Sunday, March 21, 2010

Fort Pembina Abandoned

From the Daily Nor'Wester, August 16, 1895

From Frohne & Son History Military:
Established July 8, 1870. Located a mile and a half south of the town of Pembina North Dakota on the left bank of the Red River of the North, just above the mouth of the Pembina River. The Minnesota legislature petitioned Congress for the establishment of a post at Pembina because of the unrest in the Red River Valley and the danger of depredations by the Sioux Indians, who had been driven into Canada some years before. Major General Winfield Scott Hancock recommended the establishment of the post on December 8, 1869. The post served also to check illicit trade between the United States and Canada. Established by Captain Lloyd Wheaton, 20th U.S. Infantry. Originally called Fort Thomas, for Major General George H. Thomas, who died on March 28, 1870. The post was designated Fort Pembina on September 6, 1870. A Large part of the post was destroyed by fire on May 27, 1895, leading to its abandonment on August 16, 1895. The military reservation was transferred to the Interior Department on December 2, 1895, and sold at public auction.
For more on the second infantry regiment - the last regiment stationed at Fort Pembina, see here...

Thursday, March 18, 2010


The heavy rains of early September did nothing to stop the wild prairie fires of October. A constant blue haze filled the sky for the first half of the month. Burning peat bogs in Minnesota also added to their discomfort whenever the wind switched to the southeast. The odor of burning grass, so noticeable at first, became almost acceptable. Lightning was blamed for some fires; but Indians, who, after selling their land at the l863 treaty time, refused to relinquish possession, had purposely set most. All Indians and breeds signing the treaty had been awarded land scrip for 160 acres of farmland, but most had sold the paper for instant cash or booze.

Word of mouth carried the news to St. Vincent that Annie Douglas had given birth to a daughter on October 15. Mary had put aside her feelings of Annie's treachery and Robert's unfaithfulness and discussed the birth in a matter-of-fact way with her mother. They decided to send a layette for the child. No card of thanks arrived from Annie, but none was expected. Mary didn't mind and confided to her mother, "I'm not envious of Annie. If I were, people would think I'm jealous."

The St. Paul & Pacific Railroad announced that the first through train from St. Paul to Winnipeg would pass through Emerson on November 11. Patrick had become incensed about the stories and rumors being circulated, and expressed his thoughts at the supper table.

"Under their contract, the builders on the Canadian side of the line don't have to turn the tracks over to the C. P. R. for another year. Sure, they're opening it early this winter, but for their own profit. You can bet they'll charge an arm and leg. It's no secret that the Hudson's Bay Company, Norman Kittson and Jim Hill own all of the riverboats and have been charging exorbitant prices for freight and passengers -- and the Bay gets a one-third discount. Now it'll be the same with Hill's railroad," he added. "I've already heard that no farmer will be able to rent a boxcar. That leaves only a few grain buyers, either working for, or in cahoots with the St.Paul and Pacific owners.

"I've heard there's only one water tank along the entire 65 miles to Winnipeg," Jerold offered. "Also, the telegraph line hasn’t been completed and there is no turn-around in Winnipeg. Will they have to back the train all the way from Winnipeg to the St. Vincent Y?"

"You bet! There are no sidings or repair shops either, and they've not planned ahead for wood cutters. The wood-burning engines will need plenty of wood and the only timber near the track is scrub poplar." He added grimly, "They'll soon find there's little heat in those trees, even when dry.

"On the plus side for them, it will give the C.P.R. and the St. P. & P. a monopoly on the Winnipeg trade for years to come," said Patrick. "Emerson has grown to 1400 souls and now has two newspapers. It's the gateway to central Canada, but what will happen when the C.P.R. completes its line into Winnipeg from the east, across the Canadian Shield?" He hesitated, then added, "I guess our border here will always be busy; it's a natural entry to the agricultural belt of Canada. But I'm afraid we'll find rate fixing prevalent. Farm machinery prices in Canada will remain high, for the flow will come from Ontario and Quebec. Those eastern manufacturers are protected by the Canadian tariffs on imports."

Because of the constant difficulties and delays experienced by the C.P.R. contractor, Jim Hill, impatient to get the road in operation, loaned the Canadian builder an engine, several flat cars and a pre-built bridge. For this he was assured completion of the C.P.R. section before November 11.

Excitement began to build as the completion deadline grew near. Officials from Emerson ordered flags and bunting. Hill's publicity director assured all that the engine and cars making the first run on November 11 would be highly decorated. It was decided that the final ceremonial spike would be driven at Roseau Crossing, the keynote speaker to be the United States Consul, James Wickes Taylor. 1

The following Sunday morning Kirby arrived to escort Mary to the fort. She had expressed an interest, saying, "If I'm marrying into the Army, I might as well find out what it's going to entail." He arrived with a buggy just as Patrick, Maggy and the boys were preparing to leave for church.

"Want to come along with us, Kirby?" Jerold was teasing, knowing of their plans.

"Not today. I'm in the process of training a future Army wife. We're headed for the fort." He looked confident.

Mary waved to her family as Kirby assisted her step into the buggy. She planned to initiate a heart-to-heart talk with Kirby, wanting to know more about his family and ambitions. She knew he was everything she wanted in a man: he was vibrant, strong, yet tender, humorous and warm. When they married, she knew she would have to make major adjustments to her thinking and way of life.

The Indian summer had carried into late October, delaying the cold weather and giving a false sense of a mild winter to come.

Passing through the village, they prudently sat apart. That ended after they crossed the river on the ferry, then Mary moved close to Kirby, shivering with pleasure as she felt his arm close tightly around her waist. Troubling thoughts came, and she worried about telling him what had happened to her in Orillia. She decided she must be honest. "Kirby, I've got a lot to talk over with you."

"We've the whole day to talk, let's just enjoy this wonderful day." He turned to her, "I hope Army life won't be too hard on you."

Entering the north gate of the fort, he guided the horse to the officer's quarters. Dismounting, he took Mary's hand to aid her step from the buggy. "This is the door to my quarters. We'd better leave the front door open for propriety." He smiled, and then leaned to whisper, "We're probably being watched from behind curtains. The Captain's wife knew I was bringing you out today."

Taking her hand, he led her into his quarters. Mary was surprised to see the parlor nearly bare, equipped only with a suite consisting of a black leather sofa and two leather-covered, stuffed chairs. It did have the customary fireplace she noted. The small sitting and dining rooms adjoining were similarly bare, having but a table and four well-worn oak chairs. There were no pictures on the walls, no curtains on the windows or rugs on the floor.

