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The Life Of A Valley Farmer: William Ash


William G. Ash

Every community develops its leaders. Builders of a communitylike my Great Grandfather William Ash made great contributions in the RedRiver Valley communities.

On January 15, 1869 a boy was born to Mr. and Mrs. GeorgeAsh near Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

In 1881, at the age of twelve, William and his parentsheaded to the Red River Valley in the United States. They took a steamernamed the Owen Sound from Georgian Bay, Ontario to Duluth, Minnesota. Fromhere they took the railroad to Fisher Landing which is west of Crookston,Minnesota. They then boarded a steamboat to Emerson, Manitoba. They thensettled in the Joe River community in St. Vincent township. He had his schoolingin the United States up to the fourth grade.

In March 1889, he got a job working for the city of Minneapolisfor the summer. His job was planting trees along 79 Lyndale Avenue North.Little else is known of William Ash's early years.

On January 1, 1897, he married Miss Carrie Amanda Cederholmwho was a neighborhood school teacher. On December 12, 1897, their firstchild was born. They named him William after his father. Five other childrenfollowed him. They were Carl, Lawrence, Marguerite, Robert, and Ida.

Since his father, George Ash, was a farmer, William decidedthat he would follow in his father's foot steps. In 1895, he started farmingon section 2 in St. Vincent township. He farmed eight quarters of land whichis about 1,280 acres. He raised around 100 sheep, 25 horses, 30 cattle,9 hogs, as well as numerous chickens and geese. He also raised crops ofoats, barley, flax and wheat all which was grown from pure seed. WilliamAsh liked to farm which can be seen when he said "Farming is all right,but it's just like any other business, if you want to be a success at ityou have to work." (1)

In 1905, the Minneapolis St. Paul & Sault Ste MarieRailroad built its railroad through Kittson County. It was going to go throughhis land. When it was first surveyed it was to go between the house andthe barn. Another surveyor had it go behind the house and trees where itnow runs.

Since their old house was getting small for his growingfamily of three boys and one girl they decided to build a two story housein 1908. This house had a deck where you could climb onto it by a doorwaythrough the attic. You could see the country side for miles. It was usedmainly to look for straying stock.

Many years after the house was built they planted a hedgeand some pine trees. Mrs. Ash, who always liked flowers, always plantedsome on the east and south sides of the house.

It was around 1914 that he decided to switch from a horseand buggy to his first car. It was a Ford Model T.

Mr. Ash's hobby was traveling. He was taking many trips.If he wasn't driving himself, he was riding with a friend. There was oneevent he always wanted to go to. That was the Red River Valley Winter showsin Crookston, Minnesota. He only missed one show from the time it was startedtill he died. His favorite pets were: Nipper - a dog, and Kitty Boy - acat.

William Ash was never in the military service of his country.When he needed help or advice he would go to Tom Brown who was his closestfriend.

One saying that he was always telling his sons and daughterswas: "I want six footers." (2) He meant he wanted to have allsix foot tall grandchildren. The Ashs were Methodists and so went to theMethodist church which was in the district 3 school house. Later on theywent to the Presbyterian church which is today called the North Star church.He thought of himself as a member of the Republican Party and never in hislife has he voted on the democratic ticket. William Ash was an active memberof the "Odd Fellow" and the "Elks" lodges.

William Ash was one of the first people in the townshipto get new devices. For instance, he had the first portable grain elevatorin St. Vincent township. To run this elevator he was one of the first touse a three horsepower International stationary engine on it. He got a Fordsongas tractor in 1917 and his first combine in 1929. It was pulled with atractor.

Mr. Ash was always trying to better life for area residents.He helped found the Red River Valley Development Association and got theassociation's second annual Valley Farmer and Homemaker Award in 1939. Thisaward is given to people who have made contributions to agriculture developmentin their community, improving their farmsteads, and contribution towardbetter crops or livestock. He also received a Pure Seed Growers award. Hehelped circulate a petition for a rural mail route for St. Vincent, Minnesota.

Among his other accomplishments was to help organize thefirst telephone company in Kittson County. He also helped start the KittsonCounty Farm Bureau. He has helped found the Humboldt Elevator Associationin Humboldt, Minnesota and the St. Vincent Elevator Company in St. Vincent,Minnesota.

William Ash was also one of the Directors of the FirstState Bank of Humboldt. The bank opened on April 18, 1904 and later movedto Hallock, Minnesota around 1933. He was a school board trustee for manyyears at the Joe River school.

He once shipped six bushels of pure Filfe wheat to theCrookston Experimental Station and they sent it to China.

William Ash died at his home on January 24, 1950 at theage of 81.

The Red River Valley has become an enormous agriculturevalley and William Ash has helped it to become this great.

(1) Kittson County Enterprise
(2) Ash, William S. January 26, 1969



Ash, William S., St. Vincent, Minnesota (interview), January26, 1969

Kittson County Enterprise, (clipping)

Kittson County Enterprise, January 24, 1949 (clipping)

Shaw, Marguerite, St. Vincent, Minnesota (interview), February10, 1969

The original essay was reproduced for the Red River ValleyWebsite by
Dennis L. Matthews

ZE=+1>The original essay was reproduced for the Red River ValleyWebsite by
Dennis L. Matthews