Friday, July 30, 2010

Past News: Tornado

Tornado over Hallock Fairgrounds, July 9, 1995 
[Photo by Glenn Browne]

Aftermath: Grandstand roof destroyed, but no one was hurt 
[Photo by Glenn Browne]

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Old Ads

Photo taken during 2004 Gamble family reunion
 in St. Vincent, inside of Christ Church

Pembina Light & Power Co. - Serving Pembina, N.D., Bathgate, N.D., Neche, N.D., St. Vincent, Minn., Emerson, Man., and Gretna, Man.

Christopher Bros. Garage - Batteries, Electrical SUpplies, Repairing

Farmers' & Merchants' State Bank - Capital $18,000, Surplus $7,000 - "Hometown Bank for Hometown People"

Wm J. Mason - Rumley, Oil Pull ---- Accessories St. Vincent, Minn.

J.A. Munro - General Blacksmith, Engine installing

The above are transcriptions of ads that can be seen in the photograph at top. Click above image to enlarge full-screen, then look at the 'back' of the image; you'll note a large multi-business graphic advertisement display. These kinds of ad displays were common a century ago and before. They were often made for specific uses such as to surround a performance stage, the merchants being sponsors for the event.

Not much has changed, eh? One wonders if there might not have been such things in ancient Rome at their games. Knowing human nature, I wouldn't doubt it a bit...!

Friday, July 23, 2010

The Other Side of the Ledger

I discovered this film on the National Film Board of Canada website today, which I was not aware of before. I think it has a lot to say, things that needed to be said, and I want to share them with my readers. Some of the white traders the indigenous peoples worked with, knew the natives were being exploited and refused to participate. Others knew it was wrong but just looked the other way. But far too many knowingly and willingly participated, using dishonest and immoral business practices with them.

It is described as a documentary about...
The Hudson's Bay Company's 300th anniversary celebration was no occasion for joy among the people whose lives were tied to the trading stores. This film, narrated by George Manuel, president of the National Indian Brotherhood, presents the view of spokesmen for Canadian Indian and Métis groups. There is a sharp contrast between the official celebrations, with Queen Elizabeth II among the guests, and what Indians have to say about their lot in the Company's operations.
It was one of the first NFB films made by a [Canadian] First Nations filmmaker. George Manuel, then president of the National Indian Brotherhood, narrated the film; he presents the views of spokesmen from First Nations and Métis groups, including Métis historian and activist Howard Adams. They discuss the unscrupulous economic control the Hudson’s Bay Company held over First Nations and Métis peoples.

Monday, July 19, 2010

"I've been workin' on the raaaaailroad..."

From reader George Howry comes this newspaper clipping and commentary...
The section crew was with the Northern Pacific railroad. Mike Howry was my grandfather. The newspaper had some ads from Cavalier, ND but I'm guessing it was the Grand Forks Herald.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Profile: Pierre Bottineau

I keep finding intersections between where I grew up, and other places in my home state of Minnesota, including where I just moved to (I now live only a few miles from one of the main Red River oxcart trails...) Also, many of the men and women who show up in the historical record crisscrossed the entire region over and over in their daily lives - guiding, exploring, surveying, and conducting business - again, some traveling or living near where I now live myself.

One such man - whom I have written about before - was Pierre Bottineau...
In 1856, Pierre was guide for the expedition led by Colonel F. Smith from Fort Snelling to explore the mouth of the Sheyenne River, the southern tip of Devil's Lake and the region around Pembina for the best sites for military posts. This would have been in anticipation of and just the year prior to Major Seton coming up in November of 1857.

