Saturday, May 30, 2009
I know - the last thing most of us wanted to see was MORE flood photos! But I really liked this shot.
Thursday, May 28, 2009
Tuesday, May 26, 2009
Alexander Henry, known by some as Henry the Younger to distinguish him from his well-known uncle, was a prominent figure in Canada's North West Fur Company during the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. He spent considerable time exploring, hunting, and trapping in the Red River Valley and helped establish old Fort Pembina just across the river from present-day St. Vincent, Minnesota. A literate man, Henry was one of the first pioneers in the region to keep a journal that contained detailed weather observations. Documents suggest that he established his trading post on the same ground used by Charles Chaboillez1 in 1797. Chaboillez was a partner in the North West Fur Company who later supervised a company post on Lake Superior. He, too, kept a journal of his activities near the junction of the Pembina and Red rivers, but it lacked the weather and climate detail of Henry's.
Henry traded alcohol, tools, and weapons with the native americans who lived near Fort Pembina: the Dakota tribes of the plains on the western side of the river (later North Dakota) and the Ojibwe on the eastern side of the river. He was meticulous in keeping daily weather observations from September 1807 through June 1808.
The landscape of northwestern Minnesota was vastly different during Henry's time. Buffalo and beaver were abundant, as were red deer, moose, bear, and wolves. The wide river valley was populated with tall prairie grasses and old trees (oak, birch, maple, pine, poplar, and willow, among others) and dotted with wetland areas (sedge and marsh.) A mosaic of trails and paths devoid of vegetation weaved across this prairie where the abundant buffalo herds trampled and compacted the heavy, wet soils. In addition to hunting buffalo and red deer for food, Henry and his men had good luck fishing the Red River, which was full of sturgeon.
Henry prized his daily journal of weather and nature observations, three volumes of which were published in 1897. Though some historians consider the Henry documents to be dry and humorless, for climatologists they are a treasure trove for use in evaluating the weather behaviors of a bygone era. His records are also noteworthy because they include climate descriptions of the area before the end of the Little Ice Age (1850)2, a relatively cooler period for the northern hemisphere.
The Minnesota State Climatology Office has archived records of Henry's daily weather observations from September 1, 1807, to June 1, 1808. These include morning, midday, and evening observations of air temperature, wind, and sky condition, along with remarks describing the day's character. The following tables show comparisons between Henry's observations and current published climatic normals at Pembina, North Dakota, and at Hallock, Minnesota.
In general the tables show that the climate of the Red River Valley during 1807-8 ws similar in temperature to today's climate, with one major exception: April was a remarkably warm month, producing a rapid and early break-up of ice on the Red River, with associated flooding. Henry noted the return of migratory birds as early as April 4 and 5. He also brags of enormously successful sturgeon fishing: on April 24 he "set a sturgeon net and caught 3 instantly." A more detailed book shows that the lowest temperature measured by Henry during the winter was -30F on February 18, quite close to the modern era's usual lowest winter temperature, which ranges from -30 to -35F at Hallock and Pembina. The coldest spell in February 1807 also coincided with some of the strongest winds Henry noted, likely producing wind-chill conditions in the -50F or colder range. However, the winter of 1807-8 saw only 43 days with temperatures below zero degrees Fahrenheit. Modern records from Pembina and Hallock both show an average of 67 days each winter with such temperatures. Thus, Henry and his men did not have to endure the persistent cold that Mother Nature usually brings to the area.
From Minnesota Weather Almanac, by Mark W. Seeley (Published by Minnesota Historical Society © 2006)
1 - Charles Chaboilliez (Chaboille/Chaboillier) IV: (b.1772, Montreal - d.1812, Mascouche, Lower Canada) Charles was the son of Charles III & Marguerite Larcheveque and he married Jessy Bruce in 1811 at Quebec. Their children were; Charles V (1805-1863), Jean, Marguerite, Pierre (b.abt.1808) (m.Josette bef.1841), & Louise (b.1809)(m.Allan Morrison).
In May of 1791 he was hired by Joseph Frobisher for 4 years as a North West Company clerk. He was at the Cumberland House & Ile-a-la-Crosse NWC posts until he was assigned to the Assiniboine & Red River Departments in 1796. While trading at the mouth of the Pembina River he kept a journal until the summer of 1798. The list of his voyageurs include: Dubois, Chaurette, Roy, Bercier, Desjarlaix, Sauve, Bourret, Francois Delorme, Richards(the HBC trader that left that company to join Chaboilliez), Mineclier, Le Duc, Bertrand, Chevalier, Allard, Bibeau, Pouilliot, Foumas, Lambert, Cadotte & Hyversoit. On 14 Mar 1798 the David Thompson exploration expedition arrived at the Pembina post and 7 days later Chaboilliez accompanied Thompson to Vincent Roy's NWC post south of Pembina on the Forest River. In 1799 he became a partner in the NWC and was given charge of the Lower Red River Department for the company.
On October 31 1804 Lewis & Clark wrote to Chaboilliez from the Upper Mandan village on the Missouri; "...we met with Mr.Hugh M'Cracken, who informed us that he was in some measure employed by you in behalf of the North West Company, traffic with the natives of this quarter...we have determined to fortify ourselves, and remain the ensuing winter...If, sir, in the course of the winter, you have it in your power to furnish us with any hints in relation to the geography of the country, its productions, either mineral, animal or vegetable, or any other information...we should feel ourselves extremely obliged...". - From Trade Goods
2 - The 'Little Ice Age' was an interval between about AD 1500 and 1850, characterized by advancing glaciers in mountainous regions of Europe and western North America. However, it is unclear whether this cool moist period was truly global in extent, or how it was manifested in other regions with different climatic controls. A high-resolution reconstruction of salinity fluctuations in Devils Lake, North Dakota, based on fossil diatoms, ostracode-shell geochemistry, and bulk-carbonate geochemistry, indicates that saline conditions prevailed throughout much of the recent past. These results suggest an arid climate in the northern Great Plains throughout the 'Little Ice Age' and that during this interval climatic gradients between the Great Plains and regions to both the east and west may have been quite steep. - From 'Little Ice Age' aridity in the North American Great Plains: a high-resolution reconstruction of salinity fluctuations from Devils Lake, North Dakota, USA by Sherilyn C. Fritz, Daniel R. Engstrom, and Brian J. Haskell (The Holocene, Vol. 4, No. 1, 69-73 (1994))
Sunday, May 24, 2009
Pierre Bottineau who contracted to take our [treaty expedition (1851)]1 goods and provisions from Sauk Rapids through to Pembina, is a half-breed Chippewa; of a highly-nervous temperament, with Indian features strongly marked, very swarthy, dark hair, tall, muscular, and active, and is about thirty-seven years of age. He is an excellent hunter and voyageur; was born in, and has spent his whole life in wandering in and exploring, this territory and adjacent country. He has along eight carts, each loaded with about five hundred pounds of freight, and six Canadian French boys as drivers; also two half-breed men of the Chippewa tribe - one his own brother...1 - The object of the expedition narrated in the pages these excerpts are taken from, was to form a treaty with the Red Lake and Pembina bands of Chippewa Indians for their country lying in the valley of the Red River of the North, and south of the British line. Governor Ramsey was appointed commissioner to treat with them, and Dr. Thomas Foster appointed secretary. The treaty was formed, but was afterward rejected by the United States senate...
...at two, P.M., we started on, and soon found the dragoons again. They were encamped in the edge of the woods on Tongue river, where they remain till to-morrow. We now had eight miles of swampy prairie to cross, and at four, P.M., came in sight of the first houses at the Red river settlement, much to our great joy; as a house was as much a novelty to us after a tramp of five hundred miles across the unpeopled prairies, as the first sight of land is to the weary and tempest-tossed mariner.
The houses were full of half-breeds, who saluted us with the discharge of guns, &c. Dr. Foster and Mr. Lord rode on ahead, and were treated to milk and potatoes - a treat equal to that of the milk and honey received by the wandering children of Israel of old. A mile beyond we came to the unction of the Red and Pembina rivers, and found the trading-post of N.W. Kittson, Esq., and the settlement called Pembina in the angle at the junction. Here we found half a dozen log-dwellings, and a quantity of half-breed and Chippewa lodges; the American flag flying from the top of a tall flag-staff; with barns, stables, haystacks, horses, cattle, &c., and things generally looking very comfortable. On the muddy banks in front stood an admiring group of several hundred whites, half-breeds, and Indians, of all sizes; with any quantity of dogs, very large and wolfish: and amid this Babel of cries, yelps, barks, and shouts, from the said big dogs and little papoose Indians, we came to a halt and reconnoitered, on the southside of the Pembina and west of the Red river, standing almost glued fast in the sticky, tenacious mud, caused by the rains and annual overflow of these two rivers for three years past. The timber upon their banks is dead (drowned out), the ground destitute of grass, with tall, rank weeds three and four feet in height abounding.
The rivers are very muddy and deep, with but little current. Red river is about one hundred yards in width, and the Pembina twenty-five yards. The country is very flat all around, and the streams heavily wooded, while a thick growth of young, dead willows line the water's edge from Pembina to the Selkirk settlement. Mr. Kittson and Messrs. Rolette and Cavileer soon visited us and took us over to the town, giving us the freedom of the place, besides sending some Selkirk butter and eggs across to us at camp. Our carts arriving at dark, we built a rousing fire, pitched tents, covered the banks with grass and weeds, spread our oil-cloths and mattresses, and were once more comfortable.
