Monday, December 26, 2011

Market Day

Postcard:  Late 1800s Market Day in Hallock
(Photographer:  William Kelson - Minnesota Historical Society)

[Click to see large version of image...]

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Christmas Eve, 1817

An early Christmas Eve in Pembina/St. Vincent tells how when Lord Selkirk's settlers had an insufficient harvest that fall, and came south looking for a place to winter when their supplies ran out, they were met with compassion by the locals...
The night of their arrival was Christmas eve of 1817, and the Indians and mixed bloods were touched by their haggard faces, and shared with them their own scanty fare... 
From The History of Minnesota, by Edward Duffield Neill

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

News from the Past: St. Vincent New Era

Rev. Beer did his best to nurture the small church in St. Vincent;
He later went on to start missions in far off Alaska...
March 28, 1890 News Snippets

There has been a butter famine at St. Vincent lately...Water is accumulating on the sides of the Red River...The carpenters are altering part of the station to make it into a residence for Agent Grasse and family...Rector Beer gave a dinner party on Monday evening to several friends who met Professor Hazen before his departure for Washington.

June 28, 1890 News

As neither Hallock, Northcote, Humboldt, or Pembina is celebrating the glorious 4th, the people of St. Vincent determined to do so. Kennedy on the South and St. Vincent on the North ends of the county will take care of all their neighbors and in friendly rivalry will endeavor to surpass each other in a hearty welcome to all visits, and will extend a "Highland" welcome to their friends on that day.

The St. Vincent Council appropriated a liberal sum and a most excellent committee has charge of the days sports, whose names are a guarantee that fair treatment will be accorded to all competitors and that nothing will be left undone to make the day a pleasant holiday.

The merchants and citizens intend to decorate the front of their stores and residences with trees, flowers and bunting, thus adding to the natural beauty of the loveliest village in the Northwest, and at night the two large rooms of the District School House will be used to dance in.

July 25, 1890 News

Mayor E.M. Nixon and other influential Pembina citizens are proposing to build a pontoon bridge across the Red River and make it a free bridge. It is a good scheme and should be encouraged.

First Bridge:  Pontoon Bridge looking east towards St. Vincent...

December 26, 1930 Ads

"The Unholy Three" - Hear Lon Chaney Talk, also two reel comedy at the Grand Theatre, Hallock, Thursday and Saturday, Jan 1-3, Admission 15, 25, and 40 cents.

If you don't happen to have the cash to send in on your subscription, remember we will take chickens, turkeys, pork, beef, eggs, butter, or stove wood in exchange. These articles cost money and they are as good as cash to us, but don't forget it - Let's hear from you, at once.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Little Minnesota: St. Vincent

Little Minnesota has finally been published!

I was excited to get a copy in the mail this week, and of course, looked up the entry on St. Vincent right away...

It was worth the wait! Jill did a great job on my hometown. One of her sources was this website, I am pleased to say. This is the first time I have gotten credit as a source for a book - very exciting!

Please take a look at the following two pages about St. Vincent - just click to enlarge...

Jill kindly sent me this thank you...

Sunday, December 04, 2011

Letter from 1854

I come across ephemera quite often that touches on my hometown area.  Journal entries, newspaper articles, letters, etc.  The following is a letter being shared from the past, 1854 to be exact, of an early Minnesota politician seeing Pembina for the first time.  He discusses the geography of the area including the Red River, the possibility of a military fort at Pembina, and settlement hopes in the area...
While this is not the letter below, it is an example of a letter sent
around the same time (1854) and from the same place (Pembina)...
I will here subjoin the following extract from a letter addressed to Gov. Stephens by the Hon. Henry M. Rice, the able delegate from Minnesota. It is dated 3rd June, 1854:

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Line of Fire

Back in the day, just as now, lawmen worked together between Canada and America.  There was less red tape then, although that was there, too.  The excerpt below is about one of the early lawmen of our area, this time on the Canadian side of the 49th parallel.  He has been mentioned in passing before, in the story of Sheriff Charley Brown.  You could say he was Charley's counterpart over the line.

