Friday, April 30, 2010

New Book: Fur, Fortune & Empire

This blog is found by a lot of different people - expatriates or current residents of the region I'm writing about, descendants of original settlers long gone living elsewhere...and those that are researching a subject that is covered within the local history of which I've written. Such is the person who commented recently on a post concerning the fur trade...

Eric Jay Dolin found his way to this blog while searching (I assume) on the fur trade. He is about to publish a book about the it, entitled Fur, Fortune & Empire: The Epic History of the Fur Trade in America

Tuesday, April 27, 2010


It was dark when Knute's mind began to function. A sickening, sweet, cloying odor seemed to be invading his senses. It seemed he was having a bad dream from which he could not awaken. His throat felt dry and raspy. He wanted water, yet his throat refused to function and he could utter no sound. Fantasies of his childhood and memories of his Stepmother came. He remembered having been told of his mother's murder at Lake Shetek by the Indians and of his being found as a baby, hidden in reeds along the lake. His mother, prior to her murder had evidently concealed him. He had no personal memories until reaching nearly four years of age, having been passed from one family to another, always grudgingly accepted. Then his father remarried. His new mother was the widow of a man killed by Indians during the attack upon New Ulm. She had three sons, all older than him. They spoke no Norwegian, for his stepmother was of German extraction. Arguments became frequent between his father and stepmother. To make matters worse, he was teased and bullied by the older boys, forced to do most of the demeaning work. Last spring he had left home with an itinerant peddler and worked his way to St. Vincent.

Aware of a light somewhere in the room, he willed his eyes to move. Someone was seated at the foot of the bed, and he realized it was Jerold. Attempting to gain attention, he was finally able to force a guttural sound from his throat. Jerold was instantly alert, rising and moving to bend over him. Further attempts to tell Jerold his need for water were futile, but his pathetic facial expressions told of his suffering. Jerold sensed his plight, and, dipping a washcloth in the pitcher by the washbasin, applied it to Knute's lips. Knute immediately sipped desperately at the wet cloth.

"I'll raise your head and give you a small sip. The doctor warned me not to give you too much water -- said you'll get sick. I'll get a glass and be right back." Moments later he returned and raised Knute's head, enabling him to get a bit. Lowering Knute's head, he said, "You can have more water after you are fully awake. Try to relax and sleep. I'll be here with you all night and Susan will come over in the morning."

When Susan arrived at the hotel the following morning, it was already past 9 o'clock. Even before she knocked on the door of the doctor's room, she noted the strong smell of chemicals. One glance inside told her that Knute was fully awake; his head turned to her as she entered. She smiled brightly. "Awake and bushy-tailed this morning?"

The look on his face expressed his feelings. He croaked, "I feel sore all over, but mostly sore about losing my foot. Cripes! My toes are itching and they're not even there!"

Susan was grateful for his levity. She had worried during the night about his reaction and frame of mind. "Has the doctor been in to see you this morning?"

"Here and gone," Jerold answered as he groggily eased himself from a chair. "He said we can take Knute home tomorrow. Said there was no sign of infection. He actually seemed proud of his work -- said he would drive to St. Vincent this afternoon to see Mary." He snorted, "I think he's more interested in getting his room back. I'm going to the cafe and grab some breakfast." He looked down at Knute. "What do you want me to bring back?"

Moving to the side of the bed Susan sat carefully on the edge. Reaching over, she smoothed the hair from Knute's forehead. The surface skin felt warn and she detected a fever.

When Knute failed to answer, she coaxed, "How about it? You must still have an appetite."

"Coffee would be fine. Can you prop me up so I won't spill? Say, how is Mary?"

"She's sore, stiff, and angry, but otherwise fine. It'll be a few days before she's up and about; she has some cracked ribs. Now, lets get you raised up," She noted that his bandaged leg was propped up on a pillow. Carefully sliding the folded blanket at the foot of the bed from under the pillow, she raised his shoulders, using the tightly folded blanket for support. "I brought you a book to read, Gulliver's Travels, by Swift. Have you read it?

"No, but I'm not much in the mood to read just now."

"Then I'll read to you. You rest easy until Jerold returns with the coffee."

Jerold had just ordered breakfast when the Emerson constable entered the cafe. Jerold noted the grim, tired look on Bell's face as he approached the table and eased himself into a chair.

"You're not going to believe this, son. I had to turn those two scoundrels loose a few minutes ago. Somehow, their friends got a lawyer and they're out. They both deny any involvement in the incident, and I couldn't find the youngster Ian saw across from the saloon, the one who saw them throw the explosive." He looked frustrated. "The boy must have come into town with some of the railroaders or with a visiting family. I checked from door to door but no one seems to know the lad."

"You mean you turned them both loose?" Jerold was flabbergasted.

"I had no choice. Their lawyer pointed that out. There's no firm evidence against them and no witnesses, even though I’m sure they're guilty."

Although angry and frustrated, Jerold considered the ramifications. Suddenly he blurted, "They better make themselves scarce. We'll get to them somehow."

Bell looked glum. "If you do, find them in St. Vincent or Pembina. I'm stuck to uphold the law here. Charley Brown will probably be a little more forgiving." He lifted his ponderous weight from the chair. "Tell Ian I'm sorry about the outcome. Personally, if it were my choice, I'd use a horsewhip on them. Incidentally, I told both of them to get out of Emerson and not come back -- told them I'd hound the hell out of them if they did." He offered objectively, "They'll probably cross the line to the States or move to Winnipeg. It's good riddance, but watch out for them. They're real trouble!"

His breakfast over, Jerold headed back to the room with coffee and toast for Knute and Susan. Entering, he found Susan reading to her patient. She took the tray from Jerold and, leveling it on her lap, and then poured coffee for Knute.

Jerold studied them for moments, then said, "I'll ride Ian's horse home and leave the buggy. I'll be back tonight after chores."

Susan looked up; "Ian and I did your chores this morning. I actually milked six of the fourteen cows." She flexed her fingers. "My fingers are stiff. Gosh, I haven't milked a cow since Ian and I got married."

"Pretty good for a greenhorn," Knute muttered.

"Sure is! Thanks!" Jerold was smiling. He turned to Knute. "When I come back tonight, is there anything you need?"

"Not if you take me home tomorrow. I'll feel better there, but I'll need crutches to get about, also a pair of trousers.”

"No problem. We'll face things as they come."

Susan glanced over the edge of the book she was reading and realized Knute had fallen asleep. She had expected it, knowing of his fever. The few associations she had had with Knute had been fleeting, but she realized the McLaren family had practically adopted him, and with good reason. He was a handsome boy, about sixteen years of age, she guessed. He was not overly talkative, but through Ian and Jerold she had gathered bits of his childhood.

She knew much about the Minnesota River and the Indian uprising of l862, for her mother had lived at the Yellow Medicine Agency when the trouble began. In fact, she, herself, had been born at the agency the previous summer.

Gazing at the bandaged leg gave her a sudden idea. Could Mike Ryan, the boot maker, make a boot to replace Knute's missing foot? Knute still had most of his calf left below the knee. The more she thought of it the more likely it seemed. Slipping quietly out the door, she walked the block to Ryan's Bootery. She knew Mike well because he often fished in the Red River just below their house in St. Vincent. Only last year he had caught a huge sturgeon at the mouth of the Pembina River, and often on Sundays he stopped by on his way to the river. He was still eager to catch another of the huge, shovel-nosed fish.

