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Manuscripts - ND Oral History Collection - 10157 - Dunn County

Dunn County

Region 11
1 Clarissa Morrell, Dickinson
2 Otto Buehner, Killdeer
3 Mr. and Mrs. Archie Palmer, Bismarck
4 Ralph Jensen, Killdeer
5 Carrie Beck Peterson, Killdeer
6 Maude Cuskelly & Verne Davis Howard, Killdeer
7 T.W. “Ted” Darwin, Killdeer
8 Mrs. Nettie B. Melby, Fred Fritz, and Mertis Fritz, Killdeer
9 Martin and Bertha Hermunstad, Halliday
10 Esther Vaagen, Werner
11 Ralph Flasher, Dickinson
12 Mrs. Mae Griggs, Dickinson
13 Earl and Wilma Paulson, Dickinson
14 Laverne Maule, Taylor
15 Mr. and Mrs. Tony Wittinger, Manning
16 Jack Murphy, Killdeer
17 Ruth and Jerome Johnson, Killdeer
18 Val Reiter, Killdeer
19 Mrs. Gertrude Bogers, Halliday
20 Grace Smith, Dodge
21 Edward H. Eckelberg, Dunn Center
22 Jim Connolly, Dunn Center
23 Early Henderson, Watford City
24 Delry R. & Gladys M. Webster, Gladstone
25 Mrs. Ida Edwards (copy), Killdeer
26 Cole Smith (copy), Killdeer
27 Floyd E. Henderson, Fargo

A portion of the following interview applies to Dunn County:
M. W. Taylor #20 Stutsman County

Tape #1 Clarissa Morrell (Dickinson) (Dunn Center)
000 – Introduction
020 – Clarissa comes to western North Dakota to teach in 1912; Getting to the country school from Taylor on a grain tank full of lumber; A steam tractor spooks the horses; Walking to school to teach
161 – Pulling a prank at the post office; A brother comes later to run the flour mill in Emerson; An Emerson dance story
262 – Some Evanson family history prior to ND; Location of the town of Emerson, North Dakota; Businesses in Emerson; Morrell family background; Nationalities around Emerson; More on mill in Emerson; Renille, North Dakota post office; Early post offices
430 – Clarissa’s early teaching experiences; First impressions of ND; Early area houses; Early area church; More on the Evanson family history
572 – Filling in blank spots from 1912 to 1917; Difference in the families Clarissa boarded with; Renville-Emerson area midwife; Social life in Renville area; Planting trees; Her father is lay minister in church; More on area social life; Clarissa’s teaching preparation
774 – An experience boarding with a German family in Minnesota; Clarissa returns to ND in 1917; Indecision about the future; She works in Fargo in 1918 for a boarding house
879 – She goes to work at Ceres Hall; NDAC while soldiers are training for war; The flu epidemic among soldiers at NDAC
026 – Houses in Renville area in 1912; An early dance story where people put babies on windowsills; Living in the 20’s; Family talk; The 30’s; Gardening; Canning; Clarissa’s feelings on coal development
251 – Feelings about neighborliness and sociability over the years; Advice on living; Feelings on ND; Feelings of people during 30’s; Early radios and phonographs

