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The Adventurous Life of Daniel Howard Wilson


Steven Ash

Minnesota is a land of opportunities. Its rich, fertile lands beckon to people from many parts of the world. David Howard Wilson and his wife Margaret settled down in the land of many opportunities after traveling from place to place for many years. They began a long career of hard work and frugal living.

Their son, Howard, inherited this characteristic and was never afraid to do more than his share of work. Surely he didn't abide by the saying: Put it off until tomorrow, you've done enough damage today.

David Wilson's parents came from Scotland. After David married Margaret they settled in Nova Scotia. Mary, their first child, was born in l874 in Nova Scotia. Mary, and her parents moved to Boston for two years. Jim Wilson was born here in 1876. Then in 1876 they moved back to Nova Scotia where their third child, Lucy, was born. The Wilson family proceeded to move to Emerson, Manitoba area where they settled for one year. It was then that they heard of the richness of the Minnesota soil. They ventured across the border and settled on the present homestead which is about two miles northwest of Humboldt, Minnesota.

In 1879, David Wilson (Howard's father) filed on a homestead which was 160 acres. He had to break up a certain amount of land every year and had to live on it for three years before the land was his. The house that David built for his growing family still remains standing and the two remaining Wilson's use it for their garage.

The Wilson home and homestead where the Wilson children had grown up on was sold to E.A.Liebert. He farmed the land for one year. Then he in turn sold the land to the Blagvedt boys. They farmed the land for three years. They couldn't keep up the payments on the land, however, so they sold it to Jim Wilson and Harry Wilson bought it from him.

The rest of the family following in the order in which they were born are: Bella in 1880, Elizabeth in 1882, John in l884, Margaret in 1886, Harry in 1889, Hattie in 1891, and Howard Wilson in l894. Of this family of ten, only three married and they were Mary, Lucy, and Margaret.

The Wilson family's first car was a 1918 Overland "90". Many years later Howard bought his first car which happened to be a 1925 Overland "4". He later traded this car off on a 1921 Ford Model T.

Some of his brothers and sisters attended a country schoolhouse that was located one mile south of the Wilson home. The schoolhouse was moved on skids during the winter and was situated on the corner of the William Johnson land.

Howard's first teacher in the country school was Stina Acheson. Stina's father was a Presbyterian minister. His other teachers were Bertie McCiver and Eliza Moore. Coincidentally, Howard's sister, Bella, became a teacher and she also taught him. Mr. Wilson went up to the eighth grade in the country school.

When the country school a mile east of their house was moved, the only school close to them was at Humboldt. But Howard's father couldn't bring Howard and Hattie into school. So in 1908 the school district paid the Wilson's neighbor Ephriam Jenkins, $20 a month to take Hattie and Howard to the school in Humboldt. It was not too much of a bother to Jenkins because he had to transport his kids to school also.

Howard and Hattie attended the Humboldt School for a year. Humboldt had only two teachers at that time and they were Selma Lindale and Miss Koch. When Howard went to school, the teachers were strict. If you misbehaved the teachers rapped your knuckles with rulers, pulled hair, pulled ears, you lost your recess period, or else you had to stay after school.

When Mr. Wilson went to school at Humboldt, there were no 9th, 10th, 11th, or 12th grades. If a person wanted to become a teacher he or she had to attend summer school for, three months in order to get a certificate to teach.

Howard and his brothers had to work in the fields a lot so Howard didn't advance his education. He desired to pursue the career of a farmer after the 8th grade.

Some of Howard's classmates in school were Lem Jenkins, William Turner, Elmer Maxwell, Lloyd Sugden, Dave Turner, and John and George Easter.

On June 24, 1918, Howard Wilson enlisted into the army at the age of 24 at Hallock, Minnesota. Mr. Wilson received basic training at Camp Grant in Illinois. It was here that he received training as an infantryman. He stayed at Camp Grant for two months. Mr. Wilson left the United States along with Joe LaRoch and Jim Lang for Liverpool, England on September 9, 1918. From Liverpool he was transported to South Hampton, England, and from there he journeyed across the English Channel to Le Havre, France. He was in a replacement division. If a division had heavy casualties from fighting this replacement division would be busted up and part of it would fill in the gap in the division. Howard's division was broken up and he along with Jim Lang were assigned to the 37th Ohio Division.

On October 10, 1918 Mr.Wilson encountered his first skirmish at A.E.F. Pannes Sector. This battle lasted from October 7 to October 16, 1918. His second skirmish was the Ypes-Lys (pronounced Yeeps-Lis) Offensive from October 31 to November 4, 1918. His last skirmish was again at the Ypes-Lys Offensive which lasted from November 9 - 11, 1918.

Howard Wilson was not qualified to be a machine gunner and therefore was trained as an infantryman at Camp Grant. But nevertheless he manned a machine gun during World War I. He was a Private First Class during the war. His active duty terminated March 23, 1919. He returned to Camp Dodge, Iowa April 15, 1919 and was discharged on the same date. Mr. Wilson received a bonus after he was discharged of $137.46.