The odor of freshly tanned hides and the earthy smell of oils permeated the small shop as she entered. The short, hunch-backed cobbler was busy trimming a new sole he had just attached to a boot. His eyes lit up in anticipation as he turned. A sly grin came to his face and he bowed repeatedly, "The newest and latest Mrs. McLaren, I do believe!"

"Yes, Mike, it's me." Susan could hardly contain her excitement. "You've heard that Knute had his foot amputated yesterday, haven't you?"

"Yup, by gor, a terrible thing!" The shoemaker was sincere. "Tar and featherins' too good for those two. They're no good, nothing but trouble."

"Can you come over to the hotel to see Knute? He's asleep, but I think you can make a boot to fit his missing limb. It's mainly the foot that's gone."

Mike gazed out the front window in thought, then said, "It can be done; they do it in the cities." He hesitated momentarily, and then he said, "No! No sense seeing him now. Let the leg heal first. It shouldn't be difficult to make a pair of matching high lace boots. I can stiffen the one and even hinge the ankle for movement. Let me think on it. I'll make an excuse to visit Patrick and Maggy in a couple of weeks. Then I can talk with the boy."

Upon Knute's return back from Emerson, Patrick hurriedly made a pair of crutches, for after his second day at home, Knute flatly refused to stay in bed. The fourth morning he was in the barn helping with the milking. As promised, Mike Ryan visited with the family and suggested that Knute allow him to measure his leg for a boot. The boy was skeptical, but Maggy was determined. "You're shaking the house to pieces with all that hopping about. Let Mike help you."

"Laddie, I can make a boot that you can lace to the calf of your leg. It will take some weeks for your stub to toughen for everyday walking, but it can be padded with sheep's wool. It might take some adjusting, because the muscles in the calf may shrink a bit. Still, I think you'll be back on both feet before you expect."

"Anything is better than this," Knute said hopefully, "If you can make a boot that will allow me to climb into the loft to throw down hay, or even carry a feed bucket, I'll be ever grateful."

Two weeks later Mike reappeared with the newly made boots. From appearances, they were identical; except that the right boot was of stiffer leather and had a cup-like interior to support Knute's stub leg. At first the boy was ecstatic, for although he was a bit nervous and wobbly, he could walk quite well. Frustration came within minutes when the stump quickly became tender from the chafing and pressure. It was another two weeks before his stump toughened enough to allow him an hour or two on his feet.

By mid-December Mary had nearly recovered, but she felt occasional twinges when she stretched or reached out. Kirby had been an attentive suitor, obviously worried about her condition. He appeared whenever he could get off duty, usually soon after the sound of the fort evening retreat cannon.

When Mary finally could be propped up in bed they played whist together, usually against Knute and Jerold.

Two weekends in late December were special. Kirby arrived with horse and sleigh to take her on long rides.

Once they went to Pembina, and the following Sunday to Emerson. Each time he solicitously assisted her into the sleigh, carefully tucking the buffalo robes around her. Patrick and Maggy were amused as they watched from a window. "Pat, you were never that gallant to me."

Patrick grinned, "You never gave me a chance. You were too aggressive. You never waited to be helped. You just jumped into the rig . . . even wanted to drive the horse."

At first Mary was flattered with all the attention Kirby showered upon her. Then it became too much. She scolded, "For heaven's sake, Kirby, ease up! I'm not made of glass. I won't break!"

"That's why I'm tucking you in. You've already been broken enough." He was smiling.

Their relationship grew intense as his remaining days at the fort dwindled. They began making plans for their wedding.

"Why don't we get married at Fort Leavenworth at Easter time? You'll be of age by then, and I'm sure of two or three days off. Hopefully I can arrange to have Father and Mother meet us there for the wedding." He smiled as he raised her chin and added, "Unless you'll change your mind and marry me now."

"Easter time will be soon enough, and it will be a wonderful time for our wedding." Her voice was firm, but loving.

"I'm scheduled to leave on Wednesday, the first day of January. School starts the following Monday. I'll arrive at the fort on Saturday, but it'll probably take me a couple of days to settle down in quarters."

"I'll ask Mom if she and Dad will take me there on the train cars. If they can't get away, I'll just have to manage by myself."

When Christmas arrived, Mary and Kirby decided against attending the fort ball, deciding instead, to attend the Presbyterian Church's special Christmas Eve Service. The entire family participated. The next day Patrick and Maggy hosted a lavish dinner for the family, with gifts and favors for all. During the morning everyone exchanged presents; that evening Jerold accompanied the singing of carols with his violin.

At bedtime Maggy expressed her thoughts to Patrick, "Remember the hard times back in Orillia? We've much to be thankful for. Knute has almost forgotten his accident and he hasn't had an epileptic attack for months. It's marvelous how he has recovered in such a short time. Ian and Susan are well matched and happy. Perhaps we'll be grandparents before we know it. Soon Mary and Kirby will be wedded. We'll have to make plans to accompany her to Kansas in late March.

"Yes, we've a lot to be thankful for. Thank the Lord we searched for, and found this wonderful country that has allowed us a future. We owe a lot for our prosperity and freedom."

Maggy looked at her husband quizzically as he bent slowly to remove his shoes. "Pat, are we growing old?"

He leaned down to plant a kiss. "Yup! And wiser!"

Two days before Kirby's train was scheduled to leave for Minneapolis, Mary approached her father and mother in the kitchen. She had spent a sleepless night, beset by worries and recriminations. A sense of loneliness came that was too compelling to be denied. "Dad, will you go to the depot and get me a railroad ticket to Fort Leavenworth? A ticket the same as Kirby's?"

Maggy's face lit up. "You mean you've decided to go with Kirby." Then a look of chagrin came. "Why didn't you two get married at Christmas time?"

"I can't explain, Mother, but I've decided to go with him. We can get married in Minneapolis, or after we arrive in Leavenworth, Kansas. I just can't bear to wait another four months. Something could happen to spoil our happiness."

"I'll get you the ticket, but does Kirby know of your decision?" Patrick was apprehensive.

"No, and I don't want him to know. I'm going to surprise him. When he boards the train on Wednesday, I'll go into the car to say goodbye. Then I'll sit down and hand him my ticket."

"What about your baggage? How will you get it aboard?" Maggy apparently approved the prank.

"I'll have Ian or Jerold slip it into the baggage car," Mary answered. "Most of the heavy trunks go there anyway."

Patrick began to grin. "It'll sure knock him for a loop. Suppose he blows up?"

Mary smiled, "He won't. He's been after me every evening to marry him."

"It will start your life with a bang, but I don't know." Maggy was suddenly skeptical.

When the secret was passed to the boys, they endorsed the idea wholeheartedly. Ian and Susan were to see that her packed trunk and carpetbag would be placed with the baggage on the Wednesday train.

Kirby arrived for breakfast with the McLaren family early on the morning of his departure. His gelding was left in Mary's charge and for her use. At 8:45 A.M. the entire family walked the few blocks to the depot to see him off. When Kirby boarded the train, Mary accompanied him into the car for a supposed last kiss and talk. As Kirby remained standing by a seat, Mary pushed by and sat down next to the window. "Let's sit down and talk. It's much easier than standing."

Kirby seemed confused. "Mary, you'll have to get off soon. The conductor is standing in the vestibule scowling at us."