This is our last night "out of sight of land" - slept out last sleep on the tented prairie for the present, which I regret, as it is far preferable to a bed of down within a palace. Slept well, too, considering the multitude of discordant and almost unearthly sounds which struck upon our drowsy ears, accustomed to quietness and calm. Now are heard the Indians shrieking and beating upon drums at their camp across the Pembina; and those big dogs keep howling dismally, like a host of wild, voracious wolves. The dark and cloudy night is made hideous with hell-like wailings; and the mournful sighing wind bears to our ears the sharp and piercing cries from a hundred deep-toned throats, sounding in their awfulness like the despairing howlings of the damned. So much for our first night at Pembina.
We have thus made the march from Sauk rapids to this place in twenty travelling days, being Twenty-two in all, and from St. Paul just twenty-five days. Messrs. Kittson and Cavalieer came through a short time since in twelve days, or about nine- and a half days of marching time, the quickest trip on record.
[To Be Continued...]
Friday, May 22, 2009
I wrote about the song featured in this video awhile back. It's an amazing song all about what it was like to be a trapper/voyaguer in the "Big Lonely" (of which our area is a small part of...) back when...a true masterpiece of storytelling in my opinion. You really should take a look, you'll be glad you did...
Wednesday, May 20, 2009
I proudly present Chapter 3 of Chuck Walker's Bordertowns...
The distance from Fisher's Landing to the Red River across country was only twelve miles, but by the twisty river the distance was nearly forty. As the river was sinuous, the International seemed to crash from one bank to the other, pausing for minutes to reverse engines, and then proceeding forward. Trees grew to the edge of the bank, scraping stanchions along the deck, leaving broken branches and leaves lying everywhere. Never did the boat go forward for more than a few minutes before contacting the bank, swinging crossways, and sometimes sticking fast. Maggy expressed her feeling pointedly.______________
"Pat! The captain must have the patience of a saint to absorb this punishment. Will traveling on the Red River be as bad?"
"Naw! We should be out of this river and into the other late this afternoon. The Red's supposed to be a good-sized river, wide enough for a boat with barges."
Long before dark they reached the much larger Red River and proceeded a short distance downstream before tying up. They secured alongside barges loaded with steel rails destined for the new Canadian Pacific Railroad to run between Emerson and Selkirk, in Canada. The barges had been loaded at the rail-end in Moorhead, and then floated downriver over the rapids to Grand Forks. The remainder of that day was spent securing a barge to each side of the boat and loading a supply of cordwood for the boat's boilers.
Ian struck up a conversation with one of the Norwegian crewmen to find they were paid $35 per month. They numbered twenty-two deck hands: The captain, the pilot and other officers. In addition to their work of loading and unloading cargo, each man was required to carry aboard one cord of wood each day, for the boat burned twenty-two cords in the two boilers every working day. Upon a casual inspection of the cargo at the bow of the boat, he noted consignments for the soldiers' fort at Pembina. Stacked high behind this were barrels, boxes and crates of machinery for Emerson, Manitoba. Even further back were massive piles of freight destined for the Hudson's Bay Company and other trade stores at Fort Garry. All had been arranged in convenient groups to facilitate easy unloading at succeeding ports of call. Being a deck hand is not the job for me, Ian thought. Too boring, and what do the men do when winter comes?
Supper that evening was served in the narrow central passageway that ran through the center of the hurricane deck. Maggy deemed it more of a hallway, but it was carpeted and along each wall stood several ornately decorated chairs for the patrons. These were interspaced so that beside each chair was the door to a stateroom. After the meal the dining tables were removed and the long corridor again became a sitting room. The ceiling was high, bridged across with slightly curved beams. A row of narrow skylights extended on either side for the full length of the long corridor. Decorative ropes with huge tassels hung below the coal oil lamps spaced along the ceiling. Here and there were small tables that could be moved at the passengers' convenience.
Their first-class tickets entitled them to three staterooms, which Maggy scorned as broom closets. "Pat, there's barely room to stand, let alone dress. You'll have to take the upper bunk. Two could never fit in these narrow beds."
"Not to worry, Maggy. At least they're nearly three feet wide." Running his hand over the upper bunk, he suddenly laughed. "Wonder how Ian will make out. These beds are not even six feet long." He turned to Maggy; she was smiling too, thinking of Ian's well over six-foot height.
Near midnight ominous claps of thunder became audible, gradually growing closer. Pulsing breezes that rapidly turned to a gale accompanied the sound. The slow sound of raindrops pit-patting on the small window rapidly changed to a steady drumming. Finally a tumult assaulted the roof above.
"What's happening?" Pat awoke with a start.
"It's pouring outside . . . nothing to worry about."
As he dozed off, Patrick thought of his earlier conversation with the captain, of the man's mention that the river was getting mighty low for navigation. He thought of the old saying: "It's an ill wind that blows no good."
The next morning it was still raining and the river had risen appreciably. At 5:30 a.m. they cast off for the Canadian border. Although it continued to drizzle, the wind subsided and the passengers could walk on the covered, exterior hurricane deck without getting wet.
The interior salon, which ran the entire length of the hurricane deck, remained crowded because of the inclement weather. Time played upon Maggy's mind as she noted and chafed at Mary's absence. She brought it to Pat's attention. "She's spending too much time with that boy. I don't want her getting involved at her age."
"Not to worry! The lad is going on to Fort Garry. They'll probably never see each other again."
"I wish I was as sure as you." Maggy was not mollified.
Mary was confused, for golden dreams were invading her mind. The strange feeling of response to Robert had begun in Duluth. Now, standing at the rail, she felt a tingling sensation, for he had put his arm around her waist and was holding her gently. Her sensation was a feeling of bliss and peace. She wanted to be loved and felt that her life was just now beginning. Unwanted warning thoughts came, perhaps orchestrated by her mother over the past years: Let your mind be superior to what your body says! Be strong! Men are weak but won't admit it! Casting unwanted advice from her mind, she raised her face to his. He drew her body tightly to him and kissed her tenderly. For seconds she was captivated, then she pulled away, almost breathless. But wasn't this what she wanted? Hadn't she wondered when this would happen? He was still holding her in a close embrace. Why was she pulling away?
Slowly she thrust loose, her sanity returning. "Oh, Robert, I'm only sixteen. You mustn't even think of loving me." Warning bells rang in her mind and she knew she must fight the feeling in her heart.
As Robert released her, he realized he was committing himself to this young girl. She appealed to his protective instinct and aroused his sense of responsibility. Now he believed he had pushed too hard and frightened her.
Grasping her shoulders gently, he said tersely, "Someday in the future you'll be my wife. I'll wait for you to grow up and mature. We'll be happy together, you'll see! Now, I've got to make my way in the world and build a future for us, but I'll be back. It may take some time, but I will be back." Pulling her warm body close, he kissed her again. She found herself clinging to him fiercely, returning his kiss with fervor.
Late in the afternoon as they approached Fort Pembina, three long echoing blasts of the ship's whistle brought nearly everyone to the outside deck. As they cleared the last bend, the passengers could see a group of soldiers walking down the hill on the west side of the river. When the boat nudged into the shore, wagons from the fort arrived to carry the cargo up the hill. Little could be seen of the fort itself except rooftops of stables on the high bank. The actual unloading at the fort took less than thirty minutes. Then the whistle sounded twice and the boat backed away amid a hissing and puffing of its engines. Minutes later they barely cleared under a telegraph wire that extended across the Red River near the settlement of Pembina.
On the west side of the river a ferry hugged the shore. It was apparent they had just lowered the cable crossing the river, enabling the International to proceed. Passing the mouth of the Pembina River, they swung into the west bank to unload goods at Pembina.
The stop here was brief, and after pulling back into the channel, the crew was kept busy moving cargo forward to the bow of the boat. Soon, just as the ship's whistle again sounded three deep blasts, Ian overheard one of the crew members remark, "We're just crossing into Canada. Emerson is around the next bend." Hearing the comment, he hurried to harness their team of horses.
Emerson had no dock, but the east bank was corduroyed with logs. A road angled down from the crest, leading to a widened, leveled-off space. As the boat swung in to tie-up, spectators came down the hill. With the giant paddle wheel still churning slowly under power to hold the bow of the boat firmly to the shore, the crew began to cast off lines to the barges. The downriver barge was tied ashore and the current swung it snugly to the bank. A team of horses was required to swing the other barge upstream, clear of the boat. These steel rails were to be unloaded for the Emerson end of the new railroad.
Simultaneously with the removal of the barges, the boarding ramp was lowered to the shore and the passengers began to disembark. Maggy and Mike watched apprehensively from shore as preparations were made aboard to move the team and wagon. Robert Douglas had come ashore and was standing to the side, conversing with Mary. For moments it seemed the horses were too frightened to cross the hurriedly placed plank ramp. Their terror forced Ian to jump from the wagon to grasp the bridle of one horse. Patrick reached the opposite horse quickly, and with soothing words the animals were coaxed step by step across the hazardous ramp to the shore.
"Judas! I'm glad that's over!" Ian sounded relieved. "Good thing there were two of us. One man couldn't have done it alone. Lordy, the horses were nervous."
