Monday, August 30, 2010

Profile: Jean Baptiste Wilkie

I have written about Jean Baptiste Wilkie (1803-1886) before, but only in his role as leader of the great annual Pembina buffalo hunts.

Below is a brief yet comprehensive biography of a fascinating man from our area, telling more regarding the roles he played in our local history and beyond.  One role he played was to facilitate treaties between the Sioux and the Obijway (and Metis) in 1861; it is an amazing piece of history to read, how Wilkie (and others prominent to our area, including Dumont and Grant) played a major role in maintaining peace at a time of tension,  This process included a visit to our nationa's capital with President Lincoln. One can only wonder what influence or bearing this treaty may have had, along with broken promises from the federal government agents, on the 1862 uprising?

I have also been in touch with the Great gr gr gr granddaughter of Alexander Wilkie, Jean Baptiste Wilkie's father, who has Alexander's original Northwest Company contract in hopes it may have been scanned - that would be a fascinating piece of history to see!
This is a biography of Jean Baptiste Wilkie1, a great Metis warrior, buffalo hunter and Chief of the Metis at Pembina, North Dakota. He was one of the Metis hunters who fed the Scots Selkirk Settlers during their first six years in the country.2 In the mid-1820s he was operating a large horse ranch beside the Red River in what is now St. Vital. Because of HBC prohibitions on Metis free-trade Wilkie permanently moved his operations south of the border in the 1840s. His family then appears in the 1850 Pembina Census.

On the Chippewa side of his family he was a descendant of Mezhekamkijkok. Jean Baptiste and his family were on the Pembina Annuity Roll for Little Shell’s Band in 1867 and in 1868 appear on the Annuity Roll for Way-ke-ge-ke-zhick’s Band. Under the Red Lake and Pembina Treaty (1872) he was issued Half Breed scrip #172. His family appears in an early Red River Census.

Known as the chief of the Half Breeds in the Pembina/St. Joseph area, Jean Baptiste married Amable Elise (Isabella) Azure (b. 1808). Wilkie’s father Alexander was from Scotland and his mother’s name was Mezhekamkijkok. Jean-Baptiste’s wife, Amable Azure (b.1808) was the daughter of Pierre Azure (b. 1788) and Marguerite Assiniboine.3 Amable died in 1888 and is buried at Olga North Dakota. Two of their sons-in-law, Gabriel Dumont and Patrice Fleury, were leaders of the 1885 Metis Resistance.

The Wilkie’s had a large family:

• Jean Baptiste Jr. (b.1824) married Marie Laframboise then Isabelle Patenude.
• Judith (Berger). (b. 1825) In 1879, Judith and her husband Pierre Berger, led twenty-five Metis families to central Montana in search of the diminishing buffalo herds.
• Augustine (b. 1829)–married Marie Paquin
• Alexander (b. 1831)–married Louise Gariepy.
• Marie Catherine (b. 1834 at St. Boniface) married Michel Gladu.
• Madeleine (Dumont) (1837-1886) Madeleine married Gabriel Dumont in 1858 at St. Joseph (North Dakota). Soon after, they moved to the St. Laurent area of Saskatchewan. Madeleine gained a reputation for being hospitable and compassionate to those less fortunate than herself. There is evidence that she and her husband had a very close relationship and he greatly respected her. The couple had no children but adopted a daughter, Veronique (born 1863 at Red River) and a boy, Alexandre Fageron (Fayant). As well as coping with everyday duties, Madeleine frequently accompanied Gabriel on long trips by snowshoe, Red River cart and horseback. Indeed on several occasions she traveled alone from Batoche to Winnipeg to sell the furs that Gabriel had acquired. The ability to speak English gave her an advantage Gabriel did not have, although he spoke French and five Native languages. Madeleine also acted as a teacher for the children of Batoche. During the 1885 Resistance she nursed the wounded and distributed the meager rations and supplies. Gabriel saw to Madeleine’s safety before crossing the border into the United States after the Battle of Batoche. She soon joined him because she could not tolerate the resultant situation in the Batoche area. Her health suffered severely in Montana. Madeleine died in October 1885 at Lewistown, Montana, from consumption and complications arising from a fall from a buggy.

• Elizabeth (b. 1839)–married Antoine ‘Henry’ Fleury.
• Cecilia (b. 1843) –married Joseph Gariepy.
• Agathe (b. 1844)–married Patrice Joseph Fleury. Her husband was born in 1848 at Pembina, the son of Louison Fleury and Josephte, a Gros Ventre woman. Patrice was involved in the 1885 Resistance at Duck Lake and Batoche with Dumont. At Batoche, he was one of Dumont’s captains on the west side of the Saskatchewan River.
• Marie Marguerite (b. 1845)–married Henry Bousquet.
• Antoine (b. 1848)–married Esther Gladue.
• Mary (b. 1849)
• David (1853-1854)

Wilkie and the Chippewa reportedly had a palisaded fort on the Souris River near Towner, N.D. called “Buffalo Lodge” which was attacked and burnt down by the Dakota in 1825.

Wilkie Leads Buffalo Hunt of 1840

Alexander Ross describes a buffalo hunt out of Red River led by 37 year-old Jean
Baptiste Wilkie:

On the 15th of June, 1840, carts were seen to emerge from every nook and corner of the settlement bound for the plains ... From Fort Garry the cavalcade and camp- followers went crowding on to the public road, and thence, stretching from point to point, till the third day in the evening, when they reached Pembina, the great rendezvous on such occasions ... Here the roll was called, and general muster taken, when they numbered, on this occasion, 1,630 souls; and here the rules and regulations for the journey were finally settled. The officials for the trip were named and installed into office; and all without the aid of writing materials.

