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Fun And Frolic


Theresa Rabe


Hear Ye! Hear Ye! The Humboldt Community

Club announces a basket social. At the

Humboldt School. May 3 at 7:00


Social activities were limited because of distance, workand by lack of money in the early days of the Red River Valley. In 1920,the average farmer lived 2 miles from his school, 2 miles from his church,and 2 miles from his trading center. In 1972, this may not seem like a lotof distance but in those days it was quite a distance because they did alot of their traveling by horse and buggy which took twice as long as travelingin any modern transportation service.

But despite these hardships the settlers of the Red RiverValley had plenty of fun. They had their special holidays like Christmas,Fourth of July celebration, and Armistice Day. They also attended theirspecial community socials like basket socials, husking and thrashing bees,and dances. They attended local fairs and local lyceums. They also had theirgood old fashion family song festivals.

Of all the holidays, Christmas was probably the most specialand most important. Of course, this was during the winter so usually Christmaswas just the family. Christmas was very non-commercialized. The whole familygathered around a big Christmas tree decorated with candles, home made popcornstrings and cranberry strings. The packages were usually homemade with onestore bought item. There was also lots and lots of candy. This was reallya treat because the children usually never got candy unless it was Christmastime. Christmas was also a very religious time of the year. The only hazardto Christmas were the candles on the tree which burned down many a farmhome.

Another quite famous and fun holiday was the 4th of July.This holiday was probably the funnest because it was held in the summertime and this was when all the settlers could get out and be together. The4th of July was supposed to be on the 4th but sometimes it wasn't. LikeHumboldt would probably have it at the end of the month, the Joe River settlementwould have it at another time, and St. Vincent would still have it on anotherday. At the 4th of July celebration, each family brought a picnic lunch.The children had many different kinds of races like sack, horse, bicycle,and foot races. The adults either watched the children or they played cardsor just sat around and talked with their neighbors. A main attraction ofthe 4th was the baseball game and the fireworks. After the fireworks therewas a big dance and small lunch afterward. All in all the day was very memorableand fun

Armistice Day, now known as Veteran's Day, was held November11. One very special Armistice Day that stuck out in the minds of one RedRiver Valley pioneer was when Mr. Varrey who at that time was janitor ofthe Humboldt school, got some moonshine and then went out with a team horsesand a wagon and cut some twigs and branches down. He brought them into townand started a huge bonfire and did a powwow around it. Boy, did this givethe town people a lot to talk about and also the children thought it wasgreat fun. Mr. Varrey did this to celebrate the end of the war and the signingof the first Armistice.

Besides holidays the early settlers of the Red River Valleyattended many other different community functions. Attending functions dependedon the time of the year. If it was winter most settlers were holed up. Butif it was spring, summer, or early fall they attended many social gatherings,like fairs. These were first held in Canada, in Portage la Praire, in 1872then spread to the United States. The first fair in Kittson County was organizedwhen the Kittson County Agriculture Society was organized in 1888. The firstfair grounds was located a block south of the Swedish Lutheran church. Thefirst meeting of the Kittson County Agriculture Society was in the old Enterpriseoffice, June 9, 1888. E. W. Wagoner was named Chairman. The first fair consistedof balloon ascensions, calathumpion, parades, and horse races. On July 13,1889 a committee was appointed to meet and try to combine the Hallock fairwith the St. Vincent fair but this attempt failed. Then, on June 2, 1889,the Kittson County Agriculture Society decided to buy the land on the westside of the village. This is when they built the Grand Stand and beer kegsfurnished the benches because they were cheap at that time. The 4-H exhibitsand the handy work of the local women were shown in the first fair building.Livestock and poultry were shown outside. The first carnival that came toKittson County was the Patter Carnival Company, 1908-1909. There were alsofireworks, parades and floats.

