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 breaking...it 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!