Kirby saw her look of disappointment. "It's not that bad, Mary; we can replace all this junk. The Army doesn't provide much for bachelor officers. When new furniture arrives, it stops with the top ranking officer, and then gravitates downward over the years." He idly gestured, "That's my kitchen. You can see I seldom use it – the officer's mess is handier. 'Sides that, I'm a lousy cook."

He was smiling as he added, "You'll want to see the bedrooms upstairs. My bed is a single iron cot, but we'll change that."

"Your quarters aren't like home, but they look clean." Kirby agreed. "I hate dirt. My rooms are probably the cleanest of all the bachelor quarters."

"How about your laundry?" Mary was getting an insight into the man she was to marry. She had noticed that he was meticulous in his dress and habits.

"I share an orderly with Shawn. He takes my soiled clothing to the laundry and makes my bed daily. Want to see the bedrooms?" He led the way up the stairs from the parlor.

Mary was satisfied with the two main bedrooms; both were roomy but had only half-sized windows. The third small bedroom had evidently been designed for children. She calculated fresh paint would brighten and make the rooms more livable.

Returning to the parlor, she sat on the sofa, dreading this moment, but Kirby must know the truth. "Kirby, please sit down. After you hear what I'm going to say, perhaps you won't want to marry me. It's not pleasant, but you must know." She hesitated, looking directly into his eyes.

He dropped to the sofa beside her, confused, thinking: What is she going to tell me? Is she going to admit to an affair with Robert?

"I was attacked and nearly raped when I was sixteen."

He caught his breath, "Where?"

"In Orillia, just before we moved here." She went on to describe the attack and her rescue by Ian, all the while fearing his rejection.

His arms went around her, drawing her close. "I knew something was wrong from the way you acted at times, but that's over and in the past. It's something to be forgotten. Never bring it up again. It's done." He reached to lift her chin and observed her tears. Slipping his hand behind her shoulders, he hugged her gently. He could feel the wetness on his cheek.

At that moment a distant bugle sounded. Releasing her, he stood and offered his hand. "That's mess call. Do you feel up to eating with Shawn and our other two lieutenants? I hope you'll not be disappointed with the food. I told the cook I was having company.

Mary wiped her eyes and smiled timidly. "I'm ready."

Shawn greeted Mary as an old friend and introduced her to the junior officers.

Mary made a half-hearted attempt to halt Shawn's introduction, then said, "Shawn, I met these gentlemen last winter at the Christmas Ball. In fact, I distinctly remember dancing with each of them."

When all were seated, an orderly brought a small wooden bucket containing two bottles of wine, encased in chipped ice. Kirby looked around the table. "What's the occasion?"

"We Virginians remember the finer things in life." Shawn replied paternally, "You Yankees are too practical."

"We'll drink to that!" Kirby smiled his thanks to Shawn.

Mary exclaimed over the superb dinner. She recognized dandelion greens among the tomatoes and eggs in the salad. The tender steaks were accompanied by butter fried, button mushrooms. She guessed they had been picked from the horse pasture along the river.

When the dinner was over and the junior officers returned to their duties, Kirby observed Mary conversing in a low tone with the orderly who was clearing the table. The man began to smile, obviously pleased.

Upon their return to Kirby's quarters, Mary noticed their buggy was missing. "Where's our rig, Kirby?"

"I suppose the Charge of Quarters felt sorry for the horse and took it to the corral to be watered. It'll be available when I return you home. Say, what did you whisper to our striker2 that made him so happy?"

"I thanked him for his service and told him to express my compliments to the cook. I suspect you don't eat like this every day."

"That's a fact!" He smiled. "Hopefully, I'll eat well in the future after we're married." He teased, "You'll find the men doing plenty of favors for you. I'll have to keep a sharp eye."

She noticed that when they again entered his quarters, he left the door wide open. She realized the problem of propriety, but the open door was also admitting flies.

Searching for a way to encourage Kirby to speak of his past, Mary asked, "Kirby, where did you learn to dance? Do they teach that at the academy?"

"Heavens, no!" He began to laugh. "I have two wonderful sisters, Marlene, who is two years older than me, and Laura who is three years younger. We taught each other when we were kids. You'll like them and they'll love you. You'll get along famously with my Father and Mother, too."

He looked almost embarrassed. "I guess you could call our family well-off. Father and Mother each inherited from their families and then, too, Father has a successful business. Our home is quite large, but not overly ostentatious." He looked at her seriously. "Mother collects antiques, but recently my sisters write that she's now into paintings." He smiled. "I hope she knows what she's buying."

A knock sounded at the doorway and Mary observed a shadow by the entry. A voice followed. "May I come in?" Captain Collins stepped across the threshold.

"Greetings, Miss McLaren. I hear you two have made plans. Perhaps congratulations are in order."

Mary's smile turned into a blush.

Captain Collins turned to Kirby. "I have a message for you. It just came in on the telegraph." He looked at Kirby apologetically. "I hope it doesn't upset any arrangements you two are making."

Kirby thanked the captain as he left, then sat beside Mary and unfolded the paper. The sudden drawn, disappointed look on his face alarmed her. "What is it, Kirby? What's wrong?"

Stonily, he handed her the message. It was from Washington and addressed to 1st Lt. Kirby H. Ralston, O-11560. It read: Above named officer will report to C.O. Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, not later then 3 January, l879 for staff school. S/Brig. Gen. Meagher. C of S.

"How long does the school last, Kirby?"

"Cripes! It's somewhere between nine and twelve months." He sat quietly for some moments, and then he said, "As much as I wanted to go to this school, the orders have come at a mighty poor time."

"Our marriage can wait, Kirby. It's not forever."

"It is to me." He looked depressed. "You see, Mary, the Army discourages lieutenants from marrying. It isn't considered proper to marry until you reach the grade of captain. The thing is, it's necessary for me to attend this school to ever attain that rank. There are so many officers carried over since the war, and with the constant congressional cuts of the Army, many lieutenants will reach retirement age without ever making captain. He stood and said resignedly, "We'll have to figure something out. I sure hadn't planned on this, although I did mention the possibility."

Mary, thinking it wise to change the subject, stood and suggested, "Let's go see Bob Wilson before we leave. He runs your fort store, doesn't he? He's a friend of Father's and visits us occasionally."

"Sure, he's our sutler. He's located over by the laundry; it's only a short walk."

Bob's store was a large, single-storied building badly in need of whitewash and paint. Entering, Mary saw the building was well stocked with dry goods, hardware, and the necessities of frontier life. Bins of squared nails lay along the floor amid coils of rope. Denim trousers and flannel shirts were stacked on shelves. Adjoining shelves held lye soap and boxes of rifle and pistol shells. Several rifles and shotguns were racked along the wall and a few revolvers lay on a rear shelf, with a cord strung through the trigger guards to prevent pilfering. The odors of pickles, sauerkraut, linseed oil and kerosene were prevalent. Wilson heard them enter and appeared from a rear room.

