals.

Friday, December 12, 2008


"I could see for miles and miles, and the prairie was black with them, and only here and there I could see spots of snow...there were simply millions upon millions of them." - Charles Cavileer (1851)

"We found immense herds of buffalo which appeared to touch the river and extend westward on the plans as far as the eye could reach. The meadows were alive with them." - Alexander Henry (1804)

"...buffalo bones were very thick on the prairie...early settlers connected the bones to be sold for cash. This money frequently proved to be a very important part of their first year's income. These bones were later made into carbon black used in sugar processing. Many merchants in the area accepted bones in payment for merchandise sold. Both the Northern Pacific and the Great Northern Railroads had facilities to handle the huge piles of bones which, in the early days of settlement, appeared in the railroad yards. At least one yard received over 100 wagon-loads of buffalo bones a day for several months." From Challenge of the Prairie, by Hiram M. Drache

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

1874 Minnesota Atlas

"...In 1873 salesmen covered Minnesota like locusts, hawking a landmark publication: the first illustrated atlas of any state. These salesmen were not only looking for subscriptions to the forthcoming book but also appealing to their client’s vanity. They pushed subscribers to immortalize themselves by paying extra to have everything included in the book, from their portraits and biographies (at 2 1/2 cents per word), to images of their cows, to prosperous farms and businesses. While the salesmen were doing their work, a crew of surveyors were scouring the U. S. Land Offices consulting the work done out in the field and drawing their own maps. [Alfred T.] Andreas had chosen Minnesota for his bold experiment and departure from other map publications because we were prosperous, in spite of our youth, and Minnesota was cartographic virgin territory."

From Minnesota State Historical Society's Collections Up Close blog, 150 Best Minnesota Books

You can see the atlas online here...

Monday, December 08, 2008

Brass Bands

From Vintage Brass Bands

Above are photos of two of my hometown area's brass bands. Dates taken, unknown, but I speculate they are from around the turn of the century.

In the late 1800's, brass bands were very popular. Well into the 20th century there were many towns that still had bands (and yes, even now, there is a resurgence - some even recreate the old days...)

Does anyone reading this think they know any of the band members? If so, please leave a comment below...

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Sheriff Charley Brown - Chapter 27

double harnessAwakening at dawn on Wednesday morning Charley pondered his promise to take Josey to the potluck supper at the school. As he remembered, the time of the affair was to be 6:00 p.m. Then another thought came to mind: When I go to the house to pick up Josey, I may have to face Mother. I don't want a confrontation; I just want to avoid her. He knew he might lose his temper if they met, and would say things they he would regret.

After dressing, he washed up, then prepared breakfast. Dawdling minutes over his coffee, he finally stacked the dirty dishes in the sink, locked up and walked to the telegraph office.

Nelson, the telegrapher, was working on the land title books, his head glued to documents. Without looking up, he said, "Nothing on your three pets so far this morning. I understand you went to Winnipeg to look for them."

"Yup. I found Murray celebrating in a saloon. He said LaRose and Godon left him before he got to the mouth of the Assiniboine River. They went cross-country to the West according to him." Disgustedly, he added, "I came home on Tuesday, the trip was wasted effort."

"If anything comes in on the wire, I'll drop by your place. I'm working on the records now; ever since the fire Vaughn and I have been trying to set things right. By geeze! We lost a lot of the county documents. Luckily, Vaughn saved all his personal notes of transactions. We're making do from them. Thank the Lord you two managed to rescue the citizenship and tax files.”

"Yes, but we lost all the court records -- guess they were too far back from the door. Still, the trial judges in past cases should have copies. Those narrow metal cabinets with the saddle records were mighty heavy when we rolled them out the door. They toppled over onto the sidewalk when we pushed them out. Did the rain hurt them?"

"Naw, a few runs in the ink, but they're still legible." He turned in his chair, facing Charley. "Going to the library fund-raiser supper tonight?"

"Sure am. I understand they're going to put the books in that old cabin just across the street from the new courthouse. I'm escorting Josey Watkins to the affair."

"Lucky man! You should settle down and marry that woman. She's a real lady, a beauty too."

Charley's smile was weak, "I'll think it over, but being single has its advantages. Maybe I'm getting too old for the double harness."