It's fun to learn more of his story, and the context.  We're very lucky to have this recounting - I have read that "virtually no documentation was preserved for the MPP"...
The North-West Mounted Police were not the only officers who made life difficult for bad men in the Canadian West. Even before the Mounties arrived on the prairies, the newly formed province of Manitoba organized a small, but effective, police force. The Manitoba Provincial Police began in 1870 with nineteen men. It was operated out of an old Winnipeg post office that was converted to a police station and courthouse. A log house behind the building was used for a jail. The force was poorly funded, so the officers had to provide their own firearms. They had no standard uniform. Within a few years, the department dwindled to a mere eight men. Some constables were dismissed for inappropriate behavior, such as public drunkenness, others resigned to seek better paying employment! 
In 1874, Richard Power, a twenty-three-year-old who had become an original member of the force at the age of nineteen, was made Head Constable - the equivalent of Chief of Police. The rapid decline in the force's number was only a part of the reason for this young man's promotion to such a position. Even before joining the MPP, he had allegedly served as a scout for the United States Cavalry. He was also a lieutenant in the Winnipeg militia. Power's contemporaries described him as "a fine looking man, magnificently proportioned, every inch a soldier with the courage that nothing could daunt. Power wore a Colt .45 with a nine-inch barrel, and a gunbelt that was always full of cartridges. Local newspapers called Power "a terror to evildoers." In A few short years, Power had shown himself to be a courageous and enthusiastic policeman. Some thought he might have been too enthusiastic. He had once been sharply reprimanded for shooting a Native during an arrest. 
By the time Power took command of the Manitoba Provincial Police, Winnipeg had been incorporated as a city and had its own police department. That left the rest of Manitoba under the eyes of Power and his tiny department. Power strategically placed men in the more populous settlements outside Winnipeg; towns like Selkirk and Kildonan. He kept a few men with him at his headquarters in Winnipeg. Most Manitoba communities had to depend on special constables - civilian volunteers - to keep the peace. If there was any real trouble, Power could send one of his constables out to see to the matter. The policing situation in rural Manitoba was not unlike that of rural Ontario and other points east. 
Manitoba, especially the country along the American border, was woefully under-policed, but the situation was same on the other side of the international line in the Dakota Territory. There was a sheriff in Pembina, just over the border, and another many miles away in Fargo. For those lawmen, just looking after their towns was a full-time job. They didn't have the resources, or manpower, to go chasing after the desperadoes who roamed the plains and hills of the Dakota country. Rustlers, gunmen, and other men on the dodge had only to keep out of the Sheriff's way to avoid arrest. With so much open country, that was not a hard thing to do. Moreover, American lawmen were often unwilling to apprehend fugitives wanted in Canada, unless there was a reward involved.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Hill Farms

Co-Workers of my Grandpa Fitzpatrick at
Humboldt Hill Farm:  'Illegal' Canadians?
We often hear about illegal aliens working in America nowadays.  We normally think of them as coming from Mexico, South America, or even refugees that have entered the country illegally.

This problem is nothing new.  About a century ago, Kittson County Sheriffs faced the same problem, except the illegal aliens were coming from the north - Canada.  The irony of it is, manpower was in short supply in the local area, and these Canadian men were more than willing to work, yet the law sought to kick them out back to Canada.
In two cases involving Canadian employees on the Red River Valley estates, Hill tried and failed to leverage support from Minnesota's former governor, Senator Knut Nelson.  The first problem began in 1913 when Walter Hill, at his father's insistence, hired a Canadian veterinarian recommended by Thomas Shaw and ran into problems with the Immigration Bureau.  In March 1914 James Hill wrote to Nelson, asking him to intervene, but with no success.  A similar conflict arose in 1915 on Hill's bonanza estate at Humboldt, which had remained primarily a productive wheat farm, raising extensive crops under hired management.  In 1915 problems emerged with the farm's traditional Canadian labor force when the sheriff arrived in the middle of harvest and "took away four...shockers."  They were charged as illegal aliens, but Hill's manager asserted that the men had been working on the farm without trouble for fifteen years.  Hill again turned to Senator Nelson for help, but despite his protestations, the men were deported back to Canada.  Hill did not let the matter rest.  He asserted that immigration officials aimed to "make fees" by bothering "a number of poor men who...are trying to earn a living." The acting secretary of labor.  J.B. Densmore, corrected Hill, pointing out that the agents did not profit from arrests; he then closed the case and refused to make further inquiries.  Thus, by 1915 Hill's political influence had virtually vanished.  Without the muscle of the railroad and with few federal connections, Hill found himself in the uncomfortable role of a private citizen...
From Profiting from the plains: the Great Northern Railway By Claire Strom

Wednesday, November 09, 2011


Homestead by Trishymouse
Homestead, from Trish Short Lewis Collection 
Elizabeth & Albert Fizpatrick, circa 1906
These are my grandparents, Elizabeth and Albert Fitzpatrick, standing outside the home they built as newlyweds. This is the same house my Mom grew up in, then my sisters and I, and even (briefly, for 1.5 years) my two kids, many years ago.

I am grateful to my cousin Delphine for sharing the photograph from my grandparents' 50th Wedding Anniversary collection. She told me:
I still remember the house after they built that porch on it that went around 2 sides of the house. We use to love to run around on that porch...
My great grandparents came first to St. Vincent - the Fitzpatricks and the Fitzgeralds.  Through marriage, my grandparents brought the two families together.  They built their first home together in the "farm district" (the image above shows them standing in front of it shortly after completion...)  After showing the photo to several people from the area, I received some informative feedback and memories, including this one from Mike Rustad:
Liz Fitzpatrick,
Practical Nurse 
Leona Gooselaw Hemmes...said that your Grandmother was a very therapeutic person, an excellent cook, and was a wonderful conversationalist. It was a good thing, too because women in her birthing facility stayed a minimum of six days and sometimes longer. Your grandmother, in Leona's words, was a wonderful woman who assuaged the fears and raised the hopes of mothers...
That definitely sounds like my Grandma. She loved people, having them around her, sharing a good meal with them, sharing good conversation and a laugh or two.

