Mrs. Bessie Cameron

by

Duane Olson

 

Eastern Canada was becoming crowded so Bessie Cameron'sfather, William Henry Moore, from Quebec, came to Winnipeg. He had twobrothers that lived in the Red River Valley. So, at the age of 18 he walkeddown the valley in the early spring of 1818. Much of the land was swampyat this time. He slept when he found a dry enough place. At nights hisfeet were so wet he couldn't take his boots off for his feet would swelland he couldn't get them on in the morning.

When he arrived in the valley, he found his brothers. One brother had left his wife back east. His oldest brother had a cabinnorth of Northcote. It is thought that his oldest brother's son was thefirst white child born in Kittson County.

Bessie's father then purchased one fourth quarter of railroadland, section 31, in Hampden Township on the banks of North Two Rivers andhe built a granary and log barn. For a period of time he lived in the granary. Then he built a house and married Alberta Bedard from Eastern Canada. This house was 12 X 14 and was made with an upstairs and a vegetable cellar.

It was here on October 7, 1888 that Bessie was born. Herethey lived until her mother died. Then her father left the farm and becamebanker in Northcote. Later, he managed an elevator and looked after realestate.

Bessie remembers her mother telling how some winters theyonly used one gallon of oil for light. Bessie, herself remembers how theywent to bed when it was dark and got up when it was light.

Later, there was a kitchen built on the house. That sameyear the people in the area decided to have a school. Being they hadn'tmoved anything into the kitchen yet, her father let them use it for theschool. That school term there were only big boys and girls that attended.

Bessie got her education at Riverside School across theroad from her home and at Northcote and Hallock Public Schools. Her formaleducation ended at grade 8, but she loved reading until her eyesight failedfollowing a stroke.

She remembers as a girl in grad school the doctor comingand giving each student a smallpox vaccination. This was the first timethis had been done and they were all frightened. He pout them all in theentry way and called them in for their vaccination one at a time.

When she was eight years old, a big circus came to thecounty. It was held at St. Vincent. This was 15 miles away but her fatherfelt maybe this would be the only chance for her to see one so they went. They got up at 4:00 and her mother packed lunches and she and her olderbrother and father went in a horse drawn wagon to spend the day at the circus.

None of her family had many toys. However, they made theirown fun. Her brother took the new high back chairs out in the yard andharnessed them up as horses. If you wanted a chair to sit on you had tounharness one of the horses and take it in the house.

Her first doll was made out of plaster. It was layingon the sewing machine one day and her brother knocked it off and it broketo pieces. The next one she got had a kid leather body and bisk head andhands. Her children still have this doll which is dressed in a dress madefrom a part of her Grandmother's wedding dress.

A friend of her Mother from Canada came here to work. After he had worked a while he bought a bicycle. She and her brothers hadnever seen one. Almost every Sunday, he would ride out to their place andthey would take turns riding it. They quite often broke it and it wouldhave to be repaired.

One year, Bessie and her brothers got ice skates. Theywould skate on the Red River. The river was especially nice for skatingwhen it would thaw in the daytime and the water from the banks would runon the ice. Then in the night it would freeze smooth. They called thisrubber ice.

There were many hardships that she had to go through inher life such as floods or big snow storms. Sometimes snow was so deeparound the house they had to shovel their way out. Also, there was thebig flood of 1898. Her parents let her go up to the granary where she couldwatch steamboats on the flooded Red River which was five miles away. TwoRivers was so deep from the floods that the steamboats could have traveledon it.

That same year, Bessie and her brothers also built a raftout of railroad ties. They would sit on it and had a big board to paddlethemselves where they wanted to go. One day when she was all alone, shedecided to take a ride. As she paddled out on the flooded river, the currentcaught her. She was frightened but after paddling frantically, she managedto get to safety. She never told her parents about this ride for many years.

Bessie's house, as I've already said, was on the banksof the river. Since water was scarce, many farms were built along riversor where they could dig wells. In winter, they would melt ice and snowfor water. In spring and summer, they used a barrel on a stoneboat, twolarge logs on runners. This would be hitched to a horse. The horse wouldpull it down in the river. Bessie's father would then dip the water witha pan with a homemade long handle attached and fill the barrel. Then thehorse would pull it back up the bank to the house.

