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Phil Baldwin Family Comes to Kittson County in 1922

(From Notes of Rose E. Baldwin, organized by son, Mark Baldwin, January 2000)

After working for the US Customs in the Philippines for twelve years, and a brief stint in the dairy business near Helena, Montana, Phil Baldwin was appointed to be in charge of the border station at Noyes, Minnesota. He traveled by train with his wife Rose and two children to his new assignment.

When we first got off the train in Emerson, that early Sunday morning in 1922, we went to a hotel, "Manny Wightman’s”, and I think the only one in town. Everybody was sleeping. A cow was tied outside the hotel in a roadside ditch where she was trying to get a mouthful of new grass. That must have been an early spring for this part of the country. There have not been too many years when we have had green grass by May Sixth. Later that day we got settled temporarily in a rooming house about three blocks from Noyes. Mostly railroad employees stayed at the rooming house we were at. Our landlady worked very hard at keeping the place quiet so the men could sleep during their lay-off shift. The kids got to be little tyrants. They soon found that they could get most anything they wanted if they would just quit kicking up a rumpus and not disturb the sleepers. It didn’t work that way for long and we soon found a little house.

Phil's work day began at about 6:20 AM when he boarded the train going to Winnipeg where the District office was located at that time. He worked there until the train left for the border station, inspecting aliens until it reached Noyes; usually leaving the office for the day at about 7 PM. Overtime was unheard of and days off were hard to come by. The depot which housed the railroad employees and Customs and Immigration offices had burned down two days before our arrival, and business was conducted in railroad cars switched on a side-track. I don't know what the station was like before it burned, but when we got there the box car in which the Immigration business was conducted was furnished with a desk, a couple of chairs and a shoe box for a filing cabinet.

His first office at Noyes was set up in a rail car and later in the Great Northern depot. The Railroad soon rebuilt the station and we were there until 1930. Later, when Highway 75 was improved and entered
Canada at Noyes, there was a new office constructed and Phil was officer in charge until his retirement. He served a total of 44 years in Government. About 1924,or maybe a little later, Phil had been promoted to Inspector in Charge of Noyes and supervisor of all ports of entry West including Scobey, Montana and East through International Falls, Minnesota, including the Immigration Border Patrol. The District Office was transferred to Grand Forks from Winnipeg, and Alien and Booze Smuggling had become big business.

In March of 1926 I was appointed Clerk in the Immigration Service, also a member of the Board of Special Inquiry which included taking shorthand notes of testimony of applicants for admission to the United States. If the alien was dissatisfied with the decision of the Board he was advised of his right to appeal to the Secretary of Labor. If a member of the Board could not agree with the other two he was entitled to challenge their decision. The notes on the Board Hearing were then written up and sent to Washington for decision by the Secretary of Labor. The Immigration Border Patrol was just getting started in the late '20's and they were a loyal, hard-working group of men who were responsible for the deportation of an unbelievable number of illegal aliens. There was a Quota Law in effect for many years which limited the number of immigrants who could be admitted within a certain time. The northern Europeans were allowed the greatest number but when the Quota for any country was filled, many came to Canada and crossed the border under false names or paid high sums to alien smugglers to get them across the line. Liquor was freely available in Canada but prohibited in US during those years.

. A Christmas Card addressed to Phil and me from Robe Carl White, then Assistant Secretary of Labor, Washington, D. C., dated December19, 1928 read as follows:

"Oh, the Christmas moon's a-shinin' on the Wabash;

Thar's a sniff of roastin' possum 'sted of hay;

An' I'm sendin' you a sheaf of golden wishes

From the Banks of the Potomac, Christmas Day".

(Signed) Robe Carl White

Sounds as though foregoing poem was original. I know Phil's reply was original! It goes like this:

"I'll be sittin' on the border Christmas Morning

While the punch bowl overflows across the line;

So in sending you a greeting, I am looking toward a meeting,

Where the thought of Christmas Cheer is not a crime."


We lived in Emerson, Manitoba because there was no place to live on the US side of the border when we first moved there. The only house in Noyes was that of Mackay, a customs broker and down the border road, east of Noyes, the farm house of Alex Wilkie. Most of the government employees lived in Emerson, Manitoba, and also the MacKay children went to school there during those early years.

In October of that year, Mark was born - all 10 1/2 lbs. of him. Winter came early that year. We had three or four inches of snow and the ground was frozen solid. The following February we had a real old-fashioned blizzard that sticks in my memory. Phil had left the day before to attend his father's funeral in Kalispell, Montana. It had been snowing hard all that day and night and the wind came up and piled up the snow in huge drifts. We had a small hard coal heater, a cylinder about four feet high and 14or 15 inches across lined with clay bricks - no grates. It was very popular in Canada and maybe on this side of the border. It put out a terrific amount of heat but formed a solid mass of burning coal and clinkers that fell to the bottom of the stove when it had burned most of the coal. The ashes and clinkers were pulled out through a little door at the bottom and a new build-up was begun. I didn't sleep much for those two nights while the blizzard was raging for fear that the house might catch fire from the long stove pipe going into the chimney or the chimney itself. The door was snowed shut and the neighbors came to dig the snow away so I could get out. That storm was a whopper - maybe something like we had last January. The train Phil was on was stalled for three days at Havre, Montana. His father's funeral was postponed until he got there. That was on Lincoln's Birthday, 1923. In November of 1924 our twin girls arrived, much to the joy and happiness of their parents. Twins had been born a few years earlier to a Canadian couple in Emerson who had promised to give their twin baby carriage to the next pair of twins to arrive. I heard (via the grape-vine) that Phil went to the home for their twin baby carriage and wheeled it down the main street of Emerson to where we lived with two cigars in his mouth. The boys in the Immigration Service at Noyes also presented us with a six-place Community Silver set. Mark, Mary and Sarah had dual citizenship until they reached the age of 21. Each has a Certificate of Derivative Citizenship.

