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Sarah Della (Clow) Mackay


Suzette Ash

Senior High Division

The coming of electricity, radio, television, automobile,the depression days following World War I, floods, bad times and good, Sarahhas lived through and experienced it all.

When Sarah was just six months old, (a tiny baby wrappedin a shawl), she was brought to live in the Northern Red River Valley fromPrince Edward Island, Canada, by her father and mother, Charles and Emma(Cruz) Clow. Her grandfather was an English gentleman, living in PrinceEdward Island at the time. His name was George Clow - wife, Margaret.

Sarah's father was one of his eleven children that migratedto the northwestern corner of Minnesota. They had five children, so Sarahhad one sister and three brothers.

Charles Clow brought them into the Red River Valley tolive on a farm, now occupied by Alfred Rustad, in a district called "HillTown." This district got its name from James J. Hill, a big time railroadtycoon. He owned a lot of land, so in order to get people to come and buyit or live on it, he publicized his land widely. In this way, Sarah's fatherheard about the land and thought it would be a good investment, so he camewith his family to Minnesota to get some land.

When Sarah was six, they went back to Prince Edward Islandfor a visit. This memory will always stay with her because Sarah and herfamily had quite an experience. They were crossing the St. Lawrence Riverfrom Saint John, New Brunswick, to get over to Prince Edward Island, ina small open boat. A storm suddenly came up and rocked the boat, over wentall their luggage and personal belongings. By the time they got to PrinceEdward Island, all they had left were the clothes on their backs. This littleepisode, however, did not stop them from having an enjoyable time. Theyjust made do with what they had.

At the age of seven, Sarah started school, and only wentthrough the fifth grade. (1) She had to walk from her home to the countryschoolhouse about three miles away. She would start off for the schoolhousewith her sack lunch bright and early. Since the school was small, becauseof the few settlers, only one teacher was needed to teach the children thatcame. Even though Sarah's education did not extend very far, she is verywell experienced, and in some cases experience can prove to be very beneficial.

The year 1896 was a happy year for Sarah, because thiswas the year she met William Fraser Mackay, and the year they were unitedin marriage. Sarah, at age 17, met her husband at the depot in Humboldt,while purchasing a ticket to go to St. Vincent. Later, they were marriedat Sarah's home, a small wedding with family and what relatives there were.

Mr. William Mackay was originally from Glasgow, Scotland.His father was a medical doctor but died in his early sixties because ofheart failure. William always wanted to follow in his father's footprintsand become a doctor but he never had the proper schooling.

William was corresponding with one of his relatives thathad come out this way and was living in the Red River Valley. He kept tryingto convince William to come to America because the prospects were wonderful.He finally got through to William and William decided to come and try hisluck. He didn't know anything about farming, but he came with an open mindand was determined to do his best.

After William came to America and was living in the RedRiver Valley, he started work as a railway agent in the Humboldt depot.

When Sarah and William were married, they moved to theSt. Vincent depot and worked there. He was paid $40.00 a month and theylived in the depot free of rent. Still later in life, they moved to theNoyes depot. Mr. McKay was the first railway agent there.

The depot was the first building in Noyes which didn'thave a name. The railway officials came up and asked William if they couldname it after him, but he preferred they didn't. They then asked the CustomHouse Broker if they could name it after him, his name was Archie Noyes.He said "yes" so it was named Noyes.

William and Sarah were blessed with five children. Fromoldest to youngest: Myrtle, John, Mildred, Fraser, and Bill.

At that time of life diseases weren't as easy to cope withand keep under control as some of them are today. When their son, John,was eleven years old, he contracted scarlet fever and died. There wasn'tmuch anyone could have done for him, except hope and pray that no one elsein the family would catch it.

Sarah always had her hands full, for there were plentyof things to keep her busy. Her hobbies were knitting and sewing. She owneda Singer sewing machine, which she used to sew the children's clothes. Shewould make up her own patterns to use until she could order them. Then shewould write a letter and order material, patterns, groceries, or whatevershe needed, send it on the train to Sears and Roebuck, then wait for herorder to come back on the train.

Besides her children keeping her busy, she was always bakingbread and cleaning. She had to keep extra food on hand because she oftenhad guests at her home. People would get off the train at the depot andspend the evening while waiting for the next train to come before continuingon.

Sarah and William met a lot of people living in the depot,because they were always coming or going. Sometimes people would have toget off the train because for some reason or other they couldn't get acrossthe border into Canada. One time a man who evidently had been or was anescaped prisoner couldn't get across. He was armed with a gun and aroundhis waist he wore a belt of knives. This man just wandered around kind ofunnoticed until evening. William was working in his office and Dick Fitzpatrickwas working on the other side of the depot in his.

