Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Traveling Shows: Uncle Tom's Cabin

Source:  Pembina Pioneer Press (August 13, 1897)
In his book, “Uncle Tom’s Cabin on the American Stage and Screen,” drama professor and theater historian John Frick of the University of Virginia’s College of Arts & Sciences chronicles how Stowe’s novel was adapted to theater not long after the book the plays were based on, was published – and details how, by the beginning of the 20th century, more than 400 separate companies traveled and performed some theatrical version of the story.

The Tom Shows as they were colloquially known as, were “ubiquitous and part of the common culture by the end of the 19th century...” Professor Frick said – a theatrical phenomenon that bridged culture, commerce and ideology.

The shows were a small industry built on the genre known as moral reform dramas or melodramas, such as “The Drunkard," “The Gambler,” or "Ten Nights in a Barroom," which were widely received.

Midway through the traveling shows' popularity, the show advertised in this newspaper ad (see left) came to our area, including Pembina.  Going by what the write-ups uncovered, it would have been quite the show, especially under a big tent as it was.  Excitement would have pervaded the atmosphere as you waited for the show to start!  Prior to the show, the show's performers  would arrive in town to much fanfare, later parading through the town to drum up business, encouraging one and all to attend the show that night.  Yes, it would be quite exciting for small towns in 1897...

Part of the Terry Show's train, and company readying themselves for the pre-show parade...
Terry Show troupe portrait, in front of the show's tents; note Uncle Tom's Cabin in center back...

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Double Back: Tracing Histories of the Red River Ox Cart Trails

Norman Kittson, as painted by Kit Leffler...

The Artist Statement for the Double Back: Tracing Histories of the Red River Ox Cart Trails series: "This project explores the road stories of the Red River Ox Cart Trail, a network of paths joining the Red River Colony (aka the Selkirk Colony) and its north-flowing watershed with the south-flowing Mississippi River. The paths were a thoroughfare for early fur trade, and ran from current day Winnipeg, Canada to Saint Paul, MN. Rather than a strict historical resurrection of the trail, the project is intended as a learning experience: an attempt to create a historical and artistic narrative that balances on the unclear line between the past and present." - Kit Leffler

Among the local characters highlighted in the exhibition: George Bonga, Pierre Bottineau (below), Little Crow, and Norman Kittson...

Monday, October 16, 2017

Little Minnesota in WWII

I just got my copy of Jill Johnson's newest book, Little Minnesota in World War II:  The Stories Behind 140 Fallen Heroes from Minnesota's Littlest Towns.  As readers may know, Jill also wrote Little Minnesota:  A Nostalgic Look at Minnesota's Smallest Towns.  As in that book, so too does the newest book feature St. Vincent.  This time, in the form of two brothers who fought and died, one in each theater of the conflict...

The two entries about the Gooselaw brothers of St. Vincent, tell a fascinating and eventually sad story, all too common among many American families during World War II.  I can only share images of the entries in the book, but I encourage all readers to buy a copy, or borrow one from your library,and read these stories for yourself...

"The Gooselaw family endured much tragedy during World War II. When Adele Gooselaw's husband died in 1942, she could not imagine that she would lose two sons in battle in World War II: Jerome in the New Georgia Campaign in 1942, and Arthur in the Battle for Metz, France, in 1944. Three other sons, Lewis, Edmund and Nazareth, also served in the army during World War II..."

Pembina County at 150: Historical Automobile Dealers

Where Have All The Car Dealers Gone?
by Jim Benjaminson

Gregory Ford's announcement last week that they are giving up their Ford Motor Company franchise after 58 years of sales brings to a close a long history of Ford sales in Cavalier —stretching all the way back to 1906. As Gregory's fold their tent for new car sales, Pembina County is left with just two automobile retailers – Soeby Motors (also Ford dealers) in Walhalla and the recently opened Birchwood Motors (GM dealers) in Cavalier.

Several years ago, the late Maxine (Fiedler) Least approached me during the annual Pioneer Machinery Show at the Pembina County Museum and asked if I had ever compiled a list of the implement dealers that had done business in Pembina County. Maxine's father was one of the principals in Fiedler & Moe, a John Deere agency in Cavalier. I had to admit that I hadn't but since our conversation I've made it a practice to note the names of various automobile and implement dealers—a random collection of notes that is far from complete – but continues to grow. The automobile and farm equipment business has changed over these past 111 years. In the old days nearly every community had an “agent” selling the latest car or tractor of some sort. In memory of Maxine and all those who have been involved in selling cars, trucks, tractors and motorcycles here is an incomplete history.

Pembina County's first Ford agency was granted to James Lang of Cavalier in 1906. His appointment named him “agent for Pembina County”. The first Fords sold, three identical 14-horsepower Model N “Light Tourings” arrived by rail in Cavalier that March and were sold to merchants D. E. Schweitzer, Charles Burgess and banker Ed Stong. They were not, however, the first automobiles sold in Cavalier but were the seventh, eighth and ninth automobiles in the city. Two years later (the same year the Model T Ford debuted) Lang and business partner Thomas G. McConnell formed the “Cavalier Garage & Automobile Company”, doing business out of a large brick building on the corner of East Main and Division Streets. Their business announcement stated they would continue selling Fords and “other favorite autos” in addition to handling “auto fixtures and supplies” and “do all kinds of repairing” plus add an “auto livery business”.

James Lang has the distinction of placing the first ad for an automobile in the Cavalier Chronicle in the June 26, 1908 issue. Found on page 4 the ad featured a line drawing of two Ford runabouts – the ad ran for the next six issues without change. Lang also gets credit for placing the second automobile ad in the paper, beginning with the March 19, 1909 issue, advertising both a $500 Maxwell and an $850 Ford, this ad running for twelve weeks. Lang was a busy man as he, along with partner George Horn, started the Cavalier electric light plant. By 1916 the local Ford dealership was taken over by G. A. Westline and Peter Freschett. Two years later Westline and Freschett were out of the Ford business, being replaced by Akra's Thorwaldson Brothers who would run the business until the mid 1930's, Westline took on the Essex line in 1919 while Freschette later picked up Pontiac and Oakland.
Trivia [answers at bottom]
  • How many automobiles were in Cavalier in 1905?
  • What year did the new hotel in Glasston open? 
  • What year did Cavalier remove the hitching posts from Main Street?
Following the end of World War Two S & T Motors opened a Ford agency in Cavalier on September 18, 1946. Owned by Bob Tomlinson of Devils Lake and Clarence Smerud of Minneapolis, a new brick building was built to house their facilities. Tomlinson soon left the business which operated until 1958 when Mr. Smerud passed away unexpectedly. The agency was then sold to Oliver Gregory who took over the business April 1st, 1959. A new dealership facility was built on the south of edge of Cavalier, opening in 1962 where the business is still located.

