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.

Saturday, June 19, 2021

The Empire Builder: J.J. Hill & the Great Northern Railway

One of the architects of settlement for our area - along with others like Lord Selkirk - James J. Hill was instrumental in how towns rose and fell, through the power of transportation that he held sway over...

THE EMPIRE BUILDER from Great Northern Filmworks on Vimeo.

Saturday, June 05, 2021

J.J. Hill Obituary

J. J. Hill Dead In St. Paul Home At The Age of 77 


ST. PAUL, May 29--James J. Hill, builder of the "Northwest Empire," died at 9:30 A.M. today at his house, 240 Summit Avenue.

In his room, in the southeast corner on the second floor of the brownstone house, overlooking the city to which he came sixty years ago as a clerk, the end came. His age, 77 years, was a handicap in combating the hemorrhoidal infection, which dates from May 17.

At the bedside were the children, hastily summoned from homes throughout the nation, the only member of the immediate family not present being Mrs. Anson M. Beard of New York. Kneeling at the bed, her hands clasping the hand of the man whose wife and helpmate she had been since 1867, was Mrs. Hill. Nearby was the Rev. Thomas J. Gibbons, Vicar General of the Catholic Diocese of St. Paul, Mr. Hill having for years been on intimate terms with the clergy here, though not a member of the Church to which his wife belongs.

The Mayo Brothers attended Hill during his last days...

Dr. Hermann M. Biggs, who was called into consultation during the last illness of the financier, was the only physician present as the end approached. Drs. William F. and Charles H. Mayo had gone; there was no more they could do.

John J. Toomey, Mr. Hill's confidential business agent for many years, left the Hill residence twenty minutes after his chief died. Shortly afterward came Ralph Budd, assistant to Louis W. Hill, President of the Great Northern. Then came Louis W. Hill. The latter walked between the Rev. Father Gibbons and George A. MacPherson, intimate friend of the family. Grief, showing plainly in the faces of all the men, was most poignant in the face of the son, Louis, who will take up the generalship of the interests his father built and husbanded.

The funeral will be held at his Summit Avenue home at 2 P.M. Wednesday. Interment will be in a private mausoleum to be erected at North Oaks, long the summer home of the Empire Builder.

The general public will not have an opportunity formally to pay tributes to the leading citizen of the Northwest, but Mr. Hill's associates and the faithful employes who made possible his great achievements will be admitted to the house to view the body before the funeral services. The family statement includes a request that no flowers be sent. The Rev. Thomas J. Gibbons, vicar general of the Catholic diocese of St. Paul, who attended Mr. Hill during his last few hours, will officiate at the funeral.

The family statement was as follows:

Tuesday, May 25, 2021

A (Back)Story of a Drowning: John Mortimer, St. Vincent, & the Red River

John Thomas Mortimer – Portrait of a Radical

by Isabel Watson

When we were children, my Mother often talked about her childhood: her parents, her brothers, their home life. She had a fund of stories too about aunts and uncles, many of whom we had never met but whom we came to know through the many retellings. This is often the starting point for family history exploration. One detail frequently mentioned was that her father had farmed in Canada at one point in his life and one of his sons from his first marriage had died tragically by going through the ice on the Red River "near Winnipeg" (read: St. Vincent, Minnesota) and his body had not been recovered until the spring. We knew nothing more than that bare outline of a story. It was not until I began to research my Grandfather's life that I came to discover the full extent of the story of John Thomas Mortimer.

My Grandfather, James Mortimer, was born at the Home Farm, Kirkton of Tealing, in the rural hinterland of Dundee in 1841. He came from generations of farm workers, many of whom had had small-scale tenancies on the Glamis estate, especially at Upper Arniefoul. Although James's father Alexander had moved to nearby Tealing, then to Balbeuchley at Auchterhouse, James returned to Glamis to serve his apprenticeship as a blacksmith with Peter Anderson at the smiddy there. Perhaps looking for more lucrative employment after his time was served, he moved to Dundee to one of its many jute mills, Ladybank Mill, and in 1864 married Ann Russell, a steam loom weaver, in Lochee. They were to have six children before Ann's untimely death from cerebro-spinal meningitis in 1876.

John was the fourth of the children, born on 3 March 1871 at 3 Laing Street, Dundee, becoming the eldest son, as the first-born boy, Samuel, had died aged two in 1867. After Ann's death, James was married for a second time in 1880 to Helen Innes (nee Watson), widow of a blacksmith journeyman. Their marriage certificate provided a surprising piece of new information: James's occupation was given as 'Insurance Agent'. From blacksmith to insurance agent – how had this transformation occurred? My Mother had always favoured the Prudential Assurance Agency because of her father's connection to that company. So I felt it would be worthwhile to approach their Head Office in the hope that they might have some archive material about former employees. Their Archivist was able to provide me with a full account of my Grandfather's career with them – treasure trove indeed!

