Red River Valley Bonds

Recreational Activities

by

Michael Rustad

I  grew up on a farm outside of Humboldt in the 1950s and 1960s. My

maternal grandparents raised their family in Hallock.  Leo and Mildred

Carrigan moved during the depression from South Dakota.  GrandpaLeo Carrigan

hitched a ride on the railroad to Hallock and decided to move his family

there.  He opened the Golden Krust Bakery in Hallock in 1937.  Dennis

Matthews worked with my grandfather as a teenager.  Grandpa Carrigan's

children: Pat (my mother), Virginia, Jim, Norma and Mike, helped in the

bakery as well.  Grandpa Carrigan was well known for his cinnamonrolls and

delcious breads and cakes.  I come from a family of hard workers. Grandpa

Carrigan not only did the hard work in the bakery but drove his truckall

over the county in a battle for shelf space with larger bakeries suchas

Eddies.  Later in life, Grandpa Carrigan critiqued the productsof  the large

commercial bakeries.  Grandpa's "golden krust" bread wasa quality product.

 

My paternal grandparents settled on a farm outside of Humboldt.  

Alfred H. Rustad, Sr. immigrated from Oslo, Norway.  Grandpa Rustadand his

family homesteaded near Williston, North Dakota.  During the firstwinters,

they lived in sod huts and heated their humble abodes with lignite coal. My

grandmother, Margaret Petersen Rustad, was from Enebak Denmark.  My

grandparents met in North Dakota where my Grandfather's older brotherwas

homesteading.  Grandpa's brother Ole was married to my grandmother'solder

sister, Hannah.  Grandpa and Grandma Rustad had a one quarter sectionfarm

outside of Humboldt   My grandparents raised their familiesin the 1920s

through 1940s, not many decades after the founding of Kittson County.  By

modern standards, life was quite primitive.  As a small child, wedid not have

flush toilets, paved streets, or many other conveniences.  We grewmuch of

our own food.  Meat and vegetables were canned, a practice thatcontinued in

our family long after electricity.  We baked all of our own bread. My

paternal grandfather grew the wheat, ground it with his own hand mill,and

made bread with my grandmother each week   My maternal grandfatherwas a

commercial baker.  Bread was a sine qua non of my roots to Red RiverValley.
 

Dennis Matthews' website, Red River Valley,  has inspired me toask a

number of questions about the pioneers of the Upper Red River Valley. The

section of the website entitled:  Red River Valley, is a forum forpresent

and former residents to share thoughts about our common heritage. Wheredid

they come from?  How did they develop a sense of community?   Iwas

interested in learning more about how early residents developed theirsense

of community.  

 

I. Introduction:

 

I grew up outside of  the hamlet of Humboldt (160 residents).  

Humboldt is located in the upper Red River Valley in the Northwest Cornerof

Minnesota.  Humboldt is now a shell of a town as compared to vibrant

community that I remember growing.  My Dad was the Postmaster inHumboldt and

farmed as a side-line. Humboldt's once splendid homes are now in decay. The

school is razed.  It  is a small town with few businesses,unpaved roads, but

there are still those who remember the community with great affection. 

Humboldt is a farming community, the type that inspired Ole Rolvaag's"Giants

in the Earth."   Humboldt's settlers were largely fromPrince Edward Island

(PEI).  They were farmers and entrepreneurs with a keen sense ofcommunity.  

A sense of community was necessary in a community with a winter climatethat

rivaled Siberia.  Forty degrees below zero for weeks at a time wasnot an

uncommon occurence nor were floods, tornadoes and pestilence.  TheOld

Testament's stories of plagues and pestilence seemed close to everydaylife

in the Red River Valley.  

 

The development of Humboldt and the Red River Valley was first

stimulated by a number of developments.  The earliest development--more than

200 years ago, occurred as the result of the fur trade.  There weretrade

routes between Winnipeg and Minneapolis via ox carts.  St. Vincent& its

sister hamlet of Pembina, North Dakota were products of the fur trade.  

During the 1958 Centennial, an ox cart treked from St Paul to Winnipeg. 

There were also river boats from Fort Garry in Winnipeg to Grand Forks

(Fisher's Landing).   It was wheat farming not the fur tradewhich shaped

much of Kittson County.  The hegemonic role of fur trading and huntingwas

replaced by agrarianism by the first decades of dthe twentieth century.

 

St. Vincent was the original county seat of Kittson County but later

it was moved to Hallock as that town grew in prominence.  The cityof Hallock

was named for Charles Hallock, a prominent Easterner.  Hallock wasas well

known in his day as prominent journalists George Will or William F. Buckley. 

Gloria Swanson notes that Hallock received two degrees from Amherst andwas a

prominent newspaperman from New York.  She notes that Hallock wasfinancial

editor of Harper's Weekly and founder of Forest and Stream.  Hallock'svision

was to build a hotel and hunter's retreat for the abundant elk, bear,wolves, 

moose and game birds.  The Hotel Hallock became the heart of earlyHallock.  

The rest of Hallock followed closely on the heels of the "sportsmen's

paradise."  

 

P.O. Hanson's history of Hallock indicates that by 1880 Hallock had

125 inhabitants and a number of families along Two Rivers.  Thefirst court

was held in Hotel Hallock in 1881.  The Hotel Hallock was builtas a hunter's

lodge.  The settlers of Hallock, our county seat, were disproportionately

Swedish from the flatlands of Skane in Southern Sweden.  I taughtat the

University of Lund in Skane last summer and hope to return in the summerof

2001.  It is not suprising that the Swedes of Skane found KittsonCounty so

invitiing.  The flatlands were perfect for agriculture.    Humboldthad

relatively few Swedes and Norwegians.    Humboldt wassettled largely by

Prince Edward Islanders with only a smattering of Scandinavians.

