Monday, August 31, 2009

Mystery Englishman Revealed?

There was always reason to fear danger from an Indian attack in hunting on the plains. In 1856, the Pembina hunters were attacked by the Yanktons, near Devils Lake, and their horses, buffalo meat and supplies were taken from them, the Yanktons claiming the parties were hunting in their country without their permission and not for their own food, but for commerce, which they would not tolerate.

In 1860 Sir Francis Sykes spent the summer hunting in the Devils Lake region, and the next summer a wealthy Englishman of the name of Handberry organized a party for the same purpose. He was accompanied by Captain Calvert, Malcolm Roberts, William Nash, and Charles E. Peyton. George W. Northrup was the interpreter and guide. Their entire outfit was destroyed or carried away and the party taken prisoners by the Tetons, but they were released the next day through the friendly offices of the Yanktons, it being represented to them that Mr. Handberry was a British subject and only passing through their country. They were allowed one team by the Indians and escorted beyond the danger line, but the other animals and their outfit and supplies were retained.

From Early history of North Dakota: Essential Outlines of American History By Clement Augustus Lounsberry

Is Handberry the mysterious "wealthy Englishman" mentioned in The Buffalo Hunters of the Pembinah? An intriguing theory, but can it be proven? Doubtful...but just in case, I did pass on the clue and its source to Professor Heather Devine. If anything comes of it, I'll be sure and let you know!

Friday, August 28, 2009

Early Pembina: In Their Own Words

Collections of the State Historical Societyof North Dakota, Volume 2FOUNDING OF PEMBINA

Pembina Post Established

The Park River Post having been abandoned May 4, 1801, and the Langlois party having joined Henry's, the reunited Red River Brigade moved down the river to the spot selected originally by Chaboillez, and established the post at Pembina. Chief Tabishaw and other Indians arrived on the 8th. Nothing was then seen of the Indian settlement that was said to have been near the old Fort Panbian, erected by Chaboillez, which had entirely disappeared.

The Post Named

May 17, 1801, Alexander Henry selected the spot for building a fort at Pembina. The post was completed October 1, 1801, and thereafter Henry's scattered forces made their headquarters at Pembina.

The post was name "Fort Panbian," and was later called the "Pembina House." It was built on the north side of the Penbian River - afterward changed to Pembina - between that and the Red River, 100 paces from each, on land afterwards entered by Joseph Rolette, and in 1870, James J. Hill, subsequently president of the Great Northern Railroad, purchased of Mr. Rolette the identical ground on which the establishment stood, embracing five acres, where he built a bonded warehouse for trade with the Indians and settlements in Manitoba.

Norman W. Kittson, a later trader at Pembina, and identified with transportation and other interests of the Red River country and of Minnesota, was a relative of Alexander Henry. Henry's post consisted of a storehouse, 100x20 feet, built of logs. Later a stockade and other buildings, including store rooms, shops, warehouses and a stable for fifty horses, were added.

The Hudson's Bay Company built, the fall of 1801, a post on the east side of the Red River, near Peter Grant's old post, and the X.Y. Company built a post, also on the Pembina River at the Grand Passage, which was destroyed by fire April 1, 1803.

The name of Pembina, applied to the post and the mountains, previous to 1801 known as the Hair Hills, is claimed by recognized authorities to be derived from the Chippewa words anepeminan sipi, a red berry known among the whites as the "high bush cranberry."

The early efforts to create the "Territory of Pembina" were antagonized because it was alleged that the word was insignificant, when in the debates in Congress it was pronounced "Pembyny," by a usually well informed congressman, all efforts in that direction ceased. Early in 1882, the Bismarck Tribune, then edited by the author of these pages, used "North Dakota" in the date line of that paper, and from that time the friends of "North Dakota" were united in their efforts to secure "North Dakota" for the name of the proposed new state. Dakota had become noted for its great wheat fields, and it was desired, also, to retain whatever benefit might accrue from that fact, as the famous farms were in the northern part of the territory.

