Wednesday, June 26, 2013


Friday, June 30th [1893]. Pembina, N. D., N. P. R. R., 90 miles. Hotel, Winchester. Pop. 1,000. Rained nearly all day. Business good. Large excursion from the Queen’s Domain, many pleasure-seekers coming from Winnipeg to view the wonders of the Big Show. At night a heavy wind-storm frightened the audience, and they left the canvas before the conclusion of show.

Source: Official Route Book of Ringling Bros. World’s Greatest Railroad Shows, Season of 1893, Buffalo, NY: Courier Co., 1893. Circus Historical Society

Bud E. Anderson's Jungle Oddities
visited Pembina in 1939

[Click to Enlarge]

There were other circuses that came by in other years, of course:

  • Great Wallace Show (Pembina on Sunday, July 15 1896)
  • Forepaugh Circus (Pembina on Sunday, June 27, 1900)
  • Bud E. Anderson's Jungle Oddities & 3-Ring Circus (Pembina on August 6, 1939, and Hallock on August 4, 1939)
  • Carson & Barnes Circus (Pembina on June 5, 1960)
...One of the active workers is a "reformed circus man," McFarland of Pembina county, who was a performer with Van Amberg, and later a saloonkeeper. He is now radical in temperance and religion... [Source: St. Paul Daily Globe, January 31, 1887]

Evidently, going by the above quote, it wasn't considered proper work to be a circus performer, at least by some.  I always thought it was amusing that people can look down on certain other people, yet be perfectly willing to have those people entertain them.  Then again, it was a different time, and even then, not everyone agreed about these issues.

If anyone reading this have old family photos or oral history about the circus visits to our area, I'd love to hear them. You can always contact me privately through my profile on the sidebar, or leave a comment!
Trick Cycling would have been very popular with audiences
during the Bicycle craze of the 'Gay 90s
' [Click to Enlarge]

Sunday, June 23, 2013

What Could Have Been

From the 1893 Plat Atlas - Click to Enlarge
[Map Credit:  Library of Congress]

In the section of Pembina shown above - part of the 1893 Plat Map of Pembina County - you can see how the railroad was set up to come in north/south, but had a spur going southeast towards St. Vincent. In a stereoview of St. Vincent, it shows a spur coming up from the main track into town from the east, that then turn north and goes along the river to the exact point across the Red from the Pembina spur. At that time, the only thing needed was a railway bridge over the river, but that never happened, and that was one reason of many that discouraged more growth in St. Vincent. There was some serious missed opportunities, poorly thought-out politicking, etc. that went into it all. The nail in the coffin came around the infamous 1897 flood, after which J.J. Hill wanted to move the town out to the wye, aka the Junction and higher ground.  But Mayor Deacon said no to the offer, without discussing it with any other city council member, let alone the townspeople.  We can only speculate as to his reasons.

St. Vincent Spur that once went round north to opposite bank
from Pembina's spur, meant to cross river via bridge never
built, every likely thanks to William Deacon's fateful decision

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Historical Home: Up in Flames

June 6/7, 2013 Fire:  All that is left of a once stately home...
[Photo Credit:  Jamie Rustad Meagher]

All that is left now is a pile of bricks, supplied to the home's original builder by the Pembina Brick Company.  Made from Red River Valley clay, the bricks were a distinctive yellow, part of what made this once stately home so striking and special.

Charles & Isabella Cavileer sold the land the house was built on to James & Barbara Webb in May 1880.  The Webbs built the house, but the date it was completed is unknown.  It became the home to many families down through the years - Judge Edward Conmy & his family among them.

Another early image of the J.G. Webb home
[Photo Credit:  State Historical Society of North Dakota]

The photograph above was taken in the late 1800s. It shows the house's west side, facing Cavileer Street.  Not too far to the east (back) is the tree line and bank down to the Pembina River.

Pembina Cycling Club pose in front of James G. Webb Home, 
This photo shows the house from the north side.  In the mid 1890s, a bicycle craze swept the nation.  Around 1895/96, Pembina formed a cycling club1, whose members pose in this photo in front of the home.  The small building in the right rear of the house is likely a carriage house where a buggy was kept along with the horse that pulled it. A carriage house was the garage of the 19th century for those that could afford such things.

The only references I could find thus far, to James G. Webb - the likely original owner of the home - was one where he was once up for Postmaster in Pembina, but in less than a month, the position was rescinded.2 The Cavileer family continued in that role instead. The other reference was from a few years earlier in the 1880 U.S. Census, which listed him and his family living at the Winchester Hotel as 'boarders' at the time, and his profession as 'Merchant'. They bought the land that same year. By the time the house was built, the Webb family were evidently prosperous enough to not only build their own home, but to build one that made quite a statement.  It continued to be a point of pride in the town, to the day it burned down...

[Images Courtesy of Jamie Rustad Meagher]


1 - Cycling clubs sprang up in valley communities including St. Thomas, Forest River, Jamestown, Fargo, Elbow Lake (where women organized a “Bloomers Cycling Club”), Drayton, Larimore, Minto, Towner, Hillsboro, Pembina, Dickinson, Church’s Ferry, Park River, Grafton, Gilby, Epworth, Neche, Lakota, and Buffalo, North Dakota, as well as Crookston, Moorhead, and East Grand Forks, Minnesota, where members also ordered uniforms. [From The 1890s Bicycling Craze in the Red River Valley, by Dr. Ron Spreng, Minnesota Historical Society Minnesota History Quarterly, Summer 1995]

2 - See
James G. Webb's appointment as U.S. Postmaster at Pembina,
as well as the rescinding of that appointment a month later...