Saturday, February 28, 2009

Profile: Putnam Burton Peabody

Six months ago I posted a photograph of of a man whose identity I didn't know, asking readers to comment if they thought they knew who he was. Today, I got my first response...
I think the photo of the man in a buggy outside the Episcopal church in St. Vincent is the Rev. Putnum B. Peabody, the minister there until about 1904. (I was surprised to see nothing about him on your St. Vincent web pages since he was such an important figure in its pre-1900 history.) I can't, of course, be certain it is him since the image of him in the photo is so small, but attached is a set of comparison images -- three of Peabody plus a vignette from your image. I note especially the shape of the head, the mustache, the nose, the expression, and in particular the ears all resemble Peabody. That being said, I actually cannot tell if the man in the buggy has a beard...

I have no genealogical or traditional connection to St. Vincent; only an intense provincial appreciation of all things Minnesota. I have explored the Pembina Trail from St. Paul to the Canadian border, driven across Roseau and Kittson counties in search of birds and history, and camped in the woods throughout the northern counties. David Thompson would be my mentor.

The Reverend Putnam Burton Peabody was a minister in St. Vincent and Hallock before leaving Minnesota about 1903. Peabody (1856–1937) was an ornithologist, Knight Templar, photographer, military captain, Episcopalian minister, Ancient Free and Accepted Mason, author, composer, oologist, nidiologist, and naturalist. He was also one of the pioneer ornithologists of Minnesota. He was a well-known authority on the Yellow Rail and he found the state’s only nesting records of White-faced Ibis. Throughout his life, he published numerous papers on the birds he observed in the places he visited. His notes appeared in The Auk, The Condor, The Oologist, Bird-Lore, The Ornithologist and Oologist, The Nidiologist, The Wilson Bulletin, The Journal of Field Ornithology, and The Warbler, among others.

Though born in Wisconsin, Peabody’s spent his first 45 years in Minnesota where he studied birds, their nests, and their eggs. He lived in the towns of Faribault, Owatonna, Wilder, St. Vincent, and Hallock. He also frequented Heron Lake, the Roseau Bog, Mille Lacs, and other well known birding locations where he collected extensively.

On 7 July 1890, Peabody married Anna Fulton Graham. They had three children, Lloyd Graham, born 12 April 1891, died 14 April 1891; Donald Francis, born 3 July 1892, died in 1899; and Vivian May, born 5 June 1896. In 1903, the family of three left Minnesota for Wyoming, but they eventually settled in Kansas in 1905.

Peabody is an under-appreciated, forgotten pioneer of unusual significance in Minnesota's avifaunal history.
NOTE: The individual who contacted me wishes to remain anonymous...

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Derby 2009 Revisited

I'm excited about the upcoming Red River Sled Dog Derby, having written about it a few weeks back, because of its strong connection to my area's past.

The organizers have issued a public statement regarding the upcoming race, including that all open slots have filled...
February 23, 2009

The organizers of the Red River Sled Dog Derby are pleased to announce the second running of the race scheduled for March 7-8, 2009. Teams consisting of 12 dogs will run the 164 mile race on the Red River of the North from Halstad, MN to East Grand Forks, MN and return to Halstad, MN. The teams will be competing for a race purse of $4,000 plus prizes. Currently there are 21 teams registered to participate from Minnesota, Ontario, Montana, Wisconsin, and Colorado.

The Red River Valley has roots in dog mushing history. The area is mostly open farmland with a rich history of the fur trade with Fort Gibraltar & Fort Garry in Winnipeg, Manitoba. It was in 1802 that Alexander Henry (Pembina, ND) used sled dogs to transport furs and other trade goods. Jolly Joe Rollete traveled from Winnipeg to St. Paul, MN using sled dog in the winter. It is in commemoration of the history and of the 1917 Winnipeg to St. Paul Dog Derby, that the race is being run.

Dr. John Reichert, an experienced sled dog race veterinarian, will be leading the team of veterinarians and veterinary technicians. Each dog will receive an examination before the race and during the race. Veterinarians will be on hand during the race and at the finish to monitor the health of the teams.

This year’s race marshal is Ed Dallas from Deerwood, MN. Dallas is an experienced dog musher and race marshal. Dallas was a cast member in the Walt Disney movie, Iron Will, playing the role of Gunnar Tveit, the great Norwegian musher. The movie chronicles the story of the sled dog race from Winnipeg, Manitoba to St. Paul, Minnesota held in 1917.

During the race, it will be possible to view the teams prior to the start of the race, while they rest at Frog Point, or while they rest in East Grand Forks.

Volunteers are still needed for this year’s race. If interested in being a volunteer, please contact Helen Corlew at 701-345-8554 or email .