"Welcome, Mary! Hello, Kirby! Looking for something?"

"I told Kirby I wanted to see your store. I've heard you and Father discussing it." Mary's eyes took in the medicines, harnesses and whips. "It looks like you carry a lot of goods."

Bob nodded. "My trade is mainly with the soldiers and Indians. My biggest sellers are flour, coal oil, sugar and whiskey." He smiled at the two, adding, "I'm only allowed to sell whiskey to the soldiers at certain hours, usually in the evenings. Indirectly, Captain Collins is my boss too." He lifted a box from behind the counter and began filling it with items from the shelves. "Take a look around. There are some Indian artifacts in the rear if you're interested. I get those items in trade occasionally."

Mary's curiosity was satisfied. "We're about to return to St. Vincent, Bob. I'll stop by again when I have more time." She noted the complete lack of fresh fruit and vegetables and determined to discuss it further with Kirby.

Wilson looked up and smiled. "Stop by anytime, Mary. You're always welcome here."

When outside, Mary suggested, "Let's get the buggy and take a drive; I'll fix us supper when we get back to St. Vincent.”

On their return there was little conversation until Kirby volunteered, "Perhaps things will work out so we can be married in April. As it stands, I'll have to live in the bachelor officer quarters at the school or find and pay for my own. We might be able to find a rental house in the town of Leavenworth. It's not a money problem because I've saved nearly all of my pay since graduating from the Academy. It's just that I'll have to attend the school as a single officer. A lieutenant just doesn't rate family quarters."

"Don't worry about it. Whatever happens, I'll be waiting for you. If you are transferred somewhere else after you graduate, I can join you. At least now that we know you're going to be tied up at school, I'll be able to take my teaching examination this coming spring."

"Would you rather we marry before I leave for the South?" Kirby looked at her hopefully.

"Please don't rush me, Kirby. You know I made up my mind not to marry until I'm eighteen. It's only a few months away and it sounds like I'm being difficult, but that's the way I want it. I love you and will marry you then."

"At least we'll have two months together before I leave. Maybe you'll change your mind."

She remembered her narrow escape from entanglement with Robert on that Christmas day, and smiled evasively. "No, not likely, I'm as strong-willed as my Mother."

Kirby knew he was pushing, but she didn't object to his hand caressing her waist. The fragrance of her hair and contact with her warm body intensified his interest and she seemed receptive; she squeezed closely to him.

The wind had strengthened as they approached the trees near the ferry. Gusts sent clusters of leaves whirling down and dappled spots of sunshine danced on the ground. Mary noticed that some branches were almost denuded, a sure sign of approaching winter. She realized this was as near as she had ever been to a disagreement with Kirby. He was a calm, quiet man, but firm on his views as to Army life. She knew she had no legitimate reason to protest his immediate desire for marriage.

1 - ...Taylor became a promoter of the agricultural potential of the Hudson’s Bay Company territories. Through the St Paul Advertiser he familiarized the public with their resources and referred constantly to the relationship of that region to Minnesota. “Here is an object,” he wrote in 1857, “which removes our destiny from the insignificance of a frontier state, making our rivers and railroads the through fares to and from regions . . . destined to be an Empire in population and resources before the termination of the century.” That same year Lorin Blodget published Climatology of the United States, and of the temperate latitudes of the North American continent . . . (Philadelphia), which included statistics and observations on the climate and resources of the HBC territories. According to Blodget, the capacity of the region for agriculture and settlement had been “much underrated and greatly misunderstood.” Taylor and the Minnesota expansionists saw in Blodget’s book the scientific basis for their own contentions regarding the agricultural possibilities of the territories, as well as reinforcement for their efforts in arousing support for American annexation of the northwest.

In 1859, at the request of the governor of Minnesota, Henry Hastings Sibley, Taylor visited the Red River settlement (Man.). His report recommended the extension of the Reciprocity Treaty of 1854 to the British territories in the northwest. He believed that commercial advantages would accrue to the United States without the necessity of annexation. That year he was appointed a special agent of the Department of Treasury to investigate trade and transportation between the United States and the HBC territories. (He remained in the post until 1869.) At the time of his appointment, the Reciprocity Treaty was under attack by American timber, grain, transportation, and manufacturing interests. To counter the attack Senator Henry Mower Rice of Minnesota secured approval from the department for a study of the treaty by Taylor. In 1860 Taylor commented favourably on reciprocity and recommended its extension to the territories and British Columbia. In 1862 he provided a more detailed study in which he outlined the mutual value of the treaty and the potential market that existed to the northwest. He urged that no unnecessary restrictions be imposed on existing trade. The commercial ties already in place, added to the dissatisfaction of the inhabitants of the Red River settlement with the rule of the HBC, would lead to a popular movement for the colony’s entry into the United States. Although the Reciprocity Treaty was abrogated by the United States in 1866, the House of Representatives that year asked Taylor to examine the commercial relations between British North America and the United States. Taylor’s report, presented in June, associated the destiny of the British North American colonies with a transcontinental railway. He was confident that neither Britain nor the proposed confederation would construct such a line. At the same time he drew up a bill providing for the entry of the colonies and the HBC territories into the United States. The bill was submitted to the House of Representatives but died in committee.

Like all the Minnesota expansionists, Taylor believed that the instrument of annexation was the railway. He was convinced that, if the HBC territories could be made dependent for transportation and trade on St Paul, Canadians would be reluctant to build a transcontinental railway across the inhospitable country north of Lake Superior, and the territories would eventually fall into the political orbit of the United States. In 1857 he had become secretary of the Minnesota and Pacific Railroad Company, which was to build from St Paul north to the international boundary. Taylor was the railway’s most active publicist, always stressing its anticipated role in advancing Minnesota’s commercial destiny. The railway fell short of its initial expectations and in 1862 its charter was transferred to the newly organized St Paul and Pacific Railroad. Taylor became an energetic supporter of this new line.

From Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online

2 - A term commonly used at this time analogous to the word 'orderly' - see it used in this article about the same time period...

