Posts from the ‘Early Residents’ Category

“The Duke of Sanborn”

“The Duke of Sanborn”

All sorts and types of men appeared on the scene when Dakota Territory was settled.  Unfortunately, not all were the strong, upright and industrious settlers of that period.  It was the age of the “promoter”.

One such individual appeared in Sanborn sometime in 1881.  An Englishman, he dressed and acted the part and by inference indicated that he was a duke, or something.  His name was J. Gwynne Vaughn.  He soon became known as “The Duke of Sanborn”.

The Northern Pacific Railroad survey had been completed to the town of Newport (Melville) and was in the process in a northwesterly direction.  The survey had passed a mile north of a community being promoted by Richard Sykes.  Sykes found himself with a rival in the person of J. Gwynne Vaughn.  Vaughn had platted the town of “Gwynne City” on the Pipestem River, only a short distance from the Sysketon Community.  This was the first platted town in Wells County.

The town site was surveyed by George Taylor, a form regular army soldier and with a long connection with the U. S. Secret Service.  The plat was file in Jamestown on May 12, 1882.

J. Gwynne Vaughn proceeded to have the plat lithographed in colors and then added to the plat, a mighty river, the Pipestem, which showed steamboats plying between Gwynne city and Jamestown, with loading docks at the foot of Main Street.  Banks, A city Hall, a school and other buildings were shown, all of course, non-existent.  Railroads were shown as radiating from the city.

These lithographs were made into posters and were circulated throughout the eastern states with advertisements of the golden opportunities awaiting the eager investor.

The Advertising copy read as follows:

Gwynne City!

Devils Lake Region!

The Metropolis of Wells County!

Situated on the Pipestem River, in the midst of the best wheat lands in Northern Dakota.  A large hold will be commenced in this town at once.  Also general stores and livery stable.  Now is the time to purchase lots in this rising and prosperous young town.  Great opening for a lively newspaper and a rare chance for Doctors, Lawyers, and Businessmen generally; on the line of the branch of the Northern Pacific Railroad; $20,600 will be spent on buildings on this place before June.  English capitalists have taken hold of this town and have decided to boom it.  Those who have already purchased lots can congratulate themselves.  It is the coming city in Northwest!

J. Gwynne Vaughn seduced a number of parties into investing in lots and business locations and he was riding high on his profits.  Needless to say, when an investor arrived in Jamestown to look over his investment in Gwynne City, J. Gwynne Vaughn was not to be found and no one in Jamestown knew where Gwynne City was located.

One day he returned to Sanborn from a trip east to promote his non-existent city.  As he stepped off the train he was met by two gentlemen who turned out to be detectives from England’s Scotland Yard.  He was arrested and forthwith returned to England to stand trial for crimes he had committed before leaving that country.

Many years have passed and still no steamboats whistles are heard on the “mighty” Pipesteam River.  Gwynne City is but a memory and a dusty plat on file in Wells County Courthouse.

Pioneer Medicine

Pioneer Medicine

One story often told by Louis Noltimier was about the hired
man of a neighbor, Fred Schulz, who accidently shot himself in the leg with a
shotgun while opening the kitchen door.
Louis was called and came over.  He
man’s leg was badly mangled and there was no way to get him to a doctor, so he
and Fred decided to amputate.  They gave
the “patient” a bottle of whiskey and after a suitable time had passed, they
put him on the kitchen table and cut off the leg.  They tied off the blood vessels with string
as best they could and then put the stump in a bucket of flour to stop the
bleeding.  Evidently this procedure
worked as the man lived.  This took place
about 1898.

Murder at the Ford

Murder at the Ford

William Larsman came to Barnes County from the state of
Wisconsin in 1877 and settled some fifteen miles south of Valley city.  By his twenty first birthday he owned a
homestead and another quarter of land on the Sheyenne River.

