Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Monday, March 30, 2009

First Blood: Brave Bear

Brave Bear
Brave Bear was the English name of an Indian who was among the first to pay the life penalty, according to law and the Treaty of 1868, imposed for the commission of crime in Dakota. He was a son-in-law of the renowned Sitting Bull; a shrewd, intelligent Indian, and one of the incorrigibles. He, together with Rain-in-the-Face, another of Sitting Bull’s chiefs, were charged with the murder of the DeLorme family1 near St. Joseph, in Pembina County in 1876.

Brave Bear was arrested and tried for the offense, at Fargo, in 1878. The evidence was sufficient to convict him, but the question of the jurisdiction of the court being raised, the judge held that as Pembina was an organized county, the accused should be tried by the District Court of that county. He was then transferred to Pembina County, confined in jail, broke jail, and with his Indian wife made his way to Fort Sully in 1879, where he was accused of murdering a young white man, Joseph Johnson, and robbing him of a sum of money and a horse. He then feld north and joined Sitting Bull in British America. He surrendered with the hostiles in the spring of 1881, and returned to near Fort Sully, where he was discovered and arrested for the Johnson murder.

He was taken to Bismarck and had an examination before the United Stated commissioner, who found sufficient evidence of guilt, and held him for trial before the United States District Court at Yankton, in November, 1881. He made an effort to commit suicide by poison while in the Yankton jail, but recovered. He was indicted for the murder of young Johnson, a discharged soldier, tried and convicted at the November term of court, but the trial was not reached until late in the term. Judge Edgerton had succeeded Jodge Shannon as judge of the district.

The trial jury was composed of R.B. Finlay, Clay County; Erick Haralson, Lincoln County; William Allison, Brookings County; George Ford, Sr., Union County; Willis R. Stone, Brookings County; Isaac N. Esmay, Yankton County; Patterson F. McClure, Hughes County; Edwin F. Devol, Deuel County; Andrew A. Quamberry, Clay County; Albert P Hull, Deuel County; Ira Ellis, Union County; Duncan Ross, Union County.

But one day, January 4, 1882, was consumed in the trial. The principal witness was Edward Allison, a Government scout under General Terry. Brave Bear was found guilty of murder and sentenced to be hung. His own admissions, frequently made to Allison and others, convicted him. Oliver Shannon, Esq., of Yankton, defended him, but he had no testimony to offer. The jury was out one hour. H.J. Campbell, United States attorney, conducted the prosecution. He was hung on November 23, 1882.

From HISTORY OF DAKOTA TERRITORY by George Washington Kingsbury

1 - "In any event they attained distinction in the field of high crime, when they found it to their purpose to commit a frightful butchery while engaged in robbing a settler named DeLorme, near Pembina, North Dakota, in 1873. They had entered a stable for the purpose of stealing horses, and when two of the owners arrived on the scene, they shot and killed both, and a third man was mortally wounded. In the house were two women, and the Indians attacked them, shooting and wounding both of them. One of the women put up her hands to defend herself from a blow aimed at her head by Brave Bear, who carried a sword, and who struck her with it. The blow cut off one of her fingers, laid open her scalp, and stretched her apparently dead; but she recovered, as did the other woman. Brave Bear and The Only One rifled the place, stole several horses, and escaped to the Missouri River country..."

- From book, "My friend, the Indian", by Standing Rock Agent James McLaughlin

Saturday, March 28, 2009

A Rose by Any Other Name...

Did you know that North Dakota was almost named Pembina? I didn't either. Read on...
There was a great deal of objection from influential quarters, including societies interested in philological subjects, and from various parts of the Union, to calling Dakota by any other name, and particularly to adding a prefix such as "North" and "South," and the same was true at home in Dakota. Either portion of the territory would have been delighted had the other half proposed or consented to select a new name, and let but one of the states be named "Dakota." This, however, could not have been agreed upon by Dakotans at that time. The southern half claimed the name by virtue of age and long use; and the north division insisted that its grain product had given world-fame to the name "Dakota," and it would retain it if only for a valuable "trade mark" already recognized the world around.

South Dakota, in its substantial and majority opinion, believed that the name of "Pembina" should be taken by the north, and North Dakotans shared in this opinion for some years after that portion of the territory was occupied by a civilized and industrious people. The early Legislatures, in memorializing Congress for a division of the territory, usually recommended Pembina, or some other cognomen, but never North Dakota, for the name, and there was no objection by the northern members, but on the contrary the name was left to their suggestion. All believed that Pembina was as widely known as Dakota, and they knew it was a century or more the elder. Before the Territory of Dakota was organized, the "Pembina country" was the title given to all or nearly all this portion of the Northwest. The Hudson Bay Company knew it as Pembina. The Canadians had no other name for it, and the early explorers of the United States War Department used it in referring to what is now a great part of the Dakotas. Nearly every intelligent person in the United States had heard of "Pembina," and knew where the Pembina region was situated, and that it covered a large area of the wilderness of the Northwest.

Under these circumstances it is somewhat remarkable that the name was not retained for the territory or state, for "Pembina wheat, No 1, hard," would have been as euphonious as "North Dakota wheat," of the same unapproachable quality, and would have added just as much value to the land, and been a more distinctive commercial asset than "North Dakota," for when one would speak of any Dakota product it became necessary to use the right adjective to indicate in which section it was produced. The Dakota Legislature at one time organized nearly a fourth of the territory into a county and named it "Pembina," and if we have a correct understanding of the location of the Indian tribes, a very small proportion of North Dakota was ever occupied by the Dakota Indians. The Chippewas held all the territory east of James River, and a large part of that west of the James was unoccupied except that held by the Mandans, Rees, and Gros Ventres who were not Dakotas but were undoubtedly the oldest settlers. Lewis and Clark found no Dakotas or Sioux in villages above the Cheyenne, and the reader has observed that the senators and representatives who made any examination of the nomenclature of the Indians in the Northwest favored "Pembina" as the name of Dakota's north state, and Senator Burrows was so wedded to that name and had such an exalted idea of its appropriateness, that he refused to report a bill for a new territorial organization in that region with any other name than "Pembina."

Senator Dawes, of Massachusetts, in December, 1888, presented in the Senate a memorial from the New England Historical and Genealogical Society, giving reasons why the states soon to be admitted, should have more distinctive nomenclature than that furnished by the words "north," "south," "east" or "west," and to accord with the theory upon which the Government had gone theretofore, that our political divisions should not be in any way identified with personality. On this basis the society asked that "North Dakota," when admitted, be called "Pembina," and Washington Territory, "Tacoma."

Other names for South Dakota were: "Minnises Wakpa," is the Dakota language for "Missouri River"; "Tinta-Maka," "Prairie land"; "Mazatinta," or "Maatinta," the land of the priarie; "Maga-Wakan," God's country; "Magatanka," big country; "Wah-ca-tin-ta," the "Prairie flower"; "Waz-yata," means "northern"; "okali," means "south," Itokali, "southern."
From History of Dakota Territory, by George Washington Kingsbury

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Flood of 2009

temporary high-tech dikes used in Fargo during 2009How can I not comment on the Flood of 2009?

Many of you reading this are still facing it as a semi-future event. For those of us in the Fargo area, it is very much a NOW event. We are already at all-time (for recorded history) levels. I am on a second floor apartment, have a lot of food and water stocked up, and am going nowhere. Traffic on many roads is at a gridlock in Fargo/Moorhead area so no point in getting in a car to leave. And where would I go? No, I'm staying put for the long-haul, whether it's a few days, or longer.

I have also been following the flood as it develops in Grand Forks, Pembina1, and Winnipeg. All of them are facing serious threats also. Good luck to you all, we know how you feel!

Wish me luck...If you don't see posts for awhile, I might be busy!

1 - This is a private blog specifically about Pembina - A big shoutout and thank you to the Pembina blogger who is keeping us informed about what's happening up there!

NOTE: A good general website covering the flood in Manitoba can be found here...

Wednesday, March 25, 2009


To anyone trying to access the Red River Valley website in the last few days, you will have noticed it was down. The good news, is it's back...

I've been working with Dennis Matthews to get the site back up. We were able to obtain permission to host it on Rootsweb, which is a great solution since they permanently host some of the most important local and regional genealogy and history websites out there, and do it all for free. It's long-term and secure. Which is a relief since Dennis has worked so long and hard to preserve our local history.

The new website is located here; please note that the website has to rebuilt from the ground up from files retrieved from the Internet Archive (long story), so be patient - it'll be awhile until all the pages are back up...

