Monday, June 29, 2009

Local Aviators & Aviation History

Carl Ben Eielson - As a member of the Hatton Aero Club, barnstormed around eastern North Dakota and western Minnesota in a club “Jenny” and performed at fairs, baseball games and any place a crowd was willing to watch his acrobatic stunts.

He did some amazing feats, eventually dieing in a plane crash over Siberia while trying to rescue passengers from a ship on the Bering Sea. He had come a long way from North Dakota and his barnstorming days...

Northwest Airlines built an airport in Pembina in 1931. In 1957, when Northwest decided to make non-stop flights from Grand Forks to Winnipeg, the City of Pembina decided to acquire the airport in order to protect its International Airport of Entry status.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

MHS on YouTube: Minnesota on the Map

A fascinating video from the Minnesota Historical Society on Minnesota maps from 16th century through 2009. Especially fun is the mapmaker's assumptions about the mythic Northwest Passage - wishful thinking on his part, as the curator makes note!

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Inhaling Mosquitoes

When Major Samuel Wood descended the Red River in July 1849 (the wet year), he complained while near the Sheyenne River, that his party was "made restive by the mosquitoes ... We camped on the north bank ... during the night, the mosquitoes infested our camp in clouds ... it was impossible to talk without inhaling them" (Wood 1850, 18). Later, near the Salt (Forest) River, Wood wrote, "These pests had become so much worse ... The sufferings of our horses were painful to behold, and irremediable. We made divers smokes about them, which sometimes availed, but at other times did no good" (Wood 1850, 18). The unknown sergeant accompanying Wood noted mosquitoes almost every day, from western Minnesota into North Dakota, and north along the Red River to Pembina, but he believed them worse at Pembina (Babcock 1927). Stevens reported mosquitoes (numerous, annoying, swarms, etc.) all the way from the Bois de Sioux River to the second crossing of the Sheyenne (June 28 to July 15, 1853)(Stevens 1860). Members of the first Fisk expedition also noted mosquitoes on the Sheyenne River in early July 1862 (Bond 1862), but not by the second expedition in 1863, or by any of the military expeditions of 1863 or 1864 (Fisk 1863, 1864). Captain Crossman, the commander at Fort Ransom, noted, in 1867, that the "mosquitoes were something terrific. In all my experiences in Texas, Louisiana, and other places, I never saw anything to compare with the mosquitoes of Dakota and Minnesota. They actually made life a burden" (Crossman 1895, n.p.). Mosquitoes were, like today, more common along the river bottoms and other moist areas. Wood made an attempt to avoid them by camping on a high ridge because "we were fearful of going into the bottoms, on account of the mosquitoes" (Wood 1850, 18). Early settlers also were sometimes plagued, as Arnold described circumstances in Grand Forks County, 1880, when ranchers had to "smudge the cattle" to protect them from mosquitoes (Arnold 1921, 34).

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Bordertowns: Chapter 5

Jerold was proud of the three mules Ian had purchased. They pulled well together and were fast becoming pets. Occasionally Jerold would pick small bunches of the delicate sweet-grass and hold it out to them. Their flop ears stood straight as they vied with one another, greedily stretching their necks to seize the morsel from his hand. The new breaking plow was his joy, and after each day's use, he wiped the gleaming share with an oily rag to prevent rust; then he carefully greased the wheels.

At his request Ian approached a local blacksmith, and together Ian and the smith made a twelve-foot harrow with an oak frame and steel teeth. Jerold was determined to fall plow the next year's acreage quota in addition to the oat land which he would cut for their future winter's hay. He reasoned the frost would break up the large lumps by spring. Harrowing it then would form a good seedbed for the future crop. When his father agreed with his suggestion, Jerold's face beamed.

Mary or Jerold frequently checked Mike while he herded the cows, never letting him know he was being watched. Both knew there was little danger to the boy, for there were no poisonous snakes in the area. In addition, Mike was warned time and again to always remain within sight of the village.

Early that fall Patrick and Ian, along with several of the grading crew, were taken off the scraper work and employed removing and stockpiling rails from river barges and huge piles previously stacked along the riverbank. They were told the final leveling of the roadbed would be left until spring. Toward the end of October, work finally ran out and the crew was laid off with a promise of being rehired in early spring. Ian was only too glad to be released. He was sick of the foreman, Brogan, who had repeatedly ridiculed him with disparaging remarks, often using foul language. Ian found himself gritting his teeth, barely able to control his temper. He feared losing his job, knowing any display of anger ending in fisticuffs would automatically result in his being fired and blacklisted. Patrick felt fortunate in driving his own team, a team he had raised from colts while in Orillia. A young team true, but well trained by him and the boys. He noticed that the foreman vented his wrath only on the younger men, perhaps afraid the more experienced would take him to task. He felt relieved at his layoff, for preparations had to be made for the coming winter. The house needed banking, the barn needed repairs, and the few acres of oat hay had to be hauled in from his land in the States.

Maggy’s pregnancy was now obvious. She found she suffered the same back pains she had endured during past pregnancies. Jerold was her savior, often doing household chores in addition to his outside duties. "Mother, I've plenty of time. You rest -- there's lots of help."

A young lieutenant from the American fort, Kirby Ralston, stopped by occasionally to visit Mary. He had introduced himself while on a routine border patrol, stopping to ask her name. He was tall, handsome and courteous; Maggy secretly thought him ideal for Mary's future. When Maggy made a chance remark in his presence about the shortage of whitewash, the next patrol passing by dropped off a mixture of lime, whiting and adhesive.

Patrick built a hayrack for their wagon, and the men hauled and stacked over thirty tons of hay against their cattle shed. After the hay was up, the men went stateside to cut the winter's firewood from the land grant. The trees along the river were mostly oak, ash and elm, with a sprinkling of poplar. Every deadfall was picked up and several large ash trees were cut and corded. Patrick remarked to Jerold, "It only takes three big ash trees to make a cord of wood. It'll burn green without forming Creosote in the chimney. We'll have to cut the oak early in the spring for next winter's use. It'll be dry by fall."

By chance, while stopping at the St. Vincent lumberyard, the proprietor, Nixon, introduced Ian to a fur buyer from St. Paul. "Ian, this man is a representative of Abram Furs from the cities. He is seeking someone in the area to act as a fur buyer. Would you be interested? It's strictly a wintertime job."

"I could use the money, but I know nothing about buying furs."

The Abrams representative smiled. "Not to worry. Two years ago I was in the same boat, but it's not a difficult trade to learn. All it takes is common sense." Reaching into his pocket, he withdrew several cards. Handing one to Ian, he said, "These are the prices you should pay for prime pelts, but only prime. If you'll take the job, I'll give you a hasty education, here and now. I'll buy all the pelts you can garner this winter and pick them up in St. Vincent. My next trip will be early in January. You'll buy only on the U.S. side of the line, east and west of the Red River.”

The thought ran through Ian's mind, if this man learned how to buy furs, so can I. Eyeing the buyer, he said, "I'll take the job."

"Good! Now come outside. I've some furs in my buggy that I'll show you." For the next hour the buyer thumbed through various pelts. All were prime, or nearly so, but he showed Ian how to detect green hides by color of the skin. He also clued him in on worthless hides, by the loose, shedding or discolored hair. After completing his instruction, he said, "You'll have to finance yourself until I return. That's customary. You'll find our company reliable; Mr. Nixon will vouch for my honesty." Studying Ian carefully, he added, "There are furs to be had on the Canadian side of the border. They may gravitate to you, but don't get involved in smuggling. It's a mighty temptation, but we'll disown you if you are caught."

That afternoon Ian stopped at McRae's blacksmith shop in Emerson, the smith who had assisted him in making the harrow for Jerold. He mentioned accepting the offer of the fur buyer, but said worriedly, "The thing that bothers me is that I don't know any of the breeds and Indians around the area."

"Might be able to help you there." McRae began to smile. That is, if you can stand the man's smell. He's a breed, a Chippewa, almost looks white. He's a Mide. Know what that means?"

"Some kind of witch doctor?"

"Just about. It's a society of the Indians, organized to preserve the traditions and to give the ambitious a good living at the expense of others of the tribe." He laughed, "Something like the Orange Lodge and the Masons."

"Anyway, he's supposed to be a fourth degree, entitled to be called a Midewewan. He’s supposed to have magic powers, able to change into an animal or bird, if you can believe that crap. He's a shaman to his people, and well respected and obeyed by the local Indians and breeds. He hangs around here most afternoons, usually late in the day." McRae smiled sheepishly. "My fault, for I feed and share a bottle with him now and again." Turning momentarily to pump the bellows of the forge, he added, "Don't know his last name, but everyone calls him Pete, just Pete. He stays in St. Vincent with old man Grant."

"Will he work for me?"

"He might; he's usually broke. Why don't you come back later in the day? He may show up."

When Ian returned just before dark, he found McRae bending strips of iron on the toe of his anvil. Ian recognized the pieces he was bending to be future horseshoes. A ragged, hunched-up figure sat silently watching McRae.

"Ian, this is Pete." McRae nodded toward the man.

Pete's face was expressionless, and his gaze remained upon McRae, even after the introduction. Ian noted the broad, powerful shoulders, the shapeless coat, and the trousers tucked into high-laced moccasins. The man's face was burnished a tan color; his black hair hung carelessly from beneath a dirty stocking cap. The coppery cheeks were devoid of hair, but his lower chin showed a few sparse, black whiskers, indicating some white heritage. Ian detected a cunning expression on his face and sensed the potentiality for brutality in his makeup.

"Will you work for me? I'm going to buy furs." As he asked, Ian wondered how long it had been since the man had a bath and a change of clothes.

The breed, Pete, finally gazed at him. "You feed and pay?"

Ian nodded. "I'll feed you and pay you what you're worth."

"When start?"

"Tomorrow. I live by the boundary . . . "

"Know where you live. I be there in morning."

