SHSND Home > Archives > Archives Holdings > Manuscripts > Oral Histories > 10157
To schedule an appointment, please contact us at 701.328.2091 or

OCLC WorldCat Logo

SHSND Photobook - Digitized images from State Archives

Digital Horizons

2019-2021 Blue Book Cover

Federal Depository Library Program

Chronicling America

Manuscripts - ND Oral History Collection - 10157 - Nelson County

Nelson County

Region 13
1 Mrs. Charlotte S. Taylor, Lakota
2 John W. Rainsberry, Lakota
3 Jim Fahey, Lakota
4 George F. and Myrtle J. McHugh, Lakota
5 A. W. Goldammer, Lakota
6 Mr. and Mrs. Arthur Estvold, Lakota
7 Dora Cline, Michigan
8 Helmer and Ruth Dahlen, Michigan
9 Gurine Moe, Whitman
10 Mr. and Mrs. Lester Skjerven, Whitman
11 Agnes and Joe Matejcek, Whitman
12 Mrs. P. P. Ravnsborg, Aneta
13 Alex Southerland, Aneta
14 Hans Larsgaard, Aneta
15 Einer Severson, Petersburg
16 Mr. and Mrs. Nels Knudson, Dahlen
17 Thomas and Grace Pearson, McVille
18 Palmer and Berdella Overby, Tolna
19 Mr. and Mrs. Oscar Hanson, Aneta
20 Mrs. Olaf Moen (No Interview), Michigan
21 Orvin T. Hanson, McVille
22 Alfred A. Thal, Lakota

Portions of the following interviews apply to Nelson County:
E. J. Taylor, #6, Burleigh County
Oscar T. Forde, #25, Burleigh County
Julius Fjeld, #16, Ward County

Tape #1 Mrs. Charlotte S. Taylor (Lakota)
000 – Introduction
013 – Family came from Kentucky to Dakota Territory and settled on a preemption in 1885; Anecdote of when the baby was lost; Mother had always had hired help so was an adjustment to do all the work herself
095 – Moved to Mapes in fall of 1885; School; Teacher; Anecdote of old ox driver; Lived in small 3 room sod shanty for 6 months with 5 children; The schoolteacher, her mother, and grandson who lived in small sod shanty; Interior of sod shanty
287 – Went to Devils Lake and Ft. Totten for 4th of July celebration; Educated Indian; Painted Indians did a war dance
330 – Joined the Eastern Star before she was 18 years old; Organizer of the Cream of Wheat Co.
400 – Recorded interview of Charlotte and her son made in 1969; Tells of freeing slaves; Telling the negroes goodbye; Old Negroes had come with the family from Virginia into Kentucky; Lived on a plantation close to Washington plantation; Anecdote of riding a horse to water; Anecdote of being stung by bees
545 – The trip from Kentucky to ND on the train; The hotel at Mapes, very unsatisfactory accommodations; Mother laughed all night
655 – Living in tar paper shack on preemption without maids; The violin player
717 – Description of preemption, tree claim, and homestead
755 – The uncle that met the train when they arrived; Scottish Earl that inherited land; Fire at the Sinclair farm; Burned horses and cattle
838 – Fall hunting with Mr. Sinclair; Wamduska
957 – Killing any wild bird on the wing
964 – Introduction of interview telling of Mrs. Taylor’s married life; Living near Dr. Wheeler; Anecdote about bank robbers
010 – Aunt Katherine’s operation, the first one in Grand Forks
026 – President McKinley’s assassination
055 – Coming to Bismarck in 1903; Husband Deputy State Superintendent of Schools; Conversation of distinguished dinner guests; Meeting Mrs. Frank White, governor’s wife
118 – Available utilities consisted of pump in the kitchen for water which was not for drinking; City storage tanks were open; House wired for electricity downstairs only; Former tenant had been growing marijuana in the garden and dried it in the basement
182 – Member of first mixed jury of court in Bismarck; visit of President Theodore Roosevelt to Bismarck when he bowed to her
228 – Early high school graduation exercises when the salutatorian forgot his speech; Some Bismarck pioneer women; Father Sloan, a Presbyterian minister
336 – Early members of the Presbyterian church
361 – Experience on boat between Prince Rupert and Seattle; World’s Fair in San Francisco
380 – End of interview
Comment:  Mrs. Taylor was the wife of a Deputy State Superintendent of Schools.  She tells of leaving a plantation in Kentucky where they had servants and coming to a homestead in ND and her life after marriage, living in early Bismarck.

Tape #2 John W. Rainsberry (Lakota)
000 – Introduction
020 – Father arrived in 1885 from Canada; Bought thresh machine in 1887; Farmed in Canada first; Frost, gophers, drought, and then when they got a good crop the sheriff got it; Finished threshing in spring of 1892; Married in 1893; Anecdote of horse trading
140 – Father came from Ireland in 1864; Mother homesteaded
234 – Yankees, Finnish, and Norwegians were first settlers in the area; Reading of names of early settlers and history of the area
321 – Move in 1901; Midwives
380 – Town of Brocket established in 1901; Reading – history of the town
448 – Big farms changed hands quite often; Talk of the large farmers; Brought Negroes up to homestead the land  and bought it from them; The Lamb family
585 – Various prominent early settlers
632 – Brick hotel in Wamduska used for hunting ledge; Tourists came in to hunt at Stumpp Lake
710 – Hunting ducks, geese, and prairie chickens; Samuel Foster and other Foster businessmen; Developer of Cream of Wheat, Emery Mapes; John Sinclair
755 – Lakota, ND’s fastest firefighting team; Anecdote of grandmother
794 – Majority of people around Lakota were republican; NPL wasn’t’ too strong in the area; Langer; Lemke; Frasier; Burdick
886 – Change in personalities in people over the years; Dances; House parties
030 – Wife, Norwegian from Minnesota
045 – Image of ND compared to other states; Custom threshing; Jewish farmers; Descriptions of various thresh machines his father owned; IWW
196 – Prohibition; Whiskey from the drug store; Shipped in liquor; Beer available at depots; Bootleggers from Canada
290 – Large scale farming; Coal resources
405 – End of interview
Comment:  This interview tells much about the early settlers of the area and farming interests.  He is from Irish decent and pleasant to listen to.