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Profile: William J. Kneeshaw

...the longevity record [belongs to] Judge William Kneeshaw, who served in the Seventh Judicial District and the Second Judicial District from 1901-1943. A pioneer resident of Pembina, Kneeshaw was 46 when he went on the bench in 1900 and his judicial service continued until he died 42 years later at the age of 89...Kneeshaw's 42 years on the bench is by far the longest continuous term of service by a district judge in North Dakota. - From A History of North Dakota Judges
I was born too late to know Judge Kneeshaw, but I knew his descendents. Some were contemporaries who attended school over in Pembina. Others were of my Dad's generation, such as William G. "Buster" Kneeshaw, a farmer and a Plymouth Brethren. As far I know, Judge Kneeshaw - Buster's grandfather - was not a member of the Brethren himself (anyone out there who knows otherwise, please correct me!)
I defended a man before Judge Kneeshaw in Cavalier County, who was charged with running a common nuisance. The facts were that he had been running a place where men gather in the evenings and played cards for money, a small part of the winnings going to the defendant. I told the Judge there was no use in selecting a jury and adding a lot of expense, and entered a plea of guilty - which my client confirmed. The Judge seemed much pleased and said, "In view of the frankness of the defendant in pleading guilty, I will impose a fine of $100." That was much better than I expected, but the defendant spoiled the case for himself. He got smart with the wrong judge. When the fine was announced, the defendant rose and slapped a pocketbook down on the attorney's table and said, "Judge I've got'er right there." The Judge then coolly announced, "And 60 days in jail - see if you've got that with you." - From Historical Essay regarding Judge Kneeshaw

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Peguis: A Noble Friend

Peguis: A Noble Friend, by Donna G. Sutherland, is reviewed.
Copyright Manitoba Historical Society Oct 2005
Edward A Jerome, Ruth Swan. Manitoba History. Winnipeg: Oct 2005. , Iss. 50; pg. 43, 4 pgs
Abstract (Summary)

Donna Sutherland wrote a biography of the Ojibwe leader, known as Peguis or the "Cut-Nose Chief" which was published in 2003 by the Chief Peguis Heritage Park, Inc. at St. Andrews, Manitoba. Sutherland wrote in the "Introduction" that she was inspired to agree to write this story at the behest of the Chief Peguis Heritage Park Inc. because of childhood memories of trips along the old River Road north of Selkirk and Old St. Peter's Church (Dynevor) which is located on the east side of the river. St. Peter's Anglican Parish was the home of Peguis and his Ojibwe settlers whose families had immigrated to the Red River Valley in the 1780s. Since he lived to be approximately ninety years old, his life span reflected the early history of the fur trade, the Red River Settlement, the establishment of Christian missions and the agricultural development of the area. As well, Peguis was well-positioned to meet many of the famous people who lived or visited in the area, including Lord Selkirk, Miles Macdonell and Cuthbert Grant.

Sutherland researched her subject in the archives of the Hudson's Bay Company, the Provincial Archives of Manitoba and other local repositories. This biography is mainly a compilation of information from primary sources and less from secondary sources written by historians and ethnohistorians who are specialists in Aboriginal History. She has also included a good collection of drawings, photographs and maps from archival sources and rounded out the picture by descriptions of Ojibwe material culture such as clothing and dwelling places inhabited by these early pioneers of the Red River Valley.

Using archival records and published primary sources is a good approach to researching Aboriginal History which we have used to good advantage in studying the Pembina fur trade and the origins of the Red River Valley Métis. Sutherland has also attempted to use linguistic analysis where possible to translate names from Ojibwe and French into English. Confusion often results from reading these records where one hunter might be described by a variety of names such as "Le Sucre", "Wiscoup", "Sheshepaskut" called by David Thompson, "Sweet" or "Sugar" (Sutherland: 10, 16 and 21). Translating the names of these Ojibwe or "Saulteaux" (Saulteurs) as they became known in Manitoba helps to trace their seasonal movements and trade patterns which might be confused in different sources by different authors (Dempsey: 626).

Unfortunately, being familiar with many of the archival sources used by Sutherland in her research, we found many mistakes as well as suppositions which cannot be proved by the evidence cited. Just to give a few examples, we will focus on the published journals of three contemporaries of the Red River Valley fur trade from the 1790s to the early 1800s: Charles Chaboillez, Alexander Henry the Younger and John Tanner. The first two were North West Company traders in the Pembina area. The third was an American youth who was captured by local Indians in the Kentucky area, traded to and adopted by an Ottawa family from the Great Lakes, who was raised in the Ottawa/ Ojibwe culture and who hunted and trapped in the Red River Valley during this period. Tanner's memoirs were first published in 1830 and the fur traders' journals much later. Nevertheless, they cover the same area at the same time, naming many of the same people and incidents. Tanner's recollections, which are very detailed, but not dated, dovetail very nicely with the dated but less informative entries of Chaboillez and the dated and self-serving views of Henry. Tanner gives an Aboriginal perspective on the fur trade while Chaboillez and Henry tell their stories from the view of the traders.

To begin with, Sutherland goes to great length to explain the origins of Peguis' name, suggesting that in Ojibwe, it is translated as "Little Chip" or "Wood Chip" (Sutherland: 1). She quotes a story from his great-great grandson who recounted how Peguis was abandoned by his Indian mother and left on a pile of wood chips. She also included an Appendix note (pp. 150-151) analyzing how the Ojibwe word for "chip" would be translated today. She cites both Tanner (Be-gwa-is) and Henry (Pegouisse) to show how different spellings suggest the same Ojibwe name. The problem is that Sutherland neglected to inform the reader that both Tanner and Henry translated the name as "He who cuts up the beaver lodge" (Tanner: 150 and Coues: 257). It seems surprising in retrospect that a respected hunter and trapper like this Ojibwe leader would be saddled with a childish name in adulthood like "Little Chip". "He who breaks up beaver lodges" seems more appropriate for someone that HBC trader Hugh Heney described as one of his best beaver hunters. Leaving out this important translation is an omission which is hard to explain. It would be interesting to know how "He who breaks up beaver lodges" translates into modern Ojibwe. Perhaps the editor can find out.

Tanner provided a story about how "Be-gwa-is" lost his nose, an important story because he was often called "the Cut-Nose Chief" (Tanner: 154). He interceded in a drunken brawl at Pembina and Tanner's brother, Wa-megon-a-biew, accidentally bit off his nose in the fracas. The mutilated hunter spoke with great modesty: "I am an old man," said he, "and it is but a short time that they will laugh at me for the loss of my nose." Sutherland quoted this story on page 28, dating it to March 1807. The problem is that Tanner did not include any dates, only suggesting that it happened "as soon as the snow went off in the spring" (Tanner: 151). Sutherland noted on page 27 that Peguis was age 33 in 1807. It is hard to understand why he would have described himself as an old man when he lost his nose. In fact, he lived until the approximate age of ninety. Possibly, he was making a modest joke or ironic jest which did not work well when written down in another language. The other possibility is that there was more than one "Cut-Nose Chief" or someone with the name of "Be-gwa-is" who was an old man when the incident occurred. Sutherland did not note or question these inconsistencies in the primary sources.

Sutherland continued to make suppositions about the story. Tanner noted that, while the men went off to hunt beaver, they left the women behind. Sutherland interpolated from this reference that the women were left behind to collect sap at their sugar camp. This was an educated guess, and the evidence is not cited. While ethnohistorians like to use cultural insights to round out Aboriginal history, Sutherland makes assumptions which are at best borderline. Since it was not clear where the women stayed, it cannot be assumed it was a sugar camp.

In her descriptions of the Pembina fur trade, there is more confusion. She called John Richards, a trader from Brandon House sent by the HBC to trade at Pembina, "William" (Sutherland: 15). Perhaps she was confused because the first HBC post journal written at Pembina was catalogued in the wrong series by the HBCA. Sutherland can be forgiven for not knowing that Thomas Miller's first journal is located under the Winnipeg Post Journals (B.235/ a/1) instead of under Pembina (B.160/a/1). However, Richards first name is mentioned by several different authors: Scott Hamilton (Hamilton: 83) and Margaret Clarke (Clarke: 4 - 82) on the Brandon House trade, Edith Burley on labour relations in the HBC (Burley: 229) and Ruth Swan in her doctoral dissertation (Swan, 2003b: 153). Because Peguis was not mentioned in Chaboillez's journal for 1797-98, the first published journal from the Pembina fur trade, she assumed he was trading with the HBC's Thomas Miller. But Miller did not mention him either; in fact, Miller did not mention most of the Indian customers he dealt with other than to call them "Indians". This may have been because he was an Orkneyman who came from Brandon House, via Albany on Hudson's Bay, and may have known Cree rather than Ojibwe. Unlike Chaboillez, he could not name most of his Saulteaux customers. Consequently, the Pembina records of either company do not shed light on where Peguis was trading in the winter of 1797 - 98.

Sutherland made other mistakes regarding these primary sources. For example, she noted that Chaboillez called the Saulteaux "Chippewa" without realizing that it was the editor, ethnohistorian Harold Hickerson, who used that American term. In the journal entries, which Hickerson translated from French, Chaboillez mostly called them "Indians" although occasionally used the French word: "Saulteaux". What French word Chaboillez used is not known, but it may have been the word "sauvages" which translates into "Indians" in English. In researching published texts, it is important to distinguish between the contemporary observer, Chaboillez, and the modern editor, Hickerson.

Sutherland speculated that Peguis' first wife was a daughter of "Le Sucre", the leader of the Red Lake Band with which he associated in his early years. There is no evidence that Le Sucre was his father-in-law. The only evidence for his marital status is that by 1814, he had two wives, four sons and six daughters (Sutherland: 17). Describing this extended family group as a "band" with a settled "encampment" in the 1790s is conjecture and so are their identities and genealogies.