Soeby Ford of Walhalla, which can proudly claim the distinction of being the oldest dealership in Pembina County traces its roots back to 1926 when C. K. Soeby acquired the Oakland and Pontiac car and International truck franchise. C. K. Soeby became a Ford dealer in 1930, passing the business along to his son Jack in 1948 who in turn passed it on to his sons in 1986. Another long time Walhalla dealer was A. O. Tetrault, whose Walhalla Motor Company held the Ford franchise in 1926, a year that would see a first in the delivery of new Fords when the first load of “completely built up” Ford cars arrived—previously dealers had to install items such as lights, wheels, tires and fenders before delivery could be made to a retail customer.

Harold Morrison and Freeman Levi built a new building “two blocks south of the post office” under the name of Cavalier Implement, selling Case farm equipment in May of 1944. By 1952 they added the Pontiac and Willys line of automobiles using the business name Cavalier Motor & Implement. Discontinuing selling farm equipment and moving to a new location on the west edge of Cavalier the new building was lost to fire Christmas Eve, 1959. Rebuilding on the same spot and re-named Cavalier Motors, it had the distinction of being named “Studebaker's newest dealer” in 1960. The business, which continued to sell Pontiac, was sold to Olson Motors in 1962. Down the street, Page Oil Company, which had been selling Oldsmobiles since 1941, took on the Rambler line in time to introduce the 1959 models.

Like S & T Motors several other dealerships were opened in Cavalier following WWII. Melsted-Olson Motors built a new brick building one block further south of the new S & T building, selling Chevrolet cars and trucks as well as Massey-Harris farm equipment. Kuball & Andrews, which had been in operation since before the war (Ole Andrews having been a Chrysler dealer since 1927), continued to sell Dodge and Plymouth cars in addition to Lehr's “Big Boy” tractors. Utilizing a Chrysler engine, Dodge truck 5-speed transmission and 2 speed differential, the “Big Boy” sold for $2,136 in 1948 and had a “road gear” good for 22 miles per hour. Letzring Motor & Implement which had previously sold Hudson and Terraplanes in Neche was also selling Chrysler products along with Allis-Chalmers tractors in Cavalier. Kuball's sold the Dodge-Plymouth agency to Erwin Herzog in May of 1956. Twenty years later Erwin sold the business to his son Tim, who later sold the business to Swanson Motors in September of 1999. Jack McPherson began selling Kaiser automobiles in 1950 and its companion compact car Henry J in 1952. A post war start-up company, Kaiser-Fraser dealers also included Andre Gratton at Walhalla and Hughes & Shaver at St. Thomas.

Auto and implement dealers weren't just centered in the larger towns of the county. Robert Halcrow, whose address was Nowesta, was an agent for the Lambert automobile in 1913; he is noted as having “brought a cow to town in a box wagon behind his auto”. It's claimed he made the eleven mile trip to town “in one hour and went home considerably faster”. In later years Halcrow Ford would be one of Drayton's leading automobile dealers. Drayton's early pioneer car dealer R. J. Moore began handling the E-M-F line in 1912 - named after the three principals of the company, Everitt, Metzger and Flanders - detractors claimed the initials stood for “Every Man's Failure” or “Every Morning Fixit”. It was later absorbed by Studebaker.

Over at Hamilton C. A. Morton's Auto Livery advertised they were agents for the Vulcan, Buick and Marathon brands and had “one 25-horsepower Marathon touring car used a little for demonstrating which will sell at a nice reduction." Any of the cars on hand could be bought “on one years time with first-class security at 7 percent interest.” By 1921 E. K. Evenson was selling Fords at both Hamilton and Neche. H. C. Thomson of Bowesmont was also selling the popular Ford line. George Paxman had been the Hamilton Ford agent as well as the Overland and Willys-Knight dealer. A disastrous fire July 7, 1918 destroyed the Paxman building but 5 new Overland cars were saved. At Hensel, H. J. Norman & Son were also selling Fords while Graham & Ross sold Republic trucks. In later years Frank Gillis would handle the International line in Hensel, eventually selling out to Art Anderson. Other International dealers included Glenn Morrison in Cavalier, and Neche Farm Equipment in that city.

Crystal's Bradley & Hunter were sales agent for the Racine, Wisconsin built Mitchell in 1912 while the Crystal Auto Company was selling Hudsons by the car load, adding the Studebaker line in 1917 and Essex, Overland and Willys Knight two years later. A man by the name of Bymaster later took over the Crystal Mitchell agency. G. G. Thompson of Pembina was also selling Mitchell's in 1912, with his territory carrying over to St. Vincent, Minnesota. By 1915 Thompson was a Maxwell dealer. At Mountain S. F. Steinolfson was selling Ford's while G. M. Benjaminson (his name was always misspelled as C. M. Benjaminson in newspaper ads) was selling Pontiac's and Oakland's in Gardar. Peter Freschette, earlier Cavalier's Ford dealer also took on the Pontiac-Oakland line in 1927.

As small town America dwindled several dealerships continued to run successful businesses. Louis Byron Motors sold Pontiacs after the war and were long-time Chrysler-Plymouth dealers in Mountain. Likewise, Dietrich Motors in Crystal sold DeSoto's and Plymouths while Christopher Motors at Pembina, which dated back to the 1920's sold Chevrolets well into the 1960's.

Among the more noted implement dealers have been Cavalier's Fiedler & Moe (John-Deere), Pembina's Meagher Brothers (Massey-Harris), Glenn Morrison (International Harvester), Hamilton's Frank White & Ernest Einarson (Minneapolis-Moline), and J. J. Myers, Mountain (Holt combines).