Tape #3 Jim Fahey (Lakota)
000 – Introduction
020 – Father came from Ireland when he was 10 years old and lived in Connecticut; Filed on homestead in Nelson County in 1881 south of Mapes; Brought cow, chickens, walking plow, and reaper, hand tools and a little furniture on immigrant car; Built storm shelter also used for root cellar; built small school which was also used for church services for all denominations; Early threshing machines; Mother made all the clothes for the family, raised large gardens, and preserved foods; Rolling flax straw and long slough hay for burning in stoves
134 – Filed on land in Canada in 1914; Returned to Lakota in 1916; Married in 1919 and rented a farm during the drought years and later bought it
180 – Earliest settlers in their area were Irish and German; Discussion of various early settlers; Jewish people were poor farmers
290 – Wamduska – Hotel made of brick made in the area; Used for out of state hunters; Abundance of wildlife; Call of the prairie chicken; Father’s ability to hunt geese
440 – Lamb Bros., owners of town of Michigan and other small towns; History of the Lamb family
565 – Discussion of Samuel Foster
614 – Difference in town people and farm people; Farm kids had to hold their own when they went to town; Anecdote of Irish kid attending town school; School fights
733 – John Sinclair’s farm; Large scale farms does away with community and family life
804 – Picking buffalo bones; Buffalo existed yet when parents arrives; Parents were friends of the Indians
865 – Mother liked the prairie and its people; Mill at Grand Forks; Prairie towns – Bartlett had 41 saloons at one time
950 – Prohibition
961 – Reading which discusses the early immigrants; Transportation; Building roads; Methods of farming; Mechanized farm machinery; Financing and expanding; Livestock; Agriculture Stations; Electricity; Invention of the radio; Early church financing; Sharing with neighbors; Schools; Political movements; Women’s suffrage; Blacksmith; Early auto was hard on small towns because people could go to large towns to trade; Barnyard loans; Banks foreclosing
147 – Social life in the 30’s; Roosevelt’s New Deal; Farming in the late 1800’s
190 – Water on homestead was poor being they were shallow wells and mostly surface water; Machine drilled made deeper and better wells; Burned buffalo chips in early years for cooking; Methods of rolling straw and hay for burning
270 – Early settlers believed in “Live and Let Live”; Living conditions in Alberta, Canada; Lived in dug out in hillside at first
305 – Russian’s method of building, starting with one room and adding as the family increased
348 – Served time in Canadian Army in 1914
377 – People were discouraged in the 30’s but those that stayed on the farm made out best; Rearing the family in the 30’s Prices of farm commodities; Money from WPA work; Cattle in Montana died during drought
450 – Cut size of herds because of no feed; poor cattle prices; Langer helped farmers save their land; Discussion of Langer; Townley; More politics
674 – North Dakotans had inferior complex but are coming out of it; Farmers organizing
750 – ND grain elevator on Lake Superior
772 – Advice to the younger generation
802 – End of interview
Comment:  A very interesting interview.  Mr. Fahey prepared 2 readings that give much information on the lives of early pioneers that he reads.  The main subject is farming.  At the end he gives some worthwhile advice to the younger generations.

Tape #4 George F. and Myrtle McHugh (Lakota)
000 – Introduction
020 – Father came in 1888 and landed in Mapes; Mother arrived in 1898 but never liked the area; Homestead north of Mapes
110 – Water on homestead was poor; Rock homes; Rock Episcopalian Church; Lamb family; Story of Charles Atler
255 – A. M. Tofthagen – wealthy, well-traveled, donated curios to library; Jewish settlement; Anecdote of father’s pair of black horses
339 – Hotel at Wamduska; Various operators of the hotel; Depots in ND
442 – Samuel Foster from an island off of England
530 – Famous Lakota fire team
602 – Politics; Large fire in Lakota in 1910 and in 1914; First settlers in 1882
693 – Horses shipped in for homesteaders was big business
720 – Tolerance for different religious beliefs as well as different nationalities
810 – Mapes School #3; Teachers; Country school kids going to High School in town
865 – Social life consisted of catching gophers for the kids; Large Sunday dinners after church; House parties; Gatherings at the school; Granary on her parent’s farm used for dances; Later good dance bands; People depended on each other for entertainment; Card games; Chautauquas; Fair at Grand Forks
990 – Popular NPL with some farmers and some were dead against it; Co-op ventures; Strong Republican territory in earlier years
095 – Langer was well thought of; Story of how he made space for grain
175 – What would happen if we had drought now like in the 30’s; Reared two foster children; Value of the dollar
272 – Opinion of ND; Discussion of modern times
434 – End of interview
Comment:  A very interesting interview about farming interests and various prominent settlers in the Lakota territory.

Tape #5 A. W. Goldammer (Lakota)
000 – Introduction
020 – Father came from Germany in early 80’s; Opened Blacksmith shop and sold machinery in Bartlett; Later a business at Lakota; Mother came in early 80’s also; Born in 1887 in Bartlett; Nationalities of early settlers
110 – Railroad was built through Edmore in 1906; Mother and children took trip with horses and carriage in 1896 for 4th of July and eat of Edmore there were no signs of human habitation; Lost
152 – Father homesteaded but didn’t farm; Ran a blacksmith shop instead
190 – People looked after themselves; They raised most everything they ate; Midwife; No welfare in the hard years; Sod houses; Lumber was $33 a thousand; People were thrifty; Interest 12%
282 – Burning of hardware store in Bartlett; Owners of other stores
320 – Squatters arrived in 1882; Prominent early settlers
416 – Wamduska Hotel; Lamb family
560 – Talking machine that cost a nickel to operate
635 – Early citizens; Mapes; Foster; They all came from different parts of the world and had different characteristics
738 – Some businessmen charged bonus plus 12% interest on money loaned or merchandise bought; political leaders
821 – Family moved from Bartlett to Lakota in 1895; Worked in Western ND and Canada before returning in 1916 and lived there since; More early settlers; Early Negro residents
950 – Associating with the Negro residents; Jews – poor farmers
001 – How Stumpp Lake got its name and other interesting things about it
055 – Fire in 1892 that burned several business places; Fireman’s ball – a social event
081 – Politics; Loans through Langer; Refunding deals
284 – Popular early stores and good businessmen
340 – Businessmen extending credit; Depression started in ’29; Poor wheat prices
415 – Lakota’s water problem
480 – Social events; Newly developed area and very few elderly people
540 – Not such a thing as a family farm anymore
625 – Pessimistic about the future; People themselves make the economy of the country
725 – End of interview
Comment:  Mr. Goldammer was Register of Deeds and also a businessman for many years.  He tells about many of the early settlers and history of the area.