While Chaboillez and Henry described some of these Ojibwe beaver hunters coming from these Minnesota lake districts which afterward became important Ojibwe settlements, they were still relatively new to the area west of the Great Lakes. As Tanner's narrative showed, they followed a seasonal round which involved a large geographical area from Minnesota and North Dakota to Manitoba along the upper Assiniboine and its tributaries. Consequently, it is easy to exaggerate the importance of Red Lake and Leech Lake as Ojibwe "encampments" in the 1790s as Hickerson did. Assuming that Peguis married the daughter of a prominent leader of the "Red Lake Band" is a leap of the imagination not documented in the records. It is possible, but not documented, and she did not make the distinction.

The fact is that French Canadian and Scottish traders from the Great Lakes probably only penetrated through the headwaters of the Mississippi (Leech Lake) to the Red River Valley (Red Lake) in the 1780s. Canadian exploration of northern Minnesota was retarded by the Aboriginal conflict between Dakota and Ojibwe. While the Ojibwe may have penetrated to Red Lake after the smallpox epidemic of 1780, they had not been in the area very long before they were reported trading at Pembina by Chaboillez in 1797. Although Henry described many of his trappers coming from these Minnesota lake districts, they moved around a lot during the year and as part of the fur trade. Flat Mouth (a.k.a. Aishquebugicoge or Gueule Flatte) was an example of an Ojibwe leader who left the Leech Lake area by about 1790 and traded with Henry at Pembina a decade later. By 1805, however, he was reported back at Leech Lake and was known as the chief of that village (Hickerson, 1956: 299). The same observer, American army officer Zebulon Pike, had described Le Sucre (Wiscoup, Sweet) as the leading chief of the Red Lake group (Hickerson, 1956:302). Pike may not have realized how recently the Ojibwe had "settled" in northern Minnesota, possibly after they made trade contacts at Pembina. Hickerson concluded that during Chaboillez' time at Pembina, "no specified permanent hunting territories had been as yet established by individuals" (Hickerson, 1956:305). Sutherland did not cite this article by Hickerson on the genesis of the Pembina "Chippewa" in her footnotes nor did she critique his conclusions.

In describing the geography of the Pembina region, Sutherland suggested that it was not appealing to the Saulteaux because it lacked "marshy" areas in which to grow wild rice, one of their staple foods (Sutherland: 12). The fact is that there are many marshy areas around Pembina, but wild rice does not grow in marshes. It grows in lakes and that is why the Ojibwe were attracted to the northern Minnesota lake country, such as Leech and Red Lakes, or Rainy Lake and Lake of the Woods in northwestern Ontario. Hickerson argued that the geographic location of Pembina being on the border of the plains and west of the lacustrine Shield environment meant that the area lacked woodland resources such as wild rice and maple trees which the woodland Ojibwe were used to harvesting (Hickerson, 1959: 271).

There are similar mistakes and suppositions in the period of Alexander Henry the Younger at Pembina. For example, she misunderstood the disposition of NWC traders. Henry clearly was only at the Park River Post for one winter in 1800 - 01. Sutherland assumed he was still there in 1802 while he sent Langlois to Pembina. In fact, in the first winter, he sent Michel Langlois to camp at "Reed River" which is the Roseau River instead of Pembina (Coues: 77). On May 17, 1801 (Coues: 181), Henry ordered Langlois to build him a new post at Pembina while he attended the rendezvous at Grand Portage. Henry returned to Pembina in the late summer of 1801 and spent the next seven winters there. On October 10, 1801, (Coues: 189), Henry visited Langlois who had built at the Hair Hills west of Pembina, an important subpost. How Sutherland confused these details is difficult to understand. In the Coues' reprint published by Ross & Haines in 1956, he listed the date and place at the beginning of each chapter: for example, "Chapter Four: The Pembina River Post: 1801 02". Why Sutherland thought he was still at Park River suggests that she did not read the primary source very carefully.

A bigger problem with this biography of Peguis is that the writer still follows the old pattern of promoting Peguis as "the good Indian" who worked for the HBC and who was a champion of the Scottish Settlers in opposition to the big bad North West Company and their younger dupes, those "rascally" Métis. This stereotype of Aboriginal history can be found in Dempsey, Peers and Schenk who have, like Sutherland, been prisoners of their sources, the Hudson's Bay Company records and these memoirs of Selkirk Settlers. In this scenario, characters like Peguis and the Lagimodieres play their roles of the supporting cast to the winners, the Scottish and English traders and settlers (usually Protestants) (see Swan, 2003a). The French Métis lost because they were Catholic, part-Aboriginal and, well, French!

What is needed is a newer version which incorporates the Ojibwe and Peguis story in the context of the tragic events of the Fur Trade War of 1815-16. For example, more research in the Pembina post journals of the HBCA and the Selkirk Papers in the Provincial Archives of Manitoba would have demonstrated that the freemen (the fathers of the young Bois Brulés) and the young men who supported Cuthbert Grant in fact provided food such as potatoes and meat to the Selkirk Settlers when they arrived through the intercession of HBC Pembina trader Hugh Heney (HBCA: B.160/3/4). Furthermore, Sutherland's own quotes about Miles Macdonell's proclamation taking possession of The Forks for Lord Selkirk's Settlement on September 4, 1812 suggested that there were already "Canadians, Indians and 3 NWC gentlemen" to hear it (Sutherland: 39). In fact, there were already French Canadian freemen, Indians and Métis living at Pembina and The Forks before these settlers arrived, suggesting that the Scots were not the first Red River Settlers, but were more articulate in taking credit for it. (Swan, 2003b: 259).

Perhaps Sutherland made a mistake in relying too heavily on primary sources without reading the background secondary literature which is quite extensive. Perhaps one year of research is not enough for such a complex biography of a famous person. Sutherland did well to track down as many sources on Peguis as she did. However, there is more to the story than one man and one group. The Red River Settlement was a multicultural society riven by racist and colonial ideologies. While this biography might appeal to the general reader with no knowledge of the Red River Valley fur trade and the pre-Confederation history of Manitoba, it will be a disappointment to those who have made a study of this era and this important cast of personalities. Peguis was a man of many talents and his diplomacy paved the way for the development of the Red River Settlement. How he interacted with some of the opponents of the HBC expansionist schemes and British colonial ambitions is less clear.


Burley, Edith I., 1997, Servants of the Honourable Company: Work, Discipline & Conflicts in the HBC, 1770 - 1879, Toronto: Oxford University Press.
Coues, Elliott, 1897, 1965, New Light on the Early History of the Greater Northwest: The Manuscript Journals of Alexander Henry and David Thompson, 1799 - 1814, Minneapolis: Ross & Haines.
Clarke, Margaret L., 1997, Reconstituting the Fur Trade Community of the Assiniboine Basin, 1793 to 1812, M.A. Thesis, Winnipeg: University of Winnipeg.
Dempsey, Hugh, A. "Peguis", Dictionary of Canadian Biography, v. 9: 626 627.
Hamilton, Scott, 1985, The Social Organization of the Hudson's Bay Company, M.A. Thesis, Edmonton: University of Alberta.
Hickerson, Harold, 1959, "A Journal of Charles Jean Baptiste Chaboillez, 1797 - 98", Part 1: Ethnohistory 6:3: Summer 1959: 265 - 316; and Part 2: Ethnohistory 6:4: Fall, 1959: 363 - 427. Hudson's Bay Company Archives: B.160/a/1-4, Pembina Post Journals. B.235/a/1, Winnipeg Post Journal.
Peers, Laura, 1987, A Rich Man, Poor Man, Beggarman, Chief: Saulteaux in the Red River
Settlement". Papers of the 18th Algonauian Conference, ed. W. Cowan, Ottawa: Carlton University: pp. 151 - 160.
Schenck, Theresa, 1998: Paper presented to the Rupert's Land Colloquium, Winnipeg, 1998, on the Aboriginal participation in the Fur Trade War.
Sutherland, Donna, 2003, Peguis: A Noble Friend, St. Andrews: Chief Peguis Heritage Park.
Swan, Ruth, 2003a: "The Racist Myths of the Selkirk Settlers & Lagimonière - Gaboury Family", paper presented at the Métis in the 21st Century Conference, Indigenous Law Association, Saskatoon, June 18 - 20, 2003.
Swan, Ruth 2003b: "The Crucible: Pembina & the Origins of the Red River Valley Métis", Ph.D. dissertation, Winnipeg: University of Manitoba.
Tanner, John, 1830, 1956, A Narrative of the Captivity and Adventures of John Tanner, ed, Edwin James, Minneapolis: Ross & Haines.

Edward Jerome is a descendant of Alexander Henry the Younger, Pembina trader from 1801-08, and his country wife, the daughter of The Buffaloe, one of Henry's Ojibwe hunters. His family has lived in the Red River Valley for almost two hundred years. He is an amateur historian who lives in Hallock, MN, USA. Ruth Swan is an independent scholar with an interest in the Aboriginal History of the Red River Valley. Her doctoral dissertation, "Pembina and the Origins of the Red River Valley Métis" was approved in 2003. She has been a resident of the Red River Valley for 30 years.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Agnes Christina Laut

I have come to know the author below quite well, and highly respect her thoroughness regarding the history that surrounds her stories, many historically true in themselves. A great deal of them involve our region and the early time periods of the fur trade. She makes that time and the people of it come alive. I can't recommend her enough to those wanting to know more about our history...