Pete stood slowly and held out his hand. A slow smile came to his face. Ian guessed his newly hired man to be a bit over six feet in height and approximately forty-five years of age.

McRae ceased bending the horseshoe on the anvil horn to say, "You've got your man, now try to keep him sober." He grinned at Pete in a conspiratorial manner. Ian noted the sly grin that appeared on the Indian's face.

Habitually, Ian was the first to arise each morning to start the kitchen fire and make coffee. Even before he entered the kitchen the following morning, he detected a strange, smoky odor. There, sitting by the kitchen door, was Pete. He had quietly entered the house sometime during the early hours and seated himself on the short bench by the door.

Wordlessly, Ian lighted the kindling in the stove and filled the coffee pot with water. Measuring out coffee beans, he dropped them into the small grinder and turned the crank. Finally he added the grindings to the pot. Pete watched his every move without speaking.

Moments later, the creaking of a bed could be heard, then slow footsteps on the stairs. When Patrick entered the kitchen, still tugging on his trousers, he saw Pete. He exclaimed, "What the hell?"

Ian grinned. "My hired man. I told you about him last night."

Patrick attempted to cover his surprise by pretending indifference. Then, obviously curious, he asked Pete, "How did you get into the house without making a sound?"

Pete said nothing, but pointed to his moccasins. Patrick shook his head in wonder, finally turning to the cupboard for cups. Later, when he told Maggy about it, she exclaimed, "Lord, Pat, we could be murdered in our beds!"

The sun had aged, becoming weak when the first snowflakes came on November 20. Hours later the wind came out of the northwest with a fury, discouraging all outdoors work. Visibility dropped to zero for the following two days. It was after this first storm that Patrick loosened his purse to purchase sheepskin coats for each member of the family. He also bought a second Swede saw, and the boys began cutting the stacked cordwood into stove lengths. Neighbors warned of the necessity to keep at least a week's supply of wood by the back door for emergencies.

The high price of coal oil, one dollar a gallon, resulted in only one lamp being used in the evenings when supper was over. Mary was again teaching, so she was usually crowded close to the feeble light, studying and planning for the next day. Only recently she and Mr. Baldwin had paid a visit to one of the town founders, Mr. Fairbanks. They complained about a lack of books, supplies and a proper blackboard for the school. Their request met with some success, for two weeks later a huge slate was delivered and attached to an inside wall of the schoolroom.

Mike's pet badger, now fully grown, was put into the small chicken house with the birds, supposedly to hibernate for the winter. The animal slept, but only periodically, waking each time the birds were fed. On one occasion Mike allowed the badger to follow him back to the house. While no one was watching, his pet tore open a 100-pound sack of flour. The resulting mess caused his firm banishment to the chicken house for the remainder of the winter.

Winter boredom set in and Patrick began to carve duck decoys from chunks of soft poplar stove wood. Discussions were held on how they should be painted. Ian suggested the color of mallards, but Jerold disagreed. "There are just as many pintails and spoonbills as mallards on the lake and river. Why not paint some of each?"

Patrick looked from one son to the other. "I'll carve an even dozen. You two can do the painting."

Shaggy coats appeared on the horses and mules as nature provided protection against the cold. Twice a week Jerold harnessed the horses and, using a homemade sled, loaded and spread the manure on the garden area. The milk cows were fed, watered and milked in the barn to protect them from the intense cold. Only when the temperature moderated, or when Jerold cleaned the barn, were they allowed outside.

Early in the winter snow was melted for washing and drinking water. Evaporation from the snow kept moisture in the house, aiding the family's comfort. In December the men joined neighbors in cutting ice from the Red River, keeping a load of the crystal-clear blocks stacked on sawhorses near the back door. When Mike questioned the wisdom of raising the heavy blocks of ice off the ground, Patrick laughed. "Dogs, son, dogs. We don't want yellow ice."

Melting snow for water required prodigious amounts of crystals, while the ice required very little space, being water in a solid form. Mike was hard pressed to understand why the muddy river water froze into the clear, glassy form. He was skeptical of Mary's explanation that only the water would freeze, excluding the dirt particles.

The Presbyterian Church started a Sunday school and Mary volunteered to take over the youngest of the children. Reverend Scott managed to obtain drawings to illustrate the biblical stories, making it more interesting for the youngsters.

After several unsuccessful tries, Jerold managed to construct a snow igloo for Mike. He found hard-packed snow necessary to form the building blocks. Even so, it was Ian's hired man, Pete, who aided and advised him on the construction. Jerold laughingly admitted to his father, "I cheated; I used water to freeze the blocks together.

Ian began buying furs in early November, often visiting the breeds and Indians on the west side of the river. His Métis helper thought nothing of venturing long distances through the snow to a shack, tepee, or one of the dugouts along the river. Most of Pete's friends lived at the Indian camp located north of Pembina, and seemingly through them, he was able to contact others.

Pete's only problem, other than his smoky odor, was the strong drink occasionally consumed at stops made to buy furs. Ian found himself spending an occasional night away from home, sometimes due to the distance traveled, but often because of Pete's inability to walk after getting drunk. He knew Pete's road to hell was paved with good intentions, but when he was drunk, he was irresponsible. Ian knew that to refuse any hospitality offered by Métis or Indians would be taken as an insult, but he soon learned how to decline the liquor with courtesy, and not linger too long at any one stop. Pete, on the other hand, would loiter as long as any liquor remained in a bottle or jug.

Traveling the twenty miles west to Smuggler's Point by horse or snowshoes involved spending the night, the snow being deep on the prairie; especially deep where the tall grass held the drifting snow. After the first thaws in early spring problems were encountered; ice forming on the surface of the snow cut into the horse's forelegs.

To his surprise Ian found the Indians in awe of Pete, and they often broke into a chant when he and Ian visited their camps. Ian also found the Indians very superstitious. To them it seemed that anything out of the ordinary bordered on the occult. The only conclusion Ian could reach was that both the Indians and breeds accepted Pete as some sort of medicine man.

The quantity of furs that began to come into his possession made Ian suspect that many were smuggled across the border from Canada. Yet, he felt no guilt, for he deemed anything he purchased stateside as legal.

One evening in late November, Pete insisted upon Ian's stopping at Joseph Grant's house, where Pete lived. It was late and Ian was anxious to reach home before total darkness. Pete was insistent, saying, "You'll see. You'll see."

Ian's objections ceased when he glimpsed Grant's youngest daughter Susan. Although she was of a mixed race, she was the most beautiful girl he had ever seen. She was tall and slender, very fair-skinned and shapely, with a mischievous smile. He was instantly smitten and could scarcely keep his eyes from her. Unfortunately, she went to bed that evening before he could speak with her. From the general conversation that ensued, Ian learned that Susan had an older sister named Marguerite. She was being sparked by the sheriff from Pembina and was away at the time. His next visits to the Grant home were frustrating; in spite of his every effort to speak to Susan, either her father or mother rebuffed him.

Ian guessed Joseph Grant's age at nearly 70. His skin had the thin-translucent look of the aged. The droop of his shoulders and forward pitch of his head were readily noticeable.

Joseph's wife, Annette, was much younger, possibly in her early 40's. Her complexion was light and clear, and she retained an attractive face and shapely body. She was quite youthful looking, to Ian's thinking. He mentally questioned the difference in their ages and was puzzled. It didn't make sense to him.

Pete detected Ian's interest in Susan during that first visit, and teasingly whispered, "Pretty girl! Pretty young!"

Ian glanced at Pete suspiciously, guessing that it had been his intention all along that he see Susan. You schemer! He thought. He smiled to himself as he whispered back, "Beautiful girl! Almost old enough to marry!"

On December l0 Ian picked up the mail on his way home for dinner. In addition to the St. Paul Globe newspaper, there was a letter for Mary. She felt her heart beating wildly as she tore open the seal.
December 7, l877


Dearest Mary,

Absence does make the heart grow fonder! I will see you before Christmas if all go as planned. So many of our surveyors quit this past summer due to the trying circumstances of weather, mosquitoes and sickness, that we remaining few must bear the burden of completing the work. We arrived in the city yesterday and are endeavoring to finish our maps.

Thank the Lord! I am to be assigned to the Selkirk-Emerson route this coming spring. It will mean all the world to me, for I will be able to see you frequently. My stay with you over Christmas will be limited, as we never seem to catch up on work. I hope to spend almost a week with you, hopefully longer.

From your letters I gather your family home is small and crowded. Don't make any special preparations, since I've already written to the Hutchison Hotel for a room. I can hardly wait to see you again. I should arrive there a day or two before Christmas.

All my love!

Her fantasizing over the letter that afternoon, as she read it over and over, was interrupted by the sound of a horse approaching the house. The rhythmic crunching of its hooves could be heard clearly on the path outside. Hastily stretching a shawl over her shoulders, she opened the door to see a heavily bundled man astride a steaming horse. It was the tall, smiling Lieutenant Kirby Ralston from the fort. Stepping down from the horse, he casually tossed the reins to the ground and began tugging at his heavy mittens. Noting the reserved look on her face, he said mildly, "Golly, I flattered myself into thinking that you'd be glad to see me."

For a moment Mary was at a loss for words. Then she smiled. "Oh, Kirby, I am glad to see you! You know you're always welcome here! Come inside . . . it must have been a cold ride from the fort. It's way below zero."

"One moment." Turning back to his horse, he removed a blanket from behind the saddle and spread it over the animal, prudently securing it. When he had completed the chore, he followed Mary into the house.

Maggy looked up from the table where she had been putting her hair up into a bun. From her relaxed posture and form, it was obvious the baby would be arriving soon.

"Hello, Kirby! Don't worry about the snow on your boots. We need the moisture in the house. Have some time off?" She studied the tall lieutenant's face, knowing well that he was in pursuit of her daughter. From prior visits he had impressed her with his courtesy and knowledge. She knew he was a recent graduate of West Point and the son of an influential eastern family. Secretly, she determined to do everything in her power to push her daughter in his direction. Turning to Mary, she suggested, "Why don't you start tea?"

