Monday, March 27, 2023

PROFILE: Walter Hill (as Known by Kittson County Locals...)

  • Trish: Walter talked James J. into getting the first car the family had in 1905, but managed to wreck it by 1907.

  • He got married in 1908, and he was put in charge of the Northcote farm in 1910, so I'll go with that...

    • Jim Benjaminson:

    • Time line - Walter got married in 1908, his wife is in the car. He wrecked the first car by 1907...(wonder what it was???)

    • So my guess-timate on the car at 1906-1908 wasn't too far off. I'll do a little research on the early Packard's to see if

    • I can determine an exact year.

  • Jim Benjaminson:

  • Searching information on Minnesota license plates - the plate has to be a multi-year 1912 plate which had dark letters on

  • a silver background. The plates were good for three years so was valid 1912-1913-1914. All the earlier plates had dark

  • background colors.

    • Steve Hannah:

    • But is it a Packard? The radiator emblem was always Packard written at a slant. Everything else is very similar to

    • a Model 30 Runabout.

    • No photo description available.

    • Steve Hannah:

    • I will agree with a 1910-1911 Packard Model 30 Runabout. The only thing is the radiator emblem. Did Hill have

    • a Vanity emblem made? Money was no issue. I can't find a close match to that emblem shape.

    • May be an image of 6 people and outdoors

    • Steve Hannah:

    • Windshield, top, headlights removed.

    • Jim Benjaminson:

    • I was wondering if it might be an emblem for a fraternal order or auto club or ???? Front fender on the Hill car

    • seems a little flatter but that could have been a running change or model year change...

  • Steve Hannah:

  • Walter loved speed, it is said his interests were tilted away from farming toward race cars. I' trying to identify the steamer

  • but they all look alike. I counted around 50 horses though.

    • Jim Benjaminson:

    • This looks like it might be a source - I contacted the library as I couldn't get any access to the Motor Vehicle and

    • Driver License Registration Records, 1909-1921 Register of motor vehicles (1909-1914, with indexes), automobile

    • license applications (1921), chauffeur’s record (1909-1911), and motorcycle registration record (1909-ca. 1913).

    • MNHS call number: See the finding aid in the library (Secretary of State: Motor Vehicle Division).

    • Steve Hannah

    • There is so much I could find out if the Gale Library wasn't 300 miles away. Keep scanning folks!

  • Bernie: my Great Uncle George Hugill played base ball with Walter and said he would chase rabbits in a white

  • Stuz Bearcat. But that was 60 years later so maybe it was a Packard

  • Jim Benjaminson:

  • Does anybody know if early Minnesota license registrations exist for these years?

  • Jim Benjaminson:

  • Probably a 1912 model - later than I first thought.1912, not much if any difference. 60 HP but Hill had a mechanic who could make it

  • Bernie Streed: My Great Uncle George Hugill was a contemporary friend of Walter Hill. What a character. During a

  • winter storm he started telling me stories of how they would chase rabbits across plowed frozen fields with a white

  • Stuz Bearcat convertible. He also told me he would order hand made oak barrels from Italy. Then he would stock the

  • milking barns with long horn steers. They would lock horns in the narrow milking stalls. The barns were state of the art

  • for the day, built with tile walls and sloping floors so manure could be flushed down trenches in the floor into the river

  • below. Basically the bored millionaire would roll these oak barrels down the center of the barn agitating the long horn

  • steers so they would kick the barrels to pieces. He and George would do this for hours till the barrels were gone. The

  • whole farm was meant to get James J Hill's playboy youngest son out of St Paul to reform him.

Bernie:  These are my memories of Uncle George's visit. My mom, Amelia Streed, took her Aunt Amelia Diamond Hugill into town for an event at the Presbyterian church but they didn't want George to be alone in a storm so i sat with him. He started talking about his youth.. great stories. This was probably around 1968 or before. So I would have been in 8th grade maybe.

