Thursday, April 30, 2009

Expatriate Contact

I heard from another expatriate of our area a few days ago. His name is Clarence L. Bingham. As many do, he found my website serendipitously, reading the post about Dick Lapp, who he knew and - you'll read below - worked with...
A great blog. I went to work for Railway Express at the Noyes depot in January 1949. Scottie and I lived upstairs in the Fitzpatrick house in Pembina. In late 1949 I started work with U. S. Customs, assuming Dick Lapp's job as supply and seizure clerk when he was promoted to liquidator.
I asked him if the Fitzpatrick home he stayed at was perhaps my great uncle Richard Fitzpatrick's home, and who was Scottie? He replied...
Yes, a big brick home just south of the hotel. We called him Dick and I cannot at the moment think of Mrs. Fitzpatrick's name. He was depot agent for the GN at St.Vincent.

Bing with his dog BarnabyScottie was Mary Helen Scott Bingham. My wife of 59 odd years, who died in 2007 here in Oregon. We were married January 22, 1949 at Muscoda, WI. Took the train a couple days later to Noyes, MN. where I had taken a job with Railway Expess. I had heard of the job through my uncle Sheldon Joyner,who was depot agent at Noyes for both the GN and Soo Line. Our office was in the north (cold) end of the depot, so was acquainted with all of the section hands and depot clerks. C. L. Bingham

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

"...and now, for something completely different!"

From Willie Block’s “25 Things I Hate About the Red River”
1. It floods.

2. It does not obey the 100-year flood rule. Like at all.

3. It’s not all that Red.

4. It has to be different and flow North. Even when you’re not conforming you’re conforming, you ass.

5. It connects us to Grand Forks . . . city rivalry BURN.

6. It does not have a single cool marine animal in it. No giant squids, no whales, no sharks, nothing but stupid cat fish.

7. It is a deceptive jerk who pretends to be pretty and scenic to lure home owners to building near by and then boom, flood. Like a Venus fly trap but not cool.

8. Making me sandbag never gets anyone or anything any points.

9. A little known fact. The more curves a river has the older it is. Obviously this one is a young little shit. Explains the screaming temper tantrums for attention. Punk.

10. Has probably killed, like, 12 dudes, 6 chicks, and probably a couple of kids. Not cool dude, not cool.

11. Is a breeding ground for the-biggest-f***-up-God-ever-made-bug, better known as the mosquito. That’s like providing refuge for a terrorist.

12. The Red River is most likely working with Al Qaeda.

13. Has absolutely no sense of timing. Never takes into consideration the plans of other people outside of its self. Sort of like a rock star except the Red River is not a rock star. It’s more like a large dumb body of water. And it isn’t even that large. Just long and stupid.

14. You cannot drink it (actually, it would probably taste better than the shite that’s coming out of the faucet these days).

15. Provides a habitat for cute animals.

16. Besides the winter storms, it’s the only way we ever get on the national news. What about our fantastic urban sprawl?

17. Is a direct cause of global warming. Actually, that’s a lie, but I’m gonna run with it.

18. Is not as rad as the Mississippi.

19. Cannot be used to determine how long to wait before you open your eyes and go hunting for the hidden. “One Red River, two Red River, three Red River” See? Just doesn’t work.

20. You can’t take it shopping or to the movies. It would probably text throughout a movie anyways. Like I said, “This River is RUDE.”

21. Cannot be seen from space. [Note from Trish - WRONG!]

22. Probably talks about you behind your back. “Will thinks he’s all that and the bees knees, but this one time I saw him walking home and he walked right into a tree branch. Dumb ass.” Well, at least I don’t have a bladder problem, River.

23. It will drown you and feel no remorse. None whatsoever. Probably brags about it to the other rivers at the annual “Rivers That Kill Humans” conference.

24. Unlike the Nile—which produced a bad ass culture of Pharaohs, books of the dead and large pyramid houses—it created a bunch of stubborn dudes and babes that don’t know when the getting out is good. “By my cold dead hands.” The river laughs at this and goes “Yes, well, is there any other way?”

25. It is an inanimate object that you CANNOT PUNCH IN THE FACE.
Not my normal posting, but it's VERY funny (to me at least!) so I'm sharing with all of you...

Monday, April 27, 2009

Bordertowns: Chapter 1

As a grandchild and great grand child of men and women who settled my hometown, I always wondered what it was like for them and their families to pull up stakes and move hundreds of miles to a new country and start over. It wasn't that long before they came to Minnesota that their parents or grandparents had come to Canada from Ireland, but here they were again moving on to find an even better life.

Well, I have a better idea of what it might have been like after reading the story that starts below. It's another book by Charles Walker, or Chuck as he likes to be called. We recently finished serializing Sheriff Charley Brown here, and Chuck has been kind enough to share this next book with us. (By the way, if you want to buy a copy of this book, he tells me it was just accepted for publication recently. I will be sure and share where and how you can buy it when I get the details...)

Read on, and you'll see how Chuck puts flesh and bone on the skeletons of history, making it come alive. He's a real local treasure1, and I'm proud to know him...

A Novel by
Charles H. Walker


This novel of pioneer life in the latter nineteenth century, along the Dakota, Minnesota and Canadian borders, is based upon history preserved by a local family. Parts of the plot are fiction, others are of real life. But historical needs place many actual names of participants in the story.

The three towns involved in the setting are Emerson, Manitoba, St. Vincent, Minnesota and Pembina, Dakota Territory, (according to local newspapers at the time) were troubled by many heinous crimes committed in the immediate area.

Construction of the railroad between Minneapolis, Minnesota, and Winnipeg, Manitoba, attracted over 2000 workers, many of whom were ne'er-do-wells, or opportunists. Others were persons seeking anonymity. This horde of men lacking female companionship, but were well supplied with liquor, provided the stimulus resulting in every type of crime. This fact should not cast aspersions upon the brave and competent men who eventually brought about law and order.


Chapter 1

While sitting on the back doorstep of his home on the outskirts of Orillia, Ontario, Canada, Daniel McLaren recalled the hardships he and Kate had endured long years ago when they made the move from Ireland to Canada. Gradual starvation after the great potato blight of l845 had forced the Irish emigration, and of those who remained in Ireland, it was said that over one million died of starvation.

Here, in Canada, living was fair -- at least for him and Kate. They were both weavers and the demand for their cloth provided them with an adequate living. Not so for Patrick and Maggy, their son and daughter-in-law. Patrick's small, rented farm, although well managed, barely kept their family afloat. They were discouraged and could see little prospect in the future. This spring of l877 found his son in a desperate situation. Due to high land rent and ruinous crop prices, Patrick and Maggy were contemplating moving to the free farmland of Minnesota, in the United States.

Daniel's thoughts turned to his grandchildren, Patrick and Maggy's four children. The oldest, Ian, now nineteen years, worked for a local blacksmith and contributed one- half of his earnings to his father. He was a tall, lanky lad with an easy disposition and a wide, sensual mouth; yet he was leather tough. A perpetual grin seemed glued to his deeply tanned face, emphasized by thick, raven brows. His brown eyes reflected intelligence. Even the English girls were aware of his magnetism.

Their only daughter, Mary, now sixteen, was bright and attractive. She was a tall girl, lithe and athletic, with an oval face dominated by flashing blue eyes and delicate, high cheekbones. Her flying dark hair, full lips and creamy complexion were beginning to cause concern for her parents. She was naturally inquisitive, excelled in mathematics, and seemed to have a natural aptitude for teaching.

At thirteen years of age, Jerold appeared over-large for his age. He was competent to keep the stove supplied with wood, milk the cows, and do the easier farm chores. A bookworm, he was often blamed for the lack of candles in the house, since he was an avid reader. He perused every book that came to his hand.

The precocious one was Mike, now four years of age. He blithely wandered among the horses and mules that disdained kicking at him as they might have at an adult. He seemed always underfoot, but could carry on an intelligent conversation with his mother, with nothing of her brogue. To his delight Mary was teaching him his letters and he could already write his full name, although with a childish scrawl.

Daniel's reverie was broken when he heard footsteps approaching the door. As it opened, he heard his granddaughter's soft voice. "Room for one more beside you, Gramps?" asked Mary.

A smile came to his face. "'Tis true, just enough room for a bonny lass beside me." Sliding over, he made room for Mary who sat down, carefully bunching her long skirt tightly to her ankles.

"Past time you were on your way home, lass. 'Twill be dark soon."

She protested, "It's only a league down the tracks. Besides, it's time Ian was along; I'll walk home with him."

"Yes, that'd be best -- there are too many strangers about this month of May; there's been much stealing lately." He frowned, "I don't trust the bums that follow the rails."

