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Elmer E. Barry


Craig Olson


"I can give you plenty of history" were the wordsfrom Elmer Barry of Pembina North Dakota. He wasn't just kidding sincehe supplies much of the museum with his antiques and says he has enoughleft over to fill another half again that size.

One of the relics he showed me was the old gun his fatherand mother, James and Elizabeth Barry, had brought from Packenham, Ontarioin 1877 to the Dakota Territory. It was an old double barrel muzzle loadedshotgun. They had brought it to protect themselves against the Indians.

Upon arriving to the area of the Dakota Territory, Jamesfiled for land near the Manvel area. James was one of the first men inthe Manvel district to operate a furnished threshing crew and a cook car. He was also the first man to build a frame house in the area. He builtit on his 480 acre farm located on the bank of the Red River at the mouthof the Turtle River.

James and Elizabeth had nine children. There were fiveboys and four girls. Elmer was born August 7, 1886, the sixth of thefamily.

When Elmer was eight years old he helped with plowing andseeding and other farm work. He attended school and grew to manhood athis old home in Manvel.

From 1909 to 1911, Elmer served as clerk of School Districtnumber 13, of Levent Township.

He went to work in the Foundry in Grand Forks in 1911. In 1913, the flood wiped out the foundry so Elmer was out of a job.

He saw an ad in the paper that said there was an old blacksmithshop for sale in Pembina, so he decided to come see what it was like. Thebuilding was in terrible shape but because of the good equipment he docidedto take it, But in 1918, he was taken into the service. Upon returningfrom the service he reopened his shop, and also was married on November27, 1919 to Matilda Moris, of Pembina.

During the time he had the shop he made about ten dollarsa day. He soon tore it down and built a garage and filling station. Hegot the dealership and sold Model T's which he made most of his moneyon, then the model A and last of all the old Ford V-8.

During the time £rom 1934 to 1966, Elmer served asJustice of the Peace and United States Commissioner. At one timehe had a case come before him that involved over a mlllion dollars in variousitems being smuggled across the border from Canada.

Elmer and Matilda have two children; Mrs. Steve Zirko (Frances)and Mrs. Harry Cummigs (Margaret).

Through the years Elmer coflected many old relics. Someof which are old guns, old tables and chairs, clocks and watches, and theone I was particularly amazed by - an old pirate's paddle lock. There isonly one other known the world. and that is in London Tower.

When he retired in 1962, he placed his collection on displayin a building which he owned in Pembina. Many people offered to buy hiscollection but he would not sell it because he wanted it to remain in Pembina.

In 1962, the State Historical Society built a museum inPembina. Elmer's collection was to be displayed but there wasn't spacefor the entire collection. As a result, a second building was built in 1963by the Historical Society to house Elmer's collection but he still has enoughleft in his garage to fill a museum half again its size.

Elmer has signed a contract with the city whereby his collectionwhich is valued at $30,000 will remain in the museum.

Elmer now 83 years old, and his wife being the same ageare still living in Pembina. They have very little to do nowadays. Elmeris a man who is a real credit to the Historical Society and the community. He deserves a real hand in his efforts to put together a collection ofsuch historical value. The community of Pembina owes him a lot, buthe feels that just having his collection displayed is enough.



Barry Elmer. Interview. January 29, 1969


Barry Elmer. Interview. January 29, 1969