Michael Langlois

Michael Langlois of the Red River Brigade, after the trading post was established the fall of 1801, on the Pembina River, was sent to the Pembina Mountains, then known as Hair Hills, to establish a post at the foot of the steep, sandy banks, where the river first issues from the mountains, and the X.Y. Company sent four men there to build alongside of his establishment; also, aside from the two houses mentioned, there was another trading post in the Pembina Mountains, known as the De Lorme House, where Henry called on his rounds, visiting his several outlying posts that winter. These trips were made with dog sledges and snow shoes.

The following winter of 1801-02, Michael Langlois took at the Pembina Mountaints, 200 beaver skins, 24 black bear, 5 brown bear, 160 wolf, 39 fox, 14 faccoon, 57 fisher, 5 otter, and 15 mink. In September, 1802, he was ordered by Mr. Henry to Red Lake, but ailing to make that point, spent the winter at Leech Lake, accompanied by Hoseph Duford. The winter of 1803-04, he passed at the Pembina Mountains post with Le Sieur Toussaint and turned in 182 beaver skins, 51 bear, and 148 wolf. Maymiutch, Carlo's brother, an Indian who went up the river with the "brigade," while under the influence of liquor, shot at Michael Langlois December 21, 1803. The following season, 1804-05, Langlois was in charge of the same station with ames Caldwell. The returns of catch are as follows: 16 beaver skins, 37 bear, 251 wolf.

Other employees at Fort Pembina in 1801, or about that period, who conducted the work of the post, were Jean Baptiste Le Duc (possibly Larocque), Joachim Daisville, Andre La Grosser, Andre Beauchemin, Jean Baptiste Larocque, Jr., Etienne Roy, Francois Sint, Joseph Maceon, Charles Bellgarde, Joseph Hamel, Nicholas Pouliotte and Hoseph Dubois - all of Henry's Red River Brigade.

You can read more about the founding of Pembina, and what daily life was like in the early years of 1801 and onwards here, in Alexander Henry's own words. It's amazing the hard work that it, and the fascinating to read of the cultural differences, clashes, and sometimes harmony of the natives with the explorers, fur traders, and others coming into the country from afar. Everyone had their own motives and goals, and most of them were more gray than black and white. People will always be people, and there's no getting around that. When you actually read about ordinary people going about their ordinary lives, you find out a LOT more than reading so-called history books. I'd love to find some history written by the natives, and I'll be the first to share it, if I find it!

Running the Buffalo

Charles Cavileer spent over fifty years of his life in the Red River Valley. Mrs. Cavileer, his widow, is a grand-daughter of Alexander Murray, one of the Selkirk settlers, and a survivor of the Seven Oaks massacre; a daughter of Donald Murray, one of the early merchants of Winnipeg, and on her mother's side, a grand-daughter of James Herron, an old-time trader. Speaking of running the buffalo, she said:
"I can see them now as they started on the hunt. I can see them rushing into the herd of buffalo, the hunter with his mouth filled with balls, loading and firing rapidly. Loose powder was quickly poured into the muzzle of the gun and a ball dropped into place, and the point of the gun lowered and fired, resulting often in explosion, for the reason that the ball had not reached the powder, or had been thrown out of place by the quick movement of the gun. Riding alongside of the herd, which was on the run with all the desperation possible in frightened animals, they were hot down by the thousands in a single day, and then the work of pemmican making commenced, on the ground where they animals were slain."
Check out book in my Google library called “Early History of North Dakota” for references on Pembina’s early settlement – pretty interesting stuff in there! P. 31, 39 (chapter on founding of Pembina), etc. P. 42 has many interesting facts about oral history, firsts, etc.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Historical Essay Spotlight: Bouvettes

This historical essay, one of many written by hundreds of Red River Valley students, is about a local area family many of us know first-hand, knowing their descendants to this day. It is one of the more informative essays, with many trivia about the family it is specifically about, as well as general history of the native peoples, which I fine incredibly fascinating. There is much, much more to the cultures, traditions, and tribal knowledge of the aboriginals of our area than most of us can imagine; the family that this essay is about, was part of that knowledge in their intersection with the natives through marriage and friendship...