"Well, then, show him this." Smiling, she stood up and removed her coat. Tossing it over the back of the seat, she took an envelope from her pocket and handed it to Kirby.

Puzzled, he quickly opened the envelope to find Mary's ticket through to Leavenworth, Kansas. Glancing at the destination a second time, he suddenly realized her mischievous prank. "You minx! Do you really mean it? You're coming with me?" Elated, he grasped her shoulders.

She beamed and nodded. "I wanted it to be a surprise. I changed my mind two days ago."

"It is a surprise, and what a surprise! My darling, we can stop over a day in Minneapolis and get married."

The conductor approached. "The young lady must leave now. We have a schedule to keep."

Kirby displayed Mary's ticket. "This young lady will accompany me. We're getting married as soon as we arrive in Minneapolis."

A broad smile appeared on the conductor's face. "Congratulations to you both. Now we can finally pull out." He stepped out to the vestibule to signal the engineer.

While the train backed out of the station toward the Y, Mary and Kirby waved to her family. The smiles on their faces told Kirby that they were all involved in the mischief. Mary saw her mother holding a handkerchief to her face; her father had his arm around her waist. He was smiling.

Slowly clearing the switch at the Y, the train headed south and soon reached the track speed limit.

"We won't be in the Twin Cities until around 9 o'clock tomorrow morning." Kirby murmured. "This won't be any comfort trip. It's too bad that Jim Hill hasn't put on any of the new sleeping cars built by George Pullman."

Mary reached for her coat to cover them; the stove in the end of the car was providing minimal heat. "Then we'll make the best of it. Your shoulder seems a good pillow." She burrowed closely to his chest, smiling with contentment.

Kirby moved his legs diagonally across the facing seat and shifted his body to snug her to him. "I'm perfectly satisfied with things as they are." He ran one hand alongside her neck, running his fingers through her heavy fall of hair.

Mary sighed, "I am, too." Under her coat, which covered them both, she unbuttoned the top buttons of his shirt and inserted her hand.

Kirby glanced around at the other passengers guiltily. All were dozing, watching the snowy countryside pass by, or they were reading. He pressed the seeking hand tightly to his chest. Nuzzling his face into her hair, he whispered, "It'll be a long time until tomorrow night."

She smiled as she turned to bury her face into his neck. "Only a few hours."

It was nearly noon on Friday morning, January 10, when Mike entered the back door excitedly waving a letter. "It's from Mary, Ma. She's written us a letter!"

Thrilled, Maggy sat at the kitchen table and read the message aloud to Mike.
Monday, January 6

Leavenworth, Kansas.

Dear Father, Mother and Boys,

Kirby and I were married last Thursday afternoon in Minneapolis. We hurriedly shopped for a wedding ring and found only one problem. May the Lord forgive me; I had to fib and say I was eighteen years of age.

We arrived here late Saturday evening and are staying at this plush hotel. Kirby reported to the fort on Sunday and had no problems. He is at school now and this afternoon I will house-hunt for us. Not having furniture, we hope to find something already furnished. Kirby was informed at the fort that there should be no problem finding at least furnished rooms, with kitchen privileges.

It's actually like spring here, with only occasional patches of snow on the ground. In fact the sun is out and I'm anxious to get outdoors. I'll get a newspaper and scan the ads. Kirby is to check the vacancy listings at the fort.

This hotel is quite new and has modern plumbing with a bathroom adjoining each room. Kirby says there is no hurry to leave here, but I'd feel better in our own place.

The boys are to use his horse for riding. Perhaps Mike can use it while herding the cows this summer.

I really have no other news at present, but after all, we've only been here two days. We are newlyweds, and Kirby is my love! I'm very happy!

Love, Your Mary.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Depot, City Hall, and U.S. Census

William Ash sent me this link a few days ago, knowing how I'm interested in all things railroad, especially as they relate to my local area/region. What's especially cool about this particular link is, is that it features history about my new hometown, Thief River Falls!

The building in the photo I feature in this post (from that article), shows the 1914 depot in TRF that is now used as City Hall, and in which I will be spending the rest of this week studying and training to be a U.S. Census enumerator for the 2010 Census...

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Ephemera: Promotion of Progress

The image above is from an envelope I have in my possession. It is in the upper left-hand corner representing the return address of Charles Johnson of Pembina. I haven't been able to find out much about Mr. Johnson, but do see him listed in the Pembina County Pioneer Daughters Collection of the Elwyn B. Robinson Department of Special Collections, Chester Fritz Library, at UND.

To me, it shows the ambition of not only Mr. Johnson, but the dreams of the communities he represents themselves. At the time of the late 19th/early 20th century, things were changing fast, and hopes were high...

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Huron City

Huron City - Location: 485950N by 0971400W - was a real place that no longer exists. I grew up just a stone's throw geographically-speaking from where it once stood and never knew. I discovered this place (and a few others) through my research for this blog, stumbling upon it quite by chance. It appears to have been the 'twin city' to Noyes, as Pembina is to St. Vincent, it being on the Dakota side of the Red River. The more I find out about my hometown area, the more I realize that much more land than I had any idea of, was at one time populated as camp, fort, mission, or town, then later went back to what eventually became farmland...
Heading north out of town, they approached Huron City at the International Boundary. In spite of land speculators' wild claims as to the town's grand future, only a few cabins and a small hotel were in existence. Charley knew that the hotel held the reputation of being the local brothel. Crossing the boundary line, they came to the road between West Lynne and Emerson. The hot, humid afternoon seemed to wrap the two men closely. - From BORDER TOWNS (Chapter 14), by Charles Harris Walker

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Civil War Veteran Story

An article about a Kittson County resident who was a veteran of the American Civil War was recently published in the Kittson County Enterprise. I love these kinds of stories because they take just one individual's life (of the many out there waiting to be discovered) and helps us remember that they are not just a name and date on an old tombstone, but that they had a life just like we now do...

When Hugh [Cameron] was 20 years old, he came to the United States from Ontario, Canada, and enlisted in Brady's Sharp Shooters and was attached to the 16th Michigan Infantry. His troop fought in the battles of the Wilderness, Cold Harbor and Forth Wheaton, eventually joining the last Civil War campaign at the Appomattox Court house April 9, 1865, just shy of Lee's surrender of the Army of Northern Virginia on April 13. Cameron was discharged from the service in July with the rank of Corporal...

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Journeying from St. Vincent to Winnipeg

A pretty amusing and sometimes outright laugh-out-loud account of the 'thrilling' journey by steamboat from St. Vincent to Winnipeg...

For sake of saving your eyes, I have transcribed some of the article in an excerpt below, but also have attached a scan of the original article...
If the English statesmen who have been recently eulogizing the agricultural resources of Canada before the discontented farmers of Great Britain had ever visited the British Provinces here, so as to enabled to draw their conclusions from actual observation instead of deriving their impressions from the perusal of the rose-colored pictures presented in the publications of Canadian land agents, which are now being extensively circulated in Europe to influence emigration to Canada, there might have been a good deal more wisdom in some of the agricultural speeches lately delivered in England. If the most loyal Englishman had the privilege of being dragged along the bottom of the Red River of the North in a flat-bottomed boat for upward of 100 miles through the British possessions, as I have been on my way to Winnipeg, the capital of the Province of Manitoba, if his faith in the carrying capacity of the waters of a river which is represented as one of the principal outlets for Canadian products was not shaken, his nervous system would at least be badly shattered. The incessant jarring of the boat with the rocks or boulders along the bed of the river, the crawling pace at which it pursues its tortuous course, together with the delightful state of uncertainty in which you are placed as to whether it will take a day or a week to reach your destination - and uncertainty which the appearance of the stranded wreck of one of the Red River steamboats mingles with gloomy forebodings of shipwrecks and disasters - all this would have cooled down the fervor of the most enthusiastic Briton.

