Friday, November 27, 2009

Historical Depot Photos

Pembina ND NP depot looking northeast in 1969 (Photo by Charles W. Bohi) from Northern Pacific Railway Historical Association

Emerson Junction MB CN depot looking southeast. It was used by NP passenger trains after crossing the Canadian border (Photo by Charles W. Bohi) from Northern pacific Railway Historical Association

William Ash shared the above photo links with me recently...

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Historical Essay Vault: Lost Potential

St. Vincent main street looking east, 1918The excerpt below is from a historical essay written by a Humboldt-St. Vincent student, and originally copied off of the Red River Valley website. Currently, most of that website is offline, but we're trying to piece it back together again at its new location on Rootsweb where has kindly given us free space to host it. Until it's back up, here's a bit of the history that the site preserves from the students who documented it through the Historical Essay program, the Red River Valley's answer to the Foxfire books...

It looked like St. Vincent was blessed with everything a good town needs: easy transportation, jobs, and good soil, and water. But somewhere they lost whatever it was they had had. For St. Vincent is no longer a little town with a lot of growing to do-- but now St. Vincent has little to look forward to except a slow death. In 1909 these words were written:
"Today we have abundant evidence that we are standing at the threshold of a new dominion that is to arise on this plateau of North America...With unshackled hands, free thought and liberty of conscience, the people of the valley of the Upper Mississippi and Red River of the North may add much to the luster of the Great Republic, born on the 4th of July, 1776. Let us pursue no narrow policy. Let us welcome the Dane, the Swede, the Norwegian, the Russian, the German, and all newcomers..."
Somewhere along the line we forgot how to use this potential, and now we are paying for it. We will probably never regain our way of life and the promises it showed, but this area will always be rich with the memories of the bright past.

St. Vincent main street looking west, 1918

Friday, November 20, 2009

Time of Change

Between 1812 and 1823 the Selkirk settlers/Red River Settlement used Pembina as a seasonal (in winter) residence. In the early 1820's concerns were expressed over the relationship of Pembina to the international boundary. Talk surfaced about abandoning fur trade, Fort Daer (Selkirk settlers), and the mission efforts; it was felt it would prevent conflict with the United Stated and encourage local populations to pursue farming instead of hunting. In the spring of 1823, HBC left and the missionary Dumoulin left, and the settlers' Fort Daer was closed. That same year the Long Expedition arrived in August. By 1826 trade for HBC was carried out by private traders.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009


Patrick was ecstatic to finally get at the building of their house. "That carpenter, Johannason, is a hustler! We got all the plate set on the brick foundation today and are starting on the studding tomorrow. He's going to balloon frame to the roof-line, says it'll make a stronger house. It looks huge already and we've only the plates set."

"When do we move in?" Maggy questioned.

"We should be able to get into the new house by the end of June. We'll pay the rent here until October, and then see what turns up. It may pay to keep this place next winter. The youngsters still need schooling, and Mary has to get her teaching certificate."

"She can get her credentials for the United States next year. They give the examination in Pembina each spring. She'll be better prepared by then and she'll be of age. Since we're moving across the line, it's best she's qualified to teach there. Mr. Baldwin has promised to help her with the necessary studies. Speaking of moving to the United States, you'll have to take a day off from your job. We'll have to go to Pembina and apply for citizenship. I suppose Mary and the boys will have to apply too."

"Yup! We've put it off too long. I'll try to get off on Wednesday afternoon."

The small acreage of sod that Jerold had plowed and seeded to oats the past year was seeded to wheat in early April. With occasional help from Ian, Jerold set out to plow and seed an additional 120 acres, 60 acres on his father's river quarter and 60 acres of the 320 acres Ian had finally managed to purchase from the St. Paul and Pacific Railroad in February.

A young Norwegian boy, Knute Carlson, aided Jerold. Jerold found the young lad wandering the streets of St. Vincent, hungry and destitute. He was, as Mary put it, instantly adopted by Jerold. He spoke little English, but by subtle questioning, Patrick discovered he had run away from home along the Minnesota River. When it was suggested he return to his father, he shook his head and objected vigorously. He had come to them with faded, torn trousers and a dismal looking wool shirt. He was a long, lean boy with an almost pleading face and expressive soft brown eyes. His upper lip was formed into two peaks. Shaggy, dirty blond hair was plastered closely to his head the afternoon he met Maggy. She could tell he had just wetted and finger combed the unruly mop. She almost cringed at the first sight of him, deeming the large holes at the elbows of the boy's shirt unpatchable. "Knute, you need a haircut." She stroked her chin thoughtfully.

"Yah, Ma'am."

Maggy turned to Jerold. "I've saved the hand-me-downs you've outgrown. It'll be years before Mike can use them. Some of the newer ones will fit Knute. Also, he'll need new boots, his are shot. Take him to Mike Ryan's boot store, your Father will pay."

"Sure, Mother. He can share my room until the plowing is done."

In spite of his skepticism at having another mouth to feed, Patrick felt sorry for the lad and let him stay. Yet, he was careful not to commit himself on Knute's future. Within a few days the boy was accepted and treated as one of the family. He took to Mary, for she began making subtle changes in him, correcting his English and manners. It was obvious he had never before known love and acceptance; his gratitude was often embarrassing.

School was dismissed in mid-April, a time when everyone who could be spared was needed for fieldwork. On the quarter just east of the river Ian was busy hand broadcasting wheat seed from a bag hung from his shoulder, while Jerold harrowed behind him with the young team. To their south Knute plowed steadily with their three mules.

Just before noon Jerold stopped his team alongside Ian to make conversation. As he squinted up at the fleecy cumulus clouds above them, he remarked, "Figure it to be a tough season, Ian?"