Tape #6 Mr. and Mrs. Arthur Estvold (Lakota)
000 – Introduction
020 – He arrived in 1913 to start farming but worked in the area first; Married in 1916; Good chance for poor man to get started; Rented at first then bought land and moved some buildings; She liked the wide open spaces right away; Many nationalities lived in the area
153 – The Lamb family were industrious and worked together so accumulated quite a bit of land and property
197 – Lived in garage and granary at first; Sold homestead in SD; Bought used machinery at first and had good prices so paid off debts; She raised gardens, chickens, turkeys, and strawberries; Sold butter and cream; First to get a wind charger
359 – Midwife and doctor delivered their babies; Baby born in blizzard; Sold grain and shopped in Michigan until they moved to Lakota; Prairie fire burned up most of Mapes
427 – Social life was better then than now; All night card parties; Dances cost 25 cents a couple; Rural telephone hooked on the fence; Kids went along to dances and card parties and slept
530 – Farmers got together for butchering
600 – People lost their money when banks foreclosed; The bad years lasted through the 30’s and things got better in the 40’s; Feed for the cattle
721 – Raising corn for cattle; First tractor in 1944; Raising work horses weighing over 1800 lbs.
807 – Hired threshing for many years; During rainy weather it took lots of food; Poor help from southern hired hands
900 – IWW; Hired two IWW workers and one was poor and the other satisfactory; Worked in groups; Some caused trouble; Poor cattle prices in the 30’s; Dust storms; Built good house on the farm; Grasshoppers; Accident while putting out poison
026 – Foreman on WPA; Graveling roads
075 – Sewed all the clothes for the children out of old clothes
124 – Summer fallow was a good practice in farming; Good things about ND; Disagrees with large scale farming pushing off family sized farm
248 – End of interview
Comment:  An interesting interview as a farm couple tell the story of successful farming though the tough years but hard work and luck paid off.

Tape #7 Dora Cline (Michigan)
000 – Introduction
020 – Born in ND in 1884; Moved to Minnesota a while, but returns; Father bought farm – house was full of bedbugs; Neighbors; Picture talk; Butchered with neighbors; Raised big garden and preserved it for winter
160 – In the early years the woman’s role was hard; Babies born at home with midwives; Farmed with horses; Milked cows; Sold butter and cream; It didn’t seem like hard times because they had so much fun
246 – Neighbor owned threshing machine; Cooked in a cook car when she got older; Went to church in Michigan; Morales were different in early years; People were so neighborly
306 – Lamb family; Education consisted of grades; Married early in life; Husband farmed; Had one son; Husband also ran a livery barn
477 – Prefers living in ND; Social life consisted of Sunday dinner at neighbors, dances, and movies; Welcomed conveniences as they came; Doctor got the flu during 1818 epidemic
676 – Mother-in-law cooked at the motel at Stumpp Lake
716 – End of interview

Tape #8 Hilmer and Ruth Dahlen (Michigan)
000 – Introduction
020 – Grandfather came in 1881 to ND but arrived in Minnesota in 1865 from Norway and lived there 16 years; The trip to ND was made in covered wagon; Father walked and chased cattle all the way; First settler in township; Free land for himself and sons
085 – Large cattle herds; Prairie fires burned many acres; Plowed fire breaks; Sold buffalo bones
137 – First home was built in the side of a hill; First church was a Norwegian Lutheran; Early post offices
211 – Grandfather had lots of cattle and sold many teams of oxen; How they broke the oxen
240 – Grandfather’s trip across Norway and across the ocean; Trip took 16 weeks; Grandfather sent tickets for others to come
316 – Her family came in 1903; Bought quarter of land; Had worked in packing plant; Moved from Wisconsin in snowstorm here; Everything went wrong at first; Anecdote of blood poisoning; Mother adjusted to prairie life before her husband did; Anecdote of shipping grain directly though depot instead of elevator
450 – Immigrants came with nothing; Some made good but some failed; Planted box elder, ash, and cottonwood trees on tree claims
574 – Dry years forced many people to leave; ’93 and ’94 were bad; Many 3 day blizzards; Shelterbelts are a help and also catches snow for moisture; Father lost land in the bad years but bought it back; Neighbors; Learning English after they started school; Early settlers believed in no intermarriage with other nationalities
000 – Introduction of remaining part of the interview on Side 2 of preceding cassette
020 – Celebration on 17th of May in 1914; The year Norway celebrated her 100 year independence; Flag drill; Dances at Stumpp Lake
072 – Built church in 1897 but had built a smaller one earlier; Before the church they had services in the home; Services every second and third Sunday; Reading of how Nelson County got its name; Various settlers and their histories; The Lamb family history and business they were involved in
209 – NPL wasn’t too popular in the area around Dahlen; Politics; Story of blind politician; Various political speakers; Political arguments
327 – Her father bought quarter of land and built barn plus a later addition; Terrific year in 1915 so built a home in 1917; Also raised horses; They accepted the change after a while
365 – Gardens; Sewing clothes for the family and neighbors
373 – Town of Dahlen, business places, and the people that ran them
431 – Whitman, early business places, and the people that ran them
553 – Red Cross, Junior Red Cross; 1918 flu epidemic; Three grown brothers died within 2 weeks; Their whole family was sick with it at once; Schools closed so it wouldn’t spread; Teaching school in various town schools
705 – Depression was a good experience
720 – More about the depression; Start of farming; Poor grain prices; Drought; Loosing farms and refinancing them on lower payments and lower interest rates; Heard Langer speak
817 – Farm Holiday Association – farmers kept together; Dust storms; Grasshoppers and poison; Roosevelt was a great help
860 – People’s attitude towards politics; Discussion of the Vietnam War; Large scale farmers; Possibility of making a living on 3 quarters now
935 – WPA; Worst year was ’36 when there was no hay or anything; Threshing; Father owned threshing rig; Cook cars
988 – People were satisfied with less in the early years; Associated more with neighbors; Made own amusements; Change in kids attitudes; Over permissive parents
062 – Standards the teachers had to keep
111 – Proud of living in ND
194 – End of interview
Comment:  A farm couple tells of their family history dating back to 1865.  He tells many interesting stories of his grandfather who first came as a squatter.  They also give history of some of the towns near them.