Mary knew her mother favored Kirby, but although he was a fine figure of a man, he didn't excite her, as did Robert. Going to the cupboard, she casually lifted the plates to hide Robert's letter under them. While Kirby seated himself across from her mother, she filled the kettle and moved it to the hottest part of the stove. Tea, to her mother, had become a social amenity, necessitating careful brewing and steeping, with attention to sugar and milk. Her mother liked lemon with her tea, but none were available just now.

"What's new at the fort, and in Pembina?" Maggy’s winter confinement made her eager for news.

"The usual. A stolen horse and a few frozen ears and toes." He laughed as he removed his heavy coat. "The sheriff took after the horse thief. It was George Parker's animal. The fool left it tied in front of the Double Decker saloon while he caroused with his cronies." He shook his head. "Sheriff Brown will catch the thief before he gets to Grand Forks. All he has to do is follow the tracks in the snow."

Mary picked three matching bone china cups from the varied assortment on the shelf and poured the fragrant tea. Kirby appraised her quietly, realizing he had never expected to find such a stunning girl in a prairie town. Why, she would light up any room, even his folk's home in Washington. He waited for her to sit down. "Mary, I've come to invite you to the Christmas Eve Ball at the fort." Glancing at Maggy, he added, "Maggy, you and your husband are also invited. Captain Collins has entrusted me with your invitation." Reaching into his blouse, he withdrew a small envelope and placed it before her. "There are over 100 invitations being sent out, many to folks in Emerson. It's to be a formal ball."

Maggy’s eyes glowed as she opened the envelope. She knew that the honor of this invitation was due to Kirby. "Oh, Kirby, you know Pat and I can't come. The baby is due at the end of January." Reflecting, she added, "It would be nice if we could be there to watch. Oh pshaw! It probably wouldn't work out." Turning to Mary, she exclaimed, "Just think, your first formal ball! You and Kirby will have a wonderful time. The officers will all be in dress uniform and the ladies in evening gowns."

Mary wished she could magically disappear. Her hopes were being shattered; she wanted to spend Christmas with Robert. Kirby was kind and sincere, and probably fine husband material, but he was not for her. She ran her forefinger around the edge of the teacup. The long silence that ensued was almost embarrassing.

"Well, what about it?" her mother demanded.

She could feel her temper rising. "Mother, I promised Robert I'd spend the holidays with him. He's coming at Christmas time and I can't let him down."

Kirby's disappointment was obvious. Then he suddenly brightened. "Well, if he is here on Christmas Eve, I'll invite him and we'll both escort you to the ball!"

"Would you?" Her face suddenly lit up. "In that case I'll gladly accept." She noted the look of chagrin on her mother's face and sought to defuse the tension. "Mother, I wish you and Father would go. Perhaps we could arrange it.”

Kirby was talkative and seemingly forgot the uncomfortable moment. From then on he and Maggie virtually monopolized further conversation. Mary relaxed to gather her thoughts. Perhaps Robert won't want to go to the ball. Even so, it would be unfair of me not to tell him of Kirby's invitation. Why did this situation have to happen? And the very first time I've been invited to a party at the fort. She could feel tears of frustration forming.

Late that afternoon, after Kirby had returned to Pembina, Mary walked to Trayner's millinery and apparel store on Main Street. The small door stood between two large display windows. The building itself was long and narrow, with a single aisle. Glass cabinets stood on either side, displaying lace, ribbons and all matter of trim for gowns and dresses. Although she had saved very little of her teaching money, she determined to have a stylish gown for the coming occasion. After minutes spent selecting a pattern, she settled on a rose silk material. Then seeds of doubt encompassed her. The material was expensive, and the fine stitching required a skill beyond her ability. Besides, she realized there were only a few days left until Christmas. A quick glance indicated that the dressmaker was behind in her work; several partially finished gowns hung in sight. Addressing the owner, she said, "Miss Trayner, I need a gown for the Christmas Eve Ball at Fort Pembina. How much would it cost and would you have time to make it for me?"

The small, short, bespectacled woman eyed Mary intently. At first she saw an image of herself, of decades ago. She noted with distaste the sheepskin coat and faded wool scarf. But it was the oval face and perfect creamy complexion, set off glossy black hair that won her over. Lordy, this child is a beauty! And her stature! Irish, of course, but she has no brogue. Her family hasn't much, goodness--they just moved here last summer. She's certainly not getting much pay as a teacher at the school. She can hardly afford my prices. How can I tell her that it's just impossible for me to squeeze in another customer?

Slowly an idea came to mind and she began to smile. Lately the demands on her time by the social set of Emerson were wearing on her. In fact, she was becoming irritated at the constant clamors to hurry, hurry, hurry. She would defy the elite of the community and turn this young Aphrodite into a princess. She would play Venus and bring this plain girl to life. It would be like the story of Pygmalion. Reaching out to touch Mary's shoulder reassuringly, she said, "Wait a moment. I have an idea."

Walking to the back room, she disappeared, to return within moments with a large box. After wiping away the dust, she cut the cords and raised the lid. Reaching inside she carefully lifted out a yellow silk dress. Examining it minutely, she smiled. “It's kept to perfection; it hasn't faded a bit." Handing it to Mary, she advised, "Go into the back room and try it on. It's closing time. I'll draw the curtains and lock the door."

After removing her heavy coat and sliding her wool dress off over her head, Mary felt uncomfortable. She was ashamed of her thin cotton chemise, high wool socks and boots. Carefully she sought the bottom of the silk dress and hurriedly slid it down over her shoulders. Seconds later, Miss Trayner rejoined her and began to hook the long row of small buttons at the back of the dress.

"Hold still, Mary, I don't want to pinch you. Ah! It's just as I thought. It fits to perfection. A little tight in the bosom, but that's to the best."

Mary could feel the tight enclosure of her breasts and buttocks under the yellow silk and turned partially to view herself in the oval mirror. She almost blushed when she saw the snug fit of glimmering silk over her bottom, and just below, the billowing, swirling, and circular full hemline brushing the floor. Turning to face the mirror fully, she was shocked to see most of her cleavage daringly revealed. Why, but for her chemise she would have been exposed nearly to her nipples! The gown actually hung from her upper arms, for her shoulders were completely bare, showing an expanse of creamy white flesh. Startled, she interjected aloud, "Oh, Heavens! Mother will be shocked if I wear this!"

"Hold still. Don't move!" The seamstress ignored her outburst and walked to the front of the store, returning with a double strand of imitation pearls. As she fastened the clasp behind Mary's neck, she said, "I'll lend these to you; they'll balance the neckline." Stepping back, she studied Mary critically. "There's still something missing. You'll need a pair of small curved combs or a clasp comb to set off your long hair and add to your height. Here, I'll show you." Stepping behind Mary, she bunched the heavy, long hair upright in her clenched fist, letting it fall to the rear, down over Mary's shoulders. "It adds to your height and poise, almost like a crown, you might say."

In the looking glass Mary could see the effect it created. She remembered her mother's Spanish combs. Perhaps she could borrow them. A sudden feeling of dismay came over her. "I can't buy this dress Miss Trayner. It must cost a fortune!"

The small woman looked at her intently. "My name is Emily . . . please call me that in the future. After all, we'll be seeing each other often." Turning partially away, she said, "I made that dinner dress for my niece when we lived in Toronto. She never wore it; she died during the diphtheria epidemic of '70."

Noting tears forming on the wrinkled cheeks, Mary gathered the small woman to her. Moments later, the seamstress pulled away. Finding a handkerchief, she wiped her eyes and blew her nose violently. "There now! That's over with."

Looking up, she said, "I'll be proud if you'll wear the gown. It's yours now; I don't want to keep it any longer; it holds too many memories." Then her personality changed dramatically; she was all business. "You'll need slippers and a wrap to match. Slippers are no problem. Mr. Suffel, the shoemaker, has them in a variety of colors. But a wrap . . . oh my!"

Mary was overwhelmed by the gift, but reasoned aloud, "It's so cold now, Miss Trayner -- I mean Emily! -- I'd be forced to wear a heavy coat when we travel to the fort. Perhaps I can wear a loose sweater under the coat to protect the dress -- or I could put it on at the fort. I still don't know what mother will say. The dress is gorgeous, but it's so mature. I've never worn anything so beautiful. It frightens me!"

"Ah, youth, and your first ball! Perhaps it's a bit daring." She grasped the front of the bodice and raised it slightly. "I'll take in the flare at the shoulders to conceal a bit." She tittered nervously. "It's not what's revealed; it's what's concealed."

Quickly she stepped behind the counter and returned with elbow-length, yellow gloves that matched the dress. "Try these on for size. You'll need a pair and you shall pay for them." Firmly, she added, "After all, I've a store to run, and it must support me."

In gratitude Mary impulsively hugged the small woman and kissed her cheek. "I don't know what to say, but thank you! Thank you!"

After re-dressing and shrugging her arms into her heavy coat, Mary wrapped her scarf over her head, tucking the ends under her coat collar. She was about to close the door when she heard Miss Trayner's parting words, "Come in tomorrow and we'll do a final fitting. Then you can take it home for your mother's approval. I'll bet she'll love it."

Stepping to the street, Mary turned toward home, her mind a hodgepodge of thoughts. Seconds later she became aware of a huge, heavily-bearded man standing in front of the corner tavern. A peculiar feeling of fear came over her for it was nearing dark. As she approached the saloon, the man made no effort to step aside; instead, he held out his arms to stop her. Her first reaction was that the man was drunk. Alarmed, she attempted to pass around him, but he easily blocked her movement and grasped at her arm. The feel of his fingers revolted her and she jerked free.

In a gruff voice he said, "Whoa now, girly! Let's have a look at you." For a brief moment he studied her face, and then said, "I know you from somewhere."

She ducked quickly under his outstretched arm and ran. She heard his laughter from behind, and at a safe distance cast a look back at him. He was facing her with a vacuous expression on his face. It wasn't until she was nearly home that she felt safe.