A big thank you goes out to our contributing sponsors. Sundog Sponsors ($500 or more): Spokely Farms, Mark Stortroen, and Chandler Farms.

River Mile VIP’s ($150): Halstad Telephone Company, Halstad Elevator Company, and Dr. Glen and Nancy Yoshida.

River Mile ($75.00): Burd and Rise Insurance, Dr. Joy Dental Clinic, Red River State Bank, Ag Country Farm Credit Services, Valley Hardware & Supply, Rogenes & Rye Farms., A. & S. LLC, and D. & D. Blading.

Also, a big thank you to our sponsors who are helping in other ways: Ward Muscatell Subaru, City of Halstad, Pixell Movement, Prairie Rose Inn & Convention Center, Red River Animal E-Clinic, Northstar Sled Dog Club, Eagle Tree Feed Store - Pia Thurland, Frog Point - Traill County, City of East Grand Forks, Forx Amateur Radio Club, Acme Electric, Prairie Bilt Sleds

Grafton Community Helpers, Whitey’s, Acme Electric, PDQ Sanitary Services (701-775-8569), and Titan Machine Equipment.

It is not too late to become a sponsor for this year’s race. If interested in becoming a sponsor, please contact Jocelyn Lerol at or 701-352-2029. The tentative schedule of events includes the following:

March 6

1:00 pm to 5:00 pm Musher Registration at Red River E-Clinic in Fargo

1:00 pm to 5:00 pm Pre-Race Vet Checks at Red River E-Clinic in Fargo

6:00 pm Musher Bib Draw & Pre-Race Banquet - Prairie Rose Inn & Convention Center (Tickets Required)

March 7

7:00 am to 11:30 am Breakfast - Halstad American Legion Building (this is a
fundraiser for the Girl’s JO)

8:00 am Race Staging

10:00 am Race Start in Halstad, MN

2:00 pm Teams will start arriving at the Frog Point Checkpoint

6:00 pm Teams will start arriving at LaFave Park - East Grand Forks Checkpoint

March 8

8:00 am to 12:00 pm Breakfast - Halstad American Legion Building (this is a
fundraiser for the Girl’s JO)

10:00 am Teams will start finishing the race in Halstad, MN

4:30 pm Musher’s Awards Banquet in Halstad, MN (Tickets required)

The public is welcome and invited to attend any of the race weekend’s scheduled events. Some events do require a ticket for admission. For more information on the race and the mushers, please visit .

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Followup: DeFrance Family

Roy Cochran DeFrance was the St. Vincent depot agent at one time. Photo taken about 1907 or 1908. 
Marjorie DeFrance (Roy's daughter) was born in the living quarters of the depot on May 31, 1909...

I promised this followup
over a year and a half ago. My sincere apologies - time slipped away on me which is all too easy to do. Then again, I am continually amazed at the richness of our area's history so perhaps you can forgive me for getting distracted!

Nevertheless, I am finally sharing the photographs that Majorie DeFrance Baker - Roy DeFrance's youngest child - shared with me when I was up home for the Humboldt Centennial.

Evelyn Russell was Marjorie's first teacher. The photo above is of Marjorie's first grade class in the St. Vincent School, Miss Russell is at the back of the class. Don't the children look well-behaved?! Does anyone recognize other children in the photo? This would have been around 1915. Please let me know if you think you know someone...

The portrait to the left shows the newlyweds Roy DeFrance and his bride Eva Sheldon (Marjorie's parents) in 1909. The 1910 Census still shows Roy working for the railroad but now he's a telegrapher while my great uncle Richard Fitzpatrick is the agent. Around the same time he became the editor of the St. Vincent New Era under Publisher William Deacon; Roy's WWI draft card lists him as 'Publisher of Newspaper' in 1917. He bought the New Era from the original publisher Mr. Deacon outright, in 1920.

Seen here in his later years, the way I remember Mr. DeFrance, he is in the newsroom where he loved to be, amidst the printers, ink and plates which he could set fast without hardly looking. Roy lived to nearly 100, passing away in his centenary year of 1975. He was a newsman to the end...

This is Marjorie (DeFrance) Baker, Roy's youngest child, taken June 2007. Marjorie has been blessed with her father's longevity, being a very spry 98 when I spoke to her. She had spoken with me at length on the telephone some months before, the previous autumn, regaling me with memories of being put on stepping stools as a very young girl so she could feed the paper into the press. Publishing was definitely a family affair!