Sunday, November 06, 2011

Cheer(io) the Crow

Nancy gives Cheer a treat...
[Diamond Family Collection]

I recently posted a story about a crow who was raised by humans, and therefore had an unusual relationship with them and the the other residents of their small town. I wondered, did anyone have a photo of him? Turns out, someone did...

Growing up in a farm community it was not common for people to have actual pets.  We had several dogs and one was Dennis’s pet and there were always cats in the barn. 
When I was about 10, Dennis and Mickey Boatz robbed a crow’s nest up at the north farm and came home with three baby crows.  Dennis, Marlys and I adopted them, and kept them in a small wooden chicken cage in the yard.  We hand-fed them a diet of raw liver and dry food.  I named mine “Cheer” because he loved to eat Cheerios cereal. Cheer was the only one that survived.
When he got big enough to fly he roamed the town of Humboldt and actually got to be a pest.  He learned to peck on windows and wake people up as he was ready for food.  Jamie Rustad has a photo of him sitting on her playpen and he would steal her food.   So Dad decided we needed to remove him from town. We captured him and he took him back to the north farm and let him go.  I remember being so upset about losing my pet. 
Well, Cheer beat Dad back to town!!  He would sometimes come when I called his name and land on my head.  They are a pretty large bird when full grown so you knew he was sitting on your head. 
I was concerned how he would survive the winter but he met with an accident late that fall and died.   I have fond memories of my pet crow and a summer of adventure in Humboldt. 
Cheer the Crow pays a visit to little Jamie Rustad
[October 1956 - Rustad Family Collection]

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Lake Stella Revisited

Lake Stella as sunset approaches
[Courtesy:  Jamie Rustad Meagher]

Sunset on Lake Stella
[Courtesy:  Jamie Rustad Meagher]

Day's end at Lake Stella, looking west towards the Red River...
[Courtesy:  Jamie Rustad Meagher]

Friday, October 28, 2011

St. Vincent Over the Years: Demographics

St. Vincent 1900 Census - William Ash, Enumerator
[Click to enlarge]

Census Population Counts:

1880 - 489
1890 - 507
1900 - 256
1910 - 328
1920 - 343
1930 - 304
1940 - 327
1950 - 272
1960 - 217
1970 - 177
1980 - 141
1990 - 116

I don't remember where I ran across the census figures for St. Vincent through the years, but since then I have often wondered why the dramatic decrease in population from 1890 to 1900, compared to other fluctuations up or down?  It definitely wasn't because of crop failures; according to this source record from the time, things were going well in that department:
Having heard that crops were poor outside the Red River valley and that many would leave as soon as threshing was over, 1 walked and drove through Pembina, Walsh, Cavalier and Towner counties, North Dakota, and Kittson county, Minnesota, but found that generally the farmers in that vicinity were not suffering, and that their yield was so much better for 1890 than in preceding years that most of them would remain. - From Sessional Papers of the Parliament of the Dominion of Canada, Vol. 4.
After that, there are changes both up and down fairly steady for a half century, then when 1960 hits, the steady decline began.

According to Rural Depopulation, the region in which St. Vincent is located - the Great Plains - has been experiencing depopulation "...more prevalent and more severe" than in any other region in the United States. In fact, the Great Plains is "...home to 304 of the country's 662 depopulating rural counties."  On top of that, "...populations in rural counties in the Great Plains are significantly smaller than populations in...other depopulating regions, and the population density (people per square mile) is substantially less."  That last statistic is the most disheartening, because low population makes viability of more and more small communities impossible.

Whatever the cause, the Great Plains of which we are a part, has been at a crossroads for a long time.  People living here recognized this, and have been working hard to find new ways to keep their communities alive and healthy.   Are we headed towards becoming the American Outback?  Only time will tell...

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Profile: Ruth Younggren

Ruth Younggren, a first grade teacher of poor children in Minnesota, yearly spent the first two weeks teaching the sounds of English and their corresponding letters. Then through the year, she taught 50 spelling words each morning to her first graders. These first graders were not only good spellers, they were excellent readers and creative writers...

- From How it Began

Ruth Younggren - or Miss Younggren as I knew her - has always been a person in my childhood memories that revives uncomfortable feelings in me.  She was a teacher who made strong demands on very young children.  Many children thrived on her challenges and literally blossomed.

However, even at the time, I instinctively knew she was being very unfair to certain classmates of mine.  If you were intelligent and were willing to work hard, she loved you.  If you had trouble understanding and didn't know how to ask for help...if you were shy and couldn't ask for help...then you might find yourself humiliated.