The  history of the company, A Sense of Security: 150 Years of Prudential, gives an idea of how field staff were recruited, being 'only capable men of thorough respectability, and of favourable appearance and address'. In his latter years, my Grandfather continued to demonstrate a lively mind and interest in a wide variety of subjects. It is likely that he had pursued evening class studies as a young man and was eager for self-improvement, thus fulfilling the requirement of being seen as capable.

In the Census of 1881, the family was living at 13 North Wellington Street, Dundee, with father working as an Insurance Agent and Helen established as wife and mother to the five children, all still at home, Maggie (13), Annie (11), John (10), Alexander (8) and William (6), all scholars. Between his initial appointment to the Prudential in 1876 and 1884, James held contracts of employment in Dundee and Forfar, then in February 1884 he was appointed to a position in Airdrie, Lanarkshire, where he was to remain for most of the rest of his life.

By the 1891 Census, James and Helen were living at 13 High Street in Airdrie and had only two of the family still living at home, Alexander aged 18, a schoolmaster, and William aged 16, a letter carrier. The daughters had moved out, perhaps into employment, and John was in lodgings in Glasgow at 113 McAslin Street (St. Rollox) and working as a tailor. His fellow-lodger in the home of John and Mary Mitchell was Peter McPherson, who would become his brother-in-law by marrying his sister Maggie.

A moment of serendipity

I need to digress at this point to explain how it was I came to learn of the Canadian part of the story. What follows is a moment of serendipity. I had joined the Tay Valley Family History Society and being distant from the Research Centre in Dundee, was delighted when an e-mailing group, Tay Valley Bridges, was set up to bring into contact the many members worldwide who were not able to visit Dundee regularly. On one memorable occasion, an online conversation was taking place which involved Winnipeg. On a whim, I posted a request to see if anyone could tell me how to go about tracing the death of a young man named Mortimer by drowning in the Red River, on some unknown date. Back came the reply from fellow-member Susan Bethune, who happened to have in her possession a copy of the Dictionary of Canadian Biography, with an entry about John Thomas Mortimer, tailor and Trade Union activist. And so his story unfolded.

It is by no means clear when John first went to Canada. He was registered as an American citizen in St. Vincent, Kittson County, Minnesota, on 11 June 1906, having 'landed at the port of St. Vincent on or about the month of November in the year eighteen hundred and ninety'. This information seems at least debatable.1 His entry in the 1891 Census in Glasgow is quite clear and credible. There would not be any obvious reason why, having made the journey to the USA or Canada, he should immediately return to employment in Glasgow. His connection with St. Vincent came about through his wife, Lena Cameron, of whom more later. The first mention of him living in Winnipeg is in 1895, when we find him listed as a tailor in the Henderson's Directory and resident at 326 McDermot Avenue, Winnipeg. along with Wm. Mortimer, described as an engineer. The brothers remained at that address for each year until 1898.

The year 1895 certainly does seem significant. My Grandfather James and  his wife Helen also travelled to Canada in that year. James resigned from his employment with the Prudential in April 1895 and was awarded a gratuity of £30. He and Helen sailed from Glasgow on 25 April, occupying a second-class cabin on the SS Samaritan, and arrived in Montreal on 8 May. They would then have made their way overland to Winnipeg. Little is known of their time there. James had a farm near Brandon, north-west of Winnipeg, which he eventually sold to a James Fraser in 1897 before returning to Scotland. It was always related within the family that Helen was unwell and yearned to go back home to Scotland. Indeed she died in Airdrie in 1898 and is buried in the New Monkland Cemetery. Grandfather James subsequently married for a third time, to Isabella Ann Power, my Grandmother, and had a new young family of which my Mother was the only daughter.

John's involvement with the Trade Union movement in Winnipeg is well documented. John Hample, in his entry about John Thomas Mortimer in the Dictionary Of Canadian Biography, states: After September 1896 he began a rise to prominence in Winnipeg's working-class movement by helping to rebuild Local 70 of the Journeymen Tailors' Union of America (JTUA), affiliated with the American Federation of Labor (AFL).

Local 70 had originally been formed in 1892 to give the tailors of Winnipeg protection from the sweatshop practices of the men's custom-made tailoring workshops. After a fruitless strike over an attempt by the merchant tailors to cut wages, Local 70 had been adrift. In 1897, JTM was elected its President and promptly set about galvanising the union, urging the City Council to impose conditions in their contracts for the
manufacture of clothing and intervening on behalf of factory seamstresses during a strike which led to the establishment of one of the first unions of women workers in Canada.

By 1899-1900, he was President of the Trades and Labor Council of Winnipeg, representing that organisation at meetings of the Trades and Labor Congress of Canada. During this period at the turn of the 20th century, he developed a close association with Arthur W. Puttee, acting as his election agent in a Winnipeg by-election which made Puttee Canada's first independent Labour MP in 1900. Puttee acted as John's best man at his marriage to Lena Cameron on 2 September 1901, immediately after the Labor Day Parade through Winnipeg.