Agnes Christina Laut was a prolific author of fiction and popular history in the first decades of the twentieth century. Her success can be gauged by the extensive republication of her books during her lifetime and their current availability in most libraries today. She was born in Stanley township, Huron County, Ontario, on 11 February 1871 to John Laut, a merchant from Glasgow, and Eliza George Laut, a daughter of Rev. James George, D.D., vice-principal of Queen's University from 1853 to 1857. When Laut was two years old her family moved to Winnipeg, where the future author became well acquainted with western frontier life. At the age of fifteen she completed normal school, and although she was too young to receive a teaching certificate, she acted as a substitute in a prairie school. Several years of teaching in Winnipeg preceded her enrollment at the University of Manitoba. Because of ill health Laut withdrew after her second year and turned to writing, sending her first articles to the New York Evening Post and the Manitoba Free Press. From 1895 to 1897 the latter employed her as an editorial writer, after which she enjoyed two years of "tramp life," crossing the continent to Newfoundland and contributing articles to American, English, and Canadian periodicals.

Laut's first novel, Lords of the North: A Romance of the Northwest (1900), was an instant success, readily meeting English Canada's desire for a national literature drawing on the country's colorful history and modeled on the fiction of Sir Walter Scott. It dramatizes the struggle between the Hudson's Bay Company and the Northwest Company for control of the northwest fur trade as a contest between two feudal robber barons. The noble characters share a code of chivalry, refusing to yield to "the witching fascinations of a wild life in a wild, free, tameless land"; the Indians represent the threat of raw wilderness to the veneer of civilization. Like its successor, Heralds of Empire: Being the Story of One Ramsay Stanhope, Lieutenant to Pierre Radisson in the Northern Fur Trade (1902), this romantic novel bears evidence of its author's careful research and her desire to enliven Canadian history. The two books share problems of characterization and plot, as well as clumsy archaic diction. Laut's fascination with the past was to find better expression in her many subsequent works of nonfiction.

In 1901 Laut moved to Wassaic, in Upstate New York, for her health and to be nearer her publishers. This was to be her home for the rest of her life, although she continued to spend her summers in the Canadian Rockies and Selkirk Mountains and to write extensively about Canada. Some indication of her financial success can be inferred from her 1902 contract with her Canadian publisher, William Briggs, from whom she could command the high royalty rate of twenty percent for The Story of the Trapper (1902), and from her purchase of Wildwood, her country estate.

Laut's best and best-selling books were (in her own words) intended "To re-create the shadowy figures of the heroic past, to clothe the dead once more in flesh and blood, to set the puppets of the play in life's great dramas again upon the stage of action." Drawing upon her extensive research into published and manuscript sources, including the private records of the Hudson's Bay Company, she reworked the same stories of early North American explorers and fur traders (Radisson and des Groseilliers, La Vérendrye, Hudson, Hearne, Lewis and Clark, Vancouver) into scores of magazine articles which formed the basis of more than a dozen books. Those intended for younger readers include three short books in George M. Wrong and H. H. Langton's Chronicles of Canada series (The "Adventurers of England" on Hudson Bay: A Chronicle of the Fur Trade in the North [1914], Pioneers of the Pacific Coast: A Chronicle of Sea Rovers and Fur Hunters [1915], The Cariboo Trail: A Chronicle of the Gold-fields of British Columbia [1916]) and a 1930 series of three school history texts for the Ryerson Press. Her major works of history for adults include The Story of the Trapper, part of which was later incorporated into The Fur Trade of America (1921), Pathfinders of the West: Being the Thrilling Story of the Adventures of the Men Who Discovered the Great Northwest (1904), Vikings of the Pacific: The Adventures of the Explorers Who Came from the West, Eastward (1905), The Conquest of the Great Northwest: Being the Story of the Adventurers of England Known as the Hudson's Bay Company (1908), and Cadillac, Knight Errant of the Wilderness, Founder of Detroit, Governor of Louisiana from the Great Lakes to the Gulf (1931). The Conquest of the Great Northwest: Being the Story of the Adventurers of England Known as the Hudson's Bay Company was financially "her most satisfactory book," she claimed in 1912.

As a journalist, Laut traveled extensively through the Canadian West and American Southwest, writing about her travels in articles and books which plead the cause of wilderness conservation. A personal, anecdotal style characterizes Through Our Unknown Southwest, the Wonderland of the United States--Little Known and Unappreciated--The Home of the Cliff Dweller and the Hopi, the Forest Ranger and the Navajo--The Lure of the Painted Desert (1913) and Enchanted Trails of Glacier Park (1926), as well as The Romance of the Rails (1929). An outspoken Canadian nationalist, she wrote Canada, the Empire of the North: Being the Romantic Story of the New Dominion's Growth from Colony to Kingdom (1909) to support the popular notion that the twentieth century belonged to Canada. In 1912 her reputation as a national spokesperson led to an assignment from the Toronto-based magazine Saturday Night to investigate labor and racial issues in British Columbia. Her analysis, republished as a pamphlet, Am I my Brother's Keeper (1913), and later included in The Canadian Commonwealth (1915), summarizes some of the prevailing tensions of her era. Social issues continued to concern her, and in 1919 Laut traveled to Mexico as secretary to the Childhood Conservation League. She reported her findings to a Senate subcommittee in Washington.

From a literary point of view, her weakest works are her last three volumes of fiction. The Freebooters of the Wilderness (1910) and The New Dawn (1913), both set in the United States of her own day, are contrived thesis novels. The first supports the efforts of the United States Forest Service to conserve the wilderness against rampant exploitation, while the second denounces the self-interest and underhandedness of both big business and the international labor movement. The Quenchless Light (1924) marks Laut's return to historical fiction, in this case to the time of the early Christian apostles.

Laut's record of publishing success and social action represents the fields of activity that opened to North American women for her generation. Following her death (on 15 November 1936), the American Historical Review (January 1937) opined that her historical writing in particular had "substantial merit." - From the Dictionary of Literary Biography

Monday, March 16, 2009

Sheriff Charley Brown: Chapter 32

Paula Annette Evans came into the world on the afternoon of April 6 at a Chicago hospital. Labor pains had begun at daylight that Thursday morning with contractions soon occurring nearly every ten minutes. Marguerite knew from her mother's experience that it was time to prepare for the birthing. Paul managed to find a hackney driver who delivered them to the hospital quickly.

Upon Marguerite's admittance, a nurse called Paul aside. "It will be quite a few hours until the birth since this is her first. You may as well leave for your work, or go home."

Paul immediately became incensed, "Nothing doing, I'm staying here until the baby arrives, and my wife is out of danger."

"You can stay with her until the last hour or so, then you'll be required to leave."

Marguerite's pains became closer and closer as the morning hours passed. When the doctor checked her at noon, he said, "Perhaps in the next two or three hours. She is doing fine and is beginning to dilate."

Shortly after one p.m. Marguerite complained, "The contractions are getting harder and longer. Oh Paul! Call the nurse, my water has broken and I'm flooding the bed."

The nurse cleaned her up and put fresh soakers under her. Then she washed Marguerite thoroughly with a disinfectant. She turned to Paul, "I think you had better leave now. This child will be here quite soon, far sooner than we expected. I'll get the doctor now."

Three hours later when Paul was called to the room, he found Marguerite proudly cuddling the baby to her breast. She smiled weakly, "Our daughter is going to be called Paula Annette Evans. Annette is for my Mother."

Paul was in rapture as he leaned over to admire the child. He laughed, "I agree! If it was a boy I was to name him. If a girl, it was to be your choice. But where did you get the name Paula?" He was still smiling.

"It just seemed right somehow," she teased. "Now, I'm going to take a nap. Paula doesn't seem to want to nurse much."

"They seldom do at first," the nurse replied. "Within hours your breasts will fill more. Then you'll find a hungry child."

Marguerite and the baby stayed in the hospital five days before leaving for home. She found her breasts provided more than adequate sustenance for her baby. Paul's mother, Grace, eased her work the first few evenings at home, arriving in time to help with supper. Marguerite was relieved when nothing was said about the early delivery. It seemed accepted as a fact of life.

A month passed and she became impatient to return to her artwork. She brought the subject up several times, but Paul discouraged her. "Marguerite, we don't need the money and you've a baby to care for. She's the most important thing."

"Yes, Paul, but I'm cooped up in this small house day after day. It's time we bought a horse and buggy. We have the barn behind the house -- hay and oats aren't that expensive. I've plenty of experience at handling a horse or even a team. Besides, we can use my painting money and it will allow Paula and me to get out into the sunshine. It's June, and the weather is so warm and delightful."

He mused over the idea for moments, and then smiled. "Fine, that's a good idea. I had been thinking it time to have our own rig. I'll see about a good buggy horse, but not a young one. Buggies are quite reasonable, and a horse shouldn't cost more than one hundred dollars."

In July Marguerite found a reliable woman to baby sit Paula on afternoons; she threw caution to the winds, accepting a commission to paint two young children. Paul grumbled a bit, but withdrew his objection when she presented him with a check for four hundred dollars.