Nelson had heard of Marguerite's leaving for Chicago. He dearly wanted to comment, but wisely decided to keep his mouth shut. He had heard that Charley had been despondent since Marguerite left. He knew few of the circumstances, but felt Charley had treated Marguerite shabbily. He had personally admired the girl's beauty, personality, and intelligence.

Charley discovered that John and Hannah also planned to attend the library event so he endeavored to enlist Ned Cavalier's aid in tending the saloon.

"Not a chance, Charley. I'm going to be there to ogle the ladies. 'Sides that; Frank Wardwell and I are working on a list of books we're ordering from Chicago. Several will be old classics, Milton, Keats, and Shelley, but we plan on some light reading too, maybe Hawthorne, Cooper, Goldsmith, Poe and others. Say, I'll get Mack to work for you -- I'll see him at noon. He'll sneak a drink or two to satisfy his longing though."

"It doesn't matter. When will you know if he'll work?"

"I'll have him stop by early this afternoon. Have the commissioners given you much grief on the escape?"

"They don't blame me as much as they hold it against Parker. I told them what happened, that it was a touchy situation. They simmered down when they realized Parker might have died from the poison."

Mack Cavalier showed up in the late afternoon enabling Charley time to go upstairs and shave. An hour later he found Josey sitting on his mother's veranda. She stood eagerly as he entered the gate.

Her smile complimented her loveliness; her simple, light blue dress was a perfect match for the long, blonde hair combed back over her shoulders.

"I was hoping for a lengthy walk to the school, but I'm disappointed, it's only a block away."

"If you want a longer walk, we can go around the block."

"No, you'll have to carry this heavy roaster. It's my donation to the supper, a beef stew. We can take a long walk later." She turned to pick up the container, which was lightly wrapped in a towel. Turning, she handed it to him gingerly, saying, "Watch out, it's hot!" Walking to the fence, she opened the gate, allowing him to pass ahead of her.

The schoolhouse, only a block to the east, seemed surrounded by a conglomeration of people, mostly gathered along the sidewalk, but many more formed into a huge cluster on the street. Charley anticipated the building would be crowded, the turnout obviously heavy. Threading his way through the throng he entered the school to place the roaster on a long table already heavily laden with food. Rejoining Josey outside, they visited with bystanders until a small hand-bell rang shrilly, summoning everyone to the meal.

The line entering the door passed by Jud LaMoure's wife who was seated at a small table alongside the donation basket. Charley knew that her presence guaranteed a fair payment for each supper -- she would stare down deadbeats.

The file of patrons extended to the nearest end of the long buffet table upon which rested a heaped stack of heavy white stoneware. Alongside the plates were panniers containing utensils and napkins -- here the line split to each side. As they moved along the serving table Charley noted that Josey chose sparingly of the food, but he felt no qualms at loading his plate, he was hungry.

At the end of the table two ladies served coffee from a large urn. Finally seated across from Arlo Johnson and his wife, owners of the Double Decker Saloon, Charley inquired of Johnson, "Where did the committee find all the plates and hardware?"

"Mostly from the hotels, but several of the boarding houses contributed -- many of them sent food. Good thing too, looks like the whole town has turned out. In fact a lot of St. Vincent folks are here. They'll never get everyone inside; we'll have to move out after we eat to make room for others."

"I think starting a library was a grand idea," said Josey. "Who organized the project?"

"Frank Wardwell is the visionary," said Mrs. Johnson. "He's done so much for our children, we should be thankful."

"He's a hustler," Charley mumbled. He was busy with his heaped plate.

As they were finishing their dinner, schoolgirls served varieties of pie and additional coffee. Hurriedly eating her dessert, Josey nudged Charley, and then stood up. "We can't be selfish. Look at the lineup at the door."

After a last sip of coffee Charley arose and they stepped outside. "Where do we go from here?" he asked. "Want to walk about town? We can go across the bridge to the grove, the area they're planning to make into a park. Nothing much to see though, just a view of the river and ferry."

Taking his arm possessively, she said, "Why not? I'm not in the mood to go home just yet."

It was nearly 7 p.m. when they seated themselves along the sloping grass of the hill overlooking the ferry. As they watched, the ferry operator was transporting a buggy and farm wagon across to the Dakota side of the river.