An ambitious man, Larsman added to his land acreage until he
was farming in excess of 1000 acres and had tenants on his farms.  With all of this land, Larsman like to own
and operated big machinery.  He purchased
a Reeves threshing rig and used it not only to thresh his own crop of over
10,000 bushels but his neighbors as well.
He also bought the largest Reeves plowing unit, four triple bottoms,
pulled by his steam engines, which he also used to power a large feed mill for custom
grinding.  He purchased one of the first
trucks in Barnes County, an Avery, which he converted to a passenger bus.  Hard rubber tires made for a rough ride so
the unit was used to haul grain.

In November of 1916, Larsman began having trouble with a
tenant, one Adam Schneider, who was dissatisfied with the arrangements and
desire to leave the farm.  Schneider and
his son Victor decided to load their possessions and leave.

When leaving with the last load, they were confronted by
Larsman at the ford in the Sheyenne River, about 60 yards from the house.  Larsman was armed with a loaded Winchester shotgun.

An argument ensued and Larsman was shot in the chest by Victor
Schneider, who then turned himself in to the Sheriff’s office in Valley
City.  Upon the arrival of the Sheriff
and the Coroner, it was found that Larsman was dead.

A hearing was held the next day, October 3, 1916 and young
Schneider was bound over to the district court for trial.  At the Subsequent trial, Victor Schneider was
found “not guilty” on a plea of self defense.

Major Brown’s Trading Post

Major Brown’s trading Post

During the period from 1800 to 1860 fur trading was the principal commercial venture in what is now North Dakota.  Trading Posts were established at various points by the Hudson Bay Company and the Northwest Fur Company, notably at St. Joseph (Walhalla) and Pembina.

With the settlement of the location the boundary between Canada and the United States, these companies were forced to leave the area.  The American Fur Company then made plans to step into the void left by their departure, although the fur bearing population and in particular the buffalo had declined.

It was decided that a fur trading post should be established in the Sheyenne River Valley and the man selected for the post factor was Major Joseph R. Brown.

Major Brown, soldier, fur trader and Indian expert was well known in Minnesota and Wisconsin.  He was furnished with a supply of trade goods and instructed to establish a trading post near or on the mouth of “Butte Pelee”, now known as Baldhill Creek.

Nor records have been found which indicated how Major Brown transported his trade goods to the Sheyenne river Valley but one must assume that he walked the entire distance from Fort Snelling carrying his trade goods on his back, along with food for a long stay.

Major Brown arrived at Baldhill Creek in the fall of 1842 and built a small trading post on the west side of Baldhill Creek, some four miles east of what is now Dazey, ND.  Nothing remains of the building and the exact location is unknown.  Likely it consisted of a dugout in the side of the valley.

Here Major Brown carried on the fur trading business with the Cut Head Tribe of the Yanktonnais Sioux.  The Indian name for the location was “Pa-ha-shda-shda”.

Major Brown, a resident of the new state of Wisconsin, had filed for election to the Wisconsin legislature before taking off for Baldhill Creek.  He was duly elected in the election that fall without campaigning and it became necessary for someone to go to Baldhill Creek to so inform him of his election.  It is not known who the individual was, but he must have been one of the half-breed French-Indianans known as “Metis” who knew the area in which Brown had his trading post.  It is also not known when he arrived at the post but it likely was shortly after Christmas of 1842.

Learning of his election, Major Brown immediately closed the trading post, bundled up the furs he had acquired and started for Prairie du Chinen Wisconsin.  Due to the very deep snow covering the northwest, Major Brown and his messenger were forced to snow shoe the entire distance to Prairie du Chien.

The Baldhill Trading Post was never reopened.  Time and the weather have obliterated its location, although several attempts have been made to find it.  It is likely that the location is now covered with water of Lake Ashtabula.

Clausen Springs

Clausen Springs

Every year hundreds of people spend a part of their vacation time at the Clausen Springs Recreation Park east of Hastings, little realizing the historical background of this place.