The St. Vincent fair in the early days was conducted bythe St. Vincent Union Industrial Expositions. This fair also had animalexhibits, and canning exhibits. 1971 was the first year the St. Vincentfair hasn't ran in 60 years.

Where most of these county fairs were held became the politicalcenters of that County or township.

The early settlers also belonged to some community clubs.Like the Masonic Lodge, which Pembina boasted of having Lodge No. 1 in thatstate. Humboldt didn't have a Masonic Lodge but instead it had Modern Woodman'sLodge. Hallock had a Masonic Lodge so that was the one in Kittson County.Also there were several women's clubs and a few more community clubs.

Another social event which was popular and lots of funwas the basket social. These socials were held at the school. This is whenthe women decided that some organization needed money for a good cause.So they made up these fancy box lunches. These baskets, as they were called,were filled with fried chicken, cakes, and other goodies. The baskets weredecorated with bits of lace, crepe paper, and ribbons of all sorts. Afterthe baskets were filled and decorated they were brought to the gathering.Then the men would bid on a basket. The highest bidder got the basket. Hethen got to eat lunch with the girl whose basket he bought. These basketssometimes sold from 50 cents up to $10.00.

Besides basket socials, the settlers also had husking beesand thrashing bees. This is when all the neighbors got together and helpedthe other neighbors thrash their crops. These affairs were hard work butfun; also.

Another popular function the early settlers attended werethe lyceums. The first lyceums were probably the magician shows at Pembinain the 1800's. The usual admission was one buffalo sinew. This was the bestsewing thread the settlers had in those days. These lyceums were held atthe school and usually consisted of magician shows and speeches of manysorts. The local lyceum season was from October to March.

Now, if a settler in the Red River Valley didn't want togo out to these functions and it was winter time, he had many things thathe could do such as, dances. The pioneer families had large families sothere were plenty of partners. The mother, or whoever could play a pianoor any instrument, sat down and started to play. The children usually sangto the music or danced along with it.

When another family dropped by the dance or song festivallasted till midnight and then there was a big lunch. The neighbor familyusually stayed all night and went home in the morning.

If you couldn't sing or dance you probably sat around andplayed cards, which were 10 cents a deck in those days, or did jig-saw puzzleswhich was a great fad of the early 1880's.

Of course, if you didn't like to do these things you couldsit down and read the local paper which in 1890 North Dakota had about 125newspapers and only 50 incorporated towns and villages. Probably the mostpopular one in North Dakota was the Grand Forks Herald started by GeorgeB. Winship who built a new 12 by 22 foot building at a cost of $l50.00 andpublished the first issue on June 26, 1879.

In July 1881, the Herald became a semi-weekly and had fourpages of 8 columns in width and measuring 23 inches in length.

The most popular one in Kittson County was the KittsonCounty Enterprise started in 1881 the same time the Grand Forks Herald becamea semi-weekly. The Kittson County Enterprise was started by J.E. Bouvettein 1881.

Another popular newspaper in Kittson County was the onein St. Vincent started on March 17, 1880 by F. H. Head it was then knownas the St. Vincent Herald. It then changed owners and the name also changed.The new owner was William G. Deacon and the new name was the St.VincentNew Era. There no longer is a newspaper at St. Vincent but the Kittson CountyEnterprise still prints its weekly editions.

Besides newspapers, the early settlers had a couple ofmagazines and one book, the Bible.

Like the settlers of early times say "That life wasn'tvery thrilling the changes were not as apparent then" as in the twentiethcentury and all life was simple but pleasant enough. This is just what theirgames and organizations expressed most vividly.




Bockwitz, Virgil Interview Humboldt, MN December 1971

Bouvette, J. C. Kittson County Enterprise C- 1881

Drache, Hiram M. The Challenge of the Prairie C-1970

Tunis, Edwin Frontier Living C-1961

y Enterprise C- 1881

Drache, Hiram M. The Challenge of the Prairie C-1970

Tunis, Edwin Frontier Living C-1961