New Era Trivia: Our local paper was one of the very last papers in the country to be hand-set. As recounted in an essay by local school students:
When a person of the younger generation enters the door of this quaint, little, old building, that houses the Pembina New Era, they have a tendency to back out of the door without further inspection. They aren't familiar with the building and its dim lighting. The heavy machines and "The Cases" that he has, are too heavy for the floor to support, therefore, the floors are actually hilly. The whole place has the appearance of being painted black, because of the dirt involved in the printing of the paper. The ceiling of the building is very high with little strings of lights hanging several feet down from them. It is very hard to see anything clearly when you walk into the building, especially if it is sunny outside. Your eyes can't adjust to the sudden change in lighting.
I myself remember this building very well, 'hills' and all, and it was indeed very dim. It was a place from another time, and I was privileged to have a peek into that world...

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Profile: The Moore Sisters

I hestitated in posting this profile because of the negativity you'll read below. However, life is not all roses, and I value truth in history rather than convenience. I will protect the identify of the individual quoted, but please be assured that their comments come from first-hand experience, and not hearsay. Speaking as a person who suffered from actions of a cruel teacher myself (another story for another time), I can testify to their long-lasting effects, never forgotten to this day...

A former student of Miss Moore shared with me:

I had Eliza Moore. She had white hair in a bun. Was always crabby and looked like a wicked old witch. Which she was. She humiliated her students to tears every day. She was a cruel teacher. And in my opinion, should never have been a teacher.
Harsh and damning words...What else do we know about Miss (Eliza) Moore?

From the historical essays comes this information:
Moore, Eliza
B: 01 Jan 1882
D: 13 Dec 1971

Eliza and her sister, Mary (both spinsters), lived in St. Vincent, MN for many years. They both taught school in the area. Mary became the housekeeper for Eliza in the later years. Both ladies were involved in their church in a very vital way.

Eliza made a special record for herself in having the distinction of having taught in the public schools for 54 years without ever having a substitute teacher.

She began her teaching career at age 15 with a teacher's certificate earned by writing the teacher's examination. Later she completed the necessary courses and was graduated from Moorhead Teachers College.

She taught in Minnesota for 53 years, seventeen of them were in what was called District 352. She taught 10 years at Joe River and 7 in St. Vincent. She also taught upper grades in Northcote and, in addition, she taught one term in the Dominion of Canada.
I have a feeling some of her students would not have minded her missing some days of school!

Friday, February 20, 2009

Early Noyes/Emerson Border/Ports

A snapshot of the early Noyes, MN/Emerson, MB ports of entry along the American/Canadian border

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Reader Memories: Spike Monroe

Once again, I was recently contacted by a reader whose roots are from Pembina/St. Vincent. His name is Ernest Gunerius. He grew up in the 30's and 40's in our area while his father worked at the customs at Noyes...
Hi Trish:

I don't think we ever met but I was raised in Pembina from 1929 to 1947 when I joined the Army. I made frequent visits to Pembina and the surrounding area in the years after up to my last trip in 2002.

My parents lived in Pembina. My father was Ernest Gunerius, who worked as Asst. Director of Immigration, in the Noyes Office as his last post.

My mother was born Thyra Carlson in 1907, raised in Warren and Saint Vincent and was a School teacher in Saint Vincent prior to her marriage in 1927. She probably taught people you know, in their early grades.

I had several friends in Saint Vincent among whom were Dale Turner and Lawrence Godin. I heard about Dale's accident but I was always concerned about Godie as we called Lawrence. I am not even sure that Lawrence was his first name. Everyone had a nickname. Dale's was "Hay-head"...

...Thank you for posting the hand-drawn map of 1940's Saint Vincent. I knew almost every name on it. And because it was drawn by a Godin whom I assume was a younger brother of my friend...

I still can recall events from Pembina and Saint Vincent in the 30's from about 1932 on if you have any questions. God willing, I will be 80 next July so don't delay.

Ernie (LeRoy) Gunerius
I told Ernie I'd love to hear his stories about our towns from when he was growing up. He rewarded me this morning, with this one...
The White Rabbit put on his spectacles. "Where shall I begin, please your Majesty?" he asked.

"Begin at the beginning," the King said very gravely, "and go on till you come to the end: then stop."

Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland


With that appropriate advice as a guide I recall my first adventure that had any connection with the Village of Saint Vincent, MN. Also one of my earliest memories.

The second house we lived in, in Pembina, was at the NW corner of Hancock and Cavalier street. The house was referred to as the Old Myrick house and had been built by the father of Pembina's Post Master Nathan Myrick; I see from Google World that the house has been replaced.

Across Hancock on the corner to the south, towards downtown Pembina was a large corrugated tin building that housed Spike Monroe's Blacksmith Shop. Mr Monroe lived in Saint Vincent. [Note: This historical essay about his wife states his actual name was Jack...]