That evening when her father and Ian came home for supper, Mary related her experience with the stranger. Ian broke in angrily, "It could have been that foreman, Brogan. You say he was a big man, and heavily bearded? Was his head canted to one side?"

"I don't remember. I was so frightened."

"If it was Brogan, I'd like to deform him!" Ian was furious.

"Easy, son, he'll get his due some day. He'll find the wrong man to insult." Patrick was angered at first, but Maggie reached over to take his hand. At her reassuring squeeze, he turned to her and smiled, returning the pressure.

It was after Maggy and Mary had gone to bed that Ian managed to converse alone with his father. "I've heard talk that Brogan came from eastern Canada, and that he arrived here shortly after we did."

Patrick said grimly, "I've heard it too, and I can guess what you're thinking. You believe he could be the one who attacked your sister, eh?"

"It's possible, Pa. He has that crooked neck."

"Just a shot in the dark, but there's no proof; and even if we had it, what could we do?" He continued, "It's remotely possible, but very likely improbable. We'll bide our time and tend to our work. Justice usually works out in strange ways.

"There's another thing I wanted to bring up, for I'm guilty too. We've got to learn to control our rage and frustration." He hesitated, "Perhaps time will temper us. Pa always said haste creates stupid judgments and brings about the worst decisions."

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Interlude: Red Gets Out of Bed Again!

Carrie Snyder / The Forum
Yes, that darn Red River of the North is out of its bed again! I went walking today and was shocked to see the river way out of its bed, up at the foot of the dikes here in Fargo, totally covering the banks and even the walkways and low roads along it. Farmers markets had to be held in alternative locations, pedestrian river bridges were pulled off of the river, fully-blossomed trees were being drowned. This has been one of those strange but definitely-not-unheard-of years where the Red is temperamental, up then down, raging then quiet. All the while, pockets of too much rain cause some valley farmers to stay out of the fields, some fields likely not to be planted at all this year...

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Customs Stories II: Roaring Twenties (Part II)

We return to the story of Les Eddington and his colleagues, pursuing bank robbers from Canada into the United States...

They turned south on the road where we had noted the two men walking; by this time the two were about a mile south of us. When the Buick caught up to the two it didn't stop, but the to jumped onto the running board of the car, one on each side. As we had lost some distance while turning around we came along at a fast speed. As we shot over the top of this hill, there they were stopped and piling out of the Buick. They spread out, two men in each ditch, with the big man with the machine gun standing directly behind their car, in the middle of the road.

The first thought that crossed my mind was to ram the big guy with the machine gun and mash him between our car and the Buick, however, I though of Bill's brand new car and started to ride the brakes. By this time Bill had started shooting and I could see glass flying from the windshield as the bullets came through. By the time the Paige screeched to a halt we were about a car's length behind the Buick. About that time a chunk came flying out of the Paige's steering wheel and I felt the burning of a bullet in my stomach. We each had our doors open in order to get out however the bullets were flying so fast as all five were shooting at us we settled back into the car - I laid my head over Bill's lap and Bill leaned over my way trying to keep his head down.

After the shooting stopped we put up our hands however Bill wouldnt let go of his .45. They were bellowing at him to drop it but he wouldn't do it. I said, "Bill, throw it down, we're all through!" but still he wouldn't drop the gun. Finally two men came to Bill's side (two others came to my side) and one of them reached up and took the gun from Bill's hand. One of the men collared me and yanked me out from under the steering wheel, while the other took a pass at my head with his pistol but I ducked and he missed me. They dragged Bill out of the car, made us lie down in front of the Paige, face down while the young man in the rear of the car, who had laid down on the floor while the shooting was taking place, crawled out and started walking away. I don't think he liked the company we kept! They yelled for him to come back but he wouldn't have anything of it. Bill and I also told him to come back but no deal. Finally one of the men collared him and brought him back to the car, making him lie down a little to the rear of us.

They took everything from our car with the exception of Renton's coat and Sam Browne belt. THey used the belt to beat Bill over the head with, but they didn't beat on me - I think they were angry with Bill for shooting at them. I had on uniform breeches, shirt and puttees, with my badge on my belt. They wanted to know who we were and thy we were following them. We told them who we were and I told them I thought that we were chasing a load of liquor. They started draining our gas tank, using a dish-like pan that would hold about a gallon. Each trip from car to car they would step over our friend and on one trip the man stepped on his neck. While this was going on they were trying to decide what to do with us. One of them wanted to shoot us on the spot - I was in hopes that he would be overruled! One of them got down and took a good look at my badge - I felt quite sure that if they had any intentions of shooting they would have done it before this.

While they were discussing whether or not to shoot us I stole a look at Bill and asked him if he had been hit, as his face was covered with blood. He said he didn't think so, then I told him that I was shot in the stomach. About this time the big man with the machine gun who was giving all the orders bellowed for us to shut up and keep our faces down. After finally draining all the gas from the Paige they lifted the hood, tore off the ignition wires and took them with them. The big man said they would leave a man with us and that they would return after they gassed up. After they had driven off down the road a block or so, we sat up - I think our friend was the first to speak. He looked at Bill and then me, then at the retreating Buick and said, "Well, I'll be damned!"

There we sat, completely out of business. I opened my shirt and reached in and pulled out a .38 special slug and showed it to Bill and the kid. It had come through the metal cowling, hit the steering wheel, and took a piece out of it, then into my stomach. It had cut through my clothing but did not penetrate my stomach. I looked Bill's face over and found it to be full of glass splinters, oozing blood from each place where glass had entered his ace. I don't understand how he escaped more serious injury as there were three .45 holes in the radiator, another five in the windshield and cowl and I think more that went over the car.

Bill and I walked south to the nearest farmhouse, which was about a mile distance. We found no one was at home, the house was unlocked so we entered the house. We would ring the phone but no one could hear us, so Bill walked across a field to another farmhouse. I kept fooling with the phone and finally discovered a knife switch which when I opened it I could get the phone to ring - when it did Bill answered on the phone at the other farm! Bill finally managed to call the sheriff at Lakota, Grand Forks, and other county seat towns. he also called our district director at Grand Forks and asked him to notify the Grand Forks Police Department in case the bandits should try to cross the river there.

I called the sheriff at Langdon to come and tow our car back to Langdon. Returning to the Paige we picked up the can that had been used to transer the gas from our car to the Buick; we had left the kid there with instructions to not let anyone touch it while we were away. I picked it up and wrapped it in paper and placed it in the rear seat of the car. I figured at least we could have the fingerprints of the man that transfered the gas as he had worked bare handed. This was probably the container they carried in the car to hold the nails they had thrown out earlier.

In looking over the disabled Paige I picked up Renton's coat from the backseat. In the pocket I found two clips of shells for his rifle, clips that I had watched him loading earlier in the day - he evidenty loaded these clips and put them into his coat pocket but none in the rifle. That was the reason we couldn't make it work.

We found out later the bandits drove to a farmhouse, filled up with gasoline, giving the boy at the farm a $10 bill, telling him to "keep the change" - this at a point about five miles from where we were shot up. In a short time the Langdon sheriff arrived, accompanied by George Nelson, Bill Renton, and Jim McLaughling, the Langdon Chevrolet dealer, who towed the car back to town. En route to Langdon we met a car load of detectives from the Winnipeg Police Department, who continued the search for the bandits. Sherriff Tollefson, Constable Renton, Henneberry, and myself then drove to Brocket, where we had something to eat. Upon return to Langdon we found a large number of people in the McLaughlin Garage looking over Bill's car. When I looked for the container that was used to drain the gasoline from our car I found it on the floor - it has been handled by numerous people - there was our only clue gone up in smoke. We made the mistake of not keeping this container with us. The Paige was left at the garage where mechanics put on new wiring and plugged up the bullet holes in the radiator so that it could be run until such time as a new one could be purchased.

Henneberry, Renton, Nelson, and myself were then taken to Mowbray where we had abandoned our patrol car and the Provincial police car. We found that the Mowbray elevator man had fixed the tires on both cars for us, but it took about two hours of searching before we found the spare tire for Bill's car as it had rolled a couple of hundred feet into a wheat feild.


While it appeared the bandits may have made good on their escape, law enforcement officers in both Minnesota, Manitoba and North Dakota tried to cover all possible ecape routes. Closely watched were the bridges between North Dakota and Minnesota, especially the Oslo and Grand Forks bridges. There was speculation that perhaps the bandits had headed west on Highway 2 towards Minot, (and that they might even be based out of the Magic Ciy, although there was no proof of that). Officers heavily worked the Oslo-Warren, Minn. area but to little avail. There were reported sightings a far east as Litchfield, Minn., while some believed the gang may have been holed up in the Minneapolis-St. Paul vicinity. Officers Eddington and Henneberry traveled to Winnipeg to look over the local mug books but the only photos that looked anything like the gunmen they had encountered included a man from California (who was found to still be in a California prison) and Chicago mobster "Bugs" Moran.


The search for the Winnipeg bank robbers returned to the Grand Forks area when Devils Lake Police Officer Ray Puschinsky received a tip that a gang of men were hiding on the Bill McMahon farm near Orr. Advising Grand Forks County a raid was organized that took place before daylight at the McMahon farm. Officers Art Solberg, Joe Bliven, H.L. Norley, Albert and E.E. Peterson of the Grand Forks Police Department, Ed Hough, Joseph Z. Benson and Knut Sorbo of the Grand Forks County Sheriff's Office, Nelson County Sheriff T.E. LaTourette, Nelson County Deputy W.K. Fjeld and Nelson County States Attorney I. Swinlund took part in the pre-dawn raid on the isolated farmstead. Arrested that morning were Jim Thompson, Wiliam Souele and Thor Sevalson. Of the three, none proved utlimately to be involved in the bank theft, yet the actions of Thompson served to draw a great deal of attention to himself. He was found hiding in the hayloft of the barn and was the only one of the three to resist arrest or attempted to escape. It was determined later that Thompson was wanted on a federal liquor violation charge.

