December 19, 1936 VCTR

Fifty years in North Dakota and Valley City Recalled by D.W. Clark

The following article, prepared by D.W. Clark, was presented at the recent 25th anniversary meeting of the Pioneer Club, describing that part of North Dakota known as Valley City and it’s vicinity as he remembers it.

By D.W. Clark

Mr. President, Ladies and Gentleman: I am glad to be called upon at this time-glad to be here upon this occasion. It’s an inspiration to come together in this way with those we have known so many, many years. As I sat here this afternoon listening to those who came before me my mind went back to the time when I first came to North Dakota. Along in August, 1879, I developed a fever for the Great Northwest and left my home in Pennsylvania via the Great Lakes, Buffalo to Duluth, and then by rail over the Northern Pacific to Fargo, Dakota Territory.

Fargo was not much of a place at that time, there being but three hotels, the old Headquarters Hotel, the Fargo House, down East Main street towards the Red River, and the Farmers Home. As I remember it, this Farmers Home was located out on the prairie about where the Masonic Temple now stands. There was a great rush at this time, and people from every part of the east were arriving with their belongings to file on the land our Government so generously offered them. This matter of filing and being possessed of 320 acres seemed to be uppermost in the minds of all who came. Everybody had the fever, and before I knew it I too had filed on a preemption and tree claim down in Richland country, near what is now known as Walcott. It seemed as if I had grown rich over night. I was the owner of 320 acres of what I thought to be the richest 320 acres on God’s green earth.

This over, I went back home, but returned again in the summer of 1880, when I secured the services of a Norwegian neighbor who plowed ten acres and seeded the same to oats.

Came Here In 1881

Again I went back and again I returned to Dakota, with the express purpose of building a house for myself, my wife and my little baby boy. I arrived in Fargo hoping to establish permanently there, but was disappointed inasmuch as others had already covered the insurance field before me. Someone suggested that I go to Valley City. I followed that suggestion and arrived in Valley City, March 30, 1881. I went up there in a mixed train consisting of several box cars and a caboose.

It was a miserable day. Great heaps of snow could be seen in every direction, and the mud in the street was knee deep. I never was so homesick in all my life, and if it had not been for the good friend Walter F. Jones I think that I would have taken the first train back to the place whence I came. Walter and I were raised in the same town Tidioute, a pretty little village nestled among the hills along the Alleghenry River in western Pennsylvania. He extended to me the glad hand, introduced to me the merchants and other business men, and they in turn gave me such a hearty welcome that all symptoms of homesickness were soon dispelled, and from that day to this I have never seen the time when I wanted to go back there to live.

First Impression Discouraging

However, you can imagine my first impression was none too good. The depot, a frame structure, was at that time on the south side of the railroad track. As I stepped from the train to the depot platform I paused to look around. I faced the north. In the distance I could see a few newly built dwelling houses. Then again I could see our first courthouse, jail downstairs, courtroom upstairs, and stairs on the outside of the building. This building is now on the lot back of the Swedish Lutheran parsonage on the hill, and is used as a barn or garage. Not far to the east of the courthouse was our first schoolhouse. It was a one story affair, not much larger than an ordinary shanty. This building was afterwards moved up to and became part of the new schoolhouse, the building now known as the Fifth Avenue Hotel. This little schoolhouse was afterwards sold to Otto Faust, who converted it into a church and moved the same to Second street in the southern part of town.

A little bank building could be seen on the corner now occupied by the First National Bank. Perhaps 100 feet north of this I could see a big frame building owned and occupied by our old friend John Holmes as a general store. He lived upstairs with his mother and sisters, Sarah, Rachel, and Henrietta. Across the street was a two story building occupied by George Getchell as a dwelling and livery stable. To the west I could see the Walter Jones Lumber Yard. Here is where I first met our friend William H. McPherson, Walter’s able assistant. This was the picture as I saw it for the first time. Lest I forget, I would like to say that the building now known as the Abe Eckel Blacksmith Shop was then owned by Mr. M. E. Mason.  Sim Mason was a contractor and builder, Mart was attached to the B. W. Benson household, and Oscar was a successful farmer. Four brothers each lived in retirement for several years, and all four finally gave up the fight and passed on.