Tape #2 Otto Buehner (Dickinson) (Killdeer)
000 – Introduction
020 – Personal history in ND from 1899 through 1903-04; Family starts ranching; An early snowstorm in 1904; Hard times in early days; An early prairie fire and how it was fought
138 – Otto goes with Wild Pete, an outlaw who broke jail; The location of the Buehner ranch; A wolf killing story; A local crossing of the Little Missouri during a flash flood; Buffalo chips for fire; A rattlesnake story
254 – Immigrants come into area near Killdeer; An early broken leg fixed by Otto’s father; Settlement patterns around the area of Killdeer; Hot Otto was named; Conversation about early area religious practices; Early schooling stories; How Otto learned the language; Cost of medicine today
385 – Health talk; First impressions of ND; Farming for his dad as a boy; His father’s background in Germany
492 – Men play women at early dances; Church attendance and the services in early 1900’s; Family talk; Open range in Otto’s early years; Dunn County towns and the county seat; Otto’s early farming practices; Gunnysack overshoes
592 – The early threshing system in Killdeer area; Wolves in area; Working at the State Penitentiary; Otto leaves the farm and goes to a nursing home; His dog Spotty, and the relationship between them
767 – Otto meets Buffalo Bill; Dickinson in early 1900’s; Small talk; Picture talk; Otto’s tree planting experiences from around his farm house; Good and bad years in farming and ranching; Riding with cattle cars to Minneapolis
030 – His father catches a skunk by hand; The 30’s on the farm; Driving runaway horses home at 13 years of age
079 – A tame antelope story; Sheep men versus cattle and horse men; Good neighbors around Otto; The log cabin Otto built; Mining coal in the early days; Experiences leasing for oil and coal
239 – Peddlers in early days; Getting flour in Krem; Shooting prairie chickens and selling them to Minneapolis; Early day neighboring; Making caskets out of old granary boards
307 – Immigration out of ND; Drought in 1909-10; Three day grain hauling trips; Roofs for houses in early days; The building of his log cabin; Working at penitentiary at the dairy
478 – NPL recollections; Bill Langer; Working for a man who raised draft horses; Hunting snipes
571 – Otto chaps in SHS display and where he got them; The calving with different breeds of cattle at the penitentiary; Larger ranches in the early days
682 – Horse and cattle stealing; Indians working for ranchers; Relationships with Indians; Early law in the area; Indian burials

Tape #3 Mr. and Mrs. Archie Palmer (Bismarck)
000 – Introduction
020 – Family backgrounds; Archie’s father follows NP to ND; A story about his dad working on the railroad bridge; Archie’s dad runs a pump house at Dickinson, South Heart, and Medora
100 – Picture talk; Archie’s mother’s family; Family’s background in Dickinson and Medora; Archie’s father goes to ranching north of Dickinson
185 – School in Dickinson in winter; Archie’s father carries the mail from Dickinson to Oakdale; Picture talk; Early stage routes; The early automobile’s effect on horses on stage route; Coyotes and wolves in early days
318 – Archie spends a winter with his dad on the ranch; Shipping cattle out of Eland; Cowboys’ behavior after a cattle drive; Riding the stock train to St. Paul
404 – Raising draft horses; Breaking draft horses; Open range in early days; Unwritten policy among ranchers concerning open range; Prairie fires; One particular fire
536 – 1918 flu epidemic; Mrs. Palmer’s experiences as the County Superintendent of Schools; Mrs. Palmer’s family background in ND; She starts teaching at 16; Teaching children the English language; Recollections of Oakdale; Location of the town of Oakdale; Small talk about roads and bridges in Killdeer area
797 – Other small towns in area now defunct; Fayette Post Office and store; Archie’s father becomes register of deeds; Picture talk; Hauling whiskey on state to Oakdale saloon; A runaway stage story; Another runaway story; The stage run from Dickinson north
044 – Beginnings of Manning; County seat fighting; Prominent early leaders in Manning; Picture talk; Relationship between ranchers and early homesteaders
135 – Early day social life; Archie’s father’s acquaintanceship with the Marquis; Churches in rural area north of the city of Dickinson in early days; Family moves to Halliday; The 1920’s in Halliday; A short history of the Palmer store in Halliday; Early bad storms in winter
302 – Pulling wool out of dead sheep after a spring blizzard; Archie’s army tour of duty; Palmer’s try to start a chain store operation in Dunn County; Archie’s later experiences in life
431 – Credit problems in running a store; The depression in the town of Halliday; Changes in neighborliness over the years; going to a dance; Teaching experiences of Mrs. Campbell
653 – End of interview

Tape #4 Ralph Jensen (Killdeer)
000 – Introduction
020 – Ralph’s father comes to Figure 4 Ranch from Denmark; Early area ranchers from Texas; Father almost hung as a rustler; Nationalities of early ranchers; A story of how his father lost his job with Hans Christianson; Small talk about some pictures
142 – Talk about Oakdale and early ranchers; Picture talk
355 – Location of Jensen place; Neighbors near there; More about Oakdale; Fayette; Other early stores and post offices; Early relationship with Indians; Picture talk; Wintering for school in Dickinson
597 – Early settlers and nationalities; More picture talk; His father’s ranching practices; Crops grown on ranch for feed; Opinions on cattle versus grain and prices for both; More on early ranching practices and marketing
794 – Ralph’s father’s horse raising in early days; Father’s feelings about homesteaders coming in; Farmers leave the Killdeer-Dunn Center area in 30’s; Feeding thistle; The selling of cattle to the government or St. Paul in the mid 30’s
921 – Killdeer as an early cattle shipping point; Cattle marketing area in western North Dakota; Efficiency in moving cattle by rail in early days; Rounding up and neighborliness on ranches
024 – Ralph’s recollections of good local cowboys in early days; Respect early ranchers had for each other’s grazing areas; A couple of early Indian stories; A story of coal mining on Indian land
240 – Area people’s feelings about Garrison Dam
287 – End of tape