The Bouvette Family & Their History As Members Of The Red River Valleyby Mary Ann Bernath

The nineteenth century found the Red River Valley much different from what it is today. There was no civilization with the exception of Fort Snelling, Fort Abercrombie, Fort Totten, Sauk Center, St. Cloud, and Fort Pembina. It was to these wilderness areas that men came, looking for newer and richer lands to make their homes on. There were no roads to follow, only the trails made by the Red River ox carts. The Red River Valley was the home of the Sioux and Chippewa Indians, vast herds of buffalo, and many other types of wild game.

Because there was so much wild game in the Red River Valley, many fur trading companies were established in the area. It was due to the formation of one of these companies in this area that brought one of the present families of the Red River Valley into the area; namely, the Bouvette's.

The Bouvette family first came from France. Francois Bouvette and his wife came from France to Quebec, Canada in the early 19th century. Their oldest son, who was also named Francois, was the Bouvette who was to bring this family into the Red River Valley. Francois married Mary Goudrie in Quebec and they moved to St. Boniface in the early 1840's. They lived there for a time and had three children. Francois (Frank) born in 1846, Nora, and Caroline. It was during the years that they lived here that Francois bought some land in Winnipeg on which he established a wharf. The land he acquired consisted of all of Portage Avenue, and all of what is known as Armstrong Point. It was called Bouvette's Landing. One time, when he was taking a barge loaded with cans containing nitro glycerine to his landing the authorities wouldn't let him land. Francois had considerable trouble finding a spot at which the explosive material could be landed. The nitro was to be used in the construction of the Canadian Pacific Railroad. The nitro glycerine had been transported by Red River carts to the headwaters of the Red River. After the spring freshet was over and the water had subsided somewhat, the barge was cut loose and was permitted to float to Winnipeg. When Francois was finally able to land his barge, he sold the big logs that made up the frame work of the barge for $1.00 per foot and these logs were used to build foundations for houses.The Bouvette's moved from St. Boniface to St. Cloud in what is now Minnesota in the late 1850's. It was here that Francois obtained a job working for Norman Kittson's Northwest Fur Company [post]. Francois was a captain in Kittson's Red River Ox Cart Train and he made frequent trips to Fort Snelling, Fort Abercrombie, Fort Totten, St. Peter (St. Paul), Fort Pembina, and Fort Gary in Winnipeg. While living here, the Bouvette's had two more children. Elizabeth, and Joseph who was born in 1866.

In 1869, Francois decided to move his family back to St. Boniface where he could still continue his ox cart driving and yet be nearer his wharf. On the trip back at approximately a point between Pembina and the Canadian border, the ox cart and wagon train in which they were traveling was attacked by Louis Riel of Canada. Riel who was quite an outlaw during this time and he preyed upon settlers, killing them and stealing their cattle. It was a serious offense to steal cattle in those days because they were so scarce and milk was hard to find. Riel stopped this group and held them prisoners in a log building which is presently erected in the Emerson, Manitoba Park. When Riel found out that a company of soldiers were on their way to free these people, he left and escaped into Canada. Francois, after being released by the Pembina soldiers, decided he didn't want to run into Riel and his gang again. To prevent this, he took his family back to Fort Pembina and they settled there.

Two children were born to the Bouvette family while they lived in Pembina. They were Albert and Emma. As a young boy, Joseph had an important job. Every day he took fresh bread out to the soldiers at Fort Pembina. He traveled in a sleigh pulled by a big Saint Bernard dog. Each morning, as soon as the bread came out of the ovens, Joseph was seated in the bottom of a sleigh and the bread was piled around him. Then, over top of all the bread and Joseph, a large buffalo hide was put down. Even it is was storming, Joseph would take bread out to the fort because the dog knew every inch of the way.