He shook his head, amazed, "My gosh, Marguerite. It takes me three months to make that much money." He smiled ruefully, "It seems I've married a gold mine."

Their love and commitment was strong and she agreed to limit her work to an occasional painting. She often slipped over to the Institute to take in an afternoon class, always careful to return home early, in time to make supper.

She began a serious study of the old masters, but never copied their paintings. She marveled how they found material to make their various colors, especially the brilliant ones. Nowadays, paints came already prepared, stored in small lead tubes.

Near the end of August Paula weighted nearly fifteen pounds. She was alert and followed light and sound with her eyes, and would lift her head when spoken to. Marguerite had misgivings about Paula's light hair. She had not inherited the dark hair from her mother's side of the family. She realized Paul's hair was a dark brown, but perhaps Paula's would darken later. Her daughter's facial features were much like her own, showing little evidence of Charley. She definitely had a light golden tone to her skin, an indication of native ancestry. Marguerite determined she would protect this birth secret to the grave.

As the months went by, both Paul and Marguerite became immersed in their everyday work. Paul was promoted to supervisory position in the company offices and Marguerite found herself specializing in painting children. A loving bond grew between them, and on Saturdays and Sundays their time was spent with Paula.

Although Charley had rented out his farmland along the border, his official business became so pressing that he found little time to share work with his partner. It bothered his conscience, but John never complained.

On January 13 the new brick courthouse was finished amid much fanfare. Later that spring the new schoolhouse opened. A massive flood of the Red River had begun. The railroad tracks from the Y to St. Vincent were soon under water.

On one of his many trips to the courthouse Charley heard a rumor his friend Nelson E Nelson, the telegrapher, had been offered $10,000 for his farm just southwest of town, an enormous price at the time. He decided to stop by on his way downtown to rub him.

"Nels, maybe we both better sell out. Are you really going to accept that offer? Where did you find a chump like that?"

Nels smiled modestly, "It's on the up and up Charley. I'm going to do a lot of thinking on it. Say, are you going after that lothario, Joseph Fay?1 I hear he's got a young schoolgirl pregnant."

Charley laughed, "He's already in our new jail at the courthouse. He might get away with it if he marries her."

"How come you didn't move into the sheriff's quarters they built in the new courthouse? I hear it's plush."

"My old place over the bar is handier. 'Sides, the river is mighty high for April; it'll bear close watching. The Selkirk steamboat is already busy moving freight over to St. Vincent, even carrying cargo to the railroad Y east of town."

"Yup, word on the telegraph tells me several houses in Fargo are floating around. It's far worse there, still all that water is coming our way.”

Late on the afternoon of August 18 John Mager staggered into Charley's bar. One side of his head was covered with dark, ugly, caked blood. One of his pant legs from thigh downward was also saturated with blood. The man appeared weak and exhausted. "Charley, I shot a breed over at Walhalla today in self defense. I've come to turn myself in!"

Charley realized this man needed immediate medical attention. "We’ll get you over to the dentist’s room at the hotel; at least he'll be able to stop the bleeding until we can get Doc Harris from the fort. Some of you fellows give me a hand."

Mager's buggy was just outside, so Charley drove Mager to Geroux's after Mager was carefully lifted to the seat. Fortunately, the dentist was available and quickly began to clean up Mager. It was an hour before Charley was able to piece together the story from the distraught Mager. It came in bits and pieces as Dr. Harris arrived and began treating Mager’s wounds.

"Charley, some of the land I bought in Walhalla is now being surveyed as a street. There's a new hotel going up and years ago a few breeds buried people nearby. I had planned on moving the few graves on my land as it is private property, part of the Emerling Estate townsite. Antoine Valle and his brother brought a child over and insisted on the burial being on my property, even though there is a cemetery just adjoining. I refused to allow them to bury the child on my land and he became enraged. He seized an axe and came at me. I drew my gun and fired shots into the ground to distract him. But then he hit me on the head with the axe, the calf of my leg, then my thigh. He was crazy, he would have killed me, and so I shot him. He's dead."

Charley tried to calm him, "Why don't you stay here in the hotel tonight; if you feel able, tomorrow we'll go back with Justice Armstrong to hold an inquest. I know the temper of some of the breeds, especially if they've been drinking. We'll sort it out tomorrow. You probably were well justified in your action. Will you be comfortable here? If so, I'll see your horse is cared for at Mason's Livery. We can leave tomorrow, say about 9:00 a.m. Of course it'll depend upon Armstrong's being available and you feeling fit.”

At four p.m, the next afternoon Charley, Dr. Ross, and Justice Armstrong held a brief inquest on the body of Valle at Walhalla. Charley subpoenaed several witnesses since the final case would be tried at the courthouse in Pembina.

In late October the railroad line from Grafton to Winnipeg was finally completed, to be open soon. An imposing depot was built in Pembina to house a customs office, and telegrapher, with adequate storage for freight under-bond.

Dr. Charles Harris was contemplating moving into town from the fort, as a new commander and doctor were scheduled to arrive in October or November. The new commander was to be Lt. Col. Henry L. Chipman, the doctor, Captain Perley.

He discussed it with Charley. "I've learned a lot out there and they've treated me well. Still, I feel out of place; I was never meant for Army life. Granted, the teamsters out there took me anywhere I wanted to go and it was all-free. Still, I plan on getting a room at Geroux's. I'll have to purchase a horse and buggy too."

"You'll need a sleigh for the winter, also robes for travel. You might as well use mine until you can find something within reason. Mason's good on rentals too, he’s a fair man.”

"Eugene's taking good care of my Mother and the girls, but Susan wants to start nurse training at St. Boniface. I told her to go ahead. I can handle the expense."

Charley laughed, "Good thing too. She's been thick with that fellow, Clement, who is working with the government survey party. She's still pretty young for matrimony."

Charles smiled, "My thoughts, exactly!"

1 - Fay, after his release from jail was tarred and feathered, tied to a pole and left on the south road toward the Fort. Dr. Harris took him to Joliette to Storms house to clean him and treat his burns. He left the Territory.

Pembina Methodist Church(es)

Built in early 1900's, burned down in 1937

I was checking out the State Archives of North Dakota's Digital Horizons online archives the other day, and came across these two photos of two churches in Pembina. The first one is the first Methodist church built in Pembina in the early 1900's.

Grace Episcopal Church, built 1886 - later repurposed as
Pembina Pioneer Memorial United Methodist Church
The second one was originally built as Grace Episcopal Church, and later re-purposed as a Methodist church. In 1994, Myrtle Hart of Pembina submitted the paperwork that successfully got the church listed on the National Registry of Historic Places.

From the submitted form comes this invaluable history of the church...

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Brethren Revisited

I grew up around the Brethren and have written about them before. I knew them as the Plymouth Brethren, but I recently learned they actually go by Exclusive Brethen. For the most part, they are good people. They may not be like you or I, but they are good people. Like many from my area, I lived with them, went to school with them, played with them, shopped with them. Really not that unsual for any of us. Some in my own family were Brethren themselves in the past, I have learned. Others worked and broke bread with them.

I also have known some who left the Brethren, and each one had their own reasons. Their leaving took great courage because it meant cutting all ties to their families. It wasn't until I came across the group called PEEBS (which if I remember correctly is an acronym standing for People Escaping Exclusive Brethren) that I fully realized the magnitude of their actions and the consequences thereof. Each individual's story is unique of course, but they all have certain things in common.

Peebs.Net is a website that...
...endeavors to investigate and report the Truth behind the Exclusive Brethren, a group of so-called Christians, and by so doing, help break the chains and break down the barriers that prevent us from seeing our families, friends and loved ones, trapped in what many are calling a bona fide Cult.

Our mission is to educate the media and help those who have left and those who wish to leave a vicious regime that is causing increasing concern world-wide.
Unbeknownst to me (and I'm sure most non-Brethren) - until now - was that at one time, the head of the entire Brethren (world-wide) was from our own neck-of-the-woods, a man by the name of James Symington.

According to PEEBS:
James H Symington - (1914-1987)

James Harvey Symington (JHS) was born to Lyle and Ida (Hughes) Symington on the 28th of August, 1913. He was a Neche, North Dakota, (USA) farmer. He was one of 11 children and was a grandson of Harvey and Louisa Hughes, who hosted the first brethren meeting in North Dakota in a building on their farm.

The family farm was on the wind-swept prairie two and a half miles from Neche. Young James rode a horse to and from town each day to complete a high school education. His theological foundation derived solely from his own studies of the bible and the ministry published by the brethren. He had no other post-secondary education.

Mr. Symington became leader of the brethren as a consequence of a number of fortuitous circumstances. James Taylor Junior died suddenly while the aftermath of the Aberdeen incident was still rippling through the brethren community. Many prominent brothers had been withdrawn from. Several had been summarily ejected in the parking lot of the Nostrand Avenue meeting room in New York by Mr. Taylor. Other prominent figures were variously out of favor. The two Hales brothers, John and Bruce, had recently been withdrawn from. It is not clear whether they had been restored before Mr. Taylor died. In the meantime, JHS had come unequivocably to the support of JTJr, accepting Mr. Taylor's accounts of the incident without question.
His loyalty was rewarded more quickly than he could possibly have expected. Mr. Symington's tenure as leader of the brethren was longer than any other twentieth century leader save James Taylor Senior.