Here is a spot that has known the teepees and pow wows of the Sioux Indians; searching eyes of the explorer; the camps of the army infantry and cavalry; the lonely vigil of army dispatch rider; the solitary camp of the fur trapper; the buffalo hunting camp of the Chippewa and Assiniboine hunting party, and the carol of the army supply train on its way to some distant frontier army fort.

Clausen Springs first became known, at least in writing, in 1839 when General Fremont and Joseph Nicolas Nicollet visited the spot and camped here for two day in July of 1839.  Here they found a large group of Indians and half-breeds camped, engaged in slaughtering buffalo and making the food known as “Pemmican.”  Pemmican is composted of dried buffalo meat laced with fat, berries and fruit, of which there was plenty at Birch Creek at that time. The group was nominally commanded by Chief Waneta, a Chippewa from Pembina.  Waneta was very friendly as he knew most of the members of the party and they were invited to participate in the hunt or “Surround” as it was called.  Fremont, always game for fun and excitement, accepted the invitation and in chasing the buffalo he became lost.  It was necessary to send someone to find him at the end of the day.

The party remained here for several days and then pushed northward; following the river and passing west of what is now Valley City in the vicinity of Hobart Lake.  The party arrived at Devils Lake on July 27, 1839.  The return journey took them to the east of the Sheyenne River and back to St. Paul.  The most concrete result of this exploration was the map which Nicollet drew upon his return and the scientific observations made by Nicollet as to the Flora and Fauna of the area.

With the passing of the Nicollet-Fremont expedition, Birch or Tampa Creek reverted to its role as a camping spot for the passing Indians, fur trappers, and hunting groups from Pembina.  However, it was soon to be the scene of one of the largest gathering of Native Americans ever to be in one place peacefully.

The United States Government had concluded several treaties whereby Indian lands were ceded to the United States government for the payment of cash, arrangements for the education of the children and annual gifts of food, clothing and other items.  None of these treaties had been lived up to by the Government and there was great dissatisfaction on the part of the younger members of the tribes.  Then, then, called a meeting of the wandering Sioux tribes of the area Birch Creek or Clausen Springs.  The meeting took place during the summer of 1853 and approximately 5, 000 people attended.  Little is known of the meeting except that they remained at Birch Creek for some time.    The Native Americans gave the place a new name, “Shanka-ata-kata-pi” or “The Place Where we Ate Many Dogs” and renamed the creek “Shanka Creek” or “Dog Creek”.  Apparently, although the Native Americans of that time did eat dog meat, the new name was in reference to the great number of prairie dogs there at the time, which meat was considered a delicacy.  What took place in the councils we do not know for sure but very likely the elders were able to calm the younger braves, as it was nearly ten years before the real outbreak against the whites took place in Minnesota.

Actually, the above meeting was unknown to the white man until in 1923, when Louis LaBelle, a French half-breed mail carrier between Fort Ransom and Fort Totten in the early days, identified the spot.  Will Dixon, a guide and a relative by marriage to Chief Waneta also identified the spot to a member of Col. McPhail and his command renamed the spot “Camp Johnson” in honor of one of the officers in his command.

Four years later, in 1867, Tampa Creek, or Birch Creek or Dog Creek or Camp Johnson rang with the shouts of teamsters, the commands of officers and the banter of the foot soldier.  The government, at the urging of the ever westward moving population, had decided to establish strategically located forts throughout the area from Minnesota through North Dakota into Montana to protect the wagon trains on their way to the goldfields in Montana, the settlers along the Red River and the railroad workers on the projected railroad across the plains to the Pacific Coast.  General Terry was ordered to make the survey for the location of the forts, and he began at fort Abercrombie on the Red River.  His party consisted of one company of infantry, a troop of cavalry and 25 wagons pulled by six miles each.  There were two ambulances (covered backboards).

