death of a pioneer
BY CAROLE BUTCHER
November 21 – This week in 1908, the Bottineau Courant announced that Ole Vinje had died. Vinje was one of the interesting early immigrants from Europe who came to the Dakota Territory. He was born in Norway in 1858. He grew up in Snaasen, where he lived with his parents and four brothers. After his father died in 1885, Vinje’s mother and brothers emigrated to the United States, but Vinje stayed behind. In 1892 he joined his family and in 1900 received a certificate for a piece of land southeast of Bottineau.
But Vinde sold his homestead in 1902 to return to Norway with his brother Lorentz. He bought a farm near Snaasen. Maybe it was romance that brought Ole Vinje back to Norway. The 44-year-old married 21-year-old Anna Johansdatter on the same day his brother Lorentz married. The weddings were performed in the Domkirken Cathedral in Trondheim.
Ole and Anna’s family began with the birth of twins Olaf and Theodore in 1903. Ole Vinje was a successful farmer, but his thoughts kept wandering to America. In 1905 Vinje said goodbye to his brother and returned to Bottineau with his family. He gave up farming and worked as a carpenter for the Bottineau County Bank and the School of Forestry. He built a house on Bennet Street in Bottineau. In 1907 a daughter, Selma, was born to Ole and Anna.
Ole Vinje was only 50 years old when he fell ill and died of Bright’s disease, a form of kidney failure. Vinje was not famous and is not in any history book. But his life was that of a solid citizen helping to build a fledgling state. He represented the many pioneers who left old lives behind and ventured to the frontier. Vinje’s obituary, which appeared on page one of the newspaper, was perhaps as good as one could wish for. It noted that Vinje was “a good citizen and neighbor and had many friends in the community.
Discussion about Turkey
By SARAH WALKER
Nov. 22 – Thanksgiving is upon us. And while few decorate for this special holiday with the same energy as other holidays, there’s one key item that nearly all make a holiday necessity: Whether it’s turkey or tofurkey, that special main dish is the reason for this season.
The Fargo Forum devoted much ink to the turkey question that week in 1928. Like us today, they were very concerned about the cost of the holiday. Luckily for them, turkeys should be sold at a discount – 8-10 cents cheaper than the year before. Of course, turkeys had been selling early for 45 cents the year before, and “a few days before Thanksgiving they were going up to 50 cents a pound — not quite comparable to today’s prices.”
Of course, a couple from near Watford City wouldn’t object to the price at which turkeys are sold, no matter what – Mr and Mrs Schettle were particularly suited to it “talkin’ turkey”, since they held a turkey production record. Originally from Germany, the couple had relocated to Chicago before settling in North Dakota. They had been farming in McKenzie County for the past 13 years, raising turkeys for the past eight years, and for the past four years they had made a record $100 per turkey hen, breaking all previous records of over $25 had surpassed .
In 1928, the Schettles were preparing to launch more than a thousand turkeys in the next month, in addition to the 50 or so “Chief Breeder” they had recently sold. The turkeys were in excellent condition for the upcoming holiday and were predicted to make at least $5 each.
To raise their record-breaking turkeys, the Schettles protected them, keeping them well hatched in the spring and herding them under vigilant care. Just before the holidays, the Schettles fed their turkeys as much of their home-grown ground barley, wheat, and corn as the birds could handle.
The couple and an employee also dressed and packaged the turkeys themselves for sale. In one day they packed between 50 and 80 turkeys.
It was worth getting the biggest and best eaters possible.
Thanksgiving Day 1917
By JIM DAVIS
November 23 – On this day in 1917, the people of North Dakota planned the first major holiday with many loved ones awaiting transport to the battlefields of Europe. Although it was a more subdued and celebratory occasion than last Thanksgiving, since most North Dakota soldiers were still in the States, it wasn’t a somber occasion.
Most families wanted to celebrate with a Thanksgiving dinner, but what kind of dinner? Many were tempted to eat the traditional turkey, depending on whether they could source or afford the necessary ingredients, but most turkeys were for the military.