That Tin Building is also replaced.

Late in my second year or probably the summer of my third year I began to explore the world. In my travels I discovered the Blacksmith Shop and found that I could silently slip into the shop that was illuminated only by the light from the forge and sunlight from the large open doors at the far end. Just inside to the right was a Pipe and Metal storage rack that effectively shielded me (I thought) from the eyes of the men gathered around the forge.

As men of that time were wont to do they were involved in telling outrageous stories to each other. The more critical among us would probably term them Lies. But to my unlearned ears they were just the greatest stories ever told.

Tales of great snow storms of the past, of snow flakes: "Big as Hudson Bay Blankets that smothered hundreds of cattle where they stood in so and so's pasture". Of "hail stones that drove countless miles of fence post flush with the ground". Those are remembered quotes from my heroes at the forge which were delivered between squirts of tobacco juice into the roaring forge as Spike silently went about his work.

Naturally these tales were delivered in the common language of the time interspersed with words I had never in my young sheltered life encountered before.

The reason all of this is so vividly recalled will become clear in a minute.

A short time later when I was once again home with Mother in the kitchen, a large Bumble Bee managed to get in the kitchen as I came through the outside door.

As mothers sometimes do, she panicked and tried to swat the Bee with a hastily grabbed newspaper.

Being mothers helper, I used one of my new found words to cheer her on and yelled: "Get that old Son of a B***h, Ma".

She immediately grabbed a wash cloth and bar of soap and proceeded to clean my mouth out.

I can taste that Fells Naphtha Bar soap to this day. It made a lasting impression on me.

This memory did not take place in Saint Vincent but you may have known Spike Monroe (I never knew his first name-just Spike). In later years when my Grandfather, Thor Marcus Gunerius, visited he would spend much time at Spike's Shop. He had recently retired as head Blacksmith at the Fergus Falls, Mn Hospital for the Insane.

Spike was a kind and considerate man that I came to know better as I grew into my teens. I could go to him for small repair jobs that required iron work.
Ernie promises more stories, and I'll be posting them here as they come in. Every little story is like another stitch in a quilt of memories that is our hometowns. A rare and precious keepsake...

Monday, February 16, 2009

Sheriff Charley Brown: Chapter 30

Gradually Marguerite ceased to worry about her pregnancy. As the days passed she became more and more interested in her classes at the Art Institute. At first she found the long walk from home invigorating, but as her pregnancy advanced, she became aware of back pain and fatigue. She decided the two-block walk from their home to the horse-car route much easier. The ride was relaxing, and gave her thinking time. Her thoughts of St. Vincent and the past were slipping away; now she was facing new responsibilities. Her concern centered more and more upon Paul, his warm smile and constant affection. She found herself looking forward to planning meals and making improvements around the house, all to please him.

Her first day at the Art Institute had been almost overwhelming. She was dazed to see the massive collection of masterpieces that hung inside. Famous paintings by artists she had read about, but had never dreamt she would see!

She found many were private collections belonging to wealthy people, also exchange exhibits from other museums. As a beginner she had to attend hourly classes on art appreciation before actually doing any drawing or painting. She was quickly introduced to the impressionist movement of the times, but found a few students rather radical, preferring nonrealistic styles. Finally after a week of art appreciation, she was moved to a drawing class with live models. This was soft pencil work, copying body movements to gain proportion.

At first she was embarrassed at the nudity of the models, but found the city students far worldlier. They took it as a matter of course. There were no ribald remarks.

At the end of the second week their woman instructor called her aside. "Marguerite, you are wasting your time here. Tomorrow, I want you to join Mr. Dion's class in oils. Have you ever done any oils?"

"Some," Marguerite admitted. I studied under Mrs. Mostyn back in the Dakota Territory. She studied in New York years ago, and was my teacher. In fact, she encouraged me and taught me the little I know.”

Her instructor smiled, "She must be a very talented teacher judging from your ability. Why don't you finish up the day here; you are too advanced for this group."

Marguerite found it difficult to make friends in her new class. Everyone seemed so intense in his or her work that there was little time for conversation. From time to time she caught ingratiating looks from male students; they often stopped at rest-breaks to ask her name. She gave them no encouragement, rebuffing them by saying, "My name is Mrs. Evans." Then she would quickly turn to one of the closest women.

She found Andre Dion's class more than matched Mrs. Mostyn's teaching. The elderly man was emphatic, yet demonstrative, often taking her brush to show her techniques of shading. He quickly corrected a problem she had encountered, how to make the human eye come alive. Shading with charcoals had always seemed easy to her, but oils required far more technique.

Nearly three months went by before Mr. Dion approached her with a question. "How many canvasses have you done? Do you have any drawings or oils you have done in the past?"