The camp occupied as much ground as a modern city, and was formed in a circle; all the carts were placed side by side, the trains out-ward. These are trifles, yet they are important to our subject. Within this line of circumvallation, the tents were placed in double, treble rows, at one end; the animals at the other in front of the tents. This is in order in all dangerous places; but where no danger is apprehended, the animals are kept on the outside. Thus the carts formed a strong barrier, not only for securing the people and their animals within, but as a place

The first step was to hold a council for the nomination of chiefs or officers, for conducting the expedition. Ten captains were named, the senior on this occasion being Jean Baptiste Wilkie, an English half-breed, brought up among the French; a man of good sound sense and long experience, and withal a fine bold-looking and discreet fellow; a second Nimrod in his way. Besides being captain, in common with the others, he was styled the great war chief or head of the camp; and on all public occasions he occupied the place of president. All articles of property found, without an owner, were carried to him, and he disposed of them by crier, who went around the camp every evening, were it only an awl. Each captain had ten soldiers under his orders; in much the same way that policemen are subject to the magistrate.4
Battle of O’Brien’s Coulée, 1848

In the mid-summer of 1848 a large Chippewa-Metis and Dakota battle took place at O’Brien’s Coulée5 near present day Olga, North Dakota. The Chippewa-Metis hunting camp was made up of 800 Metis men and 200 Chippewa Indian men. They had their families, horses and over 1,000 Red River carts. The Chippewa were led by Old Red Bear and Little Shell II. The Metis were led by Jean Baptiste Wilkie whose mother was a full-blood Chippewa. François Corvin Gosselin who along with William Gaddy who would later be a sub-leader of the 49th Rangers attached to the British Boundary Commission were also at this battle.6

Wilkie established himself at St. Joseph, North Dakota about 1847. His house was the stopping place for Indians passing through the town. A fatal encounter occurred at his home in 1861 between several Sioux and Chippewas. Several Indians were killed, among them the brother of Chippewa chief, Red Bear.

The Dakota, Chippewa, Metis Treaty of 1859

This treaty was negotiated by Jean Baptiste Wilkie on behalf of the Metis and Chippewa. William Davis (born Red River 1845) was present at this meeting as a 14 year-old. He tells the following story: There had been a conference at St. Joseph in 1858 where it was agreed that a meeting should take place the next year at Les Isles aux Mort, near Leeds N.D. (north-west of Devil’s Lake) to set the boundary lines for the hunting grounds of the Sioux, Metis and Chippewa. There was water everywhere in the vicinity of the treaty site. This created islands, leading to the name of the site.

On the first day of the conference the bands rode out and met halfway between the camps. They were on horseback and fully armed, ready for battle, if necessary. They rode in parallel lines until they were about 100 feet apart. They then turned to face each other. After a few moments of silence a Sioux Chief slowly dismounted, accepted a huge peace pipe of catlinite (pipestone) from a warrior, stepped into the lane between the lines and invited the Metis leader to join him.

The pipe was first presented to Chief John Baptiste Wilkie, leader of the mixed-bloods and after him the sub chiefs and headmen of the Sioux and the captains of the Metis puffed the pipe. When the serious matters were finished the two groups mingled freely to indulge in sports and trade, the latter consisting chiefly of barter for guns and buffalo robes and horse trading.

The next day the conference began. It was agreed that the unpleasant relations between the Chippewa (the relatives), the Metis and the Sioux were unnecessary and dangerous. The Sioux were accused of raiding the Chippewa country, stealing horses and sometimes scalping Chippewa people. The Metis were most concerned because the Sioux “made fun” with the “meat” (other portions of the body).

The Sioux charged that the Metis encouraged the coming of whites and the killing of too many buffaloes. But the line was fixed. It was to follow the Goose River from the mouth to the timber of the Goose where the river has three branches. From the source of the branches the boundary followed the stream to its mouth and continued to Dog Den Buttes, from there it ran south to the Missouri River opposite the mouth of the Knife River.

Gray Owl, Wanata or Wanaatan II (The Charger)7, Tete la Brule (Makaideya, or Burnt Earth) and Mato Wakan (Medicine Bear) were the Sioux leaders. Grey Owl was described as a fine appearing man and very eloquent by Mr. Davis. “He had fine limbs, thick and strong and was straight and tall/ He spoke well and was not afraid.”8

The Dakota Metis Treaty of 1861

In subsequent years the hunting parties of the Dakota and the Metis continued to fight over the same hunting grounds. The Dakota (the people of the “Ten Nations”, some 400 lodges) would typically gather at what was called “Sioux Coulee” near present day Langdon, North Dakota. The gathering place for the Chippewa and Metis was between Cando and Devil’s Lake. Tired of this stand-off, Chief Wilkie as leader of the Metis and Chippewa hunting parties decided to bring some resolution to the situation in the early 1860s. Gregoire Monette9 of Langdon, North Dakota tells the following story in 1917:

In order to put an end to the suspense, fear and worry of watching the enemy, the Half-Breed hunters and Chippewa Indians under Chief Wilkie decided to send a commission to Washington to interview the president and find out how to obtain peace between these tribes. Chief Wilkie and Peter Grant were the men chosen. So well did they impress the authorities at Washington that President Lincoln told them they could have all the ammunition they needed for their protection. He asked them at the same time not to induce trouble but to go to them as brothers taking with them the bravest and best to make parley for peace. This was done and Chief Wilkie, Peter Grant, Gabriel Dumont, Joseph LaFramboise, Antoine Fleury, and seven others were chosen. They went direct to the village of the Dakota’s or Nadouissioux and direct to the lodge of the chief. This they found surrounded by soldiers. They reported to the chief, and he asked for them to be brought in. The rabble had gathered about the lodge and threatened to kill them, but the soldiers would not allow them to do so saying that their chief was a brave man who would dare to come alone to a hostile camp. The crowd was so envious and angry that with their knives they slashed the tent cloth in the lodges. Although they were admitted to his presence the chief was very austere. They told him their mission, and being very tired and thirsty, Gabriel asked for a drink of water. This was refused which was known to be an indication of trouble. Chief Wilkie became alarmed and sadly dropped his fine bearing. Gabriel, his son-in-law asked him “What is wrong with you?” When the old gentleman told him his fears, he became very angry. He began at once to load his gun, saying “I won’t die before I kill my full share,” and again demanded water which was brought immediately and due respect was shown their high commission from that time forth.

When asked to fully explain their mission, as spokesman, Chief Wilkie said, “We are enemies wasting the good gift that has been bestowed upon us through nature. We are preventing each other from trapping and killing the animals. There is plenty of room and much provisions. Let us help each other as brothers, let us have peace together.” When the council was concluded, the pipe of peace was ordered to be brought. This was a very long pipe, ornamented with human hair so long as to reach the floor, bear claws and porcupine quills were also part of its decoration. The tobacco was cut by his first lieutenant; this was mixed with several herbs, and kinnikinnick. This mixing of the tobacco was to indicate the fusion of their interest and harmony of the whole people. The pipe was then handed to the Sioux chief, who took three draws and passed it to chief Wilkie. In this way it went around the lodge. Three times the pipe was filled and solemnly smoked and peace thereby established.