Tape #5 Carrie Beck Peterson (Killdeer)
000 – Introduction
020 – Family’s beginnings in ND; Cowboy – father comes to work on ranch; Carrie’s first impressions of ND; Family background in Texas; Mother’s health improves in ND; Cowboy – rancher transplants from Texas to ND; Turkey Track Bill
115 – Carrie’s recollections of early cowboys and characters; Early ranch life; Ranch social life; Comparative social life then and now; Bad flood in the spring of 1913; Carrie’s future husband Little Pete, finds a frozen Mrs. Brooks after a bad snowstorm   
304 – Location of first Wilcox ranch; The crew at the Wilcox ranch; Camps on the reservation; The television image of cowboys versus the real thing; Becoming acclimated to ND and the Badlands
424 – Winters on the Little Missouri; January round-ups; Ranches around the Wilcox ranch; More on winter dances; What constitutes “good times”; The lamp in the window; Mr. Hans Christianson of the Figure 4 brings Carrie candy tied in his long johns
572 – Carrie remembers “good riders” – Guy Fox and Scott Gore; Early relations with Indians
723 – The story behind Carries husband “Little Pete” and his cousin “Big Pete”; How “Little Pete” got started; The effect of Killdeer’s beginnings on area ranchers
801 – Early housing in area; Logs for building cabins; Carrie’s family; Hard times in 20’s and 30’s causes family to move
929 – Picture talk; The “blind pig” in area; Area coal for the ranchers; Putting up ice; Importance of gardens and of the root cellars; Putting up meat
007 – Putting up hops for yeast; Staples of diet on ranch; The 30’s; Cutting down on herd; People’s attitudes regarding the Garrison Dam
074 – Wildlife in early teens; Carrie goes down Medicine Hole in the top of the Killdeer Mountains shortly after marriage; Artifacts found in area by Carrie’s father
182 – End of tape
Comment:  A better than average interview of ranch life in the Badlands in the early 1900’s.  I remember stopping with quite a bit of tape left because Carrie appeared to be getting tired and there were quite a few pictures to be labeled and checked over.

Tape #6 Maude Cuskelly and Verne Davis Howard (Killdeer)
000 – Introduction
020 – Background of Maude’s family coming to North Dakota; Family background on homestead north of Washburn; Father runs livery barn in Washburn and locates homesteaders; Train reaches Washburn
107 – Family moves into Dunn County where mother runs Elm Grove Post Office; A cable across river carries mail during high water; Relationship with Indians in earlier days; Social life in Little Missouri area
176 – Comparative sociability then and now; Ladies talk about ranch family intermarriage; Ranch, home, and school dances; Importance of family post office; Gardens and wild fruit; Using silverware in jars to prevent cracking; Putting up meat; Drying corn in oven
293 – Wild berries from Badlands; Deer in the Badlands for food; Spittoons everywhere in early days; Maude homesteads before marriage; Cuskelly background; The river divides marketing area; Putting in supplies for winter; Use of catalog; Oakdale store inventory; Fishing on Little Missouri; Small talk on fish
491 – Early winters; Wood for winter fuel; Summer social life; Baseball teams; Picture talk; Eddie Cuskelly’s (Maude’s husband) farming on edge of Badlands; Area midwife; Killdeer’s beginning makes change for area farmer-ranchers
635 – Killdeer early businessmen; Home remedies; Small talk; 1918 influenza epidemic; Maude loses a boy; Early funerals
810 – The 30’s; Bank closings; WPA; Surplus commodities; The 30’s migration
945 – End of interview