It is said among the brethren that JT Jr "cast his cloak" upon JHS before he died, alluding to an Old Testament story of the selection of a successor by a dying prophet.

The Symington ministry is contained in a set of light brown volumes.

JHS developed the idea that the principal leader should approve all significant decisions. He exercised enormous control, approving weddings, permitting or not permitting people to re-locate, and determining who should be "shut up" or withdrawn from. Note that these decisions were ostensibly made locally, but local leaders were encouraged to seek approval from Mr. Symington. The Neche telephone exchange was expanded because of the volume of telephone calls to Mr. Symington.

JHS prophesied that computers "used for gain" were evil. (The phrase "used for gain" is apparently the loophole whereby the current leadership is allowed to use computers to operate the organization's publishing business.) While JT Jr had tolerated post-secondary education, JHS strongly discouraged it. Towards the end of his life, he actively suppressed any discussion that found value in higher education.

Mr. Symington invented the idea that grown family members should be more dependent on their local brethren than on their families. When a person visited a city where a sibling happened to live, such as while attending special meetings or for some other approved reason, they were often denied the simple pleasure of staying overnight in the sibling's home. Any such visit had to be approved by Mr. Symington and approval depended on the political fortunes of the requestor. Although there is no scriptural basis for this practice, Mr. Symington felt that there were parallels in the treatment of Moabites by the children of Israel and over time, the brethren began to refer to their out-of-town relatives as their Moabites.

One of the principle tenets of brethren doctrine is the belief that these are the "last days". While JT Jr and John Hales each predicted that the Lord would return during their lifetimes, JHS appears to have been a bit less bold. One correspondent recalls hearing him say in 1980 that he did not believe babies born that year would see five years.

JHS assigned meetings to divisions and sub-divisions. All meetings in a division became part of an "interchange".

JHS turned the fellowship into a cash machine, receiving an estimated US$1.5 million per year in brethren contributions. Non-brethren in Neche reported monthly invasions of busloads of brethren who would come to Neche from all over the world to hear the latest Symington ministry. At one point the Internal Revenue Service sent auditors to Neche to investigate possible tax evasion, but no charges were brought.

James Symington died in 1987. At his death he was blind from adult-onset diabetes. He was buried in Minneapolis, Minnesota, the closest meeting to Rochester, Minnesota, where he was being treated at the Mayo Clinic at the time of his death. The brethren had acquired a kidney dialysis machine for him. After his death it was donated to the hospital in nearby Cavalier, North Dakota.
Trivia: Garrison Keillor was raised in the Plymouth Brethren church in Minnesota; an interesting blog post about that, with a quote from an interview, has Garrison sharing about his faith...

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Alexander Henry's Diary - Part I

Pembina River Post (1802)


We pass our time chasing buffalo, for which we have many good horses, and take plenty of sturgeon...An Indian made medicine to ask his Manitou whether a certain sick person would recover. He started his juggling after dark, and sang for a long time, keeping chorus with a rattle. At times he pretended to converse with a spirit, muttering very low; then he interpreted to the bystanders what his Manitou had told him concerning the case - the case and nature of the sickness, and then some crime committed which prevented the cure. Before his conversation with the spirit his juggling machine always appeared in motion, bending to and fro as if shaken by the wind, while he continued to sing with his utmost force, and appeared greatly agitated; when suddenly he ceased and appeared deeply engaged in discourse. This ceremony continued until after midnight, when he at last declared he was in doubt whether the sick person would recover or not.


A boy about 10 years of age was putting his gun in order to shoot ducks; his old mother was sitting opposite in the tent, and observed he was giving himself trouble to no purpose, as he could not kill a duck. This was jocular, as she knew he was an excellent little hunter for his age, and he took it as such. Having loaded and primed his gun, he aimed it at the old woman's head, saying, "If I cannot kill a duck I can kill you, if I want to." The gun went off and blew her brains out. The lad's gun fell from his hands; when he recollected himself he declared he had no intention of shooting his mother, and could not account for the discharge. However, the old woman was dead; her brains and hair were sticking to the tent-pole near which she had been sitting. The lad appeared much afflicted, as he was very fond of her.


Mr. Langlois and others started for the Hair hills. This caravan demands notice, to show the vast difference it makes in a place where horses are introduced. It is true they are useful animals, but if there were not one in all the North West, we should have less trouble and expense. Our men would neither be so burdened with families, nor so indolent and insolent as they are, and the natives in general would be more honest and industrious. Let an impartial eye look into the affair, to discover whence originates the unbounded extravagance of our meadow gentry, both white and native, and horses will be found one of the principal causes. Let us view the bustle and noise which attended the transportation of five pieces of goods to a place where the houses were built in 1801-02. The men were up at break of day and their horses tackled long before sunrise; but they were not ready to move before ten o'clock, when I had the curiosity to climb on top of my house to watch their motions and observe their order of march.

Antoine Payet, guide and second in command, leads the van, with a cart drawn by two horses and loaded with his private baggage, cassetête1, bags, kettles, and mashqueminctes [?]8. Madame Payet follows the cart with a child a year old on her back, very merry. Charles Bottineu2, with two horses and a cart loaded with 1 1/2 packs, his own baggage, and two young children with kettles and other trash hanging on to it. Madame Bottineau with a squalling infant on her back, scolding and tossing it about. Joseph Dubord goes on foot, with his long pipe-stem and calumet in his hand; Madame Dubord follows on foot, carrying his tobacco pouch with a broad bead tail. Antoine Thellier3, with a cart and two horses, loaded with 1 1/2 packs of goods and Dubois' baggage. Antoine La Pointe4 with another cart and horses, loaded with two pieces of goods and with baggage belonging to Brisebois, Jasmin, and Pouliot, and a kettle hung on each side. Auguste Brisebois5 follows with only his gun on his shoulder and a fresh-lighted pipe in his mouth. Michel Jasmin6 goes next, like Brisebois, with gun and pipe puffing out clouds of smoke. Nicolas Pouliot, the greatest smoker in the North West, has nothing but pipe and pouch. Those three fellows, having taken a farewell dram and lighted fresh pipes, go on brisk and merry, playing numerous pranks. Domin Livernois7, with a young mare, the property of Mr. Langlois, loaded with weeds for smoking, an old worsted bag (madame's property), some squashes and potatoes, a small keg of fresh water, and two young whelps howling. Next goes Livernois' young horse, drawing a travaille loaded with his baggage and a large worsted mashguemcate [?] belonging to Madame Langlois. Next appears Madame [John] Cameron's mare, kicking, rearing, and snorting, hauling a travaille loaded with a bag of flour, cabbages, turnips, onions, a small keg of water, and a large kettle of broth. Michel Langlois, who is master of the band, now comes on leading a horse that draws a travaille nicely covered with a new painted tent, under which his daughter and Mrs. Cameron lie at full length, very sick; this covering or canopy has a pretty effect in the caravan, and appears at a great distance in the plains. Madame Langlois brings up the rear of the human beings, following the travaille with a slow step and melancholy air, attending to the wants of her daughter, who notwithstanding her sickness, can find no other expressions of gratitude to her parents than by calling them dogs, fools, beasts, etc. The rear guard consists of a long train of 20 dogs, some for sleighs, some for game, and others of no use whatever, except to snarl and destroy meat. The total forms a procession nearly a mile long...

From Early Canadiana Online, Alexander Henry journals

1 Cassetête is good French for tomahawk, literally something to break a head with, and may be intended here; copy so reads plainly. But F. cassette - casket - was the usual word with the voyageurs for any sort of a box in which they carried small articles, as distinguished from the large packs, sacks, bales, or other "pieces" of which most of their loads consisted. The curious word which follows kettles I cannot make out.

2 Name reappearing in MS, and print as Battineau, Battimeau, and Bottureau. Charles is listed as voyageur N.W. Co., Lower Red r., 1802, and we shall find him with Henry to 1808.

3 Plainly so in copy; no other record noted.

4 Antoine Lapointe, voyageur N.W. Co., remains with Henry to 1808; he had been about 15 years in this country in Oct., 1818, when he was in Toronto as a witness in the Semple case. Joseph Lapointe is listed voyageur N.W. Co., Fort Dauphin, 1804. Michel Lapointe, listed, Nepigon, 1804.

5 Auguste Brisebois appears in print as Angus, evidently by mistaking the abbreviation "Aug." for "Ang." He remains with Henry to 1808. Joseph Brisebois was guide N.W. Co., Upper Re r., 1804. Michel Brisebois, one of the oldest inhabitants of Prairie de Chien, was made a judge by Lewis Cass, May 12th, 1819; died 1839.

6 Michel Jasmin, sometimes Jesmin, voyageur N.W. Co.; no record beyond 1804.

7 Dominic or Dominique Livernois; no further record.

8 "Interesting. I notice that earlier in the same passage, the author also uses the word "mashqueminetes." I don't know any Native American word exactly like "mashguemcate" or "mashqueminetes," but I bet they're supposed to be the Cree/Ojibway word for "bag," usually spelled Muskimoot in English (maskimot in Cree, mashkimod in Ojibway.) It fits in with the rest of the text anyway."