Ian grinned as he shifted the heavy bag to his other shoulder. "There isn't any other kind. This isn't a country for lazybones." He wiped his forehead with the back of his hand. "You know, I've had enough of this. Hitch your team to the wagon and we'll go into town. George West, the implement dealer, just got in three new seeders. They spread the grain more evenly. I think one team can pull an eight-foot drill."

"Sure would speed things up." Jerold was beaming. He looked over toward Knute's rig. "We'll be running over Knute, though."

Their short trip to town was more costly than Ian planned, for he found Jerold eyeing a new steel 16-foot boss-harrow. Ian joined him, asking, "How much is it? Can one team handle it?"

The implement dealer overheard the conversation. "It's made for a team and it only costs $27. For that, I'll unhook the sections and load it into your wagon. You can tie the drill behind."

Ian saw the wishful look on Jerold's face. "We'll take it. Now we can really do some planting."

Before the end of May they had nearly completed field work; only five acres remained to be plowed and sown. It was late in the afternoon when Jerold happened to glance toward Knute. He was suddenly horrified; Knute was lying face down on the ground some distance behind the plow. The mules had stopped, evidently sensing they had no driver. When Jerold reached the youth, he appeared unconscious; yet, he was grinding his teeth and thrashing his head. Puzzled, Jerold raised him to a sitting position, and began brushing dirt from his face, mouth and nostrils. Within moments Knute began to regain consciousness, uttering guttural sounds all the while. Jerold realized that Knute had been subjected to an attack of some sort. When Knute finally opened his eyes, he seemed embarrassed. He shrugged away from Jerold, and then, grinning foolishly, rose to his feet and gathered up the mule reins. Without a word of thanks he regained his seat on the plow and clucked the mules into motion.

That evening Jerold consulted with his father. "Pa, something is wrong with Knute." He explained what had happened.

"It might be the falling-down sickness, Jerold. I think doctors call it epilepsy. Old Murrick, back in Orillia, had it. Didn't seem to bother him much, but he was a tough old goat. The trouble is, Knute might get hurt if an attack comes at the wrong time. The next time I go to Pembina I'll drive out to the fort. The Army surgeon there might be able to help. There may be some medicine available.

"Does Ian know about this?"

Jerold nodded. "I told him."

"What did he say?"

"That we'll have to keep a watch over him."

"I'll tell your Mother. She'll be more protective over him than ever. He is a fine boy."

Jerold looked worried. "Pa, I like him. He can still stay with us, can't he?"

Patrick put his arm around Jerold's shoulders. He understood his son's concern. "Sure, as long as we have a roof over our heads, he's a part of our family."

When seeding was completed in late May, Patrick welcomed the warmer weather. The sun brought forth a show of green as the grass and trees shrugged off the drabness of winter. Frequent rains gave the newly sown wheat a good start, and vivid blossoms of early wildflowers were beginning to show. In addition to the two quarters Ian had purchased from the railroad in February, Patrick had obtained the same amount. Also, he had arranged for the purchase of a further quarter for Jerold, making the down payment. He marveled over the changes that had occurred in the matter of only a year. Why his family now owned 1120 acres, a far cry from the paltry 80 acres they had rented in Orillia.

Jerold now tipped the scale at 170 pounds. Both Maggy and Patrick marveled at his growth and strength, inasmuch as neither could justify his size when searching back into their family histories. His heavy-boned structure, six-foot-plus height and broad shoulders made him look almost thin. Patrick reasoned that at the rate he was growing, he would weigh far more in the future. He had not lost his kindness and gentleness and remained an avid reader when not at work. His intellectual curiosity gained him the use of many books through the auspices of the schoolmaster at Emerson. In fact, when Mr. Baldwin dismissed the classes in the spring, he had said to Mary, "A pity he couldn't have attended school in England. A good preparatory school, then Eton."

Mary planned to remain in Emerson during the summer, helping with the chores, milking the cows and tending the garden. She and Maggy had worked the huge garden plot, seeding it to potatoes and a variety of vegetables. Her next project was the re-glazing of the poorly mounted glass in the windowpanes of the house. She and her mother churned butter every other day, which sold locally for 35 cents a pound.

Mike, five years of age on April l, was daily herding the cows on grassland across the border on the American side of the boundary line. There were few border-crossing problems for the townspeople, the locals deeming it their privilege to freely move back and forth. Patrols from Fort Pembina and the United States Customs were interested only in contraband goods. Horses and other items smuggled and sold in Minnesota or the Dakota Territory, were seized whenever possible, and sold at public auction. Petty hiding of materials under voluminous skirts, although illegal, was commonplace.

The track laying from the south to St. Vincent was proceeding at the rate of over one mile each day. Construction of a turntable and roundhouse for engines was also under way in the newly cleared area northwest of St. Vincent. Sidetracks capable of holding over four hundred boxcars were being planned.

At the end of June Robert and Annie quietly moved back to Emerson where he was to check on the contractor's final joining of the C.P.R. steel connecting with the St. Paul & Pacific Railway. The couple was forced to seek temporary quarters at the Emerson House until living quarters could be found.

Mary knew nothing of their arrival until she stopped at the cafe to visit Annie's mother. There, sitting at a table with several other women, was a young woman dressed in a flowered gingham. Her profile seemed familiar, and when she turned, Mary realized it was Annie. Mary's face lit up in expectation as she approached the radiant girl. "Annie, when did you arrive back home?"

Annie's face froze. The shock of suddenly seeing Mary rendered her speechless. She had dreaded this moment, hoping to forestall this inevitable embarrassment. Finally, gathering courage, she said haltingly, "I'm married to Robert now."

Almost instant reaction set in, and swinging her arm forcefully, Mary slapped Annie's face. "You slut! You!"