Chief Wilkie then distributed to them gifts of tobacco, tea and sugar. They were then given a great feast at which they told how sad they were and afraid when they thought they were going to regret their friendship, and asked how they should get safely home. The chief said with great dignity, “I will give you safe conduct; I will send my soldiers with you to your lodge and nothing will harm you. You have seen here some of my bad children and you may meet them on the way, but if they attempt to harm you, kill them and I will protect you.” The above took place on Grand Coteau, forty miles west of Devil’s Lake. Before leaving, Chief Wilkie invited the Sioux to send a delegation to visit his people, setting the day and hour for their arrival. When the time came near chief Wilkie bearing in front of him a white flag, went a mile out to meet them. About one hundred came, the chief and his staff were quartered in Chief Wilkie’s lodge, the common people were scattered so as to get better acquainted. When the time came for them to go, they, as a sign of their friendship and brotherly feeling traded all their horses taking back none they had brought with them. Much good was accomplished, although there were still bad children (perhaps on both sides). (Cited in St. Ann’s Centennial, 1985: 231-232.)
Note: The picture of Jean Baptiste Wilkie is from Manton Marble, “Red River and Beyond (Third Paper)”, Harper’s New Monthly Magazine, February 1861, Vol. 22, Issue 129: 306.
Compiled by Lawrence Barkwell
Coordinator of Metis Heritage and History Research
Louis Riel Institute

1 - The Plains Cree called Wilkie and the Metis “Nakawiniuk”.
2 - The Selkirk Settlers wintered at Pembina because of its proximity to the buffalo herds.
3 - Amable’s grandparents were Joseph Azure, born 1767 in Quebec and Lizette Ma-na-e-cha (Ojibwe). He died suddenly on January 29, 1832 at St. Boniface. This family appears in the Red River Census between 1832 and 1840. In 1804 Joseph was working as a guide for the NWC; he accompanied Francois Antoine Larocque on an expedition to the source of the Missouri River.
4 - Alexander Ross, The Red River Settlement. Edmonton: Hurtig Publishers, 1972: 245-247.
5 - So called because O’Brien lived at this location some 35 years after the event. It is a short distance west of Olga, N.D. Olga is between one branch of the Pembina River to the north and the Tongue River to the south.
6 - Libby Papers, A85, Box 36, Notebook #14. August 4, 1910 interview with Little Duck, Dominion City, MB, interpreter Roger St. Pierre. This paper was given to me by Louis Garcia, historian for the Mni Wakan Oyate.
7 - This was the son of the Yanktonai chief of that name who died in 1840, He was wintering along the Missouri River by 1828 and had frequent conflicts with the Minnesota/Pembina/Turtle Mountain Chippewa and Michifs.
8 - Turtle Mountain Indian Reservation. St. Ann’s Centennial: 100 Years of Faith. Belcourt, N.D.: 1985, pp.314-315.
9 - Gregoire was married to Philomene Wilkie (b. 1863) the grand-daughter of Chief Wilkie.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Mercy Wheat Campaign

I don't know details on how farmers around my hometown area (Kittson County and Pembina County) contributed to the efforts described as the Mercy Wheat Campaign, but it's likely they did. It was  characterized as involving the entire region known as the Red River Valley of the North, the farmers in it called to supply the over 155,000,000 bushels1 of wheat to war-torn Europe and Asia after WWII.

Mercy Wheat wasn't as secret as Ferry Command at the time, but in collective memory, it's almost as elusive.  And what is so impressive about this effort was, it was citizen-driven, not government-sponsored, implemented before the Marshall Plan...

In April 1946, Arnold Amundson of Climax, Minn., led a procession of 140 farmers to the local elevator as a national kickoff for Mercy Wheat, a program by the United Nations to deliver grain to war-starved Poland. Farmers were hanging onto on to their grain, so the government offered them a 30-cent-per-bushel bonus to deliver it. NYC Mayor and UNRRA Director Fiorello La Guardia encouraged farmers to grow even more wheat to feed the countries ravaged by the war.

- From Twentieth Century in Review, Fargo Forum

1 - Trivia:  The Farmers Union Grain Terminal Association (GTA or FUGTA), a cooperative grain marketing organization of Midwestern farmers, began operations on June 1, 1938. Its origins, however, go back much farther into the nineteenth century with farmers' rebellions against low prices, mis-grading of grain, false weights, buyer collaboration, and excessive dockage and transportation costs, which resulted in their first attempts at cooperative action...The post-World War II era saw GTA make international news through its contribution of 16 million of the (ultimately) over 80 million bushels provided by the United States in the Mercy Wheat Campaign for war-ravaged Europe.

- From Minnesota Historical Society's GTA Corporation Records Collection

Thursday, August 26, 2010

"...Most Boring County in Minnesota"

Grape Vine Ivy on Chicken Coop - my family home 
in St. Vincent, MN (Kittson County, July 2010)
This week, an online writer dubbing himself as Kittson County Top News Examiner, wrote an article entitled, Welcome to the Most Boring County in Minnesota (Help!).  The writer's premise was that Kittson County is so boring that he has a hard time finding something to write about.

My reaction was, that this was a gauntlet thrown down that had to be responded to. The article drew a lot of angry responses, some thoughtful and several bordering (and passing) the blunt and vulgar.  I responded myself, saying:'re trying to be witty but making people angry - that will not gain you readers nor convince anyone of your point of view. For good writing with wit, irony, and insight, I suggest you read (or re-read, as the case may be) Mark Twain. Twain knew how to build as well as cut down people using wit. He could have you laughing at the same time as wincing, realizing how right he really was while 'insulting' you at the same time. Your attempt at 'existentialism' as your tags imply, was the opposite of that terms intent. Søren Kierkegaard, who by the way I have deeply admired since my college days when I originally discovered him, "...maintained that the individual is solely responsible for giving his or her own life meaning and for living that life passionately and sincerely, in spite of many existential obstacles and distractions including despair, angst, absurdity, alienation, and BOREDOM." If you were truly trying to say that DESPITE being bored up in Roseau County / Kittson County, that you found true beauty and meaning there, you have failed miserably.

I grew up in Kittson County. Yes, it can be boring. But that isn't necessarily a bad thing - some people like that. It was bucolic, peaceful, contemplative. Wide open skies and you could see for miles. It made you think the world was HUGE and the possibilities with it. It is a place STEEPED in amazing history and people that made it. I'm incredibly proud to have been born and raised there, and the people in that county, a good share of them? They're related to my family through blood or marriage. It's like the Six Degrees to Kevin Bacon except it's the Six Degrees in Kittson County. It's like that with a lot of families. Family and friends - and community - are corner stones of our county.