With a teasing tone, Mary asked, "Gramps, will you play a tune if I fetch your fiddle?"

He noted the beseeching look on her face, and then brightened. "I'll play a jig or two, but only a few. Then, if Ian doesn't appear, off you must go for home!"

Smiling delightedly, she arose and disappeared into the house, reappearing within seconds with his violin case.

Removing the fiddle and bow, he stood, walked slowly away from the steps, and then turned to face her. As he tucked the violin under his chin and checked the strings, he queried, "What tune will it be?"

Clapping her hands happily, she implored, "A jig! A jig, of course! Any jig!"

Abruptly he broke into a fast, rollicking tune and Mary jumped up and began to dance around him. Just then her grandmother appeared at the door; Kate's face broke into a smile as she watched the dancing girl and instinctively she began to clap her hands in time to the music.

Kate proudly watched Mary's nimble feet as she danced to the tune, turning and jerking her skirt this way and that, often spinning rapidly, causing her gown to balloon out exposing shapely calves. Finally Daniel brought the music to a close with a dramatic flourish of his bow.

"Time to go home, youngster! It's nearly dark and no sign of Ian. I'll walk you partway to see you safe."

"No need, Gramps; it's not necessary." Running to him she quickly gave him a peck on the cheek, and then gave her Grandmother a fleeting hug. In seconds she scampered out of the yard and was up the grade to the railroad tracks.

Walking backward, she waved gaily and cried, "Tell Ian I couldn't wait any longer!" Then she turned and began skipping toward home.

On the farm Patrick and Jerold had just finished the evening chores and each carried pails of frothy milk to the homemade cooler. Upon opening the ice door, Patrick remarked, "Jerold, we're nearly out of ice. Will you fetch another block?"

As Jerold obediently turned toward the icehouse, Maggy came from the kitchen door and put her hand upon her husband's shoulder. "Pat, I worry about him."

"Worry? Why?"

"You work him too hard. He's just a boy and has little time to play."

"Maggy, darlin', the way things are going, none of us has time to sport. Lord knows, if it weren't for the bit Ian brings in, we'd go under."

"That's why I've overcome my misgivings about moving to the West. We're throwing good money after bad trying to keep this place. Since the crash of '73 we've not gotten ahead. We've too few acres and the rent is much too high.

Let's make the move!" Her look was grim. She had often been curious as to why the Scots and Irish were shunned by the English-Canadians. Canadians in truth? Why, they had been here only a few years before the newer immigrants, yet they acted as if they owned this land. Indeed, they carried their long noses in the air and spoke in guttural sounds.

Patrick turned and hugged her. "Luv', it isn't only the money; Canada is dead on its feet! Here, everything is British; the attitude here is that of a Crown Colony. People without property have no vote; there's little opportunity for advancement; the government is corrupt; the Tories run everything. This damned British mentality is pressing on me! I'm tired of our youngsters being called dirty trash and having clods thrown at them by the English brats. It's best we leave, but we can't until I find a buyer for our extra belongings."

"Have you seen Ben Thompson lately?"

"He offered to buy all at $475, but it's far too little."

"I've nearly $200 put by with my egg and butter money," Kate said softly.

The grim look left his face and he leaned to kiss her.

"Holding out on me, eh?"

"Didn't want you spending it at the pub." She was teasing; he seldom touched a drop.

The squeaking of the wheelbarrow announced Jerold's arrival with the ice. Patrick urged, "Bring it closer to the door." Then, eyeing the huge block, he questioned, "How on earth did you load that immense block by yourself?"

"Slid it up a plank, then washed it off in the barrow," Jerold said proudly.

Patrick looked to his wife and winked. "Looks like he inherited your brains."

"Ah, Pa!" The praise embarrassed Jerold.

Lifting together, using iron tongs, they hoisted the heavy block into the upper part of the cooler, and then stored the wood buckets of warm milk below. After a day or two the cream would raise to the top; Maggy or Mary would then skim it off and churn it into butter. The remaining milk, after they'd removed enough for their personal use, would be fed to the chickens and young pigs.

After supper, as Maggy began washing the dishes, Patrick turned to Jerold. "I'm going over to Thompson's. Want to come along?"

The boy grinned his acceptance and arose from the table.

"Me, too! Me too!" Young Mike chimed in.

Patrick bent to ruffle the boy's hair. "Mind your tongue, lad. You're the man of the house tonight. Someone has to stay and take care of your Mother."

Maggy felt a glow of pride at the closeness between her husband and sons. She visualized that Jerold would eventually be a huge man, since at thirteen years his shoulders were wide and his bone structure heavy. He was tall for his age, but he would never be an athlete for he was all hands and feet. Already he was stockier than any of his schoolmates.

It was almost dark when Patrick and Jerold returned. "Thompson's made his final offer, so he says. It’s $550 for all of the farm tools, the mules and harness. I think we should take it."

"If we sell the cows, pigs and sheep, we should have well over $1000. Can we start anew with that?" Maggy sounded doubtful.

"The railroad agent says the land out west can be bought on payments. We'll just have to make do."

"Pat, it's nearly dark and Mary hasn't come back from visiting your folks." She was suddenly worried.

"Worry wart!" Patrick smiled. "She'll be along soon. She's probably waited to walk home with Ian."

"Yes, but its Saturday night and he may be late. He's been seeing that Quinn girl, you know."

Jerold volunteered, "Ma, I'll walk down the track to meet her."

"Wait a few more minutes," said Patrick. "Then we'll both walk as far as the bridge." He seemed unworried.

As the sky darkened, Mary's sandals made dry scraping sounds on the rough-cut ties. She felt the evening dampness permeating the air, the sudden coolness of it bringing goose bumps. Extending her arms, she stepped to a steel rail and walked for some time, carefully concentrating on her balance. Just ahead, at the trestle spanning the creek, she thought she detected a movement at the edge of the bridge. A sudden chill seemed to tighten her scalp, then chased up and down her spine. Shaking her head forcefully, she put it from her mind. She knew groundhogs and young foxes were plentiful along the coulee. Also she knew that the bridge was a dropping off spot for the hobos who traveled the rails; trains slowed here in preparation for wooding and watering. The tramps seemed a friendly lot, mostly poor Irish, and she occasionally spoke with them. The so-called jungle where they camped was in the heavy brush upstream. She had noted that the vagrants seldom loitered near the tracks and then only when they were boarding or dropping from the slow-moving freights.

The spacing of the timbers and near darkness required concentration, and as Mary walked near the outside edge of the bridge, something forcefully seized her ankle. Unable to regain her balance, she fell heavily to the ties, nearly falling over the edge. Stunned by the impact and growing pain, she slowly regained her wits. She struggled to regain her feet, only to find herself pinned to the trestle by strong arms. A foul odor of sour sweat and tobacco enveloped her as a huge hand closed brutally over her mouth. An arm curled around her waist, jerking her body tight, squeezing the breath from her. She heard the low-grunted words, "Make a sound and I'll kill you!" Then she became aware she was being carried down under the bridge.

In stark horror, Mary realized the man's intent. Her heart pounded wildly and she felt a bitter taste in her mouth as her stomach partially revolted. Feeling her strength fading and realizing her attempts to free herself were futile, she attempted to bite the grimy fingers covering her mouth.

Slamming her brutally to the ground, her assailant grasped the neckline of her dress, savagely ripping it to her waist. Now he was hurting her breasts, his heavy weight almost crushing her. Hands fumbled at her waist, and then wet lips and wiry whiskers ground into her face. Final revulsion came as she became aware of the cold air enclosing her entire body. A frenzied lunge enabled her to bite into flesh, freeing her mouth for one desperate scream. Frantically she scratched at her assailant's face, and then a hammer-like blow struck her temple. Her head seemed to explode in a series of bright, colored flashes that faded into blackness as she became unconscious.

When Ian arrived at his Grandfather's, the elderly man was engrossed in playing an old Scottish ballad. Seeing Ian, he rested his bow. "Been girling again, lad?"

"I stayed a bit to walk Aggy Quinn home."

"Ah, yes, that's the colleen with the wealthy Father who owns the big hotel."

"Gramps, you've got a sneaky mind!" Ian grinned at his Grandfather's allusion.

Kate burst into laughter. "Yes, he's always looking for filthy lucre. It's that Scottish upbringing?"

Daniel winked at his grandson. "Scots are lusty men, too." Then he looked contritely at his wife, who smiled back at him.

Kate quipped, "I believe when the Hanoverians took away the Scots' kilts and forced them to wear trousers, they were warmed overmuch! That bragging sounds like blarney to me."