Joseph was raised with Indians as his neighbors and he learned both the Chippewa and Sioux languages from the children. Because of his relationship as a playmate of the Indians, he learned many of their customs. One of these customs was the way in which the squaws diapered their babies. First, the Squaws would soft tan a deer skin until it was as soft as chamois. They would then cut this skin into the proper dimensions and line it with cat tail down which they had harvested in the fall. This material was very absorbent and they placed a layer of several inches in the skin diaper and then wrapped the child in it. To clean it, they only had to shake the down out of the skin and replace it with fresh cut cat tail down. Inventiveness was a trait which the Indians put to good use. For a powder, they ground up rotten bark from decayed trees. They ground it until it was the consistency of face powder and this was used as powder to dress an infant when changing its diaper. The late Dr. A. W. Shaleen, doctor in Hallock, Minnesota and friend of the Bouvette family, upon hearing this story said the rotten bark contained a high percentage of penicillin, and since that drug is a mold, it must have contained great healing qualities and prevented the babies from getting rashes.

Mr. Joseph Bouvette attended the first public school in the state of North Dakota. One of his classmates at that school, located in Pembina, was the late Governor Welford of North Dakota.

In those early days of setting up restrictions between Canada and the United States, customs officials were Presidential appointees.

Joseph served as Inspector of Customs under the administration of Benjamin Harrison during the years 1889-1893. After the administration changed, he was discharged from his job and he then had to find another job. Joseph then moved to Hallock, Minnesota where he bought out the Kittson County Enterprise from Ed Love in 1893. Mr. Bouvette then became its editor and went to work trying to make a real success as previous owners hadn't been able to. Joseph was well qualified to operate a newspaper because as a young man he had worked for Mr. Wardwell who published the Pembina Pioneer Express. He had learned printing and how to run presses there.

Mr. Bouvette was married to Ellen Chevins in 1895. She was born in Landon, Ontario, Canada in 1873 and had moved to Emerson, Manitoba when only three years old. It was here that she met Joseph Bouvette. They had four children, one a son who died in infancy, followed by Clifford, Mildred, and Calvin.

Albert Bouvette, Joseph's younger brother, was an excellent speed skater and had raced Norval Baptie for the championship of the world. Albert, his brother Joseph, and Norval had all skated together as boys and all of them were accomplished skaters. Albert was defeated by Norval Baptie in the championship race when Baptie came in ahead of him with a lead of a few inches.

Clifford, son of Joseph, was very interested in his father's work as a boy. He learned to set type by hand when he was only 10 years old. By the time he was 14 years old, he could operate the press himself.

In 1943, the publishers of the Enterprise put out a 50th anniversary edition. It was a large paper containing many historical points of interest about people, towns, churches, and places of business. It took a lot of work to compile a paper like this and the editor was one of the best qualified to do it. Skilled in the art of drawing, Joseph Bouvette took over the responsibility of drawing the cover and many of the Fort Pembina and Pembina town sketches.

Mr. Bouvette edited the paper for a total of 52 years until his death in 1945 at which time his son Clifford became its editor. Calvin and Clifford both own half interests in the paper and while Clifford is the Editor, Calvin is the papers Business Manager. Clifford has been associated with the KITTSON COUNTY ENTERPRISE for 61 years now.

Clifford was a State Legislator in the year 1937. He only served one term because he was needed at home.

The Bouvette family was one of the first pioneer families to come into the Fort Pembina area. They have contributed to the growth and development of that area in such a way that they will always be remembered.


Bouvette, Clifford. Interview on January 31, 1968
Bouvette, Clifford. Information by letter correspondence on Feb. 6, 1968
Bouvette, Clifford. Interview on February 13, 1968
Mortenson, Mildred. Information by letter correspondence, Feb. 29, 1968.

Friday, August 21, 2009

The Politics of Fur

The Red River colony and the Hudson's Bay Company - Between 1774 and 1821, traders from the HBC and Montreal built rival posts throughout the Canadian northwest. It was during this period that the competition for furs and the building of rival trading posts reached their peak. Following 1804, the NWC and the HBC locked in an increasingly ruinous competition. Both companies reduced the number of posts operating in the Northwest and explored ways in which they could encroach upon rival ones. After 1813, the two companies again increased their number of posts and this expansion could not be sustained. It led to the merger of 1821, which was the start of an era of monopoly in the Canadian fur trade.