By the way, Skull Lake is NOT the only natural lake in Kittson County. There is also Lake Stella, near my hometown St. Vincent MN
Some would say I'm helping to perpetuate exposure to an article I dislike.  That's true, but my point in writing this is partly to do just that, to bring attention to it, and thus the bigger issues it brought up.  I think it's not only healthy, but productive, to get people talking about such things.  It can help residents as well as outsiders to appreciate or at least understand all the dynamics involved with living in such a place, what place in general means, and how different paces of life affect how we view life overall.  I am coping with this in a very person way at this stage in my life.  I'm trying to learn how to slow down, re-prioritize my life, and balance my old life with my new life (which, ironically, is really my old life...)

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Small Town Girl Sports

Many years ago I was fortunate enough to have been able to
handle & read a 1928 copy of the St. Vincent School's annual
"Borderlines", copying several pages pertaining to my family
The piece below was written by Mike Rustad and and originally posted on my family's 'family' website, a website I created to gather family history to which I invited Mike to be a part of due to his love of local history and knowledge of so many area families that intersected with my own.

Mike shared this fascinating look into St. Vincent's past back in 2004; I am currently reviewing all content on an old site because it will be discontinued soon. Many great pieces of local history were shared there, and I intend to preserve it all in some shape or form. I invite you to share in this wonderful view to our past, this little 'time machine' to not only my family's roots but those that touch on the wider communities they lived in...

[And as Mike ponders, where DID those girls practice some of their sports? My theory is they shared practice/play space with Pembina, but that's just a working theory...]

This little essay was inspired by reviewing some old clippings about the St. Vincent girls basketball team that appeared in the 1927-28 school yearbook that can be found in the Lake Bronson-based Kittson County Museum. St. Vincent is today nearly a ghost town. First, a little background. Mrs. Dick Lapp's little history of St. Vincent notes that the towns was the oldest city in Kittson County from the standpoint of settlement. Mrs. Lapp writes that "[t]he history dates back as far as 1857, when Minnesota was still a territory. A trading post on the village site had been named St. Vincent in honor of St. Vincent de Paul, founder of missions and hospitals in France." St. Vincent was built up as a town that serviced Fur Company XYZ (what an unimaginative name!). She notes the town was a byproduct or expansion by the Selkirk settlers that founded Pembina. St. Vincent had the reputation of being a rough and tumble town. Mrs Lapp writes:
"Ox-carts were the first means of travel in this area. Norman Kittson enveloped the ox-cart enterprise. Later steamboat traffic became important not only to the village but to settlement of the community. As early as 1862, railroad talk began. In Winnipeg, Donald Smith thought the Red River needed a lifeline to the east. He took his idea to Norman Kittson, the president of the steamboat line which held a monopoly on the river. Kittson referred the matter to his silent partner, James Hill. Hill had a dream of reviving the bankrupt railway at St. Paul and latched onto the idea immediately. In 1878, his dream was realized. He saw the first locomotive arrive in Emerson, Manitoba from St. Paul. It was the Great Northern Railway and later known as the Burlington Northern. The customs office and depot were in St. Vincent until 1905 when they were moved to the Canadian border at Noyes. In 1900, a roundhouse was built, James J. Hill backed the project. It was located by Lake Stella, east of St. Vincent. A turning table was included that was used to turn the trains around. Charles Gooding was the first depot agent. John McGlashen was the first man to take a carload of horses through from St. Cloud to Winnipeg. He also operated a saloon".
Mrs. Lapp notes how vibrant the town was by the turn of the century. The fur traders were prosperous and started the first stores. She writes further:
"The first bank was established in 1880 by J. H. Rich, E. L. Baker and F. B. Howe. It was later sold and closed. J. R. Ryan operated a livery and sales and William J. Mason opened a blacksmith's shop and also ran a wagon and carriage shop. The Firehall was built in 1903 by Edward Cameron and his three sons. It was on main street, east of the Red River bridge and housed fire engines run by steam. The Firehall was pushed over in 1972, the town hall demolished and a new hall built on original site of depot."
Mrs. Lapp notes that the first teacher in the St. Vincent School was none other than Eliza Moore.  The first schools in the county were on or near this village. Lapp's sure-footed history records that it was "Eliza Moore, then age fifteen, taught all eight grades in a little one room school in the west end of town. She told stories in later years of the Indians riding their ponies around the schoolhouse and looking in the windows and frightening her and the pupils. The present school was built in 1903. It was a square two-story white frame building and originally housed all the grades from one through twelve."

Eliza Moore continued to teach in St. Vincent when I was a student in the 1950s and 1960s. I thought of her as an Ancient Mariner or School marm. Mrs. Lapp gives her great credit for the development of the school in St. Vincent. In the late 1950s and early 1960s, Prof. Moore was a big part of the St. Vincent school. Other St. Vincent teachers from my day included Maribel Berg, Velma Isley and now my memory so many decades later becomes fuzzy. I think Simeon Cameron was the school cook. [Note from Trish:  I also had Mrs. Berg & Mrs. Isley as teachers at the St. Vincent School, and Simeon Cameron was still the cook while I attended...] 

Now, let's fast forward to 1928. The town of St. Vincent in its heyday had a hotel called the Northern Hotel. It also had saloons, stores, a jail, fire station, curling rink, etc. However, the jewel in the crown was the St. Vincent School. The School field both boys and girls teams for basketball, track. tennis and baseball. I think that the social history of girls' sports is largely a lost memory. I want all of the readers to think of the St. Vincent described by Mrs. Dick Lapp. There was a vibrancy. It was 1928 only a year before the Great Depression was to cause the citizens of St. Vincent great economic and personal turmoil. The Great Depression which was to begin in 1929 decimated St. Vincent. Mrs. Lapp blamed the Great Floods of 1948 and 1950 and she may be right about the factors leading to the dissolution of vibrant St. Vincent. I think that the Great Depression might have played a role. Mrs. Lapp lived through the Great Deapression and both floods. I was a baby during the Flood of 1950. I digress. Fast forward to the 1927-28 school year. The school was the center of town life.