Patrick wiped his forehead with his sleeve. "Let's get the family together and hunt up a place for the night."
Just as Ian climbed to the wagon seat, a well-dressed man approached Patrick. "Sir, my name is Thomas Carney. I watched you two manage that wild team. That was bully work!"
"They weren't wild, just nervous. They're young horses." Ian was quick to defend the team.
"Just so. May I ask if you are here as businessmen, or as settlers?"
Patrick noted the man's grey whiskers and balding head before answering. "I'm Patrick McLaren, and this is my son Ian. We're from Orillia, Ontario; we're looking for farmland."
Carney looked pleased. "We've plenty of land. Why don't you camp on the edge of town tonight? The campground is just up the hill and to the south. You can look up the government land agent in the morning; his name is Newcombe. It's too late to do anything tonight." Then he suggested, "Or would you rather stay at Hutchison's Hotel? It's not much, but they have food."
"No, I think we'll camp out. We have plenty of grub and can graze the horses. We'll probably see you again." Patrick was anxious to get his camp set for the night.
"See you later!" Carney raised his hand, and then turned to join other passengers.
It was evident to Maggy that many of the townspeople met the steamboats for the novelty. They apparently judged the financial status of each arrival by their clothes, equipment and furniture. She overheard comments to that effect made by the townspeople, especially the women.
While Ian drove the wagon slowly up the hill, his father and Mike followed on foot. Mary had tarried behind with Robert Douglas. Maggy turned impatiently, just in time to catch the two in an emotional embrace. Pretending not to notice, she turned her head. Moments later she heard Mary's hurried steps as she endeavored to catch up. Casting a quick glance at her daughter, she saw the tears and stricken look on her face.
Upon reaching the crest of the embankment, they noted several tents pitched on the open prairie to the south. "We'll camp there for tonight." Patrick pointed to the field. Ian nodded, and turning the team, selected an area far removed from the nearest tent. Unloading, they made hurried preparations for their camp.
Nightfall settled soon after they completed supper, and darkness found them all seated comfortably around their small campfire. All seemed too excited to seek their beds. "I wish Gramps was here with his fiddle. It'd seem a lot more like home." Mary sounded wistful and a bit homesick.
"Perhaps they'll come in another year or two. This is our home now." Maggy seemed unshakable. Then, turning to Patrick, she asked, "What are your plans for tomorrow?"
"I'll see the Canadian land agent first thing, and then check with the man representing the Minnesota land. We'll have to find out about a school, also about a church."
"Mary and I can see to the school and church. You and Ian look to the land." Pausing, Maggy looked up at the stars. "It's such a beautiful evening; it's cleared so perfectly that the Big Dipper stands out. Suddenly Patrick heard a distinct slap, then her voice again, "Darned mosquitoes!"
After an early breakfast Patrick took his family on a walking tour through the streets of Emerson. They were amazed to find the town, founded only three years ago, almost as large as Orillia. Every desirable type of store was available: a land titles office, a registry office, even a Masonic and an Orange Lodge. Most of the families lived in tents, but here and there were houses of log or frame construction. Several homes were in various stages of building.
Leaving the men, Maggy and Mary looked for, and found four active churches: a Methodist, Anglican, Baptist and Presbyterian. The latter, they were told, was still in the process of being formed. They also found the schoolhouse, and Maggy introduced herself. The schoolmaster, George Baldwin, was ecstatic to learn of Mary's advanced schooling and of her interest in mathematics. He questioned her at length to determine her qualifications, and then said, "You'll be a welcome addition to our one-man school staff, as I need an assistant. In fact, it's quite possible you may be able to teach in a school of your own in the near future. We're crowded, but will make room for you and your brother." Turning to Maggy, he said, "Alas, your youngest is just too young. Perhaps next year."
Patrick and Ian entered the Registry Office and were greeted by a jovial, florid faced man. "Come in! Come in! What's your pleasure?" The man seemed overeager. "My name is Bill Nash. If you're looking for a place to build, I'm your man!"
Patrick cast a wary glance at the man, suspecting chicanery. Finally he said, "We're looking for information about farm land. Can you help us?"
"That's no problem. First of all you are entitled to a free lot, courtesy of Mr. Carney and Mr. Fairbanks; they founded this town. If you're looking for work, the railroad is hiring anyone and everyone for grading, no questions asked." Then he said optimistically, "I guess you can find work anywhere. There's a dearth of labor."
"I'd be interested in that free lot, but all we have at present is a tent."
"It's all most of the newcomers have. Some don't even have that." Nash broke into a smile.
"We're farmers; we're looking for land."
"Then you need to see the titles agent, George Newcombe. His office is next door. He sold over 150,000 acres of government land last year, and is having a great run this season."
"What's land going for?"
"Well, the Hudson's Bay Company is asking twelve dollars per acre for their land, but the government wants only eight. I believe you can get terms from either."
Both father and son looked disappointed.
Ian spoke up. "I understood two quarter sections of land were available just for the filing fee, and homesteading."
"That's true, but that's land across the border in Minnesota. We can't match those prices."
"Then that's where we'll have to go; our finances are limited." Patrick turned to leave.
Nash looked crestfallen. "We'll hate to lose you; but before you leave, pick a lot from this plat sheet. I'll assign it to you free of charge. Perhaps you'll change your mind. You say you have a tent for your family, so you'll need a temporary spot. Also, we have a school for any children you may have."
"Sounds good," said Patrick. "A place along the border would suit us best, somewhere near our camping spot."
"There's lots of room. How about here, just east of the camp?" Nash slid his finger along the map. "I'll put you down for this one, just north of the boundary. It's #7, and staked on all four corners."
"Thanks! We'll find it."
Turning to leave, they heard Nash's final words. "Ask for Alexander Turner -- he's the land agent in St. Vincent."
Returning to their camp, they spent the remaining time until noon striking their tent and moving to the new lot assigned to them.
After a brief lunch, Patrick, Ian and Jerold drove south on the trail to enter the state of Minnesota. The grass along the dirt trail to St. Vincent was alive with prairie chickens and grouse. Interspersed between trees and brush were occasional patches of grass. At times birds ran along the path ahead of the horses before breaking into flight.
"Pa, we'll never starve here. Why, just look at the deer tracks." Ian marveled aloud.
"Look at those big tracks in the dried mud," Jerold added. They can't be made by cattle."
"Those are moose tracks, son," Patrick observed. "This land once belonged to the Indians. No wonder they didn't want to give it up."
Jerold interjected, "But Pa wasn't it bought from them in '63, by treaty?"
"Yup, and that's why they had to establish Fort Pembina. The Indians and Métis sold out and each got scrip for 160 acres. Trouble was, they sold the scrip for little or nothing to the traders, and then they wouldn't leave the land. In fact, they caused so much trouble with the settlers that the military had to be called to boot them out. I've heard they're still raising a ruckus with settlers in the Pembina hills, west of here. Oh, there were other reasons to bring in the soldiers: the Sioux began raiding close by in '68, and then Riel aroused the half-breeds in '70."
"Pa, why do they call the breeds Métis at times?" Jerold was puzzled.
Patrick mused thoughtfully. "Son, Métis is the French word for breeds of French-Indian mix. The English still call them half-breeds or breeds. Reflectively, he added, "Come to think of it, the word Métis sounds better."
Angling onto St. Vincent's main thoroughfare, they observed a narrow lake to the south. Scores of ducks could be seen. The lake seemed to extend far out of sight behind huge trees.
On the right side of the road men were clearing brush and cutting timber, making way for the future railroad yard of the Saint Paul and Pacific. The road from Crookston to Emerson was to be completed by the year-end of '78 to connect with the Canadian Pacific Railway, now under construction between Emerson and Selkirk.
Nearing the river, they by-passed a tent camp, and then approached several buildings along the west side of the load.
"Look, Pa! There's a lumber yard," Jerold observed. Patrick was gazing in contemplation at two men setting fence posts on one side of the road. "Ian, stop and we'll speak with them."
The rumbling of the wagon drew the men's attention, and they both looked up expectantly.
"Beg pardon! Can you tell us where to find the land agent, Turner?"
The nearer man was lanky, clean-shaven, with a weathered face covered with wrinkles. He studied Patrick for moments before pointing toward his companion. "He's Turner, I'm Joe McCaffery.
Turner thrust back his hat and approached the wagon. He was tall and thin1, with a long goatee. "What's up?"
"I'm Patrick McLaren and these are my sons, Ian and Jerold. I hear tell you can put us onto some homestead land."
The land agent hesitated, as if in thought. Turning to his companion, he said, "Joe, we both need a rest. Hook up the horse. Damned if I'm going to ride in that wagon with them."
Turning back to Patrick, he smiled. "No insult intended, but you've only got one spring seat on that wagon. My buggy fits my rear end a lot better." Then he said reflectively, "The railroad is supposed to get all the odd-numbered sections for six miles on each side of the track, so that cuts the choice of land. Up to now they aren't selling -- guess they can't until they get the railroad in operation. What land I represent is all prime, with plenty of black loam. The quarters are scattered though, due to what has already been taken up. Do you understand the requirements? You get a quarter section by homesteading and a quarter by preemption."
As Patrick nodded, Turner added, "It'll take a few moments to get my map."
Upon his return he removed a pencil from a pocket to point out details on the sketch. "Now this section is nearby; these two are about two miles away; the rest are along the border." He glanced at Ian, "How old are you, son?"