To stay ahead in the market, the NWC quickly sought a trading offensive of traveling to Indian country before the Natives could transport their furs to the posts of the London-based HBC. For a long time, Cree and Assiniboine middlemen had been obliged to make an annual or biannual journey of hundreds of kilometers to and from the bayside posts and to accept the English traders' valuations of their furs if they wished to keep having access to guns and kettles. With the arrival of the NWC, the Indians frequented the HBC posts less and drove harder bargains in each company's posts. As competition increased, the Nor'westers built "flying posts"1 that brought them closer to Native groups, allowing them to visit Indians in their hunting grounds during the winter. This "en dérouine"2 trading was intended to reduce the trader's risk of losing the winter hunt to a rival in the spring.

This forced the HBC to rethink its strategy of limiting its trading post locations to a handful of strategic tidewater locations. Also, in 1811, the HBC granted 116,000 acres for the purpose of settlement in the Red River and Assiniboine valleys. This grant was made to Thomas Douglas, Lord Selkirk, who intended to develop a colony of Scottish immigrants. The settlement was called Assiniboia and was 5 times the size of Scotland. It even included parts of modern-day North Dakota and Minnesota.

Later in that year, Selkirk sent out a party of settlers under newly appointed Assiniboia governor Miles Macdonell by way of Hudson Bay. Two groups of settlers arrived at Red River in 1812 and began establishing themselves. Despite his honest motives, Selkirk failed to consider the interests of the NWC, who resolved to break up the settlement. Indeed, the colony laid a hostile move right across the major rivers connecting the fur country to the plains where food supplies such as pemmican were obtained through trade. Alexander Mackenzie denounced this settlement project as a "mad scheme" as it were to ruin the fur trade of the NWC. In turn, the Nor'westers opened a systematic plan to waste the settlement with petty irritations and what were called "terrorist" actions.

In January 1814, the governor of Red River, Colin Robertson, issued a proclamation to forbid the export of pemmican from Assiniboia without a license granted by him. In July 1814, he followed up his so-called "Pemmican Proclamation" by expropriating stocks of pemmican from trading posts in the territory and blockading rivers to stop the traditional NWC brigades as they approached Lake Winnipeg. He further forbade the export of meat, grain, or vegetables procured and raised within the colony. In his view, the settlers alone were to enjoy these products. He also forbade the hunting of bison by the mounted Métis.

The NWC traders violently rejected these orders and triggered the alarm among the Métis. Indeed, determined to protect their interests, the Nor'westers persuaded the Métis to join their cause by stimulating already developing nationalist feelings amongst them. The Métis and NWC partners attempted to empty the Red River colony with harassment talks of poor prospects, violence and arson. Twice, they forced many settlers from their homes. In March 1816, in retaliation, the NWC's Fort Gibraltar at the mouth of the Assiniboine River was captured and pillaged.The violence culminated at Seven Oaks with the death of 21 HBC men, including Robert Semple, the local governor, following a small battle with a group of Métis. When news reached Selkirk of this battle, he seized the NWC headquarters at Fort William on Lake Superior. Under the provisions of the Canadian Jurisdiction Act, traders used laws as a weapon of war by having each other arrested. Some appointed themselves as magistrates and arrived in the interior with warrants for the arrest of anyone who got in their way. At Fort William, Selkirk seems to have found evidence that the NWC had stolen furs from the HBC and that the NWC had rewarded the Métis for Seven Oaks. But, the Montreal company was not to be dislodged this easily and had Selkirk arrested. In all, Selkirk laid 150 charges against the NWC and, in return, the Nor'westers laid 29 suits against him. The trials were a mockery as prisoners skipped bail or escaped from prison, cases were deferred and many proceedings were cancelled. Despite the failure of the settlement project and the return of Selkirk to England, some settlers remained in the area and became the first body of colonists in Manitoba history.

From The Politics of Fur

1 - "Flying Posts" were small encampments which were set up during the winter as close to the bison herds as access to woods would permit and thus, were shifted from year to year.

2 - "en dérouine" was used in the fur trade to indicate when a trader made an extended sojourn in an Indian village to trade; the actual word "derouine" still eludes definition, it seems, but the idea that it's a corruption of "drouine" is suggestive...To be "en derouine" may mean to go out with a backpack of items for sale - a traveling salesman?