 

I think the most interesting aspects of social history are the

events of everyday life versus the big events.  All of the townswere shaped

in part by the role of the railroad and James J. Hill. There were somebig

events in the history of Kittson County.  James J. Hill's buildingof a

mansion in Northcote and a bonanza farm was certainly a big event.  The

culture of Kittson County was one of self-determination.  The buildingof the

Lake Bronson Dam during the New Deal by FDR was perhaps the first important

government help to the area.      Large governmentprojects were unknown

prior to the New Deal.  The infrastructure for the County was market-driven. 

My grandfather and his friends built the first telephone exchange inHumboldt

and St. Vincent.  Grandpa Rustad and his friends actually strungthe

telephone wire and installed the exchange.for the first phones.  TheHumboldt

farmers formed a stock company which issued shares in their nascent telephone

company.  The downside of having very little by way of governmenthelp is

that many Kittson County communities lacked infrastructure.  Humboldtwas

very primitive and lacked a central water supply and sewage, for example. 

Community spirit lead Humboldt residents to build a school in 1905.  There

were rural school houses and a number of churches built prior to 1905.

 

Everyday life in the Red River Valley centered around the harvestingof

crops.  The big events were seasonal: sodbusting, fall plowing,swathing, and

harvesting.  Before the self-propelled combine, threshing crewscreated

senses of community.   I am certain that the harvesting partiescreated a

sense of solidarity and friendship.  Cooperation was required formutual

surival. The topic of this essay is recreational activities in Humboldt.

 

I.  Recreation in the Upper Red River Valley

 

In the first stage of development of the county, the wealthy elite

from the East founded Hallock as a retreat for hunters.   MyAunt Dorothy's

memory of recreation was the socializing that occurred between neighbors. 

The Turner and Rustad families would have card parties.  Life inthe 1930s

and 1940s was not dramatically different than in earlier decades. Neighbors

would get together for New Years Eve parties.  The Kittson CountyHistorical

Society has a photograph from a New Years Party at the William Eastonplace

about 1912.  William Easton was our neighbor Harris Easton's father. The

Easton place was located only about 1/2 mile from our family farm.  The

picture depicts a group of mostly Prince Edward Islanders.  I wasstruck that

the men were all dressed in suits and the women in formal dreses.  Who

attended that party?  They were the grandparents of many of my classmates. 

These were young people who were later to become pillars of Humboldtsociety  

The attendees were:  George hugill, Silas Matthew, Emmons Matthew,Herb

Diamond, Harry Clow, Beatrice Walker. H. Easton, Hiilda Olson, EleanorBenek,

Annie Diamond, Henry Gatheridge, Annie Hugill, Elsie Jury, Florence Matthew,

Ollie Armstrong, and Ella Easton.    The informal gatheringswere undoubtedly

the place where community flourished.  Humboldt later had a movietheatre

over the Florence store.  The town picnic and churches were alsoa source of

social life.  Later in the century, it was the Elevator meetingsand

community clubs that had activitaies for the town.  Humboldt stillhas a town

picnic which has roots into the earliest formation of the town.

 

Humboldt's early baseball teams were undoubtedly a huge attraction. 

Harvey and Helen Diamond wrote in their essay on Herbert and Annie Diamond

that:  "Baseball was a favorite sport.  Herb played thirdbase on the Diamond

Team in his younger years.  The team consisted of Diamonds and cousins. His

brother Levi was a left handed pitcher.  Benny was a catcher.   Leonard

played second base and Lawrence played first base.  We've been toldthey were

hard to beat.  Herb was manager for the team when the famous CalFarley

(founder of Boy's Ranch) played for Humboldt."  The Humboldtbaseball teams

survived into the late 1940s and 1950s when my Dad played with his best

friend, Uncle Burton Turner.  Baseball died out entirely by thetime I was

growing up in the 1950s and 1960s.   I would like to hear fromother former

Kittson County Residents who will help me fill in the gaps about recreational

activities in the Upper Red River Valley.    Recreationalactivities and

informal gatherings were undoubtedly eroded by the spread of television,

bowling leagues and the arrival of the age of the automobile.  Duringthe

1950s and 1960s, the Lake Bronson Dam became the chief recreational center. 

Families from Humboldt would band together for informal picnics and get

togethers.  In the 1950s and 1960s, Humboldt's town fathers alwayshad a

skating rink for the kids much to the credit of visionaries like civic-minded

men like Virgil Bockwitz.  The rising of the newly formed schoolfrom

1957-1990 changed the recreational activities.  The school's sportsteams,

music groups, and speech teams were all supported by the local community. 

Our speech teams in the 1960s under the leadership of Martha Robertswere a

dynasty.  Humboldt-St. Vincent, the tiniest school in the state,consistently

won the sub district and district competitions.  We had more state

contestants than any school in the Northwest part of Minnesota.  Ourmusic

program was also successful along with our 4-H program.   Aswe enter a new

millenium, I see a great deal to commend the residents and ex-residentswho

built a real sense of community that is increasingly rare.


Source:

Michael Rustad, 03 Feb 01

 

The references to essays by Harvey & Helen Diamond,  P.O. Hansonand Gloria

Swanson are drawn from  Our Northwest Corner, published by the

Kittson County Historical Society.bsp;Aswe enter a new

millenium, I see a great deal to commend the residents and ex-residentswho

built a real sense of community that is increasingly rare.


Source:

Michael Rustad, 03 Feb 01

 

The references to essays by Harvey & Helen Diamond,  P.O. Hansonand Gloria

Swanson are drawn from  Our Northwest Corner, published by the

Kittson County Historical Society.