Ian sensed disaster. "I'm nineteen."
"Too bad. You won't be eligible until you're twenty-one." Turning back to Patrick, he asked, "I assume you'll want land close to town."
Patrick nodded seriously, "Within reason."
Just then McCaffery returned with a single-seated Democrat, pulled by a large bay. Turner advised, "You and your boys follow us. We'll take a shortcut around the slough to section 12, then cut across to the other land. All of the quarters are well marked -- just surveyed this spring. If you can't find land to suit you by four o'clock, we'll try again tomorrow."
He tugged on the gold chain that hung across his vest, releasing his pocket watch. Glancing at it, he smiled. "I promised Johnny Kabernagle to meet him at his place in Pembina for supper and a game of billiards." Grinning, he added, "He fancies himself a pool shark, but I'll take his coin!" Then his manner changed, "We'll have to push hard this afternoon."
It took less than two hours for Patrick to pick two quarters of land, two adjoining quarters lying just southeast of town. Using a shovel from his wagon, he had tested the depth of the loam in several places. Nowhere could he find the depth of the rich, black topsoil less than 12 inches.
Turner sat quietly in his buggy as he watched his client dig. He seemed amused at Patrick's diligence. Finally he commented, "Mighty fine land, isn't it?"
Patrick grinned at Ian and Jerold. "Sure suits me." Turning to the agent he questioned, "That bush along the river -- is it included in this quarter?"
"Yup. Reckon there's about 25 acres of woodland. Plenty of trees to build a cabin, and for your firewood."
"No log cabin for us. We'll build a frame house when the time comes."
Ian felt depressed, almost wishing he had lied his age. Turner's final remarks brought expectations.
"Half of the settlers won't keep their land after proving up. They'll sell their improvements for a small amount, and then move on." He looked to Ian. "It'll be legal to pick it up by paying their price. Also, the railroad will be selling their grant land as soon as they get title. They don't care how old you are. Money talks! Further south of us, the St. Paul & Pacific2 has been selling on yearly payments, making it easier to buy. I don't expect they'll change that policy." He concluded, "I'll register these quarters and submit your application and fee of $15. You can pay me now and move onto the land at your convenience."
After accepting Patrick's registration fee, he laboriously made out a receipt, wetting the lead of his stub pencil repeatedly with his tongue. "Good thing you're paying the filing fee in hard coin. Most paper money is worthless around here." Tearing the receipt from the pad, he handed it to Patrick. "Don't lose the slip. It's your only proof of purchase until I can get it recorded. You'll have to come to the office soon to sign the papers."
"Can we cut our winter's wood from the river quarter?" asked Patrick.
"Sure, it's your land now. So long." He stepped up into his buggy, turning the horse back toward town.
It was late in the afternoon when they returned to Emerson. The return trip was enlivened by rapid and enthusiastic conversation. Jerold was the silent listener. The older men could hardly contain their jubilation at the ease with which the quarters had been acquired. They knew that the preemption quarter required a payment of $1.25 per acre, but they had thirty-three months to comply with that payment.
"We should break your ten acres as soon as possible," Ian suggested eagerly.
"Yup, but first we need to buy a plow, maybe even another team of horses or mules."
"Why don't we work for the railroad the rest of the summer?" Ian replied. "I heard mention that they need horses for grading the right-of-way. Why not buy another team and let the railroad pay for them? I've saved over 100 pounds sterling from the smithing; that's over $500 out here. I'll pay for the plow and team."
"Pa," Jerold broke in. "I can do the plowing if you'll get me a team. Then you can both start working right off."
Patrick and Ian exchanged amused glances for a moment; then both realized the wisdom of his offer. "You think you can handle it, son? It's no easy job." Patrick was thinking it just might work.
"Sure, Pa. I saw several plows at that Ashdown's Hardware, and one is a dandy. It's a St. Paul Star, a riding sulky, with a cutting coulter and a 12-inch breaking bottom. I think it has a three-horse evener, but maybe our team can handle it."
Patrick put his arm around Jerold's shoulder and smiled. "O. K., son, in for a penny, in for a pound." At that moment they arrived at the open gate at the border and turned to their corner lot. "We'll think it over and decide tomorrow." Patrick seemed complacent.
Mary approached the slowing wagon excitedly. "Oh, Pa, I have a job!" She seemed overjoyed and was dancing from one foot to the other. "Mr Baldwin, the schoolmaster, was here this afternoon. He said the school board will pay me eight dollars a month to help teach. I'm to instruct in arithmetic." She smiled proudly, "Why, I don't even have a certificate to teach yet!"
Maggy approached with a well-pleased look, "What do you think of your daughter now, Pat? Is she too young?"
He stepped down to the wagon hub, then dropped to the ground to clasp Mary in a hug. "Colleen, it's proud of you I am." Turning to Maggy, he exclaimed, "We'll all be working soon; we've finally gotten our land."
She looked at him incredulously.
"It's true! We came here to seek land and a new life. Now we've got the land and can move onto it whenever we want!"
Maggy stepped forward and grasped him in a joint hug with Mary. Ian and Jerold exchanged amused glances. Young Mike seemed puzzled by their enthusiasm.
1 - NOTE from Trish: Knowing the Turner family as anyone from my area does, I can vouch for this description of a Turner...tall AND thin!
2 - The earliest predecessor railroad to the GN was the St. Paul & Pacific Railroad, which Hill purchased in the late 19th century. He formed the Great Northern Railroad in 1889 merging the StP&P with the St. Paul, Minneapolis & Manitoba Railway and Montana Central Railroad. - FROM Great Northern Railway (U.S.) history
Monday, May 18, 2009
A recent Associated Press article states:
PEMBINA, N.D. — New technology is being installed at the U.S.-Canada border crossing at Pembina, in northeastern North Dakota.
Radio frequency identification readers are being installed in all vehicle inspection lanes.
The technology can read chip-enabled travel documents, promising shorter waits for travelers who have them.
The technology is being installed at 39 ports of entry along the Canada and Mexico borders
More details: RFID Technology Installation to Begin in Pembina, North Dakota
Saturday, May 16, 2009
One thing leads to another...I'm getting contacted by more old-timer Customs Agents, and wow do they have stories to tell!
Customs Trivia: Did you know that for nearly 125 years, from the formation of our country - prior to personal income tax implementation - that Customs funded virtually the entire government, and paid for the nation's early growth and infrastructure?Jim Benjaminson (see below) is trying to get permission from the family of one of those men, to allow us to share more of Les' story here. For now, below is what Jim can tell us, just to whet your appetite...
Lester Eddington had a welding shop in Neche and joined the Customs & Border Patrol in 1925, serving until 1956. There were several employment changes as various government agencies took control, so Les was in most of them. When he retired, one of his supervisors told him he should write a book about his adventures. Which he did...it was never published and I have one of the few copies not in the hands of the family. The original text was 116 pages of typewritten, legal-size paper, single spaced!Jim also wrote an article from which this is taken:
When I was a kid growing up, he'd always tell stories and then relate that the story was in his book. He would then proceed to pull out the manuscript, find the page the story was on and that would be the only part of the book he would allow me to read. In later years, Garnett (Les' son) spirited the manuscript to me so I could read all of it.
About 20 years ago or so, I asked Lester to allow me to reprint one of his stories for the North Dakota Peace Officer magazine. I took the manuscript and transcribed it onto computer disc (a VERY early Mac system). I also did research about the story to provide a prologue and epilogue to the story. When he saw the story in print he asked me to put it all on computer disc.
As I stated, it has never been published. Its working title is My Experiences While In The Government Service. The only hand-written part of the book was the last page - in which Lester dedicated it to three people - Judson LaMoure (his boss), to Dave Elves (who he worked with at Sarles) and "...last but not least, the late Art Gould, Winnipeg, Manitoba, the greatest liquor runner that ever crossed the International Boundary in this District."
The story I wrote about (using Les' main text as the body) for North Dakota Peace Officer related the story of a robbery that took place in Winnipeg in August of 1928. A bank messenger was held up on the street near one of the banks--the bandits made their escape back towards the USA. They crossed the border in the Mowbray/Maida area with Les and William Henneberry in hot pursuit. Somewhere between Langdon and Lakota the bad guys made a stand and shot up the pursuing car (an unmarked vehicle). Lester was driving...one slug came through the windshield, hit the steering wheel and struck Les in the stomach. It wasn't a serious injury. The only thing that saved their lives that day was the bad guys saw the badge on Lester's belt - saw he was a federal officer and backed off. Long story short - the bad guys were never found. And Lester had the slug mounted as a watch fob!
I have extra copies of the ND Peace Officer magazine with that story, if you'd like me to mail you a copy. I also have photos of the shot up car with Lester and Henneberry standing beside it.
As for the text of the book, I'll have to get permission from the family. Like I say, I think I have the only non-family member copy in existence. I can't release it without getting their o.k. The book also relates many adventures, many in the Sarles, Hannah, Maida, Mowbray1 area as that was Lester's first post. He spent the last years of his career at Pembina.
PS - I glanced at your blog. And I know Chuck Walker.