Howard worked at the James J. Hill farm at Northcote, Minnesota from the time that he was discharged from the army until the end of the year 1919. John Loer managed this farm at that time.

One time at the Hill farm 13 discs were in operation on a field. Mr. Wilson drove one disc of the 13. Each eight foot disc was pulled by four horses. After the men finished discing the field east of Northcote they headed home. Just after the teams had crossed the railroad tracks by the Northcote Elevator an accident occurred. The teams were running at a fast clip after crossing the tracks and one horse in a team close to the middle of the procession stumbled and fell down. Thus this team had to slow up and it was practically in the way of the other six teams. The following six teams collided with each other near this team and this created quite a tremor. The clattering and banging of the colliding discs spooked the horses to make them run away and leave their drivers far behind them on the ground. It was unfortunate for Mr. Howard Wilson when the rear horse in his team stumbled and fell down. As he was falling his head came back and knocked Howard from his seat and onto the ground. Thus the team ran away with the others. Walter Clow was also involved in this affair. Fortunately his team wasn't spooked much and he was able to control it. Some horses pulling discs tried to take the bend in the road too fast and the disc went right into the ditch and pulled the horse in underneath it. Two horses broke their legs and had to be shot later while a few others were crippled for a few months. There were quite a few harnesses to mend after this affair.

Later the three brothers (Harry, John, and Howard) rented the Nelson Finney land. Frank Twamley threshed for the Wilson brothers for two or three years. On one field he had 12 bundle teams and two men for each team., There were two horses pulling the wagons. In the field there were two tank cars which supplied water for the steam engines. The capacity was considered to be a 12 barrel tank. The dimensions were 3 ft. wide, 2 ft. high, and 12 ft. long. Most times the nearest place where the tank teams could get water was at Lake Stella near St. Vincent, Minnesota. Sometimes Mr. Wilson could get water at a dam by the present Joseph Giffen farm. William S. Ash's father had built this dam to hold back some water.

John and Howard Wilson rented Mr. John Bernath's land from 1927-1935. They farmed approximately four quarters at that time. While farming the Bernath land the grasshoppers were real bad. The farmers mixed up a grasshopper dope which contained bran, molasses, and some other ingredients that created a deathly poison for the grasshoppers. They sprayed this dope around the edges of the fields because this was where the grasshoppers began nibbling. John and Howard grew mostly wheat, oats, barley, and flax on the Bernath land. The brothers had a little time to raise some cattle. So you see that Mr. Wilson was never afraid to do more than his share of work.

During his farming years, the farmers didn't have scrapers and ditchers as we do now. In the fall after the farmers had finished their fall plowing the township lent graders out to the farmers in the area to do their drainage ditching. The township had four graders at that time and they were lent to the farmers with no charge for a period of two to three days. A grader was usually pulled with eight or ten horses. The cost of lending these graders to all the farmers in the area was added to the taxes.

The plowing during this period was done with a 2 - 14" bottom plow. This two bottom plow was pulled by five horses.

The ripe grain was cut with a binder, and it was put into shocks. Then a wagon came in and all the shocks were gathered up and taken to the separator. Eight bundle teams gathered up the bundles in one field. There were four men in the field and they were called pitchers, and they pitched the bundles onto the wagons. Spike pitchers helped unload the bundles from the wagons and put them in the separator. It would take the separator 15 minutes to finish off a wagon load of bundles.

John and Howard Wilson moved to Badger, Minnesota after 1935. They bought 200 acres in the Badger area. They had 15 dairy cows on the farm and Howard peddled. milk in Badger for about 10 years. The first 15 years the Wilson brothers milked the cows by hand and the last 15 years they used a milking machine.

Mr. Wilson did not only farm during his lifetime. From l924 -1927 he was a patrolman which in our day would be the same as a grader driver. This grader was pulled by two horses. At that time his job was called a Road Patrol. Mr. Wilson patrolled two miles south of the North Star Church and then eight miles east.

He returned to the Wilson home near Humboldt, Minnesota after his brother Harry died in 1966. Elizabeth and Hattie were living there then. He spends some of his time doing chores around the near-by barn for Mr. Hilson Stewart.

Although Mr. Wilson never married he was very active in two clubs. He was a member of the V.F.W. club in Badger while he lived there. Howard Wilson was also a member of the American Club which was located in Humboldt, Minnesota. Some of the members in good standing were William Webster, George Sylvester from Kennedy, Vic Stanley, Walter Herron, and Victor Clow. This club was started shortly after the boys came home from the war in 1919. Cal Farley was the main promoter in forming this club. The American Legion Club broke up around 1925.

Farming is a hard and task-filled career; yet it has its happy and enjoyable moments also. Some men make a successful farming career while others fall flat on their faces even before they start. Only the strong and ambitious men have successful farming occupations and very seldom do they receive the glory and respect that they deserve. Howard Wilson is just the kind of a man who through the years has proven that he is not afraid to do more than his share of work.



Wilson, Howard; Interview (January 2, 1971)

Wilson, Howard; Interview (January 9, 1971)

Wilson, Howard; Interview (January 21, 1971)