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]