Monday, March 15, 2010

Terratorial Aquisition: 1818

The treaty marked the last permanent major territorial loss of Continental United States, the northern most tip of the territory of Louisiana above the 49th parallel north, known as the Milk River in present day southern Alberta. Britain ceded all of Rupert's Land south of the 49th parallel and west to the Rocky Mountains, including the Red River Colony [of which our area was considered part of, at that time - Trish Lewis]

From Treaty of 1818

Friday, March 12, 2010

Lake Agassiz

Pembina River--The Pembina River flows from the northern part of Turtle Mountain in a rather crooked easterly course through southern Manitoba and the edge of North Dakota about 130 miles, measured in a direct line, to its mouth at Pembina and St. Vincent. From its junction with the outlet of Pelican Lake to Walhalla, at the base of the First Pembina Mountain, its valley varies from 175 to 450 feet in depth. Rock Lake and Swan Lake, on this part of the river, each several miles long and from a half mile to 1 mile wide, are due to deposits brought into this valley by tributaries after it ceased to be the avenue of drainage from the Souris basin. In crossing the Red River Valley the Pembina runs in a channel only 20 to 40 feet deep. Its descent from the northern base of Turtle Mountain to Walhalla is about 700 feet, and thence to its mouth 186 feet, its junction with the Red River being 748 feet above the sea. Long or White Mud River, Clear Water or Cypress River, and Tongue River are its chief tributaries, all from the south side.


Humboldt is a station of the Great Northern Railway, about 7 miles southeast of St. Vincent, at the farm of Mr. D. H. Valentine, on which this well is situated. It is on the flat plain of the Red River Valley, 6 miles east of the river and 5 miles south of the international boundary. The elevation of the surface is 792 feet above the sea, being a few feet above the highest flood stage of the Red River. On account of the saltness of its water, an analysis of which is given in Chapter X, the well is not used.

Prof. N. H. Winchell has reported this section,(14) shown by samples from the boring, a summary of which is as follows:

Drift deposits here reach a depth of 180 feet, below which are 458 feet of strata referable to the Trenton, Chazy, and Calciferous series of the Lower Silurian system. Next beneath the drift is a thick formation of magnesian limestone, shown by comparison with the other wells to be the Galena and Trenton strata, classed together as one formation under the second of these names by Whiteaves and Tyrrell, which outcrops at a distance of 75 to 85 miles northward, in the vicinity of Lower Fort Garry and East Selkirk, Manitoba. Its top and bottom at Humboldt, however, are respectively 612 and 317 feet above the sea, the entire formation here being thus beneath the level of Lake Winnipeg. In southeastern Minnesota, southwestern Wisconsin, and adjoining portions of Iowa and Illinois, the Galena and underlying Trenton limestones together range from 200 to 300 feet or more in thickness. The sandstone next below, having a thickness of 71 feet, is evidently the equivalent of the St. Peter sandstone, referable to the Chazy epoch, which in southeastern Minnesota underlies the Trenton limestone, and ranges in thickness there from about 75 feet to 164 feet. Its continuation in Wisconsin, as described by Chamberlin and Irving, averages probably between 80 and 100 feet thick, varying from a maximum of 212 feet down to a fraction of 1 foot. In this and adjoining States, according to Irving, it is continuous "over a region whose diameters are 500 and 400 miles."(15) Beneath this the Humboldt well penetrated 92 feet of shales, partly arenaceous and calcareous, which correspond to the Lower Magnesian or Shakopee limestone of southeastern Minnesota, ranging from 96 feet in thickness at Shakopee to 200 feet in Houston County, while in Wisconsin it is from 65 to 250 feet thick. The reports of the geological surveys of these States regard this formation as of Upper Cambrian age, but Walcott, in his more recent review of the Cambrian,(16) assigns the Lower Magnesian limestone wholly or mainly to the base of the Lower Silurian system. Its eastern equivalent is the Calciferous sandrock of New York. The entire Cambrian and Algonkian systems are wanting in this section, and the Lower Silurian strata rest directly on the Archean crystalline rocks.

From The Glacial Lake Agassiz,by Warren Upham

Tuesday, March 09, 2010


On Sunday morning Ian sat in a buggy outside the Catholic Church in Pembina. He was waiting for Susan, who was attending early mass. Not a cloud marred the sky, and already the temperature was climbing. Although it promised to be a beautiful September day, Ian realized it might be a hot one. Susan had assured him that mass would be over by 8 a.m., and that she would bring the lunch for their planned picnic. Kirby had invited them to a tour of the fort, and after that stop they intended a leisurely lunch to the south, near the river. Ian found himself looking forward to Kirby's guided tour of the fort complex. His only other occasion to visit the fort had been prompted by the hanging of the two horse thieves.

Promptly at 8 o'clock the high double-doors of the church opened and people began straggling out. Susan was one of the first to appear; she was carrying a reed basket. Marguerite followed closely behind, breaking away from a conversation with two other ladies. When Ian waved from the buggy, both girls broke into warm smiles.

He admired their stylish dresses, knowing well that each of the girls made their own clothes due to limited finances. It was obvious that they were talented seamstresses. Susan had mentioned various individuals who owned the new Singer or White sewing machine. At the time he had been touched by her apparent desire for one. She had said, "I'll have one someday . . . I hope!" It was then he determined to get her a Singer as soon as they were married.

He had already contacted the Icelandic carpenter from South Pembina about the building of their new house. Complying with Susan's wish, he had purchased two lots only a block north of Grant's house and a short distance from his father's. Johanneson had assured him that he would be available to begin construction in early October.

Now that the harvest was completed, he'd sell his wheat to either LaMoure or Myrick, whichever buyer offered the higher price. He would hold back only enough seed for next year's crop.

"We can give Marguerite a ride to the ferry, can't we, Ian?" Susan and her sister were already crowding into the narrow buggy seat beside him.

"Sure, we have all day." Susan squeezed tightly against him to make room for her sister, forcing Ian to lean forward to speak with Marguerite. "Will you be seeing Charley this afternoon?"

She nodded. "We're going fishing after lunch."

"I'm going fishing, too." Susan smiled at Ian. "I'm after a big lunker, a 180-pounder." She squeezed Ian's knee, then turned to wink at her sister.

"Watch out! You may catch him. Then what'll you do?" Ian grinned.

"Just watch me." Susan nudged her sister. They exchanged mischievous glances.

Descending to the toll bridge across the Pembina, Ian paid the 5-cent fee. Three hundred yards further along the road, he reined in at the top of the hill, just above the Red River ferry. Several men were bathing on the opposite side of the river, just below the ferry landing. All appeared to be naked except one. He had evidently decided to wash his clothes the easy way. He appeared fully dressed. Ian was puzzled. The man looked to be either Brogan or Murphy; they looked much alike. Still, he couldn't be positive because of the distance. One thing was sure; it was a big man with a full, dark beard.

Just below Ian's buggy, several Indians were lazing about on the side hill. Two stood at the edge of the river, apparently fishing.

After dropping off Marguerite, Ian and Susan drove leisurely to the fort. Ian noted that although it was late in the season, the grasshoppers appeared unusually thick. He hoped there wouldn't be a problem with them in the coming year.