Laura Redish
Native Languages of the Americas

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Old Film Stills

This is the druggist in Emerson, taken during the 1950 flood.

Harvest lunch break near Humboldt (circa 1950)

From Humboldt Centennial DVDs (2007)

I recently (finally!) bought the Humboldt Centennial DVDs that has the collected films of the Bockwitz family on them. They contain decades of filming done around my hometown area, priceless documentation of people and events of our times. I can't tell you how much they mean to me as I screen them, even though many of them were made before I was born. No matter - my family and my community had told me local history often and repeatedly, of which I could never get enough. I almost feel like I was there! Where I come from, people really care about each other and their communities and general. I'm pretty sure that's why it's had a special place in my heart, and always will...

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Derby Excitement

Musher Odin Jorgenson of Grand Marais, Minn., arrives on schedule with his team at Frog Point near Buxton, N.D., Saturday during the Red River Dog Sled Derby. Herald photo by Eric Hylden

There was loud - but very happy - barking to be heard up and down the Red River Valley this weekend as the second running of the revived Red River Sled Dog Derby was run. According to the Grand Forks Herald, there were 20 teams competing.

Don Galloway is the winner of this year's race (Photo above shows Don with his partner and wife, August, from their Blogger profile...)

Friday, March 06, 2009

Sheriff Charley Brown: Chapter 31

February 25, 1882

It was still dark when Charley reached over to kill the shrill ring of his alarm clock. He had been forced to arise earlier than usual this morning because his cousin, Doctor Charles Harris, was due to arrive on the morning train from St. Paul. A glance at the bedroom windows assured him that it was still mighty cold outside; both panes were opaque, heavily covered with frost in spite of the storm sashes he had installed in the fall.

Hastily dressing, he touched a match to a burner on his oil stove to make coffee and toast. He noted his wall clock indicated 5:30 a.m., proving his cheap alarm had lost nearly a quarter hour in past days. After the pot began to boil he added a dash of cold water to settle the grounds.

A half-hour later he was at Mason's livery harnessing his bay. Backing the animal to a sleigh at the rear of the building he fastened the tugs, then returned inside to gather up a horse blanket and two buffalo robes.

Charles, now a full-fledged doctor, had been only seven years of age when Charley had last seen him. An inquisitive youth, he had pestered Charley constantly about his war experiences. Charles' Father, Jeremy Harris, had taken his young son to Harpers Ferry shortly after Union troops had overrun the town, exposing the youngster to scores of bodies piled like cord wood across bolstered wagons, casualties abandoned in the heat of battle. Charley guessed that sight had possibly given the boy the inclination to study medicine.

Gathering a robe snugly around his shoulders, he guided the horse east to the Red River ice, then up the Minnesota side to the St. Vincent depot. Securing his horse on the lee side of the building he carefully fastened the blanket over the animal. Stomping snow from his boots he entered the waiting room noting that Carl Gooding, the depot agent was already seated behind the grill. He was the only other occupant in the huge room, and was busy at the telegraph key.

"Come to meet the train? It's nearly an hour late - won't be in until around eight. They've had trouble down the line I expect. This blamed cold causes the outside steam lines to freeze up. Gosh, it's at least 35 below outside." Opening his half-door he moved to the potbelly stove in the center of the room. Lifting the lid he tossed in a half scuttle of coal from a badly battered bucket. "Not many passengers this winter. Trade has been slowing down since those boom years of '80 and '81."

Charley moved a chair nearer the stove to take advantage of its warmth. "Yup, they were good years for Jim Hill. He carried thousands of pilgrims and goods to Canada -- five trains a day, each way. At least he still gets all the farm grain to ship, naming his own price."

Gooding nodded. "Since I work for him I have to keep my mouth shut, but the carload rates are mighty high. It's the old saw, the rich get richer and the poor, poorer." He brightened, "I'm supposed to be getting a big shipment of frozen fish today, barrels and barrels of both Walleye and Northern Pike. Red Lake must be loaded with them."

"Next month they'll start spearing at the mouth of the Pembina River," said Charley, "The fish should begin running in mid-March."

Carl was curious, "What are you doing over here?"

"My cousin Charles Harris wired me that he would be arriving this morning. He's a doctor, coming to stay permanently."

"That's good news! Doctor Appel at the fort has been run ragged. I understand he's only contracted to take care of the soldiers at the fort. Lucky he treats anyone, 'course he charges the civilians. Too bad that other doctor and his son died of diphtheria. Where is your cousin going to stay?"

"Probably with me, temporarily. I don't know of his plans, but I'll take him out to the fort to meet Doc. Appel. I've already told Appel that Charles would arrive soon; he seemed tickled to welcome new talent."

Suddenly the outside door opened and a blast of cold air rolled across the floor. It was Leifer, the drayman1. He ignored both men, moving to the stove while removing his heavy mittens. After long moments spent warming his hands he turned and began a brisk conversation with Gooding. An Icelander, he spoke broken English. Yet he spoke volubly, expecting Gooding to fully understand each word.

Unexpectedly, the telegraph key began to chatter, and as Gooding turned back into his office, he called over his shoulder, "The train should be here in five minutes. It left Hallock twenty-five minutes ago."

A faint rumble seemed to roll through the building as the train finally approached the station. Glancing out the window as the engine glided by the depot, Charley saw that behind the baggage car there were only two passenger cars. Steam leaked from coupled hoses between each car as the train squealed and thumped to a halt. A door on the first passenger car opened and the conductor swung down to the platform, dropping a metal stool beneath the steps. A jauntily dressed man appeared in the doorway carrying two bulging carpetbags; he was wearing a small dark derby hat, hardly appropriate for the frigid weather.

Charley laughed aloud as he walked outside, recognizing his cousin instantly; why he was the spitting image of his father! Approaching his cousin, with his hand outstretched, he smiled, "Judas, Charles, we'll have to get you some warm clothes. You'll freeze to death in that get-up."

His cousin grinned as he grasped his hand. "They don't make artic clothes back in Virginia. Thought I'd refit myself when I got here." He looked around at the deep snow and shivered dramatically, "Lead me to somewhere where it's warm."

"Got a trunk or other stuff?"

"It's checked in the baggage car, together with all my medical equipment and supplies."

"I'll get Leifer to take them to my place." He stopped momentarily to speak with the drayman who was rolling barrels from the baggage car onto his wagon, then turned to Charles. "Lets get over to Pembina. It'll only take a few minutes."

Crossing over the frozen Red River, Charles remarked, "I've never seen this much snow, not even in Baltimore."

"We'll lose it in April. Kind of expect high water this spring, there's just too much snow. Even the trains have had a hard time with track blockages. 'Sides that, we've had 40-45 degree below temperatures on several days so far."

"You wrote that there's an Army fort near town. Do they have a doctor?"

"They do. He's a good man, spreads himself pretty thin though. He takes care of all he can."

"I'd like to meet him."

"You will, I'll see to that. You'll need introductions to all the important people around. I'll tend to that too. You might as well stay with me until you get settled, I've lots of room."

Charles smiled, then said teasingly, "I heard Josey Watson made a trip out here with matrimony in mind. Did you evade that trap?"

"Charley grinned wryly, "I'm still single!"

Finally entering Pembina his cousin remarked, "I hate to impose on you, but I'll appreciate every bit of your help. Do they have an apothecary here, with plenty of medications?"

"Yes. Wilkins is the pharmacist, almost a doctor. He does the best he can, but he's of limited experience. Charley swung the sleigh around in front of his store. "We don't open for business until 10 o'clock, but we'll go inside. Anything is those bags you have that will freeze?"

"No, just clothing."

"Then leave them in the sleigh until we go upstairs. I'll leave the blanket on the horse; it'll be all right for a few minutes. We'll throw some coal on the stove while we're inside, also make coffee. Or would you rather have a stiff drink?"

Charles smiled, "Both sound great! I'm mighty chilled.” Tossing his hat on the bar as they entered the building, he walked over to the stove, saying, "I won't need that derby until spring."


It was turning daylight when Charley heard loud thumping noises coming from his kitchen. Sleepily, he pulled on his trousers to find his cousin Charles prowling the kitchen. He was placing plates, cups and silverware on the table. He already had the coffee pot on the kerosene stove with the burner lit. Water dripping from the lip of the kitchen pump, indicating it was the culprit causing the noise.

Charley grumbled, "Gosh, Charles, I thought after all that coffee and those drinks we had last night you would want to sleep in."

"That's what woke me up. I had to take a leak! 'Sides that, you need to trim the wicks on your stove, it smokes."

"I know, but it suits me. What do you want to do today? I'd suggest we get you outfitted for the weather first thing, else you'll freeze in those city clothes.”

"Best I do that, then I'd like to see Eugene. After that I'll stop to say hello to your Mother." He hesitated, "Do you suppose we'd have time to see that doctor at the fort this afternoon?"

"Sure! It sounds like the wind is down. If it gets up with all this loose snow, nothing will move." He sat down heavily at the table, and then leaned the chair back to a comfortable angle. "I might as well tell you now - my Mother and I aren't getting along. She's as bull-headed as ever."