"I've done eight 16 x 20 portraits in this class, and there are a few from back home. I'm not too proud of them though; you'll think them primitive and naive. I also have some sketches I've done of children and Indians, but they are all in my drawing book. Why do you ask?"

"The Institute is planning an exhibit in the late fall, selecting the best work from each of the several study groups. There will be quite a few influential people at hand, personages who show a definite interest in new talent -- patrons of the art, so to speak. You have ability far above average. If you persevere, I believe one day you will be a fine artist. I suggest you get your works together in the next month or so. Submit it to our selection committee when they announce the showing, then see what transpires."

Marguerite was embarrassed by the praise, but secretly pleased. This Andre Dion was from France, an accomplished painter in his own right. She had seen his work hanging among others in the building. His landscapes were spectacular, with bright colors, not the usual drab shades.

Although Paul worked nearly ten hours each day, he had Saturdays and Sundays off. Occasionally they visited his parents, but to Marguerite's delight, they often took long walks in Lincoln Park. She reveled at the occasional play or operetta, but when she saw Bizet's Carmen performed, she was enraptured. Her first thought was of her Mother and Susan. If only they could enjoy this with me!"

By mid-November she had gained nearly twenty pounds and could feel the rolling movements of the baby. One evening Paul put his ear to her stomach. He said excitedly, "I can hear the rapid pit, pit, pit of the baby’s heart."

She laughed, "I can feel her when she moves."

He smiled, "You sure it's a girl?"

"My Mother says if it kicks so you can see it, it's a boy. If it moves slow and easy, it's a girl. That's her theory and she's delivered a lot of babies among the people at home."

"That's funny! You hadn't mentioned that your Mother served as a midwife."

Smiling, she moved snugly to him, swinging a leg across his. "There are a lot of things you don't know." She jokingly raised her voice to a plaintive falsetto, "I'm just a small town girl from a poor family. We've had to make do to get along. Both Susan and I helped Mom keep the wolf from the door." She broke into peals of laughter.

"Oh, I know all about that, but what about your everyday life?"

A sudden feeling of caution came, and then she said, "I met you and liked you. A few months later I came to Chicago to be your wife. I've never pried into your life and it's not fair that you pry deeply into mine." She felt a sudden moment of anger.

"I'm sorry!" He reached to pull her close. It's none of my business, I have you now, that's all that matters."

The fall show at the gallery was scheduled for December l. Marguerite realized her pregnancy was well advanced, and her back was a constant pain. She had submitted eleven portraits and several of her old drawings, many of which were charcoals. Seven of the oils were accepted for showing, also all of her drawings of Indians and children.

The night before Paul was to escort her to the showing she had misgivings. "Paul, I stick out horribly in front! How can I ever face a crowd of nabobs looking like this?"

"It's a normal thing. A light coat should conceal your tummy." He was aware her sudden anxiety was more than just her pregnancy; it was the combination of meeting important people, people who would be critical while judging her work. Paul was curious himself, wanting to see her latest work, and how it would be received. She had carried home some of her oils for his inspection, and to him, they seemed exceptional. However, he had never asked to see her older drawings or charcoals. He knew his Mother had, for she had mentioned Marguerite’s impressive talent.

They found the lakeshore drive, upon which the institute fronted, crowded with carriages and buggies. That many wealthy families were present was evident, as drivers congregated near several expensive carriages. Just inside the entrance they found a string ensemble playing in the central lounge area. Nearly everyone was formally dressed, the ladies in loose fitting gowns, the men with stiff collars. Most of the men were dressed in cut-away frocks, but some wore Chesterfields or Cheviot suits. Marguerite's maternity dress under her loose fitting cloak matched well. She felt relieved, not feeling out-of-place. People moved slowly in small groups from picture to picture, pausing often to comment.

A small crowd was gathered near a table. As she and Paul pressed forward to find the subject of their interest, she found it was a collage of her drawings done in past years. The committee had taken the liberty of removing her drawings from her drawing book for the exhibit.

Andre Dion turned from the group when he saw Marguerite. He exclaimed. "Folks, let me introduce the young artist who drew these children." He graciously escorted Marguerite forward, "This is Mrs. Evans, Mrs. Marguerite Evans. She has recently moved to Chicago from the Dakota Territory."

Beaming faces greeted Marguerite; suddenly a woman stepped forward extending her hand. "My, you certainly must love children. You've captured them at their best, playing outdoors."

Marguerite smiled, "It was all outdoors where I lived on the prairie. Our neighborhood was alive with children, White, Indian and Métis. They all played together."