Stopping in front of the officer's quarters, he recognized Shawn Kirkpatrick. Shawn was seated on the veranda with a young lady, their closeness apparent. As their buggy drew near, Shawn stood and approached the four-wheeler.

"Is Kirby around, Shawn? He promised us a tour of the fort this morning."

"He's next door at headquarters. Can I be of assistance?" Shawn turned to pass a rueful look toward his female companion.

Ian almost laughed aloud, knowing Shawn was stretching his courtesy to the limit. "No, I've been to your office before, I'll find him." He could see the obvious relief on Shawn's face; also the young lady was smiling.

Taking Susan's hand, Ian helped her from the buggy and together they approached the headquarters steps. The door suddenly opened and Kirby stepped out. "Hello! . . . My
favorite folks! So you finally took me up on my offer."

Ian grinned. "We want the quick tour, Kirby. We've brought a picnic lunch and plan to take the road south along the river."

"Oh, yes, I've heard all about those romantic spots overlooking the muddy Red." Kirby winked at Susan.

She found herself blushing as Kirby laughed aloud. Then he thrust out his arm. "Let me be your escort Susan. We'll lead like the Indian bucks do. Ian can follow as the squaw."

To Ian, the fort buildings seemed well constructed. They formed three sides of a square, the officers’ quarters being on the south side. The east side facing the river was open, and he noted three brass cannon neatly lined up, facing east.

The circuit took nearly an hour, and it soon became obvious to Kirby that both Ian and Susan were anxious to leave. Having detected their impatience, he roguishly said, "You must stay for dinner at the officer's mess. I heard we're having steaks today."

Ian realized his leg was being pulled. "Sorry, Kirby, we're kind of in a hurry to see the southern vistas."

Kirby grinned, then slapped Ian on the shoulder. "I have a confession to make. I'm in a hurry myself. I'm to eat dinner in St. Vincent with a beautiful woman."

After leaving Kirby, Ian and Susan took the river road along the bush. Ian asked casually, "Just where are we going?"

Susan smiled and squeezed close to him. "The spot we're to look for is supposed to be two miles south of the fort. Marguerite and Charley come out here often, sometimes to fish, but I guess mostly to have privacy from the townspeople. There's an old dugout somewhere along the trail according to Marguerite. She said that about a half mile further on, the riverbank is covered with wild ferns. That's where she and Charley go."

"It's going to be a grand day." Ian was looking to the sparse fleecy clouds that dotted the sky. "Maybe a storm later; it's shaping up to be hot.”

"Think so?" Susan's eyes followed his gaze upwards.

He didn't answer, but turned to admire her upturned face, the smooth golden skin and her stylish bonnet, cut short in the rear to allow her two heavy braids to flow over her shoulders. Lordy, how he loved her! Soon she would be his wife.

The winding road swept around a mile-long curve, but a strip of willows, elms and high-bush cranberry thickets obscured the river from view. Gradually the trees thinned and several hundred yards of open prairie occasioned a view of the river.

Three deer suddenly burst from a patch of trees, their white tails bobbing up and down as they ran south across the clearing.

At the highest point of land just ahead, a mound of sod with a protruding stovepipe indicated the location of the abandoned dugout they sought. After stepping down from the buggy, Ian snapped an iron weight to the bridle of the horse. Carefully descending the embankment they inspected the crude house built into the side of the riverbank. The door hung askew, one leather hinge rotted away. The rough board floor inside had once been usable, but was now barely visible. It was almost entirely covered with dry dirt that had sifted from the walls. Viewed from the interior, the sagging roof looked dangerous. Pale, sun starved weeds grew from every crevice. A small cast iron stove, badly rusted, lay twisted to the side. Parts of the walls and the ceiling were black with soot.

Susan shuddered involuntarily. "Imagine anyone living in a hole like this? The roof is only of poles and brush."

"It didn't cost anything, except for the boards on the floor. It was a big room once, almost sixteen feet square. Looks like Indian work. Let's get out of here, it may be loaded with fleas."

"Can't we leave the buggy here, Ian? It's such a beautiful day. We can walk the last half mile."

Ian walked to the buggy to pick up the blanket and the reed basket. Then his eyes turned to the basket. It was shaped like a turtle, complete with legs and head. It even had a curved cover, cleverly interwoven to duplicate the markings of a turtle. Tipping it slightly to admire the work, he remarked, "Where did you find this? The work is amazing. In fact, it's almost unbelievable."

Susan tossed her head proudly. "Mother made it. She learned to do it when she was young, when she lived along the Minnesota River. She dyed the colored reeds in the old Indian way, using berries and heaven only knows what else."

They crossed several old buffalo watering trails leading to the river before finally arriving at the area of ferns. Turning downhill, they found a natural bower, partially shaded by willows. Susan took the blanket from Ian's arm and spread it on the ground. Lying down, she beckoned with her finger. Ian dropped to her side and kissed her hungrily.

Susan had planned this picnic and for this moment. Her passion came as a rushing flood. She wanted to be under him, his chest against her breasts. She took his mouth with long, melting kisses and felt her whole body aching intensely. She didn't want to fight this urge and yearning for him any longer. She wanted to surrender to her feelings.

Then she felt Ian release her. He sat up and looked at her seriously. "We've got to wait, Susan.”

"For what?" She sat up, suddenly angry. "No more waiting! You've kept me on tenterhooks for months. Have you changed your mind about marrying me?"

"Heck, no!" He turned to rummage in the basket. "Hey, you've brought two bottles of wine."

Moments passed and her anger faded. She removed the braids from her hair, then lay back on the blanket and suggested, "Open one for us."

Working with his jackknife, Ian cut out the cork and handed the bottle to her. "You get first lick."

Susan felt bits of cork on her tongue and wiped them away with the back of her hand. Raising the bottle, she took a sip, all the while thinking, I hope it's strong. He's got too many inhibitions. Returning the bottle to him, she watched as he drank freely from it. She was secretly glad for his long swig.

Wiping his lips, he said, "Not bad. What's it made from?"

"It's chokecherry. Mother made it."

Setting the bottle down carefully, he lay back beside her, locking his hands behind his head. A Blue Heron flew close by, silently skimming the water. Suddenly the bird caught sight of them and, startled, veered away.

Susan raised up to lean over him, smiling impishly. Lightly brushing his lips with her finger, she kissed him gently, and then began probing his lips with her tongue.

Aroused, he returned her caresses. She could feel the sensations of his arousal.