The St. Vincent School had a strong (women's) basketball team consisting of Mamie Cleem, Isabel Fitzpatrick, Lelia Davis, Fidessa Wilkie and Alberta Fitzpatrick. The Girls' Basketball Team of 1927 is pictured during the first game of the season. The first game for the girls was held on December 4, 1927. I found the school yearbook to be amusing. Isabel is pictured as tall and lean and quite attractive in a picture taken during the first game of the year. In the back row, there is yet another Fitzpatrick named Fern. The name is alternatively spelled Fern or Ferne. Ferne was the starting Left Forward on the team and had the nickname of Coon. Isabelle was known as Issy or at least that's what her teammates called her. Issy was apparently the team's star ball handler and dribbler and played at the right guard position. What's so puzzling to me is that there appears to be 6 players on the starting lineup for girl's basketball. Issy was at the Right Guard position Fidessa Wilkie or Fido was at the Center Guard and Verlie Cameron or Plug was at the Left Guard. The nicknames for the girls were not exactly comely or feminine names. I was impressed with their apparent fitness and competitiveness. Every girl had a nickname. The Center Forward, Mamie Cleem, was nicknamed "Slivers" There was Coon (Ferne) at the Right Forward position and Lelia Davis or Lee at the Left Forward. Isabelle or Issy played Right Guard. Fido was at the left guard. They were spelled by substitutes Verlie Cameron (Pug), Violet "Cutie" Cleem and Mae (O'Leary) Gamble. Eileen Twamley also played on the team. I assume she was the sister of Merle Twamley who was the patriarch of the large Twamley family we knew growing up in Humboldt and St. Vincent.

The other sports stories about the girls basketball team of 1928 mentions the injuries the girls sustained and how they played the game. Isabelle, for example, jammed two fingers, and was hurt in the game with Stephen. St. Vincent beat Stephen 21 to 16. Issy continued to play despite having sprained fingers. She was not the only girl to be injured. Coon's leg was twisted and the game delayed. She limped through the end of the quarater and could not continue. She was replaced by "Cutie" Cleem. In that game, Mamie "Slivers" Cleem was the superstar scoring 12 of the 16 points and playing like a champ. St. Vincent beat Stephen! I don't ever remember Humboldt-St. Vincent beating Stephen. St. Vincent beat Stephen at the game held in St. Vincent. Does anyone remember where the games were played? I think that the Boy's Teams were played in Pembina. It may be that the games were played at Pembina's gym. St. Vincent played Pembina February 8, 1928. The Game ended in a 10 to 10 tie. In the Stephen game, St. Vincent's star players missed key free throws while Stephen made their shots. St. Vincent took the win because of their better outside shooting. In the Pembina game, the game game had a number of hard fouls against the St. Vincent girls. Issy Fitzpatrick had a key personal foul levied against her. A technical foul was called on Fido Wilkie. Slivers was hurt in a hard foul and knocked against the back wall and then to the floor. There were officiating disputes in all of the girls' games or there was a hyperactive imagination on the part of the St. Vincent sports writers. In the return game with Stephen at Stephen held on January 20, 1928, the St. Vincent team made baskets that were not counted. The home town (Stephen tilted) referree ruled that when Slivers made a basket, it did not count. When Coach Dick Lapp objected, he was told that the basket did not count because of interference. Lapp retorted, "Interference, YES, BECAUSE ST. VINCENT MADE THE BASKET."

The third quarter of the Stephen game ended in a 14 to 14 tie. In the fourth quarter, a St. Vincent player named Mae Gambel or O'Leary went into the game replacing Issy Fitzpatrick. That substitute was not a wise choice as then Stephen made four baskets and St. Vincent only two to round off the game which ended "18 to 22, in Stephen's favor." In the Pembina game, Cutie Cleem substituted for Coon. Apparently, the ref called a foul on Cutie for chating with someone on the team so a technical foul was called.

I was wondering whether anyone knows additional facts about any of these colorful girl sports heroes from the late 1920s. St. Vincent was a great sports town with a full array of girls sports during the 1920s: basketball, tennis, softball or kitten ball etc.

I responded to Mike's post by saying:

Wow, Mike! Keep the stories coming, sports-related or otherwise! You really bring St. Vincent alive for us. It's really neat to hear about the history of where I grew up. I wonder what other source material there might be out there that would have information about the town's life? I'd love to hear more about the merchants, who owned what, what the saloons and hotel, etc. was like, the background of the town's politics, etc...even the gossip of the past. Any ideas anyone?
My cousin Delphine Mundorf responded:
Alberta Fitzpatrick as you may know from other postings is my mother. I was surprised about her name mentioned here on the basketball team. I guess she has mentioned it to me but her biggest thing she talks about is playing tennis. She says she was very good at tennis and she and her partner did so well they had a chance to go to the State tournament. However that cost money and her folks didn't have the money to send her so she never got to the state competition. I believe she felt she was good enough to maybe have become a pro. The Fern you talk about is mom Alberta's & my aunt Harriet's first cousin. I met her several times as she lived in Crookston when I was a child and we usually stopped to visit her whenever we went to St. Vincent to see my grandparents. My mother is still living and will be 92 in July. To my knowledge she has outlived in age all her family. They all had longevity but most of the elders died in their late 80's.
Mike Rustad then commented:
Alberta was in fact a member of the St. Vincent tennis team. What this demonstrates is that the St. Vincent girls program was fully developed. The girls did not play football or hockey in the late 1920s, but every other sport. The point was that the town followed these teams. I find it amazing that St. Vincent played Neche, Cavalier, Stephen, and towns that were much bigger. I wonder where St. Vincent played their hockey games. Jim Gooselaw, Fred Stranger, Allen Smith, Roy Clow, Manuel Gooselaw, Cecil Smith, Bill MacKay and Ralph Cameron were on the school's hockey team. I have no further information. I think that if I were to get back to Lake Bronson that I could find a great deal more about the St. Vincent school. One of the problems I have being in Vermont is that I don't have ready access to these materials. Maybe one of you could do a field trip to the Kittson County Museum and make some copies of the St. Vincent materials. Another great source would have been the Pembina Museum. I am not referring to that antiseptic boring museum today, The old museum had tremendous numbers of artifacts etc. I asked someone what happened to that stuff and was told that the State has it in storage in Bismarck. What a waste. I think a fellow named Barron had his own private museum in Pembina. [Note from Trish:  Mike is right in this - it was Elmer Barry, and his private museum became the basis of the old Pembina Museum!]  I bet he had tons of stuff on St. Vincent. The shame of having this lost history is that everyone is now deceased or very old who attended St. Vincent High School. We have only fragments to draw from. We must be like archaeologists in trying to construct social history from such scant data. I think who we are is deeply rooted in our history. Going back to far in history for wisdom is like ox-tail soup. It's going back too far for a good thing.
Delphine Mundorf again commented:
My mother as I mentioned is now 92. She & I believe 3 other boys were the only 4 to graduate from the St. Vincent High school all others transferred to Humboldt I believe. I wish I had pd. more attention to Mom's stories but not being a historian I didn't. But I think Mom, Fred Stranger, and a Smith boy & one other graduated from St. Vincent High school. The rest transferred but it cost a tuition to do so & these 4 parents didn't have the money for it. So Mom wasn't going to finish school. One morning she came downstairs and found her mother crying and when My Mom asked Grandma why she was crying Grandma said because I only had a 3rd grade education and you have a chance to graduate and aren't going to do it. So my mother called the boys and asked them if they would be willing to go back to school and they agreed so they showed up in Prof.1 Good's class. Mom said he was so happy to see them he got tears in his eyes, Moms favorite thing she used on us kids was that we better do good in school because she was valedictorian of her class. I wasn't til later we found out she was only 1 of a class of 4, no wonder she was valedictorian. Ha Ha. She also has told me that the professor was so glad they came back to his class that he offered to help each one of them should they decide to further their education. She then went on to Minneapolis and went into nurses training but at her time it didn't cost to go to nurses training you worked some of your education so got the room free and got pd. $12 a month. She made it through the 3 yrs. to become a registered nurse but was never able to take the state boards. Her story all these yrs. was because it cost $12 to take the board exam and she didn't have the money to pay for it nor did her parents. I always asked her why didn't you contact Prof Good since he said he would help any of you. To go through the whole training then not take that final exam to get you certificate is such a waste. She just said Ya I suppose I could have asked him. However I have since very shockingly found out there was a a whole other reason why she never got that final exam.
1 - The use of "Prof.", short for "Professor" was curious to me, since I had only been familiar with it in association with teachers at a university or college level, but here it is used with teachers at a secondary level. I did a bit of research, and it appears to have been common at this time...

