Posts from the ‘Early Residents’ Category

Dr. William C. Zwick

Dr,, William C. Zwick was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin in 1908. The family moved to Dickinson, North Dakota soon after his birth and his boyhood was spent in western North Dakota.

After graduation from high school he enrolled at the University of Minnesota and completed the course leading to a degree in Dentistry.

Dr. Zwick married Guida Porter of Belfield, North Dakota. She was the daughter of Thomas and Emma porter, Billings county pioneers.

To the union of William and Guida were born three sons,, Dwight, Grant and Kent. All sons attended the public schools of Valley City and all are graduates of the University of North Dakota.

Dr. Zwick practiced Dentistry at Litchville, North Dakota from 1932 through 1942. He then spent two and one-half years in the United States Army in the Medical Corps.

After his discharge, the family moved to Valley City where he engaged in the practice of Dentistry until his death on August 9, 1958.

Source: Barnes County History 1976 Page 281



In August of 1879, there came to Valley city three obviously well-dressed and prospering individuals who registered at the Sherman House.

Contacting B. W. Benson, the leading land agent of the city, they explained that they were interested in homesteading some land.  They introduced themselves as Judge Green, His son, G. B Green, and A. H. Gray, all from Coldwater, Michigan.

Land was selected in Township 139 –Range 59 (Green Township) and the trio purchased horses, wagons, lumber and supplies and drive to their claims, where they built homesteader shacks, plowed a few acres then left for Michigan, informing the editor of the Northern pacific Times that they would return in the Spring with additional settlers and their families.

In January, 1880, the paper reported that G. B Green had married Fannie Grinnell at Coldwater, Michigan. April first a party of thirteen from Coldwater, Michigan detrained at Valley City, including G. B. Green and his new wife.  A. H. Gray arrived, but without his wife.  Judge Green remained at Coldwater.

By the fifteenth, the party had eleven houses under construction, and the editor noted that there was a Gray, A brown, A green, A black and A white in the group, and he suggested that it be called “The Colorful Community.”

On April 29th, the newspaper noted that A. H. Gray had arrived in town early in the morning, obviously on an important mission, since he “had on a boiled shirt” and wore his pants outside of his boots.  The occasion was the arrival of Mrs. A. H. Gray.  It was a big day for Mr. Gray as he was at the same time appointed a County Commissioner to replace Mr. Goodwin, who had resigned.

July 4th, 1880, was celebrated by the community, now called “Gra-Green” by a picnic and program at “Lake Gray.  On July 8th, the Gra-Green community petitioned the County commissioner for a county built road.

Indications are that, in addition to the post office established the next February 28, 1881, with G. B. Green as postmaster, there possibly was a small store and blacksmith shop located in Gra-Green.

Mr. A. H. Gray became associated with the American National Bank and engaged in the implement business.  G. B Green became the teller of the First National bank, was president of the Sanborn Bank and still later, in 1883, owner in part of the Bank of Lisbon.

Early Hunting in Barnes County

Early Hunting in Barnes County

The valley of the Sheyenne River was considered to be excellent hunting country by the Native Americans and the early French fur traders prior to settlement by white people.  Muskrats, mink, bob cats, bear, elk, moose and beaver were plentiful.  Buffalo roamed the prairie and annual hunts were carried on by the inhabitants of Pembina; sometimes as many as two hundred hunters forming a hunting party, complete with families and a Catholic Priest.

With the coming of the white man, the buffalo herds were decimated.  However, the first years of settlement of Barnes County were good years for the hunter.  In July of 1879, buffalo were found in the upper part of the county.  In November, Charley Walker and Cole Chapman shot two deer and a 500 pound elk, and in December, John Daily shot three deer with a muzzle loading rifle.  Trappers were busy with fox, badger, wolf, muskrat, antelope and deer and fur prices were good.

In February, 1880, four elk and three deer were shot at the Ashtabula Crossing, and in March, Mr. Dennett of Bald Hill Creek brought a very large elk to Valley City and sold it to Mr. Weiser, the general store owner.  That same month, E. W. Wylie shot forty three deer and an antelope within fifteen miles of the city limits.

Prior to the building of the mill dams on the Sheyenne, fish was exceptionally good and the paper reported the catch of a six foot sturgeon weighing seventy two pounds, some fourteen miles south of town.

Hunting parties from the East used Valley City as their headquarters and ranged as far north as Devils Lake.

By 1885 the hunting began to be scarce – the larger animals were either all killed or had migrated northwestward to the Devils Lake country where the pressure was not quite as severe.

Frank P. Wright

Frank P. Wright

First County Commissioner

Frank P. Wright of Genesee County, New York, arrived in Valley City, and then called Wahpeton, in April of 1874.  He took a claim two and half miles north of the railroad built a shanty of logs and broke two acres of ground.  His neighbors were D. D. McFadgen, John Morrison, Pat Flood and Mike Conners, all at the railroad crossing.