Eddington and Henneberry were summoned to Grand Forks to look over the three and to report to District Director O.B. Holton. As Eddinton tells it, "We started out with the Piage, however (we) had to carry a can of water as the radiator was leaking badly." Ater viewing the men arrested earlier in the day in the Orr raid, they were unable to identify any of the trio. The bullet riddled Paige was drawing so much attention that Grand Forks police officers had to move the car from 4th Street to Alpha Avenue, to prevent the street from being locked by curious onlookers. The Grand Forks Herald arrived to take several photos of the car for their next edition before the two patrol officers could get on with their part in the search.


Accompanied by two Winnipeg city police detectives, plus bank messenger Nicholson, Henneberry and Eddington took the Great Northern to Minneapolis where they were joined by two Minneapolis detectives to review their mug files in an effort to identify the bandits. Each time a photo of a known bank robber was shown to Nicholson he would squeal "That's the bloody so and so" but no one was ever positively identified. A check with Illinois officials indicated the license plates on the Buick were registered to a Model T Ford belonging to Bernard H. Dree of Highland, Ill. Mr. Drees was a medical doctor and the plates had been stolen from the mails before he received them for his car.


While the trail had cooled off considerably in North Dakota and Minnesota, authorities in Montana and Manitoba kept things jumping. A report ws received by Canadian law enforcement officials that a blue car had been seen about 1:30pm north of Mowbray, containing three men. Intent on getting their men, the Canadians had a full contingent ready to roll on a moment's notice, including holding a special train at Winnipeg to transport men in addition to retaining an airplane for air searches. Further reports on the movements of the blue car continued to come into the Winnipg command headquarters - it was reported at Somerset at 3pm then 20 minutes later was seen moving through Altamont. Immediately all the local communities were notified. J.H. Holley of the Holley Airways took to the air, taking with him Winnipeg police sergeant J. Painter. In addition, squads of motocycle and patrol officers took to the highways - all armed with machine guns! But the blue car with the three men was never encountered.

At the same time Sheriff Fleming of Chinook, Mont., was sure he had the bandits in his territory. A bullet riddled, badly burned automobile was found nearby (which turned out to be an Auburn Eight) but was reported to Sheriff Fleming that the men from the Buick had inquired the road to Butte while a further report had placed the men at Gregson Springs, about 16 miles from Butte. To add further flame to the fire, a Minnesota man reported that his license plates had been stolen while his car was parked. It seemed everyone had a report to make concerning the whereabouts of the Winnipeg bank bandits. There is little doubt that Montana authorities woul have loved to have captured the andits, to uphold their tradition of capturing "international" outloaws. Only the previous year Butte police had captured Mr. and Mrs. George MacDonald. (Wanted for the murder of Quebec taxi driver Adelard Bouchard, the MacDonalds were returned to Canada, where George was hung in January 1928, while his wife was sentenced to life in prison.)

By this time, however, it was believed by most Winnipeg and North Dakota authorities that the robbers were safely hidden away in the Twin Cities or Chicago. The Bankers Association of Canada posted a $5,000 reward but it was never claimed. Henneberry's car was taken to a body shop in Grand Forks where a new radiator was installed, the windshield was replaced, bullet holes soldered up and the body repainted. Ironically the immigration service refused to pay the repair bill for the car on the grounds that the government furnished a car for patrol purposes and that the officers "had no business chasing bank robbers!" Despite protests that the robbers had illegally crossed the border meant nothing. (The bill was ultimately paid for by the Winnipeg City Police who were "...thankful for our cooperation in connection with our efforts even though we failed while trying to make an arrest," according to Eddington's written account.)

Ultimately Bill Henneberry quit the Immigration service after having words with the district director in regard to the service's failure to pay for the damages to his car. He was later brought up on charges, but as the name on the papers was not made out in his correct spelling he failed to answer to them. He was found guilty by failure to reply to the charges and dismissed - but was hired the next day by the Collector of Customs at Pembina, where he would remain for the rest of his career.

Lester Eddington, whose government career had begun as a customs patrol officer in 1925, moved to immigration in 1927 (when it went under civil service), then returned to customs patrol in 1929 and remained with the organization until it was disbanded in 1946. He was appointed customs inspector at Noyes, Minn. in 1497, then special agent for U.S. Customs at Pembina in 1952. He retired from duty May 31, 1956 after 31 years service to the United States.

As for the bank bandits, they were never positively identified or caught; the $25,000 was never recovered. If one of the bandits had, indeed, been Chicago mobster "Bugs" Moran, his lucky start would look at him one more time at least - narrowly escaping death when seven of his henchmen were gunned down by elements of the Al Capone gang in a Chicago garage on February 14, 1929 - the Saint Valentine's Day Massacre.
Author's Notes: After completing his book, Lester Eddington penned a dedication at the bottom of the last page to some of the people he had worked with during his three decades of service. It reads, "My greatest admiration of names mentioned in this narrative goes to the late Collector of Customs Judson LaMoure, Pembina and the late Deputy Collector of Customs Dave Elves, Sarles, ND, and last but not least the late Art Gould, Winnipeg, Manitoba - the greatest liquor runner that ever crossed the international border in this district."

Additional Notes: There is some confusion as to the correct spelling of Constable William G. Renton's last name. Some sources give the spelling as that used here, Renton, while other sources give it as Wrenton. My apologies to the late Mr. Renton if it is incorrect in this text.

(Article's author: Jim Benjaminson)

Les Eddington later in his career with confiscated (smuggled) grain

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Customs Stories II: Roaring Twenties (Part I)

They were called the Roaring Twenties - and with good reason. Bank robberies, machine guns, strange cars bearing stolen license plates, shoot-outs with law enforcement officers, international manhunts. At first you might think this story takes place in Chicago - what you are about to read happened in North Dakota. We are turning the clock back to 1928. Imagine what it was like to be a law enforcement office back then - no two-way radio communications, no high speed patrol cars equipped with fancy flashing red lights, no PA systems, no cages for holding prisoners - there was no highway patrol, nor county contract law enforcement. It was a time of each officer working more or less on his own, relying on his own wits to keep himself alive.

The story is true - the events have been reconstructed from the pages of the Manitoba Free Press (now the Winnipeg Free Press), the Grand Forks Daily Herald (now just the Herald) plus major excerpts taken from the unpublished book "My Experiences While in the Government Service" written by retired U.S. Customs Officer Lester Eddington.

Following his retirement, Office Eddington parked himself behind a typewriter and wrote a 116 page book detailing the experiences he encountered during his 31 year career working the U.S.-Canadian border. It was a career that ranged from the illegal liquor smuggling of the 20's to the smuggling of illegal Canadian seed wheat in the 50's. But the incident that nearly brought Eddington's career - and his life - to an end is the story you are about to read...
MONDAY, JULY 30, 1928 - 9:15A.M.

For Canadian Bank of Commerce couriers Kenneth Nicholson and Robert H. Jones it was just another typical Monday at work. They were on foot this particular morning, carrying a satchel containing $25,000 in Canadian currency from the Bank of Commerce near Portage and Main in Winnipeg to the nearby Provincial Savings Bank on Ellis Avenue. For security the satchel was chained to them, and Nicholson was armed with a handgun. Turning off Portage Avenue to Notre Dame, then rounding the corner at Ellis they were, as the Free Press told it "100 steps" from their destination when Nicholson thought he heard something behind him. Turning slightly Nicholson's worst nightmare had become a reality - he found himself staring into the wrong end of a Thompson .45 caliber machine gun wielded by a man in a slow moving automobile on the street beside them. From the corner of his eye he saw two men on the sidewalk ahead of them turn around - both were armed with handguns. To resist what was about to happen would have been fatal.

It was over in a matter of seconds - a fourth man jumped from the now stopped sedan and disarmed Nicholson, then ordered both men to lie face down on the sidewalk. A chain cutter was employed to snap the money satchel loose, then the men calmly and quickly piled back into the car and sped away. Lying helpless on the sidewalk the bank couriers made a quick note of the car's license number and description, then called the Winnipeg Police Department. Within minutes the word was being passed far and wide to all officers. The car, a blue Buick Master sedan. The plates, Illinois 834-890. Caution - armed and dangerous! For Jones and Nicholson, it was a hell of a way to start the week.

One of those receiving the lookout that morning was Canadian Provincial Police Officer William G. Renton. Stationed close to the U.S border north of Langdon, Officer Renton thought it might be wise to inform any American officers working that day of the situation. The border crossing near Maida had figured in a previous escape by U.S. based bandits that had robbed a Winnipeg street railway some years before and Renton had that gut feeling the Winnipeg Bank robbers might choose that same route to make good their getaway today. The only officer Renton found on duty that morning was U.S. Immigration Patrol Officer Lester Eddington. From here we'll let Les tell the story in his own words:

"Mid summer arrived and this morning I was working alone near the Mowbray store when alone came Constable Bill Renton, a Canadian provincial police officer. He informed me that there had been a couple of bank messengers robbed of $25,000 on the streets of Winnipeg. He said some years ago after a previous robbery by men from the United States, they had returned to the U.S. via Mowbray.

"Renton and I then drove to the edge of the coulee, one mile east of Mowbray and one mile north of the border. He gave me a description of the car, as well as the license number. As we sat there talking I noticed that he loaded a couple of clips for an English-made, high-powered rifle. He continued that there were five men in the gang and that one, the largest of the five, manned a machine gun.

"We sat there for about three quarters of an hour when Renton said he was going to drive back to the Mowbray store and ask the postmistress if she had seen any such car in the previous few days, reasoning that the robbers would have planned their escape route beforehand to acquaint themselves with the road. We had called Officer Bill Henneberry at Hannah and asked him to get out, and when Renton left me he said, 'Now don't be afraid to shoot just because you're in Canada!' in case they should show up before he got back. Bill seemed quite sure they would use this road. I said, 'O.K., Bill, if they come along before you get back, I will let them have it...' - I had our buck shotgun and my Colt .45 pistol.