Miss Younggren used, among other things,
the Dunce Cap, as 'motivation' ...
I personally witnessed a fellow classmate be repeatedly denied permission to go to the lavatory.  He ended up urinating his pants while sitting at his desk, desperately trying not to.  Another time, a classmate tore her dress on the playground; instead of finding a less embarrassing solution, Miss Younggren made her remove her dress so she could mend it while the girl sat at her desk in her underwear, arms crossed and head down.

Some reading this may ask, why bring this up years later?  My answer:  While talking about this now can't help the children affected back then, it is important to acknowledge what happened, to shed light on dark events.  I have often felt bad for those who had to go through that, while I did not.  There were a couple of times I had to endure a lecture from Old Man Carelessness and stand in the corner, and once I even sat on a stool in the hallway for all to see, wearing the dreaded dunce cap.  It didn't permanent scar me, and I actually was one of the top students in the class.  But for the others who were literally humiliated, I felt bad.

It was a time where old practices still tenuously held on, but were soon to change.  I experienced a bit of the old, as many reading this might have, too.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Humboldt Stories: Cheer(ios) the Crow

The other day, I mentioned crows, which brought up some interesting responses.  My cousin told me how our Grandpa and Grandma Fitzpatrick had a pet crow of sorts that lived on the farm.  Someone had split its tongue so it could talk.  It wasn't kept captive, but hung around the farm, picking up human speech, and evidently would spout off some phrases once and awhile.  That sparked a memory from Mike Rustad...
We love crows in Vermont too. They are intelligent, loyal, and wonderful birds. I love them and feed them! Ever since the Diamond's crow Cheer (named because he like Cheerios) graced our life, I've loved crows. He  was an amazing pet crow that would sometimes take crackers from my baby sister's hand. Very gently. But Harvey Diamond had a lot of neighbor complaints and decided to drive Cheer out into the country. He shed a tear, but never fear - When he returned to his home in Humboldt, Cheer was waiting for him. Cheer lived a long life, but died in a tragic accident. He would perch on the Diamond's children's playhouse. One day a burst of wind caused the window to fall on Cheer and he was killed instantly. I remember crying because I lost a my dear bird friend.

Friday, October 14, 2011

St. Vincent Promoter: Col. Fisk

Who was Col. Fisk?

Try as I might, I have not been able to find out anything definitive about the mysterious 'Colonel Fisk' mentioned in old newspapers and even in histories of St. Vincent. He appears to have been an early resident during the boom times, perhaps a land speculator.  Having recently been watching Deadwood again, I imagine him as St. Vincent's version of Al Swearengen, sans the murderous tendencies.  However, there is some speculation that he may have been Colonel James L. Fisk.

That said, the Fisk Family Papers state:
Born ca. 1835, the eldest of the Fisk brothers,  James Liberty Fisk, is noted primarily for organizing and leading emigrant expeditions from Minnesota to Montana, 1862-1866, using the "Northern Route." ...  James was editor of the Helena Herald for a period in 1867 and was also active in the Montana militia. Withdrawing from the newspaper, he later promoted various projects in Montana, Dakota, Minnesota, and Washington. He died at the Minnesota Soldiers Home in Minneapolis in 1902.
Until I find out otherwise, my guess for the
likely identity of St. Vincent's Col. Fisk, is
the man pictured  above - James L. Fisk.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Honoring the Past in Art

Hallock, 2010 - Beau Bakken creates mural on side of
his parents' business based on an old photograph...

Hallock, 1910 - Note the building on right, midway down
with same balcony on it as recreated in the 2010 mural...

Hallock, 1911 - A year later, this photograph is a nice, clear shot
of the same street; on left, far down is building with balcony...

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Fire Escape Slide

Fire escape slide on west side of St. Vincent School
[Courtesy of: Cleo Bee Jones]

I am not sure when the fire escape was put in, but laws were proposed to mandate them by the state as early as the late 1880s.

The type of slide St. Vincent installed was a metal slide/chute, the type commonly installed in the 1930s...

Another shot of fire escape slide - Many times I crawled up it in
bare feet - metal hot -during summer breaks, just to slide down!

[From the Jamie Rustad Meagher Collection]

Saturday, September 24, 2011

School District No. 2

"HISSSSssss..." - I remember well
the sounds of the radiators...

After writing about the St. Vincent School recently, I remembered coming across a mention once of it being assigned as District No. 2 under the early state education system.  I got curious, and went looking for more information...

According to an historical essay
School District No. 2 was organized in 1880... Its north boundary was the Canadian border; the west boundary was the Red River. It extended south along the Red River six miles, east from the river four miles. A schoolhouse was built in St. Vincent...
St. Vincent School closed around 1977, after a crack in the boiler was found1. The cost to repair or replace it was prohibitive, so a hard decision was made to close the school, combining some lower grades in the Humboldt elementary.  It was the end of Humboldt-St. Vincent consolidation in name; consolidation in fact continued until even Humboldt closed.