At least three Pembina County residents saw the demand for motorcycles, with B. S. Thorwaldson of Akra (a partner in Thorwaldson Brothers at Cavalier) selling the 11-horsepower Harley-Davidson Twin, Martin Brothers of Hamilton handling the Indian line (ride it to work and ride it for fun) and Svold's August Vivatson offering Wagner Motorcycles at prices ranging from $160 to $200.

There was always something special about going to “show day” - when the new models were introduced to the public. Coffee, doughnuts, trinkets, colorful brochures and new cars. What could be better? Sadly there's not as many places to go anymore.

Trivia answers




Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Pembina County at 150: The Painter & the Pugilist

Jim Benjaminson is a local historian from Pembina County, North Dakota.  This year is the sesquicentennial of Pembina County, and in celebration of that, Jim has been writing a column for the Pembina New Era entitled, "Pembina County at 150".  The column has been running a few months now, and recently I invited Jim to serialize his fascinating history columns here on the blog. He graciously agreed.  This is the first one...

The Painter & the Pugilist: Two Former County Residents You've Probably Never Heard Of

Simply put, Birdeen Gibson was an artist. Born in Oregon in 1913 but growing up in Neche, the daughter of Augusta “Gussie” (Hughes) Gibson graduated in a class of 21 from Neche High School in the spring of 1931. Times were tough and jobs were scarce but Birdeen managed to make a little money by making sketches using India ink on white paper. Her favorite subjects – Lincoln and sailing ships. A March 1934 family letter told of her selling “the largest size (4x5) for 35 cents” , with smaller drawings selling for 25 or 30 cents. It was mentioned “she's sold 18 now.”

Unable to afford to go to college, her art work came to the attention of Dr. Ernie Coon of the University of North Dakota. In a February 28, 1934 letter Birdeen wrote Dr. Coon's wife, Jennie, stating “I want to let you know how greatly I appreciate your taking an interest in me”. Dr. Coon had spoken with a UND art professor who said he felt there was a possibility of getting her “a CWA job”. Skilled as a typist and in shorthand, Birdeen owned a typewriter (which had been purchased for her by her mother), skills that would soon prove to come in handy. She continued “I have entered two different art contests conducted by the Federal Art School in Minneapolis. Both times I received a part scholarship but the entire course is too expensive for me, so I have been unable to take advantage of it.” Another portion of her letter mentioned the ink drawings she had been selling and thanked the Coons for their interest in her.

Birdeen's sister Sally wrote the Coons that “Birdeen is certainly a nice girl in every way. She's quiet, but once you get to know her, she's very likeable”.

Sorority Girl - Delta Phi Delta
Birdeen Gibson's school portrait

By September 1934, Birdeen, along with her mother and brother Ray, traveled to Minneapolis where Birdeen would continue on to Waterloo, Iowa. She had been told “there was a man there giving lessons on painting—a professor—who wanted to see what talent she had before he would accept her as a student”. That man was Count Odon de Szaak of Pest, Hungary. How much time Birdeen spent with him is unknown. Birdeen enrolled in the art program at UND working for “room and board” doing “Federal work, getting an education and her living besides” utilizing her typing and shorthand skills. She would graduate from the University with the spring class of 1939.

A photograph—and picture she painted of herself—graced the front page of the Dakota Student (UND) newspaper of April 28, 1939. The caption read “Birdeen Gibson saw herself as others see her when in eight hours before a mirror she made this self-portrait. Produced in her home in Neche, N.D., this painting is but one of a series of her works, some of which have been on exhibition in London and Paris. A senior, majoring in art, Miss Gibson has studied under the famed Count Odon de Szaak of Des Moines, Iowa.” The 1940 census records that she was working as a secretary in Neche. When her brother left for the West Coast to work for Boeing, she apparently moved west as well. Little is known of her activities except that she married a man named Donald Cisney on July 22, 1950. Birdeen had no children and passed away at the age of 66 August 30, 1979.

Although her name may not be well known, as least one of her paintings is. She is one of many artists who have painted “Christ Knocking on the Door”. An Internet search reveals many different versions, yet none of Birdeen's were found during research for this story. There are at least three of her “Christ Knocking on the Door” paintings in the immediate area. One is displayed in the dining area of the Cavalier Methodist “Chocolate” Church. Another hangs in the sanctuary of Drayton's Methodist Episcopal Church—a church built of Drayton produced brick in 1905 that also has a unique “disappearing” wall. A third painting hangs in the Presbyterian Church at Calvin, North Dakota.

How many other similar paintings exist is unknown. Do any of her sketches still exist? And what other works of art did she produce during her lifetime? Truly a woman of mystery!

Our second subject is also a man of mystery – much more so than Birdeen Gibson. James Barry claimed to have been born in St. Vincent, Minnesota but called Drayton home. Or was he born in Culbertson, Montana – or did he live in Chicago, East Grand Forks or Petaluma, California? Perhaps we should mention that Jim Barry wasn't his real name. At various times in his life he claimed his real name was Louis Edgar Rogers; at other times it was Hugh Edgar Rogers. And his birth date – was it August 12, 1886 – or August 7, 1887 or August 10, 1887? At one point in an interview that appeared in the Bismarck Tribune May 28, 1916, he claimed “Jim Barry isn't my name at all, and I'm not Italian as everyone believes. My real name is Hugh Edgar Rogers. My father was Jarvis A. Rogers, from County Antrim, Belfast. My mother was a full-blooded Sioux Indian (there are claims she was French-Canadian Metis). They've always said I was from Chicago, when, as a matter of fact, I've hardly ever been there over night. I lived at Drayton, N.D., with my folks, including six other brothers. I'm the youngest and the smallest of them all.”

One thing we know for sure, his father's name was Rogers although he was known simply as “Rog” to most people. And he had been a mail carrier between Grand Forks and Pembina from 1868-71, carrying the mail by sleigh, dogs or on foot during the dead of winter.