After the general laughter in which even Daniel took a part, she turned to Ian. "Mary left only minutes ago. She waited awhile; you can probably catch her."

"Not likely, but I'll not be delayin'. See you Monday." Ian turned and headed toward the tracks.

He found the sunset fading rapidly, so much so that it was becoming difficult to see the wooden ties as he approached the bridge. Suddenly he heard a scream pierce the near darkness; he instantly knew it was Mary's voice. Panicking, he ran with a burst of speed, only to trip and fall heavily between the rails. Momentarily stunned, he wasted seconds to gather his strength. Then, switching to the outside of the rails, he broke into a limping run.

Just as he reached the bridge, he detected gasping sounds from underneath the span. Sensing that someone was hurting his sister, he frantically sought a weapon. Then he remembered the spare rails and splice plates that hung just off the end of the bridge. Seizing the end of a plate, he attempted to wrench it loose from the bundle, only to find it securely wired. Putting his foot against the pack, he wrenched furiously, managing to free one end. Twisting the angle, Ian broke the remaining wire. Creeping cautiously down the creek bank toward the sound his foot caught on a protruding stone. As he recovered his balance the slight sound must have warned his adversary.

In the semi-darkness a man's shadow suddenly loomed up before him. Judging the distance, Ian stepped forward and swung the heavy iron with all his strength. Its solid strike made a dull, meaty sound, and the man he struck dropped almost soundlessly. Throwing the weapon aside, Ian fell to his knees to find Mary's assailant lying across her body. In the dim light he frantically rolled the man aside.

"Mary! Mary! It's me! It's Ian! Everything is fine. I'm here -- you're safe now!" Putting his arm around her shoulders, he raised her to a sitting position. For seconds he feared she was dead, but then he felt a convulsive shudder and detected her attempts to breathe. As she slowly regained consciousness, her body movements became more perceptible.

"It's me, Ian, you're safe now!"

The sound of his voice, as well as the effect of his raising her to a sitting position, served to bring her slowly to her senses. At first she was confused, but little by little normalcy returned and she realized this was her brother. She was sobbing and gasping, seemingly unable to gain a full breath. Then she seized his neck tightly with both arms, squeezing him fiercely. As seconds passed, awareness came to her that she was naked. She felt the warmth of Ian's chest and arms, but the rest of her body seemed almost frigid.

Ian, sensing her uneasiness, nervously released her. "Just a minute, I'll give you my shirt." Removing his work-stained shirt, he draped it over her shoulders and helped her find the sleeves. As he was attempting to button it, she began wildly groping on the ground.

"Hold still! What's the matter?"

"I've got to find my clothes; I can't go home like this!" Hunting feverishly, she found her dress, only to discover it badly torn. Trying to stand, she was suddenly conscious that her trembling legs would hardly respond to her effort. She finally managed to step into the torn skirt and, using the remnants, made a crude belt.

"Did he . . . well, you know . . .”

She began sobbing again. "No! Thank God! No! But he was trying! The scut!"

In the dim light she became aware of the form lying near her feet. "What about him? What did you do to him? Is he dead?"

"Leave the bastard!"

"What about the law?"

"What about it? Do you want everyone to know about this?"

She shuddered, "No! Love of God, no! Let's get out of here."

Together they clambered up the bank to the tracks, and, with Ian’s arm supporting her, they began the final mile home.

Suddenly she stopped to clasp him fiercely, "Ian, you saved me!"

Breaking away, he said, "Let's get home. Pa and Ma will be worried sick about you."

"What will we tell them?"

"The truth. What else?" Then he worried aloud. "I think that tramp is dead. I wonder what Pa will say?

Mary's appearance created near havoc when they entered the house. Even Ian was shocked when he saw his sister's face in the lamplight. One of her eyes was nearly swollen shut and her face was discolored, dirty and bloody. Even the hair on the back of her head was impregnated with mud.

As Maggy rushed to Mary, she screamed, "Lord in heaven, what has happened?"

Ian attempted to explain while Mary tearfully added details of the attack. Hurriedly, Maggy placed Mary in a chair and ordered Jerold to chip a pan of ice. Moments later she tenderly wiped the filth from Mary's face and applied cold cloths to reduce the swelling.

Patrick was upset, and began to berate Mary. "Lass, you were warned again and again about hoboes and being out after dark!"

Maggy turned to him angrily. "Enough of that talk, Pat. It's lucky we are that she's alive. God in his mercy sent our son to her. Let's not cry over spilt milk."

Her words and fierce manner served to calm him and he hugged the sobbing Mary. "No more tears darlin'. It's glad I am that you're home safe." Turning to his wife, he said grimly, "All the more reason to leave this damned place."

Mary shrugged from her Father's arms. "I've got to bathe; I'm filthy and I feel dirty all over."

Maggy looked at her sympathetically, and then turned to Jerold. "Fetch the washtub. You, Ian, heat water for her bath."

Minutes later Maggy shooed the men from the kitchen so Mary could undress.

Upon leaving the kitchen, Patrick questioned Ian carefully. "Are you sure you killed that scum?"

"I believe so Pa. I hit him as hard as I could; he sure didn't move afterward."

"Good! Then he'll still be there in the morning. No sense getting the neighbors up over it. Early tomorrow morning we'll have a look. Then I'll notify the magistrate in town. There shouldn't be any trouble about it, except for the possibility of an investigation. Also there may be talk . . . " Then a grim look appeared on his face. "And to hell with them that talk, I say!"

Mary felt her pain subside as she sank into the warm water of the wooden tub. Leaning back, her confidence and poise began to return. She closed her eyes and wiled away the horror of the past hour.

"Some men act like rutting beasts with women," her Mother broke in, "but some, like your Father, are gentle and kind. Don't attach too much importance to the act of that horrible man. Rather, take it as a warning to be more careful in the future. You're getting to be a young lady now. Someday you'll become a woman, a beautiful woman. But it's the beauty in your heart that's important. You already have that."

It was true. Mary had filled out this past winter from a coltish girl to an almost mature woman. Her thin, angular arms and legs had rounded, and no longer did she have the beanpole look. Her breasts had budded to fullness and were especially accentuated by her small waist.

Mary's voice was partially muffled from under the cold washcloth she was holding to her face. "I was really scared when that man grabbed me. Ma, I may seem naive, but I'm not simpleminded! Thank the Lord Ian was close behind me. I believe the man would have killed me. Now that I'm home with you and Pa, I'm not afraid anymore." Inwardly, she was content to relax, and she leaned forward as her Mother rinsed her hair. The fright of her experience seemed to be drifting away. Now, it seemed like a bad dream.

As Maggy knelt by the tub rinsing Mary's hair, she found herself almost breathless. She had bitten her lip and could taste the blood. How dare that filth attack my daughter! It's well Ian killed him. She could barely control her emotion when she thought of her daughter's narrow escape. She had no doubt the man would have disposed of Mary after using her. How am I to explain to Mary that this mustn't make a difference in her life? It's going to be a long time before she'll trust another man to put a hand upon her. Her thoughts turned to her own wedding night when Pat had introduced her to the carnal delights. She had been naive and bashful at first, then a willing and enthusiastic partner. For weeks it had bothered her that Pat had been experienced; later, she was almost grateful that he had been masterful, as he had never frightened her.

Maggy remembered nothing of her own mother because she had died before Maggy was old enough to remember, but her thoughts often returned to the years spent with her father. She remembered the harsh demands and rebukes, and the paltry meals due to his impoverished parish. Also the many hours she was forced to memorize biblical passages, from St. Matthew, the Psalms, and the Proverbs. She recalled her father's entreaty: "Remember them all, Margaret: they will lead you to the right path." A fire and brimstone preacher, he had been a strict disciplinarian. He had disapproved of her marriage to Pat, and she had not seen or heard from him these past twenty years.

Pat's plan to move west met with her full approval, and she had little fear of the future. After all, weren't both she and Pat fit and able to work? Their children were all healthy and hardy, needing no mollycoddling.

A smile of pride crept over Maggy's face as she toweled Mary's heavy mop of hair. Her daughter had turned into a beauty this past year, far surpassing her own plainness. She handed Mary a towel and said, "Dry yourself quickly. The kitchen is getting chilly. I'll fetch a robe for you."

There was little sleep that night. Maggy had moved in with Mary to give her a feeling of security; Pat found himself sleeping alone.

When the sun broke over the horizon the next morning, it seemed to dispel the horror of the past night. Before the rest of the family awoke, Patrick and Ian were up and Pat quickly made coffee. Ian watched silently as his father approached the closet and removed his shotgun. As he carefully loaded it and placed a cap on each nipple, he glanced at his son, who rose and walked expectantly to the door. Quietly they left the house and headed for the bridge.