Lena was the daughter of Edmund Cameron and Allis Clow, who had settled in St. Vincent, Minnesota, just south of the Canadian border on the east side of the Red River, having moved out west from Prince Edward Island, and like John she was a labour activist. John had begun to make a name for himself as an uncompromising militant, considered 'impossibilist' by some in his demands for workers' rights and justice, but was highly regarded within trade union circles. He had reputedly been saving money to enable a visit home to Scotland, but a major national strike of the JTUA saw him invest his money into the strike funds, only to be fired from his job, reviled in the press and ultimately blackballed from employment in the tailoring trade in Winnipeg.

Tuesday, March 30, 2021

Reid: Bonanza Farmer & St. Vincent Booster


"...With the rapid movement of railroad building into the northern part of the valley, the opening of large farms continued unabated. By 1885 nearly all of the original large farms had been established. The J. J. Hill farm of nearly a township [in size], in Kittson county, is probably the nearest to the International boundary. The Reid farm in the same county is another in point."  [Note: ...and in fact, it was Reid farm that was the nearest to the boundary!]

- Collections of the State Historical Society of North Dakota, Volume III, Tribune, State Printers and Binders, 1910, Page 581
Why did Robert Gillispie Reid invest in land, let alone so much land - 10 sections - in our area?  I did a bit of digging.  Robert married Harriet Duff in 1865 after they met on onboard a ship heading to New Zealand.  Twenty years later, Harriet's relative, David Duff and his family, emigrated from Scotland, finding their way to St. Vincent.  David worked at Reid farm as the foreman.  Right around that time is when Robert bought up the 10 sections in St. Vincent Township.  I think he did it as an astute investment, with an eye to also help family.  Upon Robert's death in 1908, it was found that in his will, he had left a quarter section of Reid Farm to John Duff.  

https://www.kittsonarea.com/2021/02/12/historical-photo-leads-to-interesting-local-farm-history/ https://www.kittsonarea.com/2021/02/12/historical-photo-leads-to-interesting-local-farm-history/

The 10 sections of land that Sir Robert Reid bought  in 1885  became known as  "Reid Farm".  Along with J.J. Hill's Northcote and Humboldt farms, it was one of Kittson County's early 'bonanza farms', and employed many local people.   

Walter J.S. Traill managed the farm for Reid.1 

The 1901 Townships Map (see below)  showed Reid owning 10 sections in St. Vincent Township, bought originally on June 25, 1885 and owned by Reid until his death - in 1909 the estate divested itself of the rest of the property not given to John Duff.

At Right:  Reid Hall, named in honor of
Sir Robert, was St. Vincent's town hall.
[Seen here during fair time, to house exhibitions...]

1 - SourcesKittson County Recorder (original handwritten land deed - excerpt regarding partnership between Reid and Traill, above), and 1901 St. Vincent Township Map.

Sunday, September 13, 2020

A Lifetime of a Depot: NOYES

Depot built 1906 (joint GN/SOO Depot) - 30' x 137' frame. 
Depot remodeled 1912. 
Burned 1921. 
Depot 30' x 138' rebuilt 1922.  
10' x 20' addition added 1924.
Remodeled 1943. 
North 32 feet of Depot removed in 1966 and Depot rebuilt 1967 (after 1966 flood) - platforms removed, landscaping built up to accommodate dike around town.

Torn down/demolished:  August 2020.

Tuesday, July 07, 2020

NEW Book: Pembina County @ 150


Jim Benjaminson shared today:  
Well, its getting closer to reality - "Sagas of Pembina County, 1867-2017" is at the printers.  A 148 page, fully indexed compilation of stories written for county newspapers in 2017-2018 with added material and historical photographs.  We'll let you know when it's ready!

Thursday, May 28, 2020

Images: Pembina to St. Paul on the Red River Trail

The beginning of the trip - Taking off from Pembina, to sell a year's worth of furs...

The end of the trip - Arriving at St. Paul, to sell their furs...

[Where they encamped - St. Anthony's Hill, now called Cathedral Hill]

Saturday, April 18, 2020

1918 Spanish Flu in Kittson County

Kittson County residents who died during the 1918 Spanish Influenza epidemic, included:

Gust A. Leonard Norberg: Died of Spanish Flu at U.S. Army Jefferson Barracks during WWI on January 19, 1918

Ida Swan, only 18 years old.

-  Henry Marius Hanson, son of Herman Hanson and junior member of the firm of Hanson & Son Cement Workers, was called to his eternal rest Thursday October 31, 1918. Death was caused by pneumonia following an attack of Spanish Influenza. (Source: Karlstad Advocate Newspaper/Nov. 15, 1918)
In 1918, Kittson County closed schools in November and they were not reopened until early spring 1919, because of the "Spanish Flu" epidemic (sources include:  Tri-County School History