1 - The school was still using the same coal-fired, central boiler/radiator system they had been using when I attended the school...!

Saturday, September 17, 2011

The Perils of Rev. Appleby

Rev. Appleby circa 1890
Photographer: W. H. Stalee 

[Minnesota Historical Society]
From the records left behind, it's clear that life could be difficult in the late 1800's on the frontiers, including here in Minnesota.  Even for pioneers of the Christian churches.  As with any group, there were good and bad 'men of the cloth'.

St. Vincent was fortunate to have one of the good ones.  After working with Ojibwa groups in the region, he was assigned to our parish.

During his time in St. Vincent, there were many practical difficulties he had to contend with...
St. Vincent's Mission, which is in charge of the Rev. H.M.V. Appleby, is the most northern in the United States.  It covers one county in Minnesota, one in Dakota, and has three outside stations involving journeys of thirty-four and forty-six miles respectively.  The difficulties met with by one traversing the region reminds one of the perils of St. Paul.  "Our work is most fatiguing, both in winter and summer;" observes the missionary, "Three times in my experience has my horse sunk through the ice and both myself and he been nearly lost.  At different times I have been lost all night, and once my horse rolled down the embankment at the end of a bridge, plunging us both into the river, though without injury.  Five times I have been nearly lost in open boat and canoe."  
Yet, notwithstanding all this, the personal inconvenience is greatly outweighed by the warm welcome, earnest inquiries after the Truth, and the deep regrets at having been so long deprived of the Church's service.  Two new churches are needed immediately in northern Dakota, pressing debts of $1,300.00 burden the mission in Minnesota, and for all the sum of $3,000.00 is needed by Bishop Whipple and the Rev. Appleby, in order that this important work be not abandoned. - Report on Minnesota, May 29, 1886 [The Churchman, Volume 53]
His impact was felt for years after he left, and is reflected in this article...
The Venerable Archdeacon  Appleby1 assisted at the service, and his well remembered face, and soft English voice, that, for so many years, was, each succeeding Sabbath, listened to from the pulpit, will never be forgotten by his old parishioners.  Here it was that he and his Christian lady reared their interesting family; he knows every one of us, and his worth is known after he has left us. - Excerpt from article concerning Christ Church Harvest Festival, held December 4, 1891 [St. Vincent New Era2]
1 - Thomas Henry Montague Villiers Appleby, Episcopal clergyman, b. in Regent's Park, Eng., Oct 28, 1843; was educated as a physician and priest in England; came to America in 1866; was rector in St. Vincent, Minn., 1881-1888; was appointed archdeacon of Minnesota in 1888, and of North Dakota in 1898; and general superintendent of Indian missions 1900, residing in Duluth...

While serving in St. Vincent's Christ Church, he also served in the capacity of Kittson County probate judge...

2 - William Deacon, who owned and published the St. Vincent New Era until 1913 (after which the DeFrance family took over...), died in 1920 at age 83. Mr. Deacon was many things to St. Vincent, as well as being great grandfather to Margaret "Toots" Ryan, my grandmother's neighbor and good friend - Sources include The Fourth Estate [August 21, 1920]; Ryan Family page [Red River Valley website]

Thursday, September 08, 2011

Farmer's Store

Farmer's Store in Hallock (1910).  Note tea chest on left...
[Photo Credit:  Minnesota Historical Society

My Mom and I often shopped at the old Farmer's store in downtown Hallock in the 1960's and 1970's.  Even then, it was somewhat of a general store, having a dry goods area where we would sometimes buy fabric and notions for sewing projects.  It still had the wood floors, and the high tin ceiling...
The Kittson County Farmers Co-operative Mercantile Company of Hallock, Minnesota, was incorporated in 1904. The intent of the farmers who organized the company was to cooperatively own and operate “a general mercantile, trading, shipping, forwarding, and commission business; [to engage in] buying, selling, exchanging, and dealing in all kinds of farm produce, supplies, implements, machinery, and other articles of merchandise incidental or necessary in operating and conducting a general store; [and] to buy and sell as much real estate as is reasonably necessary in conducting its business.” The “Farmers Store,” as it was commonly known, began by purchasing the inventory, frame building, and adjacent lots of a general merchandise store owned by C.J. McCollom. 
In 1914 the store needed larger quarters, and a second public corporation, the Farmers Building Company, was formed to finance and manage a new building.  A two-story, brick structure was built in 1915 on the site of the original store.  The Kittson County Farmers Co-operative Mercantile Company rented space in the building from the Farmers Building Company, as did other businesses and individuals.1 
In 1956 the Kittson County Farmers Co-operative Mercantile Company and the Farmers Building Company merged to become the Farmers Store of Hallock, Inc., a privately owned corporation. 
Source: Minnesota State University Moorhead Archives
1 - After posting this, a reader mentioned that a great aunt lived in an apartment over the store for several years...