"My name is Mrs. Armour, she turned to the man at her side. This is my husband, Phillip. As he smiled and nodded his head Mrs. Armour asked, "Do you do portraits in oil?"

Marguerite was abashed, "Oh, I'm not an accomplished painter yet, I'm a student here."

Andre Dion stepped forward. "She does first-class portrait work Mrs. Armour." He cast a warning glance at Marguerite. "Some of her work is just ahead of us, located in a group. Look it over carefully, you'll see her skill and ability."

Andre moved close to Marguerite and Paul to say softly, "Don't degrade yourself. These people are wealthy. Their word carries a lot of weight." He turned to follow the group.

Paul had a smile on his face. "I guess so! That was Phillip Armour, and his wife. They are worth many millions of dollars. He owns the biggest meat packing plant in the world."

By 4 p.m. the crowd began thinning, most had completed a tour of the gallery. As Paul left to fetch their coats, Mrs. Armour hurried across from the doorway to confront Marguerite.

"We have a son of nineteen years. His name is Jonathon. Would you consider doing a portrait of him, rather a larger canvas than those others you have here?"

A sudden awakening came to Marguerite. "I'd love the chance to do a much larger portrait of your son, but I have a problem. I attend school five days a week and I don't want to drop out. It is a wonderful school."

"Perhaps you could make time on a Saturday or Sunday afternoon. I would like the background to be in our home; we could have our driver pick you up and return you."

Marguerite smiled, I'd have to consult my husband. We've only been married a short while, and as you can see, I've a child already on the way."

Mrs. Armour smiled, "Talk it over with your husband. If he approves, I'll see the compensation will be adequate." She left to join her husband who was waiting at the door.

That evening Paul and Marguerite discussed it. He knew how she loved her work and he had no qualms about her loyalty. "It would work out on week-end afternoons if you really want to do it. We don't need the money, that's not the issue. But how much time will it take?"

"I could sketch it in on the first weekend, and after that it would probably take me four days, of four hours each. It all depends a lot on the background. If it's intricate, it might take a bit longer. What do you think?"

"If you really want to do it, drop a note to the Armour family telling them the hours you can work. If it's agreeable with them, their driver can pick you up to match the times.”

Forbes, the Armour driver was prompt the first Saturday noon and delivered her to the front door of the Armour home. A maid greeted Marguerite and helped her inside with the large canvas and her equipment. Mrs. Armour soon appeared, accompanied by her son. Marguerite's first impression of Jonathon was that he was a younger copy of his Father - a slimmer version, handsome, with a boyish grin. He proved to be meticulous in dress and manner, and immediately took over the conversation.

"Where would you like me to sit for you? We have a music room, library, lounge and rather large living room. Let me show you around; you can pick the spot."

His mother spoke up. "How about seated at the piano? You spend hours on it every day." She turned to Marguerite, "Wouldn't that make a good setting?"

"Perhaps, let's take a look."

When Jonathon seated himself at the large grand piano Marguerite realized the light from the several north windows was perfect. Spreading her easel, she secured the large canvas and began outlining the subject and piano. She decided to blend out most of the background as it added nothing to the portrait. Mrs. Armour left them after Marguerite seemed satisfied with the arrangement.

"Jonathon, turn a bit more toward me and raise your face slightly. The boy complied, and then he asked, "How long will I have to sit like this?"

"Give me fifteen minutes then you can take a rest."

"As long as I'm sitting, can I practice?" Jonathon had a smile on his face.

"I'd rather you not play, you'll move too much. Perhaps when we take a break."

By four p.m. she felt exhausted, but she had captured every major feature, even his smile. She felt she could almost complete the rest of the painting at home. Still, she was determined this would be the best work she could do! She found during the brief rests, that Jonathon played classical music by memory, or instinctively by ear. He appeared to be an excellent pianist. When he erred, he corrected his mistake with a frown, as if it was painful to him. He evidently had had much training. She was amazed at his patience, and realized he was a charming boy, but just a boy. Second thoughts came when she realized they were nearly the same age. She knew he had a sudden interest in her.

"Can you hold still for another three hours tomorrow afternoon, Jonathon?" She began boxing up her paints.

He arose hurriedly, "Leave it all here! It isn't necessary to gather it up. I'm the only one who uses the Steinway. Certainly, I'll be here tomorrow, I wouldn't miss it! He smiled, "I'll fetch your coat and call the driver."

Three weekends later the portrait was finished except for drying. Mrs. Armour seemed thrilled by it. When Marguerite left, she said, "You'll hear from my husband. He has inspected your painting each weekend and commented on the excellent work. You have captured Jonathon to perfection."