Tape #9 Gurine Moe (Whitman)
000 – Introduction
020 – Father came from Norway in 1870 to Minnesota; Worked in log camps and farmed; Came to ND in 1879 to homestead, tree claim, and preemption; All three quarters were separated so he sold and bought so it joined; Lived in roofed over dug out; Made firebreaks; No mail or communications; First post office
132 – Women had it hard in early years; Farming with oxen; Pulling sleds with oxen; Born in dug out in 1890
165 – Organizing a church; Names of charger members; First officers and land donated for church and cemetery; Tornado hit first church but was rebuilt; The early church history; Minister married parents, children, and baptized their children
250 – Reading of their children and their where abouts; Husbands death; Early school attended and classmates
280 – Food in early years
294 – French settlement, their names; Older ones died and younger ones gave up and moved away; French girls married Norwegians
323 – Midwives; A German graduated nurse was midwife for a while; Names of midwives; Prairie fires burned her father’s grain; Everyone feared the fires
935 – Washing clothes; Baths in wash tub; Took cream to depot; Early stores in Whitman and their owners; Bootleggers; Early power plant in town, took turns washing clothes, etc.; Farmer’s telephone, $1.50 a month
060 – Ministers were satisfied with food for pay; Teacher’s salaries; Farmer’s Union
123 – Church groups for women; Surprise parties; Passed hats to pay for music; Barn dances when new barns were put up; Grasshoppers that were in clouds that shut out the sun; Dust storms; No money for taxes; Baseball teams; Made baseball suits; Families visited and stayed overnight
227 – Railroad; Fourth of July doings at Stumpp Lake; Hatched chicks in incubators; Start with turkeys; Skunks got the turkey eggs
359 – Of all the states she visited she prefers ND
392 – End of interview
Comment:  A very interesting interview and listening to her accent makes it special; She tells of the hardships the farmers encountered but there were also bright spots that changed the gloom to sunshine.

Tape #10 Mr. and Mrs. Lester Skjerven (Whitman)
000 – Introduction
020 – Family came to homestead in 1886 after having spent 5 years in Minnesota first when they came from Norway; Lived in basement in the wintertime; Nationalities of neighbors; Settled on homestead and tree claim; Water problems; Burned slough grass, river wood, and some hay; Picked buffalo bones
137 – Michigan nearest store; Railroad was as far as Devils Lake; Lamb family came in covered wagon; Neighbors were clannish because they couldn’t understand each other’s language; Story of rats eating sacks and feed; Ground feed for neighbors for 7 cents for a 2 ½ bushel sack; Had to wait for wind to grind
346 – Born in 1895; Tough going but some of the happiest days of their life; Mother knitted socks and mittens and sold them for income; A pair of wool sock brought 50 cents; Ladies took knitting with them wherever they went; Spinning wool into yarn; Dying the wool; Bohemians worked with feathers and made pillows and feather ticks; They had stripping bees; Time to strip feathers from live geese
575 – Language barrier until second generation when they spoke English; Traveled in caravans with grain hauling; Story of Bohemians being caught in a storm and slept 16 on the floor
649 – Sod barns and a few sod houses; Early homestead claims had shanties, dug outs, and sod homes
688 – Sarnia Post Office of early years; Names of midwives; Lonely life for women and so much work; Women taking babies to the fields; Self-sufficiency; Raised gardens and stored root vegetables but no canning in earlier years; Taught to can; How to dry beef
949 – How to dry beef; Kept in oats bin all summer; Made pork sausage; Made cheese; How mother made a variety of cheese; Cottage cheese
074 – Ordered fish and fish peddlers came around; No fishing in earlier years
091 – Four schools in district; Short school terms; Horse barns; Early buses starting in 1914; Consolidated schools
156 – Brother owned first threshing machine in area; Threshing with steam engines; Hailed out completely in 1900; Bank of hail by barn next day; Tread power thresher; Seeding with a broadcaster and harrowed down, then used seeder that didn’t cover the seed until harrowed, and then went to the shoe drill
231 – Married in 1920; 13 graves in 2 weeks in Finnish cemetery from the 1918 flu; Doctor couldn’t do much for the sick; Lived on the same farm 80 years; Dust storms; Grasshoppers; ’35 and ’36 were the worst years; Harder for farmers in the 30’s than the pioneers in the 90’s because of expenses; Feed for cattle in the 30’s; First to have corn in 1911 for fodder but discontinues in 30’s; Lost 10 head of cattle overnight in cornfield; Bought more land and good years started paid off land in 3 years
470 – NPL; Farmer’s Union; Farm Holiday Association; Langer; REA; Telephone in 1908 with service for a year free in the beginning
655 – Proud of being from ND; No reason to be ashamed of the State
804 – Wife cooked in cook car; Long days on threshing crews; 3 meals plus 2 big lunches a day for the crew
895 – End of interview
Comment:  A very interesting interview of a farm couple. They explain how the mother spun wool into yard, how she dried beef and made various kinds of cheese.  It is very informative and tells much of life in the early days.

Tape #11 Agnes and Joe Matejcek (Whitman)
000 – Introduction
020 – Family came to ND because of hard times; Born in 1890 in sod house; Her parents were born in Czechoslovakia and Minnesota; His parents born in Bohemia; Lost farm in the 30’s so moved to Whitman
155 – How to pick geese while they are alive; Processing feathers; Shipping feathers to sell; How to scald geese and ducks so feathers would come off good; How to strip feathers; Mixing striped feathers with the down; Pillows sold for $5.00 each; Feather tick quilt brought more; Raised 50 geese and 75 ducks
304 – Married in 1915; Good crops that year but crop failures of bad prices until the 40’s; Bought farm near Whitman; Early business places of Whitman and their owners
474 – Grandmother was a midwife; Poor water on family homesteads; Stone casing in wells; Burned long hay for fuel; More snow in earlier years; Story of bad storm when mother left children alone in the house while she did chores as father was in town; Neighbors helped each other
662 – Bohemian holidays and American holidays they celebrated
718 – Husband worked on WPA; No money for coal; Poor crops and prices and lost farm; Started working on the railroad in ’35; Roosevelt helped the farmers; Surplus commodities; Raised geese after they left the farm
800 – Picture talk
948 – End of interview
Comment:  An interesting ex-farm couple.  She raised lots of geese and worked with the feathers.  They lost their farm in hard times and moved to Whitman.  He worked for the railroad until he retired.