His hands reached to each side of her face, cradling it gently as he rolled her to her back, still maintaining the contact with her lips. Slowly he began unbuttoning the buttons of her blouse. Now his kisses were on her cheeks, her neck, and finally he was nuzzling her bared breasts. His lips finally contacted a sensitive nipple, driving her nearly wild with passion. Sliding her hands from the hard muscles of his back, she squeezed her fingers between them and began unbuttoning his shirt. She began shivering with anticipation as she felt his response against her thigh. Feeling his hand at her skirt, she aided him with the side buttons, then raised and thrust her skirt from her legs. Pulling him tightly to her, she kissed him almost frantically as he fumbled at her thighs, tugging at her chemise.

Looming over her, and surprised at the tightness, he hesitated, only to find her raising herself to thrust violently against him. Her response was instant, gaining in intensity as she opened her legs fully and he came into her. Her sharp cry of pain was barely audible, transferred to him only when she bit his lip in a paroxysm of fervor. Then her sounds were muted to a gentle moan.

Their coupling became violent as their contact was fully culminated. Her climax began as a long, lovely sensation with an indescribable ending of glorious feeling. Their thrusts continued as a dying feeling until there was nothing left.

Not wanting to part with him she locked her legs with his. She felt as if the beautiful feeling would have no end.

Ian noted the perspiration that gleamed on her forehead and temples. Her long dark hair, disarrayed, framed her oval face. She whispered, "I knew loving you would be wonderful!"

She finally released her legs and teased. "Now we can do this for the rest of our lives."

He cradled her head and kissed her again. Then, after long moments, he said, "I've been saving the best news until now. Johannason has promised to start our house in October. Pa and the boys will help. One problem though -- it’s our marriage. Why don't we get married next Sunday? I want a quick wedding, not a big wedding, and nothing fancy."

The sudden enthusiastic look on his face troubled her. "Where will we live until the house is ready?"

"I'll find something; but if all else fails, we can stay at one of the hotels. It'll only be for a month or two."

She struggled to get up from under him. "Let me up. Gosh, you're heavy." She laughed as she regained her feet. Then, reaching up, she stripped the chemise off over her head. Turning, she faced him proudly. She was fully naked and unashamed. "Look at me! I've never shown my breasts to a man before. This is what you're getting. Will it be enough for you?"

He had never before seen anything as beautiful. Her slender figure was perfect, firm, with curves in the right places. Her breasts jutted out regally and her entire body was without a blemish. While he watched in awe, she turned and walked the few steps to the river's edge. Her dive into the water was perfect, and it was long moments before she surfaced. When she did, she was nearly in the center of the river. She beckoned him with her hand.

Removing his remaining garments, Ian stepped from a weathered log and joined her. Although he prided himself on being a good swimmer, he found she was like an otter in the water. Try as he might, he could not catch her. Each time he nearly overtook her, she submerged and reappeared some distance away, always with a smile that encouraged him to try again. For several minutes they frolicked in the water, feeling, kissing and teasing until they suddenly became aware of a thrumming sound of a steamboat approaching from the south.

Susan was suddenly startled. "Ian, what'll we do?"

He grinned, "We'll just stay in the water and cover our faces with our hands. It's too late to get to shore."

Standing neck deep near the shore, with only their heads showing, they were subjected to cheering and ribald remarks as the boat came dangerously near them. Both Ian and Susan heard one man cry out, "It's Ian McLaren!"

When the boat was out of sight around the bend, they went ashore, laughing about their experience. Sitting on the blanket to dry, Susan turned to him coquettishly. "Someone recognized you."

"All the more reason to get married soon," he teased.

She fluffed her hair, and then she said, "Well, the priest won't marry us, that's certain. You're a Protestant. Who'll we get?"

"How about Reverend Scott? He's Presbyterian, and broadminded."

"Come here!" She crooked her finger at him. The sun had nearly dried them and the blanket was warm. Arching her neck to him, she reached for his shoulders and drew him down. Her undulations brought an immediate response. She felt his intentness as he took her again.

Lolling and caressing, they finally turned to the lunch, finishing the first bottle of wine, then the second. Susan was surprised at how well they fit together. Her head rested on his arm, her face turned toward him as he fell asleep. She studied every detail of his face -- his firm, straight nose, dark, long eyelashes and curved eyebrows. His lips were parted a fraction, almost tempting her to kiss him. She felt a fierce possessiveness. He's mine and only mine. I'll never give him reason to stray. She wrapped her arm around his waist. Within minutes she too succumbed to the fatigue of their loving and the swimming. They both slept.

The gradual buildup of clouds went unnoticed, and it was not until a faint rumbling began in the west that they awoke. Hurriedly dressing, they repacked the lunch basket and folded the blanket. They climbed to the top of the hill and saw a towering thunderhead moving rapidly toward them from the northwest. The temperature began dropping noticeably, and the wind brought a sudden chill. The leading edge of the storm clouds looked gray-white in color and were rolling wildly. Grasping Susan by the hand, Ian said, "We'll have to run for it. It looks like hail. If it is, the mare won't stand. She'll go wild and head for home."

They ran the half-mile in frantic haste, reaching the buggy just as the gray wall of the storm front was only a quarter-mile away. The wind suddenly reached almost hurricane force as Ian struggled to unhitch the horse. He pointed to the dugout and shouted to Susan, "Open the door. I'm going to get the mare inside." He had trouble, for the animal balked at the dark entrance. Handing the reins to Susan, he urged, "Pull on them. I'll slap her backside." At that instant the first huge hailstones came pelting down. The animal panicked and jumped through the doorway, nearly trampling Susan.

In the semi-darkness Ian held Susan closely as they watched huge hailstones cover the ground outside. Ian remarked in wonder, "It's sure late in the season for hail. Some of those hailstones are large enough to cause serious injury to a man or animal. We're lucky to have found this place. We could have gotten under the buggy, but we would have had to let the horse go home. She might have been cut badly. Call it a hunch, but I figured something would come out of this heat today." Running his hand through Susan's luxuriant hair, he added warmly, "Something wonderful did happen, didn't it?" He tilted Susan's head to kiss her again. Their contact began another surge of passion and

Susan finally drew back, adding with humor, "Not in here, Ian; you'll have to wait!"

After several minutes of hail the rain began, coming down in torrents. Ian sounded mollified. "Thank the Lord the crop is in and the field work is nearly done. Now all we have to do is wait for it to quit raining."

"What time is it?"

"About five o'clock, I guess. Let's wait an hour and if it doesn't let up, we'll have to leave. We've got to get to the ferry before dark. We don't want to get stuck on this side of the river.

Their eyes became accustomed to the dim light and Ian could see his horse near the back wall. The animal was morosely studying the two humans. Rummaging under a crude bench Ian found a wooden bucket with a missing stave. Turning it upside down near the entrance of the dugout, he sat down and drew Susan onto his lap.