Tape #7 T. W. “Ted” Darwin (Killdeer)
000 – Introduction
020 – Family comes from Russia in 1907; Family has trouble with illness when they reach America; They arrive at Balfour and Dogden; Father files on homestead near Fayette; They dig a dugout in hill
105 – Snowstorm comes before dugout is completed; An interruption; Arranging for a shack to stay in from a rancher named Cook; Start working on sod house; Early shelter problems; Bad rains and living on potatoes
198 – Father works out at threshing leaving family to fend for themselves; Spring dries up; Seven year old Ted gets water for mother in barrel which tips over
255 – Father’s real name; Reason for changing name; Family’s background in Russia; Reason for coming; Military treatment in Russia 
377 – Existence of Russian immigrants in North Dakota; An early conversation with a Russian Bohemian cowboy leads to a job for Ted’s oldest brother; Father buys sheep ranch
446 – The neighbor lady is midwife to Ted’s mother; More on hauling water; Father digs well and builds barn
544 – How long it took to get established; Gardening the first few years; Father has bad back accident in Russia; Father learns tailor trade in Russia
660 – Parents first feelings about having immigrated; Mosquitoes in early years; Rabbits, ducks, make a feast; Suckers from Knife River and creeks
765 – Coyotes take chickens; Ted’s thoughts about pioneering; Importance of freedom of religion; Location of dad’s homestead; Nationalities in area; Religions in area around Fayette and Belfield
000 – Introduction
020 – Ted’s father’s early farming methods; Using brush as a drag; Sowing by hand; Threshing by hand; 1909 a good year; Neighbor is killed by horses while threshing
115 – Ted’s other relatives and what happened to them; Ted’s father starts to get ahead; Other uncles come to America and return to Russia; Ted herds sheep rather than going to school ; How he was treated as a sheep boy; His wages and where they went
212 – Buying machinery and horses on time; Ted’s second employer is much more considerate; Ted sees him many years later
292 – The first school is started; Learning English; A traveler tries to teach Ted the alphabet; School attendance is very sporadic for Ted
372 – Ted goes to the Seventh Day Adventist’s Sheyenne Academy in Harvey; Ted gets influenza, which ends schooling in 1918
424 – Ted goes farming on his own and gets married; Grassy Butte is established; Early post offices; Farming with oxen
548 – Making furniture for dug out and sod house; Sleeping on corn husks; Ted’s mother grew yeast; Root cellar for vegetables; Potato bugs; Weeds in early years
636 – Pulling mustard; Crops through the late teens and 20’s
712 – Crops in early teens; Smoke from Montana in 1910; NPL in Fayette area; Ted recalls his involvement in local boards on county and township level
799 – Ted serves as Secretary to Dunn County Farmer’s Holiday Association; Thoughts on the Holiday, Langer, and radicalism; The consumer co-op store in Killdeer
865 – Ted organized for the Farmers Union and serves on the various boards; Thoughts on neighborliness and sociability over the years
924 – Thoughts on coal development; Changes in family life over the years; Heating their home in early years; Digging coal; A 1916 prairie fire
022 – Threshing over the years; Farmers meet to decide threshing order; The 30’s; Crops and prices through the 30’s; A grasshopper story
173 – Morale in the 30’s Thoughts on politics today; Thoughts on big farming; Social life through the years
355 – A story about a dance
420 – End of interview