Tape #12 Mrs. P. P. Ravnsborg (Aneta)
000 – Introduction
020 – Born in 1888; Her parents lived in Norway; Father died leaving the mother without anything; She came here with the 5 children to her people; The family was split up here; She went to an aunt in Mayville; Her husband’s family lived in Norway on a large farm; He came alone to Chicago where he got his Dental education; Her life with her aunt and uncle; Good religious upbringing
288 – Began teaching with a standard; Picture talk; Worked many years with children; Taught S.S. and Junior Choir; Graduated from High School and Teacher’s College; Worthy grand matron of ND
465 – Husband’s death
576 – Dancing, card playing, and church affairs was the entertainment in early years
634 – Her husband was the only dentist in Aneta and also had an office in McVille; Two doctors at one time; Story of a doctor
718 – Unpaid bills after husband’s death; Opening the office after hours
755 – Civic Club for the ladies, life membership
810 – Flu epidemic in 1918; Banks closing
839 – Opinion of ND; Lower crime rate
915 – Association between town and country folk; Friends; Life membership in the Lodge
024 – End of interview
Comment:  An interview of a dentist’s wife and former teacher. 

Tape #13 Alex Southerland (Aneta)
000 – Introduction
020 – Immigrated from Scotland in 1913 to Pingree, ND; Worked for farmer 7 days a week; Rented farm for 10 years then bought his own farm; Worked for Lincoln National Life Insurance Company; Banks went broke; Went to work in a bank for 25 years; Wife came 2 months after he and liked the area
169 – Worked for Insurance Company from 1934 to 1944; Worked a large area; Farm Holiday Association; Chance to work in Langer’s office; Talks about Langer; Never joined the NPL; A. C. Townley; No time for politics
315 – Land full of buffalo bones and Indian relics; Broke land in 1917; Large scale farming
378 – Cavalier and Benson Counties were hardest hit by the depression; Wells went dry
433 – No regrets for coming to ND
505 – Bank directors during the hard years
533 – Parties at farms, babies asleep on the beds
617 – His work with the Insurance Co.; Supplying clover and flax seed for the farmers; Their area wasn’t as hard hit as other parts of the state
716 – Their land; Bad year was 1940; Grasshoppers; Cutting and shocking green rye; Rust
812 – Business places in town; Lodges; Adjusting to town life after selling the farm; Baseball; Golf; Football; Soccer
850 – IWW; Story of farm workers wanting a raise in pay; Bums on freight trains; Story of good farm worker; Calling hogs; Individually owned thresh machines; Everyone had to work hard in early days; Grasshopper plague
942 – People were more content, no disputes; Farmers raised their own horses
972 – Dr. Benet lost very few cases during the 1918 flu; Everyone around was sick
001 – Always satisfied with ND; Changes in business places; Flax mill; Blind pigs; Story of fellow getting off train and asking for a drink; Men made money selling booze
Comment:  A very interesting interview and pleasant to listen to his Scottish accent.  He tells of his work with the Insurance Co. that covered a wide area.  He has some farming experiences and can tell of the hard times of others.

Tape #14 Hans Larsgaard (Aneta)
000 – Introduction
020 – 1887 Mother went insane so father left Norway and took 2 boys and a girl also his mother and sister to Minnesota.  Born in 1878; Babysat; Herded cattle; Lived with uncle; First Christmas piece; Started driving horses when 10 years old; Drove horses for minister; Worked on threshing crew; Father homesteaded near Northwood; Worked on farms and attended school in winter; Building barns; Refused to drink and smoke; His experience firing steam thresher; Repaired engines
356 – Married in 1905; Sent 4 boys to Wahpeton School of Science; Bought father’s farm and added to it; NPL; Director of school 18 years
450 – Story of quarantine for 7 weeks; Man died of horse disease and left a wife with new baby and 8 children
655 – Farming on his own in 1905 until 1950; Had 5 ½ quarters paid for; Poor prices in the 30’s; Lost farm but redeemed it with some good crops; Reared 9 children; Couldn’t pay taxes in hard years
921 – Lamb family in Michigan 
948 – End of interview
Comment:  Hans tells of his life as a farm worker in the early years of his life.  He bought a farm, lost it, and through good luck and hard work redeemed it again.

Tape #15 Einar Severson (Petersburg)
000 – Introduction
020 – Father came to Wisconsin in 1880 from Norway; In 1883 he homesteaded; He sent money for girlfriend to come to US and married in 1885; Nearly all Norwegians homesteaded in the area by Petersburg; Lamb family
115 – Petersburg started in mid-90’s; Early business places and their owners
156 – Indian family in covered wagon that stayed overnight and baby died; Father had homestead, tree claim, and preemption; Bad snowstorm in ’96; Farmed with oxen; Prairie fire burned nearly whole township; Possibly started by lightning
210 – Good well water on homestead; Wells were 30 and 40 feet deep with lots of water; Burned wood for fuel; Third country school in township built in ’98; First teachers were local girls; Norwegian Lutheran Church; 11 children in family; Worked at home and didn’t get much schooling
315 – Company thresh machines with cook car; NPL; A. C. Townley spoke on 4th of July in 1916; Flour mill in Grand Forks which was 46 miles away
441 – Parents were well satisfied here because they were starved out of Norway; They added ground birch bark to flour; Wife came from same area as his parents, born in Norway; His father paid her fare; Married cousin
448 – Lost sister from 1918 flu; All pregnant women that got the flu died; Nearly died himself of it
542 – Married in ’22; Rented farm at Michigan from Lamb Brothers; Father lost farm so he took it over but list it in ’32; Farmed 9 years and didn’t sell a bushel of grain; Sold out in fall of ’39 and went to Oregon
634 – Worked on WPA; Politics; All the 30’s were bad years; Milked cows and sold cream; Feed loans for hay; Sweet clover $20 a ton; Rural phone lines in 1906
904 – End of interview
Comment:  Einar tells of his life of farming and hardship.  His father lost the farm and he took over but lost it also.  His story is of much hardship.