Louis Edgar Rogers, aka Jim Barry (1910)
So who is this man of mystery with so many different names and birth dates? A criminal hiding from the law? A man on the run from alimony and child support payments? No – Jim Barry was a pugilist – a prize fighter of some renown.  A man who was the last of the bare knuckle fighters, who John L. Sullivan claimed would one day be heavyweight champion of the world. And he probably would have succeeded had it not been for his battles with gambling, drugs and booze. Sullivan himself was a well-known rounder who took Barry under his wing, teaching him his “tricks” in the ring. There were times when Sullivan's partying “required” him to pawn a championship belt studded with hundreds of diamonds, a belt estimated to be worth $10,000 in the late 1880's. At one point, the belt was rumored to be in Jim Barry's possession when it “disappeared”, not to be found until after Barry's death – minus its diamonds. It's reported that the belt is now owned by the Smithsonian.

Weighing in at 192 pounds and standing 5 feet 10 3/4” tall, Jim Barry had a 42 inch chest and a reach of 73 1/2”. Making his professional debut April 4, 1904, Barry won 25 matches, 18 by knock outs, lost 24 matches, 10 by being knocked out and fought to a draw in 5 matches. A formidable opponent, the Los Angeles Herald in its November 6, 1908 issue reported Barry was scheduled to go 10 rounds with Joe Flynn. Barry, who outweighed Flynn by 20 pounds, placed a $200 bet against Flynn's $160 that he would win the match. The Tonopah, Nevada Daily Bonanza reported “Jim Barry of Chicago had the better of a 10 round bout with Jim Flynn of Pueblo before the Pacific Athletic Club tonight. Barry showed fine form and landed terrible blows to Flynn's body and jaw throughout but was unable to stop the fireman.”

Calling Barry and Al (the California Hercules) Kaufman the “mastodons of pugilism” the L.A. Herald commented in its December 27, 1908 issue that “no human being can stand up under the best punch (that) Barry or Kaufmann is capable of handing out.” In a run-up match as contenders for the world's heavyweight title Kaufman knocked out Barry in the 39th round of a scheduled 45-round fight.

Eyeing the world championship, Denver's Franklin's Paper of October 9, 1909 reported “Jack Johnson the world's champion pugilist, intends to make a grand cleanup of the heavyweights before he meets Jim Jeffries, Stanley Ketchel in October, Al Kaufman (the California Hercules) and “Philadelphia Jack” O'Brien in a return engagement.” The article continued “Jim Barry, the Chicago Slugger, who has been hurling challenges right and left, may also be taken on by the champion”. The same paper in its November 27th edition, reported Johnson defeated Tommy Burns in 12 rounds for the world title. He fought Kaufmann, O'Brien, Barry and Ketchel and “a few others” for the world's title which he now holds. Among that list of fighters was Sam Langford, a Negro many white fighters refused to go up against because of the “color barrier”. Langford held the middleweight crown after defeating all other middleweights when Papke refused to fight him before moving into the heavyweight ranks.

Sam Langford and Jim Barry had a longtime relationship, Barry not being stopped by the color of a man's skin. The two first paired off in September of 1907, fighting each other 16 times, their last match taking place in March of 1913 in Australia, with Langford defeating Barry each time although two matches were called as a draw. Both the Tacoma, Washington Times and Chicago's Day Book reported on the March 1913 fight, the Times terse two sentence article reading “Sam Langford won from Jim Barry in one round. We should worry.” The Day Book's article gave a few more details - “Sam Langford, the Negro heavyweight, knocked out Jim Barry of Chicago in the first round at Brisbane, Australia.”

Traveling to Australia for a series of five fights in 1912 for promoter Hugh McIntosh of Sydney, Jim Barry defeated Bill Lang, former heavyweight champion of Australia in one round; it would be his only Australian win. On the return trip home, Barry was arrested when the S.S. Zealandia docked in Vancouver, British Columbia. Charged with assault it was reported Barry had “lost at cards and then started a rough house.”

The March 15, 1913 fight with Sam Langford brought a temporary halt to Barry's boxing career – he wouldn't return to the ring again until June 30, 1916. Little is known of his activities during that time period except for discovery of an “emergency passport” issued by the U.S. Embassy in London. In it Barry claimed to have left the United States in December of 1912—the December 10th Tacoma Times reported him “visiting in Tacoma” having recently returned from “the Antipodes and is now ready to meet anybody in the ring.” His “visit” to Tacoma was to act as referee at a “smoker”. Three months later he would fight Langford in Australia. How or why he ended up in England is unknown. It is known Barry entered a New York hospital upon his return to the U.S. for treatment for cocaine addiction —at the time cocaine and other hard drugs were legal to possess and use.

The Ogden, Utah Standard of May 8, 1916 revealed “Jim Barry, who was a worry to all the heavyweights 5 or 6 years ago, is now planning a return to the fight game. Barry has the reputation of having fought Sam Langford with varying results, 16 different times. He is now in training earnestly and thinks he will soon be in trim to cross bats with Coffey, Al Weinert or Moran.”. On June 6th Barry stepped into the ring against “Battling” Lavinsky – and lost. He would go up against “Sailor Jack” Carroll in July, Jim Smith in August and Billy Miske in September. All with the same dreadful results.

His final fight came in March of 1917, against another black fighter, Sam McVea. Only this fight would take place in Colon, Panama. Stepping into the ring with McVea March 11th, he was “floored for the count” in the sixth round. The next days Panama Star & Herald had a different story to reveal about Jim Barry. Barry had been shot and killed in the Lobby Hotel in Colon by a gambler known as C. Jerrett, aka “Tex” Martin.

According to news reports “Martin accosted Barry in the Lobby Hotel bar and Barry pushed him back, saying he didn't want anything to do with him. (There had been an altercation between them in Panama City the previous day, stemming from a disagreement over a gambling debt.) Martin then pulled a Colt 44 and shot Barry three times. Barry staggered out of the bar and fell dead. Martin was quickly arrested after the shooting and later stood trial for murder. Apparently it was found that Martin had been threatened by Barry, was acting in self-defense, and was released”. Martin was later reported to have been killed in San Antonio, Texas.

Thus ended the career of Jim Barry, aka Louis Rogers, aka Hugh Rogers. Find-a-Grave lists him being buried in the Drayton Cemetery. Cemetery records compiled by the Red River Valley Historical Society do not list any Rogers or Jim Barry as being buried anywhere in Pembina County. Even in death, Jim Barry is still a man of mystery.