Within seconds the side of Annie's face began reddening; tears began streaming down her cheeks.

Seconds passed as Mary's shock slowly died and she realized what she had done. Mortified, she dropped to her knees beside Annie’s chair and threw her arms around Annie. Annie responded, and they held each other tightly as they shared their tears. Embarrassed patrons watched uneasily.

The long silence was broken by the sound of boots as a man entered the dining room. It was Robert. He stood stunned at the sight of the two embracing girls. Then he said haltingly, "Mary!"

The two girls parted and Mary looked up at Robert, her face chalk-white. Rising to her feet, she threw him a venomous glance, and then swept past him toward the door. Her mind was a turmoil of mixed feelings, her disgust at seeing him obvious. The traumatizing sight of Robert offset her sudden feeling of empathy for Annie. As she left the cafe, she realized the people around Annie were shocked. She had upset any congratulations being offered Annie. Her display of sudden anger, tempered by sympathy, now changed to pity for Annie. She forced a smile to her face as she was greeted friends from time to time while on her way back to the house.

By the time she reached home, she had recovered her composure; her mood turned cynical. "Mom, guess who I just saw at the cafe?"

Maggy looked up quizzically from the bread dough she was kneading. "I'm guessing."

"I saw Annie. She's the one Robert married."

Maggy wiped her flour-covered hands on her apron and sat down at the table, her surprise evident. "My goodness! Is it really true?" She saw the look of anguish on Mary's face and naked sympathy came to her own.

As Maggy attempted to struggle for words, Mary exclaimed, "What's wrong with me? How could he do it? He never showed any interest in her." Mary was rubbing her eyes in a vain attempt to stop the tears.

Her mother was at a loss. She sat as if dumbfounded. Finally, she said slowly, "Well, it's done with." She looked up at her daughter and found herself trying to force lightness into the situation. "It's not the end of the world. Why, you're only seventeen. There'll be lots of men in your life before you wed."

Mary tossed her head decisively, "Kirby's coming over this afternoon to escort me downtown to see the Indian dance. I'll have nothing to do with them."

By them, Maggy knew Mary was referring to Robert and Annie.

The events of the day were climaxed by entertainment provided by Sitting Bull and his accompanying warriors, who were in Emerson attempting to gain sympathy and raise money for their cause. Since Sitting Bull's recent involvement in the destruction of Custer and his troopers in Montana, he had fled to the safety of Canada.

Kirby and Mary stood arm in arm while they watched the spectacle of the Indians dancing to their drummers. Finally, Kirby said ruefully, "Oh, how I'd love to take him back across the line. That old devil knows he's safe over here. Just look at him thumbing his nose at our boys." He was referring to several American troopers from Fort Pembina who had crossed the border to view the event. The soldiers' feelings were evident; they were openly taunting the Indians with remarks and gestures.

Disgusted, Kirby turned to Mary. "Have you had enough of them?"

She nodded. "They're a pathetic lot, aren't they? Their clothes are nothing but rags. At least they don't appear to have been drinking."

Kirby studied her face intently. "I've heard Robert has returned to Emerson and that he is now married."

Facing him, Mary answered calmly, "Yes, I've seen both of them. He married Annie Gillis quite suddenly." She found it difficult to hide her bitterness.

The temptation to gather her into his arms was almost irresistible, still Kirby held back, knowing this was not the time or place. Finally, with a wry grin, he said, "At least it's thinned my competition."

"Let's not get into that again," Mary scolded. "I told you I’ll not marry until I come of age.”

"Yes, but there's talk I may be transferred to the Fort Leavenworth school in the near future. Of course, our 17th Infantry is not due to change posting until July of '82."

"Do you really think you'll be transferred soon?" Mary felt a sudden concern, realizing that during these last months she was beginning to feel comfortable with Kirby. He did not excite her as Robert had, but he displayed a manliness and confidence, together with a courtesy that she admired. A feeling of premonition came over her and she didn't want him to leave.

The summer days passed, one by one, seeming to settle into a pattern. A healing process set in for Mary. While doing the household chores and yard work with the boys, she wondered if it really had been love she felt for Robert, or were there different kinds of love? The emotions she had felt now seemed old and out of place. Robert had been her first attraction, a seemingly mysterious bond. She would cherish the feeling she had held for Robert, but his final letter had been the turning point, transforming her from a young girl to a woman.

Her heart warmed when she thought of Kirby, his gentle look and caring smile. At first she had taken him for granted as you would a family friend. Now, almost without realizing it, her feelings were changing. She was becoming aware of qualities she had never noticed: his courtesy, sincerity, warmth, and interest in other people and their problems and concerns. She knew that if she married him, she would never have to spend her life worrying about his faithfulness.

Perhaps that horrible experience in Orillia had been the trigger causing her to seek security and happiness with Robert. Pondering over the past, she felt secure with the future. She had no wish to ever see Robert again, and each day she found herself looking forward to Kirby's visits. Her only fear was how he would react when she told him of her experience in Orillia. Would he want her then? She was honest enough with herself to know she would have to tell him all.

She found herself again exchanging confidences and intimacies with her mother, feeling she could share. Susan, also, became her confidant, almost a sister. Mary knew that Susan was knowledgeable about people of both St. Vincent and Pembina -- whom to avoid, and which places to shun. She was a frequent visitor to the McLaren home, always in high spirits, with laughter that was catching. She never hesitated to volunteer with household chores, once prompting Maggy to say, "Susan, don't you have enough to do at home without pitching in over here?" Maggy had suddenly regretted her words, for a shocked expression appeared on Susan's face. From her downcast look Maggy realized Susan had interpreted her words to mean she wasn't wanted. She quickly apologized, "I didn't mean it as an insult, Susan; I just meant that when you visit us we don't expect you to work."