Stopping in the middle of the span, Ian pointed. "He's over there."

"Where is he?"

"Well, he was there last night."

"We'll go down and have a look."

Crossing the span they cautiously descended to the edge of the creek. There, imprinted in the soft mud, were unmistakable signs showing the outline of a man's body. There was also a copious amount of congealed and dried blood by the shoulder imprint.

"The bastard must be alive!" Patrick muttered.

"Or someone carried him off!"

Squatting down, Patrick pointed, "No, those are his hand prints where he raised himself up. See, also the marks of his knees." Turning, he said, "You go back to the farm. I'll go into town and see the law."

There was no church for the McLaren family that Sunday morning, for Mary's swollen face required Maggy's full attention. Patrick failed to return until it was nearly the supper hour; he was tired and discouraged. "When I spoke with the police they immediately began a search, but with no luck. They think he caught one of the freight trains. They're still hopeful of catching him."

Chuck Walker
1 - Charles H. Walker remained in the Army Reserve after serving in World War II. He spent ten exciting years as a bush pilot in Ontario, Canada, before returning to the United States and serving for twelve years as a county commissioner. Now retired, Walker concentrates on writing historically accurate stories about the military and pioneering. He lives in Pembina, North Dakota. - From About Author on page about Chuck's Combat Officer memoir, also highly recommended...

Saturday, April 25, 2009

The Mighty Red

With the recent flood still firmly in everyone's memory (and for some, it's still a very current situation, in the northern end of the valley...), I thought I would share some interesting articles about the Red River of the North...
1825 had been a very good year at Red River. The community was growing and upgrading itself. Forty-two new homes were built in six months. The severe mouse infestation had been the only discouraging event.

The problems had begun during the winter. There had been a giant snow during December 1825. The Metis and Indians wintering in Pembina were near starvation. [Alexander] Ross visited Pembina in February and saw it first hand. A relief effort by individuals and the HBC sent many dog teams south with food and supplies. But many perished, especially in the harsh winter that year. Those that were found alive had devoured their horses, dogs, raw hides, leather and their shoes. The winter continued to bring much snow and temperatures reaching -45. The ice was five feet seven inches thick.

On May 2, 1826, the water rose 9 feet in 24 hours. On May 4 the river overflowed its banks. On the 5th all the settlers abandoned the colony seeking higher ground. The river would rise for 20 days and in places the settlement had a depth of water estimated at 16 feet. What did they save? First came the cattle then the grain, furniture and utensils. The water reached so high people had to break through the roofs of their houses to salvage what they could. Meanwhile ice flows cut everything in their path.

From The 1826 Flood, by George Siamandas [Winnipeg Time Machine]
A few unique facts about the Red River of the North:
- The Red River Valley is the youngest major land surface in the contiguous United was exposed when glacial Lake Agassiz finished draining about 9,200 years ago, whereas most U.S. rivers are millions of years old.

- A normal river occupies a channel with a floodplain on the sides and valley walls immediately adjacent to the floodplain; the Red occupies a channel in a flat lakebed and the nearest valley walls are miles away, allowing its floodwaters to move "as shallow sheets that meet with other shallow sheets..."

- Unlike most U.S. rivers, the Red flows north - spring thaw starts in the southern valley before the northern valley, causing ice jams, backwater flow, and floods.

- The river slopes like a bowling lane, so gradual it's almost imperceptible to the naked eye. That gives the river a tendency to pool, spilling out as a shallow lake 50-60 miles wide at times.

From Have We Seen a Big Flood? (Fargo Forum, April 12, 2009)

Thursday, April 23, 2009

J.J. Hill Farm in Northcote

My grandmother1 left home at an early age to make her way in the world. She had many older and younger siblings, and with so many mouths to feed, advancing her education just wasn't an option. One of her first jobs was working at the J.J. Hill farm in Northcote. She was a servant girl, helping where help was needed, whether it was the kitchen or the dairy barn.

I contacted the J.J. Hill Reference Library in St. Paul to see if they had any records from the Northcote farm that might reflect her employment there. They did have records from the approximate time period, and were even kind enough to look at other years surrounding the years I estimated she would have worked there, but to no avail. They did, however, explain that sometimes temporary or seasonal workers were not listed the same as regular workers, so she may not have been recorded by name.

One person who was listed by name, however, was my Great Uncle Dick, Richard Fitzpatrick. If you look closely at the page to the left, you'll see his name listed as having worked 11 days at $2 a day - a very respectable wage in those days!  He did not work at the Northcote farm, however, but instead worked on the Humboldt farm (Hill had two farms in our county...)

1 - You could tell she was a daughter of an Irish carpenter. I still have his carpenter's saw box, and use it to hold books I'm reading. It's dark with age, but still strong. His old saw is with me now, part of what I inherited from my parents after they broke up housekeeping in 2001. The wood on the handle has a soft glowing patina from many years of use. Great Grandpa Fitzgerald married a Prince Edward Island wealthy farmer's daughter, took her half-way across a continent to America, where they did whatever they had to, to make a living. All I know of him besides his carpentry is that he died drunk, run over by a train, ground to pieces and decapitated, 5 years after his wife died shortly after giving birth to their 14th child. R.I.P....

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Floods Make Good Neighbors

The border communities of Pembina, ND and Emerson, MB depended on each other for information. Two respondents said they often compared forecasts and used the activities of the other community — such as evacuation and return — as a gauge against which to measure their own activities:
I got everything I ever wanted from Emerson. I just had to call and they were...just wonderful....There was always someone there on the phone to answer [questions] and to tell us what they were doing. And it’s good to be able to get a little support or advice.

I called [Pembina regularly] to see what was happening.
When Pembina evacuated, the town offered their sandbags to Emerson. In turn, Emerson helped North Dakota residents load sandbags while their Canadian workers were loading their own bags. These American and Canadian elected officials recalled:
At the time, we left the extra sandbags and it was a way of helping Emerson...They didn’t take that many, and then they helped load up, a few of the rural people who came to get sandbags, they helped them load up and it worked out fine. We sent trucks in from Canada— again, with no customs clearance. We went to Pembina and got three semi-loads of sandbags...As we were loading our trucks, there were some residents from outside Pembina. They were coming in with their pick-up trucks to get sandbags. They didn’t know how to run the pallet fork so our operator would stop taking, putting sandbags in our trailer, and go over there and put one in the back of [their truck] and then go back to load and then turn around and then another farmer would come...There was no country there. They weren’t saying, “Hey, what’s that Canadian doing driving our forklift!” They were just happy for someone to put a pallet of sandbags on the back of their truck and away they went.
Some American citizens who depended on Manitoban hospitality actually assisted another Canadian operation. According to one respondent:
Prior to [Emerson’s] evacuation, we had people from Grand Forks [who had] already lost their homes [who] were heading to Winnipeg. I guess to take the invitation of Mayor Thompson and I guess some of the service groups here to stay [in Winnipeg]. [They were] coming up [Interstate 29] and, seeing the sandbagging initiatives from the duty free shop, pulled in and stopped, took their shirts off, and started sandbagging with us. And they said, “We already lost our homes. We’ve got nothing to do once we get to Winnipeg. We wouldn’t mind, you know, spending six to eight hours here helping you guys on the way.”....So there were Canadians and Americans working side by side.
Canada and the United States assisted each other when such activities served the overall interests of both countries, and because, over time, the social or economic ties within the region have produced a sense of affinity between the province and the states. Three respondents elaborated further:
Minnesota, North Dakota, and Manitoba are probably [more of a]community than we are with let’s say some of our sister provinces. You know, like it or not, that’s the truth. A lot of camaraderie and a lot of common ground.
They’re very good neighbors to us.
A lot of Manitobans and Winnipeggers go to Grand Forks to shop or just to have a get away, and similarly, so do Grand Forks people come to Winnipeg. In some ways there’s more affinity between these two cities than there is, you know, across [the country].
Manitoba, North Dakota, and Minnesota are physically and symbolically connected by the Red River. Valley residents viewed these three sub-national governments not only as adjoining jurisdictions but also as neighbors. Generally speaking, Canadians and Americans were willing to do what they could to help their neighboring country. These instances of cross-border assistance occurred on individual, collective, and organizational levels, and were particularly evident in border communities.


submitted to the
International Joint Commission
Ottawa / Washington

Tricia Wachtendorf

Disaster Research Center
University of Delaware
January 2000

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Sheriff Charley Brown: The Final Chapter

Well here we are, dear readers, at the final chapter of our tale. And a great tale it has been, about a real place, a real time, and real people. About our own history, told by a local man - a descendent of the main character. While it has a sad ending, there is joy and healing, too. But that is getting ahead of ourselves. It's better if you read it for yourselves...