Pembina County Trivia
  1. Who was the first recorded farmer in what is now Pembina County?
  2. Where was this farm located?
  3. What year was the O’Brien Hotel in Neche built?
  1. The first known farmer in what is now Pembina County was Charles Bottineau.
  2. Bottineau's farm was located on land now farmed by the Horsley Family of Neche.
  3. The O'Brien Hotel in Neche was built in 1895 at a cost of $14,000. It’s known today as the L&M Bar.  

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Grand Theatre Memories

Projector from Grand Theatre
[Kittson County Museum Collection]
The Grand Theatre was Hallock's (MN) movie palace.  I was recently contacted by a gentleman who once worked for the man who owned it1, as well as the local drive-in.  He had some interesting stories to share...

Jim Tureson, who worked for Bill Krumholz:

Sitting here thinking about days gone by and remembered an incident at the Grand Theatre. It was 1956.  We were showing a horror movie called The Creeping Unknown where this big glob would catch and kill people. Well, my Dad decided to make it more interesting. He ran some wires from the projection room down to the seating area and attached a buzzer to two seats! The wires were attached to a battery and when he pushed the button the seats would start to vibrate and buzz! Needless to say, at the worst possible time in the movie when people were screaming, we would hit the buzzer and watch someone fly out of their seat! I know, that was bad and we made sure there wasn't an elderly person sitting there. Joe gave us permission to do it and enjoyed the reactions also!

Projector from Grand Theatre.
[Kittson County Museum Collection]

Jim Tureson shared another story:

I'll tell you another Grand Theatre treasure. My older brother Larry was a protectionist in high school also; he graduated in 1960. One of our pet peeves was when one person showed up to watch the second show, we weren't able to go home early. This particular night a gentleman came in just in time for the second show and Larry wasn't happy. So he ran the show. When it ended, he turned on the lights, closed the curtain and was going to lock up when he saw that man still sitting in the front row, thinking he had fallen asleep. He went up and shook his shoulder, only to find out he was dead! Freaked him out to say the least!! So Larry was the only one in our family to run an entire show for a dead man.

Highway 75 Drive-In; go-cart track can be seen between screen and parking area.

July 12th, 1962. Joe Carriere and I were at the drive-in where I was going to paint the big screen. We rigged up a one-man "swing" with ropes over the screen tied off on Joe's big Oldsmobile. It worked like a pulley system - as Joe drove forward I would go higher. It had rained the night before and the grass was wet. I needed to go up higher so Joe started pulling me up, but as he was going, he got hung up on the wet grass around the go-cart track. He goosed the Oldsmobile, tires spinning, and then suddenly he hit the cement track! He took off rather fast and I went from 15 feet off the ground to 35 feet in seconds. When he finally stopped, I had almost wet my pants, the paint can went flying, and I'm screaming at Joe!

The day the Grand burned down in 1975...

Of course, he thought it was funny as hell, while I had thought I was going to die!

1 - Joseph and Rebecca Carriere owned and operated the Grand Theatre in Hallock from 1947 to 1975 when it was destroyed by fire. They also opened the Hallock Drive-In Theater in 1954 and operated it until 1985.

Monday, August 28, 2017

Local Veterans of World War I - Part I

We are in the midst of the Centennial years of WWI. Many men from Kittson County fought in the "Great War", or the "War to End All Wars". As we know all too well, sadly it didn't end all wars. If you want to find out more about who fought from Kittson County, you can view online the book that was written all about that - The History of Kittson County in the World War.

A few examples of local WWI veterans; I will be sharing more in the near future...

When I was growing up, I knew Eli Gooselaw as a tall, quiet old man who lived across the pasture from our house, north of the St. Vincent Cemetery.  His house was a 2-storey wood clapboard, the paint long ago weathered off.

Outside nearby, he had a tall wood pile, stacked up in the form of a tipi. From what I could tell, he never used the wood,  nor burned it.  It just stood like a sentinel over the years.

The house had old-fashioned tall, sashed windows, that reflected full-moon moonlight so brightly that you swore Eli  (who never used electric lights) had lights on - especially his upstairs' north bedroom.

But back in 1917, Eli "...enlisted in the Army at East Grand Forks ... because they were drafting men. This was the time of World War I, and most of his two years of service were spent in China. Eli was one of the few people who could say he'd been to the big cities of China - Tientsen, Shanghai, and Chin-huang-taoo, along with Tokyo, Japan, the Philippine Islands and Hawaiian Islands."

Fred Gooselaw was born and raised in St. Vincent.  He was the son of Zeb and Joset (Parenteau) Gooselaw.

He became a barber and ran his own barbershop in St. Vincent, then Humboldt prior to WWI. In October 1918 he was shipped off to France as an Engineer Sapper, as part of the October Automatic Replacement Draft.1

After the war, he carried on being a barber, and eventually moved to Montana, continuing his profession there.

He named his firstborn son, Pershing, born in August 1918, in honor of General Pershing.

James Lang was born in rural Kittson County, Minnesota.  He was the second son of Joseph and Margaret Lang, and farmed with his father.

He then went to fight in the First World War. After returning, he resumed farming until 1955; then he retired. He moved to Humboldt and never married.

Born in Ontario, Canada of German immigrant parents, Christopher A. Thedorf, Jr. came to St. Vincent as a small child.  The Thedorf family lived in the middle of the town, by the house that would eventually be my grandparents' second home after they moved out, when my parents took over the homestead. Chris' father, Mr. Thedorf, was the proprietor of the Thedore Hotel in St. Vincent.

According to the 1910 U.S. Census, Chris was working then as a bartender in a St.Vincent saloon.  As the article to the left states, in July 1917 he volunteered into the military, choosing the Marine Corps.  The United States had declared war in April 1917 but didn't send forces (under General Pershing) until 1918, so Chris was an early participant in the war.

After the war, he married, moved to St. Paul, MN, and began working for the railroad as both a locomotive engineer, and fireman...

Hugh Lucas was a compositor and printer for the Emerson International newspaper in the late 1800s and worked there with J.E. Bouvette. He was also a carpenter and built his first home in St. Vincent with his own hands, or so the story goes.