We left St. Vincent, which is situated on the boundary-line between the United States and Canada, at 6 o'clock in the afternoon by the steam-boat Minnesota, and did not reach Winnipeg until 1 o'clock the following day, although the distance along the river is not much over 100 miles. Owing to the uncertainty of navigation upon the Red River of the North, there is hardly any such thing as a regular time-table to govern the movements of the steam-boats running upon its muddy waters. If you happen to be in time at any of the regular places of landing you are taken on board. Should you find that the boat has started when you arrive, you can readily overtake it by walking at a brisk pace, and by holding up your finger - as you would hail the conductor of the Third-avenue car in New-York - the obliging Captain will accommodate you with a berth. At several points along the river I have seen a plank put out upon a mud bank to take up a passenger who signaled from the shore. The navigation of the river is a very difficult undertaking owing to the serpentine course which it pursues, and the almost total absence of any kind of landmark along the shores. During the whole of our journey from St. Vincent to Winnipeg we did not get a glimpse of the country through which we were passing, the bed of the river is so far below the surface of the broad prairies on either side, while the banks present such a never-ending sameness of thick brushwood, and the myriad bends, which are seldom more than 40 rods apart, appear so like each other, that, except where the rude hut of a half-breed Canadian here and there comes within view, there seems to be no means of distinguishing between any two points along the river. This difficulty is increased by the shallowness of the water. Although our flat-bottomed boat drew only 30 inches of water, it was scraping along the river bed nearly all the way.

Having arrived here by this route, of course you will return to St. Vincent by the Pembina branch of the Canadian Pacific Railroad, which is now in operation from this place to that station, where it connects with the St. Paul, Minneapolis, and Manitoba Railroad, in the hope of avoiding the vexatious delays of the Red River steam-boats. In this, however, you will be mistaken. The train leaves St. Boniface, which is on the outskirts of the town, at 4:30 A.M. You leave instructions with the hotel clerk to have you called up in time in the morning, and, although you may not have retired before 11 o'clock, you will be wakened up in all haste shortly before 1 o'clock, and informed that the omnibus is waiting to take you to the station. You naturally ask the conductor why he calls at the hotel fully three hours before the train starts, when 20 minutes would have been sufficient, and he replies, without the slightest concsciousness of any impropriety, that he happened to get up "a litte too early himself," and he though it better to call up his passengers also. After sitting about an hour in the omnibus occupying yourself with speculations as to the contents of the mail-bags from the Post Office piled in the centre, it is set in motion, but not to convey you to the depot. The conductor has first to call at all the other hotels, as well as at every private residence from which there is a passenger for the train; and as he halts in front of several houses in town you will hear the mistress given him positive orders to "wait an hour," that her husband would not get up yet awhile. Finally, all the passengers have been collected, and they are landed about 4 o'clock at St. Boniface, where, after sheltering themselves for three-quarters of an hour as best they can among the boxes on the platform or in the small frame building which forms the ticket office, waiting-room, and storehouse of the Canadian Pacific Railroad, the engine having been wooded up, the train starts at length, and you traverse a boundless waste of prairie land on your way to the American frontier. Such has been the experience of a gentleman who traveled recently from here to St. Vincent by the Canadian Pacific...

[Source: New York Times archives, original publishing date of October 20, 1879]

Monday, April 12, 2010


From Dominion City: Fact, Fiction & Hyperbole

The entire countryside was anxious to be at the Emerson depot to greet the first train arriving from St. Paul on the morning of November 11. Shortly after daylight on the auspicious day, Susan left home and after walking down the alley, rapped lightly on the McLaren back door. When she entered the kitchen a brief spate of cold air followed. She felt the sudden warmth of the room and the mouth-watering smell of frying bacon. Dancing flickers of light leaked from the damper on the left side of the cast iron range.

Mary glanced up from where she was turning the bacon. "You're just in time for breakfast: bacon, scrambled eggs, fried potatoes and toast." She reached to the cupboard and handed a cup to Susan, then began turning the bread toasting on the hot top of the stove.

Maggy was sitting quietly at the table, nursing Kate at her breast. Reaching for the coffee pot, Susan said, "I've had breakfast. I came over to see what time we're leaving for Emerson." Seating herself opposite Maggy, she asked, "Will Patrick be able to get off work to come along with us?"

Baby Kate stopped nursing and turned upon hearing Susan's voice. Susan smiled at her. "Gosh, every time I see her she's grown." She marveled, "She'll be walking soon, I bet."

Maggy looked down at Kate fondly. "She's on solid foods, too, but she's still a glutton for breast milk. She says "Mama" and "Dada," and I do believe she'll start walking in another month or two. That is, if someone holds her hand. She can already pull herself up and stand." She looked to Mary. "You were walking by yourself when you reached your first birthday."

Mary smiled and reached behind her head to pat her back in jest. "Yes, and you've told me a hundred times how I got into everything." She looked toward Susan. "Pa can't get off work, but Jerold and Knute will take us over in the buggies. There's not much snow, and with the five of us and Mike, we'll need your buggy too."

"Ian got off work at six this morning. I fed him breakfast and he's fast asleep by now. He'll join us in Emerson around noontime. It's a pity we all can't go to Roseau Crossing1 to see the spike-driving ceremony, but Ian says it's too far and too cold a ride."

Knute entered the kitchen and wiggled a silent hello to Susan with his fingers as he sat down at the table. He had evidently overheard Susan's remark, and he added, "Nearly a three-hour ride each way and a chilly one too."

Mary scooped the fried bacon and potatoes onto a platter and placed it on the table. Grasping the covered dish of scrambled eggs from the warming side of the stove, she removed the cover and inserted a serving spoon. Placing the bowl in the center of the table, she remarked, "The toast will be ready in a jiffy."

"It sure will," Knute was smiling. "It's already burning!"

"Oh, my gosh!" Mary hastily stabbed into the offending slice of bread with a fork, and then examined it closely. "It's all right, just burned a little on the edges."

Baby Kate pulled away from Maggy and endeavored to stand in her lap. When Susan held out her arms coaxingly, the baby smiled and attempted to crawl across the table to her. Sliding back her chair, Susan stood and lifted the child from Maggy's lap, saying, "I want two just like her, and two like Ian."

"And are you trying?" Maggy teased.

"You bet!" Susan broke into a merry laugh.

While the women smiled, Knute sat back silently; he was obviously embarrassed.

"We should leave by 10 o'clock." Maggy said. "I want to look around the stores this afternoon, for I've heard they have good print on sale for 12 cents a yard. Kate needs new dresses; she's nearly outgrown everything. We can eat dinner at one of the hotels. We're not packing any lunches today; it'll be my treat."

Sounds from the back porch indicated Jerold was back from the barn. They could hear the thumping of the milk pails on the porch floor. Moments later he entered the kitchen. "Smells like heaven in here. Anything left for me?"