Back in 1976 I did research for a booklet for the Pembina County Sheriffs Office, documenting all of the county sheriffs from 1867 to the present (Glenn Wells was sheriff then - he was later my boss when I worked for Pembina County SO 1977-1979). I took it upon myself to try and find photos of all the sheriffs at which I was mostly successful....I think I missed 5, Charlie Brown being one of them. I also missed one sheriff for the list (William Truemner) that I discovered while doing other research many years later.
I do have a file called "Murder and Mayhem in Pembina County" and I probably have references to various incidents that occured in the early Pembina/St. Vincent days. I have details on the Pembina post office shooting (that was also in ND Peace Officer)......Charlie and I have discussed this at times in the past, regarding the outlaw that was killed...
Just glancing at the blog I'm wondering how much of the story/dialog Charlie made up regarding Charlie Brown???
Police cars, like police work, have changed considerably over the years. Few of the early-day police cars were given insignias identifying their purpose. An early-day North Dakota federal officer, Lester Eddington, wrote in his autobiography, "...we did not wear uniforms, just carried Customs caps to use while stopping cars." Because of this, stopping cars was not easy; many times the officer would pull alongside the offending vehicle and display his badge to tell the driver to pull over. Even more dangerous was the practice of stepping out into the lane of traffic to hold one's hand in the air, ordering the offender to stop.Clarence Bingham told me this about Les:
Yes, I knew and worked with Lester Eddington for a year or more during 1951 - 52. I did not know that Les wrote an autobiography, but it doesn't surprise me. His wife's name was Milicent. Their daughter (June) married Allen Henneman from Pembina.1 - I Remember When...the Birth and Death of a Prairie Town, By John J. Elias
Lester and his partner were in a chase and shoot out with a car load of bank robbers out in the Maida - Hannah area of the border during the early 1930s. Les had a bullet on his watch chain that he claimed came through the front of their patrol car and lodged between his long underwear and his stomach. He thought for sure he had been shot, because the slug was burning him...He lived and farmed near [Cavalier] after retiring from Customs.
There are several factors that caused towns to spring up, grow and thrive for a number of years, only to fall into decay and finally disappear completely. At times some group of interested people took the pains to erect some memorial to remind the passerby that a town once existed there. Why it came into existence in the first place depended on physical features but most prairie towns were planted because the railways deliberately placed them there by building a station on the location. The railways spaced them about eight miles apart since that was roughly the distance a settler would travel from home to town and back in a day with a load of grain or just to go shopping.
Nelsonville was the big town before the coming of the railway, situated about ten miles northwest of Morden. It had the land titles office, a NWMP detachment, gristmill, stores, church and community hall. It was certain the CPR would pass through it.
Mountain City, south of Morden, also was a thriving village. It too had high hopes that it would be selected by the railway. Nevertheless, the railway always kept secret where it would go and located towns where it suited and benefited the railway most. The track was laid between the two towns and Morden received a station. In two years, both Nelsonville and Mountain City disappeared. Only a stone now reminds us of the existence of a previous thriving community.
The histories of many prairie towns are very similar; only the names are different. For this reason I’ll take the town of Mowbray as an example since I became acquainted with it when it still was a healthy hamlet. Provincial Road 201 passes through it. Since it is the only east-west road between the Pembina River and the Canadian-U.S. border we traveled through there many times since 1941, the year I started farming together with my wife, Esther.
Since we became acquainted with Archie and Lily Scott, we learned much about the early history of the area and the town. They presented us with a small booklet that gives a short history of the first settlers. There is no point in giving a lot of names since they are all unknown to anyone but those who have long passed away. It is enough to record that the first settlers arrived in 1880.
The Andrew Johnstones settled where the Scotts now lived. A crude log cabin not far from the Scotts was their first home. Archie took us to the building one day. The west end of the house was the first post office and served as such for over 20 years. When Andrew died, Mrs. Johnstone continued the service till Mowbray was formed.
As more and more families settled in the district, the time came when a school was needed. The school was northeast of the present Scott home. This was the school that Archie and Lily attended. Most teachers taught for only one year. By the end of the year some promising young bachelor had won the heart of the young lady teacher and soon they added to the school population.
As the district filled up, the CPR extended the railway from Snowflake to Windygates. In 1904 they erected a station and Mowbray came into being. Elevators, a store, lumber yard, blacksmith shop and hotel soon followed. The two-story school was built, but only the first floor was used for classes. The upper story was used as a community hall and for church services. Some homes were built.
Just across the boundary the town of Mowbray, North Dakota sprang up and flourished. The two towns in actuality functioned as one town. The Americans sent their children to school in Canada. The biggest customers of the Canadian hotel bar were Americans. The Canadians shopped freely in both Mowbray, Manitoba and Mowbray, North Dakota. The Americans also made good use of the railway.
Some time in the late 1950s the town was almost gone; only the station was left. One day a car parked in front of the station. To satisfy our curiosity we stopped and visited the couple that was sitting outside on the platform. Some children were amusing themselves in the back. The couple was very hospitable and readily acquainted us with the history of the station.
The gentleman, Percy Williams, was the present owner of the station. His parents had arrived in Mowbray in 1927. His father passed away when Percy was a young lad and his mother carried on as the agent as long as the train service continued. In the beginning Mowbray had three passenger trains a day and this was cut down to one train a week. Service ended in 1954 and the mother and Percy left the district. Percy was able to buy the station from the CPR for a nominal price and he kept it in repair. He had already planted trees and shrubs around the property and the family spent the summer weekends there. They claimed they enjoyed driving to Maida for supper and visiting the farmers that were left.
The time came when we no longer found them there. Last summer (2008) a friend and I passed by and noticed a car parked in front of the station. I visited with the couple sitting outside and was told that Percy had died and had sold the station eight years ago. The trees and shrubs were now full grown and the lawns were freshly cut, but I noticed that half the platform had collapsed and the building too showed signs of considerable weathering. Still, it was good to see that the old station was still serving a purpose and had not been abandoned to slow decay.
What then was the main reason for the disappearance of so many prairie towns? The reason may be summed up in one word – transportation. It was the railway that built the towns. When there were no roads or few at best, the passenger trains with the mail car, flourished. When the automobile came along, roads were required. The first road to Winkler had no ditches and the roadbed was lower than the sides. As roads and cars improved, more and more people used the car to go to town, and the passenger trains were empty. Buses replaced the passenger trains and without passenger trains, the railroads were losing money. As a result they discontinued passenger service. In Mowbray the station was closed in 1954. The rails were salvaged and soon Mowbray disappeared.
As roads were improved and main highways paved, cars and trucks took over transportation. More and more branch lines were abandoned and now there is no elevator anymore between Winkler and Killarney. A large stretch has already been dismantled. The track serving Miami has been taken up. As time goes on more and more towns will disappear completely. -FROM Winkler Times article
I Remember When...The Birth and Death of a Prairie Town
Thursday, May 14, 2009
I went to work for the U. S. Customs at Pembina in December 1949, so did not get over to the Noyes depot much after that.
All the old Customs Border Patrol officers had a story or two about inspection experiences while examining the special trains chartered to return members of "that fraternal organization" from the convention in Winnipeg during prohibition. One that Lester Eddington1 told is that they started a rumor in the Winnipeg depot that you could successfully smuggle your liquor into the U.S. by hanging it out the coach windows on a string when the train got to Noyes, until the inspector went through the coach and checked your luggage. When the train got to Noyes the Customs officers walked down the outside of the train and cut the strings holding the bottles. Les said It was easier than looking for it in the luggage and saved the paper work of assessing a fine, because you did not know who it belonged to.
I spent a lot of nights and days in the car with Les during the Selkirk Wheat smuggling in 1952-53. I am sorry it was before the days of small tape recorders or I could have a wealth of border lore...
- From C.L. Bingham, aka Bing
1 - Police cars, like police work, have changed considerably over the years. Few of the early-day police cars were given insignias identifying their purpose. An early-day North Dakota federal officer, Lester Eddington, wrote in his autobiography, "...we did not wear uniforms, just carried Customs caps to use while stopping cars." Because of this, stopping cars was not easy; many times the officer would pull alongside the offending vehicle and display his badge to tell the driver to pull over. Even more dangerous was the practice of stepping out into the lane of traffic to hold one's hand in the air, ordering the offender to stop. - From The History of Mopar Squads: Chrysler, Dodge, and Plymouth police cars
Tuesday, May 12, 2009
All the flood photos from 1950 that I sent you today were in a large brown envelope in my mother's former house on the farm in a dresser drawer in the attic. They belonged to my grandparents the Sheldon Joyner's which my mom collected after cleaning out her mother's house after her passing.
By the way, Clarence Bingham is my mom's first cousin.
Sunday, May 10, 2009
It was not easy for lecture-hall and opera-house audiences of the nineteenth century, conditioned to expect formal and usually oratorical lectures, to become accustomed to the Mark Twain manner. Frequently, Twain walked nonchalantly onto the stage, hands in pockets, as if he had wandered in from the street and appeared surprised to find himself facing an audience. Unlike the loud, haranguing, even hell-fire-and-brimstone voice of the average circuit speaker, Twain's voice was quiet. He spoke slowly, in a drawl described abroad as "Yankee." He did not hide himself behind the lectern but strolled about the stage from time to time. Though he had his talk memorized, he delivered it as if it were coming to him on the spot. It took an audience a while to become attuned to this peculiar sort of lecture. Perhaps in fear of misunderstanding among audiences, Major Pond was reluctant to call Twain's performances lectures. A Winnipeg advertisement promised "Two 90-Minutes Chat and Character Sketches;" advertising in most American towns called them simply "talks," and the Australian manager Smythe advertised them as "At Homes," hoping, no doubt, to prepare audiences for Twain's informal delivery.
