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Mildred Jaycox Carrigan


Janine Rustad

"Do all the good you can, in all the ways you can,to all the souls you can, every place you can, at all the times you can,with all the zeal you can, as long as ever you can." (1)

This could have been a quote which lead Mildred JaycoxCarrigan's whole life. She devoted herself to helping all people, teachingthe little ones and caring for the elder. Throughout her life she earnedmany friends because of her abilities and charms.

Mildred Ione Jaycox was born on a farm near Pipestone,Minnesota on October 5, 1902. She was the youngest of nine children bornto Garrison and Hattie Jaycox. Between Mildred and the next youngest childthere was nine years, so it was only natural that she should become thedarling of her older brothers and sisters.

Mildred, fair-skinned, golden-haired, and of happy disposition,learned early in life the meaning of hard labor. Her mother taught her howto sew, cook, and garden, while her father showed her how to run a farm.She could milk cows, feed the chickens, mend fences, and tend to many ofthe numerous chores connected with farming.

When Mildred had finally come to an age of starting hereducation, distance became a major problem. To solve this problem so Mildredwouldn't have to walk a long ways to school, her father bought her a ponyof her own.

From the very beginning, Mildred loved school and broughthome excellent grades. Her favorite of all classes was English and she spentmany a day reading all the classics.

When she entered high school, she had become very interestedin drama and became involved in many drama activities. She had parts inmany plays and loved every minute of it.

During Mildred's high school years, she decided that shedefinitely wanted to become a school teacher, so after graduation, she wenton to a year of Normal School in Pipestone which qualified her to teachin rural schools. The next few years she taught in a country school nearPipestone. It was there that she met Michael Leo Carrigan and they wereunited in marriage on June 15, 1925 at Mobridge, South Dakota.

Leo owned a bakery at Mobridge and he brought his new bridethere where they set up housekeeping. It was there where five children wereborn; Patricia, Virginia, James, Norma, and Michael.

The first seven years of their married life were good,the children were healthy, the bakery business prospered, and they wereable to buy a house and redecorate it with all new furniture.

But as the years went on, not all was good, for in 1931,Mildred became seriously ill. She was diagnosed to have diabetes. At thattime, insulin was relatively new and it took much experimenting before theproper dosage for Milred's case could be prescribed. Mildred was to be plaguedwith the effect of diabetes for the rest of her life.

Besides paying for the costs of the diabetes medications,Leo and Mildred were troubled with the coming depression. When it struckhard, Leo, like many other businessmen, lost his job. He then found a jobworking nights in a bakery at Bismark, North Dakota. The pay was twenty-fivedollars a week. With this he had to support a wife and five small children.When Leo and Mildred looked for a place to live, they found they couldn'tpossibly afford such outrageous prices of apartments. They finally decidedto buy a basement of a house that had never been finished and was locatedat the edge of the city.

The dreary old basement was a big let-down for Mildredafter living in her newly finished home in South Dakota. But she was notone to complain and right away she busied herself turning the place intoa comfortable home. She sewed curtains for the windows, covered an old couchfor a make-shift davenport, and put in some brightly colored (but cheap)linoleum. After the first rain hit, the Carrigans found that the roof leaked,so under every leak was hung a pail.

Mildred decided that the basement was too large to heatso she had part of it partititioned off and rented that to a family of three.The rent paid for their share of the basement and helped the Carrigan'sto make the payments on the basement.

The first winter in Bismark, North Dakota, James, theiroldest son contracted pneumonia and was hospitalized for two weeks. Thecouple had no medical insurance and no money to pay for the bill. So inthe spring, Mildred bought one hundred baby chicks and raised them. In thefall she butchered, cleaned, and sold them, earning enough money to payoff the bills.

Since Leo had long, hard hours to work at the bakery, thetask of raising five bubbly children was left mainly to Mildred. There wasno money left for toys and games other than an inexpensive doll or two forthe girls and a little car to keep the boys contented, but Mildred inventedthings to keep the children busy and happy. The children had to spend timeweeding the garden and that was the only chore they disliked no matter whatMildred dreamed up for them so it would be more enjoyable. Between the heatand the bugs no game made the chore go fast. The garden was an all-importantsubstance for the Carrigans whole life. It provided food for both summerand winter and Mildred always conjured up special lunch which filled hungrystomachs as well as nourishing them. It was peanut butter sandwiches withlettuce, radishes, and onions with milk.

Mildred always made Christmas a special event in thosedays. For weeks before she would shop at all the dime stores picking uplittle five and ten cent dolls and cars. Then with her imagination and skillsshe would turn an old apple crate into a doll bed or house. Long into thenight she would sew on her old pedal machine making mattresses, pillows,and blankets for the doll beds and putting match boxes together for themto have as furniture. Her children will always remember the wonderful Christmasthat their mother planned for them and how they got so excited waiting untilSanta came that night.

In 1937, Mr. Carrigan, restless working for someone elseand anxious to again own his own business, moved to Hallock, Minnesota,where there was a bakery for sale. He managed to borrow enough money tomake a down payment and together he and Mildred turned the run-down businessinto a prosperous one. The two daughters helped wrap rolls and bread everynight after school and his sons helped clean after the rest of the workwas done. While the children were busy doing their own chores, Mildred managedthe front of the store, waiting on customers and doing the book work.

In 1952, Leo Carrigan became seriously ill and was no longerable to keep the long hours of running a bakery. It was then that the familypurchased a large house in East Grand Forks which they turned into a boardinghouse. Mildred took in elderly people who were unable to care for themselves.She cooked their meals, did their laundry, and bathed them. The work washard, though she seldom complained.

For a long while, Mildred thought she would like to goback to teaching. She then made up her mind she was going to and took courseswhich gave her enough credits to teach in a country school near Grand Forks.She taught the first eight grades at Rye #30. (1) Each morning, very early,she would drive to her little school. She loved her students as though theywere her own children. At least she was back doing the thing she most loveddoing, teaching young people.

As she grew older, she decided that it would be easierto get to school in the morning if she could teach in town. But she neededa certificate, so at age 56, she decided to go back to college.

She graduated from Mayville State Teacher's College atage 58 and earned a standard teaching diploma. There was probably no happiergraduate than Mildred.

Mildred then went back to teaching, but as the months wentpast, her advanced case of diabetes grew worse. Slowly her eyes got worse.She went to an opthomologist where he diagnosed her case to be diabeticcataracts and did surgery on both eyes. Her sight became a little betterafter surgery but it was never normal again. As time went by her sight failedgradually and she realized that she would no longer be able to teach. So,at age 62, she retired from teaching.

Work at home helped Mildred to be cheerful but not beingable to see very well was most difficult for her and gradually her healthdiminished.

On Father's Day, June 19, 1966, Mildred slipped in thebathroom and broker her ankle. She was taken to the hospital where surgerywas performed. With the complications of diabetes, she developed a bloodclot on her lung and two weeks later on the 17th of July she died of a massiveheart attack.

With Mildred, died a warm, loving heart who did all thegood she could possibly do in her life time. She was devout to her childrenas well as caring for other people. Also she cared enough about what wasmost important in life to bear the hard times as well as the good.

(1) Interview, Mrs. Alfred Rustad, "Mildred Carrigan",January 1974


Carrigan, Mr. Michael, Grand Forks, ND, "Mildred Carrigan",Interview, December 1973

Rustad, Mrs. Alfred, Humboldt, MN, "Mildred JaycoxCarrigan", Interview, December 1973

Westly. J., The New Dictionary of Thoughts, Page 241

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


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