St. Vincent

From Lively Village to near Ghost Town

by

Carrie Nordstrom

 

St. Vincent is the oldest city in Kittson County from thestandpoint of settlement.(1) The history of St. Vincent dates back as faras 1857, when Minnesota was still a territory. A trading post on the villagesite had been named St. Vincent sometime before 1860 in honor of St. Vincentde Paul, founder of Missions and hospitals in Paris, France. As early as1800, Fur Company XYZ started a trading post and before that time, PeterGrant had maintained headquarters there as a fur trader.

Selkirk settlers founded a colony in Pembina in 1812 andit spread into Minnesota. Later, the Swiss and other settlers settled tosome extent in the St. Vincent community. The frontier customs and traditionsof the lower Red River Valley on this side of the Red River are centeredabout this old town.

Ox carts were the first means of travel in this area. Norman Kittson developed the ox cart enterprise. Later, steamboat trafficbecame important not only to the village but to settlement of the community. As early as 1862, railroad talk began. In Winnipeg, Donald Smith thoughtthe Red River needed a lifeline to the east. He took his idea to NormanKittson, the Hudson's Bay representative and the president of the steamboatline which held a monopoly on the river. The project did not interest Kittsonpersonally, he thought he was too old so he mentioned it to his silent partner,Jim Hill. Hill had a dream of reviving the bankrupt railway at St. Pauland latched on to the idea immediately. In the year 1878, on November 11,Hill's dream was realized. He had the satisfaction of seeing his firstlocomotive arrive at Emerson, Manitoba from St. Paul. It was the St. Paul,Minneapolis, and Manitoba railroad known as the Great Northern and in lateryears, The Burlington Northern. The customs office and depot were in St.Vincent until 1905 when they were moved to the Canadian Border at Noyes,Minnesota. In 1900, a roundhouse was built, James J. Hill backed the project. It was located by Lake Stella, east of St. Vincent. A turning table wasincluded that was used to turn the trains around. Charles Gooding was thefirst depot agent. John McGlashen was the first man to take a carload ofhorses through from St. Cloud to Winnipeg. He also operated a saloon.

The first stores in St. Vincent were those of traders establishedfar back in the pioneer period. Fur trade was the main business but laterindividual enterprise started.

The first bank was established in 1880, by John H. Rich,Edward L. Baker, and Frank B. Howe. In 1884, it was sold to Lewes E. Bookerand was closed.

J. R. Ryan was the operator of a livery and sales. WilliamJ. Mason opened a blacksmith's shop and also ran a wagon and carriage shop.

The Hope Presbyterian Church was established on July 17,1882. Reverend THMV Appleby was in charge. Later the same year, the Methodistand Episcopalian Churches were added. The St. Annes Church dates back towhen the members were of French and Indian blood.

The first schools in the county were on or near the St.Vincent village. Eliza Moore, then age fifteen, taught all eight gradesin a little one room school in the west end of St. Vincent. She told storiesin the later years of the Indians riding their ponies around the schoolhouse and looking in the windows and frightening her and her pupils.

At one time, St. Vincent had a population of about fivehundred in spite of the floods of the Red River. The flood of 1897 almostwiped out the village. It was rebuilt on the present site in spite of JamesJ. Hill, the railroad tycoon, offering to finance the moving of the entirevillage to the Junction of Highways no. 75 and 171, also known as the Y.

The St. Vincent firehall was built in 1903 by Edward Cameronand his three sons. It was on main street on a corner lot four blocks eastof the Red River bridge. It housed fire engines run by steam.

The present school was built in 1903. It was a squaretwo story white frame building. It originally housed all the grades onethrough twelve.

The population in 1910 was about four hundred. There werethree hotels: The Thedore, Ontario House and the Northern. The OntarioHouse was operated by the Ryan family. The Thedore, was in the west endof town on main street. The Northern Hotel was north of the railroad tracksthat ran through town just south of highway 171. It was owned by the GreatNorthern Railroad.

The earliest newspaper of the county was started in St.Vincent. It was called the St. Vincent Herald. It was the official newspaperof the county. It was owned by H. G. Head.

St. Vincent had a fair each year. The original title ofit was, Kittson County Agricultural Society. It was changed to St. VincentUnion Industrial Society in 1884.

In spite of the flood of 1948, the little town survived. The 1950 flood, however, was probably a determining factor in bringingSt. Vincent to the present condition. About the greatest loss was the railroad. The railroad company would not rebuild in St. Vincent. Instead, the depotwas set up at the Y.

The little village that at one time had included severalhotels, saloons, stores, full school, is now somewhat of a ghost town. In the 1940's, the village included two cafes, a beer parlor, a jail, townhall, two gas stations, a grocery, dry goods store, a machine and partsshop, firehall, blacksmith shop, five churches, a post office, and the schoolstill held eight grades. The original Northern Hotel was torn down in 1940. It was rebuilt in Noyes, and is now the Bob Nordstrom residence. The MethodistChurch was demolished and the Green Store building was rebuilt to housethe Evangelical Free Church which has since built a church in Pembina. The Catholic Church combined with Pembina, and the building is now the Coteresident and, at one time, was a pool hall. Mrs. Wilhelmina Johnson boughtthe St. John's Episcopalian Church and donated it to the St. Vincent HistoricalSociety in 1971. The church still stands on the original site. Duringthe summer of 1971, a youth group helped to renovate the building. Theypainted and cleaned the windows, floors, and basement.

The firehall was pushed over in 1972. The town hall wasdemolished and a new one built on the original site of the depot. The schoolnow only has kindergarten through grade four.

All that remains of the once lively little village is thepost office.

 

(1) Kittson County Enterprise 50th Anniversary Edition,Page 48

 

Bibliography

 

Barbara Bostrom-Faye Turner, Historical Essay Book, 1969

Easton, Folland, McFarlane, Lapp, Roberts, compiled by.History of Kittson County. Historical Essay Book, 1973

Easton, Mrs. Don, St. Vincent, Minnesota, Interview, January29, 1974. Subject: The Episcopalian Church.

The Impossible Railway, Pierre Berton, published 1972

Kittson County Enterprise, 50th Anniversary Edition, pp.48-49

Lapp, Mrs. Richard, St. Vincent, Minnesota, Interview,January 29, 1974. Subject: Episcopalian Church.

Nordstrom, Mrs. Robert, Noyes, Minnesota, Interview, January27, 1974. Subject: St. Vincent History.n Church.

Nordstrom, Mrs. Robert, Noyes, Minnesota, Interview, January27, 1974. Subject: St. Vincent History.