"Not if you'd stayed out there much longer," Mary teased.

"Well, it was my turn to milk this morning." He grinned. "Knute's turn to milk tonight, then I'll be the one to have it easy." He sat at the table and began helping himself.

Susan stood and lowered Kate into her high chair. "I'll be back with the buggy at ten."

"No, you won't!" Jerold was smiling. "I will be the one. If you'll wait a moment until I finish eating, I'll walk back with you and be your chore boy while my big brother is busy sawing logs."

Susan looked up at the ceiling musingly. "Let's see. I need kindling split for the stove, the ashes must be cleaned from both the kitchen and parlor stoves, the barn needs cleaning, and, oh yes..."

"Whoa there! Have pity! Leave something for Ian to do."

"If you want it so." Susan looked at her brother-in-law fondly. She knew she had joined a wonderful, loving family.

It was nearly noon before the two buggies crossed the international boundary and proceeded north along Emerson's Main Street. It seemed a few tents were pitched helter-skelter here and there. Before they turned east on Church Street, they noticed each hitch rail in sight was occupied by riding horses or teams. The saloons were evidently doing a booming business, due to the crowd. It seemed every man who had ever worked on the railroad was in town for the celebration. Turning east toward the Depot, they were finally forced to stop; they were still two blocks short of their destination. Further travel was impossible for sleighs and buggies blocked the entire street.

Jerold turned to his mother. "What time is the train supposed to arrive?"

"Pat said sometime shortly after the noon hour. We might as well step down and visit a bit. I hope we don't have to stand in the cold too long." She handed Kate to Mike while she stepped from the buggy, and then reached to take the baby back. Walking to Knute and the girls, whose buggy had stopped behind theirs, she said, "Let's mingle a bit with the crowd until train time. No doubt some of our old neighbors will be about."

They had barely approached the crowd at the tracks when the shrill whistle of the northbound train was heard. Within a minute the highly decorated 4-4-0 engine slowed for the depot. Crowds momentarily panicked to clear the track and the train stopped, steam jetting out from the cylinders. From where the McLaren family stood, they could not hear the welcoming speech, but they could see the arms of the speaker gesturing vigorously. Flags decorated the engine and bunting hung from the cars. To Maggy, it seemed there were few passengers. She later found there were only 24, mostly executives of the St.P.&P.

The stop in Emerson was brief; with a sudden surge of power, the high driving wheels of the engine slipped momentarily, then slowed to seize the rails. People were waving from the car windows as the train finally moved north to the ceremony planned at Roseau. Mary turned to her mother. "Let's meet at the Gillis' restaurant. It'll fill quickly, so we'll hurry. We'll save seats for you."

Knute smiled, confident they would get to the café in plenty of time since they were on the outer fringe of the crowd. He remarked, "We'll beat everyone downtown. There aren't any rigs parked behind us."

They were two blocks from Main Street when Knute noticed a small group of men standing at the next corner. He became apprehensive when he saw they were watching the approaching buggy with obvious interest. The men were smiling and exchanging smirks, as if in anticipation. Just as their buggy passed by, one of the heavily bearded men threw something just ahead of the horse.

Susan clutched Knute's arm tightly. "Watch out! He threw a firecracker."

The explosion that followed was no firecracker. It was tremendous. For a second the girls and Knute were in shock. Then the horse began bucking. Twisting wildly, it forced the buggy nearly over on its right side. Mary was toppled out onto the ground. Kicking and rearing, the horse broke into a wild gallop, the right rear wheel of the buggy passing over Mary's chest. Out of control, the horse then left the road, bolting between two buildings. The two right wheels were torn from the axles as they scraped through to the alley. When the horse turned suddenly at the alley, Susan lost her balance. She was thrown clear of the buggy and landed heavily on the slushy ground.

All of the force Knute could exert on the reins by bracing his feet on the dash of the buggy failed to stop the horse. When a large water trough blocked the way, the animal attempted to jump it and failed. As the buggy struck the trough, it was totally demolished; Knute was thrown forward, his body striking heavily against a board fence.

Jerold, Maggy and Mike, who had been following a half-block behind Knute, witnessed the explosion and runaway. They noted that the men responsible for throwing the explosive charge cast furtive glances among themselves, and then hastily left en masse, in the direction of the Russell House. Not one man went to the aid of Mary, who was lying as if dead on the snow-laden street.

Maggy hastily pushed Kate into Mike's lap, crying, "Hold her!" Even before Jerold could bring the buggy to a complete stop, she leaped from the side and ran to Mary. Pushing back Mary's long hair, she saw the scraped, bloody face. Her daughter was moaning with pain, attempting to straighten from a fetal position.

"Hold still, darling. Everything will be all right."

Mary's eyes began to flicker as she became conscious. Her face was colorless. It was obvious she was in shock.

Maggy drew in a deep breath as she placed her fur muff under her daughter's head. From business establishments along the street, faces appeared, alarmed by the loud blast. Several men, seeing Maggy crouched down alongside Mary, approached at a run.

Jerold shouted to Maggy, "I'll follow Knute's buggy. He and Susan are in trouble." Driving hurriedly around the end of the block, he entered the alley in time to see Susan rising groggily from the ground. She looked dazed and was futilely attempting to wipe mud from the front of her coat.

Further along the alley was the smashed buggy. The horse was straddled across the water trough, flailing wildly with its front legs and emitting pitiful screams of agony. Drawing the buggy to a quick halt, Jerold thrust the reins into Mike's hand, commanding, "Hold the animal! Stay in the buggy with the baby!"

Knute was crumpled against the board fence motionless, yet apparently conscious. His eyes were open, but his extended right leg was strangely bent below his right knee. Moving cautiously to avoid the threshing legs of the horse, Jerold endeavored to pull Knute from the danger. A sick feeling came over him as he drew Knute's body back and saw what looked like a jagged stick protruding from the torn trouser leg. Although dazed, Knute recognized Jerold. He burst out, "I hurt like hell! My leg is on fire."

Susan, although badly shaken, joined Jerold in tugging Knute clear of the threshing hooves.

"Lay still, Knute," she ordered, while cradling his head in her hands. Motioning to Jerold with a jerk of her head, she said, "Give me your coat!" Jerold quickly complied and she gently tucked it under Knute's head.

Jerold cast a glance down the alley to the west. "Stay with him, Susan. I'll get help and find someone to dispose of the horse -- it's done for."

Before he could rise to his feet, they heard excited voices. The first two men to appear were clerks from Ashdown's store, located just on the corner. Realizing the situation of the maimed and crippled horse, one of the men cried, "I'll get a gun." Turning, he ran back to the store. The other clerk knelt by Susan and Jerold anxiously as Susan carefully wiped Knute's face with her scarf.

The man volunteered, "I'll get help to carry him into the store. We've got to get him off this cold ground." He headed toward the store.

Jerold urged, "Susan, why don't you see to Mike and little Kate? Take them into the store where it's warm. I'll stay with Knute until they return with more men."

Returning to the carriage, Susan reached to take Kate from Mike's arms. Mike jumped from the buggy and looked at up at her apprehensively. "Knute's going to be all right, isn't he?"

Susan looked as him reassuringly and put her arm around his shoulder. "He'll be fine, Mike. We'll have him home in no time."

Within a few moments one of the clerks returned with three men. As they carried Knute into the mercantile store, they heard the sharp crack of a pistol.