Sunday, September 04, 2011

Back to School, 1903

St. Vincent Classroom, circa 1903: My great uncle Charlie is the boy
against the window shade in the far back, on right; my great aunt
Hannah is to his left - our right - in front of him, hair in bun...

I recently posted about the St. Vincent School.

After that post, a cousin of mine discovered this interior shot of the school that her Grandmother - my great aunt - had in her personal collection.

Amongst the room full of children, are two relatives of mine - my great uncle Charlie Fitzpatrick, and my great aunt Hannah Fitzpatrick.

When Hannah graduated high school, she went on to attend teacher's
college, which at that time was the state normal school in Moorhead, MN
 (now known as Minnesota State University Moorhead) - Class of 1913...
[Click to enlarge]

Thursday, September 01, 2011

Triggered Memories

I received an email from Michael Rustad saying my recent post about P.N. Tri brought back some memories of his own, and that he hoped those reading the posts here will share with me any such triggered memories they may have.  That's always been one of my hopes, that people reading these memories and histories, will share their own memories and histories of this little corner of the world.
PN Tri was a major figure in the history of Humboldt and St. Vincent.  I did not know that he was the first advisor to the Humboldt Stick to It Club. 
I belonged to the Stick to It Club and it was one of the best 4H clubs in N.W. Minnesota.  We had great leadership.  Marian Anderson from Humboldt won the state 4H dress making competition and was crowned at the State Farm.  Dennis Diamond was a consistent State Farm prize winner.  We had so many innovative parent and teacher advisors over the years.  Earl and Beatrice Bahr helped us immensely when they built our equivalent of the Diamond of Dreams on their farm.  Earl mowed a field so we could practice for our 4H softball team.  The year was 1965 and Humboldt's Stick to It 4H club was a powerhouse softball team.  It was boys and girls who played.  Dee Dee Diamond played on that team on the girl's side.  My brother Tony and I were the stars of the team.  We were the home run hitters, the ringers of the team.  Tony and I practiced softball daily.  We would pitch to each other and invented a game.  A home run was when we hit it over the barn with a towering drive.  A double was a hit into the chicken wire.  The chickens soon learned that they were to go in the barn when we played. We never hit a single chicken despite many hits into the chicken's yard.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Justice in Old Pembina

The story I'm about to share has been shared here before.  While the first version was full of character (based on solid research), this one has  more background as well as details regarding the final showdown...
An outlaw from an infamous gang.  A U.S. Marshall on his trail all the way from Texas.  Their paths meet in Pembina on a cold November day in 1878...

James Benjaminson
Sam Bass gang - Sam in back, on
left; in front, the Collins bros.
William is on left, Joel on right.
[circa 1877]
In the annals of western outlawry, certain names have been etched into the American psyche – names such as Jesse and Frank James, the Younger Brothers, Billy the Kid, Black Bart and Sam Bass, just to name a few.  For the most part, their villainous exploits took place in parts of the country far remote from rural North Dakota.  The closest any of them got to North Dakota was the James Gangs ill-fated attempt at robbing the bank in Northfield, Minnesota and the Bass gangs robbing of seven stage coaches in the Black Hills of South Dakota.  Still, the effect of one outlaw’s exploits rippled to the tiny town of Pembina, Dakota Territory in 1878.

Sam Bass was a young Texas outlaw who headquartered himself in Denton, Texas.  Teamed up with the outlaw Joel Collins and four others, the Bass gang staged the largest train robbery in U.S. history (at the time) when they held up the Union Pacific railroad at a tiny watering hole called Big Springs, Nebraska on the evening of September 18, 1877.  Although Bass was considered leader of the gang, law enforcement claimed Joel Collins was the brains of the outfit.  The gang rode into the stop over, made hostages of the station master and several others in the vicinity, cut the telegraph lines and waited.  When the train pulled in for water, one gang member swung himself into the cab of the locomotive and took the engineer and fireman hostage while the others headed for the baggage car.

When they rode off into the night, the gang had relieved the railroad of $60,000 in freshly minted 1877 twenty dollar gold pieces.  Dividing up the treasure, each man had 500 gold coins in his possession – about 35 pounds of gold per gang member.  The group split into three groups of two men, each heading in a different direction.   Word spread fast about the robbery and law enforcement swooped in on the area.  One of the gang members disappeared and was never heard of again (many assumed he had gone to Canada).  Joel Collins and his partner didn’t fare as well, being intercepted by a posse within days.  After a brief shoot-out, both outlaws were dead and $20,000 of the gold coins were recovered. 

Bass and his partner figured two lone riders would be suspicious so they acquired a buggy, stashed the coins under the seat and rode blissfully by the bands of law officers they encountered.  Returning to Denton, Bass enjoyed the high life, spending freely and enjoying a local sort of hero worship.  He had plenty of friends to warn him of approaching trouble and knowing the area like the back of his hand, he could easily hide from pursuers.  Living the high life the money soon ran out and Bass returned to his old ways.  Organizing a new gang, he returned to robbing trains.  Only this time he chose to hit the local railroads – his gang robbing four trains in quick succession within a 25 mile radius of his base of operation.  It was at this point the locals turned on him and his gang.  For seven weeks, the gang was pursued by a company of Texas Rangers, U.S. Marshals and local law enforcement, all to no avail (although an accomplice, “Arkansas” Johnson, was killed in a skirmish from which the rest of the gang escaped).