Tape #16 Mr. and Mrs. Nels Knudson (Dahlen)
000 – Introduction
020 – Came here from Norway when he was 16 years old in 1905; He had 2 uncles here; His sister came earlier
223 – Learned English in country school; He liked ND because of horses used to farm; Settlers around Petersburg were Norwegian and Danes; Spent time in France in the army
361 – Worked for uncle the first year; Attended school in Grand Forks; Wife’s family on the ocean when the Civil War ended; The town Dahlen was named after her grandfather; Married in 1927; Went to Minneapolis for honeymoon and saw the first movie with sound
455 – When he got out of the Army he was so tired of it he never wanted anymore of it so didn’t mention he wasn’t well; Worked in general store after discharged for 10 years
572 – Bought farm in 1930 four miles north of Dahlen; Poor prices for cream and eggs; Raised family of 3 boys; Carried water from so far so made yoke on his shoulders
716 – End of interview
Comment:  Nels does most of the talking on this tape and seems to be mixed up.  He talks continuously of his army life.

Tape #17 Thomas E. and Grace Pearson (McVille)
000 – Introduction
020 – Picture talk; His grandfather was first settler in county and settled by Lakota in 1880; Her grandfather came in 1881 from Norway; His grandfather started in SD but Indians were on rampage and had to give it up; First impression of area was good; All of the neighborhood were relation; Story of Indian in SD
168 – Story of her father lost in a snowstorm; More stories of early ancestors; Family of 5 children that lived in hole dug out of a hill for years because father died 2 weeks after they got here
260 – Staples bought from store were flour, sugar, and coffee; Many lived on mush made of flour and milk; Lived near the river; Used pitch forks to throw fish from river sometimes a wagon box at a time; Sold buffalo bones to buy shoes for family
325 – Girl starting prairie fire with match; Drank water from river; Trapped to sell furs for money; Sod houses used to keep food cool
389 – Many coyotes in area in early years; He was born in 1894; Nearest town when grandparents arrived was Fargo
445 – Reading of family history; Picking area to live by the river; Grandparents each had one team of horses to farm; Story of team of oxen; Talk of grandparents; Mother worked so hard
663 – Midwives; mother took care of all the sick in the neighborhood; Flu epidemic
000 – Introduction
020 – More talk of midwives; Started farming in the 30’s and after all the dry years it began to rain and they began to prosper; Paid off land and began to build a house; Hard years in the 30’s; Married in 1922
060 – Started school in winter; Consolidated school; Milked 10-12 cows while going to school
098 – Grasshoppers even ate clothes hung out on line, also straw hat while stacking hay.  Raised garden and chickens.  Reared 3 children; Many left in hard years but those that stayed were best off; Watered garden with barrels of water; Lucky to have good soft water and plenty of it; Some neighbors hauled water from their well
183 – Worked on threshing rigs in fall and she stayed home and did chores; Portable feed grinder he used to grind feed for people for extra money; Story of grinding barley at 42 below zero; So satisfied with just a home of their own; People were all so satisfied
234 – Large scale farming is taking over all family farms leaving no community life; People seem to be so greedy and buy to try and outdo each other; Feel they could make a living on section of land today; They raised a little of everything but didn’t always drive the latest model car
345 – The worst thing that ever happened was when they stopped railroads and put trucks in; Bought land through Federal Land Bank; Paid $80 a year and some back taxes; Threshing during 30’s varied some in different area; Grasshoppers weren’t in every area
390 – Depression could change people to be considerate as they used to be; No time for God now like our ancestors did
433 – Railroad brought changes; Comparing life in the 30’s to the 20’s and earlier; Lived on cream checks; Poor prices for wheat and cream; Burned wood from river and cow chips to save buying coal
568 – Parents raised him to believe if he had food in his stomach and clothes on his back he should be content
587 – Politics; Organizing NPL; Langer; Lemke; Burdick; Cynical towards politics today
738 – It doesn’t seem to storm now like early years; More snow fall than now; Floods near river area; Story of getting people, cattle, and pigs from flood
830 – Flu epidemic of 1918; So sick they were delirious; Many died; Nine years old when he started on threshing rigs; Hands blistered from pitchfork; Started dragging in filed when 7 years old
950 – Thresh machine owned by her father and some neighbors; Cooked for 22 threshers while moving their house; Cooked coffee while house was on wheels going down the road; Moving cattle and chicken coop; Working long days; No money for wedding suit
038 – Began hauling manure on fields in 40’s and reaped larger yields; Only transportation in 20’s was horses and wagon
070 – Father bought them gas engine wash machine and she washed their clothes too; Changes electricity made for farmers
132 – Appreciated new combine because he’s always had old ones; Steam plows; uncle killed on steam thresher
178 – Wamduska; Stumpp Lake and Red Willow were areas for entertainment; Picnics and house parties; No drinking just plain fun; Baseball and croquet and horseshoe; Did lots of reading in evenings; Kids played outside in summer and went sledding in winter; Stories of fun they had as kids; Lunches for everyone; Lots of swimming; Used river for bathing when they came in from fields
358 – Traveled nine winters and still likes ND best; Coal development is a detriment to the state
488 – Flour sacks used for making many items of under clothing; Patterned feed sacks used for shirts, dresses, aprons, or whatever
511 – End of interview
Comment:  A very interesting interview of a farm couple that were so happy with what they had in the hard years.  They met each phase of life as a challenge and each cloud seemed to have a silver lining.  The call of the grandfather’s heart had been “Go west young man go west.”  They tell of fun they had as youngsters without things kids figure are necessities today.