Trish: Walter Hill was a goer, or "someone vibrant for life." He hunted from his car, raced his draft horses in the streets of St. Vincent, and drank mightily. Before the fall harvest, he used to attach a hay-rack to the back of his car and go to Bronson, Minn., searching for labor. Men eager for jobs climbed onto the hay-rack and Hill drove them home in his usual manner. By the time he got back to the farm, there would be only one man left - the rest had jumped out along the way in fear for their lives.

Bernie: lol I can believe that. I know my Grandpa Bernhard Streed drove one of the steam tractors. He said he started in the dark of morning and made one swath to the Red River and back before sunset.

Keith Finney: I believe it was Byron or Marva that told me that he would go into Canada up by Tolstoi and get hired men. He would drive fast across the rough prairie and some would fall off on the way. Thus the illegal aliens that worked on the farm

Georgine Cleem Whalen: Thank you Trish for this wonderful information on Walter Hill and some of his escapades I see in one of the links that he passed in 1944 in the West which would have been during the time my Grandpa was working for him on the ranch he owned there in 1932. It became the Bishop Ranch in the 40's and I still remember them letting us swim in the pool as my mother worked for doc Bishop. It is not there anymore but they do have a street named Bishop place where this ranch set. I was wondering if Walter returned to Minnesota after my Grandpa Borgeson went to work for the shipyards along with his sons.

Trish this is how we 'Borgeson' family ended up in California. James Hill bought a horse ranch for Walter and my Grandpa Eric Borgeson went with him to work this ranch and property in 1932. The rest of the story is amazing how the whole family (13) left Mn. in a Franklin car and went west

I do not remember the name. I only remember after it became Bishop Ranch. I think my Mother said it was a horse ranch and her dad (Eric Borgeson) worked for Walter Hill and came to California in 1932. He sent for my grandma later and that's another wonderful story and they lived in the old red house there in Midway City, Ca. When my parents went to California in about 1942 sometime I was still the baby. We stayed at the old red house in the middle of a field just behind where the Hill place would have been. Shortly after my grandparents bought a place in Anaheim (this is where I lose track of Walter Hill about 1943/44) and my parents stayed at the old red house which was then bought my Hap Post who my dad worked for. We lived there till I was in high school when the property was sold by the Post Brothers. I digress here, the horse ranch that Walter Hill bought would be off Bolsa in Midway City, maybe considered Westminster at that time. I do remember this property as I got older. Walter Hill brought my grandpa a big old green rocking chair that is still in the family that all of us remember him rocking away in. Grandpa did change jobs at this time and I always wondered what happened to Walter Hill.

Going through picture albums and saw this paragraph in an article about midway city california and walter and james hill. I remember this hotel well on the cutoff there as our family knew the hokes well but never knew that walter hill had a hand in the start of that... From: “James J. Hill Banished his Errant Son to Kittson County” by Ruth Hammond - Walter Hill was a "a goer, or someone vibrant for life," Hanson said. He hunted from his car, raced his draft horses in the streets of St. Vincent, and drank mightily. Before the fall harvest, he used to attach a hay-rack to the back of his car and go to Bronson, Minn., searching for labor. Men eager for jobs climbed onto the hay-rack and Hill drove them home in his usual manner. "By the time he got back to the farm, there would be only one man left," Hanson said. The rest had jumped out along the way in fear for their lives.

Monday, February 20, 2023

The Last of the Fenian Raids

Before Pembina, there was Vermont...

Soon after joining up in 1870, Private William James Kneeshaw, along with his brother, Sergeant Ebenezer Muir Kneeshaw, saw action during a Fenian raid on the Quebec/Vermont border.  Their unit - the 11th Battalion's Argenteuil Rangers - defeated the Fenian's attempt at invasion of Canada, once again; it was another of an ongoing string of incursions along the 45th parallel beginning in 1866.
In 1871 John O'Neill and an odd character named W. B. O’Donoghue asked the Savage Wing Council to undertake another invasion of Canada across the Dakota Territory border. The Council, weary of Canadian adventures in general and O’Neill in particular, would have none of it. O'Neill's idea was turned down, but the Council promised to loan him arms and agreed they would not publicly denounce him and his raid. O'Neill resigned from the Fenians to lead the invasion, which was planned in Saint Paul, Minnesota, to invade Manitoba near Winnipeg. About 35 men, led by John O'Neill, William B. O'Donoghue, and John J. Donnelly, hoped to join forces with Louis Riel's Métis. 