When they judged it was long after 6 o'clock, they decided to brave the rain. While backing the horse between the shafts of the buggy, Ian quipped, "We'll look like drowned rats when we get to your place. My fault -- I should have put the top on the buggy." With a wry grin, she answered, "Golly, the rain is cold."

"Come on, climb up and put the blanket over you. It'll get soaked but it'll help some."

The mare, sensing home, a barn and feed, struck out at a brisk trot, occasionally attempting to break into a gallop. Ian was forced to hold her back. Her splashing hooves threw gobs of mud onto them as they huddled together under the blanket.

Within a half hour they were at the ferry, only to find the barge on the opposite side of the river. The rain had diminished somewhat, but Susan was shivering from the cold even though Ian held her close. Almost a quarter hour elapsed before the ferry returned and Ian quickly drove the buggy aboard, then he dismounted to pay the operator. In a hurry to cross the river, he assisted the ferryman by cranking on the propelling winch.

When they drove off the ferry, Ian smiled. "Did you see the look on the face of the ferry operator? We must have looked guilty as hell."

They found Annette the only one at home. She remarked over Ian's wet clothes and began hunting dry apparel for him.

Susan went upstairs, then almost immediately called down, "Ian, come upstairs. You can remove your wet clothes in my room."

Ian was embarrassed, wondering what Annette would think of her daughter urging him up to her room. At the top of the stairs Susan grasped his arm and led him into her small bedroom. She saw the questioning look on his face and smiled. "While you put the horse away, I told Mother we were getting married next week. She's in shock, but happy for me.

Seconds later Annette appeared at the door with clothing. Ian was embarrassed and stood behind the door as she passed them to Susan. He heard her say, "They should fit. They're Pete's, but they're clean."

Descending the stairs together, they entered the kitchen. Annette was filling coffee cups at the table. Placing the pot back on the stove, she approached Ian to embrace him warmly. For long seconds she held him, and then backed away smiling. "I always wanted a son!"

Leaving his horse in Grant's barn for the night, Ian walked home. The rain had finally ceased, but his boots sank deeply into the mud at every step. The pungent odor of skunk hung in the damp air; he guessed a dog must have roused it. Entering the back porch, he removed his boots and wet socks. All eyes were upon him as he entered the kitchen. The sudden warmth and smell of fresh baked bread seemed a glowing welcome. His father was sitting at the table fingering a coffee cup, while Mary and his mother bustled around the oven. When Jerold, Knute and Mike appeared from the living room, a smile came to Ian's face. He wondered what their reaction would be to his announcement. Before anyone could speak, he said quietly, "Susan and I have decided not to wait any longer. We're getting married next Sunday. We want a small, quiet wedding with just our two families."

The smiles that appeared on all of their faces seemed enough reward. His mother and Mary immediately seized him in an affectionate hug. His father slapped him on the shoulder as the boys took turns shaking his hand. Ian knew that with all the questions to follow, and the planning to be done, he would get little sleep this night.

Later, lying in bed, he didn't know that a luckier man ever existed.

The following Sunday morning after church, Reverend Scott followed the two buggies of the McLaren family back to their home. Upon their arrival, Maggy suggested, "Why don't you two have the wedding service on the lawn after we have coffee? The sun is out and it's a lovely day. It's so crowded inside."

"I'd like that." Susan was smiling as she turned to Ian.

Ian looked to her admiringly. She seemed more beautiful than ever. Her glossy hair hung loosely over her shoulders, reaching almost to her waist. Her dark eyes seemed to have a special sparkle and her facial features seemed serene. He knew that her dress, fine green cambric, while stylish, was her best go-to-church-dress. The wide white belt emphasized her narrow waist, and the high lace collar at her neck was trimmed with a white silk ribbon. A single strand necklace of imitation pearls complemented her smooth neckline.

Minutes later they all moved outdoors to the front lawn. Annette stood beside Susan as the ceremony began. She had beckoned insistently to Pete, indicating that he should stand beside her. He seemed reluctant at first; then a smile of pride came to his face; he stepped forward to join her. Joseph Grant had failed to appear.

Marguerite stood hand in hand with Mike. He had timidly approached her and reached to grasp her hand. She had a smile on her face, a look of eagerness and enthusiasm.

Kirby and Mary stood to the side, Kirby's arm around Mary's waist, his smile soft and loving. She felt a warm sense of pleasure and arched her neck back to look at him from time to time. Pressing close to him, she hoped her mother would not notice her aggressiveness. Her dress had a flattering tightness; her hair, combed back, was tied into two braids that extended far down over her shoulders.

Maggy had a proud serene look, completely composed. Her dress was tailored and her smooth hair was gathered and curled upwards at the edges. Patrick was wearing his only suit, the heavy wool Chevoit he had reluctantly purchased for the Christmas Ball at the fort. He looked uncomfortable, as the suit was excessively warm and had a stiff celluloid collar. It was obviously irritating his neck, making him twist from side to side. Maggy noted his movement and reached to grasp his hand, squeezing it tightly. She smiled at him reassuringly.

Jerold stood to Ian's right, clenching the wedding ring tightly in his hand. He was almost jealous of his brother, for Susan was more than just beautiful. She was his dream girl. Someday I hope I can be as lucky as Ian. She's everything I'd want in a wife. His imagination went as far as wishing that Susan had a younger sister.

Knute, a six-foot beanpole now, was dressed in new trousers and a white shirt. His devotion, never to be returned, was to Mary. He was forced to admit to himself that he was too young for her, and that he really liked Kirby. The lieutenant always treated him as an equal in their everyday discussions, especially topics involving farming and animals -- Knute's two main interests.

Maggy found tears forming in her eyes. Land o Goshen, why am I crying? I've just gained another daughter, a beautiful, talented daughter. She had long ago forgotten Susan's heritage; why, she was almost another Mary.

In minutes the ceremony was over; and after the hugging, kissing and hand shaking, the family moved into the house for the family dinner. It was at the table that Patrick provided a surprise. He passed an envelope down the table to Ian, and then waited expectantly. Ian looked puzzled, holding the envelope for long moments.

Susan smiled at him. "Well, open it, Ian. Don't keep us in stitches."

Ian began smiling as he examined the contents. Then he held up two slips of paper. "Two return-trip tickets to Winnipeg on the boats. They are for the Cheyenne." His eyes widened. "Gosh, it's for the Cheyenne that leaves Pembina at 4:30 this afternoon!" He turned to Susan. "Will we have time to make it?" She nodded, and then she turned to wink at Patrick. It became apparent to all that she had been in on the secret. Leaning over, she whispered in Ian's ear, "That's the same boat that passed us in the river last Sunday."