Maggy gently put her arm around Susan's shoulder. "We're not the perfect family, Susan; we have our arguments too. We do enjoy your visits and Patrick and the boys all love you." Smiling, he added, "Especially Ian."

Susan replied proudly, "I try my best to learn the right things. I want to be everything Ian wants in a wife.”

Many times when work was slack, Mary visited Susan, Marguerite and Annette at the Grant home. She found an easy association with the women but could not warm up to Grant. He seemed a bitter man, uncommunicative when sober and often maudlin when drunk. Mary came to realize that although both Susan and Marguerite were Métis, they seemed knowledgeable, and well liked by everyone. At first she thought it was because they were both attractive, but then she realized it was because of their intelligence and bubbling enthusiasm.

There had been a dearth of letters from Orillia this past month and Maggy realized she was at fault; she had not picked up a pen for weeks.

June 28, 1878

Dear Father and Mother,

Our new house in St. Vincent is finally finished. We will move as soon as we get the stove, furnace and furniture we ordered. Pat has decided to keep this house in Emerson until fall, perhaps for the winter. The children will possibly go to school here this coming winter, under Mary's supervision. Ian and Pat have each purchased two quarters of land from the St. P. & P. agents. That gives Pat and me a total of 640 acres. We managed to seed a total of 130 acres to wheat this spring, so we should have a good income this fall. Pat also made the down payment on a quarter for Jerold although it will not be seeded this year. The land is $12 per acre, to be paid for in seven yearly payments. How we will ever manage to farm 1120 acres remains to be seen, however Jerold and Knute continue to plow land to be put into crop next year. Oh yes, Knute is a young Norwegian boy we have taken in. He stays with us, a likeable boy who ran away because of mistreatment. He is practically one of our family now.

Ian has taken the job of laying siding in the railroad yard. We have hundreds of men nearby, all working on the trackage. The C.P.R. line from the north has not reached Emerson. Completion is expected in October or November. There will be a big celebration then.

The St. P. & P. line has hired men for the St. Vincent section crew and Pat is a foreman at $35 a month. They are busy in the yards installing more tracks and switches. Their line has not reached here from the south either, but it is coming fast. The rails used here in the yards all arrived by steamboat, sent down-river from Fargo.

Ian is just home for supper -- says he is going to try for a higher paying job if one comes up for grabs.

The farm crops and gardens look grand. We have been blessed with showers during May and June and the talk is of a bumper crop.

The men have been to Pembina to price the latest model McCormick reaper. It is said to cut and then tie the grain bundles with a hemp string they call twine. Jerold says we'll need one this fall.

We have all had our photographs taken locally and will send to you in a separate envelope.

The cattle are doing well and we sell butter every other day for 35 cents a pound. I sold my rights to my quarter of land that lay far to the east for $100. Then I bought two cows to freshen in July. I got the two for $70. Then I bought a third cow, a heavy milker, for another $40. We now have ten milk cows, four calves, five horses, three mules, many pigs, chickens, turkeys, ducks, two cats, a dog and Mike's pet badger. We plan to buy more cattle as soon as possible, having found we can now sell milk for 10¢ a quart.

A farmer to the south of our land, Mr. Trail, has 640 acres ready for wheat next year. Plans are being made to build a grain elevator in St. Vincent to hold 60,000 bushels. It will have a railroad siding for the loading of boxcars.

Pat says we'll have no trouble selling our grain this fall as the railroad will haul it to Minneapolis. Up to now all wheat had to be hauled to Pembina, and then loaded into barges for the upriver trip to market. We hope to get 80 cents per bushel, but it is said we might get even more.

Mike said a piece at the Methodist Concert and Mary acted a part in the Easter play. Mary says hello to Grandpa and Grandma. She misses papa's violin, although Jerold is doing well with his. He has trouble playing jigs, but he is improving.

Love, Maggy

Saturday, November 14, 2009

The Whole Picture

I have strong feelings about trying to show as much of the whole history as best as I can of our area, and that must include the peoples that were here before the European settlers came. I will continue to share what I find in that regard...

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Historical Essays - NOT Forgotten

I came across this link to an index of the historical essays so many of us participated in writing back in our school days. It's part of NDSU's Institute of Regional Studies archives digital commons, an online project digitizing many historical records. I was pleasantly surprised to see my name, Trisha Short (as I was then known), among the many listed writers. It's a bit sobering to realize, I'm slowly but surely (as we all do), slipping into history!

Saturday, November 07, 2009

Great American Desert

From: Democracy in America By Alexis de Tocqueville
The concept of the Great American Desert had long been familiar to Americans and indeed it controlled much of the directions of the growth of the nation for a major part of the nineteenth century. So we have to dip back a little bit before the Civil War to see how this geographical concept, this geographical myth, came into being, and how it influenced the growth, the thoughts, the attitudes, of the American people as they moved westward.

In 1819, the federal government of the United States decided that it needed a good amount of information for the territory that lay beyond the Mississippi River, westward to the Rocky mountains. They hired an explorer, a map-maker named Stephen H. Long to take a journey to map this terrain, to keep a journal, to inform the federal government about what at the time was a vast unknown territory to all Americans. And so Long set out in 1819 traveling westward from what is now the border of Nebraska, traveled through Iowa to the front of the Rocky Mountain ranges, then traveled south and back through what eventually would become Oklahoma and Arkansas. He drew a massive map as well as a series of subsidiary maps and wrote a major report for the federal government, a report that was published along with its maps in 1821. Over the area that today we know as the Great Plains, Stephen H. Long simply printed in giant letters, the words "The Great American Desert." And in his journals and in his reports which accompanied his map, Long wrote that in his opinion, "I do not hesitate in saying that the entire area is almost wholly unfit for cultivation. And of course it's uninhabitable by a people depending upon agriculture for their existence." Buffalo, wild game, goats might live there, but not people. It was indeed on the map that finally reached the public in 1823--it was the Great American Desert.