"Renton hadn't gone over a quarter mile when I noticed a car approaching from the north on this coulee road, traveling at a fair rate of speed. I got out of my patrol car, threw a shell into the chamber of the shogun and stood in the middle of the road. As the car got closer I could see that it was a Buick sedan, and was a dark blue color. When they got real close I noted an Illinois license plate. But eh number was different than the number Renton had given me. I tried to stop them but would have been run over if I hadn't jumped to one side. If this had been in the U.S. I am sure I would have blasted them with the riot gun, however in Canada that would have been a wrong number, as it could have just been a bunch of fishermen returning with a quantity of liquor or something like that. However, I was quite sure this was the car we were looking for.

"I jumped into my car and took after them. I could see that they were throwing nails out on the road by the handful - each time they would throw out a handful a piece of paper would fly in the wind. They must have had these large headed roofing nails done up in paper. The Buick hit the CPR Railway crossing so far that I could see daylight under their tires. They passed Renton about a half mile east of the Mowbray stores, on the border road. Renton said later that he didn't know they were behind him until they whizzed past. They crossed into the U.S. at Mowbray and headed south.

"By the time Renton and I got to the Mowbray store we were only a short distance behind them, but I had three tires down and Renton had two down, with the rest going down! They quit throwing nails after leaving Canada, I guess they figured they had us stopped, which they sure did. As luck would have it Bill Henneberry and George Nelson arrived at Mowbray within minutes after Renton and I got there, driving Henneberry's brand new Paige sedan. Renton grabbed his coat, belt and rifle from his car and all four of us piled into Henneberry's car, with me at the wheel. By this time the Buick was completely out of sight.

"We hit the Mount Carmel road so fast that the Paige jumped into the air and after coming back to earth, I saw the spare tire flying through the air in the rear view mirror - we didn't stop to retrieve it. We were quite sure the bandits would go to Langdon in order to get gas, figuring that their gas supply must be getting low. We pulled into Langdon and drove to the several gas stations but no one had seen them - until they heard what had taken place, then it seemed that most everyone had seen them!

"We split up at Langon, Nelson and Renton traveling with Cavalier County Sheriff Carl Tollefson, while Henneberry and I remained together. We headed west on Highway 5 to a point four miles west of Langdon where we noted fresh car tracks over the highway, continuing south on a seldom used trail. As the tracks were quite large we figured it must have been made by the Buick. We continued south on this tail and at a point five miles south of Highway 5 we noted a man mowing the weeds. We asked him if he had seen a car pass by within the past 20 minutes - replied that about 30 minutes earlier a large blue Buick, with four or five men in it had passed. He didn't know what kind of license plates it had but said that it was not a North Dakota plate. We felt we were on the right track.

"We followed the tracks to a point about five miles north of Highway 17 where they turned east, crossed over Highway 1 and then continued east for another five or six miles. At one point a mailman had driven over the top of this track and we followed these tracks into a farmhouse but a young man at the place told us it had been the mailman but that he had noted a blue Buick going east. It had passed just minutes before and wasn't traveling very fast. This young man was about 20 years old and asked what was up. When we told him, he waned to go along. We asked if he had a gun but when he said all he had was a single barrel shotgun we told him to never mind the gun but if he wanted to go with us to hop in. He got in the back seat and I handed him my .45.

"After eight or 10 miles we were within sight of the Buick - Henneberry asked the kid to hand him Renton's high powered rifle. Bill tried to throw a shell into the chamber but was unable to operate it. Bill held the steering wheel for about a mile, while I tooled with it, but neither of us could figure out how it worked.

"Bill said 'There they were - five of them and with a machine gun and three of us with two .45s and one shotgun.' He said we really needed a little reinforcement! 'Yes,' I said, 'I think that is correct!' We decided to stop at the next farmhouse that had a telephone wire leading to it and the next house was it. We drove in the yard and Bill and I jumped out. Bill ran for the house, while I ran for the windmill and started to climb it in order to watch the Buick. I was part way up the windmill when I heard two blood curdling screams come from the house. I looked in the direction of the house to see two women pop out, running for all they were worth. Bill was running behind them trying to get them to come back - it was then that I noticed that Bill was carrying his .45 in his hand! Well, sir, the two ladies didn't want any part of it and kept on running to a cook car that was some distance from the house, which they entered and slammed the door shut. If it hadn't been for the gravity of the situation I would have thought it was one of the funniest maneuvers I had ever seen. You couldn't blame the ladies for being frightened - as Bill never knocked, just busted on them carrying this big .45 in his hand - he had no hate on, his hair was disheveled and his shirt tail was hanging out - and he wasn't in uniform.

"I looked back to see that the Buick was still headed east while Bill ran back into the house to try and call ahead, but the only town he could reach was Edmore and we were already past there. He was unable to locate the sheriff at Lakota, so he ran back out to our car. After speeding east for five or six miles we met a farmer with four horses on a drill, who pulled off the road to let us pass. We only went a short distance when we met the Buick coming back at us - but there were only three men in it. About a mile before we passed the farmer on the drill we had noticed two men walking south and wondered if these two might have been from the Buick but dismissed the ideas we didn't feel they would leave two of their men in strange, open country. Now we knew these two were part of the gang.

"After meeting the Buick we made a bootlegger turn and continued after them. Again we met the farmer on the drill and again he pulled over for us - I imagine this farmer thought that traffic was getting awfully heavy on this seldom used road. Bill and I talked it over and decided that this was it, if they were to be taken. Our boy in the back seat hadn't said a word since we first sighted the Buick and I thought perhaps he wasn't enjoying the ride. We figured they had doubled back in order to look use over - we were in hilly country and at times their car would be out of sight. The strategy that we had figured out was that we would follow as long as they kept going as we were expecting they would be running out of gas at any time, so if and when they stopped, we would take to the ditch and blast them from there. It didn't quite work out that way!"

From "A Tale from the Roaring Twenties" by Jim Benjaminson with Lester Eddington, North Dakota Peace Officer (Volume XII, No. 1 - April 1997)

Friday, June 12, 2009

CentrePort Canada

It's coming, and it has serious regional economic implications even to smaller communities like Pembina/Emerson/St. Vincent...

CentrePort Canada will be an inland port, a gateway "... centrally and strategically located at the heart of North America to connect businesses to world markets." It's part of an ambitious, overall strategy linking the northern Hemisphere for economic gain via the Arctic Bridge. In turn, it connects to the United States/Mexico corridor via Highway 75 through Emerson/Pembina, " of the busiest border crossings in Western Canada, which handles approximately three-quarters of Manitoba's trucking exports to the two other NAFTA countries."

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Surveillance Bush

OK, so I'm slow to the party. I only now discovered a Canadian sitcom called Corner Gas (and ironically the show's series finale was in April...) It is SO Canadian I'm not sure some Canadians would get half the jokes. But I love it! I have been laughing myself silly...I especially loved the 'surveillance bush' in the first episode...!

Wullerton (SPIT) (gee, sounds familiar...)

Monday, June 08, 2009

Metis Buffalo Hunters Diary Mystery

I am once again on the research trail for more stories about our area. One such story I have come across, is the mystery of the manuscript found by George Keeney - purported to be transcribed from a very real diary of an anonymous Englishman - called "The Buffalo Hunters of the Pembinah..."

I am currently reading a book called "The Long Journey of a Forgotten People: Metia Identities & Family Histories, edited by Ute Lischke & David T. McNab. It's a collection of essays and articles, including one by Heather Devine on this very mystery. In her article, entitled "New Light on the Plains Metis: The Buffalo Hunter of Pembina, 1870-71", Dr. Devine explains how she became involved with this manuscript, and how she began a process of proving its provenance that continues through this day.

I was thrilled to read she was involved, because as I recently began reading the diary myself (from microfilm at NDSU's Institute for Regional Studies here in Fargo) it became apparent this was a rare find. I had requested the microfilm of this work back in December, totally ignorant of what it meant, finding a reference to it in the State Historical Society's online databases. A little over a week ago, I had my first opportunity to peruse my request (one of many items brought from Bismarck just for me, during the Institute's annual trip where they literally bring the physical items requested from Bismarck to Fargo for patrons requesting them; these are items normally NOT available for circulation...)

The article below outlines the discovery and what it may portend, even beyond its local connection, which is amazing. NOTE: I will be providing excerpts from the diary, and updates on the progress of the diary's provenance as it happens and details become available...
The Riel mystery - Recovered diary may shed light on Metis leader
By Kevin Rothbauer, Gauntlet Staff
Thursday, December 05, 2002

Few figures in Canadian history have captured the attention of historians, politicians and the general public the way Louis Riel has. Despite all the research done about the Metis leader, there is a period in his life that remains a mystery. Between the rebellions of 1869-70 and 1885, Riel disappeared. A diary discovered by a University of Calgary professor may provide clues into Riel's whereabouts during that time.

Canadian Studies professor Dr. Heather Devine found a transcript of a diary kept by a British man who travelled the Great Plains during the early 1870s. While nothing can be confirmed yet, the man's guide appears to have been Riel, working under an assumed name.

"It is important to stress from the outset that before this diary can be useful to scholars, I will first have to establish its authenticity," Devine stated. "It could take some time, or even prove impossible, to establish its provenance, or whether any of the apparent connections to Louis Riel are legitimate."

The original diary was discovered by one of the founding fathers of Fargo, North Dakota, in 1872 or 1873. Gordon Keeney took shelter in a Metis man's home during a storm and found the diary hidden in the attic. After failing to find the diary's author, he held on to it, then had it transcribed in 1909. The original diary went missing, and the transcript ended up in a California garbage can in the early 1980s. A passerby discovered it, and over the next few years it changed hands a few times before landing in the North Dakota State Archives in 1984.

Devine describes the transcript as a "dog's breakfast," and she is currently in the process of sifting through its approximate 700 pages, looking for a way to verify its authenticity. Whether the man in the journal is Riel or not, the information contained in the transcript could still prove valuable.