The next Monday morning while working at the Institute, Andre Dion handed an unsealed envelope to Marguerite. It bore only her name. Inside she found a thank you card and a check for three hundred dollars signed by Philip Armour. Amazed, she handed the note and check to Andre. He broke into a smile, "Like I told you. You are on your way!"

As he handed the note and check back to her she suddenly said, "It's too much, I'll have to send it back."

Andre reached out with both hands to close her fingers over the check. "No you won't! I haven't seen the painting, but I know you put your heart into it. Its fair payment, and you'll get many other commissions soon. You'll see!"

Paul was excited at her good fortune, but worried about her being away from home so much. It was now nearly January and the baby was expected at the end of April. Marguerite was apprehensive, knowing the baby would be earlier. She hoped not too early. She also knew from the look on her doctor’s face that he suspected some chicanery.

She decided to withdraw from the institute at the end of January. Two portrait commissions had come to her from friends of the Armour family. She had replied that due to circumstances she would not be available to do any painting until possibly the month of June.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Border Marker (Manitoba/Minnesota)

Border MarkerPhotos by WBaron

Noyes Customs and Border Patrol station as it was, shortly before it was closed, looking south. This is where I swore my loyalty to the United States at age 16, when I officially became a naturalized citizen - all so I could get my Social Security Number, and get my first real job (and because I was born in Canada, although to American parents...)

Friday, February 13, 2009


This is my Grandpa (on left, foreground). His name was Sheldon Albert Fitzpatrick, but popularly known to one and all as Al. With him (on right, background) is his friend, Richard Sylvester, popularly known to one and all as Dick. Al and Dick were friends for many years (they were both born in the same town in Ontario, and their families came to St. Vincent around the same time...), and as such, they tended to help one another. In this case, tree grubbing. I don't know who took the picture, or exactly when it was taken (I am guessing the 1920's...), but I'm glad they did. It's another precious glimpse into everyday life of people living in St. Vincent, and in this case, included my own family.

My Grandpa was born in 1876, 83 years before I was born. I was lucky to know him for a few years at the end of his life. At that time, he was a quiet gentle man with an infectious sense of humour that often made me giggle. I was told he was a pretty funny guy all his life. That was probably good since my Grandma, although a pretty fun person herself, tended to take herself a bit more seriously. I have a hunch if I could go back in time, Grandpa probably tended to poke loving fun at her. My Mom told me he often played practical jokes. I bet he was a fun father. He loved reading, and he was a hard worker. The work ethic, the intellectual curiousity, and the love of life definitely filtered down to my generation. Thanks, Grandpa - wish I had known you better...

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Red River Catfish

Not being a fisherman, I didn't know that the Red River of the North has the "...largest average size of channel catfish in the world." I knew they were in the river, but not much else.

Seen here, an illustration of a catfish, circa 1821, shows a powerful, fork-tailed fish with whisker-like barbells. Historically, this fish has been the most prized catch from the Red River. [Source: Library and Archives Canada]

Tuesday, February 10, 2009


Because it is flat and treeless, the Valley frequently gives the impression of a monotonous landscape, but to many it provides a view that cannot be equaled. Even those who are not amazed by the beauty of the flat land cannot avoid the feeling that this is a land of great wealth. When entering the area from any direction one feels not unlike a desert traveler coming to an oasis. The historian for the exploring party of Joseph N. Nicollett recorded his impressions and those of the advance scout upon their approach to the Valley from the west in 1841:
When we reached him, we found him in the most ecstatic contemplation before the vast and magnificent valley of the Red River...spreading itself in an almost insensible slope to the east, to the north, and to the south, and bounded only by the horizon. It is difficult to express by words the varied impressions which their [the prairie] spectacle produces. Their sight never wearies...In the summer season, especially, everything upon the prairies is cheerful, graceful, and animated. The Indians, with herds of deer, antelope, and buffalo, give life and motion to them. It is then they should be visited; and I pity the man whose soul could remain unmoved under such a scene of excitement.
Those who know the Red River Valley in its present state may have difficulty realizing that is once was a paradise of wild life. The early settlers depended very much upon these gifts of nature for their food supply as well as the yields from farming.

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Smalltown Baseball in the Deadball Era

St. Vincent vs. Oslo (at Oslo)
 [Photo provided from Maurice Godon collection]

St. Vincent baseball team (on right), from left to right are:
Scott Mathews
Gertz Rondeau
Dick Cleem
Lewis Gooselaw
Naz Gooselaw
Eppo Gooselaw
Wilfe Bouleau (sp?)
Art Clinton
Billy Maxwell
Harve Cleem
Lester Turner
Jack Turner (Coach) - "He was the manager of the St.Vincent baseball team. His team played teams from within a 100 mile radius, even up into Canada. His team was undefeated in the twelve years he managed this team. Their toughest opponent was Oslo, Minnesota." - From historical essay John Turner, Pioneer Farmer And Mail Carrier by Owen Symington (1975)
I plan to nominate Eli Gooselaw for the Minnesota Amateur Baseball Hall of Fame. The only problem I can see is having complete accurate information on his career. I will continue to look for it myself, but if anyone reading this either knows specifically about Eli's career, or where to look for such information, please leave a comment here on this post (and many thanks in advance!)