Tuesday, August 18, 2009


I grew up during the 60's and 70's, right when there was a revival of interest in films like Frankenstein, Dracula, and the 50's sci-fi like "Them". Every week I would watch the "Chiller Thriller" movie from Pembina, North Dakota, Saturday at 10:30pm. Anticipating the weekly dose of classic horror was heaven to kids like me; in other words, kids who weren't the popular or athletic kids in school.

A fellow fan of KCND's old horror show pays tribute to a man recently passing from us...

Saturday, August 15, 2009


As he approached Joseph Grant's house that Christmas afternoon, Ian puzzled over the blanket-covered bay horse tied by the front gate. Cutting across to the rear of the house, he slipped from the saddle and led his horse into the barn, then returned to the house. Even as he extended his hand to rap at the back door, it suddenly opened. There stood a smiling Susan; she stepped outside, stealthily closing the door behind her. Turning, she flung herself at Ian, encircling his neck tightly. His arms closed around her waist. He swung her off her feet as they kissed.

Finally, lowering her, he reached into his pocket for a small package. "It's for you. Merry Christmas darling!"

Excitedly, she opened one end of the wrapping and a portion of gold chain fell out, followed by a small gold locket. "Oh,My! Ian, it's lovely." Turning it over, she noticed her initials. She looked up affectionately at him and stroked his cheek with her free hand. Then she turned to point toward the door. "Charley Brown is visiting Marguerite. Have you met him?"

"Not yet, but I've heard a lot about him. He's reputed to be quite a man." He noted gooseflesh forming on her arms and reached for the doorknob. "You'll catch a cold in that thin blouse. Let's get inside."

Opening the door, he stepped aside to allow her to enter first. Ian could hear voices from the front room as he removed his coat. Taking him by the hand, Susan led him in to meet the others.

She smiled as she proudly said, "Look who's here. It's Ian."

Pete, Joseph Grant and his wife Annette were sitting by the double front windows. Ian could see the two men had been celebrating, for each held an enameled cup in his hand. A gallon jug stood beside them on the floor. Susan's mother smiled. "Merry Christmas,Ian." Her smile broadened. "These two have a head start. They'll probably be asleep in another hour."

Pete's words came out in a slur. "Happy Christmas!" He grinned foolishly, and then waved to Susan. "Ne tah nish [daughter]. He comes to see you -- not us." He slapped his knees gleefully.

"Not your daughter . . . mine!" Grant looked to Pete angrily.

Pete rolled his head sorrowfully, "No matter."

During the drunken interchange Ian felt Susan's grip on his hand tighten appreciably.

Easing his grasp, Ian stepped toward the man seated opposite Marguerite. Offering his hand, he said, "I'm Ian McLaren, from Emerson."

The lawman stood to grasp Ian's hand. "Charley Brown, from Pembina."

Ian eyed the older man critically and judged him to be about thirty years of age. He had the size to be a sheriff -- about one hundred and ninety pounds, broad shoulders and a good six feet in height. He had a firm, square jaw, dark blue eyes and wisps of sandy, curly hair at his temples. His appearance was that of a placid, gentle man, but Ian had heard of his prowess when it came to breaking up fights with force.

"I've never been in your store. You're in partnership with Kabernagle, aren't you?"

"Yup. The sheriff's job came after I got out of the Army. It's an occasional job, but the pay is fair." He turned to smile at Marguerite. "Why don't the four of us play whist?"

Marguerite smiled at Ian, pretending to pout. "See, Charley is tired of me already. He wants a change."

Ian had intended to spend his time with Susan, but there seemed no alternative. He looked to Susan, who nodded her acceptance of the situation.

"Sure, why not?"

While Susan brought two chairs, Charley stage-whispered to Ian, "I brought the jug of cheer." He turned his head conspiratorially toward the two drinkers, "Gives us a little privacy." Both Susan and Marguerite smiled at his remark, apparently aware of his stratagem.

Drawing for partners, Ian was paired with Marguerite. The cut for the deal fell to him. The last card dealt was a diamond, making diamonds trump. Ian soon found Marguerite not only an excellent whist player, but also witty and knowledgeable.