The winter of 1874 was severe but with good sledding all the time.  In 1875 Wright broke twenty acres and, like the other residents, raised mammoth vegetables.  In 1876 he raised 16 acres of wheat and peas, getting 350 bushels of these, plus 500 bushels of potatoes from three acres.  There being no threshing machines in the county, the grains had to be pounded out by flails.  He sold the potatoes for 90 cents a bushel and the peas at $1.50 per bushel, some in Worthington and the rest in Fargo.

Trains did not run in the winter but a stage coach ran twice a week from Fargo to Bismarck during the winter months.

By 1877 Wright had acquired some poultry, a pig or two and eight head of cattle and raised 250 bushels of oats in addition to the other small grains.

Wright returned to New York the winter of 1878 but returned in 1879 but returned in 1879 with a carload of horses and other stock, farm machinery, buggies and so forth.  He enlarged his house and stable and by 1880 had acquired 800 acres.

Ritchie Bakery

Ritchie Bakery

Barnes County’s first bakery was established in 1882 by Thomas N. Ritchie.  Born in Dundee, Scotland, his original ambition was to be a lawyer or barrister as they were called in Scotland.  He was apprenticed to a baker to give him a trade so that he might pay his way to become a lawyer.

His family moved to Canada when he was nineteen and in 1876 he was married, thus making it imperative that he work to support his family.  In 1882 the family migrated to Valley City and a bakery was established in the family home located just north of the present Library.  Here the bakery goods were baked in the basement and sold upstairs in the front of the building.

At the death of his wife, Thomas N. Ritchie raised the tree children, Mary, David and Loren.  His two sons honored his lifelong ambition of becoming a lawyer by becoming lawyers themselves, acquiring distinction in the profession.  Mary his daughter became a well known teacher.

Thomas N. Ritchie’s contribution to Barnes County did not rest solely upon his bakery, but on his influence upon the cultural and intellectual life of the county.  He was one of the first Library Board members; was a long time member of the school board; was instrumental in organizing the Eastern Star in Valley City and served as its first Grand Worthy Patron of North Dakota.  He died in 1907.

Pioneer Aircraft Builder

Pioneer Aircraft Builder

The name of Ralph M. Metcalf is not listed among those early pioneers of flight but not because he did not try to build the first airplane nor because he did not have visions of powered flight.

As early as 1909, farming near Driscoll, North Dakota, he built and patented a model airplane.  A skilled carpenter and mason, building homes and stores in the community when not farming.  Metcalf dreamed of the possibility of building a flying machine.  Poorly educated formally, he had acquired knowledge of the principles of flight as they were then known, through the reading of every scrap of information he could find on the subject.

In 1912, the family farm was traded for property located on what is now known as Granger Hill in Valley City.  A large workshop was built in the location of the Morton building Company.  A company was formed, stock was sold and the Metcalf Multiplane Company was launched.  Its purpose was to manufacture and sale of the Metcalf Multiplane.

The plane was huge with many wings, some of them moveable, much as the modern “swept-wing idea of today.  The body was roughly in the shape of a boat and it cradled the six horsepower motor which drove the large three bladed propellor in the rear.

The Company had constructed a runway running north and south for the launching of the plane on its maiden flight.  The northern end of the runway was located near where the Thrill Lund House.

Much to the disappointment of all concerned, stockholders and citizens alike, the plane refused to leave the ground on its test flight.  In the crowd were well known people as Judge Englert, Fred Heidel, Peter Davidson and Ward Fritch.

While the test flight was a disappointment, plans went ahead for the re-vamp of the plans to include a larger, more powerful motor and the elimination of some of the excess weight.  However, before these plans could be put into effect, Ralph Metcalf became sick and after several operations, passed away.  Thus passed from the scene certainly Barnes County’s pioneer aircraft builder, remembered only by the pictures of his handicraft.

Cuba Incident

Cuba Incident

About 1899 a Frenchman by the name of Paul Paradieu lived in a sod shanty located north of the elevator in Cuba and on the east edge of Cuba lake or slough.  Here he ran a “blind pig” of sorts, selling liquor illegally, which he bought in large white jugs.

One day a train pulled into the siding at Cuba and several hobos got off the train.  Seeing Paradieu’s soddy, they walked over and entered.  Tying his hands and feet and taping his mouth, the hobos ransacked the cabin, taking the money Paradieu had saved and helping themselves to his liquor.  They then left and boarded the trains as it pulled out of the station.

Paradieu remained tied up and unable to make his predicament known for a long time and until he was found in this condition by one Amos Rhodes (Rhoades).  Amos, instead of untying Mr. Paradieu, as was expected, left the soddy and walked almost a mile to the home of Ab Mc Cready to get him as a witness while Paul Paradieu was freed.

Paradieu was supposed to have said that the longest time he ever spent was while Amos Rhoades walked to Ab McCready’s place and returned.  The hobos involved were never apprehended and the excitement was over in Cuba.