On October 5, O'Neill's force managed to capture a Hudson's Bay Company post and a Canadian customs house which they believed to be just north of the international border. A U.S. survey team had determined the border was two miles further north, placing the Hudson's Bay post and the customs house both inside U.S. territory. O'Neill, J. J. Donnelly and ten others were taken prisoner near Pembina, Dakota Territory by U.S. soldiers led by  Captain Lloyd Wheaton.

The farcical raid was doomed from the very start. It actually took place inside the United States, and the Métis under Riel had signed a pact with the British just as the invasion began. Riel and his Métis captured O'Donoghue and gave him to U.S. authorities. In a somewhat muddled federal response, O'Neill was arrested twice - once in Dakota and once in Minnesota - but was released and never charged for "invading" U.S. territory. The men captured with him were released by the court as simply "dupes" of O'Neill and Donnelly.  It was John O'Neill's last hurrah.

And what happened to Vermont's W.J. and E.M. Kneeshaw?  Well, W.J. ironically emigrated to Pembina in 1873, not long after his militia service expired.  He became a lawyer, and eventually the well-known judge,
Judge William J. Kneeshaw.  His older brother E.M. (or as Ebenezer preferred to be called, Muir) eventually followed him to Pembina in 1880, initially farming for a bit, later becoming a surveyor. 

On a medal that Muir received:  On one side it has Victoria Regina et Imperatrix meaning, "Victoria, Queen and Empress", along with her raised image in profile.  On the other side it has a raised image of the Canadian flag (1870 version), with the Union Jack and Canadian coat of arms, with some greenery.  Around the edge of the coin, is stamped the rank and name of Sergeant E. M. Kneeshaw, as seen below.  On a bar, across the base of the ribbon, is stamped, Fenian Raid 1870...

Wednesday, December 21, 2022

Christmas Sunday School Memories

Shared by Lori Wood Goertzen:

This photo was a Christmas gift from my favorite Sunday school teacher, Clara Loer. 

Left to right: Debbie Dykhuis, Danny Hodgson, Marilyn Loge, Anita Calkins and myself.

This was taken on the front steps of the old St. Vincent Evangelical Free Church.

Friday, September 16, 2022

Humboldt-St. Vincent Elevator Association: End of an Era

This week, it was announced that the Humboldt-St. Vincent Elevator Association was being dissolved and thus the closing of the elevator in Humboldt, St. Vincent's elevator having closed some years before.1 

St. Vincent Junction, with St. Vincent Elevator in the background (1948)

Upon hearing the news, Keith Finney, who had
began his long career at the Humboldt elevator, recalled:  
Some of you may remember Silas Mathews who lived south of Humboldt. One summer afternoon in 1973, Silas and I were sitting on the railing going up the south driveway. It was a very quiet day. When we were visiting, a tandem truck pulled into the elevator with a load of grain. I unloaded the truck and returned to visit with Silas. For those who are younger, there were not that many tandem trucks before this time. Silas was kind of amazed at the size of the truck. I could tell he was in deep thought when I sat down on the railing to resume our visit. He then said, "You know Keith, with all of these big tractors and big trucks, farmers will soon be hauling all their grain to Crookston. There won't be many small farmers like today. They won't need this elevator any longer.

That conversation with Silas never slipped my mind. I cherished every conversation I had with Silas. He passed away a couple years later...

In neighboring Emerson, a resident shared, "In the Emerson area in winter time, if you couldn’t see the St Vincent elevator, it was too stormy to be on the road!" 


1 - The St. Vincent elevator was demolished on May 22, 2007...