As dusk approached, Annette brought a lamp to their table, and then went to the kitchen to prepare supper. When the girls arose to help their mother, Charley pulled two cigars from his vest pocket, offering one to Ian. Biting off the end, he questioned, "You're buying furs aren't you?"

"Yes. Thanks to Pete I'm having pretty good luck." As Charley leaned forward to light Ian's cigar, Ian attempted a nonchalant pose, never having smoked a stogy before.

"Watch out for McMurtrie at the customs house," warned Charley. "He knows a lot of furs are being smuggled across the line from Canada." He sat back, eyeing Ian dispassionately. "No skin off my back. It's not my bailiwick, but if he can prove you're buying Canadian furs, he'll make trouble, probably even try to seize them."

Ian took an instant liking to Charley, realizing his advice was sound. From what rumors he'd heard, the sheriff was scrupulously honest.

"I can't tell where the furs come from, I can only guess. I can't speak Cree; Pete does that for me. I expect some of the furs are from across the line, but I don't go out of my way to buy them. And I buy only on the American side of the border.

Changing the subject, he asked, "Have they found out who murdered that girl at Roseau?"

"No, but Constable Bell, of Emerson, suspects the transients living at Roseau Crossing. They all worked for the C.P.R. last year and one of them was a foreman named Brogan. They're all hard cases. Lordy! The sad part is that there are plenty of women out there glad to mix with them for money. But some cruel bastard had to grab a young girl, and then strangle her! Hell!" He shook his head. "The man must be deranged. If the Indians out there find the guilty one, they'll kill him sure. Then there'll be real trouble!"

Ian nodded, "I worked under that crooked-necked Brogan last summer. He's a cruel, sadistic man, always filthy dirty, with a mouth to match. I'll never work under him again. No man should have to take his abuse." He pondered, "I wonder how he got that crooked neck."

Charley nodded grimly, "I know the man too. He's caused me plenty of trouble in Pembina. It beats all why the railroad contractors hire men of his ilk. I'll never understand. Maybe they figure a bully gets more work out of the men. You know, I fought through nearly four years of the late war," He grinned, "even got me captured when I tried to steal some Confederate horses. I learned that you can push men only so far; you've got to lead them to get results."

He went on to tell Ian how he was transferred to Fort Pembina in 1870, quitting the Army in '75. He explained how he and Kabernagle had teamed up to build their store for the sale of liquors, tobacco and luxury food items.

Susan called them to supper, interrupting their conversation. There were only five to eat, since Pete and Joseph had both fallen asleep in their chairs.

While Annette carved the remaining meat from the well-picked carcasses of two geese, Marguerite set the table and Susan made coffee.

Seating himself, Brown studied Ian. It was plain to him that this boy intended to marry Susan. Perhaps not in the spring, but soon. The thought both revolted and shamed him, for although he was involved with Marguerite and felt comfortable with her, he could never marry her. Miscegenation was a horror to him. His boyhood training in West Virginia made a mixed marriage abhorrent, a hell, leading to genocide. He remembered the lecture his father had given him after catching him in a compromising situation with a young slave girl. "Birds do not mix! Animals do not mix! Human beings do not mix!" Those statements had been repeated over and over by his father as he thrashed young Charley with a heavy strap.

Knowing that he was being unfair to Marguerite left him with a feeling of guilt and regret, but somehow he could not cast her aside. Also, she seemed more than agreeable to continue their liaison.

When Annette questioned about the tragedy at Roseau Crossing, Charley explained, "We have to put up with the good and bad in these small towns. Each starts with one or two small shacks, finally building into a settlement. The trouble starts when the toughs show up. Up to now we've had little trouble in Pembina. It's been mostly petty thievery or the theft of a horse. Of course, this coming summer hoards of men will show up to work on the railroad. I expect there will be plenty of fighting and a few broken heads. Why, between the C.P.R. and Jim Hill's railroad, they're expecting nearly 2000 workers to show up.”

"It hardly seems possible," Ian mused. "Where will they find that many men?"

"Heck," said Charley, "they'll come from St. Paul, Minneapolis, Mankato and all over. It's said Hill is to build an engine house and track for 400 boxcars on that clearing just north of town. They plan on driving piling to cross the slough on the north end of the lake, and make a Y track further east to turn the trains around."