Friday, February 06, 2009

Profile: William H. Moorhead

William MoorheadThis is William Henry Moorhead of Pembina. He was known to be, among other things, a land speculator and an undertaker.  Why the text says he died in 1871, I cannot explain, but according to all sources, he did not die until 1897.

Sometimes referred to as "Highwater Bill" - according to the Chuck Walker's family oral history, because "...during one of the floods a wager was made between some men...Bill Moorhead drove a board in the water with a knot hole and said, 'The water will come up and run through the hole.' He won and later it was said that he came back after dark and drove the board deeper..."

Oh, dear...well, gossip aside, I rather like his moniker however he came by it, cheating or legitimate!

William Henry married Lizzie La Verea, a French Canadian, of North Dakota, where he was employed by the Hudson Bay Company, later owning a large tract of land and an undertaking establishment at Pembina, N. Dak.; the town of Moorhead, was named for him. He died July 3, 1897. His children were: James, Stanley, Shepley, Mary, Delia, and one or two who died in infancy.

Mr. LaFromboise says the men prominent in making Walhalla are Father Belcourt, John Meger, Joseph Rolette, William Moorhead, and Charlie Bottineau. William Moorhead was the first whiteman that he remembers at Walhalla Dak. Territrory. Mr. Moorhead and Jim McIntosh another white man came about the same time, this was about 1863. Jim McIntosh was later killed by Indians while he was carrying mail from Devils Lake South west to another post. A lady named Mrs. Reed was one of the first white women in Walhalla. - From the Early History of North Dakota

He was born at Freeport, PA Sept. 20th, 1833, and died at Pembina, July 3rd, 1897. He came to St. Paul in 1852, and arrived at Pembina, Aug. 20, 1856, with the Red River Carts, bringing supplies from St. Paul. With him came Antoine Girard and Lucien Geroux. He was in partnership at St. Joseph with Joseph Lemae, and after the latter’s death, he returned to Pembina.

Moorhead was one of the early settlers of Pembina, N.D., who had traveled in Roseau County before the white settlement. Two of his sons settled on what is known as the Northwest Angle of Lake of the Woods. Moorhead told J.W. Durham that Roseau County was the greatest. From Minnesota's Last Frontier

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

News from the Past: Letter Home

Above is a portion of a letter published in a newspaper in 1886. I received it from a regular reader who discovered it recently and shared it with me to pass on here. It contains the kind of daily, trivial information that is one of the real pleasures of finding documentation of the past.

W.C. Short was Wilbur Short, a 23 year old man from Illinois, who would eventually marry and become a merchant in Pembina. I venture to guess he was writing to folks back home in Illinois...

Monday, February 02, 2009

Native Edible Plants

Chokecherry berriesRight outside of the home I grew up in, visible through the west-facing kitchen windows, was a stand of chokecherry trees. They bordered our neighbor's land, along a dirt alley that was once a proper town road in years past. We would harvest the berries each year to make jelly from, a favorite treat in the middle of long winters on fresh homemade bread my Mom would bake.

Come to find out, chokecherries - along with several other native foods - have long been used by natives and settlers alike...

The local woodland environment along the rivers of the lower Red River also supplied Indians and traders with vegetable products for food. Sugar was made from the sap of box elder trees. Other plant products, including shoots and greens, bulbs, roots, and tubers, berries and fruit, and nuts, were harvested by the Indians. Among those plants known to be eaten by the Ojibwa and Ottawa along the Red River were the inner cambium of aspen/cottonwood (poplar) and climbing bittersweet (Celastrus scandens), the tuber of an unidentified marsh plant, hazel nuts (Corylus americana, Corulus cornuta), and plums, grapes, raspberries, chokecherries, wild red cherries, june-or service-berries (poire) and highbush cranberries (pembina). Some of these same plant products, especially the berries, were also collected and eaten by the traders. The riverine environment along the Red River within the study area, therefore, was important for supplying materials and food to both native and non-native occupants of the region during the fur trade era.

From Gough, Barry M. The journal of Alexander Henry the younger, 1799-1814. vol. 1: Red River and the journey to the Missouri. Toronto, Champlain Society, 1988.