After the dinner party on Tuesday evening, hosted by Ian and Susan, Marguerite was exhausted. She had been on the go since early morning. She had approached Susan late that evening about another trip to Pembina on Wednesday afternoon, but Susan had questioned. "Do you think it wise?"

"Look, I'm not in love with Charley any longer, but we have had our feelings. And many of them have not gone away. Perhaps it's fortunate we didn't marry, but you don't evade someone because they are sick. Charley has little time left, I just hope I can ease his mind a bit."

Susan conceded, "Then let's go over shortly after lunch. Most of the fieldwork is done, the men are now plowing and hauling grain. Ian's mother and I should be done feeding the crew and cleaning up by two o'clock. Are you going to take Paula along?"

Marguerite knew Susan had no suspicion of Paula's birth; her mother would never disclose that secret. "Perhaps I should, I'd like John Kabernagle and some of my friends in Pembina to see her. After all, I'm mighty proud of Paula!"

On Wednesday afternoon, after the chores were done, Susan put the light harness on their buggy horse. Paula was allowed to help Marguerite lift the shafts as Susan backed the horse to the two-seater.

Crossing on the ferry took only a short while, and Marguerite enjoyed the few minutes speaking with Trudo, the ferryman. When Susan swung the buggy around in front of Charley and John's saloon, John stepped from the door.

"I see there are three lovely ladies to see my partner today. Hello Susan! I hardly see you anymore."

"It's the harvest, John, I've been tied down feeding the threshers. How are Hannah and the girls?"

"Same as ever, Hannah is teaching, and the girls are looking forward to going away for more schooling." John bent to reach out his hand to Paula. "And who is this beautiful young lady who is chaperoning you two?"

Paula spoke up boldly, "My name is Paula Evans, and I'm two and a half years old!" She reached up to take John's hand.

John smiled, "My-my! Nearly three years already; you are growing up mighty fast."

Marguerite spoke up, "I want to show her off to Charley. Is the way clear, upstairs?"

John laughed, "I believe Doc Harris is up there with Charley, but go ahead anyway."

Entering Charley's rooms they heard voices from the bedroom. Marguerite spoke up forcefully, "Can we enter?"

Charley's raspy voice came, "Come in! Come in!"

As they entered the room the doctor was just folding his stethoscope. Charley spoke weakly, "Charles, this is Marguerite Evans and Susan McLaren. If I were to guess, I suspect this lovely little girl is Marguerite's daughter - they look alike. The ladies are old friends who have come to visit this old wreck. Girls, this is my cousin, Doctor Charles Harris."

After greetings were exchanged Paula looked at the doctor quizzically, "Are you a real doctor? I've never seen a real doctor. What is that thing in your hand?"

"Sit on the edge of this bed and I'll show you." Removing a handkerchief from his pocket he carefully wiped the earplugs. "Now I'll put this on your head and you can hear your heart beat." As he carefully put the plugs to her ears and the device to her chest, the expression on her face changed to wonderment.

She said, "It goes lip-tup, lip-tup."

Removing the stethoscope, the doctor said, "That is what your heart sounds like inside you. You can't hear it, but it's working all the time."

After a further minute or two of conversation the doctor left. Marguerite went into the kitchen to get a second chair. After a few minutes of conversation Susan felt unwanted, she finally stood and said, "I've got to stop at the druggist for mother. I'll see you outside when you're done visiting." Smiling at Charley, she added, "You three have a good visit."

Charley made a fuss over Paula; he was obviously surprised at her vocabulary and grasp of words. He bantered back and forth with her while Marguerite watched anxiously. She remembered only too well Charley's remark on Monday, when he had said; I wish she were my child. She had held her breath for moments after his utterance, afraid now that he might be as intuitive as her Mother. Thank the Lord, he was not.

After a half hour Marguerite mentioned that Susan was undoubtedly waiting for them. Paula seemed reluctant to leave, but finally she and Charley shook hands. The serious expression on their faces caused Marguerite concern.

As they were about to leave, he said to Paula, "Are you coming to see me again?'

Margurite spoke up, "I'll try again on Friday or Saturday, as we’re leaving on Monday. I want to see the Geroux's and some others here in town. I don't know when we'll ever get back to St. Vincent again, probably not for a year or more."

When she mentioned her meeting with Charley to her mother, her mother said nothing, just gazed at her without a word. Eventually another subject came up, and the moment passed. Marguerite had promised herself she would never disclose her secret, but was it fair to Charley? Would it make him any happier? If she did tell him, would he keep her secret?

After a half hour of reminiscing, she decided to visit him again on Friday afternoon.

On Thursday Marguerite and Susan visited on the St. Vincent side of the river. They also took a late afternoon lunch out to the men who were plowing. Ian teased Susan, "I suppose you'll expect us to plow late tonight." He turned to Marguerite, "She's a slave driver, but she keeps me honest."

Marguerite had mentioned to all that she would be going to make a last visit to see Charley on Friday afternoon. Her mother had responded, saying, "I would like to go along with you if you don't mind. I'll take the day off from work at the fort and spend a few moments with Charley, then I'll leave you two to mull things over."

Puzzled over her mother's sudden interest, Marguerite hoped her mother had no plans to interfere. As it turned out, Annette did make her excuses after a short visit, leaving the three deep in conversation. Paula on the edge of his bed was avidly studying Charley’s collection of miniature horses while he explained the detailing. Both Charley and Marguerite carefully sidestepped any mention of intimate moments they had shared, discussing the good times, and associations with friends. Charley confided some of his business interests, intimating his cousin Charles was to wind them up after he was gone.

When they parted, Charley insisted Paula take the two small wooden horses she admired the most. Clutching them to her chest she bent to give him a fleeting hug, then kissed him on the cheek. Marguerite, tears showing, bent over to smooth back his hair. Grasping his shoulders, she kissed him on the lips.

As they stood to leave, he murmured, "Those are the two best kisses I've ever had!”

All Friday night and Saturday Marguerite's conscience bothered her. It wasn't until Sunday, after church service, that she made her decision. She borrowed Ian and Susan's buggy and drove back over to see Charley. He was awake when she walked up to his rooms shortly after the noon hour. "I've come to see you a final time. I want to tell you something, but you've got to promise me to keep it a secret. You must swear to me never to divulge what I tell you."

He spoke jestingly, "I'll promise! I'll carry it to my grave. It must be important for you to see me again."

Marguerite's mind was in turmoil, tears began to show as she sat on the edge of his bed. She bent over to clutch him.

Confused, he asked, "What is it, dearest?"

She blurted out, "Paula is your daughter! After that picnic south of the fort, and that same night in this room, I became pregnant. I didn't know it until after I was in Chicago and was married. I've been at wit's end, whether or not to tell you."

For long seconds he was silent, absorbing it all, then he said, "So that's why she and I took to each other instantly, we're so much alike." He twisted his body to face her fully, "I'm proud of you both, and you are right. This must remain a secret. You have a successful marriage and a career to consider."

"Yes, my life with Paul has been a happy one, and as I told you, I am pregnant again."

He attempted to squeeze her hand. "I'm glad you told me, at least I'll be leaving a bit of me." He lay back weakly, musing, as if to himself, his voice hardly audible, "What a stupid man I was, not marrying this fine girl."

Marguerite could see he was drifting into sleep. When he was obviously asleep, she slipped away.

By Monday noon Marguerite and Paula were on their way to Chicago. That afternoon a large bouquet of wild flowers was delivered to Charley. The printing was crude, printed in large block letters. It simply read, “Paula” ...


PEMBINA PIONEER EXPRESS, October 18, l884 Obituary Notice - Charles J. Brown. Although for weeks the demise of C.J.Brown was looked for almost hourly, yet the news of his death last Saturday evening cast a gloom over the town and county. Looking back a few short months it seems but yesterday when we saw him in full health and vigor, attending to the duties of his office as Sheriff of Pembina County, but the place which knew him once shall no more. The subject of the sketch was born at Berlinsburg, West Virginia, August 14, l845. His father, Thomas Brown was sheriff of Berkley County, W. Virginia, for twelve years, and his grandfather on his mother's side was Admiral Boarman of the U.S. Navy. In l861 he enlisted as a soldier and served till the end of the war, and although he fought in many bloody battles, was captured and imprisoned, he escaped without a wound. At the close of the war he engaged in mercantile pursuits in his native state, but only for a year, when he again enlisted as soldier at Baton Rouge, Louisiana. His regiment was transferred to Fort Pembina in the year l870. In l875 he left the Army and his subsequent life in Pembina County is too well known to require further detail. The funeral last Monday was very largely attended, people assembling from all parts of the county to show their respect for the deceased. The body was interred with Masonic honors, and a company of soldiers from Fort Pembina also joined the procession. Of Chas J. Brown it may be said, he had many friends and few enemies. In his official capacity he never showed a disposition to render any harsher the decrees of the law which it was his duty to execute. With pronounced criminals he was decided and prompt in his treatment, but an element of misfortune always awakened his sympathy and consideration.

