Sunday, November 28, 2010

County Seat Battle

Old Kittson County Courthouse - I must say, it has a lot more style than the current
courthouse building...too bad it couldn't have been saved. Architecturally it was
described as "...a three-story brick building above a high battered-stone basement
with Romanesque tower; unusual half-timbered attic story gables; large chimneys

on each side above medieval corbelled cornice brick." It was once described as
" of the finest county capitols in the northern half of Minnesota."
First 100 Years of Minnesota Bar Association
Kittson County was organized February 25, 1879. The first county commissioners, who were appointed by Governor Pillsbury, designated Hallock as the temporary county seat. However, in 1891, a group of citizens from St. Vincent, circulated a petition to move the county seat to St. Vincent, with a promise to build an $8,000 courthouse. The petition was dismissed by the county commissioners because of the "unauthorization of the circulation of the petition" and that they had no jurisdiction for this matter. 

But the whole story is a bit more interesting than that...

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Church in a Saloon

Presbyterian Church, Pembina, N.D.
(Circa 1900-1909)
- Photo Courtesy:
State Historical Society of North Dakota
Before there was a Presbyterian Church in Pembina, a Presbyterian minister held services in what many would consider a highly unusual place - a local saloon.  However, I think Jesus would approve - he always did like going to where the regular people hung out...

Monday, November 22, 2010

NWMP Arrive in Fort Dufferin

North West Mounted Police trooper from 1870s
[Artist:  R.J. Marrion - Canadian War Museum]

Fort Dufferin was originally established in 1873 by the North West Mounted Police (later the Royal Canadian Mounted Police) - this site was also used by the International Boundary Commission in its mapping of the International Boundary in 1874.

That same year, men were recruited for important efforts even further west, but to get them there, they had to come down into the United States, then back up into Canada (direct travel not yet being practical due to obstacles such as the Canadian Shield...)  The article below chronicles their adventures 'getting there', coming through Fargo, then Fort Dufferin (the modern day Emerson area...)

[A thank you to Jake Rempel of Halbstadt, Manitoba...]

Friday, November 19, 2010

Civil Alert Siren

Town sirens were part of everyday life when I was growing up. We didn't question why a siren would go off at noon, 6pm, and 10pm. It just did.

Now, many years later, I was recently reminded by Emerson resident James McClelland...
I was out for my daily walk on a beautiful fall day. It was approaching noon and just at the precise moment the Emerson fire Siren gave its daily noontime blast.

The blast was no sooner over when I heard the wail of the City of Pembina's fire whistle, three miles distant. I had not been outside at noon for a while and had forgotten about the Pembina wail. Over the years it was clearly heard in Emerson as I recall three times daily. I am not sure if it still gives its three timely signals, but they were noon, six pm and ten pm. At the time Pembina City had a curfew ordinance and this was the warning for all youngsters under sixteen, to get home.

I grew up on a farm five miles north of the border and if the wind was blowing right the Pembina Fire Whistle could be easily heard.
I decided to research it, and found out that there was more to it than we realised...

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Winchester Hotel

William and Georgina (Atkinson) Ardies rented the Winchester Hotel from 
Judge Conmy about 1908 and ran it for many years. This is Georgina and
her daughter Maggie Ardies (scratched-out face) in the kitchen.
[Photo Courtesy: Kent Myrick]
Interior photographs of buildings were not as common a century or more ago as they are today, mainly due to lighting concerns. To come across one of a well-known local business from that time period is definitely a rare treat. The above shot shows the kitchen of the Winchester Hotel in Pembina, originally built by Lucien Geroux1. The photograph was shared with me by a great nephew of the lady on the right, Georgina Ardies.

I didn't realize until I began my recent correspondence with the nephew - Kent Myrick - that the hotel survived as long as it did.  Kent said his father grew up there in the early 1900's...
The Winchester Hotel in Pembina was run by my Dad's "Aunt Eeny", that is, Georgina (Atkinson) Ardies, while my dad was growing up there.
William Ardies was Dad's mother's oldest brother. William's sister Margaret (Ardies) Hensal and her husband George Hensal raised my dad and his brother, (Nathan and Ardies Myrick). She was always called "Auntie Hensal", in the English tradition, instead of using her given name. Probably because the Ardies family came to Pembina by way of Quebec, where they settled when they fled Ireland in the mid-1800s.
She lived in the Winchester for years after being widowed, still lived there in 1949 when we picked her up and took her to live with us. I remember going to that side door of the Winchester which faced Heneman's grocery store.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Manslaughter at Midnight

In March 1899, an altercation occurred late in the evening outside a St. Vincent saloon at closing time.  The end result caused the death of a man...all over a hat and some whiskey...