From a July 30, 1895 Grand Forks Herald interview, Twain had this to say about the Red River Valley: "This country of yours out here astonished me beyond all imagination. Never in my life have I seen such fields of grain extending in all directions to the horizon. This country appears to me to be as it were a mighty ocean; my conception of it is the same as that of a man who has never seen the ocean before, he sees nothing but water as far as the eye can reach; here I see nothing but oceans of wheat fields. Why, it is simply miraculous."
From the July 26, 1895 Crookston Daily Times: "The people along the Fosston line have caught the contagion, and are not to be outdone by the towns on the St. Vincent line who secured a special train to take their people home after the performance. The Fosston people have also arranged for an excursion rate and for transportation home after the performance. Through the courtesy of Supt. Jenks, the Fosston Flyer, which leaves here at 6 o'clock will be held until 11 o'clock Monday evening. This insures a large attendance from Fosston way, and already telegrams are pouring in for seats. There is now no question that the opera house will be packed with the largest and best audience ever assembled in Crookston."
Although the entire program presented in Crookston's Grand Opera House is not known, the Polk County Journal reported that Twain, after doing six unnamed selections, "announced that he would give a few extracts from the 'Diary of Adam,' something new to this audience, and which in our opinion is the drollest of all his writings. This kept the audience in a continual uproar from start to finish and put them in excellent humor for 'The Golden Arm,' which wound up the entertainment."
When the lecture concluded at 10:30 P.M.. Twain reportedly was so pleased with his audience — all those people from miles away, from towns along the St. Vincent and Fosston lines of the Great Northern, including such places as Hallock, Warren, Mcintosh, and Mentor — that he "...stepped down off the stage and was introduced to all who desired to grasp him by the hand."
- From Mark Twain in the Red River Valley of the North, by Norton D. Kinghorn [This article is based on a speech Mr. Kinghorn gave in 1975; at that time, he was an associate professor of English at the University of North Dakota, Grand Forks...]
This post came about thanks to William Ash, who wrote me to say, "...I thought this article from the Minnesota Historical Society would really interest you. It appears that the writer Mark Twain or Samuel L. Clemens was in the Red River Valley of the North in July 1895. He was in or gave speeches in Grand Forks, ND, Winnipeg, MB and Crookston, MN among many other towns and cities on his world wide speaking tour.
It appears that he was traveling by train in July 1895 and if he didn't travel thru St. Vincent, MN ( the article doesn't really say if he was in St. Vincent, MN or ever got off the train in St. Vincent, MN) but I think it is very probable that he traveled very close to St. Vincent, MN or thru St. Vincent, MN on his travels from Winnipeg, MB to Crookston, MN since you now as well as I do where the Great Northern Railroad or even the Northern Pacific Railroad tracks were..."
At the rate he is going on story suggestions/submissions, I'll have to make him a staff member here soon! Thanks, Bill!
Friday, May 08, 2009
After a hectic week of packing and saying their goodbyes, the McLaren family finally arrived at Collingwood. They were directed to the location where the Manitoulin was docked; it was the boat that was to carry them to Duluth - the first stop on their long journey.
"We're lucky that Ben purchased our mules and farm equipment for cash -- got it all in gold and silver coin too." Patrick said proudly. "Hated to sell the plow and harrows though. We'll have to buy anew; they were just too bulky and heavy to bring along."
Maggy seemed complacent. "Lordy, Pat, our wagon is loaded to the hilt as it is. I never dreamt Collingswood was so far.
"Shucks, it only took two days to get here. If we're lucky we'll only have a few more days to go. That is, if we're able to make connections."
"A woman told me they have small cabins on the boat. If one is available, get it! At least we'll be inside if bad weather comes."
Lying abed that first night aboard the Manitoulin, Patrick marveled at his family. Maggy seemed absolutely fearless, and although Mary hadn't taken her attack lightly, she never mentioned it. The boys were excited at the prospect of moving west; even now Ian and Jerold were sleeping out on the packet's open deck. The thought of leaving Orillia left Patrick with a bittersweet nostalgia. He had spent most of his years there and now he was leaving, probably never to return.
Mary, with young Mike, occupied the bunk opposite his and Maggy's. Others were forced to sleep on deck, subject to the vagaries of the weather. Maggy deemed six dollars a small price to pay for the cabin, considering the privacy it offered.
Passage on the Manitoulin proved more costly than Patrick had anticipated, due to his heavily loaded wagon and team of horses. The large tent he had purchased for their temporary home in the new land would have to suffice until he could build a permanent structure. All said and done, he judged they had sufficient funds to carry them for at least one year, possibly even two.
He had been advised, "Take the Northern Pacific train at Duluth to Glyndon, Minnesota. Another railroad will take you from there to Crookston. You'll probably have to walk about 15 miles to Fisher's Landing to catch the steamboat to Emerson, Manitoba, in Canada." The land agent had added, "They're building a spur track to the landing, but it won't be completed until next year. Emerson is only a stones throw from the United States border, and to either Minnesota or the Dakota Territory."
Patrick found himself unable to sleep, as their small cabin was humid and unbearably hot. Pushing aside the light blanket, he rolled to his side and put his arm around Maggy's shoulder. She partially turned to push away his sweaty arm; it was apparent she was not in a receptive mood. Rolling back to his side of the bed, he realized she was still awake, probably solving problems of her own. He would have liked to voice his thoughts aloud to her, but feared awakening the children.
Before leaving Orillia he had assured his father and mother that he would keep them informed of their progress in the West, and, if successful, would send for them. However, the look that passed between them as he said this, left little hope that they would ever make the move. They seemed satisfied in their present home, surrounded by their Irish, Scottish and English neighbors.
The Red River Valley, where Patrick and Maggy planned to settle, sounded quite secure from the dreaded Sioux Indians, as there had been a military fort at Pembina since l870, manned by United States Army troops. The land agent visiting Orillia had further said: "You can homestead a quarter section of land in Minnesota for the legal fee, and more than likely gain a second quarter by the Timber Culture Act or by Preemption. Preemption land will cost you $1.25 per acre and you have to reside on the land for six months prior to filing for it. The Timber Culture act requires your planting and caring for 10 acres of trees."
Maggy's deep breathing indicated that she had finally fallen asleep, so Patrick carefully arose from the bed and reached for his trousers. Slipping them on, he moved as quietly as possible out the door to the starboard side of the packet. He realized they were now passing through the north channel of Georgian Bay; occasional lights were discernible on either side of the craft.
The moon was occasionally hidden by large cumulus clouds, the fringes of which glowed faintly from hidden reflections. Although it was a quiet, windless night the movement of the boat brought a chilling breeze. The only sounds were of the puffing of the engine and the rippling sound of disturbed water at the bow.
He tried to cast off his feeling of insecurity and apprehension at the trip ahead. His childhood memories seemed far away, and he doubted he would ever visit Orillia again. He would miss the feeling of togetherness he had enjoyed with his folks, knowing he might never see them again. Casting aside his feelings of self-pity and guilt, he realized Maggy must feel even more uncertain about their future than he.
His thoughts turned to their arrival at Duluth. Would there be a problem arranging transportation for his team and wagon at the railhead, and at Fisher's Landing? And, when he arrived at Emerson, in Canada, would there be adequate wheat and barley seed available to put in a crop? Maggy had wisely prepared for a future garden, packing essential seeds, even bringing slips of her favorite plants. She had insisted upon silver and gold coin for their equipment and livestock, sagaciously deeming paper might not be accepted in the sparsely settled areas where they were headed. Patrick had agreed, entrusting their small hoard to her care.
In the dim light he could see that the deck was nearly covered with the lumpy forms of sleepers. It seemed that almost every Irishman and Scotsman wanted to move to the West. "God bless them!" he mused. "May they all find their dream."
It was beginning to lighten in the east when he finally resolved his thoughts. Returning to the cabin, he found the room had cooled. He moved to the bed and crowded closely to Maggy for warmth.
After a breakfast of porridge served in the galley, the packet Manitoulin entered the locks at Sault Ste. Marie. Two hours later it finally tied up at a dock to unload cargo. Patrick noted they took on even more freight than was dropped off, much of it heavy machinery. During the stop he and the boys fed his team with hay and oats carried in the back of his wagon. Two fellow travelers, perhaps bored by the monotony, watered his animals.
Passing through the locks had aroused the boys’ interest. Jerold exclaimed to Mike, "It's all done by the gates and water. A boat can be lowered or raised easily by adding water or draining water from a lock. Gosh it only took a few minutes to raise us up into Lake Superior."
So far, fair weather and a calm Lake Huron had been kind to the passengers, as none seemed to suffer from any malaise. Patrick had heard that Lake Superior was known for its sudden, violent storms with high waves. He hoped they would be fortunate in avoiding them, since human greed had sadly overloaded their small craft, leaving little freeboard.
By 3 p.m. they were well clear of the Sault and on their final 400-mile leg to Duluth. Time began to hang heavy upon all because of the crowded conditions.
Mary had recovered from her encounter with the exception of one remaining dark spot near her eye. Self-conscious because of it, she left their small cabin only at mealtimes. She spent her self-imposed confinement schooling Mike and playing card games with her mother.