Card of thanks: I desire to thank the many kind friends who assisted me in my hour of trouble, the Masonic fraternity, the military and others, who so kindly performed the last sad rites in honor of my deceased son. Mrs. E. R. Brown.


During my high school years I was raised by my Grandfather, Doctor Charles Boarman Harris, and my Grandmother, Katherine. They were very secretive about Charley's daughter, due to their strict, moral standards. However, I did discover that Charley, just prior to his passing, had charged my Grandfather with the final disposition of his assets, the proceeds to be sent to the young girl for her education and use. That was many years ago. At the time of my teens, she would have been nearly 48 years of age.

Although my grandparents had lost track of her over the years, they often spoke kindly of both she and her Mother. I often heard them express concern over her life, and possible children she may have had.

Charles H. Walker, author of Sheriff Charley Brown

Saturday, April 18, 2009

1950 Flood from the Air

St. Vincent during the 1950 flood, courtesy of William Ash...

View is from southeast looking northwest. To my trained eye I can locate and identify Short's Cafe, Friebohle's Garage, the Firehall, the Valley Church (which became an EFC church my family attended eventually), my grandparents' house, the curling rink, the old depot's stockpen and barn...and I notice there is no quonset yet, and the bridge over the river is not the one I grew up with, so I am assuming it was yet to be built sometime later in the decade.

Friday, April 17, 2009

NASA Satellite Image of Red River

A fascinating satellite image of Fargo/Moorhead during the heighth of the recent flood. Be sure and take a look at the high-resolution version of the image...

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Pembina Island

Welcome to Pembina Island!

I received this image of the current flood from Chuck Walker yesterday. I don't know who took it, but it's taken from the west looking east. I-29 is at bottom, then Pembina, the Red River of the North, and St. Vincent. You can see the Junction if you know where to look above St. Vincent, and then you hit the farm land which finally fades into the horizon. Somewhere in that patchwork of farm fields, the United States gives way to Canada. In other words, the photo shows parts of one continent, two countries, and three states/provinces. Whoever took this photo, it's a great shot!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Border Store

This is the Rustad store in Noyes that was owned and run by great Uncle Carl Rustad and his wife Aagot. It was a store/post office. Carmen Curtis later ran the store for many years and it was a fixture in Noyes from the 1940s through the 1960s and beyond. - Mike Rustad

Frank and Grace Surface were the two that ran it when I knew it, in the late 1960's and 1970's - by then, the post office had moved across the street where Carmen was still the postmaster, but the store remained in this same building. Many a week, on the way to my piano lessons in Emerson, my Dad would stop there to let me get a treat or a comic book. Behind it was the Noyes Depot where my Dad worked for many years...

Monday, April 13, 2009

The Beaver Club

The Beaver Club was instituted at Montreal in the year 1785, by the merchants then carrying on the Indian trade of Canada. Originally the club consisted of but nineteen members, all vovageurs, having wintered in the Indian Country, and having been in the trade from their youth...The object of the meetings (as set forth in the rules) was “to bring together, at stated periods, during the winter season, a set of men highly respectable in society, who had passed their best days in a savage country and had encountered the difficulties and dangers incident to a pursuit of the fur trade of Canada.”

The members recounted the perils they had passed through and after passing around the Indian emblem of peace (the calumet), the officer appointed for the purpose, made a suitable harangue."

Who were these men?

Area pioneers Peter Grant, Alexander Henry, Charles Chaboillez were all charter members of the club...

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Like Living on the Nile Delta...

Netley Marsh / Lake WinnipegThe flood legacy of the Red River of the North...
FROM its humble origins as the small Bois de Sioux River along the South Dakota-Minnesota border, the Red River of the North grows wider and deeper until it eventually fans out into a delta at Manitoba’s Netley Marsh1 and flows into Lake Winnipeg. From A Gathering of Waters
A fascinating article from the Winnipeg Free Press, I learned more than a thing or two about my old friend, the Red River.

1 - Netley Marsh is one of the largest waterfowl breeding grounds in North America, the permanent home of 18 varieties of duck as well as of geese, herons, pelicans, terns and various kinds of diver. In spring the population is swollen by thousands of migratory birds. [Planetware]

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Sheriff Charley Brown: Chapter 33

Dear Readers, we are almost to the end of the true tale of Sheriff Charley Brown.

As we head into the homestretch, there is sad news for Charley. Margerite comes home for a visit, which in turn makes Charley realize his missed chance at happiness, and forces a difficult but necessary decision on Margerite to tell Charley the truth...

April, l884

During the next two years Charley gradually resumed a casual relationship with his mother, primarily due to family pressure. In late February he found himself experiencing gradually increasing stomach cramps. He consulted his cousin for an answer.

After a serious study Charles told him, "Charley, I can feel a firm lump inside your abdomen, it shouldn't be there. You say your stomach is mighty sore. It's got to be some sort of foreign growth. I suggest you go east to Philadelphia as soon as possible for treatment. I've heard they specialize in internal growths such as this. I believe it would be prudent you take this trip. There isn't a thing I can do except open you up, and that would be stupid under the circumstances."

"Is it cancer?" Charley had a gaunt, questioning look.

Knowing well how worry could bring a person to an emotional collapse, Charles attempted to ease his mind. "It might be just a benign growth, let's hope so. Still, I'd rather you take the trip now, don't wait."

On Sunday, April 8, Charley and his mother boarded the cars at St. Vincent for their return to Philadelphia. Charley left Deputy Sheriff Frazer in charge. The Pioneer Express newspaper read: "It is learned that the trip of Sheriff Brown will benefit his health which is in a somewhat critical state. The sheriff's many friends will hope that he may return ere long, fully restored."

Dr. Charles Harris found himself busy with many trips to Walhalla since a new epidemic of smallpox had begun in the fall of '83 and continued. He did his best, but still lost eight patients before the year was out. It seemed the Métis and Indians had little natural resistance to the disease. They also ignored all quarantine rules.

During early June Paul and Marguerite decided their small house was too confining. They searched on weekends, examining many new homes under construction; they wanted to live near the lakeshore. They finally settled on a two-story, brick home, located on a large corner lot. Marguerite was thrilled with the floor plan.

"Paul, this back room on the north side has large windows. The light is just right for my painting. Do you mind?"

Lowering Paula to the floor, he began to laugh, "Heavens, with this huge house we'll have to find some way to fill it up. Do you have any plans in mind?"

Marguerite turned, smiling roguishly, "Paula is two years old. Don't you think you'd better get busy!"

She had never found time to return back home to the Territory, but now a sudden fretfulness came. She became anxious to see her family and show off her daughter. She discussed it with Paul. At the time his factory was expanding and he was swamped with work. He said, "I can't find the time this summer, but why don't you and Paula go? You have been spending so much time on your work that a trip home would be a vacation. I can arrange the tickets. Do you want to go?"

They finally decided she and Paula would leave in late September. She wrote her mother of their plans.
August 3, l884

Dear Mother and all,

Paula and I will be visiting you for a week in late September if our plans work out. I am so looking forward to going home. It will be so wonderful to see you all again. It has been much too long! I know I promised to visit years ago. Golly, it has been over three years since I left for Chicago. So much has happened that it will take me hours to explain the events.

Paul is unable to come because of his work with the company. However, he has arranged for our tickets for mid-September.

I haven’t told Paul my little secret yet. I think I am pregnant again; I hope it will be a boy this time.

Susan and Ian's daughter, Betsy, will be nearly the same age as Paula. I know they will hit it off well. Oh, there is so much I've missed being away all these years, but it just wasn't possible to get away before now.

The men must be at harvest, but I will see them in the evenings. At least from our correspondence I am fairly well acquainted with events there.

Paula is precocious, much like Susan when she was a little girl. She loves animals, especially dogs, cats and horses. She is a chatterbox and inquisitive. She will love St. Vincent and the children. I'll have to watch her carefully because of animals and the river.

Gee, when Susan and I were young how we used to play along the river with crayfish and watch the men fish from shore. It seems so long ago -- there is nothing like that here. I never thought I'd live, or even like living in a city, but that's all changed. Now my life is centered on Paul, Paula and my painting.