Tape #18 Palmer and Berdella Overby (Tolna)
000 – Introduction
020 – Father came in 1889 from Wisconsin from Norway; Married in Wisconsin in 1889; Drought and grasshoppers were so bad in Minnesota; Four couples came together; One was Lutheran Missionary Minister who organized early churches; Shipped belongings in immigrant cars to Lakota then hauled everything by wagons; Lived near Indian trail; They traveled by wagon train caravans; They never had problems and traded with the Indians; Mother was very homesick at first but stuck it out; Family people stuck it out but single people gave up and left; The more land they broke the more money they could borrow
135 – First post office at Deehr also one east of them at Ottofy; Town later at Harrisburg which was one store and 13 saloons; Post office at Crosier
178 – Many fish in river near them; Area had all been homesteaded so father bought land; Used river water for drinking and everything; Norwegians was majority of settlers near them; North of town was Germans; Scouts came first and looked area over and brought families
262 – Flooding wasn’t problem on their side of the river; Midwife attended women in area; Water problems on area farms until deep wells came in; Prairie fires all the way from Ft. Totten; Homesteaders all had fire breaks around their shacks
364 – Large scale farming will wreck farm life; Eliminates young men beginning on the farm; Possibility of making a living on small acreage; Hard winters, dry years, and early frost in the 90’s; Frozen wheat was worthless; Early years were hard on women because they had small homes and no conveniences besides all outside work they did; Preserving food was a chore; Range of association with people was 5 or 6 miles; People visited without invitations; Invited each other for Sunday dinners after church; When people met on the road they stopped and talked
503 – Dances in homes were never in need of fiddlers; Country bands; Lots of tobogganing; Skating wasn’t too good because of so much snow; Made own skis; Went to tournaments ;as far away as Red Lake Falls, Minnesota; Kids made their own fun
620 – Breaking with steam tractors; Ten plow outfits kept going until gas tractors came in; Steamers fired with coal and traveled 2 ½ miles an hour; Planted flax in the new breaking; Bad weeds came in with seed; Picked mustard in early years
714 – Quack grass spread by wind; She went to country school first years and some years in Tolna but had to finish in Lakota; Retired from teaching; Early Tolna; Blind pig days; Early business places and their owners; Farmer’s telephone company; Each built his own line and switch on each line to relay calls
827 – NPL was popular in area; Farmers built the towns; Prices good in early 20’s but dropped later and drought set in; People took hardship in stride; Holiday Association stopped lots of sales; Governor Langer’s moratorium; Land prices down and rain began and farmers bought tractors so were able to farm more; Teacher’s salaries; Red River Valley area never had drought like the rest of the state
011 – WPA helped some farmers; Hauled grain to Grand Forks to trade for flour; Coops for farmers; Farmers Union; Roosevelt’s New Deal Programs were good first four years; Tolna was only bank that stayed open between Fargo and Devils Lake
188 – Early blacksmith work was done on farms cause they couldn’t afford to run so far to have work done; WPA built roads, Tolna Dam, and Tolna Hall; Early days assessed road tax so worked on roads; Poll Tax; Ski Clubs competed at Tournaments; Built scaffolds and high slides; Girls against boys; Champions here and in Norway; Norwegians were raised on skis; Nationalities clashed at first but gradually changed; Religious tolerance
404 – Coal development
420 – End of interview
Comment:  An interesting conversation by a brother and sister.  She is a retired teacher and he farmed all his life through good and bad years.  They tell lots of history of the area and discuss ski tournaments which differ from other interviews.

