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]