Why Hugh felt it was important to volunteer in WWI when he was beyond the normal age is not known, but as you can read at left, he was well thought of by his fellow soldiers. He was a veteran when he went into the service again, having been in the cavalry in the late 1800s.

The article to the left states that he went into the Remount Corps upon enlistment, which was part of the Quartermasters Corps.


1 - October Automatic Replacement Draft: It means that a man was scheduled to be a replacement for a battle casualty right from the start. Usually the army waited to see what a man could do or where he was actually needed before assigning him a specific job. By October of 1918 the casualty rate was climbing and they were sending men over at an incredible rate. New draftees were barely receiving any training at all before shipping out. To fill the gaps caused by casualties, they started assigning men to be rifle men just as soon as a block of them were called up (or in this case, an engineer sapper...) The program was initiated in October. Had the war gone on longer, as many thought it would, there would have been many more 'replacement drafts'.

Wednesday, August 02, 2017

Hugh O'Lone & The Red Saloon

Hugh O'Lone, 1870
Kootenai Brown,1895

John George "Kootenai" Brown's reference to “Bob O'Lone” in his memoir, "I Remember" ... is interesting, for in the famous portrait of Louis Riel and his Council of 1869-70, early descriptions of the photo identified Bob O’Lone as the man seated in the front row to Riel’s right. This version of the photo was incorporated into the works of many of the early Red River historians such as R. G. MacBeth. This figure was later correctly identified by G. F. G. Stanley as Hugh Francis "Bob" O’Lone. He was in the whisky business; he was “the American who ran a saloon in Winnipeg.” This was apparently the Red Saloon, recalled by A. C. Garrioch: “Three years later when the writer moved to St. John’s he found the Red Saloon contributing very considerably to the business of the little village.” Bob O’Lone had continued in the liquor business and was the proprietor: “No spot in Winnipeg was so often the scene of a drunken row as that occupied by the Red Saloon.”

A common misconception about Hugh Francis O'Lone is that he was the brother of a saloon keeper named Robert O‘Lone. In fact Hugh WAS the saloon keeper - his nickname was "Bob", and he did not have a brother named Robert.

Early Winnipeg; O'Lone's saloon, aka the Red Saloon, in center...

During this time, Brown lived the kind of dangerous life that tended to be his trademark. He was captured by Sitting Bull and only his wits and luck removed him from this delicate situation. He finished his contract with the U.S. Army in the spring of 1869, and then moved to Fort Burfurd, further to the west, in response to the quickly consolidating American frontier. His task was to maintain communications between Fort Burford, Fort Stevenson, and Fort Totten near Devil’s Lake. It was during the course of a parallel scouting assignment for the U.S. Army, headed by Major General W. S. Hancock, that Brown found himself in Pembina on the Red River in the fall of 1869.

Customers in front of the Red Saloon owned by Bob O’Lone, Red River, 1869.
Source: Archives of Manitoba
O'Lone participated in the 16 November 1869 Convention of Twenty-four. He enlisted as a 2nd Lieut. in the Settlement guard under Ambroise-Dydime Lépine. He was an Honourable Member of the Legislative Assembly of Assiniobia in the same capacity. In February of 1871 a notice of Hugh‘s impending demise appeared in the Manitoba News-letter, owned by John C. Schultz, a declared enemy of everything to do with the Provisional Government:

Badly Hurt.Hugh O‘Lone (better known here as Bob), a General in the rebel force of last winter, got into an altercation with some American half-breeds at Pembina, about a fort-night ago, and got so severely hurt on the head that the U.S. Post-Surgeon at Pembina, declined to perform the Surgical operation necessary to ensure recovery without assistance. There being no medical man nearer than Fort Garry, assistance was sought here, and Dr. Turver went on Monday evening and gave the patient the benefit of his professional skill. 
On 7 March 1871 the Saint Paul Daily Pioneer reported that Hugh F.  "Bob" Olone had been killed by a blow to the head from a revolver in early January. In the opinion of historians such as A.H. de Trémaudan and Ruth Swan, O'Lone‘s death was one of several assassinations meted out not by Métis, but by Canadian troops after their arrival in August of 1870, as retribution for the execution of Thomas Scott.

 - “Kootenai” Brown in the Red River Valley" by Graham A. MacDonald, Manitoba History, Number 30, Autumn 1995) 
 - Hon. Hugh Francis Olone, Town of Winnipeg; Do Canadian History blog, 7 March 2011.

Thursday, July 06, 2017

Across the Alley: The Ryan Siblings

Andy and Toots Ryan (Andrew and Margaret Ryan, to be exact) were brother and sister.  They lived together in a small, tidy house in the middle of St. Vincent, across an alley just north of my grandparents' home.  Toots and Grandma were friends...

Andy worked for the Great Northern Railway; Toots kept house for her brother.

I remember often going over to visit at Toots' home with my grandma.  Sometimes I'd come on up our road to visit Grandma and if she wasn't home, I'd run across the alley, across the Ryan lawn, and up Toots' high, large steps.  Their house was on a very high foundation, probably made that way to avoid flood waters.  Their steps did not match what that foundation needed, and despite the high steps, the last one into the house was a doozy in itself, especially for a little girl.

I remember the inside of Toots' house very well, as well as I remembered Grandpa and Grandma's. When you went through their door, you were immediately in a small kitchen.  It had a stove and small old fridge one-step-above an icebox.  The sink and counters were on the west side of the kitchen, with a window over it.  The sink did not have a faucet, but rather had a hand pump that drew up the cistern water when you hand-pumped it.  The floors - like my grandmother's house - were covered with old-fashioned linoleum.

The door into the next room was on the far right (east) of the north wall.  That led into a parlor where there was a big chair in the northeast corner, that sat on a large, old, threadbare oriental rug.  When Toots wasn't in the kitchen, she would hold court in the living room, sitting in the chair, while Grandma would sit in a rocker nearby.  Her feet sometimes didn't reach the floor, because she was a small woman.  I remember her as seeming as round as she was tall, and having white hair.  She called me "PK", because my first and middle names' initials (Patricia Kaye) reminded her of PK Gum.