Wednesday, June 15, 2022

Fort Pembina Airport

When Pembina decided to throw an “after threshing celebration” on September 27, 1919, Lt. Vernon Omlie of Grafton was booked to “...give a number of airplane flights."

Pembina would figure prominently in the history of aviation in Pembina County. Twelve years after Omlie’s 1919 flights, officials from United States and Canada “joined hands with chiefs of the Northwest Airways, Inc. in dedicating Fort Pembina Airport as the first international airport in the world.1 Northwest began making regular flights out of Pembina for a number of years (until the airport was sold to the Whelan family in 1945...) 
- From Saga of Pembina County:  150 Yearsby Jim Benjaminson ©2020
Fort Pembina Airport, was mentioned in Appendix C of the 1935 issue of the Journal of Air Law & Commerce Vol. 6 Issue 1, as an ''airport of entry" along the Canadian border. 

Fort Pembina Airport, municipal. AIRPORT OF ENTRY. One mile S. of Pembina on State Highway No. 81. Latitude 48° 57'; longitude 97° 15'. Alt. 790 feet. Square, 2,640 by 2,640 feet, clay, level, artificial drainage. FORT PEMBINA AIRPORT embedded in field, N.W.A. on hangar roof. Hangar and trees to E.; pole line to E. , obstruction lighted. Facilities for servicing aircraft, day only. Medium powered radio range, KCDN, identifying signal “PB” ( .--. -... ) operating frequency 242 kc. 
- Airport and Landing Fields in the United States, Bureau of Air Commerce (January 1, 1938)
Trivia: Buell Edwin Blake, who enlisted in the U.S. Navy in May 1937 right after graduating from high school. "He had a tattoo saying USN 1937-41...He was a Radioman3rd class at that time [during WWII]. Later went on to be an Air Traffic Controller in Pembina," said his son, Gary Blake.  
[Buell would meet his future wife during this time - Jeanne Short, daughter of Gail & Eliza Short of Short's Cafe...]
In Journal of Air Law & Commerce (Vol. 10, Issue 2 - 1939), Pembina was listed as a site that needed an established "...pilot-balloon station; and to Install Weather Bureau meteorological personnel."

1: Despite official Northwest Airlines history saying it wasn't until 1928...

2: Why did airliners of old require radio operators

One answer has touched on a major reason - Morse code operations. 

In the earliest days of aeronautical radio communications, the airborne equipment and procedures were patterned after the very well-adapted and successful maritime radio system. 

The main differences were that the equipment usually was lower-powered and light-weight. 

This state-of-affairs extended through both WWI and the 1920s, so radio-equipped aircraft used primarily MF radiotelegraphy handled by a radio operator just like the ships. 

But the rapid evolution of radio in the early 1930s changed all this. 

Small and lightweight radiotelephony receivers and transmitters using the new HF frequency range became available, and were installed even in small and medium-sized aircraft.

Wednesday, January 12, 2022

St. Vincent Grain Warehouses & Elevators

On Adams Avenue, in St. Vincent, Minnesota, W.J.S. Traill co-owned a frame grain warehouse with the firm of G.S. Barnes & Co. (The St. Paul Daily Globe, June 14, 1879)

Another grain company that had an elevator in St. Vincent in 1879 - listed in that year's Business Directory - was the Red Wing Mill Co.  

Also, the Red River Valley Elevator Co., and the Pembina Elevator Co. had grain warehouses in St. Vincent in the 1880s.

In 1917, the Co-operative Manager & Farmer wrote about St. Vincent, Minnesota:  "A 65% dividend was declared at the annual meeting of the Farmers' Elevator Company.  The Manager was given a bonus amounting to $180.  About $2,000 was placed in the sinking fund."

1888 St. Vincent map (west end), showing grain elevator on riverbank

The next year, in 1918, incorporation articles were filed for the new St. Vincent Elevator Company, with capital stock of $50,000; the incorporators were William N. Gamble, William Ash, W.E. Ford, John Duff, and Otto Thorson.  
"The St. Vincent Elevator Company, a new farmers' organization, of St. Vincent Township, has bought the elevator and mill business of the St. Anthony & Dakota Elevator Company, which also includes the coal sheds, two dwellings, and two coal sheds at Sultan, the first station east of here on the Soo Line.