In June of 1860, Pierre accompanied a military expedition with Gov. Ramsey to Pembina to conclude treaties with the Northern Minnesota Chippewas. On his return, he guided an expedition led by Commissioners Cullen and Bailey to the Red River to hold council with the Chippewa of the Red Lake and Red River Lands in MN

Regarding the 1863 Treaty with the Chippewa-Red Lake and Pembina Bands, Oct 2, 1863, 13 Stats., 667, Ratified Mar 1, 1864, Proclaimed May 5, 1864, Indian Affairs: Laws and Treaties. Vol. II - aka the Old Crossing Treaty - Pierre Bottineau signed his mark as a witness to the treaty made and concluded at the Old Crossing of Red Lake River, MN, on Oct 2, 1863, between the US, by their commissioners, Alexander Ramsey and Ashley C. Morrill, agent for the Chippewa Indians, and the Red Lake and Pembina bands of Chippewas; by their chiefs, head-men, and warriors.
Pierre, called the "Kit Carson of the Northwest", was a man who truly got around, doing a lot in the time he had. He had been involved in many of the major events that created our state. He died in 1895 at age 78, and is buried just west of Red Lake Falls, MN which is only about 20 miles southeast of where I live now.

The memorial below was created in honor of Bottineau for "...his years of distinguished service as a founding father and civic leader." I find it very ironic that he is honored now which is exceedingly appropriate; however, in an obituary written at the time of his death, there were definite mixed messages - on the one hand it praised him, but on the other hand insulted his ethnicity (Metis)...
No one in the northwest ever passed a life of more romantic adventures, thrilling experiences, hairbreath escapes and accidents--- generally by flood and field. He travelled over nearly every square mile of the northwest and knew the country as thoroughly as a farmer knows his lands.

He spoke every language in the region from French, English, Sioux, Chippewa, Cree, Mandan, and Winnibago. Experiences in all the particulars of frontier and savage life, he was equally proficient as a hunter, trapper, boatman, guide, and businessman. He could build a house, fashion a boat or plow a field with equal facility. Fully six feet tall and straight as a grenadier with clean piercing black eyes, he was of attractive appearance, despite swarthy complexion due to his Indian blood. He was naturally of manly instincts and gentlemanly deportment, polite, agreeable and of a kindly disposition, always true to his word and his fellowman.
Pierre Bottineau Memorial at St. Joseph Cemetery

NOTE: Much of the above information is from a timeline provided by a descendant of Pierre Bottineau. An amazing collection of historical information on an individual, I was quite impressed!

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Eli Steps Up To the Plate...

I submitted a local baseball story to PBS's THE TENTH INNING website (about Ken Burns' upcoming baseball documentary) yesterday. This morning I awoke to an acceptance email.

I'm thrilled because my hometown player, Eli Gooselaw, was amazing but never got wide enough recognition in my book...

I grew up across the pasture from Eli when I was a little girl and never knew this about him until a few years ago. It just goes to show you, you never know who may be walking in your midst...

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

NORTH COUNTRY: The Making of Minnesota

Ironically, as I have been trying in my own humble way, to show the more accurate history (not easy to do when you are depending on second-hand accounts that many times have a skewed agenda of their own, i.e., aren't very objective), a new book trying to do the same is just being published by the University of Minnesota, called North County: The Making of Minnesota...

In an article in the Winnipeg Free Press, comes this description of the book...
Parallels between the Canadian story and the American one are striking, but not surprising. In both cases Euro-centred peoples displaced the traditional occupants, using an essentially similar combination of duplicity and force.

In both cases the native occupants were sidelined by a population that overwhelmingly outnumbered them.

What is particular to the history of Minnesota is what Wingerd terms Minnesota's "civil war." Coinciding with the early part of the American Civil War, the struggle between the Dakota [Sioux] and the incoming "Americans" -- actually waves of whites, many direct from Europe -- erupted in 1862.

Wingerd spares no detail in describing the conflict. Innocent people (many who, in another war, could be called civilians) died. Outcomes of the bloody fighting included the forcible confinement on reservations of Dakotas, at least of those not executed or jailed after hasty and often unjust trials.

Years would pass, she explains, before the heritage of Hiawatha obscured the reality of the clash of cultures in which the more powerful triumphed and advanced its version of the story.