Bass’ downfall came at the hands of a spy that infiltrated the gang – and by gang member Jim Murphy who betrayed him in exchange for having charges dropped against himself and his father.  The fatal day came when the gang rode into Round Rock, Texas intent on robbing the local bank.  Laying in wait were the Texas Rangers and local law enforcement.  In a brief bloody shootout, one deputy sheriff was killed as was one of the outlaws.  Bass himself was wounded but managed to clamber onto to his horse and ride away.  The trailing posse found him the next day, lying under a tree, still alive but mortally wounded.  Death came to Sam Bass July 21, 1878 – it was his 27th birthday.

Of the participants in the April 10th train robbery at Mesquite, Texas, six of the eight robbers had either been killed or were in prison by the time of Bass’ death.  The robbery had netted each of the bandits the paltry sum of $23 each!  One of the gang – William Collins, was arrested days after the robbery and taken to Austin to stand trial.  He was moved to the jail in Dallas in June where a family friend posted a $15,000 bond to secure his appearance in court—a date he did not intend to keep.

A brother to outlaw Joel Collins who had participated in the earlier Big Springs train robbery, William Collins jumped bail and headed north, roaming across several states before eventually ending up in Pembina, Dakota Territory working as a bartender in Jim White’s saloon, a unique watering hole that straddled the border.  A red stripe painted on the floor designated which country a patron was in – the saloon on the U.S. side of the line, with the kitchen and sitting room on the Canadian side.  Known to the locals as William Gale, Collins befriended a local man, Robert Ewing, finally telling Ewing his real name and confiding he had a wife living in Dallas.  Gale/Collins asked Ewing to write her a letter, which apparently Ewing did.  One can only speculate but it is assumed authorities were watching her mail.  It wasn’t long before a deputy U.S. marshal arrived in Pembina looking for Collins.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Breadcrumbs of a Life: P.N. Tri

From 1920 "Farm Boys & Girls Leader".
Organized in 1919, it was the start of what
would be known as the the 4-H club of the
same name.  It's fun to read the origin of
the club, and the meaning of the name...

I was recently told that "...P.N. Tri was a world renowned beekeeper and featured in apiary magazines. They shipped honey all over the world!"Well, of course that meant I had to see what I could find out.

The online record is slim, but I did find one article where P.N. Tri was quoted as wintering his bees in a potato cellar!  Not much to go on, but interesting...

According to the Red River Valley website, P.N. Tri, or Peter Nicholas Tri, came to St. Vincent in 1915 to be Superintendent of Schools.

Later he worked at the Humboldt School, as you can see in the magazine article clipping at left.  In this 1920 article, the St. Vincent Fair is referred to as the 'county fair'.  I have never been clear if it was officially the county fair at one time or not, but this is one occasion where it appears it may have been...

1 - The little birdie's name was Michael Rustad...

Tuesday, August 23, 2011


Mosquito Swarm
[Click to see closer...if you dare!]

The newspaper article excerpt below describes a truly horrifying situation. I hate to think of the suffering the poor animals had to endure, ending in their deaths...

Many horses have died in Kittson County the past week or 10 days.  Recently, examination of one of the dead animals showed the presence of hundreds of mosquitos in the lungs of the animal. This year the pests are in evidence by billions. The rural sections, where grass is growing, is simply alive with huge swarms of them. It is presumed horses could not breath without inhaling hundreds of them, which in turn set up infection, killing them.
From: Kittson County Enterprise (1937) - Which was ironically the same year that the first definitive work on mosquitoes in Minnesota was written by Dr. William Owen of the University of Minnesota.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Grand Old Lady

So many children entered through these doors

The sign is blank.  The steps are mostly buried, a railing rises from the earth.  A gibbet of sorts protrudes from the front.

 It's obvious that just about everything needs help.  Roof, siding, windows, foundation.  The "Grand Old Lady" of St. Vincent, that housed so many young souls on their journey of learning, deserves better.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Tales of St. Vincent:

Rev. Kimberley's Grandson

In my eternal quest for stories and history about my beloved hometown, I came across a former resident's grandson1 who lives in far off Oregon.

Here is a story the grandson remembers being told about...
Yes, I am the grandson of Rev. James Kimberley.
My father grew up in St. Vincent. I've never been there, but he told me many stories about growing up there. I think their house had a white picket fence around it. My father told me that when his parents were gone for the day, he was to rake up all the leaves. He had some matches and set little piles of leaves on fire, then stamped it out. It got bigger and bigger and the stamping didn't work. It caught the fence on fire. half of it was burned when his parents came home. He hid upstairs under their bed. His father found him and in his British accent said, "I say, Gurney, are you there?"  He responded, "NO!" His father was not amused. He caught hell for that one.  
 [as recalled by Ogden Kimberley, shared with me February 26, 2011]
1 - I think Rev. K would like that his grandson is a bagpiper!