Tape #8 Mrs. Nettie B. Melby, Fred Fritz, and Mertis Frits (Killdeer)
000 – Introduction
020 – Family background; Father brings family to North Dakota in 1910; Slough problems in Minnesota; Nettie’s first impression of North Dakota and the Badlands; Location of father’s homestead
114 – Father’s first shack; Water and coal readily available; Nationalities in area; Types of homesteading intentions; The first crops on breaking; Taylor as first marketing center; Emerson Post Office
200 – Melby Post Office and its location; Location of Emerson Post Office; Businesses in Emerson; Area coal mines for local people; More on businessmen in Emerson; Lillian’s pride and mother’s best flour
312 – Quality of flour now and then; Mother grows own yeast; Hops for yeast by gathering; The problem of language; Types of homesteaders; Nettie’s first husband’s background; What Nettie did after she came to North Dakota in 1910 at the age of 16
437 – What Nettie did after she was married; Early steam plowing; Who owned first steam tractors; Doctor Hegge’s dental methods; Prairie fires; Railroad come to area; Effect of having a railroad nearby; Early Dunn Center
585 – 1918 Influenza Epidemic; Hotel becomes hospital; A prairie needle working its way out of a man’s throat after having been swallowed; Nettie marries for second time to Doctor Melby;  Doctor Melby’s history in North Dakota as County Superintendent of Schools before going to medical school
715 – The 30’s on the farm; Drought and grasshoppers; Five cents a dozen for eggs; Gardening impossible; Black rust; Two days of heat cook grain in 1935; Grasshopper clouds; People with money leave
794 – Nettie’s husband cant’s get on WPA except for two days to buy shoes; Fred hires a ride to Killdeer for surplus commodities; Frozen lunches on WPA; Corruption of Surplus Commodities Program; Morale during 30’s
893 – Nettie’s husband’s political leanings; Government buys cattle, kills and buries them; Some people get meat from butchered cattle; Investigation to catch two men who furtively butchered a government calf
955 – Bank closings; Nettie’s father loses almost everything; Nettie’s opinions about today’s future; Sociability and the neighborliness then and now; Recollections of automobiles; Airplanes
061 – Electricity; Dunn Center mill generates electricity; Carbide lights; Early wildlife and rabbit hunts; Rabbits for food until they got blisters; Relationship between ranchers and farmers
254 – Tire trouble with early cars; Heavy rope for a spare tier; Heat melts patches on inner tubes
291 – Nettie’s mother knits for family from raw wool; Wristlets were used by family; Fred tells story of how in his boyhood a pig ate a gift from a neighbor of a sugar cured ham; Some of Fred’s German-Russian background 

Tape #9 Martin and Bertha Hermunstad (Halliday)
000 – Introduction
020 – Martin’s background before coming to North Dakota in 1906; First impressions of North Dakota; Location of Martin’s father’s and two older brother’s homesteads; Bertha’s family background and history; Scandinavian neighbors of the two families
118 – Early Halliday businessmen; Old Halliday and new Halliday; The coming of the railroad and its effect; Extinct post offices and small towns; Early relationships with Indians; Intermarriage through the years
188 – Nationalities of later settlers; How they mixed; Early traveling minister; Water on homesteads in area; Early farmer mines in area; The quality of area coal
335 – Method of early strip mining; An early custom threshing machine owner; Extent of weeds in early years; Pulling mustard by hand; Language no obstacle to neighborliness; Sociability then and now
427 – Hauling grain in winter; The halfway house between Halliday and Taylor; Bertha’s mother’s impromptu boarding house in old Halliday; Charges at the halfway house; Bertha recalls an experience crossing the flooded Knife River
577 – Early ranches in area when the two families came; Rancher and homesteader relationships; Prairie fires; Coyotes and wolves in early years; Coming with immigrant cars and getting started
643 – Early steam plowing rigs; A nearby German who farmed with oxen
721 – 1918 influenza epidemic; Halliday doctors; Midwives in the area; Martin and Bertha homestead; Martin’s early tractors
804 – The 30’s; Grasshoppers; WPA work in area; Relief now and then; Martin’s type of farming; Butter money
872 – Feed for cattle in the short years; Gardening and self-sufficiency; War butter for earaches and home remedies
933 – Relationships now and then with the Indians; Fighting among themselves; Indians sell posts; Bootlegging in the area
008 – Changes in farming; Martin’s opinion of large farming; Opinions on coal development
085 – End of interview