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Profile: Flora Bockwitz - Sharpshooter

Flora Bockwitz in her youth
[Photo Courtesy: Bob Bockwitz]

This is Flora Elizabeth Woll Bockwitz. According to her grandson, Bob Bockwitz, Flora had a rather unique skill set. She was a sharpshooter...

From a historical essay about her, comes this quote, from a 1971 interview of her son, Virgil Bockwitz:
One of the best lady sharp shooters, Flora Elizabeth Woll Bockwitz pioneered in Kittson County. She could match skills with anyone. She could shoot a cigarette out of her husband's mouth. This trick challenged and excited everyone.

Flora acquired this unusual skill at the age of 15. In her childhood days, such things weren't done by girls. However, this didn't bother Flora. She learned how to shoot and ride horseback better than most boys. She used the shotgun and rifle. Every time her pa went out hunting, she was right behind him.

Even after marriage she kept up this hobby. She and her husband represented some of the leading manufacturers of shotguns and rifle ammunition.

The couple made runs on the Mississippi River steamboats and made showings of their great rifle and shotgun skills. One of the ammunition companies they traveled for was the Peter's Company.
Flora takes aim at
tonight's supper...
[Photo courtesy: Bob Bockwitz]

She could shoot a hundred clay pigeons without missing a shot. She used a .22 calibre rifle in this trick. She could also shoot the tiny briquettes, as they were thrown up in the air.

The neighbors still can see her coming out of her kitchen door and shooting a chicken running across the yard at full speed. She then picked the chicken up and took it in the house and plucked and cleaned it. Then, when the men came for supper they had fresh fried chicken.
I'd say that's pretty impressive...and I'm just talking about the plucking and frying up part - I have a hard enough time having enough energy to defrost meat in the microwave and cook it up after a day's work.  But then, I suppose hard work and hunger are powerful motivators to get a meal made!

Sunday, November 07, 2010

Bronson Dam

April 1936 - Construction on the dam begins! (Photo Courtesy:  Ron Johnson)
Kittson County is naturally lakeless1, which seems odd in a state nationally recognized for its abundant water supply. In the early 1930s, as the Great Depression continued to greatly depress everyone, Kittson County was drier than usual, the region suffering through a terrible drought. As wells dried up and crops withered, officials concluded the county needed a safety net, a water storage facility on the South Branch of Two Rivers, near Bronson (later Lake Bronson). For more than a year, supporters of the plan lobbied the federal and state government for funds for the project. One of the leading voices was the mayor of Bronson, O.T. Danielson. Danielson was joined in the effort by county engineer J.E. Dishington and several other prominent Kittson County residents. It was not until Clifford Bouvette became part of the chorus in early 1936, however, that major progress was achieved.

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Recovered Grave

Gravestone for John Bruce, St. Vincent resident - buried
in old Emerson, Manitoba cemetery (reason unknown)
[Photo Courtesy:  Wayne Arseny]

I recently contacted the mayor of Emerson, Manitoba concerning the upcoming St. Vincent 155th Celebration in 2012.  We got to discussing local history.  He shared this... 
...I was clearing some graves in our abandoned old Emerson cemetery.   It's situated directly east of our current one; abandoned in 1900 because the Bradley Creek made it too difficult to cross due to flooding.. a higher/closer spot was chosen.  The old cemetery was simply forgotten and lays tucked away in heavy bush cover.  The grave I was clearing was from someone who died in 1895… which stated he came from St. Vincent.  My thoughts then were how interesting that someone from there would be buried here...

Monday, November 01, 2010

1870 Fort Pembina Census

The images below are from the 1870 Fort Pembina census. There are several familiar names in the census - Joseph Rolette, Norman Kittson, William Moorhead, Nelson E. Nelson, and even Charley Brown (although for some strange reason it has him listed as coming from Germany - sure, it could be another Charley Brown, but somehow, I doubt it very much...) That mystery aside, it's a fascinating window into the diversity of individuals making up the fort, from the ethnicities to the types of support personnel helping to assist, work with, and care for the soldiers (housekeepers, sutters, doctors, hunters, translators, scouts, etc.)