Saturday, August 21, 2010

July 4th Parade

July 4, 1890 Parade down main street in Pembina, ND (courtesy of State Archives of North Dakota collection)
I have written about the Pembina July 4th celebrations of old here before. But I never knew St. Vincent also at one time had its own Independence Day festivities.1

Below is a recounting of the 4th of July celebrations in St. Vincent in 1909, as recounted by one J. A. Noyes2, Deputy Collector of Customs, for the St. Vincent New Era...
Where the parade began...
The Parade
(Kindly reported by Deputy Collector Noyes)

The Fourth of July parade as a part of St. Vincent's big celebration was a pronounced success. It was composed of various beautiful floats, several bands of calithumpians3, a number of beautifully decorated carriages and exhibits of farm machinery.

The procession formed at the school house and was led by Mr. President of the day W.J. Mason accompanied by Hon. Mr. Blethen, the Orator. These were followed by the Pembina band which dispensed patriotic music during the entire parade.

The Goddess of Liberty appeared next in the person of Miss Laura Billes being drawn by her Shetland pony hitched to the pony trap. This feature deserves special notice, as the pony harness, trap and the Goddess were all draped in white, the emblem of purity and presented a beautiful appearance.

The Columbia float came next. This contained Columbia, represented by Miss Margurette Cowan, who was surrounded by forty-nine young ladies and girls, dressed in white, each carrying a flag representing the states and territories. The flat was draped in white and drawn by four white horses, driven by Mr. A. Darrach.

Yes, this is a photo of the actual St. Vincent
Bank; written on the windows are the words,
"Farm Loans, Insurance, Real Estate..."

- Photo courtesy of the Gamble Family

Immediately following this came the float of the St. Vincent Bank, this consisted of a raised platform on a wagon beautifully draped with the colors of the day, carrying fifteen little girls dressed in white and laden with wreaths of wild roses; this was one of the beauty spots of the parade.

One feature of the calithumpians that attracted a great deal of attention was a dark complexioned couple, Frankie Buekly and Irvine Hanson, being drawn by a pony hitched to an outlandish low wheeled cart elaborately draped with wisps of hay and appropriate material. Frankie is deserving of much credit as we are informed the idea was his as well as the work of building and decorating the cart.

Mr.  was represented by Charles Kimberly, appearing in clown's costume, pushing a cart appropriately trimmed in green, and containing his little brother suitably dressed for the occasion.

Another pretty feature was six little boys, Harold Taylor, Jay Benuett, Sammy Lapp, Allen Gamble, Harvey Hanson, and Omen Dean, hitched to a finely decorated cart and driven by little Innis Taylor, followed by George Gillespie, Leo and Elmer Arnes, and Dicky Lapp as a body guard.

The colored band4 was another very laughable feature. This band consisting of Gordie Edkins, Dan and George Gooselaw and Roy Russell, under the able leadership of Percy Edkins will no doubt be heard from again.

Other featured of the celebration will be given next week.
Alas, I do not have access to the rest of the story; to my knowledge editions of the St. Vincent New Era for 1909 are not available, even on microfilm. But I'm thankful we could at least hear about this much; it opens a window into another time, a different way of life, and even some different ways of thinking (not all of them positive...) Thank you, Maggie!

July 4th Parade in Pembina (1890)
1 - Recently, I attended the Gamble Family Reunion, where one of the family gave me a copy of the "Maggie Book". I had seen it once before a couple of years ago when I met this Gamble descendant, Alice Jablonski; Alice had the book with her and let me take a quick peek. I could tell even from a glance that it was a treasure trove of information, consisting of clippings, mainly newspapers such as early St. Vincent New Era articles, concerning stories about family members but also area events. During the reunion Alice handed me a manila envelope of various items she wanted me to have, including a high-quality photocopy (many pages in color) of the Maggie Book. I was thrilled! This post came as a result of one of those newsclippings.

2 - J. A. Noyes, the first Deputy Collector of Customs at the U. S./Canadian port of entry at Noyes, MN (named for him)

NOTE: The officers of the Custom House worked for the Collector of Customs. The Collector was assisted by the Deputy Collector, who was mainly responsible for the record keeping in the port.

3 - Calathumpian: Huge, spectacular event or performance. (Canadian archaic) Example: That was one calathumpian parade!