The shock from the impact with the ground was leaving Mary and she groaned, "It hurts to breath, Ma."

The merchant who was kneeling by her side looked up at Maggy. "She probably has some cracked ribs. It happened to me years ago; that's how I felt."

Maggy was somewhat relieved when she wiped the blood from Mary's face to find it oozing from a cut lip. She looked up at the men gathered around her. "Can you help me get her into a warm building?"

One of the men took charge. While he and two others carefully lifted Mary, another man assisted Maggy to her feet. "We'll take her into Ashdown's and call the doctor."

Luckily, the doctor was found at his hotel by one of the Ashdown clerks. After examining Mary briefly, he said, "She possibly has some cracked ribs in addition to her bruises; also, she has bitten her lip -- that's not serious. However, I can't tell if she has internal injuries, I'll have to look closer. He turned to the nearby watchers and said pointedly, "I need privacy to conduct a more detailed examination."

As the men turned away, another group of men entered through the rear door of the store. They were carrying Knute. The doctor looked startled and Maggy heard him mutter, "It never rains, but it pours!" Opening Mary's blouse, he slid the straps of her chemise down over her arms. Dark blue and red discolorations were on each side of her chest. One well-marked hemorrhaging streak had evidently been made by one of the buggy wheels.

"Like I thought, she has damaged ribs. I'll have to bind her chest. It will hurt to breath for a few days, but they'll mend and the pain will go away." He turned to Maggy, "Find a glass of water and I'll give her some laudanum before I wrap her chest. That will kill nearly all of the pain. Buy a pillow case from the store and I'll bind her chest with that. Oh, yes, get some large pins also. She'll need to be moved gently if you intend to take her home. I'll give you additional medication for her before you leave." After watching Maggy coax Mary into drinking the sedative, he said, "Now I'd better look at that other chap."

The men carrying Knute had laid him on a section of the store counter. Someone had placed a rolled blanket under his head. Susan, holding Kate in her arms, moved hastily over to join Maggy and Mary.

The doctor noted Knute's pasty, grim countenance. "What hurts the most, son?"

"My leg! My damn leg!"

The doctor briefly ran his hand down Knute's blood-soaked pantleg, then looked to Jerold. "Borrow some scissors from the store and slit the leg of that trouser carefully."

After the fabric had been cut open, Jerold noted the sudden grim look on the doctor's face. Moving away from the counter, the doctor beckoned to Jerold. "You'll have to get him over to my hotel room. Thank goodness, he's lost little blood. I hate to say it, but the lower part of the leg will have to be amputated. Both the tibia and fibula are broken and it's a compound fracture. Morever, just above the ankle, the two bones are mangled beyond repair. There's no way I can splint them. If it's not done immediately, there's almost a 100% chance of infection and then he will have little chance. He appears to be a strong, healthy boy. He should pull through satisfactorily."

The doctor turned to Enoch Winkler, the proprietor of the store. "Have you a mattress available for use to convey the boy to my hotel? His leg will need support while he is being moved."

Without answering, Winkler nodded and turned to the rear stockroom.

With Maggy's and Susan's help, the doctor deftly wrapped Mary to prevent the shifting of her ribs. By this time the laudanum had taken effect and she appeared to be sleepy and in little pain.

The doctor turned to Maggy. "Do you live in town, madam?"

"No, I'm Maggy McLaren, from St. Vincent. This girl is my daughter.

"I'd suggest a hotel room for her, but I'm afraid with the huge crowd in town, you'll look in vain."

Maggy reached out to smooth back the hair of her nearly sleeping daughter. "We'll see she gets home safely. Can you call over at our house in St. Vincent tomorrow, Doctor?"

"Yes, perhaps in the early afternoon. I must see to the lad now. He will need my room for a few days. I'll make the necessary arrangements."

When Knute was finally secure in the doctor's room at International Hotel, he appealed to Jerold. "My leg is shot, isn't it?"

Jerold tried to keep lightness in his voice. "It's just bad above the ankle."

"He's going to take it off, isn't he?"

"It won't make any difference, Knute."

Knute exploded, "What the hell will I do with one leg? Can't farm, can't do anything. Where are those sons-of-bitches who threw that bomb in front of the horse? They're responsible!"

"We'll find out who they are and get them!"

"You damn right! I'll spend the rest of my life getting even with them."

Ian arrived in Emerson too late to see the train pass through. A townsman recognized him and apprised him of the accident and of the location of his family. He immediately went to the Ashdown store to find his mother already making arrangements to have Mary returned to their home in St. Vincent. Mike was sitting quietly on a window seat by the door holding Kate on his lap. Concerned about his wife, he asked anxiously, "Just what happened? Where is Susan? Has she been hurt? Where are Jerold and Knute?"

Maggy hastily explained, "Susan is fine. She and Jerold took Knute to the International Hotel. He's in the doctor's room. His leg is badly broken and I don't know what the doctor plans." She looked at the sleeping Mary. "Mr. Winkler is out locating a spring wagon to carry Mary home. Mike, Kate and I will return with her; you see to Susan and Jerold. They're with Knute and know more what's going on than I." She added, "They've got our buggy; yours is shot. Also they've had to destroy your horse."

Ian hurried to the hotel and found Susan by the desk. Grasping her arms gently as she arose from a chair, he asked, "Have you been hurt, darling?" He noted her ashen look.

"No, just a bit shook up. But the doctor said Knute's right lower leg will have to be amputated."

"Oh, God! Poor kid! He'll need a lot of cheering up.”

Susan noted the grim look on his face and hugged him close. "We'll all see to that!"

"Can I see him?"

Susan shook her head. "The doctor is operating on him now. Jerold and another man are helping."

"Then I guess there's not much I can do except see Jack Bell and find the scum who did this. Sure you're not hurt?"

"I'm fine. Just find those men. They've got a lot to answer for."

Ian found Bell at the corner of Main and Church. The constable had already been informed of the accident and turned as Ian called to him. He smiled grimly and held out his open hand as Ian approached. Ian immediately identified the two objects Bell held in his hand as partial sticks of dynamite. "What are you doing with those, Jack?"

"I found them at the scene of the explosion." He fingered the greasy, oily paper.

"The bastards who caused the runaway stole this from the railroad, then cut it into three pieces. When they saw the damage they caused, they dropped the remaining portions on the ground to get rid of them. I checked your horse, too. No wonder he went wild. The explosion blew a chunk of hide from one of his front legs. I've been told those same men were seen walking toward the Russell House. I'm just heading for a look-see. Want to come along?"

"You bet!" Ian was grim. "They're going to pay the piper! I'm told Knute will lose a leg. What a hell of a thing to happen at a celebration!"

Bell whistled softly as he exhaled. "That should get them a few years in jail when we find them."

At the door of the saloon they hesitated momentarily to make plans. "We'll stick together and see who we can recognize," Bell advised. "Sometimes you can spot the guilty by their evasive actions and the looks on their faces."

The large barroom of the Russell House was packed with railroaders and civilians. Ian estimated the room held at least sixty men. All appeared boisterous, apparently oblivious to the heavy, blue haze of tobacco smoke that filled the room. Four harassed bartenders moved hurriedly behind the long mahogany bar. The chairs at every table were fully occupied and men stood two-deep along the bar.

"It's not going to be easy," Bell murmured.