However, as Wingerd makes clear, she believes the writing of the "new history" (and by definition, more accurate history) has really just begun.
In a recent interview, the author said,
The biggest myth is that Indians in Minnesota country were hostile to whites. In fact, there were almost no incidents of Indian attacks on white people, Europeans or Americans. When rare cases did occur, it was always an individual spat and not an organized attack. The Dakota and Ojibwe went to great lengths not to drive traders away. The Dakota were frustrated with trying to get traders to establish a stable source because they needed guns. All the tribes to the East had been supplied with firearms in the early 1600s by the Dutch and English, and it didn't matter how terrific the Dakota were as warriors. Without guns, they were at a huge disadvantage in intertribal disputes.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Remembrance: Doris Clow

Today I found out a former friend, neighbor, and yes, a sort of relative of mine, passed away.

Her name was Doris...Doris Clow. She was married to Roy Clow, a cousin of my family through my Grandmother (her mother was a Clow). Doris also attended the same church my family did. She was always there. She was one of many men and women who were. Their quiet presence, day in and week out, month and year after decade, made you think they would always be there.

Where our old church once stood, she and Roy eventually built a home in town. Right across the side-street from where my grandparents had lived 'uptown' as I called it. When I got married in 1978, that next summer I lived in that house, right by Doris and Roy. I had occasion more than once to cross the road and visit with her. Later, when I lived in Southern California, I would often hear my parents refer to Roy and Doris, then only Doris after Roy passed. It was comforting to know she was still there in the house, in my hometown.

Time passes so quickly. My grandmother used to recall those that were gone in her life with a wistfulness my then-young-mind couldn't possibly grasp. Later, my mother did the same, and by then it had a bit more meaning. Now, it hits harder. Father time has tapped my shoulder more than once. The undiscovered country has been sending travel brochures.

R.I.P., Doris. Maybe I'll see you on the other side...

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Case Jones Revisited

Recently, actor/educator and historian (Minnesota Historical Society) Dwight Scott visited Hallock and presented a performance as Casey Jones, one of Hallock's notable past residents. Talk about exciting!1

1 - Having lived in Fargo for many years, such a performance is common there, but it's a big event in small towns like Hallock. I'm pleased to see them get such events up there in the farthest corner of the state, a part of the state that is all too often ignored by those living in the southern portion. When 'Greater Minnesota' is remembered at all, it still doesn't include our extreme northwest corner; that is so ironic, considering that the crossroads of the Red River of the North and the Pembina rivers, have been not only a meeting place for so long, but also a major gateway for settlement and commerce to the region, yet today it is all but forgotten...

Saturday, July 10, 2010


Norman Kittson is rolling over in his grave?!
Photo by Ralph Giffen, via Mike Rustad

The store above was spotted in the Minneapolis air terminal recently. The company claims to be selling "Classic apparel and gifts for the outdoor enthusiast", featuring "...a legendary brand with Minnesota roots".

I can't find anything out about them online, nor have I ever heard of the 'Kittson County Clothing' brand before - has anyone else?

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Heritage Highlights: International Incident

Manitoba's rudder (Marine Museum of Manitoba)

I recently discovered Bruce Cherney and his Heritage Highlights; it appears that Bruce, like myself, has a real passion for local history! Some of his older articles are available through the Manitoba Historical Society.

Below are excerpts from Cherney's excellent article Collision on the Red - published in two parts - that he recently posted on a near "international incident" which involved Pembina...
But for all the “huzzahs” in Moorhead with the steamboat finally underway, the mood turned to anxiety when the Manitoba was delayed at the border crossing at Pembina, North Dakota...The newspapermen said they were aware of the circumstances of the delay in Pembina and decried “those who regard monopoly as their right.”

The enforcement of the delay almost created an international incident with a top Washington official having to intervene.

The newspapermen said they were aware of the circumstances of the delay in Pembina and decried “those who regard monopoly as their right.”

In a May 4 letter to the Free Press, Colonel Charles Stephenson, the supervising custom inspector at Pembina, said he wanted to “state briefly the facts of the case.”