We are leaving Chicago on the evening of September 10 we should be in St. Vincent on Friday morning, shortly after 7:00 a.m. I am so excited -- I'm afraid the week will be much too short.

Love, Marguerite.
Word of Margurite's arrival had been passed to many of her friends in St. Vincent. Several were on hand to greet her return. Long moments after the train pulled to a stop, everyone waited expectantly until the brakeman finally opened a car door, then descended the steps to drop the metal step-stool on the platform.

Marguerite was the first to appear; she was carrying two bulging carpetbags. Seconds later she was followed by a smiling porter who helped Paula descend the high steps. Annette rushed forward to take her daughter in her arms, while Susan, smiling, bent over to pick up Paula. After all the well wishes were exchanged, Ian drove the family to Annette's house. After dropping them from the buggy, he said to Marguerite, "I'll go back to the depot and get your luggage."

Marguerite laughed, "I have none, my two carpetbags will suffice -- I'm only staying a week."

Susan protested, "Not if we can help it, a week isn't enough. You've three and a half years of your life to account for. We want to hear every bit of it."

While Susan went into the kitchen to prepare coffee, all eyes turned to Paula and Betsy, Susan's daughter. They were playing with Betsy's dolls. The two girls looked like twins, both were the same size and coloring. The only difference discernible was their hair. Paula's was a light brown while Betsy's was shiny ebony.

A few minutes later, when Annette held Paula on her lap, Marguerite noticed the intense expression on her mother's face. It wasn't until the next morning when they were eating breakfast together that her mother finally asked, "When was Paula born?"

Marguerite found herself upset at the question, and hesitated momentarily before answering. "In April of '82, why do you ask? Inwardly, she knew the answer, for her mother's intuition had always been uncanny.

Her mother replied softly, "I think you know." She slipped Paula from her lap to the floor. "Paula, why don't you run upstairs and find the kitty." As the child climbed the stairs, she asked quietly, "Does Paul know?"

Marguerite felt a heavy, crushing weight descending upon her. There was no use trying to evade the truth. "No Mother, and he'll never find out from me. It happened about two weeks before I left for Chicago. Now I am pregnant again, and with Paul's child. It will be born near the end of March, this coming year.”

"Did you know that Charlie is dying?"

Marguerite drew in a deep breath, and then stiffened, shock set in. For moments she was speechless, unable to catch her breath. Slowly recovering, she asked, "How do you know?"

"He's been sick for months. His condition has been in the local papers. He also went back East for treatment. I met his cousin, Doctor Harris, some time ago. He said Charley was very ill. I did go over to visit Charley two weeks ago. He is very thin and has a yellow cast. He insists in staying in his rooms over the saloon. Of course he asked about you. I told him you had a daughter, and seemed happy. He seemed content to hear that."

The guilt and remorse Marguerite had built up the past years since she left St. Vincent finally reached the breaking point. Her hands flew to her face and she broke into sobs. Tears flowed between her fingers as she cried, "My God! And I left him alone!"

Annette anxiously watched this sudden collapse of her daughter. Finally Marguerite seemed to pull herself together. Wiping the tears away with a finger, she asked, "Do you think I should see him?"

Long moments passed as her mother looked at her reflectively, "Do you really want to? Do you still love him?"

"Mother, I loved him very much at one time, but it didn't work out. He wasn't the marrying kind. I love Paul now, and always will. He is so kind and thoughtful; we have a wonderful relationship together. I'm not going to upset that!"

Annette said, "Ian has been over to see Charley several times. Of course they have been good friends these past years. I really believe you should see Charley. I think he has regrets he would like to share with you. It would be a kindness, and possibly cheer him up."

Marguerite considered the idea. "I wonder what would be the best time. I certainly don't want to run into his mother."

On the second afternoon she and Susan took a buggy to Pembina; Susan was to shop while Marguerite visited with Charley. To be on the safe side she stopped at the saloon to speak with John. He was excited to see her when she appeared at the door.

"My gosh! Marguerite! You're more beautiful than ever! I heard you were home for a few days. Are you going upstairs to see Charley?"

She smiled, "That was my plan, but I thought I'd see you first and clear the way."

John caught the implication and laughed, "His mother never comes to see him during the day, only in the evenings. I make sure he gets his meals, however much he can eat. Frankly, all he seems to want now is milk. It doesn't look good. Just go upstairs, the door is open."

Marguerite found the staircase hot and stuffy, but the upstairs rooms were bearable. Expecting to hear Charley's voice as she entered, she was disappointed. Looking into the kitchen she saw a heap of dirty dishes. She thought of his mother, "Why doesn't she clean up the sink and table!"

Entering Charley's bedroom she found him asleep. He appeared wan and thin, needing a shave. She was disappointed at his appearance; he had always been so clean-shaven and fastidious in his habits. Why didn’t someone come in to attend him?

She drew up a chair beside his bed. He was in a deep sleep, taking slow, raspy breaths. His hand hung near the edge of the cot and she grasped it gently, finding it almost cold. After moments spent studying his face, she said, "Charley, wake up! You have a visitor!"

Slowly he rolled his head, his eyes gradually opening. He stared for long seconds, then said weakly, "I must be still dreaming. I see my dream in front of me."

Marguerite smiled, "It's no dream Charley. It's really me. I'm just back for a visit to St. Vincent and heard you were ill. I thought you might like to visit.”

As he struggled to sit up, she aided him, putting her arm around his thin shoulders to raise him. Then she placed the pillows behind his back for support.

"There! That better?"

"Better yet if you hand me that glass of water." With both hands he sipped at the glass, studying her intently. "You are more beautiful than ever! It's hell to just lie here in bed and not be able to take you in my arms!"

Marguerite smiled, "Charley, those days are gone forever. I'm married now with a child. Yes, and another on the way too."

Charley snorted, "I was the fool who let you get away. If you had only told me how my Mother treated you, it would have been different."

"You couldn't make up your mind, why not admit it?"

He groaned, "Yes, I was the coward -- so damned proud. If you only knew how many times I've regretted it!"

"It's all water under the bridge. While I'm here, let me get your bed straightened out, then I'll clean up your kitchen."

"Oh my God! Talk with me! To hell with my kitchen and the bed."

"Fine! What will we talk about? It seems we said it all long ago."

He reached out to take her hand. "Tell me about your life in Chicago and about your child. Oh my God! I wish it was my child!"

Marguerite blanched at his outburst, but quickly pulled herself together. She described her daughter and her life in Chicago, leaving out any reference to Paul. She told him mainly of her success at portrait work and her new home.

"And are you happy in the big city?"

She admitted, "It took some getting used to, but I've adjusted to the hustle and bustle. We're getting electric streetcars now, so the horse drawn cars will soon disappear. You must admit there are many advantages to city life."

Releasing her hand she arose from the chair, "I'm going to do some straightening and picking up."

Tucking in his bed she folded the newspapers strewn about on the floor. Going to the kitchen she began heating water for the dishes. Minutes later, she returned to his bedroom. "Do you have enough reading material?"

"John brings up the paper each day and visits for awhile; also my cousin, Charles, occasionally brings me a book."

"I've never met your cousin, isn't he a doctor?"

"Yes, a good one too."

Marguerite glanced at Charley's alarm clock. "It's time to leave. Susan will be waiting in the buggy. She came over with me to do some shopping."

"Will you come again? It's been wonderful seeing you. Now I can chastise myself some more; what a fool I've been!" Reflecting, he added, "Perhaps it's just as well the way it turned out. You have a good man and I'll be meeting my maker. It's funny how things pan out."

"I'll try to get back, but I've a lot of obligations. Somehow I'll make it."

Descending the stairs from Charley's flat she was determined to see the barber and make sure that Charley was shaved and cleaned up.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Visit Home

How to get in and out of Lancaster - Photo by Mike HaubrichRecently, Hallock expatriate Mike Haubrich visited back home and had this to share...
I was up visiting my dad last week in Hallock, Minnesota. The county seat of Kittson County is in the far northwestern corner of the state. With a population of 1200 people, it is not a big town. It is, at that, still the biggest town in the county. I grew up in Hallock, but my parents’ roots are in a far smaller town. Orleans is 10 miles north and, during its heyday, peaked at some fifty people.

Fifty people is not a large enough group around which to build a full social circle. My parents had friends and family in both Humboldt to the west and Lancaster to the east. While I was growing up, my grandparents lived in Lancaster.

Read the rest of the story here...

Sunday, April 05, 2009

Profile: Frank A. Wardwell

A native of Maine, born December 23, 1843, of American parentage, the career of Frank A. Wardwell of Pembina, has been an eventful one, and his reminiscences of adventures on land and sea, would make a chapter of interesting reading both for young and old.