When I was very little, I remember being at Toots' house with both Grandma and Mom.  They were visiting as usual, and I think they were laughing over something.  I began to stare at Toots and really take her in.  It wasn't like I hadn't noticed her before, but something about the situation, the light coming in from the nearby window shining on her...I don't know...but I suddenly REALLY saw her. Her hair was fluffy white around her face, she was missing a tooth or two.  As she laughed her face lit up and made me smile, too even though I had no clue what the grownups were talking about.  She had a dress on, with a full apron, and as she laughed her whole body shook including her large belly.  She felt my eyes on her, and looked my way.  I suddenly blurted out, "YOU'RE FAT!"

The room went silent, and for a moment or two, you could hear a pin drop.  Then Toots began laughing, and said, "PK, so I am!"  I had no sense of it being wrong, but my Mom soon told me different.  I apologized, but Toots and Grandma both continued to find much amusement out of the situation.

There was also a very old piano in the northwest corner of the room, with a round stool that you could spin around to adjust the height of. Its four legs ended with cast iron claws that clutched glass balls. As you might imagine, I had a lot of fun sitting on it and spinning!

The piano was a dark walnut, and some of the keys were missing. But of the many keys that were still covered, they were covered with real ivory, and were so beautiful compared to the keys of modern pianos.  The seat was worn very smooth, evidence of many people who had sat upon the stool over the years.  One can imagine the many songs that were played, maybe even sung to, at that piano. Evenings where the piano brought music and joy into the Ryan home. Now, however, despite its beauty and history, it was a shadow of its former self, including the tuning. It sounded like a piano in an old western saloon, so out of tune, it had a sort of tune all its own.  As a little girl, the sound delighted me, and I loved playing little ditties I knew by heart.

My nickname's inspiration
The kitchen and parlor were the only rooms in the downstairs. However, in the southwest corner of the parlor were stairs that came out of the wall and projected into the living room.  There was a curtain that closed the opening where the stairs met the wall, but beyond that was open stairs, upon which were stacked books, and a plant or two.  There was just enough room to allow a person to get up the stairs. I never did get upstairs, although I was always curious.  I was too timid to just go up without asking, and never felt brave enough to ask.

There came a time, after my Grandma got more ill from her diabetes, that her friendship with Toots waned and we saw her less.  She was friends with the Friebohle family, through St. Anne's, who took her under their wing and helped her out to get to the store, or to the doctor.  I'm not sure what happened to Toots, except that she outlived her brother Andy, who has forever lived in my memory as a stout man in striped overalls and a trainman's hat, as he appeared every so often upon return home once upon a time.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

The Men Who Built Fort Pembina: William Nash

Portrait of Nash, Compendium of
  History & Biography of North Dakota,
Geo. A. Ogle & Co., Chicago, 1900

WILLIAM C. NASH enjoyed the distinction of being the first to settle in the vicinity of Grand Forks; but before that, among other things:
He was engaged in carrying United State mail in the early days from Fort Abercrombie to Pembina, and used dogs and sleds for the purpose, and he served four years as postmaster in East Grand Forks... 
He then accompanied General Hatch on his campaign through the northwest after Indians, and accompanied the expedition as far as Pembina, spending the winters of 1863-64 in Fort Garry and Pembina, and while there acted as agent for the government, and succeeded in bringing Little Six and Medicine Bottle, two Indian chiefs, back to the United States under arrest.
[Source: Compendium of History and Biography of North Dakota, Geo. A. Ogle & Co., Chicago, 1900]

The following fall, he was appointed sutler at Fort Abercrombie, and held that position five years, during which time he was contracting.  In 18701 he helped build the post at Pembina, making the first brick used in Dakota.

1 - Prior to 1870 the Hudson Bay company had absolute control of practically all the trading interests west of the Canadian provinces. They even appointed the governor for Prince Rupert’s land, which, until the boundary was established in 1823 by Long’s expedition, was held to embrace much of present day North Dakota. A portion of the Selkirk settlement of 1812 was on American soil, as indeed was the old fort of Capt. Henry, and even later establishments. The old policy was to confine their business principally to the fur trade, but when Donald O. Smith succeeded Governor McTavish it was to trade with all the people.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Update: Ephraim "Eph" Clow, Pedestrian Racer

Boston Daily Globe, May 27 1881, Page 1
Boston Daily Globe, May 27 1881, Page 1

I recently wrote about a Kittson County native, Ephraim Clow, who went on to become a well-known sportsman of a late 19th century sport, Pedestrianism.

'Eph' also features in Chapter 22 (Rose Belt) of the book King of the Peds in a race in which he finished with 460 miles in that 6-day race.

Here are a couple of extracts from Chapter 28...
Out of the thirty men that started the 70-hour walking match at the Music Hall in Boston, Massachusetts, between the 16th and 21st of February, 1880, only seven finished. The winner was Peter Panchot with 345 miles. Jimmy Albert came in second with 330, Clow, third with 326, McEvoy fourth with 321, Dufrane, fifth with 318, Campana, sixth with 300, and Barrett seventh with 304. During the early part of the match, Albert had denied charges that he had been abusive in language towards a Mr. Hanson, who he allegedly struck with a cane.
Jimmy Albert was awarded $300 and a gold watch for winning a 75-hour go-as-you-please match (12½ hours per day) which took place at the Opera House in Brockton, Massachusetts, between Monday, the 22nd and Saturday, the 27th of March. The scores at the end were: Albert 435; Hughes, 423.16 ($200); Clow, 411.6 ($100); Hourihan, 385.14 ($75); Geldert, 361.4 ($50): The Boston Globe in its report on the match stated: The track not having been measured by a professional the above records will not stand as it is undoubtedly short. Campana, Colston and Mignault were also in the race.
There are many other mentions of the 'Canadian Champion of Toronto', in King of the Peds. For example:
In the 72-hour go-as-you-please “Toronto Walking Tournament”, which started on the morning of June the 7th 1880, Clow, of Prince Edward Island, had beaten Faber's celebrated record in Buffalo.
Ephraim "Eph" Clow, Champion Pedestrian
Courtesy of:
Photo of Eph Clow, circa 1880
Even after moving to Kittson County to farm, Eph  
continued to be involved in promoting competitive
walking and running.  From Our Northwest Corner
(1979):  "Here encouraged racing among the young
people of the area.  Many of the people who grew up
in the Humboldt area remember running in a large barn
where Eph had made a running track.  In the April 9,
1921 Kittson County Enterprise, the following article
appeared,  'In the races held at the Humboldt Stadium,
Edna Woodruff won the three mile event.  The boys 
five mile race was won by Lomas Matthews...' and in
the April 22, 1921 issue, the following article also
appeared, 'Next Friday several races will be run in 
the large Humboldt Stadium under the management 
of Eph Clow, former World's Champion long distance
runner.'   Eph Clow died in 1927."