Stayed at Sherman House

I was sick at heart because I really thought that this was all there was to Valley City. I felt better, however, when someone told me that the largest and best part of Valley City was to the south and east. I was told that the best hotel was in that direction, and I therefore took up the trail leading me to the Sherman House. This was a two story frame building occupied as a hotel by the man from Wadena, Minnesota, by the name of Schaulus. The main office was occupied in part by a colored barber, whose name was Charley Crawford. It didn’t look any too good, but I registered and was told that I must room with another fellow whom I did not know, but whom I soon found out to be none other than the notorious Dr. F. Harley DeVeaux. This was Saturday night.

After resting over Sunday. I, in the company with Walter, started out to see the merchants. We first called on Mr. P. O. King, who had a very nice furniture store located down near where the power house is now located. He was a wonderful man and seemed mighty glad to see me. He was the father of Fred and Carl King, our present policemen. His store was partly occupied by our old friend, Ole Knudson. Ole and I traded watches about six times in as many days, and when I stopped to take inventory I discovered Ole to be the best trader.

The next building we entered was our first postoffice. Christian Anderson was postmaster. He was ably assisted by his charming daughter, Christine. They left here many years ago. Christine, I was told, married and has a family of her own. The building was the little building occupied until recently by a Chinaman as a laundry.

We then dropped into the next building to see Mr. A.C. Kasberg, who was doing a nice hardware business on the corner. This building was recently wrecked, and what is left of it is now on the lot down near our City Market building. Mr. Kasberg gave us a hearty welcome and bade us God speed.

Meets J.S. Weiser

A cross the street, where now the Northridge Brothers have their filling station, we found one of the finest men I ever met, Mr. J. S. Weiser. He gave me the glad hand and a courteous welcome. He had a fine store and ably assisted by Mr. McPherson at the books, and around the counters we met Mr. L. J. Anderson. Mr. McPherson was the father of the first president of our Pioneer Club,  also the father of Tom, Locky and John McPherson, all who have passed on with the exception of Tom, who we all know as the sweet singer of Scotland.

The next building was occupied by Jerome Kintner as the Northern Pacific Hotel. After the usual introduction we then meandered up to the drug store owned and occupied by H.G. Hourn. Here is where I got my first start in business. Mr. Hourn was glad to know that I intended to go into the insurance business and told me that he had the agency for two good companies, the North American and the Pennsylvania, and that if I desired would gladly turn these over to me. It didn’t take me long to accept his magnanimous proposition. The next year Mr. Hourn moved his drug store to Fifth Avenue, and it is now the Foss Pharmacy.

We then went into the next building, where we found Mr. Henry Wold taking care of his harness store. He was the father of the late Mrs. A. P. Paulson. He also moved his building to Fifth Avenue. It is now occupied by Vic Vaupel, proprietor of the Globe.  Mr. Wold passed away a number of years ago. Mr. Hourn also left for the west, and the last time I saw him was when he was in a drug store at Ballard, Washington. The next store was a clothing store. I think that owner was Mr. Less.

Liked Parkhouse

Now we came to a real wide awake up-to-the-minute merchant, Mr. Joshua Parkhouse. His was a general store and a big one at that. He gave me a cordial welcome and told me that he would give me a job in his store, which I accepted at once. It was a bookkeeping job for evenings. He was a splendid fellow, just such a man as anyone would like to tie to. In this store Colonel Peake, then a small boy, received his first schooling in merchandise. He was a clerk in this store for some time. Mr. Parkhouse later moved to St. Paul and met his death in a sad and distressing manner. One Sunday morning his store was discovered to be on fire, and when the front door was broken in he was found on the floor burned to death.