Maggy saw little of her two oldest boys; they preferred to remain on deck, making casual acquaintances. When they did visit the cabin, they stayed only a few moments. Their enthusiasm and excitement seemed contagious. She was thankful that her family showed an eagerness at the venture and determined that whatever transpired at the end of the line, she would take in stride. She regretted sharing the small cabin with the two children, for at times she craved the love of Patrick. Yet she knew the trip would take only a week. When Pat napped that second afternoon in the cabin, she looked pointedly at Mary, but could not bring herself to ask for privacy, especially not after what had happened to her daughter at the trestle. Thank the Lord, Ian's arrival had been timely!
Speaking with the ship's captain, Patrick learned much about the Duluth area. The officer was loquacious, going on and on about Minnesota. "Helluva gold rush at Vermilion Lake in '65 and '66. Trouble was there were only a few pockets of gold found. My oldest boy tried it out and came back to Collingwood broke. He did say that north of Duluth a compass was worthless; it gave false readings.
Patrick met two geologists named Eames who told him the iron ore, called hematite, was magnetic. He also said that the ore was 65 to 80 percent iron.
"They say fortunes will be made up there in the future, but it'll take a heap of money. The country is mighty rough, nearly impassable in the summer because of the bogs. Supposedly they are improving a road from Duluth to the north, but they'll need rail lines to get any of that iron ore back to Duluth. Jay Cooke owned a big chunk of timber, about 45,000 acres. Also he had an interest in the Northern Pacific -- all until the bust of '73. Now Tower and Munson are the big wheels and they've named that north mountain of iron, the Vermilion Range. Oh yes, they've discovered another body of iron named the Mesabi. If you're looking for work in the mines, they are hiring anyone they can find."
Patrick was firm. "I'm a farmer, pure and simple. Be darned if I'm going to slave for someone else. With adequate and good farmland we can make a fair living. I've been told there's plenty of land in the Red River Valley, that's where we're headed."
"Well, I wish you luck, but I'll tell you many of my passengers are headed for the mines." The captain turned to disappear into the bowels of the boat.
Mary had been upset by her experience, but hid her discomfiture well. Her former self-assured manner had led to one of caution, although the change had not been immediately apparent to Maggy. Her attacker had truly frightened her; yet, she wished only for a man she could love and admire. She had had her menses at twelve, yet she had never felt uncomfortable about being a woman. Back at school in Orillia, boys had been of little interest. Her consequent over-attention to Mike's schooling ended in a near revolt. Mike began spending nearly all of his time out on the deck with his older brothers.
On the fourth evening of their boat trip, just at sunset, they approached the harbor of Duluth. The sky was alight with beautiful reds and pinks emanating from high white cloud wisps in the west. The sight was especially accentuated by the dark mass of hill to the northwest.
As Patrick stood at the rail alongside Maggy, he said, "'Red sky in morning, sailor take warning. Red sky at night, sailor's delight.'"
Maggy demurred. "Pat, that's not right. St. Matthew 16 says: "'It will be fair weather, for the sky is red. In the morning, it will be foul weather today, for the sky is red and lowering.'"
Patrick tightened his arm around her waist. "You're right as always, Meg darlin'" Amused at her mild rebuke, he added, "Your minister Father taught you well!"
She said nothing, wishing to forget those harsh years spent with her father.
It was dark when they finally tied to a rickety dock in Duluth harbor. Few of the passengers went ashore, most referring to remain on board yet another night rather than chance finding lodging in the town.
Raucous calls of sea gulls and rumbling sounds of unloading awoke them the next morning. Stepping from their small room, Patrick found passengers already debarking, carrying pitifully small bundles under their arms. He noted that the precarious ramp would never support his team and wagon and wondered how they planned to unload it.
"Mr. McLaren!" A crewmember approached him. "We'll have a better gangway up in about an hour to get your wagon ashore. Would you rent us your horses for a couple of hours? We've heavy goods to unload and will have need of a team."
"Yes, if you'll allow my son to handle the animals. I hope it won't take too long. I've got to obtain our tickets on the Northern Pacific to Glyndon. We want to leave Duluth as soon as possible."
"Tell you what -- why don't you go to the depot to get your tickets and arrange room for your team and wagon? By the time you get back we'll have a proper gangway to move the heavy gear."
"Where is the train station?"
"Only about a quarter mile to the west, just along the main street."
Moments later, Patrick, accompanied by Mary and Mike, headed toward the Northern Pacific depot. Ian was left behind to harness the team. Maggy, assisted by Jerold, busied herself folding their blankets and storing personal belongings in the wagon.
The depot was easily recognized from a distance. A group of people was gathered around the platform. Patrick noted that many of the throng were fellow passengers from the boat, evidently also headed to the west.
Leaving Mary and Mike on the depot platform, Patrick entered the office to transact his business. Glancing around, Mary noticed a well-dressed youth seated on the edge of the platform. He wore a brown derby and seemed preoccupied. Finally he stood and turned toward her. When he caught her stare, his tanned face broke into a wrinkled grin. Removing his hat, he boldly approached her.
"Hello! I'm Robert Douglas, I work for the railroads."
Mary was uncertain how to take this direct approach and said bashfully, "I'm Mary McLaren. We're on our way to Fisher's Landing."
"Then I'm in luck. I'm heading to the landing also." Then, noticing Mike, he asked, "and what is your name, young man?"
"My name is Mike McLaren and this is my sister." Mike moved close to Mary and grasped her hand possessively.
The stranger gave Mike an amused smile, and then turned back to Mary. His smile grew warmer. "I'm glad you're a sister! Single, I hope!"
Mary felt her face warm as she nodded. This boy seemed likeable, and he was handsome.
At that moment Patrick emerged from the depot. Seeing the stranger speaking with Mary and Mike, he paused to study the situation.
Mary's eye caught his. "Father, this gentleman is Robert Douglas. He is employed by the railroad and is going to Fisher's Landing."
The young man broke in sheepishly. "Truthfully, sir, I've just graduated from McGill University with a degree in engineering. I'm hoping to find employment on the railway to be built between Winnipeg and Emerson, Manitoba."
Patrick studied the young man shrewdly, deeming him presentable. He would like to have known more about this youth but was pressed for time.
"We've got to leave now. No doubt we'll see you in the future, Mr. Douglas."
Robert Douglas looked to Mary and bowed slightly. "I sincerely hope so!"
After walking a distance Mary looked back at the tall stranger. He seemed a lot like Ian, but she guessed him to be a year or two older. Shyly she raised her hand to wave goodbye. A strange new emotion seemed to possess her. "Why, he seemed nice . . . and he's manly." She became so immersed in her reflections that later she had no recollection of returning to the boat.
Late that afternoon a railroad section hand directed them to a boxcar and three dismal-looking passenger cars on a siding located by a side-track to the west of the depot.
"Park your wagon by the loading ramp. In the morning the yard crew will move the boxcar into place so you can load up."
After inspecting the passenger cars, Maggy complained. "Pat, the cars are filthy and there are no sanitary facilities. The toilets inside can't be used unless the train is in motion."
Glancing to Mary, she said, "We'll just have to walk back to the station when need be."
Few of the immigrants entered the cars to sleep that night, most electing to spend the warm evening under the stars. Patrick noted other groups had already prepared cooking fires along the right-of-way. He was not concerned about fuel, since he had kindling stored in a canvas slung under the wagon.
"Ian, you and Jerold get a fire going and we'll have supper within an hour or so. Mary, you and Mike get bedding out for dad and the boys. They'll have to sleep on the ground tonight -- the weather looks suitable." Maggy had taken over; she turned toward her husband.
Patrick smiled, "I don't need orders. I'll move the horses away a bit and tie them to graze." He looked along the siding. "It's a bit desolate here, isn't it."
After supper Maggy and Mary rummaged inside the wagon to prepare sleeping quarters for them. Caustic remarks were heard from fellow travelers sauntering by, about the so-called Zulu cars in which they were to travel. Word passed along the track that their train would depart the following morning at 9:30 a.m.
Shortly after daylight a snorting, hissing switch engine appeared to move the boxcar opposite the loading ramp. Ian drove the team up the ramp and into the car, and then, assisted by Patrick, removed the harness from the team. The stall had been obviously prepared beforehand; the feed bunk was full of hay and a barrel of water stood to the side.
After departing Duluth, the passengers found the roadbed rough and poorly ballasted, the train unable to travel more than twenty miles per hour. Even at that speed their car rocked wildly, as if about to leave the track at any moment. Occasionally smoke drifted into the car from the open upper vents, causing coughing and sneezing. Hot flying cinders became a problem.
Maggy felt nauseated and pressed Patrick. "How long do we have to stay in this dirty car? The rocking and jerking is driving me wild!"
"It's about 250 miles to Glyndon, but we'll reach Brainerd at 4 o'clock this afternoon. We can get out and stretch there."
"Why, that means we'll get into Glyndon long after dark." Her mind was not eased. How was she to tell Pat that she was pregnant again? My God! I'll be forty this fall. Why did it happen to me -- this late in life?"
"S'posed to be there about 10:30 tonight; then we'll sit on a siding until picked up by the Saint Paul and Pacific early tomorrow morning. We're lucky though; these cars go through to Crookston; we don't have to change."