Ian laughed aloud, puzzling everyone. Hugging Susan closely, he whispered back, "That's our secret."

Mary interrupted, "Just think, Ian. You'll miss a wild shivaree tonight." She had a sly look on her face.

He smiled, "Knowing you all, it'll happen after we return."

Before Reverend Scott left the house, he called the newlyweds aside, to say, "This is my last advice to you. Never allow a break between you two to gather time. Mend it before everything is lost!"

Patrick and Maggy escorted the couple to Pembina in plenty of time to catch the Cheyenne. Ian's final words were, "Give us four or five days, Pa. When we get back, we'll be staying at Geroux's Hotel until our house is ready."

Monday, March 08, 2010


I'm about to post the next chapter of BORDERTOWNS, but before I do, I'd like to share a review of the book by James McClelland.

James, a retired school teacher who is passionate about local history, lives in Emerson, Manitoba. Over the years his knowledge of local history has resulted in several articles, historical essays, and TV documentaries that reflect the pioneering spirit of the Red River Valley...

Border Towns
Charles H. Walker
PublishAmerica 2009

Border Towns was the last novel written by local author Charles (Chuck) Walker. A life time resident of Pembina, North Dakota, Chuck held a deep passion for and knowledge of the local history of the area. This extended to both Canada and the United States. Border Towns reveal both that passion and that knowledge. Chuck passed away soon after Border Towns was released in 2009.Seldom are actual small towns used as settings for novels. Settings are usually fictionalized. They combine the various elements of real life but are constructed to meet the author’s requirements for authenticity. It is therefore somewhat unique that Charles Walker’s Border Towns, is set in three historically accurate existing small towns. Set during the late 1870’s Walker presents a realistic and historically accurate depiction of life along the Canada / United States border when settlers were moving into the area. Emerson, Manitoba, St. Vincent, Minnesota and Pembina, Dakota Territory, are the setting for story that is played out on backdrop of the building of the railway between Winnipeg, Manitoba and Minneapolis, Minnesota. Border Towns is also the account of the McLaren family who saw little future in farming in Eastern Canada and arrive at the border in 1878 to take advantage of the better opportunities offered in the west. They arrive at the same time as large numbers of railway construction workers, “opportunists, and ne’er-do-wells”. The frontier towns are booming and the McLarens soon are challenged not only by their new physical surroundings but also by some of the individuals they encounter. Although opportunities abound the life is raw and fraught with danger and violence.

While Walker presents the grittiness of these times he also reveals the expectations and zeal of the people and the beauty and power of the prairie landscape
. His dialogue is rich with the style of the times, including words no longer in common parlance.
They slept on the floor of Germaine’s cabin and woke in the morning to find a strong northwest wind with new-falling snow.

The mush Germaine fried for their breakfast was scorched, adding to the foul odor of the cabin. A near whiteout storm was whipping up, forcing the men to hurriedly pack up their furs and saddle-up. While saddling the horses and putting the packs on the mule, Ian glanced out of the open-sided lean-to at the blowing snow.

"It’s going to be a humdinger, Pete."
Similarly, great care was taken in his accurate description of the local scene.
The main street, of Pembina seemed bleak when they reached the west riverbank. Two teams with bobsleighs were parked just ahead, on the right, and two saddle horses stood at the rack in front of the Brown and Kabernagle Saloon.

Kirby joked, “Cripes, you could shoot a cannon down Cavalier Street and hardly hit a thing.”
Because of Walker’s profound knowledge of the local history many historical events abound. The arrival of the first train at the border is an example.
The entire countryside was anxious to be at the Emerson depot to greet the first train from St.Paul.

“Ian got off work at six this morning…He’ll join us in Emerson…it’s a pity we all can’t go to Roseau Crossing to see the spike driving ceremony…”

It was nearly noon before the two buggies crossed the International boundary and proceeded north along Emerson’s Main Street…on Church Street, they noticed each hitch rail…was occupied by riding horses or teams. The saloons were evidently doing a good business, due to the crowds…The stop in Emerson was brief; with a sudden surge of power the high driving wheels of engine slipped momentarily, then slowed to seize the rails…as the train moved north to the ceremony planned at Roseau.
Local readers will recognize other historical characters and places that are woven into the fabric of the novel. Readers anxious for realistic details of local history will find themselves searching for the particulars of localities and events that Walker describes.

Border Towns is an easy read and as one moves toward the climax it becomes a fascinating page turner. Border Towns is available from the publisher or online from Barnes and Noble.

Sunday, March 07, 2010

Old Crossing Mural

Click on the image above to see easier-to-read larger version...

I have written of it before - the Treaty of Old Crossing. The painting above is in reference to that treaty.

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

A Sense of Place

From MINNESOTA GEOGRAPHIC NAMES: Their Origin and Historical Significance by Warren Upham (Minnesota Historical Society, 1920/1969)
Caribou township, organized January 8, 1908, had a few reindeer, of geographic limitation in the wooded and partly swampy region of northern Minnesota and Canada, named Rangifer caribou. The second word of the name is of Algonquin Indian origin, meaning a pawer or scratcher, in allusion to the habit of this animal in winter, pawing in the snow to eat the reindeer moss beneath.

Clow township commemorates several brothers of that name, early settlers there, who came from Prince Edward island. [NOTE: My great grandmother was Elizabeth Jane Clow, daughter of Samuel Clow, one of those brothers...]

Information has been gathered from "History of the Red River Valley," two volumes, 1909, the chapter for this county, by Edward Nelson, former register of deeds, being pages 923-966; and from interviews with Mr. Nelson and Axel Lindegard, a merchant in Hallock, the county seat, during a visit there in August 1909, and Edward A. Johnson, clerk of court, and gain with Mr. Lindegard, in a second visit there, September 1916.

Noyes, a station of the Great Northern and Soo railways adjoining the international boundary, was named in honor of J.A. Noyes, the U.S. customs collector there.

St. Vincent, organized March 19, 1880, is opposite to Pembina, N.D. Its name had been earlier given, before 1860, to a post of fur traders here, in honor of the renowned St. Vincent de Paul, founder of missions and hospitals in Paris, who died September 27, 1660, at the age of eighty years.
As Greg Breining says in his article A Sense of Place, "Good place names are like that--they may describe a place's shape or the animals that inhabit it. They may tell stories, of the people who settled it, who shaped it, and who fought for it."

Of Warren Upham, writer of the above-quoted book, Greg says, "Our sense of place is richly expressed in our names for places. In this regard, Minnesota was fortunate to have Warren Upham, geologist, archaeologist, librarian, and pack rat of obscure facts. It would be hard to imagine anyone better suited to the task of accounting for thousands of state place names."