When the farms got larger, threshing crews had to be hired. This was quite a sight. There would be the big threshing engine, the cookcar, the sleeping car, the water tank (they needed lots of water for thesteam engine) then a couple of wagons. One of these wagons contained themen's tents and bedrolls. Sometimes the men camped in the field and sometimesin the farmer's yard. The cook car was like a house on wheels. It wasjust large enough to serve up to 24 men at a time. There was a large stoveat one end. The dishes were put back on the tables as they were washedor stacked if they were going to be moving. The dishes were all made oftin so they wouldn't break. The tables were two boards 10 X 12 inches widehinged to the wall on one end and a hook on the other. When they moved,or when they scrubbed, the one end was hooked to the ceiling. The bencheswere made much in the same way only narrower. A 2 X 4 made the legs forthe table and benches. The men ate back to back. These cook houses alsohad a spring and mattress for the cook or cooks to sleep on. There werealso hinged to the wall.

The menu was much the same every day: meat, potatoes andbread. The cooks made all their own bread so on a warm day the cook wagonwas quite a hot place.

Mustard was considered a nuisance in those days. Beforeand after school, Bessie and her brothers had to go into the fields andpull mustard and frenchweed. Frenchweed had a very foul taste and if thecattle ate it you could even taste it in the milk. Farmers could not controlthe mustard very well. By the time Bessie grew up, they were raising it.

One winter, her father and some neighbors went to the Roseauswamps to haul in Tamarac logs for fencing and sheds. It took them oneday to get there and one day to cut the logs and haul them to camp and oneday for the return trip. There was a place fixed up for the men as wellas the horses to stay. They took their meals in a large grub box with handlesand lined with oilcloth. They had loaves of bread, ham, and jars of sauce.

Later on, as lumber companies came, some of the farmerswould work in the woods in the winter. They would cut down the big pinetrees. The logs were loaded onto sleighs and the horses would pull themdown to the Red River. Here they were dumped until spring when the waterflowed. Then they would go to the sawmills.

Bessie was married to Douglas Cameron of Hallock at herfarm home on December 29, 1910. Her entire wedding outfit is still kept- even the button pumps.

She had five children. Their names are: Wayne Moore ofBabbit, Minnesota; Emory Moore of Hallock, Minnesota (he lives on the homefarm); Mrs. Lois Gatheridge of Humboldt, Minnesota; Mrs. Ruth Nieme of Mesa,Arizona and Mrs. Ardith, Warren.

They got electricity in their home in 1918. They purchasedtheir first car in 1919 but still used the horse and buggy for some time.

Bessie and Mrs. Ben Jansen from Hallock held some classeson cooking and sewing for the county women. They would meet together andthey would teach the women with large charts and by doing. Each year theywould have an Achievement Day. On one of these days in the 1920's, thefollowing song was sung:

We will sing a little story,
If you'll give us time.
Please be patient with our effort
and our simple rhyme.

Chorus

We're a group of busy women,
As happy as the day is long.
We are sure you'll want to join us
When you hear our jolly song.
It is cackle, cackle, cackly,
While we are doing project work.
We're a merry bunch of cacklers
and we never, never shirk.

First there's Mrs. Douglas Cameron,
She is in the lead.
And for making fancy stitches
watch our Mrs. Reid.

Chorus

When it came to making plackets,
Mamie Sugden takes the cake.
Button Holes were meant for Helen,
A prize she'll surely take.

Chorus

Then there's Mrs. Arthur Noland
Who's great on setting sleeves.
Seams must all be neatly finished
Ruth Willadson believes.

Chorus

You would laugh to see the judies
Effie, Ruth and Ruby made.
And when Bessie puts in pockets,
You would vote she should be paid.

Chorus

Every club should have a mascot,
Grandma Norland is that one.
And our Mrs. Robert Morrison
Kindly acts as chaperon.

Chorus

 

Bessie loved flowers and gardening so her yards were alwaysfilled with many beautiful flowers. In her early years, she drew and paintedsome, but it was in the years 1951-1957 when she spent winters in Mississippi,that she really took up painting. She painted off and on until her deathin 1973. All of her family still treasure the painting that she made.

Bessie was devoted to her church and there was always aBible near by which she read daily.

Bibliography

Family letters and records

Gatheridge, Lois, Humboldt, MN, Interview, January 1974ead daily.

Bibliography

Family letters and records

Gatheridge, Lois, Humboldt, MN, Interview, January 1974