Next in order was the Sherman House, and next to that we walked into the hardware store operated by C.A. Benson & Co., this firm consisting of C. A. Benson, George A. Thompson and Julius Stevens. Mr. Stevens went from here to Cooperstown and later died there. George Thompson went back to Cincinnati, and C.A. Benson went to British Columbia, where he was murdered by a drunken lumberjack. I know this to be true. The man who did the killing was arrested, by a deputy sheriff with whom I afterwards became very well acquainted, taken to Nanimo, Vancouver Island. He was tried by a jury and acquitted. The judge, however, seemed to be satisfied that he was guilty and said to him “The jury has acquitted you. You may now go and sand bag the jury.”

Wrote On Coal Barrel

Across the street was a little frame building owned and occupied by our good old friend, B. W. Benson, one of the greatest real estate boomers this country ever knew. He sold more land and located more actual settlers than all the other real estate agents combined. He was a whole souled fellow, the salt of the earth. He extended to me a hearty and cordial welcome. He offered to share his office and give me a desk to write upon. This was not the finest desk one could wish for, still it answered the purpose and I was glad to accept it. It had two legs at one end while the other rested on a coal barrel. Upon this table I wrote my first insurance policy. And this, my friends, was the starting of the first exclusive insurance agency, the date being April 11, 1881. At this time Mr. Benson platted and promoted Benson’s Addition to the original plat of Valley City, and I must say he was a very, very busy man. He was afterwards sent to the Dakota Legislature and was one of those who originated the moving of the capital to Bismarck. He afterwards went west and died there.

After leaving Mr. Benson we dropped in to call on Fred Adams, a bright and promising young lawyer, who gave us the glad hand and wished us good luck. Mr. Adams left Valley City along time ago and went west. He afterwards returned to the east, and finally shot himself in front of one of the hotels in Minneapolis. The building he occupied was a small frame structure in which Colonel Marsh, our first register of deeds in Barnes County, had his office. The Colonel married to Miss Nellie Willard, and afterwards went to the state of Montana where he and his wife have since died.

Walter, knowing my weakness for the drama, and feeling that I would be interested in anything that looked like a play house, steered me up in the front of the building, took a key from his pocket, opened the door, and said, “This my friend, is our opera house.” It was a building that stood upon ground where now stands the City Drug store. It occupied a ground space of perhaps 25X60 feet. In the south was a stage and some improvised scenery.  This was what they were pleased to call the Odds and Ends Hall; not much of an auditorium but it answered the purpose. This was our dance hall as well. I remember that I personally brought to this house Billie Arlington’s Minstrels. We had but few chairs, so I went out and borrowed beer kegs and plank enough for the purpose.

Darby O’Malley Next

The late Darby O’Malley, the genial proprietor of the Dakota Hotel, was next to give me the glad hand. He was one of those kindly accommodating fellows that one likes to meet. His hotel was where The Fair Store now stands. And that was the last building on Main Street, until we came to two little buildings, one occupied by Charles Hockanson as a meat market and as a small saloon, up near Fifth Avenue. Between Mr. O’Malley’s hotel and these little buildings was a pond of water 12 feet deep, taking up a greater part of Main Street. A tressle, perhaps six feet high was used as a sidewalk spanning the space between. W. E. Jones had a hardware store now where the Dakota Drug Store now stands. The pond of water referred to was in time finally drained by the installation of a new sewer to the river.

Robt. Anderson Builds Store

During the summer of 1881 Parkhouse & Sayles brought a steam pile-driver to the corner of Fourth Avenue and Main Street and drove long piles into the ground for the foundation of a new building. This they occupied for some time as a general store. This in time burned and the new building known as the Right Price Store building was erected by Robert Anderson.