This man came into her husband's office, shut the doorand began to talk and wave his knife and gun around. William tried to talkto him and calm him down not knowing exactly what the man wanted. He finallygot the man to go outside when the man started for Dick's office. Just ashe got to the door, Dick was coming out. Either the man just got scaredor what, but he took off running down the tracks and they never saw himagain. Even so, for a few nights after, everyone slept kind of light notknowing if that crazy man would come snooping around again. Other than this,her husband's office was robbed a couple of times, taking what money therobbers could find and what few small things they could carry.

Transportation was kind of slow before the first cars,but a person could still get around easily enough. Before Sarah and Williamgot their first car, they either had to walk, ride the speeder, or takethe train, or maybe even horseback. The speeder had three wheels and ranon the railroad tracks propelled by man power. This must have been a realsight to see this coming down the track with two people on it really workingto keep it going. They would have to hold onto the handle, push it backand forth, and in this way it would move.

Sarah never expected or really wanted to own a car whenthey first came out. She didn't think they looked too safe or that theywere anything to get excited about. But her husband felt a little differentabout cars and so they got one which was a Ford. "Oh, he was so thrilled,"Sarah said, "and he knew nothing about how to drive it - nothing atall!" The best way that William knew how to learn something was tojust go out and do it, and this is exactly what he did.

William was just like you and I, half the fun of havingsomething new is sharing it with someone you know will enjoy it with you.And, so he said, "come Dell, come for a ride," and so she lefther bread or whatever she was busy doing and went for a ride. And what aride it was! They started up a road, which you could hardly call a road,up towards Emerson going fast, faster, "almost like you were flying,"Sarah said. Up ahead they were approaching a corner but William was surehe could take it, when all of a sudden down they went, into the ditch andthere they were. Sarah jumped out disgusted but unhurt and all she couldthink about was, that she was not getting back into that car, and what shehad left behind her at home. She started walking down the road headed forhome and home she went.

Their second car was called a "White Steamer."With this car, they had an unlucky experience too. The car broke down sothey got an engineer (Jim Lang at that time), to come and work on it. Hecame to work on the car in the shed while Sarah's husband was at the office.He had just gone home and the shed was a blaze, cause of the fire unknown.Sarah and her husband were in the process of building their new home, andthey had the lumber for the inside of their house stored in the shed. Thefire took it all.

In order to get materials for a new home, a person couldlook through a Sears and Roebuck catalog and order all the materials atonce. This is what William did for their new home. Then the lumber wouldcome all cut and ready to use. The next step would be to get a carpenterto help build it.

Their home was the second building in Noyes, besides thedepot. Sarah lived in this house for 65 years.

The first depot built in Noyes burned down. The Mackay'swere safely living in their new home at the time. Apparently the stove inthe depot was the cause of the fire. All the records and important papersin the depot burned to ashes.

The depression days following World War I, were not asrough for the Mackays as they were for some families. Also, Sarah has seensome bad floods, but in their new home, it was built on ground high enoughso they weren't affected by floods, except for what would get into theirbasement.

Sarah is now 95 years old, and is living in the NursingHome at Hallock, MN. She said she has seen so much in her life time thatit is almost as if she lived two or three lives. As a whole, her life hasbeen a happy one, and Sarah is a very interesting and enjoyable person tovisit with.

She loves her country and feels this way about it:

"It's the country that's grown across rivers

and plains, with factories and farms,

building fortunes and fame. It's the nation

whose spirit you and I claim, has brought

forth the finest in liberty's name. It's

the place of my father and his father too.

It's the church and the school, all the

living we knew. It's the fields and the

forests, the winding steams. It's the

home of our family.'

- Sarah Mackay



Mackay, Bill, Noyes, MN, Interviewed, January 23, 1975

Mackay, Erma, Noyes, MN, Interviewed, January 23, 1975

Mackay, Sarah, Hallock Nursing Home, Hallock, MN, Interviewed,January 19, 1975

"Scotland," Encyclopedia Colliers, 1964 ed.,vol. 20, pp. 514-515

Yates, Clyferd, Kittson County Nursing Home, Hallock, MN,Interviewed, January 19, 1975

Supplemental Information

(1) Joan Flaat advised on March 13, 1999 that Sarah DellaClow had more than 5th grade schooling and was a lover of poetry. SinceEmerson was named after Ralph Waldo Emerson, she wanted a proper name forher residence and named it after Alfred Noyes, English poet. She lived inher house for 75-85 years.

Joan Flaat advised further on March 30, 1999 that WilliamFraser Mackay thought it a bother to make the capital "K" in thespelling of MacKay and, therefore, he dropped it. The above essay has beenamended accordingly.

Flaat advised further on March 30, 1999 that WilliamFraser Mackay thought it a bother to make the capital "K" in thespelling of MacKay and, therefore, he dropped it. The above essay has beenamended accordingly.