Stepping ahead of Ian, he beckoned to the nearest bartender, who finally noticed him and turned. "I'm looking for four or five men who came in here recently, maybe a half hour ago, maybe a bit longer."

"Hell, Jack! I haven't had a chance to even look at the door. Look at this mob!" He waved his arm around. "Help yourself!"

Ian overheard the words and touched Bell's arm. "I'm going to look around."

While Bell remained in position to size up men he knew, men who would possibly have information, Ian went back outside. He realized that there were no saloons within a block and hoped the men they sought were inside. Then he saw a boy of about ten years of age playing just across the road. He had a hoop and stick and was chasing the hoop up and down the wood sidewalk. Crossing the street, Ian blocked the boy's path. The youngster stopped, looking puzzled.

"Son, did you see a group of men come over from Church Street some time ago? Maybe they entered that side door to the saloon across the street."

"You mean the ones that lit that big firecracker?" The small freckled face lit up.

"They're the ones," Ian said expectantly.

"Yup! They went into that side door. There were five of them and two were big buggers. They all had beards and one of them grabbed my hoop and threw it into Tennant's back yard."

"Were they drunk?"

"They were all laughing." He pointed at the hotel. "They haven't come out of there either."

Ian picked up the hoop and handed it to the boy. "Thanks! You've helped a lot."

Re-crossing the street, Ian realized he was in luck. He joined Bell and related his conversation with the boy, saying, “They’re still in here, according to the lad. I'm going back along the bar and see who's here."

Men blocking his way made movement difficult; they were intent in their conversations and reticent to move aside. He forced himself to be patient while worming between them, not wanting to irritate anyone. He knew that in a bar, with many drinking, anything deemed an insult could result in a massive brawl. At the far end of the crowded room, he suddenly stopped in surprise. Standing by the wall, nearly hidden from sight, were Brogan and Murphy with three other men. Wending his way back to Bell, he briefly related his past troubles with them and told of his suspicions.

"I know both of them. Come on!" Bell led the way forcefully, pushing through men, raising bitter looks as he shoved through the crowd. When he and Ian reached the end of the bar, sudden, apprehensive looks appeared on the faces of the five men as they were spotted. Their quick exchange of glances was obvious. Brogan and Murphy pretended a nonchalant conversation as their companions began to drift away.

Bell reached out and grasped Brogan's shoulder. "You and Murphy come outside with me. I want to talk to you." Murphy casually turned his back. "Yes, you too, Murphy."

"What the hell you want, Bell? We're drinking and minding our own business." A troubled look came to Murphy's face.

Bell thundered, "Either you two come with me or I'll drag you out!"
At first Ian though Murphy intended to start a fight, but then perhaps he thought better of it. Obviously reluctant, he followed Brogan and Bell to the door. Outside the bar, Bell turned on them. "How long have you two been in the saloon?"

Brogan exchanged glances with Murphy. "Hell, since early this morning."

"Turn out your pockets. I want to see what's in them." Bell demanded.

"What's this all about?" demanded Murphy.

"Never mind, just do it!" Bell ordered.

Slowly they emptied their pockets, displaying loose change, tobacco, jackknives, matches and sundry items, even a few buttons.

"What, no dynamite caps?" Bell looked at the two shrewdly.

Even Ian detected the startled looks on the men's faces. Murphy snorted. "What the hell are you trying to pin on us?"

"Pin what on you?" Bell had a nasty smile on his face.

Ian lost his temper. "You bastards set off that dynamite. Knute is going to lose a leg over your meanness, and both my wife and sister have been hurt. In addition a good horse is dead and my buggy destroyed." He surged in anger toward Murphy.

"Hold, Ian, hold!" Bell moved his huge bulk between them. Reaching into his pocket, he produced a revolver. Pointing it at the suspects, he exclaimed, "You are both going to jail. Now march, and you know where. Down to McRae's blacksmith shop. You'll stay locked up until we sort this out." He looked at them grimly, "In my book you're a pair of skunks!"

He called to Ian as he started the prisoners toward the jail. "Find Kenny McRae and tell him I need him at his shop. I'll arrange a hearing for tomorrow; then I can transfer them to Winnipeg."

Ian lost half an hour hunting up McRae, then he hurried to the hotel to check on Knute. He found Jerold and Susan conversing in the lobby.

"How's Knute?"

Both arose to greet him. "The doctor removed his foot just above the ankle," Jerold said. "I helped a bit to hold him while the ether was applied, but I never want to go through that again. I'm not cut out for doctoring."

Susan sounded hopeful. "The doctor said that he'll be able to walk again. He said they make what is called prosthesis, a kind of artificial foot that can be attached to Knute's leg. He's asleep now, but we want to stay until he wakes up. He'll need a lot of looking after and bolstering up."

"He'll get it too!" Ian reached to put his arm around her shoulders. "It was railroaders who threw the explosive. Bell has Brogan and Murphy in custody. We think they were the ringleaders. That wasn't a firecracker they threw under the horse; it was part of a stick of dynamite."

A puzzled look appeared on Jerold's face. "Did they single out Knute and the girls, or were they just in the wrong place at the wrong time?"

"I guess we'll never know the answer to that unless they confess," Ian retorted.

"There have been too many coincidences lately: the attempted burning of my crop, the harming of Charley's horse, and the burning of Mason's livery. Now this! What's next?"

"Surely they'll get jail sentences over this. That should end any more trouble." Susan looked hopeful. "It could have been by chance they picked us. We might have returned downtown on another street."

Jerold glanced at his watch. "It's almost suppertime. When Knute wakes up, someone should be with him." He turned to Susan. "Why don't you go home with Ian? I'll stay with Knute tonight."

Casting a wry look down at her long skirt, Susan shrugged, and then turned to Ian.

"It's impossible to ride double in this dress. Why don't you leave your horse for Jerold and we can take your Father's buggy home?

"Jerold, if it's agreeable with you, I'll come over in the morning and spend the day with Knute. Perhaps I can divert his mind a bit by reading to him. He likes that."

Bell was tired and disgusted when he went home after locking up the prisoners. He and McRae had difficulty putting leg irons on the two men, because of their vociferous objections. It had taken a firm threat of shooting them both before the suspects backed down. Locked in the small building and limited in movement, Brogan and Murphy were forced to feed the small jail stove during the night to keep warm. It was only after Bell and McRae left that they began to discuss their plight.

Murphy sneered, "That damn fool Bell never found the other two capped dynamite fuses. I'll scrape out some chinking between the logs and hide them."

"Where'ja have them hid?"

"Got a secret pocket in the inside of my vest. If he had searched me good, our goose would have been cooked. Why, that dumb blacksmith never even found my knife. He put the irons on tight around my ankles but he never lifted either of my pant legs. Don't guess they have anything to hold us on -- they've got no proof."

"You suppose he'll corner Arnie and the boys and maybe work on them?"

"No chance. They won't spill any beans. They're just as guilty as we are."

Murphy began shaking his head. His headache was coming back and the voice was saying: You damn fool! Damn fool! Get that McLaren bunch, especially the girl!

He had tried and got one of them, but the wrong one. He judged himself lucky that they had come along Church Street when they had. The others had wanted to throw the explosive under the first buggy or sleigh that came along, but he had waited.

"What you got against the McLaren family, Eck? Do you know them from somewhere?"