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Frederick A. Bailey: An NWMP 'Original'

Sgt. Fred Bailey
[Source:  RCMP Veterans Association,
Vancouver Division]

Let me introduce you to an ordinary man who happened to make a bit of local history by just doing what many in his day did - living life, making choices, taking risks.  

"This I believe is the diary of Frederick Bagley when he enlisted in the North-West Mounted Police as a trumpeteer at 15 years of age; They left Fort Dufferin in 1874 to secure the Medicine Line!" 
- J. Rempel

I will be sharing portions of that diary here on this blog at a later time. But for now, let us learn a bit about Sub-Constable Fred Bagley, Trumpeteer ...

According to a fascinating online biography (which I quote here in-full since so many such pages seem to disappear):
Fred Bagley’s musical talents and leadership provided a major contribution to the Force and to the communities he served in.

With regarding setting records, he was first in the following areas: 
a) being the youngest member to be sworn into the Force; 
b) first Trumpeteer in the Force; 
c) present to guard and witness the first person to be hung in the North-West Territories at Fort Saskatchewan; and 
d) first member to lead a musical performance before Royalty.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

James J. Barry, Pugilist

Louis Edgar Rogers, aka
Jim Barry, was born in
St. Vincent, Minnesota.

Jim Barry was a pugilist...and a mystery. His real name was Louis Edgar Rogers.  He seems to have left the US in December 1912 and returned in 1915. One document that was found - an application for a passport - showed he was in England at the time. Did he go to England to get treatment for his drug and alcohol problems? Then, a record showed he fought his old nemesis Sam Langford in Australia, most likely as part of a hopeful comeback? Or, was it an exhibition fight?  He has some more fights later but he lost them all. While in Panama, he was murdered at the age of 32. A short life of a promising young boxer - he was considered a capable, durable fighter in his prime - that took a wrong turn, that led to a sad end.

Barry lists St. Vincent, Minnesota 

as where he was born, on this 1915 
emergency passport application...
Louis was born on August 12, 188x (listed in various sources as 1885, 1886, and 1887) in St. Vincent, Minnesota.  In the 1900 US Census, Louis is listed as age 15 and going by Lue Rogers. Lue is a variant of the name Louis (English and French), and on the same census, Mary is listed as his mother, age 55 and widowed.  His father had been from Ireland, but his mother was French-Canadian.1 Very likely she would have called him Lue for short - or it could have been a simplified version of how Louis is pronounced in French.  

Barry's 1915 passport photo
According to the same census, Lue could neither read nor write. Nor could his mother.  It was not unusual for that time, but just like today, it limited job opportunities for a lifetime.  Lue was also listed as a 'Day Laborer', but that wouldn't last for long. Sometime during the next few years, probably sooner, Lue learned the art of boxing, left Drayton for the wider world, and became Jim Barry.

Sam Langford
Jim's start up the ranks of boxing are not known, but he eventually made a modest name for himself. He was characterized as a "hard-hitting white cowboy" ... who did not mind fighting the top black heavyweights of the Chitlin' Circuit. Although he did not beat Sam Langford--only to a draw, in their many fights--Barry did deck the Boston fighter on two occasions.

According to his May 1915 passport application, Barry was born in 1886 in St. Vincent, Minnesota, and called Drayton, North Dakota, his place of residence. He listed his occupations as "engineer and boxer" - what kind of engineer, we do not know, but if true, it was as a vocation between 'day laborer' and 'boxer'.

After returning from London, Barry went into treatment for cocaine addiction.  He was released from a New York hospital after taking the "Coke Cure" in July 2015.  The government was starting to crack down on cocaine and other drugs that had previously been unregulated. I think Barry had to get straight or risk losing chances to fight, or even get arrested.  So he was trying to straighten up. 

An article in the Pembina Pioneer Express for March 30, 1917, has this notation:

Thursday, February 02, 2017

StVHS Sports: 1927/28

Vintage St. Vincent High School pennant from 1920s

[Guest article by Michael Rustad, originally from nearby Humboldt, MN]

In the summer of 1999, my daughter Erica and I visited the town of St. Vincent.

There is no longer a bridge connecting the central business districts of Pembina, North Dakota and St. Vincent. The old bridge connecting the towns that I remember as a child has long been dismantled. The places that I remember in St. Vincent have long since closed. Short's Cafe, Sylvester's Store, the Curling Rink, St. Ann's Catholic Church, and the St. Vincent Fairgrounds. The curling rink is now neglected and in state of decay. The Church is a private residence. The St. Vincent School, too, is in a state of benign neglect. The school is in disrepair and the fire escape slide detached.

It was difficult for me to explain to my daughter that St. Vincent was once a bustling community. We attended catechism each summer in the basement of St. Ann's Catholic Church. We had a large number of ball games in the yard outside the church which is now overgrown and marred by abandoned cars. When my sister and I visited the Kittson County Museum in Lake Bronson, I was amazed to find some high school yearbooks [called Borderlines] from St. Vincent High School. St. Vincent High School closed in the late 1930s and never reopened. Instead, it eventually consolidated its school district with Humboldt from 1957 to 1991.
[Note from Trish:  In-between StVHS closing and St. Vincent consolidating with Humboldt, students had the choice of attending Pembina High School, or other schools in Kittson County like Hallock...]
It was an unexpected joy to find yearbooks from the St. Vincent High School from the 1920s. This was a yearbook from a small town in NW Minnesota prior to the Depression. High school life in St. Vincent was marked by lots of school spirit judging from the many activities. St. Vincent fielded a football team, basketball team, hockey team, track team and baseball team in [school year] 1927/28.

"If you could walk or run, you were in the starting line-up."