Tape #10 Esther Vaagen (Werner)
000 – Introduction
020 – Esther’s background; Her husband’s family’s background; Church furnishings brought from church in Iowa to new church in North Dakota; Early bad winters; Very limited early diet; Vaagen family haul buffalo bones and butter to Hebron; Early hard times for the Vaagen family; Longhorns almost trample a baby
105 – Prairie fire burns local neighbor lady to death; Esther’s husband files in 1911; Mr. Vaagen nearly dies of measles; First schools in homes; Mr. Vaagen freezes to saddle after chopping ice from spring; Wolves and coyotes
189 – Vaagen family instrumental in starting Ridgeway Church; Esther’s husband nearly killed by drunken driver in 1933; Operation on pool table; Early Werner
242 – Esther comes in 1915; Some early teaching experiences ; Teaching English to various nationalities; relationships with Indians; One particular Indian incident; 50 miles to a dance; Mr. Vaagen changes farms in 1923; More on early Werner
334 – Effect of bank closings on family; The 30’s; Family loses pile of wheat; WPA and Lake Ilo; WPA V-8’s and weather adversity; Early homestead housing; More particulars on the Vaagen homesteading; Nationalities in area
400 – Mail delivery routes; Esther’s first impressions of North Dakota; Tree plantings fail; Early businessmen in Werner; A barbering story; A coal digging story; Area mines
497 – Three Springs and other early post offices and country stores; The arrival of a new schoolteacher; The Hirschfield community; More on teaching; Early homesickness; Esther teaches in same area with her two sisters
648 – 1918 influenza epidemic; Husband uses Vicks Vapor Rub to avoid flu; Area doctor stresses fresh air; More on Werner and bank closings; County seat disputes; Early train service and the schedule; Husband tries to enlist and is told to raise grain
760 – Husband arrested for not carrying draft card on honeymoon; 12 year old son of Vaagens accidentally shot; Raising a family in the 30’s; Living on cornmeal and black coffee; $5.35 per month from Red Cross
002 – Morale in30’s; Migration out of area; Vaagens lose farm in the 30’s; Husband belongs to NPL; They buy back the farm; Rocky marginal land hard to farm; Animals from Badlands raid Vaagen’s farm
081 – Friendliness and sociability then and now; Poverty as a child prepares Esther for hard times; Small talk about her father’s woodcraft; Women’s Suffrage in area; WCTU
152 – A hard drinking neighbor causes problems for teachers; His treatment of his family
221 – Early social life; World War I sewing for Red Cross; Card parties; Threshing time; Early ranchers in area; Relationship between farmers and ranchers; A story of a trip into the Badlands
339 – Early telephones in area; More on Indian experiences; The gypsies and peddlers; Feeling of World War I; A story about a pro-German in Taylor and the celebration after the armistice
423 – Jim Vaagen’s aunt fixes meal for Teddy Roosevelt
430 – End of interview

Tape #11 Ralph Fisher (Dickinson)
000 – Introduction
020 – Fisher family history; Homesteading north of South Heart; Early neighbors; Father’s post office; Nationalities of early farming homesteaders; Relationship between ranchers and homesteaders; Large early ranchers
128 – Schools in area; Stone and sod buildings in area; Method of building sandstone and gumbo buildings; Prairie fires; Water in area; Early settlers in area dig coal
192 – Early postmasters in area; Early social life in 1890’s and early 1900’s; Rodeos in area; Early good riders; Hunting coyotes as a sport; Wolves; Ralph’s personal developing history
357 – Good years and bad years from early teens on; Shipping the cattle from area; Trail drives to shipping point; Cattle prices; Degree to which area was settled; Migration out in 30’s
474 – Threshing machines in early years; Wooden threshers; he atmosphere at threshing time; Sociability then and now; Stocking up for winter and catalog orders
589 – Flour mills; Ranchers farm more when homesteaders come to do cattle raising in the 30’s
709 – End of interview

Tape #12 Mrs. Mae R. Griggs (Dickinson)
000 – Introduction
020 – Family history; Mae comes in 1915; First impressions of North Dakota; Griggs family homesteads; Early post offices
102 – Mae comes to visit and stays; She marries Edwin Griggs; The neighbors in area; Griggs family hauls water for 30 years; Coal used for fuel; Area mines and the quality of coal
245 – The 30’s and hard times; Raising eight children on a limited amount of money; Gardening; Selling onions to buy an incubator; Canning 200 to 300 quarts from garden; Putting up berries from the Badlands; Selling butter in Dickinson
357 – Griggs forced to cut herd size in the 30’s; Pulling corn up by the roots; Using Russian thistle for feed; Grasshoppers; Area schools; Quality of rural schools
459 – Early threshing machines; Making up a threshing crew; The sociability and neighborliness then and now; Electricity in area; Telephone’s arrival
636 – Politics in area; Edwin doesn’t join; Too busy for politics
657 – End of interview

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