"The elevator, in addition to handling grain, will handle  lumber and building material, also coal and seeds.  Mr. Harry Ward Davis is the new manager."

It is evident from the news article at left, together with the other information earlier in this post, that the local farmers eventually realized they had to organize their own elevator to get the best prices they could for their grain.  Their legacy is still going strong over a century later, with the Humboldt-St. Vincent Elevator Association...

Wednesday, October 13, 2021

Low Water: The Wreck of the Steamboat Dakota

Late this past summer, this was posted on the St. Vincent Memories Facebook page:
Looking to see if anyone might know or have any more info on the story that might be behind this. As you all know the mighty red is far from mighty right now but I still decided to take my boat down to check things out. Came across what looked to be an old sunken boat of some sort. Brought it up to my dad and he said that his grandparents (Bud and Jean Feick) had said that it was an old steamboat that used to run from Forks to Winnipeg in the late 1800s but had gotten hung up and then just left in the river. They had also said that long ago you were able to see one of the masts sticking out of the water once the red would get lower. It sits about 3½ miles south of Pembina. Obviously most is completely covered with mud and/or missing but you can see about 30ft worth of deck right now. These boards are way bigger than they look in the pictures...
There was much excitement in the group in reaction to the post.  Over 70 comments exploded the discussion:
Paul Maloney: What do the nails look like, if any survived? And I think remnants of the boiler would still be there if it was a steamboat.

Jake Cosley:  All the main nails used to hold the planks down are ¼x¼" square. There were a few large ½-⅝" round spikes used as well

Julie Lindegard: I will ask my dad Bob Cameron if he has any further info.  Dad recalled hearing that Humboldt kids (St. Vincent kids were too far away) would often swim in the river and get on the boat and jump off. I can imagine it provided hours of entertainment for kids! He said that the Bockwitz family found and retrieved the anchor. They contacted my dad to take it to the museum in Lake Bronson at least 30 years ago. That's where it is now. 


At RightEvidence of scorched and burned decking could still be seen, over 140 years later... 

Hetty Walker: Chuck always talked about the steamboat, that got hung up …that could be it

Janine Rustad: Talk to DeeDee Bakken---she used to say her dad knew exactly where it sunk 
Julie Lindegard: Yes dad mentioned it was near/in the area of the Giffen farm. 
Donald Burroughs: Does North Dakota have a historical society? Would be an opportunity to salvage some of the boat, those nails and boiler parts, paddle wheel hardware plus its coordinates to build a story around it.

Trish Short Lewis: They have already been contacted about this. State Historical Society of North Dakota's chief archaeologist, Andrew Clark.

Brandon Lee Legvold: Three (3) miles above Pembina it says which in Red River terms would be south of town so I would definitely say that is the hull of the Dakota that was found.

Trish Short Lewis: Since it’s only partially burned and witnesses say the ship burned, I think the idea of these being one of the two barges might be right. I reserve final judgment until we hear from DeeDee Bakken (hopefully) on what she recalls her father seeing… 
[Note from Trish: I later spoke with DeeDee and got some very interesting information from her!  Also, the pump in the photo at left, was found by her, and then taken and donated to the Kittson County History Center & Museum, where it is today, along with the Anchor found many years ago by Humboldt's Bockwitz family...]

 Brandon Lee Legvold: [The source of the quoted newspaper article, which is pictured above, is...] the Worthington (Minnesota) Advance. August 19, 1880. Which oddly enough is today. I found this on Chronicling America.

Trish Short Lewis: Full reference citation for article is The Worthington Advance. [volume] (Worthington, Minn.) 1874-1908, August 19, 1880, Image 1 Image provided by Minnesota Historical Society; Saint Paul, MN (Chronicling America)

Jim Benjaminson: Preservation of the site is paramount. 

