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!