Consequently, there was very sparse settlement in the area beyond the Mississippi River in the 1840s and the 1850s--isolated pioneer homesteads here and there, but not settlers pouring in vast numbers until the late 1850s and the early years of the 1860s. In the years immediately following the end of the Civil War, traffic into the trans-Mississippi West picked up dramatically by the hundreds, then by the thousands, then by the hundreds of thousands. Settlers poured into the Great Plains moving westward. As the population increased in the Great Plains trans Mississippi West area, many people came to recognize that the old myth of the Great American Desert was no longer true. If indeed it had been true, they needed a way to combat the myth. People eager on boosting settlement and attracting business and getting railroad connections wanted the rest of the nation to believe that the so called Great American Desert was not a desert at all. So they built a counter myth. Now they began to call the Great Plains in the late 1860s and the 1870s "The Garden," the Garden of the West, an agricultural paradise in which there was space enough, and time enough for people to achieve their wildest dreams. A new kind of booster literature appeared portraying the entire Great American Desert area, the entire Great Plains area as an agrarian heaven, an idyllic spot.
From American History 102: Which Old West and Whose?
Power believed that the only way to overcome the tradition that Dakota was the Great American Desert was to actively promote the region in the farm periodicals of America and Europe of that day.
From Bonanza Farming in the Red River Valley

Tuesday, November 03, 2009


Maggy's pains began on the last Sunday in January, just after she had gone to bed. Patrick had taken off his shirt and was preparing to remove his shoes.

"Pat, put your shirt back on. It's my time."

He turned to see the grimace on her face, her fingers spread tensely over her abdomen.

"Ian is still up. I'll send him to St. Vincent for Susan's Mother. Susan said she would come, remember?"

"Of course I remember; it's what we planned. She'd be better than Mrs. Cowan. I can't depend upon Mary, she's too young. Besides, she has no experience. Let the children sleep." Her body stiffened and her fingers clenched tightly into fists. "Oh, Lordy! This one is lasting a long time." She gasped, "Get Ian on the way! The pains started an hour ago, but I though it was false labor. It's the real thing now; the pains are coming closer together and lasting longer."

When Patrick reached the bottom of the stairs, Ian saw the distressed look on his face. Instinctively, he sensed the problem. "Is the baby coming? Should I go for Annette?"

Patrick nodded as he grasped his coat. "Put the young team on the bobsled. I'll go out to help you harness up. Be sure you take robes for the woman's comfort. Its well below zero, but the wind seems to be down. You should be able to make it back within a couple of hours."

"I'll do a lot better than that!" Ian was tugging on his boots even as Patrick donned his buckle over shoes.

Within minutes the team was harnessed and backed to the sleigh. While Ian raised the tongue and hooked up the neck yoke, Patrick fastened the tugs. Climbing hurriedly into the sleigh-box, Ian urged the team into a fast trot.

Re-entering the house, Patrick added wood to the stove, then awoke Mary. "Your Mother is about to have the baby. Sit with her and keep her company. Ian has gone for Susan's Mother. They should be back soon."

Patrick had enough knowledge of birthing to lay out lye soap and heat a kettle of water. Rummaging through Maggy's prepared bag for the event, he found washcloths, clean sheets, diapers and baby clothing. Returning upstairs, Mary was sitting on the edge of the bed holding her mother's hand. Maggy was smiling at her daughter, apparently in an effort to reassure her.

"It's just a matter of two or three hours, darling. I'm fine, but I will have some temporary pain delivering the baby." She added, "It's not a new thing to me. After all, I carried you and your three brothers."

Mary's return smile was sickly; it was apparent she was apprehensive and unsure.

Ian returned with Susan's mother within an hour. After removing her coat, the woman banished Patrick from the bedroom, and then bade Mary fetch a washbowl of warm water, with washcloth and soap. She immediately bathed Maggy thoroughly, and then raised her hips to place a thick cotton pad beneath her pelvis and thighs. With a wad of cotton she then swabbed Maggy's stomach, thighs and genitals with a strong smelling liquid Mary suspected was alcohol. Finally she seemed satisfied, and, seating herself on the side of the bed opposite Mary, said softly, "Now we wait."

Maggy felt confident in her delivery now that Annette was present. She guessed her midwife to be nearly forty years of age, yet she had a smooth, clear face, without the sign of a wrinkle. She realized that this Metis woman must have been exceptionally attractive when she was young. In fact, she showed very little trace of Indian blood. Maggy judged she would still be quite attractive if she would devote a little more attention to her hair. She was satisfied with her appraisal of Annette, for it explained Susan's flawless complexion and delicate features. She wondered what Susan's father looked like.

Nearly a half hour elapsed before the Métis woman leaned forward to exclaim to Maggy, "You're beginning to show." She pointed out the pinkish discharge to Mary, who sat as if mesmerized.

It was nearly two hours later when a sudden gush of water came from the birth canal and the contractions came close upon each other. Maggy soon dilated sufficiently so that a portion of the baby's head finally became visible. When the final pains came, Maggy fiercely gripped the iron rungs of the headboard behind her. Beads of sweat stood out on her forehead; her hair seemed to cling to her temples, damp and lax. She was determined not to cry out as the intensity of the contractions increased, not wanting to frighten Mary. Each time that the pain became almost unbearable, she gritted her teeth to choke off any groan. Prior experience taught her to bear down strongly when Annette's voice and hands encouraged her. In moments the full head appeared and seconds later, the shoulders. Then, as Annette supported the babe's head, the body emerged as if pushed by a hidden force.