While turning the crank on the large drum that propelled the barge the operator was apparently speaking with his customers.

"Does he keep busy?" Josey asked.

"It's steady work, but I don't envy him. It takes elbow grease to crank that windlass day after day, and when a steamboat sounds its whistle he must hurry to lower his cable to allow it to pass by. Otherwise they'll tear and break his wire.”

"How does he do that, I mean lower the cable?"

"The cable is attached with a tightening winch at each end, anchored to a dead man on shore. By loosening the winch on either shore he can slacken the steel cable so the boat can pass over it."

"Charley, what about us?" She crowded to him, her thigh touching his. "We were so close at one time; have you lost all feeling for me?"

He looked at her speculatively, "If you knew how many times I berated myself for not taking your virginity that last night before your marriage, you'd be shocked."

"I wish you had, for I would have been spoiled goods and perhaps Arthur wouldn't have wanted me. I made it clear that night that I wanted you, but you turned me down."

"Yes, my damned conscience prevented me from compromising you. I wanted everything to be perfect when we married. I was gauche, an idealist." Bitterly he said, "I've grown up since then."

"We can go on from there," she pleaded. "Does it bother you that I have two children?"

"No, that has nothing to do with it; both George and Lucy are grand kids."

"Then what? Do I have to throw myself at you? My feelings haven't changed over the years. I married to prevent my Father from going to jail or possible execution. I'm not proud to say it, but my Father was involved in smuggling. My future husband blackmailed him. He would have been exposed if I hadn't done what he asked. I never loved my husband, but I put up with him, I had to. Am I being too bold? Is my supposed wealth bothering you? It isn't that much, just enough to keep the children and me secure."

"It's not that simple. I'm pretty much set in my ways, marriage seems a big leap. Honestly, I hardly know my true feelings. It's not stress, it's just that so much has happened lately that I can't seem to get things straight in my mind."

"It was that girl, wasn't it? I did hear you were in some way attached to a woman from St. Vincent."

"Josey, I'm not confessing my sins to anyone, even a priest. Yes, I thought the world of Marguerite, but I couldn't reconcile the fact that she was Métis, a breed. I lost her, never realizing how much she meant to me until it was too late."

She reached over to take his hand, turning her head to look directly into his eyes. "So that's really the problem!" Her faint smile seemed to turn bitter. You turned me down that night long ago and now your moral upbringing has made you fail that girl too." The look on her face gradually changed, then she said sympathetically, "Oh, Charley, you've so many adjustments to make, perhaps this isn't the time. It's too soon. Let's let things stand awhile. I'm not leaving for another few weeks; perhaps we can reconcile our differences and see each other occasionally." She released his hand and arose to her feet. "Let’s walk around a bit." She teased, "You might even buy me a soda at the drug store."

A partial feeling of relief came, although he was still unsettled in mind. He had dreaded talk of marriage so soon after losing Marguerite. He knew Josey was serious in her overture. She had left nothing to chance; she had laid it on the line.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Marie Anne: An Extraordinary Story

Marie Anne herself
Marie-Anne Gaboury Lagimodière: Louis Reil's grandmother
The party arrived at Red River in the midst of a prairie fire, an annual event, and saw blinded buffalo with their hair singed off stumbling into rocks and creeks. At Fort Pembina (on a bend in the Red River now in North Dakota) they arrived at the mini kingdom of Alexander Henry the younger, whose entourage included his wife, a Salteux princess, two black servants from the West Indies, and a tame black bear.

From a new book, Marie Anne: The Extraordinary Story of Louis Riel's Grandmother
Marie Anne's husbandGABOURY, MARIE-ANNE (Lagemodière), first white woman resident in the west, grandmother of Louis Riel; b. 2 Aug. 1780 in Maskinongé, diocese of Trois-Rivières, Quebec, fifth child of Charles Gaboury (Gabourie) and Marie-Anne Tessier (Thésié); d.14 Dec. 1875 at Saint-Boniface, Man.

It was a long and arduous journey for a young woman and did not end until her arrival at a Métis encampment on the Pembina River in the autumn. At Fort Daer (Pembina, N.D.), on 6 Jan. 1807, her first child was born.