Many improvements on Fifth Avenue were made. George Getchell enlarged his livery stable to a three story building, with an opera house on the third floor. This is what was known as the Opera House Block. It was dedicated in the early part of December 1881, and I must say it was quite an event. I was sent to Fargo to bring up the Stone & Amie band and orchestra and the big expected crowd. This was a disappointment, however, as one of the most severe blizzards I had ever seen broke loose while I was there. The orchestra, a reporter from Fargo Republican office, and myself were the only passengers to Valley City. Upon our arrival we found a goodly crowd awaiting at the hall. It was purely a local crowd, but all seemed to enjoy the evening hugely. It was quite a picture. A big bunch of musicians playing for the dance with their overcoats on. It was a night I shall never forget. We were blessed in those days with a bunch of mighty fine people. One person was as good as the other, and all joined in making every sort of a gathering a very happy affair.

This old opera house was the scene of many notable gatherings In this place we had the pleasure of hearing such artists as Camilla Urso, at that time one of the world’s greatest violin virtuosos, Clara Louise Kellogg, famous grand opera star, Maggie Stewar Woodhouse, and many others well known throughout the land.

Big Boom In 1882

In 1882 there was a big boom on Fifth Avenue. Among the many improvements was the building of the Kindred Hotel. The project was born in the mind of B.W. Benson, who in turn passed it over to Mr. Thomas Adams of Brooklyn, New York who finished the job. Mr. Adams was introduced to Valley City by Mr. C. F. Kindred who then owned that big farm north of town known as the Kindred Farm and was afterwards sold to S. K. Nester. Mr. Adams was the proprietor of the Tutti Fruitti gum factory in Brooklyn. He also built the store occupied by Joe Schmitz. It may be of interest to you to know that the first story of this hotel has in part been occupied as a clothing store ever since it’s erection. It was first opened for business in the fall of 1882 by the Sternberg Brothers, Adolph and Isaac. A few years later Isaac retired and Adolph continued the business until his death, when it passed to Mr. M. O. Straus, with our Herman Stern in charge, continuing the business as the Straus Clothing Company until now. It is now three times as large as it originally was, and is one of the largest and most up to date clothing and men’s ready-to-wear stores in the northwest.

Across the street was a small restaurant and hotel conducted by s man and woman, Bennet & Dailey. One night Jennie Bailey came home from Fargo. Bennet was not in an agreeable mood. He emptied the contents of a big Colts revolver into her carcass and then blew his own brains out.

Also Year of Flood

This was the year of the big flood. The ice on the river gorged–the railroad bridge and ran down Main Street. Water was knee deep as far north as the schoolhouse. I was building my house at the time and wanted a piece of moulding, pole and piloted myself to the lumber yard told me that if I would go and get it I might have it. I took him at his word and secured a plank and pole, pilotted myself to the lumber shed and got my moulding and started again for dry land. All was well until I made a slip and went sprawling into the water up to my neck. Believe it or not, Joe Barclay built a raft of sufficient lumber to build himself a claim shanty and piloted that raft as far as Marsh’s mill, a distance of seven miles. A funny thing happened on Fifth Avenue. As I said before, the street was flooded as far north as the schoolhouse. Clerk of Court, Alex McConnel, and Doctor Campbell stood on the corner now occupied by Foss Pharmacy, both living in the north and both anxious to get home to dinner. Neither had rubber boots. As a last resort Alex offered to carry the genial doctor on his back and following up the suggestion he took off his shoes and stockings and rolled up his pants. The doctor mounted his steed and the two headed for dry land. All was well until they got as far as where the Montgomery Ward building now stands, when all of a sudden Alex’s feet came out from under him and the two of them had to swim the rest of the way, much to the enjoyment of the jolly crew standing by.

In the year 1882 I built my house on Lots 1 and 2, Block 13, Benson’s Addition to Valley City, just one half a mile west of the First National Bank building, with no buildings whatsoever between. No sidewalks, just a trail to the west. Today we find a building on nearly every lot between the city limits to the west and the Sheyenne River to the east, a distance of over a mile. On those days we had no lights, not even kerosene lamps to guide our steps. We had no waterworks, a few wells, but the water was so doggoned bad that even a dog would go thirsty along time before drinking it. Today we have the best and most up to date electric light plant and the purest water one could wish for. In fact, no city in the world of its size is better lighted then Valley City, North Dakota.