Even as Annette wiped the child's face, the small bundle began to writhe and snuffle. Then came a husky wail.

"It's a fine girl! A perfect girl!" Annette held up the child for Maggy's approval.

Maggy smiled weakly. "Her name will be Kathleen after Pat's mother, but I'll call her Kate. She's just what I wanted."

Annette lowered the baby and completed wiping it dry. Then she held it out to Mary. "Hold her while I cut the cord." Tying a string around the umbilical cord within inches of the infant's stomach, Annette severed the attachment, then quickly twisted a knot into the remaining end. She lifted her eyes to smile at Mary. "Now give the baby to your Mother."

For moments Mary continued to hold the baby, seemingly unable to part with her. The love that swelled from her for this tiny, but perfect body was total and instant. The crying she ignored. It was the occasional glimpse of the blue eyes as they opened, then clenched tightly shut, that charmed her. Little Kate's hair was coal black and surprisingly long for a newborn. The small, pink but wrinkled face that changed expression with every lusty howl fascinated Mary. Finally, as if realizing her reaction, she held out the child to her mother. The feeling came from her heart when she said, "Oh, Mother, she's beautiful!"

Maggy smiled at Mary as she raised the blanket from her bosom and guided the baby between her breasts. Almost instantly the small hands and mouth began groping.

"Oh Ma!" Mary exclaimed excitedly. "She's hungry already. I'll get Pa! He'll want to see her."

"Not yet; there is more to do." Annette was suddenly busy with the lining membranes. As the placenta came, she carefully rolled the discharge in the pad, effectively concealing it. Rising, she carried the bundle and the washbasin downstairs to the kitchen. Pausing momentarily beside Patrick, she smiled. "You have a lovely daughter. Your wife is fine; you can see them both in a few minutes.

Patrick and Ian exchanged smiles at the good news as Annette disposed of the pad in the kitchen stove. Then she dumped the soiled water from the basin, refilling it with fresh warm water. Returning upstairs she cleaned Maggy thoroughly. After drying her, she pulled the blanket up to Maggy's breast, partially covering the baby. Smiling at Mary, she said proudly, "Now you can call the men to come and look."

Patrick was the first up the stairs, closely followed by Ian. He leaned over to examine the child, and then he laughed aloud. "Thank the Lord she looks like you!" He tenderly pushed back the damp hair from Maggy's temple. "Good job, love! She's a big one!" He bent over to kiss Maggy's cheek, then, easing his weight beside her, took her hand in both of his. Looking into her eyes, he could see the warmness and tenderness. Her hair was spread in splendid disarray upon the pillow, emphasizing the proud look of accomplishment upon her face. More like a halo, he thought. The cost of bringing forth the child was etched on her features, yet her calm strength brought a feeling of pride to him. She was a woman and wife to be proud of!

A noise in the hall caused all heads to turn toward the doorway. Jerold entered the room, followed by a sleepy Mike who was rubbing his eyes. When the small youngster examined the now sleeping baby, he announced emphatically, "She's my new sister; I'm going to take care of her."

Jerold smiled at the youngster and put his arm around his shoulders. "You mean we're all going to take care of her."

Finally Annette shooed the family back to bed, then said aside to Patrick. "I'll stay the balance of the night. She is fine, but I think its best. Ian can take me home in the morning."

"Annette, we're grateful for your help. We've a lot to thank you for. If you stay up, I'll not sleep either. I'll make us coffee." Patrick was smiling.

She returned his smile. It was apparent she was tired. "That would be fine. It will shorten the night and help me stay awake."

Ian and his father remained in the kitchen long after the rest of the family had gone back to bed. They were discussing future work that had to be done before spring.

"Pa, I think we should begin cutting our oak firewood for next winter. My fur buying has slacked off to a trickle since the heavy snow. Then we should get the lumber hauled for the new house. We can clean the seed toward the end of March so it will be ready for spring." He reached for the coffee pot to refill his cup.

"It would ease things to have your help. I've pushed a lot on Jerold, although he never complains."

"He never will, Pa. Gosh, you two have worked all this winter to get the firewood, hay, and ice hauled. I haven't been any help. It doesn't seem fair that Jerold never has time to himself. He's not even had a chance to meet girls, at least not yet." Ian had to smile at the thought, remembering how bashful Jerold became in the presence of girls.

"None of us will have much time if we get next year’s firewood cut and haul the lumber for the house. I've made a deal with the lumberyard in St. Vincent to include the entire lot of lumber. Johannason, that Icelander from South Pembina, will be our carpenter. Says he'll build the house for $125 but he wants one of us to work full-time with him."

"Golly, with two stories and a front porch it's going to be huge. What'll we do for lining?"

"Nixon, at the lumber yard, recommends using both black paper and roll felt between the walls and siding. He also says dry peat moss works well over the ceiling joists in the attic. We can pick up some loads of it over east next summer after the swamps dry out.

Patrick arose from his chair to reach behind the wood box. Twisting the cork from a bottle hidden there, he poured a generous amount of whiskey into each of their coffee cups. "Mother won't object to our having one, even two." He smiled, "This is a night to remember."

By the end of February Maggy had lost most of the weight gained during her pregnancy and her figure became almost trim and taut again. She again began to attend church with Patrick, proud to display her new daughter. A Welshman named McGuire confronted her with a business proposition. He offered her $100 for her quarter of land located to the east, adjoining the border. She decided to accept the offer, and with the proceeds bought two cows that were to calve in July.

Patrick brought news of Charley McCune, a neighbor who had moved to Emerson from Orillia. "You knew he sold his holdings for $300. Well, since then, the fool has been drunk every day. That team of oxen he bought from the livery has died. Starved to death, no doubt; he kept them tied up day and night."