4 - "Colored Band", aka a marching band (often in black-face) performing minstrel type songs, now a relic of a time when racial stereotyping was acceptable entertainment.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Guy Maddin & Me

Maddin's documentary is built on myths and memories
When Maddin agreed to make a film about his became what he calls a “docu-fantasia,” a potent, highly personal blend of fact and fiction. My Winnipeg is a hypnotic vision of a dreamy burg trapped in eternal winter and heavy, hibernating passivity. Shot in gauzy black and white...

From Home Truths
I adore Guy Maddin.

His narration in My Winnipeg strongly resonates with me. It's how I feel about St. Vincent. He talks about the city haunting him in his dreams. How no matter where he is, Winnipeg is right there with him. Boy, do I relate...

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Depot in Decline

Iconic sign still on depot roof...
Photo by Bill Reynolds

While up home for the Gamble Reunion, I stopped at Dad's old place of work, the Noyes, MN depot. There were several customs agents milling about outside as well as railway workers, waiting. I knew why1...

I went into the 'waiting room', and the door to the work area was open. Two men were in there, leaning on the front desk area - the area where the telegraphs used to sit, and later the dispatch phones were. Many a time I saw my Dad with a pad, writing out train orders there. Not far in front was a table with a typewriter back then, one I typed more than one of my first stories on. Yes, even a writer then, although using the hunt-and-peck method (as did my father...)

I greeted the railroad worker, introduced myself explaining my Dad used to work here. I asked his name, and he said it was Zimmerman (but not related to the Darryl Zimmerman my Dad worked with) This guy was surprised he didn't recognize Dad's name since he started in 1979, before Dad retired, but he didn't.  However, he did recognize Steve Skjold's name, who worked with Dad for part of his career. I said it looks pretty bare in here - there was no sign people regularly worked here. He explained it's still used, for Conductors to stop in at and place calls or take calls, use the computer in the old computer room (the one that used to hold all the mainframe terminals and old punch card and ticker tape computer machines that Dad cut his teeth on when they brought in computers in the 1970's).  Everything is automated now, he said, so no need for full-time depot there anymore. "It's centralized out of Fort Worth and Kansas City," he explained. And so it goes...time marches on. The old, iconic NOYES sign is still there though.  One consistent standard that hasn't changed on the depot for many years.  It's comforting and disturbing at the same time to see it still there.  I think I'm gonna contact BNSF and see if I can get that sign if they ever demolish the building.  What would I do with it?  I'd put it on one of our out-buildings, maybe put up some old metal Great Northern signs on the outside siding to go with it.  It'll be part memorial to my father, part acknowledgment of the important role that railways have played in this region (and in my family in general2)

1 - A Canadian National Railways bigwig was about to come through on a private train. Bill and I had been following it ever since the Hill mansion in Northcote - we were just finishing up our exploration there when we heard the trains whistles as it came through various unguarded crossings. We jumped in the car and off we ran to catch it up, after initially watching it pass. I called out to Bill, that's gotta be a private coach, a special train of sorts. As we got on the highway and caught up, we slowed a bit to match the train speed to take a closer look. We could see a man in a suit in the rear of the passenger car, but weren't sure we saw anyone else in it.

2 - Before my father, two maternal uncles (my great uncles - Uncle Dick and Uncle Charlie - brothers to my grandfather) worked for the Great Northern...

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Anatomy of a Town Tragedy - Revisited

Trivia: Slator served his time in same facility he had worked in
I wrote some time ago about a tragedy that hit not only my hometown, but my family.

I also wrote about how I was contacted by the grandson of the man responsible, and through that contact learned some valuable details behind what happened.

But all this time, I have never seen the man's face...until now.

When I was visiting up home recently, an old friend and classmate of mine gave me copies of several pages of a scrapbook her mother had kept of important memories to her family and her hometown area over a period of many years. Included in that scrapbook were many pages of news-clippings concerning my cousins' and uncle's tragic deaths. It was a tragedy that hit the area hard because so many people were involved between the two parts of it, either directly or indirectly. It was difficult for anyone to grasp losing your entire family within a three month period. A pall hung over the area for quite some time, and even to this day, people are moved by it just hearing about it all.

Sunday, August 08, 2010

Overlooked: St. Vincent Centennial

This is what to aim for, just less old-fashioned, pot-luck picnic
It recently dawned on me that I had no idea when St. Vincent officially became a town, versus a fur trading post, fort, or settlement. I contacted the Kittson County Historical Society for the answer, and asked if the town ever had a centennial celebration. They told me that "According to the 50th Anniversary edition of the Kittson County Enterprise it states that the village was organized April 16, 1881. I'm not sure if they ever had a celebration."

No one I've asked can recall a celebration. I was living in southern California at the time, and my parents were heading to retirement, but I'm pretty sure they would have mentioned it. My bet is, the centennial came and went and nothing happened. That's very sad considering the amazing history of my little hometown.

UPDATE: Since I started writing this post, I talked with one of the current town council members. While it's too late for St. Vincent's centennial, it will be the 130th anniversary in 2011.  They are willing to consider a community picnic, perhaps a potluck. Also mentioned was contacting the Brethren and including them early on in the planning, giving them the option of being involved as much or as little as they wish. I think that's a good idea, a very good idea. They have long been a big part of our community and to ignore them would be wrong.

Also, for anyone interested in finding out more about the developing plans for a St. Vincent celebration, there is a Facebook page - St. Vincent 130th Celebration

Thursday, August 05, 2010

Gamble Reunion Report

I had an wonderful time at the Gamble Family Reunion.

Bill and I spent most of Friday on our own around the area, exploring and taking photos. On the way there, we stopped at Northcote, then went on to St. Vincent.

Photo by Bill Reynolds
In between I visited an old classmate and friend, and her husband in Hallock, who put me in touch with a member of St. John's Church there. St. John's was always linked with Christ Church in St. Vincent, both being Episcopal churches who often shared ministers among other things. I learned from a woman associated with the church - which is now down to just a literal handful of congregants - that St. John's has many of the items that used to be in Christ Church. All the pews in St. John's sanctuary are from Christ Church, for instance. Also two ornately carved large wooden chairs on the rise by the altar are from St. Vincent. A cabinet with a glass front containing several silver offertory and communion articles were also from St. Vincent. Downstairs in the basement kitchen was a memorial china plate with a hand-painted image of Christ Church commemorating its 50th Anniversary in the 1930s. The member then showed us a few of Christ Church's books they had possession of. I looked through them and found some fascinating bits of church and town history in them. For example, Rev. Smiythe once made a note about the attendance one Sunday (to account for it being low, I assume) that it was "deer season" - that made me smile!
Photo by Bill Reynolds

In another part of a book, I found my Dad's name listed as one of the 'vestry men' in 1953. Sometime between then and 1959 they began attending Valley Community Church, which eventually became the Evangelical Free Church (now in Pembina). I recently found out that the building that housed that church (my childhood church) in St. Vincent - which was moved to Hallock and is still there not far from St. John's - was once Green's Store in St. Vincent. What a tangled web do buildings and towns have when you dig into their histories!