After an academic and normal school education, he went to sea, at the age of seventeen, and was before the mast for seven years. Then he served three years in the United States Navy, and when he came ashore, bade farewell to the Atlantic coast, and cast his lot with the adventurous pioneers to whom the Red River Valley gave promise of an inland empire of inexhaustible resources and destined to become the home of a vast population whose prosperity and progress would challenge the admiration of the world.

This image of the first school house in
ND was located in Pembina -  (1876)
Photo Courtesy of:
State Historical Society of North Dakota
In June 1872 he came to the land of the Dakotas and took a homestead at Hawley. He remained there five years and braved all the hardships that fall In the lot of the pioneer whose faith in the future is often stronger than his strength to endure them. He went to Pembina to teach school being the first teacher in the first public school building erected in this state. This school house was built in Pembina in 1875. He has always made Pembina his home, for the past thirty-one years he has been the editor of the Pembina Pioneer Express, which was established in 1879. "Deacon Wardwell," as he was known to the newspaper fraternity, was one of the truly good men among the editors of the state. From 1881 to 1889 he was treasurer of Pembina county. He was married January 23, 1878, and from that union there were eleven children, four girls and seven boys, of whom four were inm the service of our country overseas.

Mr. Wardwell has ever been interested in the upbuilding of North Dakota and has wielded an influence for good in the community in which he has lived for so many years. He was much interested In the organization of the Historical Association of North Dakota and for a number of years has been director in the Association.

Source: 1919 North Dakota Blue Book

Friday, April 03, 2009

Passing Through

Many people passed through our area, on their way to somewhere else, during the years of early settlement. It is rare to find documentation of such, but below is one...
John H Atchison was born March 23, 1845, near Kelso, Roxburghshire, Scotland. His father was a laboring man who found it hard times to provide for his growing family. Roxburghshire, which is near the border, is a splendid agricultural country. From Kelso, England could be seen any day. Mr. Atchison had an uncle George Atchison, who lived in Stratford, Ontario. One day a stranger appeared in Roxburghshire. He wore a fur coat and a great fur cap. Such garments had never before been seen in that part of Scotland. The Stranger proved to be the uncle from America. He advised his relations to come to America, "where there was free land and a prospect of a home." The advice was taken, and in June, 1862, Mr. Atchison, together with his father, Mother, and brother, left Scotland for the promised land. The went from their home by train to Liverpool, where they took passage to Quebec on the sailing vessel William Rathbone. The captain was part owner of the vessel, and this was his twenty-sixth trip to Quebec. He brought emigrants to America, and returned to England with a cargo of Canadian lumber.

The emigrants were five weeks and three days in passage. One day when a light breeze was blowing, a three-massed schooner passed merrily by the William Rathbone. Later in the day when the wind had risen almost to a gale, they in turn passed the schooner, and cheered lustily. Another day towards the end of voyage, it took the William Rathbone tow days to get past Belle Isle in the St. Lawrence river because of lack of wind and the strong adverse current of the river. The family first went to Stratford, Ontario. Mr. Atchison's father did not like the timber land around Lake Huron that was then open to settlement, and took no claim until he did so in North Dakota.

For seven years Mr. Atchison worked as an ordinary workman on the Grand Trunk Railway, and received $1.10 per day. During this time he married a girl of English parentage. He lived in Georgetown, Ontario, until he came to the United States. In 1874 great changes were made on the Grand Trunk system. large numbers of men were being discharged. As he, too, was likely to be discharged at any time, he decided to stop working on the railroad and take up land in the newly opened west.

At Sault Ste. Marie Mr. Atchison, together with his wife and two small children, boarded a steamboat with the intention of getting off at Port Arthur and going overland to Manitoba. Of this boatload of emigrants, all but the family of Mr. Atchison and a French family did so. They, however, decided to go to Duluth, and thence by rail to Moorhead, Minnesota, because the great crowds made overland transportation extremely difficult. At Moorhead they waited two and one-half days for a boat. The trip to Winnipeg occupied seven and one-half days. Although Mrs. Atchison was in Winnipeg three weeks, none of the emigrants who were to come by the overland route were ever seen by her. While on the Red River at about five o'clock one morning, Mr. Atchison went ashore to buy milk at a nearby farm house. At about ten o'clock that day, after going quite steadily since starting, the boat stopped, and again he went ashore to buy milk at a farm house. The same woman that he had met in the morning came to the door. He said, "I declare, you look just like the woman I met this morning!" Her reply relieved him. "And you are the same man," she said. "You are not the only one to be fooled in that way." The boat had been all the morning going around a large bend in the river.

On arriving at Winnipeg he left his wife and children and went land seeking. He was gone three weeks, but saw no land in Canada that suited him. In July, 1874, he pre-empted land three and one-fourth miles south of the line. It was near Smuggler's Point, and not far from Neche. At Pembina as a boat loaded with land seekers arrived from Moorhead, a man with a revolver in each hand said, "Now, watch!" and began shooting into the air and into the ground. This frightened the people so that none of them would land in the states. On this boat Mr. Atchison returned to Winnipeg for his family. On coming back to Pembina two days later, July 6, 1874, he found the town full of frightened and excited people - the people feared a Massacre (one that came to be known as the Delorme Massacre had occurred the day before on July 5, 1874...) Shortly after they came to Pembina, Mrs. Atchison kept house for Judson LaMoure for two or three weeks.

The Atchison family saw fifty Red River carts come into Pembina with buffalo hides, the best of which sold for $4.50. The spring of 1880 the Mennonites settled the Canadian land near the border. They made dugouts for houses. In the following spring their homes were flooded, and an epidemic of scarlet fever and typhoid fever broke out. The Canadian government then forced them to build above ground.

In the spring of 1876 or 1877 Mr. Atchison commuted his claim, and he made a trip to Fargo, then going by stage. He saw nineteen binders at work on a Dalrymple farm. His trip, which cost him $30, was taken at the advice of a neighboring farmer in Pembina county by the name of Joe Brown. Mr. Atchison had $200 in gold. One dollar in gold brought $1.15 in silver. So he went to a bank in Fargo and exchanged his gold for silver on basis. Then with $230 thus gotten, he bought Agricultural College scrip at 65 cents on the dollar. He then used the scrip at face value to pay for his land.

Mr. Atchison decided to leave Pembina county in 1880. He thought that stock raising would be more profitable than farming, for the price of stock was high. A cow brought from $30 to $50. He sold his land to a Mennonite for $1,200. Mr. Atchison relates how some men in the real estate business in Pembina county induced several of the Mennonites to buy timber land south of the line at a high price, and then when the Mennonites attempted to take their timber across the boundary, were not allowed to with paying heavy duty. The result was that all the Mennonites soon sold the land in Pembina county at a loss to the real estate men who had sold it to them.

With stock raising in view, Mr. Atchison chose land near that of his friend, Alexander Saunders. He paid $70 for Frank Axtell's squatter's right. Mr. Atchison then returned to Pembina and got a team and plow for breaking. In the fall he brought his family and goods to his new home. He came with eighteen head of cattle. He had some difficulty on this journey, for it snowed, and the prairie south of the Goose River had been burned over.

As these early settlers were near the mail route that ran from Valley City to Lee, Mr. Saunders suggested that Mr. Atchison apply for an office. The application was made, and October 24, 1881, the post office of Gallatin was started, with Mr. Atchison as the first post master.

At first they paid the carrier to stop for the mail, but after six months he was obligated to bring the mail. For several years after the railroad came to Cooperstown the mail was carried from Valley City, and later from Cooperstown. The number of persons who got their mail at the Gallatin post office steadily decreased until the rural free delivery displaced the country office. It was discontinued July 14, 1905.
From: State Historical Society - North Dakota Vol. 2 (Porterville File)

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Flood: Tell Your Stories

I am passing on the message I received below from Minnesota Public Radio, because they want to hear from those in Pembina and Kittson counties back home, as you face this year's flood. I encourage any of your from that area that read this to contribute your experiences and observations...
First, thanks for allowing us to send questions to you during these days of the flood. Responses have helped Minnesota Public Radio News reporters in the field hone in on topics to cover.

Now we would like some help as the flood crest moves north. We are trying to find contacts in the Minnesota counties of Polk, Marshall and Kittson and the North Dakota counties of Grand Forks, Traill, Walsh and Pembina.

If you know of someone, please send us any contact information you might comfortable passing along. We'll take it from there. We hope this might aid the reporters in the Red River Valley as they continue to cover the flood.

Thanks again for all your help,

Michael Caputo
Analyst, Public Insight Journalism
American Public Media News
(651) 290-1081