Tape #22 Alfred A. Thal (Lakota)
Monologue of historical recollections concerning Lakota
025 – Introduction; History relative to the Jewish settlements
075 – Visit to Goldammer home in early 1900’s
095 – Born of farm in Dodge township in 1899 with midwife assistance; Father gave up farming and moved into Lakota in 1905; First ride in automobile; Car had tiller instead of steering wheel
125 – Sinclair’s farm had 2 story home with platform on second floor where he supervised the farm with binoculars; Peddled butter to town; Caravans of wagons loaded with grain; Land could be homesteaded or bought from government
173 – A.M. Tofthaugen mercantile store; Came from Wisconsin with money to invest so bought half interest in the store; Devoted himself to traveling and building a library; He loved reading and marked books with red pencil; He collected carvings bought directly from the artists; Collected  variety of clocks, one that had to be would once a year; Traveled second or third class; Photographer; All expense paid trip for author’s brother and others; Traveled during winter to get out of the cold in ND; Never married and didn’t associate with women; Fear of fire; Fire of 1913 in Lakota on east side of street which had been solid buildings; Indians salvaged canned goods from the fire; Bootleggers; Blind pigs
519 – Brewery in East Grand Forks; Sent beer to John Doe at Lakota; Bill of lading from bank for size barrel wanted and pay at the depot; Barrel of whiskey at depot that was emptied; Other booze stores
580 – Fred Smith built an airplane from scratch; Never got it to life in the air until a year after it was originally built
638 – IWW’s headquartered at stockyards in 1913-1916; Crew that loaded rocks in bundles to be threshed
693 – More about Tofthaugen; His trips to Norway to ski; Old settlers park he bought land for and donated to Old Settlers in the county; Many lived by the lake in cabins; Built library and donated to the city
750 – Sam Faul came to Dakota Territory in 1876 from Milwaukee; He established pioneer farm in Dodds township; Family came from southern Germany; Encouraged people to invest in land in ND and borrowed money to them
825 – Description of Mr. Thal’s parents; Incident of fight with German officer who molested his mother; Father had good livestock but wasn’t a good farmer; Donated land for first country school in the area; First frame building to be built in county on farmstead; Lumber shipped from Larimore
915 – Sewage system of Lakota drained into pond and first lagoon that worked anywhere in the world
950 – In 1917 left Lakota and attended University of Wisconsin; Spent time in service and various places before coming to Mandan; Married in 1925
975 – Fire department of Lakota; Cistern under the building housing equipment; Volunteers had to be voted on for membership then initiation; Test of courage; Raised money for state fire tournaments; Explains firefighting system; Chemical wagon; Fire in lumber yard
120 – Shorty Williams potato crop that the IWW’s had harvested
130 – Telephone System; Electric lights for Lakota were made possible by engineer from Minnesota; Power plant operated only in evenings; Ten minute warning before lights were turned off; New power plant south of railroad tracks; If enough electric irons and washing machines were sold they’d run power Mondays and Tuesdays which they did; Elevators needed service everyday so eventually it ran 24 hours a day which was quite a revolution in town; Blacksmith changed forges, stores had electric power coffee grinders
215 – Lakota school; His school years; Introducing algebra and Latin into the school system; German; Story of envelope of examination papers; Students commuting by train from other small towns; Hobby of raising chickens and incident of a prank
390 – Story of test of how fast sound travels
465 – Various lodges and clubs of Lakota; Grace hotel had comfort of indoor toilet; Playing Norwegian whist; Churches ladies aides and circles; Branches of lodges for women; Calling cards; Changes automobiles and radio brought in; Book Club; Opera House; Dances; Memorial Day
685 – Hall family; Major Burlingame
720 – Jess Chase had all his teeth crowned; Horse trader, part time gambler; Attorney and wife that were horse riders always in full dress; Sheets family home with bathroom, hot water heat, gas lamps, furnished luxuriously
001 – Continuing Sheets family; Buick car in 1908; Hunting prairie chickens; Later in the year hunting lodge built at Stumpp Lake where they staged their hunts
027 – J. W. Murphy was one of first men to have automobile; Accumulated a large amount of real estate in area; Had controlling interest in First National Bank in town; Sold out to merchants in town; Story of street carnival
095 – West end of Stumpp Lake was one of the greatest duck passes in the US; Story of Wheeler dominating the duck pass; Private duck preserve
197 – Over the years Stumpp Lake dried up so bad that alkali was so concentrated it stuck to game birds so they couldn’t fly; Prairie chickens were hunted in fall with trained dogs; Population of the chickens decreased so they outlawed using dogs until later years; Game was very abundant in early years
255 – Great America field trials held for dogs; In 1910 trainers form east brought dogs to train in July or August; Some trained for field trials and some for hunters in east
310 – Story of fight between big man and little man; Murder; Trial
420 – Senator Grauna procured a civil war cannon and cannon balls to go with it; It was mounted on a concrete block on the high school grounds; The balls were alive so disappeared; Grauna family; Grauna Bank; Incident of lady that lost money in the bank; Secretary of State; Story of Senator Grauna’s dress when William Jennings Bryan stopped to speak to people of the town
700 – End of Side 1 of Tape B
000 – Introduction of interview and describes the monologue on other side of this cassette and preceding cassette
021 – Uncle came to Wisconsin close to 1870; Mother and father born in Germany; Family tree; Family was in livestock business as far back as they can trace; Daughter’s trip to Germany
130 – Incidence of family leaving Germany
160 – Sinclair was a wealthy man from England; Tofthaugen had accumulated money in Grand Forks; He devoted his life to self-education and travel and lived off increase of mercantile store; He got along with men in the community but wasn’t too friendly; His only prejudice was women; Built library and gave all his books and pictures which was between 1500 and 2000 volumes of history, biographies, and science; Conversation with him; He could not express himself; Cousin bought the mercantile store; He was an agnostic, never went to church; Full religious tolerance; Packages from West Indies, compressed sponges
440 – Attending high school by train from small neighboring trains or towns; Fare was 40 cents a day both ways
483 – Influence crops had on local economy; Sugar a problem in World War I
514 – During dirty 30’s people suffered severe conditions; Feelings against Germans during war; Another family from Germany settled in the Lakota area
656 – Attorney Sheets had money and made money in insurance business also accumulated farms
704 – End of interview on Tape B
000 – Introduction; Completion of interview from Side 2 on Tape B
020 – More about Attorney Sheets; Lakota boys that graduated from West Point; Names of boys he chummed with; The way the Sheets family cured wild game for eating; Describes the Sheets home; Other elaborate homes
148 – Owl Social Club was only a local club with chosen membership; Had to acquire a share of stock then voted in or out; Majority of them belonged to Masonic Lodge with like rules
195 – The duck pass acquired by Dr. Wheeler; Relationship with Lakota residents; Saunder’s family
266 – Shooting incident; Reason for the murder
316 – Circumstances behind Grauna Bank closing; Grauna success in politics; Doorman during the legislature
374 – NPL had lots of resistance; Lamb family; Pranksters
425 – Sports in schools of early years; Baseball in the summertime
493 – Stumpp Lake recreation area; Damage the drought did to the lake
542 – Sail boat fleet on Devils Lake before 1912; Chautauqua Hall
575 – Other Jewish families in area; History of Jewish families in ND
715 - Recorded oral history tape contents; men that helped make tapes; Tells of various tapes made
784 – His family was German-Jew; Difference between German Jews and Eastern Jews; First Jews in ND were German Jews; Daniel Eisenberg’s trading post in 1869
819 – Research on Jewish settlements in ND; Reason settlements were established; Ashley and Wishek had synagogues in early years; Synagogue in Dickinson for 5 or 6 years in a rented hall; In order for the orthodox to have religious services they have to have 10 males over 13 years of age; Rabbi furnished by Jewish Chautauqua Society; Jewish people weren’t successful farmers so sold their land as soon as they got title to it which gave them enough capital to move into a small surrounding town and establish stores or else moved west or east; Built synagogue in Bismarck in 1929; Jews came from many small towns of area; Jews have all gone out of business in small town stores
054 – Rural Jewish cemeteries; Jewish heritage; Their worship encouraged living in larger areas that was more Jewish populated; Various buildings used for worship in Bismarck
143 – The Jewish people were not adapted to farming and didn’t know farming; Spontaneous unplanned settlements, tended to be family oriented; Subsidized when they had severe crop failure
212 – Lay leaders among groups substituting for rabbi; For high holidays they got imports
220 – End of interview
Comment:  An excellent interview and valuable historical information of the Lakota area and Jewish people.  His monologue on the preceding tapes has detailed information discussed in the interview.

612 East Boulevard Ave.
Bismarck, North Dakota 58505
Get Directions

State Museum and Store: 8 a.m. - 5 p.m. M-F; Sat. & Sun. 10 a.m. - 5 p.m.
We are closed New Year's Day, Easter, Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Eve, and Christmas Day.
State Archives: 8 a.m. - 4:30 p.m. M-F, except state holidays; 2nd Sat. of each month, 10 a.m. - 4:30 p.m. Appointments are recommended. To schedule an appointment, please contact us at 701.328.2091 or
State Historical Society offices: 8 a.m. - 5 p.m. M-F, except state holidays.

Contact Us:
phone: 701.328.2666

Social Media:
See all social media accounts