While Charley related his recent problems with his mother, Charles listened intently, and then said, "I'll not let Eliza involve me." He laughed, "I'll stay neutral. Say! Where do you keep your eggs, bacon, potatoes and bread? I'm darned hungry!"

After getting Charles outfitted with winter apparel at Yerxa's store, Charley directed him to Eugene's house. Walking in the sled tracks in the center of the street was no problem, but when Charles cut from the road he found the snow knee-deep. Entering the screened porch he stamped his feet noisily to shake the snow from his boots. The door opened partially and Eugene peered out. "Charles! Is that you? Where in heck did you come from?"

"Got in on the train this morning. Charley picked me up. Is your Mother here with the girls?"

"They won't be here until sometime in April. Got a letter a few days ago. They had trouble getting the money from the sale of the house. It's best they come later anyway. It'll be warmer then. Come on in before the house cools off. I'll refill the coffee pot; I already drank up the first batch.”

As Eugene puttered in the kitchen, he asked, "Want to stay with me for awhile -- I've lots of room."

“I haven't made plans yet. Charley offered me quarters too. He's taking me out to meet the doctor at the fort this afternoon. I want to get acquainted with him, don't want any hard feelings about crowding him. Charley says he's a good man."

"Yup! He’s hard pressed too! He has enough problems with the soldiers during the winter. They've got about 140 men out there." He removed the center two rings of the stove lid, placing the coffee pot directly over the open flame.

Reaching into a cabinet he took down a cup.

"I failed to bring heavy clothing with me. I never anticipated it would be this cold, but Charley got me outfitted this morning. I'm having a few medicines shipped in, although Charley says you've got a drug store here. Maybe I wasted some money."

"Wilkens runs the drug store, he even tries to help when someone is sick. He's not got much on hand though. Money is short, but he might buy your supplies."

"It was mighty short back home too, and too many doctors in Charleston. The schools are turning them out fast. How is Eliza getting along?"

Eugene chuckled, "Ask Charley, he'll sure tell you!"

"I've already heard his version. He mentioned she talked Josey into coming out, hoping to marry him."

"That she did, but it didn't work out. He already had a good-looking girl friend. She dumped him, but it was his own fault."

"Where does Eliza live?"

"Just two blocks north, then left, second house on the south side, it's a white, two-story with outside stairs to the upper floor. You can't miss it."

It was nearing eleven when Eugene and Charles concluded their conversation. Charles then decided he would make his meeting with Eliza as brief as possible. At Eliza's, he was treated to a diatribe of how she had foiled Charley's involvement with the breed girl.

Charles listened dutifully, and then made his excuses to leave. Joining Charley at the saloon, they walked across the street to have lunch at Lucien Geroux's hotel.

Lucien greeted Charles with enthusiasm. "We've finally got a doctor! Oh, Appel is good, but he just can't handle all the pox and other diseases. He quarantines the fort if anyone in the two towns gets a transmittable disease, but he can't force the civilians to quarantine their own homes. We need that!"

Charles agreed. He turned to Charley, "Doesn't the town council enforce the quarantine on smallpox, chicken pox, measles and mumps?"

"It's been a voluntarily thing, done by most, but some don't give a damn. You'll get cooperation from now on though. I'll see the county commissioners appoint you as health officer."

As they entered Fort Pembina that afternoon Charles was impressed with the neatness and layout of the buildings. Charley took him directly to the hospital and introduced him to Dr. Appel.

"Doc, this is my cousin Charles Harris. He graduated from the School of Physicians and Surgeons in Baltimore a few years ago. He has been practicing in Charleston the past few years. I talked him into coming out here, told him it was the land of the future."

Appel smiled as he offered his hand. "Charley told me you were coming soon. You'll be mighty welcome! I just can't handle all the sickness and trouble alone. I informed Captain Collins that you were coming and he suggested you stay at the fort temporarily. I understand housing is mighty short in both towns, except at the hotels, and they are expensive. Unfortunately the Captain is in Grand Forks today. Would you like to see our clinic and wardrooms? At the moment we have a few frozen fingers and toes, also two cases of pneumonia.”

After a brief tour of the hospital, and after being introduced to Corporal Ira Hocking, Dr. Appel's assistant, the doctor suggested, "You'll find the training beneficial if you decide to stay, since we have a plethora of diseases, sometimes even frozen limbs. Also we have full use of the fort teamsters for transportation as needed. I can fix you up with a private room too."

Charles looked to Charley, then back to Appel. "Thank you! I'll accept your kindness and assist you all I can, but I intend to put my ad in the local paper if you don't mind. I think I'll like this Dakota Territory, it's big, and not crowded. Charley tells me there is no malaria! What do you think Charley?"

"I suggest you stay in town with me tonight, I'll help move you out tomorrow."

Doctor Charles Harris was cordially welcomed to the fort the next evening at the officer’s mess. Surgeon Appel introduced him to Captain Collins and the other officers at supper.

Frequently Charles was called on cases in town and to farms. Thankfully the fort teamsters were available. He made a habit of stopping and buying a drink for his driver when his task was completed. He seldom lacked for a volunteer. His cousin Charley took him in hand to introduce him to the most influential people in both St. Vincent and Pembina. Soon he found himself almost swamped with work, as was Doctor Appel. A new officer came to the fort to replace another transferred to the officer school in Leavenworth, Kansas. Charles found an instant rapport with this studious man, Lieutenant Andrew Rowan.2 Rowan, at 22 years of age was only two years younger than Charles. They smoked numerous pipes of tobacco after the evening meal, while discussing ancient history. At times other officers joined the discussions, especially Captain Collins. His special interest was of Indian artifacts.

1 - My grandfather, Sheldon Albert Fitzpatrick, would eventually become the drayman for the town several years later...

2 - Andrew S. Rowan: Famous for carrying the message to Garcia, in Cuba, during the insurrection (Spanish-American War) in l898. "Message to Garcia" fame, by Elbert Hubbard.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Profile: H.L. Hime

Hind Expedition encamped along the Red River of the NorthBorn in Ireland, H. L. Hime came to Canada in 1854 and joined the Hind Expedition as official photographer. His photographs are probably the first ever taken of the Canadian prairies.

As so often happens, due to the geographic proximity, he is connected to our area in that he passed through it, and made observations of the land and the people living here...
The Palliser and Hind Expeditions, 1857 -1860

By 1855, the last remaining piece of wild land in Canada West (formerly Upper Canada) was sold for settlement. This allowed politicians to look to the prairies as a possible region to open up for immigrants. Starting in 1857, two explorers named John Palliser and Henry Youle Hind would set out on a "scientific expedition" to discover if this land was suitable for mass settlement.

However, Palliser's expedition had another purpose. It was to survey the 49th parallel as a possible western border between the U.S. and Canada. This was crucial as America created massive east-west Intercolonial railways during the 1860s, a move that some in British North America viewed as an attempt by the Americans to expand their territory into what was to become Canada.

(from Canadiana.org)

On Wednesday we reached Fort Pembina, and stayed the night with Mr. Mackenzie, the officer in charge of the Post, whose sad fate last December (described further on) is a melancholy proof of the danger attending traveling alone during the winters of this climate. The woods and prairies are then perfect deserts, Indians being at their winter quarters, birds far in the sunny south, and wild animals hibernating, or seeking food and shelter in the thickest parts of the swamps and forests. So complete is this desolation in the interior of many parts of Rupert's Land during the winter, that Mr. Christie, chief factor of the Hudson's Bay Company, when traveling from Athabasca to Red River in December 1859, did not meet with a single Indian throughout a long and dreary journey of 1400 miles. (of that I can believe!!)

The thermometer at Pembina Fort indicated 22 below zero on the morning of December 2nd, when we left the Post. Having procured another train of two dogs at the small village of Pembina, two miles from the Hudson's Bay Post of that name, we struck across the prairie to the "first of the Two Creeks," where we camped...

Pine River crossing is the spot from which Mr. Mackenzie, who had so hospitably treated us at Fort Pembina, started on the morning of the 29th December 1859, on his ill-fated journey in search of assistance. He and some companions were escorting an engineer from George Town to Fort Garry, who was traveling thither to make alterations and repairs in the steamer Anson Northrup, then laid up for the winter near the Indian settlement. The party fell short of provisions, and Mr. Mackenzie pushed on in the hope of being able to send supplies from Pembina. After leaving his companions, he appears to have followed the trail for some distance, and at the approach of night to have lost his way. His beaten track showed that in order to keep himself from freezing, he had spent the night in running round in a circle. At the break of day he started again across the trackless waste, but in a direction considerably to the eastward of his proper course. A second day of fruitless wandering was followed by a night more dreary than the first. The third day's journey brought him near the Roseau Lake, far to the east of his destination; here his strength appears to have failed him, for having hung some shreds of his coat on a tree, to mark his last resting-place, he lay down beneath it, where his frozen body was found, with one hand on his heart and the other grasping a compass.*

* An account of this melancholy journey is given in the Red River Nor'Wester, for January 14, 1860...

From Narrative of the Canadian Red River Exploring Expedition of 1857 by Henry Youle Hind (Link)