"I just hope I don't get sick from this rocking. The boat wasn't jerky like this."
Patrick noted her pasty-grey face and watched sympathetically as she closed her eyes and attempted to sleep.
Mary and Mike mixed with the other children in the car and soon they were playing a game involving the clapping of hands and counting aloud.
Ian and Jerold sat quietly alongside a window. Jerold dreamily watching the trees pass by. Ian ignored the landscape, seemingly intent on the book he held in his lap. Actually, his thoughts were of Aggy Quinn. He pictured her smiling face in his mind, its total perfection. He wondered if he would ever see her again.
Shortly after 4 p.m. the train stopped in Brainerd with a shuddering jolt. The conductor entered the car to call, "Thirty minute stop here! Sandwiches are available in the depot."
Mary moved through the door of the car to the vestibule. Tugging her long skirt clear of her shoes, she carefully stepped down to the platform. As she lifted her eyes, there stood a smiling Robert Douglas.
"I thought you must be in this car. I've already checked the others."
She felt a sudden confusion at his boldness and, although unfamiliar emotions assailed her, she felt a strange accord. "You told me you were going to the landing, but I didn't know we were to be on the same train."
"Why, I'm planning to be on the same boat with you." His smile was spontaneous and catching. Extending his hand, he added, "Do you mind walking along the platform with me until the train departs? I'm tired of that hard seat."
"It's the dirt and smoke that's bothered me." Mary glanced fleetingly at his face. She wished it had been possible to wash before seeing him again. She felt she must look like a frump.
The first few steps of their stroll were conducted in silence, then both spoke at once. Breaking into laughter, they turned face to face. "What did you say?" he asked.
She felt herself blushing. "I was asking where you are from. We're from Orillia."
"My folks live in Ottawa; my Father is with the government. Originally my parents came from Glasgow, Scotland, but I was born in Canada. I finished my studies at McGill University this spring. My parents objected to my going west. Father hoped I would accept a government post at home." He shook his head. "He's a bit put out with me."
Gazing at him contemplatively, Mary noted his strong boned, clean-cut face with its slightly aquiline nose. He was tall and wiry, nicely built, with blue eyes and light wavy hair. He seemed precise in his speech and voiced his opinion in a pleasant manner with no sign of an accent. She felt a sudden rapport with him.
A shrill blast of the whistle called their attention to the train; they could see the passengers gathering.
"I'll see you at the landing -- I hope."
"I'd like that!" She looked into his eyes and smiled, then turned to step up into the car.
Maggy had been one of the last to leave the car at Brainerd. Upon stepping to the platform, she observed Mary in conversation with a young man. Patrick had mentioned seeing Mary speaking with a stranger in Duluth and volunteered the information that the youth seemed clean-cut and unpretentious. Maggy purposely moved a few steps away before turning to watch them surreptitiously. Mary seemed happy; the smile on her face bespoke that. The young man did seem handsome, and, Maggy reasoned, not too old for her daughter. She watched them for moments, then joined Patrick and Mike, who with others were admiring their huge railroad locomotive. "It's a Baldwin built, 4-4-0 engine, Mike," Patrick advised. "It has four guiding wheels forward, and four main driving wheels. That hump on the smokestack is to cut down sparks that may set bush and grass fires."
"That big lamp on front, Pa, what makes it work?"
Before Patrick could answer, another man spoke up. "It's run by carbide gas, son. It's real powerful!"
Moments after Maggy appeared the shrill whistle of the engine tore at their ears. From somewhere along the cars they heard a voice shout, "All aboard! All aboard!"
Hurrying back to their car, they were in time to see the young man assist Mary on the steps. She was smiling at him.
In a low tone Patrick observed. "Looks like Mary has found a beau."
"She's entitled to one," Maggy said softly. "The hell she's been through." Then she put her hand on Patrick's shoulder. "He does look like a nice boy. I'll have Mary introduce him properly."
Maggy awoke during the night to find it quiet and the car stationary. Puzzled, she shook her husband awake. "Did they leave us behind, Pat?"
"No, love, we've been on a siding for hours. We're at Glyndon. Go back to sleep; it must be after midnight."
The next morning car couplings thumped and wheels squealed as the cars were hooked to the train just arrived from Alexandria. By noon they were in Crookston, stopped momentarily before being shunted to s siding for unloading.
"End of the line, Maggy!" Patrick leaned across the seat to peer out the car window. Turning to Ian and Jerold, he said, "We'll have to get our wagon out of the boxcar."
"What do we do now, Pat?" Maggy questioned.
"I'll help the boys get our wagon and we'll load up for the drive to Fisher's Landing. I was told it's just a bit over 15 miles. They are supposed to finish a track to there this summer, but as it is now, we'll have to hoof it. We should make it long before dark."
"Pa, is that where we meet the boat that will take us down the Red River?" Mike asked excitedly.
"Supposed to be, but we'll find out for sure as soon as we get unloaded and ask around." Turning to Ian, Patrick said, "Why don't you and Jerold see get the wagon out of the boxcar? I'll go over to the depot and get directions to the landing."
For moments Patrick and Maggy made no effort to join the straggling line leaving the coach, for many of the passengers were carrying bulky articles. As the line thinned, Maggy said, "Pat, let's get out of this box. I'm so grimy from the engine smoke that I don't think I'll ever get clean again."
Stepping down from the stool placed by the brakeman, they were pleasantly surprised to find it sunny and warm. Clumps of grass and weeds were bending under the strong northwest breeze. Mary and the boys had preceded them from the train and the boys were already standing by the freight car that held their team and wagon. Mary was not in sight. Concerned, Maggy eyed the depot area. "There she is!" Involuntarily she pointed to her daughter. "She's with that boy again."
"Didn't take her long to find him." Patrick seemed amused.
"Oh, Pat! She's only sixteen. It's puppy love. She'll go through a lot of boys before she decides on the right one."
"Dunno! Kind of looks like she's taken to him." He grinned and squeezed her shoulder.
Unloading the team of horses from the freight car presented no problem, but when the wagon was manhandled on the ramp, a wheel broke through the planking, necessitating unloading nearly the entire wagon. Mary's friend Robert stepped forward and assisted Ian and Jerold in the tedious work. When the wagon was freed from the ramp and reloaded, Mary approached Robert and took his hand. "Come, I want you to meet my Mother."
Smiling, he wiped the perspiration from his forehead. "Mary, just give me time to fetch my coat. I want to be presentable." Shrugging it on hurriedly over his sweat- soaked shirt, he and Mary approached Maggy.
"Mother, this is Robert Douglas, from Ottawa."
Maggy smiled, "Thank you for helping us with the wagon, Robert."
"It was no trouble. I have nothing but time." He seemed almost embarrassed.
Patrick approached just as Ian and Jerold finished hooking the team to the wagon. "Maggy, you and Mary take Mike along with you in the wagon. We've about sixteen miles or more to cover this afternoon. The boys and I will walk. That's the trail to the landing." He pointed westward to a path alongside a new railroad grade.
"Pat, I'm making a bit of lunch before we leave." She turned to Robert. "You'll join us, won't you?"
"I'd love to, thank you." He removed his suit coat and turned to Mary. "It's just too darned hot to wear a coat. I'm frazzled. May I put my valise in your wagon? Would there be room?"
Ian overheard the request. "Sure, Robert. You've earned your keep today."
After a brief lunch, Patrick's wagon led the group of over forty immigrants on the trail to Fisher's Landing. Two other hired wagons followed, carrying women, children and surplus baggage.
It was nearing the supper hour when they arrived at the landing to find it a beehive of activity. A sawmill emitted dense clouds of smoke, accompanied by the soft puffing of a steam engine and the high whining pitch of the saw blade. Four men were busy pushing a large log onto the sawmill carrier, while at the dock several men were rolling kegs down an inclined ramp to the deck of the steamboat International. It was obvious the men were playing at their work since there was much shouting and joshing going on. No smoke appeared from either of the steamboat's stacks, indicating her boilers were probably cold and the boat would not move for hours.
Patrick joined the long line at the office and stood for several minutes before his turn came to speak to the clerk. "Have you cabin room for a family of six to Emerson, Manitoba?"
"The cabin comes with a first class ticket, unless you would rather go steerage. That's cheaper, but no frills and we don't furnish grub." The clerk seemed cheerful.
"I've got a wagonload of personal belongings and a team of horses. What about them?"
The clerk turned to a group of men playing cards at a table. "Captain Segars, have you a moment to spare?"
A tall, thin man arose from a chair and leisurely walked to the counter. "What's the problem, George?"
"This man has a team and wagon; he wants it dropped off at Emerson. Can you make room?"
The captain eyed Patrick momentarily. "The only room would be on the bow. Hadn't planned on another wagon, but I guess we can accommodate you." He looked to the clerk. "Have the crew get the wagon aboard last. Outside of what cargo we discharge at Fort Pembina and Emerson, the balance goes to Upper Fort Garry." Turning back to Patrick, he offered his hand. "I'm Segars, Captain of the International. My boat's been on the river since '62, but it's still the biggest and best!" He winked at Patrick slyly, then turned to rejoin his companions.
Patrick found their passage with staterooms came to $16.50, but the freight bill for his team and wagon was $24.00. They were to leave for Grand Forks early the next morning, and while there, pick up two barges loaded with railroad rails destined for Canada.