For the Patriots, there was the Hooverized Dinner, recommended by Herbert Hoover, the US Food Commissioner. The Hooverized dinner called for a wheat, meat, fat, and sugar-free meal, but for the occasion, most eschewed the meatless option. One menu suggested chicken, potatoes, carrots, a green salad, cornbread and honey, with fruit for dessert. Beets and turnips have been suggested as substitutes for potatoes. Oysters and fish were other popular items. Better yet, local hotels serve a variety of dishes, including Hooverized versions, with the added benefit of on-site entertainment.
Beavers as vermin, 1916
By STEVE HOFFBECK
MSU Moorhead Story
Nov. 24 – The most important animal in North America in the 18th century was neither the mighty grizzly bear nor the wild buffalo. Instead, the most important animal in colonial America was the common beaver.
Beaver skins were used profitably in Europe to make felt hats. Hunting for beaver pelts led to a decimation of the beaver population in Dakota and elsewhere, ending the fur trading era by the mid-19th century.
Dakota Territory statutes of 1887 prohibited the killing or capturing of beavers because ranchers wanted beavers to build dams on streams as convenient watering places for cattle to save ranchers the cost of constructing dams. Protection continued after North Dakota became a state two years later. Violations of state gaming laws carried a $100 fine and imprisonment.
Some trappers defied the law, but the beaver population along the state’s creeks and rivers eventually recovered as the hard-working beavers built dams.
Unfortunately, beaver protection worked too well and beavers multiplied and became a serious problem “Pest in the Missouri Valley.” It became a choice… to have beavers or to have trees along waterways. Farmers got angry when beavers ate up groves of trees and beaver dams flooded lowland fields. They demanded that the legislature change the beaver protection laws. And ranchers found windmill pumps to be more reliable than beaver ponds, especially considering cattle sometimes drowned in the debris of beaver dams.
Accordingly, on this day in 1916, the Bismarck Tribune reported efforts to control the beaver population. The State Game and Fish Commission hired professional trappers to “evil…pests” along the Missouri slope and allowed additional trappers to buy licenses to harvest beaver pelts.
And so the story of the beaver came to a close, from abundance to extinction, followed by a revival that threatened agriculture and livestock. Today, in North Dakota, beavers are fair game for properly licensed hunters and trappers.
By JIM DAVIS
November 25 – In early September 1917, with North Dakota National Guard units awaiting orders, the Fargo Forum published an editorial warning North Dakota citizens that now was the time to express feelings toward friends and neighbors to address that the Germans are immigrants. It said “…they were enjoying a blood-flowing moment now, but it wasn’t going to last that long. When news of wounded and dead loved ones on the front lines fills the cables, there will be no more apathy in American homes.”
The forum blamed the German-language press for a surge in anti-German sentiment. The newspaper attributed this to selfish motives, claiming that the German-language press had become a dying institution in the United States and that profit motivated the newspapers more than patriotism to the motherland. Pro-German sources spent large sums to sway sentiments about the war, and as Germans in North Dakota waited for news from home, subscriptions soared. Unfortunately, the trend, with insidious propaganda and inflammatory statements, had clouded the problems both among German immigrants and in the minds of the general public.
The forum concluded that it is up to the Germans, determined to stay in this country, to decide how to face their future. it warned “They will have to face their neighbors for many days. And the feelings of those neighbors … which have developed out of the bloody events that are about to come upon us will be the feelings of those neighbors’ children towards their children.”
There was a lot to think about.
Just two months after the Forum’s editorial, American troops occupied the trenches in France. Though no North Dakota troops had yet reached Europe, those who remained felt the absence of these men from their homes. Statements perceived as seditious or anti-war were less and less tolerated.
“Dakota Calendar” is a radio series produced by Prairie Public in association with the State Historical Society of North Dakota and with financial support from Humanities North Dakota.
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