"He's our neighbor, Pat. Is there naught we can do to help?

"Not a bloody thing! You can't cure a drunk unless he wants to be cured. He's too far gone mentally and physically. The way he carries on, he'll not last long."

While walking to work early in March, Robert enjoyed the sudden break in the weather, a harbinger of the spring yet to come. Just as darkness had fallen the previous evening, the wind had shifted to the southwest, then gained in intensity throughout the night. Today it was a full blown Chinook, rapidly lowering the snow level. He noticed water beginning to form in the sleigh ruts as he crossed the Main Street of Winnipeg.

By mid-morning he was embroiled in a heated discussion with his superiors from Toronto. The argument was about the poor grading of the future rail line between Winnipeg Manitoba, and the United States border at Emerson. Robert stated his opinion that gravel ballast would be needed to support the steel and heavy loads anticipated. He found himself overruled, told in no uncertain terms that for economic reasons the road must be operational by late fall.

A clerk entered, and quietly whispered to Robert, “There is a young lady at the desk who wishes to speak with you.” He smiled conspiratorially, "She is a real beauty, too!"

Robert's first thought was that it must be Mary. Still, he was puzzled as he returned to the main office. Then a cold chill came over him as he caught sight of Annie standing by the counter. She had a whimsical smile, and before he could say a word, she grasped his shoulders and leaned forward to kiss him.

Instinctively he pulled back as her lips sought his. He whispered hoarsely, "What are you doing here?"

"I was frantic! I had to see you."

He turned to glare around the room at his fellow workers, who were obviously watching and listening. At his caustic glance they quickly pretended indifference. Taking Annie by the arm, he said, "Come along with me."

Entering the small cubicle apportioned for his use, he carefully closed the door. Turning to her, he asked,

"What's the occasion?"

Her facial expression changed and he sensed she was almost in tears.

"I'm pregnant! I couldn't face Mother any longer. I had to leave."

The word pregnant brought an unexpected shock to him. Long seconds passed as he absorbed the news. He suddenly felt nauseated.

"You mean from that night we spent together at the hotel?"

She nodded weakly, attempting to smile through the tears that were now streaming down her face.

He was completely flabbergasted and sat down heavily at his drawing table. Finally common sense dictated that he must get a grip on himself. "I'll beg off for the remainder of the day and we'll go to my hotel to talk. Wait here for a moment; I'll be right back." Passing through the door to the front desk, he made an excuse and picked up his coat. Returning to Annie, he found her wiping away the tears. As he took her arm and led her to the front door, he again felt all eyes upon him, as if he was running a gauntlet. No words were spoken until they crossed to the west side of the street. Stopping, he turned to her. "When did you arrive in Winnipeg?"

"Late last night on the stage. I didn't know where you lived and I was too ashamed to ask Mary. I did know you worked for the C.P.R. I'm sorry if I've caused you embarrassment, but what else could I do?" A contrite and timid look appeared as she wiped away the remaining tear tracks with the back of her glove.

"We've a lot of talking to do. What a mess!" Robert suddenly felt an involuntary shudder shake his body.

She studied his face apprehensively.

Finally he took her arm to resume their walk toward his hotel on Portage Avenue. Upon reaching his lodging, he escorted her to his room and helped her remove her coat. She sat on his bed and looked at him grimly.

"I've burned all my past bridges Robert. I'm two months overdue, and it's your child I'm carrying."

Remembering the stains on the bed sheet, Robert did not doubt her word. Yet, still hopeful, he asked again. "You're sure you are pregnant? There's absolutely no doubt?"

She looked up at him bitterly. “Do you think I'm lying to you?" she asked.

Looking into her eyes, he could see the truth. He also saw the look of uncertainty and fear of rejection on her face. For long moments he hesitated, but could see no way out. Seating himself beside her, he put his arm around her shoulders. "We'll get married this afternoon if it suits you."

Her look of relief was almost pathetic. "Oh,Robert! I'll be the best wife to you in the whole world. I've been in love with you since the first day I saw you. I guess you didn't want this baby, but we did get ourselves into this. It's happened to others before us. We'll work it out together, you'll see." She flung her arms around his neck with a wild abandon, kissing him fiercely, squeezing tightly to him. She felt her confidence returning. She knew she had broken all the rules, but she had won.

Robert felt a sudden erotic response and attempted to repel it. Standing, he reached for their coats. "Let's eat a bite; then we'll go the municipal office." He turned to her worriedly, "Where did you stay last night? Where is your luggage?"

"I have only a small bag and it's at Emmerling's Hotel. We can pick it up after we eat." She looked at him timorously, "Or after we are married." A gradual smile began to appear on her face. He could see her self-assurance returning.

That afternoon they were married at the municipal office and returned to his room after picking up her valise. When the door was secured, she flung her arms around his neck, hugging him wildly. In spite of his reticence, he found himself responding. At the time he perceived it as a purely physical response, not love. Their union was rough, with no inhibitions. She seemed insatiable, taking the offensive, making every effort to please him.

During the late hours of that evening Robert rested uneasily beside Annie. She slept on her stomach, masses of auburn hair spread over her shoulders, one leg carelessly cast over his thigh. He felt as if his nerves were disintegrating; self-reproach was setting in. His feeling of depression was almost overpowering. He had wanted children eventually, but not now, and not with Annie. Why had he done such a stupid thing? Was it the rum he drank that night, or was it his own self-pity?