"There are lots of interesting things in it," Devine insists, noting the Englishman's documentation of the activities of women and children, which have been sorely missing from the historical record.

While it is possible that Keeney wrote the book himself--his notes suggest that he wanted to publish the journal as a children's book--Devine is convinced that the diary is genuine. The Metis of the Pembina area, where the Englishman travelled, had started dispersing before 1872. Pembina is nowhere near Keeney's hometown of Fargo, so it would have been difficult for him to research the Metis extensively. As well, the author's adventures wouldn't have held much appeal for children.

"The Englishman isn't particularly heroic," Devine laughs. "[Keeney's] comments indicate to me that this is what it purports to be."

Saturday, June 06, 2009

Sketches by a Camp-Fire, Part II

Weather cool and pleasant; the mercury forty-eight degrees at sunrise. This morning we rode a few miles out of town, and met the dragoons advancing, and then escorted them to the junction of the Pembina and Red rivers where we all crossed the former stream, to the settlements beyond. We found a busy scene on going over. The houses are built around an open space, and the square courtyard (so to speak) is filled with a miscellaneous crowd of half-breeds, Indians, of all sizes, with their lodges of bark and skins together with horses, cattle, carts dogs, &c., in great variety and numbers.

The houses are built of logs, filled with mud and straw; the roofs thatched with the latter, and some covered over with bark. Around the angles of the yard are various warehouses, and icehouse, blacksmith-shop, and the trading-house, or store, which is covered completely over with large squares of bark, and looked like an entire barkhouse. In front toward the river, are barns, and stables, haystacks, &c., with numerous horses and cattle feeding, and a general appearance of thrift, comfort, and industry, pervades the scene - so new and interesting to us all, after a three-weeks' jaunt across the prairies, in which we did not meet a single human creature, not even a roaming Chippewa or Sioux.

We took possession of Mr. Kittson's house, which he had kindly placed at our disposal, and celebrated our arrival by a sumptuous dinner, in which hot corn and potatoes, onions, &c., as big as pint tin-cups, formed the principal item in the vegetable line. These were grown in the gardens here, and are the only productions of the soil now cultivated at this place, no farming whatever being done, on account of the annual floods in the valley of the Red river, for three years past - the waters have risen to the height of thirty-one and thirty-three feet above low-water mark, flooding all the country and inundating the houses at this place to the depth of two and three feet. Mr. Kittson was obliged to leave the post at this place last spring, and take up his residence for a month upon the surrounding highlands. These floods, should they continue, will prove a serious drawback to the settlement of this valley, the half-breeds being loath to put in crops when they are liable to be swept off annually.

Mr. Kittson had some six thousand rails swept off from his place last year. To obviate this difficulty, a new town and an agricultural settlement has been laid out by Mr. Kittson, and the Rev. Mr. Belcourt (the catholic priest stationed at this place), on what is called the Pembina mountain, thirty miles to the west of this place, and bordering on the river Pembina. The situation is a very eligible one, in a fine farming region; the land is excellent, and the timber abundant. The town is called "St. Joseph's," and is situated upon the eastern slope of the longitudinal ridge of land, called Mount Pembina, which is in places heavily wooded, and presents an Alleganian appearance as it is approached or skirted along toward the east.

Since our arrival, the name of "Waucheona," the Chippewa term for mountain, has been selected by Dr. Foster, and adopted by Mr. Kittson, as the name of the embryo town; he being opposed to exhausting the whole calendar of saints, and making every one of them stand as godfather to every town, lake, mountain, or stream, in the territory.

In consequence of there being no farming operations carried on here now, we found no grain on hand to feed our horses, excepting barley, and that is brought up from the Selkirk settlements, one hundred miles down Red river. Barley is a stronger feeder than oats, yet not so good as corn. It produces more than oats, say about forty bushels to the acre; and the price below ranges from fifty cents to a dollar per bushel, the former being the stard price when no extra demand takes place.

This afternoon I took a walk across "the line," two miles below, in company with the Rev. Messrs. Black and Tanner, the latter a half-breed Chippewa. About half way down, we passed the residence of the Rev. M. Belcourt, a large, two-story frame-house, situated alongside of a rude log-church, surmounted by a wooden cross.

The site is a very pleasant and commanding one, upon the high ground about half a mile back from the river, and safe from floods. Gardens, out-houses, and vehicles, were scattered around, and an air of comfort, and the rude enjoyments of a far off home, were visible. I am told that all the half-breeds here are catholics, with perhaps a few exceptions, and that Mr. Belcourt has resided among them, at the settlements below, and here, the long term of twenty-three years and upward. He is at present at the Mountain. At the line (forty-nine degrees) we found an elm-post, which was planted in the ground, upon the river bank, by Major Woods and Capt. Pope, bearing date, August 14, 1849. Just beyond is the first trading post and buildings of the Hudson's Bay Company, in this direction, a rival post of Kittson's. The buildings are built of logs and mud, one story high, and thatched with straw, are very warm and comfortable, and built around an open square. Here we found an old Scotch gentleman, named Sittare, an employee of the Bay Company, and who has charge of this place. He is a native of the Orkney Isles, and has resided in British America the still longer term of forty-eight years. A lifetime spent amid such solitudes is enough to make a man a misanthrope, and no one need wonder at it if I were to say that the old gentleman was not the most agreeable personage that I have met in this direction.

His only companions were a few half-breeds; the trading-house was closed, no trade, or business of any kind on hand, and the whole place was dull and desolate. Slept in our tent to-night, as of old; it is pitched in the court-yard, in front of the main buildings, with large fires burning around, and at each, is assembled a motley group of whites, half-breeds, and Indians; while in the distance, the dogs are howling, the braves and younger squaws are dancing promiscuously around their lodges, singing and beating drums for their amusement, and perhaps as a lullaby to us. They succeed most admirably, in making the black night as hideous as possible. Our escort of dragoons, are encamped about one fourth of a mile back upon the prairie, and their camp of snow-white tents, with the American flag flying gayly in the breeze, presents quite a pretty appearance, in contrast with the half-breed and Indian lodges, which are dotted here and there, separately, and in little hamlets of a dozen, all around as far as the eye can reach.

Saturday, 13th (September) - Cloudy, cold, raw, and windy, most of the day. The wind is keen from the northeast, and feels like that of a winter's day in milder latitudes. The mercury was down to fifty degrees at sunrise, and only rose to sixty-five degrees. Early this morning, a large Mackinaw boat started for the settlements below, in quest of barley; ourselves and escort requiring three hundred bushels. The boat was manned by eight half-breeds, six of whom were oarsmen. They will occupy two days in going down; two more in collecting the barley, and getting it thrashed, as it now stands out in the fields in shocks; five days to ascend the crooked, sluggish stream, and will bring about one hundred and sixty bushels; after which they will return for another load, and immediately on their second arrival, say about the 1st October, we will start homeward. To-day the half-breeds and Indians were served out rations; the Indians received flour and pemmican for three days' subsistence; and the half-breeds the same; with an additional allowance to each family of four pounds of sugar, and one pound of tea, they all being great lovers of that beverage. This occupied all the morning. The Indians number some five hundred, and the half-breeds, who drew rations, about fifty families. The latter are living here during their attendance on the treaty, in skin-lodges; though I am told they have comfortable log-houses, when settled permanently at home; and when not out on their semi-annual hunt. I have observed a number of their houses along the banks of Pembina and Red rivers, and understand the rest to be at the Mountain, and away out at Devil's lake, about one hundred miles to the southwest. Their occupation at present is exclusively that of hunters; and their life is naturally a free and easy, and a careless one; hunting buffalo and making pemmican and ox-carts, occupy all their time. These carts are made entirely of wood, not even an iron nail is used, wooden pins and thongs and bands of hide, being substituted. The only tools used are an axe, a hand-saw, a three-quarter, and an inch auger, with chisels of the same size. The carts are sold for thirty shillings; which is the average price, except in the hunting seasons, when in demand, they sell as high as ten dollars. A pair of wheels alone, are then worth five dollars. They are very strong, and will carry twelve hundred pounds of buffalo and pemmican.

The fall hunt comes off soon after the conclusion of the treaty. The usual tie for starting upon the summer and fall hunts, is the 10th of June and September. Nothing but pemmican and dried meat is secured on these two hunts; the robes being all taken in the winter, when the hair is long; the party returned from their summer hunt just before our arrival here. They were unsuccessful too, for once, and returned quite poor and empty-handed. They had a desperate fight, about the 20th of August, with the Yankton Sioux, who were one thousand strong, and all mounted upon horses; the affair took place away off upon the Missouri pains, upon the western slope of the Coteau des Prairies, and resulted in the victory of the half-breeds after they had been entrenched behind their carts and an earth embankment, for a day or two. I did not ascertain the number killed on either side.

