(The following undated letter is among the many papers of Pip's that have been preserved. The letter starts with a handwritten note--HEC)
I hope the following narration will interest your readers.
Mr. Wm. V. Working:
For sometime past I have been reading your History of the Northwest, particularly the City of Crookston and the vicinity. My father, Frank Robert, went to Crookston in the summer of 1876. He bought the Bill Davis farm, lying between the Tom Bradshaw farm on the east and the Louie Johnson farm on the west, near the dam made necessary on the Red Lake River to divert the water so navigation could be made possible from Fisher's Landing to Crookston in the early spring when water was higher.
In the month of June, 1877, father returned to St. Paul for wife and children (eight in all), I, the writer, being the oldest. He came with a team of two small ponies called Paul and Moll. After buying a bigger team of mares, we rigged up the covered wagons with a few kitchen utensils, bedding and the eight kids. It made a good load for both teams.
We left St. Paul on the 10th of June, 1877, and arrived in Crookston on July 3rd. We followed the Mississippi River going past Minneapolis, Osseo (then called Prairie Bottineau), Anoka, Elk River, St. Cloud, Sauk Rapids. While at Sauk Rapids in the evening the horses and ponies got away and we found them four days later near Big Lake. We again got started going by way of Sauk Center, and found the country for many miles devastated, everything eaten up by grasshoppers.
We followed the old Indian Trail to Fort Garry (now Winnipeg) as far as Gentily, there we went west towards Crookston. There were no bridges on the Buffalo, Wild Rice and Sand Hill Rivers. We forded them, sometimes the water went in the wagon box and the bed clothes got wet. Along the trail we saw several ox-carts, broken down and abandoned by the traders. Game was in abundance, prairie chickens, plovers, badgers sometimes a skunk.
On our arrival at Crookston we found it a small place. Ross & Walsh Barleys and Ivernault and Peirgnet were the only grocers, a shoemaker, a Mr. Lefebvre, a one chair barbershop, most shaving done on the sidewalk. Bob Huston and Bill Box ran the hotels and the meals were not served a la carte, nor did they serve caviar. There was a blacksmith shop. Dr. Pilard was the only M. D. in the village. His medicine was known as the La Medicin du Roi and consisted of a small yellow leaf steeped as tea and how it did work. It cured every malady except bring the dead alive, two doses were sufficient, one before and one after. There was a sawmill on the river bank and sawed only basswood lumber. No pine was permitted to be cut at the head of the river. Shingles were made by hand. The boiler in this mill was an old steamboat boiler. and Mr. Hoover the owner. There were no licensed saloons but they sold whiskey in tents at the old section house near the railroad bridge.
The winter of 1877 and 1878 were tough, salted cat fish and rabbit was the principal food with barley coffee. During the cold snap trains came in once a week. There was sometimes a shortage of tobacco and the farmers smoked the bark of the little redrod which they called Killikinnic. Our old friend, Jake Jacobus, was the depot master and baggage smasher. Old Felix and myself, the writer, were his assistants principally to keep up the wood fires. There was no coal in the country. The railroads burned cord wood.
In the spring of 1878 the immigration came in very fast and the town commenced to boom, mostly Scottish from the Province of Ontario, and a lot of French Canadians from Canada, and Red Lake Falls took a start. I could give a lot of names, but it would take up too much of your valuable space.
In the spring of 1878, Louis Fontaine, whom I knew in St. Paul, arrived on a Sunday morning. I introduced him to Mr. Barley and in the afternoon of that day he bought the store and this, the firm of Fontaine and Anglin, started and they had the business until they retired. Both made plenty of money.
This site created by Harry E. Connors III
Please e-mail me with any additions, corrections, and comments
Music is The Rambler's Hornpipe sequenced by Barry Taylor
This page last modified on Tuesday, November 20, 2007