Thinking back, he realized his father and mother had been liberal with him -- perhaps too much so. He remembered a similar narrow escaped while attending McGill University. Fortunately for him, several other classmates had been involved with the same girl. Now the situation was identical, but with an ominous twist. He had been forced into this marriage, knowing that if he refused Annie, and she had gone to his superiors, he would have been instantly fired. His Scottish employers were firm on morality.

He would never be positive if she had intentionally trapped him or not. That night's contact with her seemed so coincidental, yet he was the one who went into the restaurant and drank the rum. He alone was responsible for his conduct.

How was he going to tell Mary? He would appear a gutless and cowardly man not to inform her. Instinctively, he knew she would abhor him and never accept his explanation. It was the end of their romance.

Morosely, he dug his hands into his hair. Perhaps his marriage with Annie would work out. She would probably insist on accompanying him to his workplace. He had to admit that she was attractive and pleasant; also she was obviously in love with him. He knew she lacked education and polish, but hopefully that would come with time. When he thought of what his father and mother would think if they were introduced to Annie now, he felt abashed. He knew they expected him to make a marriage that would live up to their respected name.

His thoughts brightened and he smiled to himself. I'll make things right. She is actually appealing and warm-hearted, even a bit on the wild side. Her eyes actually dance when she laughs and she is a good listener. She seems kind and has a sharp wit. He spent long moments looking at her as she lay sleeping: her petite figure, the smooth skin of her back, and her firm buttocks. He had to admit to himself that she was exquisite. The sight of her awoke a sudden urgency, and he reached out to caress her back. She awoke slowly, turning with a smile, and then sought his lips.

Patrick, Ian and Jerold worked feverishly during the month of February to get the lumber hauled and stacked at their lot in St. Vincent. The white pine had been cut and milled in Minnesota and had been hauled by rail to Crookston, then transported by steamboat to St. Vincent. Ian remarked on its fine quality. "Hardly a knot showing and soft enough so that it won't split when nailed."

They also managed to haul sixteen cords of oak firewood from their farm woodlot, storing it behind the location of their future home.

When the weather broke in March, they began cleaning their seed grain, using a hand-cranked fan mill purchased at Pembina. Ian and Jerold took turns at the crank, neither cherishing the boring job.

All the family spoiled baby Kate, so much so that Maggy finally refused to let anyone pick her up. She now weighed nearly eleven pounds and was an exceptionally healthy child. She had begun making throaty noises and followed every movement with her eyes. Maggy had worried about the delivery because of her advanced age, but was pleasantly surprised to find the birth not a difficult one. Her breasts had filled fully, and she found no problems nursing Kathleen.

Mary had received four desultory letters from Robert in the past weeks and had answered each in a philosophical mood. His messages all ended with the same 'I love you,' but the basic contents left much to be desired from her point of view. There was no warmth, indicating that he was either annoyed or disenchanted with her.

Not having seen Annie for some weeks, Mary dropped by the cafe to visit. She found Annie's mother working in the kitchen; and, as it was the slack time of the afternoon, she sat down to enjoy tea with Mary. Mrs. Gillis was a blunt woman with wide blue eyes and red hair that was already showing streaks of gray. She seemed a simple creature, but Mary knew her to have a sharp tongue and an even worse temper.

"Golly, I haven't seen Annie for weeks. Where is she keeping herself?"

Mrs. Gillis looked uneasy. "She left on March 9 for Winnipeg. There was a note on her dresser telling me not to worry. It's been days and I haven't had a word from her."

"Did she take her clothes, and did she have money?" Mary could see the worried expression on the woman's face.

"Oh, she had her wardrobe and earnings. They'll carry her for a while, at least long enough to either get a job or come back home. It's not like her to not let me know where she is. Still, she has always been secretive, even as a child." Disdainfully, she added, "Got it from her Father, I guess. He never left a clue when he deserted me years ago."

While at supper that evening, Mary mentioned to her family that Annie had left home.

"Heck, she knows how to take care of herself. I've seen her brush-off plenty of men." Ian seemed disinterested.

Patrick waved his fork. "Not much future for her in Emerson, outside of marriage. She's not the type to backslide like some of the women across the river." Patrick was subtly referring to the bawdy house situated along the road to West Lynne.

It was nearly suppertime the following evening when Ian entered the house and handed Mary a letter from Robert, her first letter in nearly a month. It was brief and meteoric. She could feel her heart thudding. Then came the sickening dismay.
March 12


Forgive me! It would never work between us, due to my perverse nature. I never meant to hurt you, but I am now married to another. I was never good enough for you.

Tears came as Mary lowered her head to the table. Suddenly she arose and rushed wildly upstairs, amid loud sobbing and wailing. Her mother reached out to pick up the letter. One glance told Maggy all; she handed it to Patrick.

"What's the matter, Mother?" Ian, who had washed in preparation for supper, was just wiping his face.

"That bastard!" Patrick was furious. "I thought he was a man."

Maggy reached over and rested her hand on his shoulder. "She's young, Pat. She'll take it hard for a while, but she'll get over it. There will be more men in her life before she marries."

Ian refrained from picking up the letter now discarded by his father. From his parent's reaction he deduced the situation. "We'll have to step softly and use diplomacy with her," he mused. "She sounded heart-broken."

Maggy picked up the letter and read it aloud. "So cruel, Pat." She crumpled it up and approached the stove. Then, thinking better of it, she unrolled the crushed paper. "It's Mary's letter. I'll put it aside. She'll mull over it for a few days; then hopefully she'll accept the fact."

After Mary had moped for a day or so, Kirby's visits brought out her old self. They became firm friends, although she never allowed his emotions free rein. She regained her spirit and seemed more mature. Finally, she confided to her mother, "I'll never marry until I'm fully of age."

Her mother agreed. "Forget Robert, dear. He's not our kind, and we're not in the same social class of his family. You're growing up now and our families live in different worlds."