The site for the first fort was selected at Bears Denn Hillock.  Where here no one knows for sure except that perhaps water was available and the top of Bears Den Hillock afforded a wide view of the countryside.  In retrospect, it seems a poor place to establish a fort.  At any rate after selecting the site, the party turned northward along the river, stopping at Birch Creek or Camp Johnson for the water available there, plus fire wood and tree cover.  Once again the sound of woodcutting was heard, with horses chomping at the picket line and “chow call” ringing up and down the valley.

General Terry and command then proceeded northward, passing to the north of Hobart Lake and making camp at the old site of the village of Eckelson.  From here they moved their way along the outer edge of the valley until they came upon the trail of General Sibley after crossing the river at what we now call “Sibley Crossing”.

With the establishment of Fort Ransom and Fort Totten, Birch Creek took on a new importance.  It became the camping place for the supply trains, dispatch riders and cattle drivers which supplied not only Fort Ransom and Fort Totten but Fort Stevenson and Fort Buford on the Missouri River.  It continued to be the camping ground for wandering Native Americans from the Fort Totten and Sisseton Indian Reservations.  The trail became a road, in fact a highway between two centers of population on the prairie.  Deep ruts were cut in the prairie and in some spots the remains of the old military road can be seen in the area of Birch Creek or Clausen springs.

With the building of the Northern Pacific Railroad the need for Fort Ransom ceased and in 1875 it was ordered abandoned.  Fort Abercrombie had already been dismantled and there also ceased to be any military traffic via Fort Ransom.  Birch Creek became a ghost spot except for passing Native Americans and an infrequent trapper.  With civilization coming, the fur trade had ceased and a way of life had passed.

Settlers had begun to filter into the Valley of the Sheyenne following the building of the railroad.  The railroad had sent promoters to the European countries to tell them of the chance to get what amounted to free land in the Dakotas.  By 1879 the emigrations from the old country was just beginning to be felt in the valley and among those appearing were three young brothers by the name of Clausen.  Ludvig, 31 years of age, was the oldest, followed by Gustave, 23 years old, and Nels, the youngest at the age of 17.  None of the three were married and none ever did get married.  It is likely that the three walked from Valley City south along the river valley, searching for just the right land to settle on and make their fortunes.

Since they were among the first settlers in the area they had a wide choice of land.  It is likely they were looking for land with the same characteristics of the land that they had farmed in Norway.  The prairies were new to them and they tended to keep to the valley in their search.  They felt much more at home among the hills, trees and near the water.

The three brothers were the sons of Claus Clasen who resided at M’Jo’ndalen, Eiker, Norway.  In addition to the three brothers, there were three sisters  Elise, Henrietta, and Fredrikke, and another brother called Claus.  Claus was the eldest of the seven children and had been named after his father.  Claus preceded the three brothers in death, leaving two children:  Leonard and Signe.

After looking over the land, the brothers chose 160 acres bisected by the waters of Birch Creek and including a deep glen covered with a thick blanket of trees.  They, or rather Ludvig, filed on the interior 160 acres of Section 18, Oakhill Township.  Just why more land was not filed on is a mystery, since each was entitled to file on a quarter section in his own right.  Very likely, having in mind the small farm of their father in Norway, they thought that 160 acres was a great amount of land and all they would ever be able to farm.

Returning to their claim, they proceeded to build a “dugout” home in the side of valley of the creek, selecting the tree covered glen for its location.  Here they were to live for many years, adding only a small addition for a kitchen somewhat later.  A small barn was built below the house on level land by the creek.  Several trees were cut from the hill side to the west of the small wood fronted dugout to provide a crude road out of the glen.  Apparently there were few close neighbors at first, but as the days of the year passed, other settlers began to file on land in the vicinity and, as was the custom then, each helped the other in getting settled.  Life began to settle into a pattern and the three brothers, by mutual consent, fell into a way of life that was to exist for many years.