On Friday, my parents' home was still open, but by Saturday it was not; some time Friday afternoon or Saturday morning, HUD had been there boarding up the two-car garage door (which was open for some reason, no door on it) as well as put padlocks on all the house doors. A good thing, really, because sooner or later someone would be more tempted to vandalize it otherwise. Lucky for me, I was able to get photos and visit one last time, in the nick of time. As Bill and I walked up the sidewalk towards the front door Friday, I said to Bill, it's like it was yesterday I was here on a visit and Mom and Dad should be coming to the door, and I broke down and cried hard for a few moments. My stomach twisted and my heart was was very hard deep inside me to continue but I did it.

Photo by Bill Reynolds
When touring St. Vincent, I finally had the opportunity to visit inside the jail building. It was always a mystery to me and I had often wanted to see inside of it when I was growing up. It has amazing bars of iron on the window of a sort I have never seen before, while the door has the classic old-fashioned flat iron bars. The door is also hung with impressive handmade iron hardware - long, large hinges and a two-piece locking mechanism, part in the door frame and part in the door itself. Bill was very impressed with the workmanship. I'm guessing they very well could have been made by a local blacksmith. The original tin panel ceiling tiles in the two interior rooms of the jail were still in-place. I'd love to get one of them someday when the building comes down.

We also visited the St. Vincent cemetery, and located my parents' graves. I finally saw both their tombstones, side-by-side, Dad's on the north, Mom's on the south - "You are my Sunshine" (Dad), "My Only Sunshine" (Mom)

Friday evening was a meet-and-greet. I had met only Alice before - the cousin who discovered her family through this blog - but never met in person anyone other Gamble member. That all changed quickly!

Saturday, we toured the old Alexander Gamble farm house and homestead, which when I was growing up we knew as the Rodney Webster farm, never knowing it's true origins at the time! Gary Webster, Rodney's son, saw all of us visiting en masse and came out to see what it was all about. We reassured him it was harmless, and we ended up having a good visit with him and he with us. We learned a lot about the land and who owned what and when.

Photo by Bill Reynolds
Later, we tried getting into Christ Church in St. Vincent, having been told the current owner would leave it open, but it was padlocked. After visiting the cemetery, the Gamble family went in caravan to Lancaster and we all ate a late lunch at Dean's Diner. From there we went on to the Kittson County Museum in Lake Bronson. The Museum was having a big fund-raising event, an auction which proceeds all go to benefits the museum. It was just ending when we arrived, and the Gambles asked to see the Gamble Family letters which are now housed there. Cindy Adams, the director, has done an amazing job encapsulating them in Mylar plastic (the tried and true method of preservation where you leave openings on side for air to get in and out) and then presenting them in a binder in plastic archival sleeves. It was amazing to see in-person the original letters. We even saw the one where Alex shares about a baby that was recently lost, a very sad time in the family.

While at the library, Bill and I toured it and saw many fascinating exhibits - it was especially illuminating to see the interior of a trapper's cabin, very small indeed, but logically it made sense that no more room was needed for a single working man under those conditions. We found out the Gamble letters have not been scanned yet, but the family expressed their hope they would be. Cindy said it was a good idea, but it was only a matter of finding the time - I'm sure she is a very busy person! I wish I lived closer - I'd be happy to volunteer. At least I am happy to say, I finally joined the Kittson County Historical Society on Saturday!

Monday, August 02, 2010

Boots on the Ground Research

Originally uploaded by BillRey74
I spent the weekend back home in Kittson County at the Gamble Reunion (more about that in another post, soon...)  I did it in two day-trips both Friday and Saturday, with my boyfriend Bill.  The trip also entailed a lot of local history and genealogy research, as well as exploring of local history, boots-on-the-ground research in Northcote and St. Vincent.  First, Northcote...

The image above is of the Walter Hill mansion1 in Northcote, MN. His father, J.J. Hill, built it for his son, on the Northcote subdivision of the Humboldt Farm. Northcote became its own subdivision (existing before as part of Humboldt's division) in 1910. Several years before that, my own grandmother worked on the farm, as well as my great uncle, her future brother-in-law. Many area men and women worked on the farm, one of the great bonanza farms of its day.

We explored the grounds, coming across an old private bridge way back on the property that crossed the Two Rivers, opening up beyond the large old trees into a huge open yard, with what was once called "...the largest silos in the world."

Down by the river, back a ways through the trees, peeked a brick building right on the banks of the river, by an old dam.  There's no way of knowing, but it's quite possible it could have been a mill, considering it's location.  The dam still works, but it's obviously been neglected down through these many years.  The private bridge and dam, the handful of still visible-but-crumbling outbuildings, are all that remain of a once proud, large working farm.  It was called a 'demonstration farm', showing the world what a farm could do, if run on a large scale, efficiently, and with the most modern design around for its time.  Seeing such greatness in its twilight, faded and all but a ghost, is a very humbling experience.  I could almost swear I could hear the voices of long ago among the rustling of the leaves of the trees...

Walter Hill Farm (Northcote, MN) circa 1930s
1 - An old friend and classmate, Dee Dee Bakken (aka Delores Giffen) told me she used to work for the current owners of the time in the 1970's of the mansion, doing housekeeping. She was able to see the amazing interior, which despite many years past it's prime, still retained enough of it's former glory to dazzle. She talked of immense marble bathtubs you had to step up into, hardwood floors and large staircases, warm wood paneling, etc. I myself spied such things in my exploration - over the basement windows were coverings of concrete and glass with a brass sign labeling it as made by the American Luxfer Prism Co; a safe, seen through a door window at the bottom of a staircase, labeled in large gold-gilt script:
Mattson, MN
Cary Safe Co.
Buffalo, N.Y.
I have no idea if the "Mattson, MN" is named after Hans Mattson, but since we can't find any other explanation, it's as good a theory as any; I did find out there was/is a Mattson Township in Kittson County, but I would find it odd that a safe would be issued from a township and not a town...but who knows!