When supper was over, Ian volunteered to help Susan with the dishes while Charley and Marguerite moved quietly back to the card table. Annette discretely vanished into another room, leaving the couples alone.

Susan smiled at Ian mischievously as she turned the wick of the kitchen lamp down so that it emitted only a feeble light. Doing the dishes took an abnormally long time; their hands mingled together in the warm dishwater, then upon each other. They were careful to avoid the open doorway to the living room, but on one occasion Susan peeked into the room and grasped Ian's hand, pointing. Charley and Marguerite were tightly embraced across the small table.

It was late when Susan accompanied Ian to the barn for his horse. After tightening the girth on his saddle, he turned to hold her in his arms. She thrust her body firmly to his, burrowing her face into his neck. For long moments they held each other without speaking. Both were experiencing the same feelings of desire.

"I never believed I could love anyone as much as I love you," Ian spoke softly.

"I feel the same." Raising her head, she looked into his eyes. "Why do we have to wait?"

He kissed her gently. "I've got to find security for us. The railroad will be selling land this coming spring and I know the two quarters I want. When I get a house built for us, then it will be time."

She raised herself on her toes and pressed her mouth against his. Her arms tightened around him fiercely and she arched her body tightly against him.

"Golly, Susan. Don't do that! It's all I can do to keep from tearing your clothes off. You nearly drive me wild. We've got to wait."

She was still thrust against him, her abandonment involuntary. Then she murmured, "Let's not wait too long."

Groaning in his frustration, he released her and reached for the bridle of his horse. Leading the animal out of the barn, he stepped into the saddle and gazed down at her. Presently she turned and walked back to the house. It wasn't until he heard the door close that he nudged his horse into motion toward home.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Iron Road

A great film about the story of how the railroad was built that crossed Canada...

Sunday, August 09, 2009

How Prohibition Affected Us

Liquor running. It has a long history in our region.

As a result of prohibition in the United States, a chain of liquor warehouses was established in the Provinces of Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta. Stocks of liquor running anywhere from 30 dollars to 100,000 dollars worth were kept in these warehouses. People from the United States would come over and buy this liquor to take back across the border. They took it as far south as Omaha and retailed it at enormous profits. This went on in 1920, 1921 and 1922 and when it first started, men most engaged in it were young chaps from the United States out of the army. Two warehouses in Estevan, two in Bienfait, one in Oxbow and one in Carnduff, Carievale and Gainsborough. These warehouses were called 'Boozoniums'. There was terrific traffic from Canada to the United States.
Another interesting fact of this era is that the involvement of the druggists. Druggists gave liquor for medical purposes but you had to have a doctor's prescription. You could get all the prescriptions you wanted but each one cost $2.00. The doctors and druggists had a thriving business.

From - Rum-Running Days
Prohibition has its own history in Manitoba, also.

A regional liquor runner mentioned before here - Art Gould - was probably one of the fellows running liquor from the over-the-border warehouses down into the States...

Sunday, August 02, 2009

PROFILE: Roy P. Johnson

I recently obtained a second-hand copy of Roy P. Johnson's Red River Valley. It's an invaluable resource containing articles published by Mr. Johnson between 1941 and 1963 in the Fargo Forum. According to sources, his articles contained among other things, unique pieces of oral history that were disappearing at the very time he was able to collect them from those who either lived the events, or had heard them told by those that did. Now that's my kind of guy - appreciative, resourceful, and taking the time to document and share while there's still time!
Although he considered himself an "amateur" historian, much of his oeuvre is unique and irreplaceable. His newspaper columns remain the most detailed and incisive chronicle of the history of the Red River of the North and its environs. He captured moments in frontier history at a time when oral history and personal reminiscence could still fill in the blank spaces left by official histories and biographies, producing what remains one of the primary sources for Red River Valley history. From Wikipedia
I plan on taking a close look at the book to see if it has anything to offer about our particular area, and if so, I will share here. I also many times use such books as a stepping stone for ideas, doing further research off of clues they provide and digging even deeper. At least that's the plan...