"None of your damn business!" Murphy rolled into one of the dusty buffalo robes on the wall bunk, pulling it tightly to him. He cursed aloud, for McRae had tightened the ankle irons before riveting them shut. They were pinching and uncomfortable.

Brogan studied Murphy's form in the dim light. Why in hell did I ever get mixed up with him? He's peculiar at best and dangerous too. He talks to himself -- even shouts out in his sleep. Moody as hell -- guess he's a crazy. I should have known better. If I get out of this we're splitting company for sure, else he'll get me in serious trouble someday. His mouth was becoming dry and the effects of the day’s drinking were wearing thin. Geez! Wish I had a bottle now. It's going to be a long night and that dinky stove throws little heat!

Shortly after Maggy, Mike and the baby arrived home with Mary, Kirby rode into the yard. Hurriedly tossing the reins to the ground, he burst into the back door of the house. Mike was alone in the kitchen, making a sandwich.

"Where's Mary? I just got word at the fort that she's been in an accident."

Mike glanced up briefly. "Mother is upstairs with her. We just got back from Emerson. The doctor says she has broken ribs. I think she's asleep now, but you can go up and see."

Kirby took the steps two at a time, meeting Maggy just as she stepped from Mary's bedroom. She held a finger up to her lips and said softly, "She's asleep now. I've just tucked her in. You can go in and sit with her if you like, but don't wake her."

"How was she hurt?" Kirby's query came as a hoarse whisper.

"A buggy accident. It's a long story. When you come downstairs, I'll explain. Pat should be home from work soon; it's nearly suppertime."

Patrick, Ian and Susan arrived nearly simultaneously at the house. When Susan stepped from the buggy, Patrick said amiably, "You must have had a full day, just getting home now. Where is the rest of our family?" A puzzled look came to his face.

"How come you're driving my rig?"

"We've had trouble, Pa." Ian jumped down and turned to Susan. "Why don't you go into the house, I'll put up the horse." Then he saw Kirby's shivering animal. "Looks like Kirby is here; I'll put up his horse too." He looked puzzled, "It's not like Kirby to neglect his animal."

When all had gathered in the kitchen, Kirby heard the voices and came downstairs. As Maggy and Susan related the happenings in Emerson, Patrick became livid with rage.

"Those no-good rotters! So Bell has them in custody, eh? What's he going to do with them?"

Ian attempted to calm his father. "He said he'll try to schedule a hearing for tomorrow, then he’ll take them to Winnipeg for trial. He has them locked in the shed adjoining McRae's blacksmith shop."

"Perhaps I should go to Emerson to stay the night with Knute." Patrick looked questioningly at Maggy.

Ian interrupted, "No, Pa. It wouldn't do any good. He was still under the effect of the anesthesia when Susan and I left. Jerold is staying the night with him and Susan will take his place in the morning. Meanwhile, I'll do the chores tonight and again in the morning after I get off work."

Susan placed her hand on Patrick's arm in a further effort to placate him. "Knute will have to stay in Emerson for at least two or three days. The doctor seemed concerned about the possibility of an infection."

Glancing at Kirby, Ian could see the cold, calculating look on his face. Instinctively, he knew that it was just as well that Brogan and Murphy were locked up in Emerson. When word of what they had done became widespread, their lives would be in danger.

Maggy arose from the table and turned to Susan. "Help me get supper on the table for the men. You and Ian eat with us tonight. It'll save you cooking at home." She turned to the men. "Now that we know that everything is under control, and there's nothing further we can do tonight, let's relax."

1 - In this same book is a very cool story about how the last spike, although driven by several VIP's (all men) and even some women from the crowd, was driven home by Mary Sullivan, the section crew boss' daughter. The passage, written by the daughter whose parents were witnesses to the event, says:
Standing among the group of ladies who had been too shy and modest to come forward and take a tap at the spike was a stalwart looking young girl, Mary Sullivan. She was the daughter of the section boss Sullivan, the referee. She was eighteen years old and had been closely watching and enjoying the last spike driving. Like some of the other ladies, however, including my mother, she had been too shy to come forward before the huge gathering and take a whack at the spike. SHe loved section work and used to help her dad pump the hand car, drive spikes, tamp ties, and do any track work she could.

The spike had still over an inch more to go and the ladies were about ready to give up and let the men finish the job when Charlie Lynne, who had worked on the section and knowing Mary quite well, also knew of her ability at railway work, notced her among the ladies and shouted out, "Hey Mary, come on over and show them how to drive a spike."

Mary, blushing from head to toe, quickly ran over. Her dad very proudly handed her the spike hammer and the crowd roared approvingly. She stepped back the proper distance, spit on her hands (like her dad always did) and with a mighty over hand swing drover the spike home and right down to the rail. At her mighty feat, the crowd set up a tremendous roar! The trains blew their whistles making a din that was heard for miles around. Mary, of course, had stolen the show!

The drinks were passed around again, but this time the toast was to Mary Sullivan, "The Hero of the Day." The crowd ignored the bigshots and everyone huddled around to congratulate Mary and shake her hand

Friday, April 09, 2010

Steam Brings in Rail

Selkirk hauled in the first steam engine (train) the Countess Dufferin

The Story behind the story?
The St. Paul Pioneer Press of a recent date said that manager J.P. Farley reported all obstacles to the advancement of its lines removed, and that work would be at once pushed forward on both the St. Vincent and Alexandria lines, and that both would be completed by the first day of October next. Regarding the St. Vincent extension, the men are now in the field, and the work of preparing the road-bed for the super-structure is rapidly going forward. For 28 miles north of Crookston the road has been ironed since 1872 and extensive repairs on this portion of the line are demanded. The grading from the end of the track to St. Vincent will also be proceeded with; and it will be done in the course of a very few months. Mr. Farley has made contracts for the iron with the Cambria Iron Company of Johnstown, PA. There is every reason to believe that the Pembina Branch of the Canadian Pacific will be completed as soon as the St. Vincent branch of the St. Paul & Pacific, in which case the cars will be running between St. Paul and Winnipeg by the first day of the coming October...
From THE COMMERCIAL AND FINANCIAL CHRONICLE, Volume 27 [Publisher: National News Service (1878)]

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Dave Thompson Revisited

I recently posted about an amazing artist from my region named Don McMaster. I posted about Don because he had created a series of paintings about explorer David Thompson.

Now the Canadian National History Society's magazine (formerly known as The Beaver), has published a cover story about this series...
McMaster... [created] a series of paintings that depict the travels of the explorer David Thompson through northwestern Ontario and the prairies.

Thompson mapped over 3.9 million square kilometres of western North America for the North West Company, beginning in 1797. He traversed the Canadian prairies and the Rocky Mountains several times and was the first European to navigate the length of the Columbia River in the Pacific Northwest. Thompson is widely considered to be one of the greatest land geographers to ever live.

Saturday, April 03, 2010

Fur Trade Stories

I discovered a site today that appears to have been around since 2005 but somehow I didn't discover it until recently (shame on me!) It concentrates on the Fur Trade era, which is pretty exciting to come across that history so comprehensively online.For instance, I found several references featuring 'Pembina' in them, including journals and diaries of very specific and personal histories, histories that concerned the individual writing them, but more importantly crossing into the wider history of the area representing many others who went through very similar situations.Such records are rare and as such are precious when I come across them, so I definitely wanted to share with you, whoever you are, my readers...