Sunday, 14th - Cloudy, cold, raw, and windy; quite unpleasant and unseasonable. An over-coat is necessary out of doors, this morning, and fires in the house, for comfort; the weather, as well as other matters, serves to remind us of our northern latitude. To-day we had preaching by the Rev. John Black, in the dining-room of the governor's house; a novelty most certainly, in this far distant region. The congregation consisted of about a dozen whites, and three half-breeds. The Rev. Mr. Tanner also officiated, sang, and prayed, in English; and this afternoon, he preached in the open air, to the assembled Indians in the Chippewa language. Some of them paid close attention, sitting in a circle upon the ground; while others were listless and wandering, and others stood looking on from a distance, with the dragoons and half-breeds. The Chippewa is a beautifully sounding language, like the Italian. Mr. Tanner uses the Chippewa testament and hymns, which were translated by his father, who was for many years a prisoner among them, and wrote a book thereon. Mr. Tanner is about thirty-five years of age, and a very superior man for his class; he was born on the east side of the Red river, opposite this place (MY NOTE: where present-day St. Vincent, MN is located); was educated at Mackinaw, and has acted as a missionary among the Indians at Red lake, for the last five years. He removed to this place a week ago, and intends farming, teaching school, &c., for livelihood after the conclusion of the treaty. His wife is a half-breed, and they reside at present, in a lodge in the yard at this place. He is a fluent and earnest speaker, and discourses with great fervor and much eloquence to his red brethren, and is calculated to do good, if any can be done among them; he has been with them on their buffalo-hunts to the Missouri plains, armed like the rest; and has hunted buffalo and made pemmican all the week, and preached the gospel to them on Sundays - this being one phase of missionary life upon the prairies. He also has a half-breed brother, a real heathen as he styles him, who ranks as a chief among the Indians, and who lives among them, and accompanies them upon their hunts. This afternoon, things are dull and quiet; the Indians are strolling around, or lying idly in their lodges; the squaws are lugging huge loads of wood upon their backs, which they cut upon the river's bank, and secure by a strap passing over their shoulders and around the forehead; their bodies bending beneath the heavy load. Dozens of dirty children, half-clad in a piece of still dirtier blanket, are also playing around. The half-breeds are sitting around the fires in the yard; some lying in their lodges, and others standing at a respectful distance, listening to Mr. Tanner. Their young priest, M. Lecombe, has come down from his residence at the mission-house since vespers, and is holding a consultation with the governor. He seems to be a very intelligent, fine, young fellow; and intends accompanying us homeward to St. Paul, on his way to Montreal; where the Rev. Mr. Black came from, on his way to Selkirk settlement; thus keeping up an equilibrium in religious matters, and effecting a change between these two distant regions, in the persons of two ministers of different faiths; which is pleasant to contemplate, and which will be of great advantage to all concerned.

The Treaty

Monday, 14th - Still cold, raw, windy, and unpleasant; wind east-southeast; it looks, feels too, very much like snow, and has for several days past; the mercury was down to fifty at sunrise. At noon the Indians met, and the treaty commenced in front of the governor's house; his excellency, with Dr. Foster as secretary, and others, were sitting at a table at the front door; the principal chiefs, braves, and head men of the Red lake and Pembina bands of Chippewas, were sitting on low seats in front, while around behind them in a semi-circle stood a numerous crowd of half breeds and Indians, men, boys, squaws, and papooses, accompanied by their dogs, who, for once during our stay here, were quiet. the governor opened the council by an address of some length, which was interpreted by the Rev. Mr. Tanner and James Nolen, to them; as also their replies made in return. An old Indian, named "Clear-Weather," replied twice to the governor's remarks, in which he was quite pert and facetious as he thought, and ended by wanting a plain statement of our business there, and what we were going to do for them - what we were going to offer them, told bluntly and without any circumlocution or ornament; he wanted no "sugared words or honeyed phrases." He was not all satisfied with what had been said to them, and wanted something more definite, explicit, and to the point, and then they would go and make up their minds upon it, provided their great father would present them at least two bullocks in the meantime, as they were extremely hungry and could not deliberate on empty stomachs. The governor then told them they were women, and not the great Chippewa hunters he had thought them; that it was their duty as children to present their father with something to eat, after he had travelled such a long weary journey across the prairies purposely to meet them; but as he was now satisfied that they were squaws, and knew not how to hunt, he would go himself this afternoon and kill them some buffalo, and asked them "if they would have cows or bulls!" This little sally or bit of byplay put them in a good humor, and the council closed till ten, A.M., to-morrow. The dignitaries and potentates of this region of the earth then walked off majestically and proudly; and these stoics (?) - these men without a teat (?) - were seen no more. In plain terms they removed, in double quick time, lugging off their tobacco on their shoulders, and driving off their cattle, with loud shouts, to camp, where the rest of the day was devoted to gormandizing, and to-night we have hell let loose again among them.

Tuesday, 16th - Cloudy, cold, windy, and rainy. At daylight a rainstorm set in form the southeast, and continued nearly all day. A regular old fashioned equinoctial; mercury down to fifty-four and only rose to sixty-one degrees. No council was held that day in consequence of the storm. The Indians all invisible; all at home in their lodges, surfeiting themselves on ox meat and pemmican. Things very dull and gloomy; everywhere around the tent-fires all extinguished, and the star-spangled banner droops and hangs straight down the tall flag-staff, reared high in air above. The mud in the court-yard is as tenacious as pitch, and glues a man to the ground as soon as he steps out. We were, therefore, compelled to be sedentary; spent the day, for my own part, in reading "Major Long's Second Expedition to the Source of the St. Peter's River, Red River Valley, and Across the British Line, in 1825-'26" also prepared and packed up provisions for a canoe trip to-morrow down to Selkirk settlement, Fort Garry, &c.

Wednesday, 17th - The weather has cleared off finely, and is cool and pleasant; wind west-southwest, and the sun quite warm; the mercury sixty-one degrees at sunrise. Rose at daylight and prepared for a start down the river, in company with the Rev. John Black, in a bark canoe, with two Boise Brules (Halfbreeds, the name signifies 'burned wood') as voyageurs. Our canoe was fifteen feet long, and three feet wide, and was pretty well loaded down with ourselves, our bedding, baggage, and provisions. We started at seven, A.M., and paddled down the crooked, muddy river at the rate of some four miles an hour. stopping several hours to breakfast and dinner upon the river bank, and more frequently to haul out our leaky, frail canoe, and pitch the bottom with melted epinette, a vegetable gum used for that purpose. We saw large flocks of geese and ducks swimming among the dead willows along the banks, and could have shot large quantities, but we had not time to stop and pick them up. The ducks were all quite tame, and would approach within a few feet of our canoe, being so unused to the sight of human beings as to feel no feat. Other birds are numerous, among which I notice the eagle, hawk, crane, crow, plover, blackbird, and pigeon; also observed a fish-duck diving after fish; he was a fine large fellow, with a long bill, and a bright scarlet head; he swam toward us boldly, and thereby saved his life by his fearless confidence.

Red River is a very uninteresting stream; its waters are a liquid mud and have a very disagreeable taste, and affect the bowels of all persons unaccustomed to their use. The banks of the river are low, and extremely soft and muddy; you sink in knee-deep immediately on stepping foot on shore, where you stick and flounder about considerably before reaching the dry, hard prairie-ground above.

Along its whole course, both banks, within the margin of the stream, are covered with the thick growth of drowned-out willows before spoken of, while farther back on the prairie, fine large trees, majestic oaks and elms, are in the same condition; and now stand towering aloft like high, giant skeleton sentinels, throwing out their dry and leafless limbs across the water, as if to guard its passage. Each tree is marked at the height of some thirty feet above the water by the heavy drift-ice during the spring freshets; and the bark of all the timber to their height is of a dirty mud color, which, with the dead, drowned-out trees, presents a very disagreeable aspect. In some places the timber merely skirts the banks on both sides, and a broad expanse extends far on either hand; at others the timber extends farther than the eye can penetrate, and no prairie at all is visible for many miles, all being a desolate solitude of dead and dying skeleton trunks of leafless trees. There are some trunks in the river too forming snags; the water is very deep, current sluggish, say about one mile an hour generally, and in some places almost impreceptible, with not more than half a mile of straight chnnel at a time; for while its general course is due north it twists and turns in a very serpentine manner, to all points of the compass. The river contains no islands, and the only rapids are down below Selkirk settlement. A fine steamboat navigation will be found from there up to the junction of the Bois des Sioux, a distance of nearly four hundred miles; and one far better than that of the Mississippi above St. Anthony. We passed by the mouths of a number of small streams, viz., the Red Grass, Marias, Gratiaro, &c., which all resemble deep crooked ditches, and pour out additional quantities of thick, dark, mud-colored water, the washings of the rich and fertile prairies, now blooming with numerous flowers, through which they flow.

This is a splendid evening, the finest we have had for a long time; the sun is setting beautifully into the bosom of the far-off prairie, as it were, while all Nature is calm, still, and composed; the silence only broken by the dipping of our paddles, the occasional chirping of a bird, and the rapid rising of the scared wild fowl from out the smooth, calm surface of the water as we approach. We halted at sunset, about forty miles distant from Pembina, and have a good camp in a thick woods, where the only drawback to our comfort is the mosquitoes, which are as usual extremely annoying to us. The warm sun to-day unfortunately revived them from the torpid state in which the late cold storm had thrown them. We have our bar put up, ten-fashion, the corners being fastened to four stakes, and the raised apex or centre is secured to a bent pole, which keeps it upright and tightly stretched. Our bed consists of a robe and three blankets, with our coats and overcoats, &c., for pillows. We are upon an old camping ground, where two hundred and fifty cords of wood has been cut and piled around for the use of the settlements below this winter. The night is very clear and fine, the face of heaven is smiling amid myriads of twinkling stars; the northern horizon is lit up with the rays and dancing beams of an aurora, while the woods and silent flowing river are illuminated by our camp-fire; our voyageurs are fast aslepp upon the ground before us, and not a sound is heard, save that of the crackling, leaping flames and the low tone of our own voices as we chat merrily. And now as my companion reads a chapter in his French pocket-bible, and I pencil down these sketches of fact and fancy by the light of the burning fagots - but hark! we have company it seems and are not so lonely as I thought - that was the hoot-owl's cry; and sounds like the wailings of a fiend in misery - that was the cry, long drawn out and dismal, of a distant wolf; and now they are heard yelping and barking furiously, like a pack of hungry curs. And what was that - more unearthly than the fierce war-whoop, which almost freezes the young, warm blood, and turns the stout, athletic frame to stone? Was it a "demon-spirit or boglin damned," or the mere howling of the rising wind, the precursor of another store, I see arising in the distant horizon! Ha! I see two gleaming, fiery eyeballs in the thicket of the underbrush: "Take that, to light you to better quarters" I hurl a blazing fire-brand toward the varmint, who, with another dismal cry, leaves us to quietness, and to repose and sleep. From Sketches by a Camp-Fire
- to be continued...