In July of 1926 our family moved to St. Vincent, Minnesota. We had bought a (nearly) new black Dodge 4-door sedan from the Sheriff at Hallock. It had fairly hard tires, wooden spokes in the wheels and good clearance. That was supposed to be quite an advantage and I'm sure it was, because the oil pan would not be so easily torn off by a rock or tree root or deep rut in the road. Highway 75 had gotten out of the map stage but not much further, and good graveled roads were almost non-existent. When winter came and the snow became too deep to use the car, we had bought a horse and had a covered sled built and drove to Noyes with that rig. That wasn’t quite so simple as it sounds either. When we got to Noyes, Phil drove the horse about a quarter of a mile to Alex Wilkie's barn and went back after her when it was time to go home. The Tom Ash Home we last lived in at St. Vincent was much to our liking and we were making plans to buy it when Mr. Ash got killed while working on a telephone line. His family then wanted to return to their house, so we moved to Humboldt. Mrs. August (Josephine)Gooselaw, who had been keeping house for us moved with us. She and her small grandson, Arthur and husband lived in a small house about a block from us. We lived in the house across the road west of Leo Ash's, now owned by the Millers. It has since been cut down to one story and remodeled. We lived there 1929 to 1931, when we moved to the farm where Mark's are living. I think getting along without electricity was one of our greatest problems- kerosene lamps and lanterns and a gasoline engine on the wash machine were poor substitutes. A few years later when Pyrofax (Propane) came into being we got a refrigerator and a combination wood and gas range. Our five children were now in school at Humboldt and getting them to school in the winter time was quite a problem. Transportation for students from certain distances from the school was provided, but we lived too close to Humboldt to be included. Later on we had a 32 volt wind plant which was supposed to be the answer to all our electric problems at practically no expense, but it was surprising how much of the time the wind didn't blow enough to furnish the power to keep the batteries up where we could use lights or appliances. We were utterly grateful when Ottertail came to our rescue about1945. I was let out of the Immigration Service in 1933 when the Department of Labor decided that they would not allow a man's wife work in the same office with him on account of the depression. The Customs Service, which was under the Treasury Department, did not have the same rules, although both are Federal Civil Service. We were not too much concerned as by that time we had a number of milk cows, sheep, riding horses and a team of heavy work horses, turkeys, chickens, ducks and geese, and a big garden to look after. Nevertheless, I was glad to be reinstated in 1938. Our older youngsters were getting through High School and going to the University of Minnesota and the wherewithal had to come from somewhere. They helped themselves a lot by helping on the farm and having some kind of a job at the U while they were there.

Humboldt was a good business town in the '30s and '40s.Jack McCollum had a blacksmith shop where the post office now stands, Tom Brown, had the Shell Oil filling station and repair shop, International machinery sales and parts, and a whopper of a lumber yard stood where the Isley house was built. Jim Florence's Store handled meat, hardware of all kinds, groceries, dishes, and some dry goods; they also had the Post Office in the building. In between the store and the bank on the corner Edith Blodgett had a cream buying station. Most of the farmers had milk cows and sold cream. On the opposite side of the street Herb Diamond had a gas station and sold cars. I think Bob Shantz took that over and sold Allis Chalmers Machinery. Bob sold the business to Quentin Tri who repaired cars and machinery for a couple of years and finally closed it. Irving’s ran a grocery store next to the garage, across the street from "Ben Balderston's" restaurant, later" Pearl's" cafe, and they also carried ready to wear dresses. The Humboldt bank was the only one in the county that didn't fold up when the depression struck. Ted Florance moved the Bank operation to Hallock after that Bank closed and continued there for many years. The Bank building in Humboldt was turned into a restaurant after the bank moved, and Andy and Edith Blodgett sold lunches and 3.2% Beer which was legal to sell then. Farley Bowman, Selmer and Selma Locken, and Pearl and Clarence Iten were also restaurant operators in the old building until Pearl moved into Balderston's building and the old Bank building stood idle for some years and was finally demolished.

Submitted by: Mark Baldwin, 24 Jun00

See Baldwin Housein Humboldt

by Mark Baldwin and Michael Rustad, 02 Sep 00

le='font-size:13.5pt'>See Baldwin Housein Humboldt

by Mark Baldwin and Michael Rustad, 02 Sep 00