Stephenson wrote that when James Douglas, the agent of the Merchant’s International Steamboat Line aboard the Manitoba, attempted to get him to conduct the inspection, he was engaged elsewhere “and unable to attend the Manitoba on time.”

The inspector was under the impression that the Manitoba would proceed and be inspected on the steamboat’s return trip. “As this had been permitted during previous seasons to the boats of the Kittson line.”

According to Stephenson, a newly-hired custom official at Pembina was unaware of the practice and was overly zealous in conforming to the letter of the law at the urging of the former customs inspector who still resided in Pembina.

“As soon as Mr. (Jacob) Frankfield, the present customs officer at Pembina refused to pass the boat, Mr. Douglas telegraphed the fact to the Secretary of the Treasury at Washington, who replied referring the case to Colonel Stephenson at Galena ... A telegraph was sent to Stephenson at Galena, giving all the particulars.”

Stephenson sent Douglas the following telegram, “Ask collector at Pembina to permit steamer Manitoba to make trip and return to Moorhead. I will meet her there on the 8th inst. for inspection.”
While being temporarily held in Pembina...
...the passengers enjoyed the sights of the community, which included a drunken man brandishing a “repeater and firing shots at some unseen foe.” The drunk...who appeared to be somehow above the law — possibly a “deputy sheriff” — enthusiastically shook the hands of any Manitoba passenger he encountered.

The only known photograph of the
prairie warship captains, including
 the two who worked the Red River:
William Robinson (standing), and
Aaron Russell, John Segers, and
Jerry Weber (left to right, seated).
One passenger was heard by the writer to have expressed the opinion that if the man had behaved in such a manner in Canada, “the bobbies would nab him quicker than a wink.”
Fascinating trivia regarding the two steamboat captains featured in this story involving Pembina - river pilots/navigators that plied their trade and learned their craft on the Red River of the North:
- Captain Jerry Webber, was originally from Winnipeg but later operated out of the U.S., later gaining a measure of fame as one of the “old Red River navigators” hired by the British during the Nile Expedition of 1884-1885 to rescue General Charles “Chinese” Gordon under siege at Khartoum. Although the relief of the Sudanese city was unsuccessful and Gordon was killed by the Mahdi’s forces, the four Red River steamboat captains were praised by the British for their skill while ferrying supplies and troops on the Nile River in Egypt.

- Captain John Scribner Segers' career as an “old Red River navigator” was as colourful as Webber’s. He also took part in the Nile Expedition, and was the captain of the steamer Northcote (commanded by Webber in the early 1880s until Segers took over), which was ordered converted by General Sir Frederick Middleton into a gunboat. The steamboat participated in the May 9-12, 1885, Battle of Batoche during the North-West Rebellion, but was crippled by the Métis who used ferry cables to take it out of action.
I found an excellent book on the very subject Bruce writes about, called Prairie Warships: River Navigation in the North-West Rebellion, in a chapter called Hudson's Bay Workhorses: The Red River Regime. The chapter reads like a thriller - a frontier business thriller - no wonder men like James J. Hill (cutting his teeth and filling his pocketbook with money made on the river way before the railroads were built) and Norman Kittson made a killing - they had a lot of foresight, energy, and yes ruthlessness, necessary to not only see opportunity but to seize it, and they did!

Below is an excerpt from the book's colorful version of the collision, with some fascinating background on the two ship captains involved...

[Click on image to enlarge]

From Prairie Warships, by Gordon Errett Tolton

Monday, July 05, 2010

Mystery: Tombstone Highway

Originally uploaded by afiler
I came across this photo of a sign in my hometown county, Kittson County, that I wasn't aware of before. All my research has proven fruitless so far.

Can any reader enlighten me as to what the significance is to the sign? What is/was 'Tombstone Highway'? Why was it called that?

12/15/2015 UPDATE:  I recently found out the answer to this mystery was, ironically, contained within the historical essays archived on the Red River Valley website, co-administered by me and Kris Baldwin Ohmann.