Ludvig, the eldest, was the acknowledged leader.  He made the large decisions and kept the peace.  Gustav and Nels were not on the best of terms and Ludvig was forced to be the peacemaker.  This role was played for many years and Ludvig was, according to one story, supposed to have remarked that when he died, he wanted to be buried between the two brothers so that they could not continue their bickering after death, regardless of where they went.

Gustav was the cook and wrote poetry, which was accepted and printed in the “Decorah Posten”, a Norwegian newspaper printed in Iowa and widely read by the Norwegian settlers in the Dakotas and Minnesota.  According to Mr. Henry Anderson, who lived just south of the home of the brothers, and who visited them with his father, Gustav had been a sailor before coming to the Dakotas and after having been at the wheel of a ship caught in a storm for over 48 hours without relief, he had become a bit peculiar.  Gustav’s sailor uniform hung just inside the door of the kitchen for many years, but Gustav would not talk about his experiences as a sailor.  He seemed a rather dour sort of man, not given to casual conversation, but living in a world of his own.

Nels, the youngest, alternated between working for another settler close by or remaining at home, very likely fighting with Gustav.  Although a fine looking man, Nels was not on the marriage market.  Of limited education, he preferred the life of a hired man.

Little is known of the farming operation.  Mr. Henry Anderson’s father and later Mr. Anderson himself farmed the tillable land on shares with Ludvig.  Some horses were kept but after the railroad was built, which crossed a part of the farm, no horses were kept on the premises.  Part of the income of the trio came from sale of wine made from the wild berries which grew in great profusion in the valley.  Ludvig is supposed to have planted some apple trees but few, if any survive to this day.  Chokecherries, gooseberries and wild plums were mainly used in the winemaking. Ludvig asked friends to make use of the unneeded fruit and settlers in the vicinity were happy to take advantage of his generosity.  Of course, since this was the age of prohibition, the sale of wine was strictly illegal.  However, no complaint was made by the neighbors.

Despite the frugality of their living, they were able to send some money home to Norway at times.  Likely, the youngest sister, Elise, was the receiver of this money, since she had never married.  Some money was received from the sale of the right of way to the Northern Pacific Railroad and it appears from the estate papers of Ludvig that this money was put in Certificates of Deposit at the Bank of Hastings, where it remained until the last brother, Gustav, passed away.

So passed the life of the Clausen Brothers.. known for their contemporizes as hermits, wine makers and in the main as “characters”, not given to hard work but still able to take care of themselves.  Ludvig was the first to pass away in 1915 at the age of 67.  Gustav was left to carry on the farming.   According to the contemporaries, he then built a small house just to the south of the original dug out home and here he lived by himself for ten years and here he died alone on October, 1925 at the age of 69.

True to the request of Luvig made some years before, the three brothers were buried in the Spring Creek Cemetery on the north edge of Hastings, and Ludvig was buried between Nels and Gustav, hopefully to keep the peace in the hereafter.

Upon the death of Gustav, an administrator was appointed to administer the estate.  His name is not important but his actions were.  The administrator was appointed on the 23rd day of November, 1925, and served in that capacity until his death on March 18, 1931.  On June 26, 1931, another administrator was appointed to complete the settlement of the estate.  The new administrator began to audit the work of his predecessor, and found that the estate of Gustav had been mishandled and that after payment of some of the claims, the sum of $1,335.27 was missing and unaccountable.  Claim was then made against the estate of the former administrator and the State Bonding Fund.  There being no funds in the estate, the State bonding fun was forced to replace the missing monies, not, however without having to go to the Supreme Court for a judgment.  A total of $1,497.94 was recovered from the State Bonding Fund and this, plus some interest due the estate, bought the total estate before administration to $1,605.05.

The administrator then began to pay the claims against the estate and to try to ascertain the rightful next of kin to make distribution of the estate.  Since all of the relatives concerned lived in Norway, it became a long and tiresome period of corresponding through the American Consul in Norway.  Finally, on the 18th day of November, 1936, the administrator filed his final report thus ended the story of the Clausen Brothers.