On August 26th, I took
a field trip up to the wreck site south of Pembina.  The person who discovered the wreck - Jake Cosley - was kind enough to take me in his boat to the site, which was on the North Dakota side of the Red River of the North.  It was an adventurous ride out, the boat hitting bottom and getting stuck at one point, the water levels were that low (that was why the wreck was revealed in the first place...)  After a bit of creative  'jiggling', we broke free and were on our way again.  

It was pretty exciting to be at the site of a 140 year old wreck!  It became more and more apparent -  between the onsite examination of the wood, old hardware, and what could be ascertained on the construction - that this was remnants of one or both of the barges that the Dakota had been towing full of freight, and that the ship was likely down the river a ways on the Minnesota side near the old Giffen farm.  All the pieces fit, however - this had to be the wreck of the Dakota, it was the only thing that made sense from the evidence so far.

That said, a proper survey and investigation needs to be done.  And to that end, I contacted the State Historical Society of North Dakota's chief archaeologist, Andrew Clark.  Andrew was intrigued about the find, and expressed a desire to come in-person to evaluate the wreck.  However, as always, there is red tape.  Funding, authorizations needed, etc.  I had several conversations with him about what I saw, and he explained that at the very least, the location of the wreck needed to be updated.  There was erroneous information in some records that needed correction.  After my site visit, I was able to give him GPS coordinates of the wreck to update any official records out there.  I also notified the Minnesota Historical Society about the wreck's connection to Minnesota (the steamboat itself was likely within Minnesota jurisdiction).  

It is my hope that next summer the SHSND can make an on-site visit to document this important vestige of our region's transportation history. Andrew Clark shared this about a similar discovery made on the Missouri River last year; it would be amazing if they could do the same depth of investigation with the Dakota - it is a fascinating slice of our local history, for sure!

Part of the Dakota steamboat barge wreck as revealed during 
Summer 2021 low water on the Red River of the North . . .

Tuesday, August 10, 2021

Where was Fort Pembina?

Location of Fort Pembina:  All of section 16, 17 and 18. Township one hundred and sixty three (63), North Range Number 51, West of the 5th Principal Meridian. Site selected for post is on section 16 immediately on the Red River of the North one and one fourth miles above (South) of the mouth of the Pembina River.

The post would be situated about two hundred yards from the Red River at low water. The location was chosen because it was the highest point near the Red River, having not flooded since 1851. Section seventeen was chosen because it could provide hay and pasturage, and section eighteen because it had the best stand of timber within five miles of the mouth of the Pembina.  

From "History of Fort Pembina 1870-1895" (William D. Thomson thesis, 1968, UND.)

Below: Military Reservation Plans for Fort Pembina, Dakota Territory, showing blacksmith and carpenter shops, as well as officers and company quarters, kitchens and bake house, gardens, stables, hospital, magazine, and trader/sutler [think old-fashioned PX...]

Tuesday, July 20, 2021

PROFILE: Artist Marie Antionette Branchaud

Image Credit: North Dakota Memories Collection, North Dakota State Library
A river with two boats runs along the foreground of the painting. In the center there is a green grass area with many trees. Along the back row is a line of stores. There are four buildings starting with the National City Bank on the left. Branchaud's general store, Hardware Store, and Pembina Post Office follow from left to right.

Marie Antoinette Branchaud was born in 1907 in Cavalier, ND, to Raoul and Ernestine Branchaud. She and her sisters attended boarding school in St.Boniface, Manitoba, where she studied music in addition to regular studies.

Antoinette was educated as a nurse. She married Andre (Tony) Schwob, a folk artist. She began painting memories of her life and her family's life in Pembina and Cavalier, North Dakota. Antoinette's paintings are well known in the folk art circles; her paintings hang in New York folk art galleries and are available on online auctions.

The paintings at the Pembina County Historical Museum were donated by Antoinette's niece Charlotte Vogel of New York City in 2001. 

The artist's father Raoul Branchaud owned the general store in Pembina before moving to Cavalier to open a jewelry store in 1903. In the painting, the store seems to be on Cavalier Street facing the Red River.