Forest On College Site

South of the town and across the river was a dense growth of trees and underbrush. So dense that one could hardly get through it. It was there we gathered our high bush cranberries, our wild plums, our hazel nuts and hops. Look at it today, our State Teachers College beautiful homes and well kept lawns.

In those days we had but one little mill, our only industry. Today we have in its place on of the finest flour mills in the whole United States the famous Occident Four Mills capable of grinding out 2000 barrels of flour in a single day, and grinding up all the wheat raised in Barnes County.

Then we have the Northwestern Nursery, the Mercy Hospital, five big creameries. We have bus lines running in every direction every day of the year.  We also have a great Northern Pacific railroad. The Soo Line and Northern Pacific branch connecting us with Cooperstown, McHenry and Binford.

Recalls Many Friends

In the early days we had Fingal, no Lucca, no Nome, no Hastings, no Kathryn, Litchville, Marion, no Rogers, Leal, Dazey, Wimbledon or Cooperstown, Pillsbury or Laverne. However, there were a lot of mighty good people scattered all over the country. We met in the north and west such people as Mike Gesellehen, Hugh McDonald, Ryer Ryerson, the Faust boys, Aaron, Otto and Jake, Ole Anderson, Frank Stack, Joe Heimes. Herman Starke, Paul Messner, John Miller, Thele Kaiser, Nick Passmel, Robert Baillie, Wylie Neilson, J.H. Whitcher and John McFadgen. To the north we found C.F. Kindred, Frank Wright, George Fishback, Page Person, Hans Bergen, Ole Elsby, Andrew Anderberg, Abe Sutton, Joe  Rogers, Charles Getchell, George Stiles, R.M. Pray, Jean Keane, the Wylie boys, the Guyon brothers, the Chilbergs, Magnus, Otto and Jake, John Anderman, Henry Beal, Walter Emery and a lot of others. In the northeast we had Will Kernkamp, Will Schultz, Will Olson, Christ Schillings, Jake Stutsman, Louis Noltimier, James Bushy, Gotfried Baller, Ferdinand Krug, James Coop, George Bond. East and south we found William Schroder, Christ Peatow, Frank and Charles Ertelt, Lou Triebold, William Hendricks, Charles Noltimier, Phillip Gassman, Mr. and Mrs. Sykes, Andrew Goodman, Otto Becker, Arne Olson and Albert Rener. In the south we find A. J. Durham, John Begston, George Marsh, Myron Walker, Hiram Walker. In the southeast we have Norman Ellis, Freeman Ellis, Pete and Ole Hanson, August Steiger, the Davidson boys, D.M. Green, Frank White, A.H. Gray, Andrew Brown, John B. Black and perhaps some other colors we do not recall. Mrs. Fox, Gib. Green, Ira Lampman, T.L. Codding, Ole Johnson, Hans Madson, Sylvester Foy, Charles Holt, Syrenius Knight, the Davidson brothers, O.M. Skonnard, Andrew Wedin, and many more.

We are proud of our courthouse, proud of our schools, our nineteen churches, our parks, our city hall and our new auditorium and armory which is now under construction. We are also proud of our neighboring towns, Sanborn, Eckelson, Oriska, Fingal, Cuba, Nome, Kathryn, Hastings, Litchville, Marion, Rogers, Leal, Dazey, Wimbledon and Pillsbury, and more than all we are proud of our own Pioneer Club and each and every member thereof.

I wish I could tell you about C.T. Dazey, the playwright who wrote that grand old play “In Old Kentucky”, who at one time lived in Valley; and Jim Allen whose practical jokes cost this county a few thousand dollars more or less, but my time is up, therefore, I thank you.

Note: The W. F. Jones referred to in this article is Walter F. Cushing. Of late a Beach publisher, he changed his name by act of the state legislature in the early ‘90’s.