Upon the death of Gustav, the land included in the estate was purchased by Torger Syvertson, son of Olaus  Syvertson, who owned the land to the west of the Clausen property.  Mr. Syvertson then tore down the small house and the dugout home of the Clausen Brothers and the barn and the property became a picnic spot for the people of the immediate area.  In fact, it was such a popular place that Mr. Syvertson decided to build a small dance pavilion just to the north of the location of the home of the Clausens and for a period of years, during the thirties, dance bands were brought in periodically and dances were held.

The spot continued to be a picnic place during the late thirties and into the forties, and with the advent of the county park system, and after prolonged discussion, it was decided to acquire additional property and convert the place to a county park. Several state and federal organization and the National Guard were brought into the picture… a dam was built a\and The Clausen Springs Recreational area became to be.

Thousands of people now use Tampa Creek, or Birch Creek, or Dog Creek, or Camp Johnson, or Clausen Springs for their recreation, little realizing the historical background of the area.

First Wedding in Barnes County

First Wedding in Barnes County

Ten years before Barnes County was first settled, Captain James Fish was escorting a party of gold seekers to the Montana gold fields, crossing Barnes County from east to west and crossing the Sheyenne River at White’s Crossing.  The party arrived at the river on July 14, 1862 and crossed to the west side to make camp.  (White’s Crossing later became known as Ashtabula Crossing.)

Crossing the river was quite easy as while it was about seventy feet wide, it was only two feet deep with a fine gravel bottom, according to Samuel R. Bond, the recorder of the expedition.

A large supply of wood was cut while encamped on the Sheyenne as there was no wood between the Sheyenne River and Lake Jessie, the next stop.  An incident of great importance took place at this camp, at least to two principals in the drama.  Let Samuel R. Bond’s report furnish the details.  “At this camp occurred an incident which served to break the monotony of camp life, and to consecrate the spot in the memories of at least two of our party of emigrants.  A young couple had been observed, early in our journey, to evince a strong and growing affection for each other, and with the consent of the young lady’s relatives, who were in the train, determined to celebrate their nuptials with all the forms and solemnities that the absence of municipal organization would permit.  So after the evening meal, with moon shedding a bright chaste light over the scene, the young couple, in the presence of all the members of our train, pledged their troth to live together as husband and wife “until death should them part” and the forms of the Episcopal marriage service which were read by one of our party, were used for the occasion.

The congratulations and good wishes of friends followed, then a dance upon the greensward to the music of a violin closed the ceremony of this wedding upon the plains.”

The young husband was Henry F. Taylor of St. Anthony, Minneapolis, and his wife, Caroline Abbott of Boston.  The ceremony was performed by N. P. Langford, an Episcopalian layman.  It was certainly the first wedding performed in what is now Barnes County and likely the first in the state outside of Pembina.

Do you remember H.B. Bartron?

Do you remember H.B. Bartron?

A few months ago Wes got a phone call from a gentleman looking for large artwork done in Valley City by his grandfather H.B. Bartron back in the 1930s. Mr. Bartron traveled through ND and painted many large murals across the state. We are wondering if anyone remembers seeing his artwork in the City Auditorium entry way. The gentleman said of the five murals the ones he was told about were of a sailing ship and French cabaret scene. Do these murals still exist under the acoustic tile? Anyone have any photos that show them or remember what the others might have been?Do you remember H.B. Bartron?

A few months ago Wes got a phone call from a gentleman looking for large artwork done in Valley City by his grandfather H.B. Bartron back in the 1930s. Mr. Bartron traveled through ND and painted many large murals across the state. We are wondering if anyone remembers seeing his artwork in the City Auditorium entry way. The gentleman said of the five murals the ones he was told about were of a sailing ship and French cabaret scene. Do these murals still exist under the acoustic tile? Anyone have any photos that show them or remember what the others might have been?