Monday, August 08, 2011

Memories of a Humboldt Native

Anthony "Tony" Merck
Humboldt Depot agent
This reminicense by Margaret Matthew Panzer is full of memories and names of old Humboldt in the way a poem about the town was.  As you will read, there was a lot of community and fellowship as people strove to make a good life for themselves and their families, but there were also hard times (such as during the Depression)...
...My parent's farm was a little over a mile south along Highway 75 and we often walked to town and even to church on Sunday morning when the weather was pleasant.

Though my dad had a hitching post in our yard the only time I really remember a sleigh ride was on Thanksgiving when we went cross country to Len Sylvester's farm to enjoy the day. Lots of good food and crowding around her pot belly stove, playing the piano and working on the Charleston steps were all fun.

We did ride in a school bus in nice weather and a large sled during the winter weather.

Humboldt had been built on both sides of the main highway. East of the highway was really only about four large blocks. There seemed to be wide spaces between homes as some blocks had a home only on the corner.

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

A Bad End

After all he did for the town, he ended his days sadly...
Daniel F. Brawley was an early settler to St. Vincent.  He was involved in many aspects of building the town early on.

The above news blurb appeared in a Manitoba newspaper in the late 1800's, sharing news of the sad end to Mr. Brawley...

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Fading Away

Population two big dogs
[Photo: Ghosts of Minnesota]
There are towns even smaller than St. Vincent, but not many.

One of them is Tenney, Minnesota.

Tenney recently dissolved, meaning they are no longer a town.  I can't help but realize that it's only a matter of time before St. Vincent has to face that decision.

When I was growing up, St. Vincent had around 200 people.  It was already in its descendency, a shadow of what it once was.  But there were hints of its glory days, such as the sidewalks - some sections had been maintained well, others were disappearing under encroaching soil and grass.  We still had a general store, a gas station (two, when counting the Junction), a post office, a school, and four churches (St. Anne's Catholic Church, Valley Community Church - later known as St. Vincent Evangelical Free Church - Christ Church, and the Plymouth Brethren Church.  We also still held an annual fall event, the St. Vincent Fair (which was at one time, vying to be the county fair.  Despite Hallock prevailing, St. Vincent continued their fair tradition for many years, and people from around the area continued to enter their produce, livestock, hand work, and baked goods in friendly (but deadly serious) competition!

But I digress.  The point here is, all of that is long gone.  It echos in my mind how my mother and grandmother used to talk wistfully about what the town used to be like, all the life of the town now gone, they said - businesses, families, parks, public concerts and socials.  They pointed out here was where a saloon was, there was where the blacksmith's shop was.  Across the road by that alley - which was actually the old railroad track bed - was where the depot used to be.  On a trip with my father to the nuisance ground, my mother told me that was where the park used to be, and there was a gazebo there, where town brass bands would play on Sunday afternoons.  The fair itself used to be down by the river once, too, but later was held in the downtown.  Exhibits were in the Quonset, near the old temporary holding pens once used by the railroad for livestock, now used for sheep, hogs, etc. at fair time.

Now there are only around 60 souls.  Every block has vacancies, empty space where once stood homes and businesses, where circumstances have, like a cancer, dictated surgical removals.  Natives like myself can walk the streets, seeing and hearing what once was.  Like ghosts bearing witness, it is all too real.  The poignancy is very bittersweet.  I once saw a movie that hit all too close to home, and it made me think how my hometown was headed in that same direction.

Most people don't face a death in the family involving their hometown, but that is how it feels to me.  St. Vincent has never just been where I'm from, it's my family.  All those souls from the past, that I grew up with, related by blood or by just being neighbors, were not merely faces and names to me, but family.  I miss them all, and their memories will never fade from my mind as long as I am alive.  This blog is testimony to them as much as I am able to make it...

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Jefferson Highway Revisited

JH71North America's First Transcontinental International Highway
I came across an article about the Jefferson Highway which came to be 95 years ago! 
Of the 1,800 miles [of the Jefferson Highway] between New Orleans and the Canadian city Winnipeg, 500 miles of the highway would be in Minnesota. The original idea was for one continuous highway. However, plans changed shape as work progressed. Much controversy surrounded the issue of what towns would be included in the route...The route was proposed to enter the state at Albert Lea then proceed to the Twin Cities. However, the path from the cities to St. Vincent, Canada was much debated.
Interesting that St. Vincent is 'in' Canada in this article.  Not that I mind much.  A lot of us have always felt as much Canadian as American.  But the mistake amused me!

A great article that emphasizes the northern end of the highway can be read here...