“The Best Thing Since Sliced Bread”

4.25.2021

My grandpa, Clarence “Conny” Scheer, drove a route for Bishoff Bakery of Bigfork in the mid-1930s.  One of his favorite stories to tell about that job was that’s how he started courting Hellen McQuillen, my grandma. He made a delivery to the tavern owned by Len and Irene Knotts in Effie. Hellen was staying there for the summer, following her first year of teaching, to help her sister. 

The Taggert Baking Company of Indianapolis, Indiana, introduced Wonder Bread in May 1921.  Weighing a pound and a half, Wonder Bread boasted an even texture, and soft crusts. It was sold only in Indianapolis until 1924 when the company was purchased by Continental Baking.  In 1930, Wonder Bread became America’s first sliced bread, hence the phrase “the greatest thing since sliced bread.”

Slow Start in Deer River

When there are enough patrons to make it profitable, a bakery is established in a town. Or. maybe in the case of Deer River, attempted. The first mention of a bakery in Deer River was in 1908 when the Itasca News stated that “Mrs. Hanna Gray, who was to open a bakery in the Bond house, has given up the proposition, being unable to make a satisfactory deal for the property with Mr. Ingersoll, who now owns the place.” Obviously, the villagers were interested and were pleased when Mr. Jackson arrived in September of the same year. Mr. Jackson claims to be a first-class baker and seeing the amount of trade awaiting him, he is anxious for the moving of Tellin Brothers from the market building, as he will occupy that space.  He expects to open his shop in a week or ten days.”

Small retail businesses didn’t need to advertise unless there was competition, so it is not clear how long Mr. Jackson was in business.  The 1910 United States Census lists Herbert J. Jackson as age 30 and employed at the cedar mill. If it is the same person, perhaps the position at the mill was more lucrative or the hours more to his liking. Or maybe he was still in business and the bakery, detailed below, was a second one in the village with a very short life.

“The Misses Rose Voigt and Emily LaFreniere have opened a bakery of the ‘home’ kind in the laundry building near the Everton Hotel.  They have been turning out good baking for several days and the patrons say their work is very nice.  The girls are receiving a good patronage and say they cannot keep up with their orders.” [Itasca News 9-17-1910]

“Evidently, bearing out the rule that young people cannot withstand success or much prosperity, Misses Emily LaFreniere and Rose Voigt have given up their undertaking of conducting a bakery.  The girls were in business about two weeks and were receiving orders for more goods than they could make.  They have simply quit and any other reason for doing so is not given out.” [Itasca News 10-8-1910]

City Bakery 1911~1928

In 1911, Andrew and Julia Binder moved from Duluth where they had owned and managed a successful bakery.  It isn’t clear what brought them to Deer River, but the village and surrounding community were glad they came.  When Mr. and Mrs. Binder opened City Bakery, they planned to stay.

Andrew immigrated from Germany in about 1890. Two years later Julia followed him from Germany, and they married.  Their only child, Florence, was born in Duluth in 1899. Florence helped her parents in the bakery from a young age.

When the United States entered the First World War, bakeries were greatly impacted. The main ingredients flour and sugar were restricted to ensure the soldiers were properly fed.  The Federal Food Administration encouraged bakeries to advertise their product as Victory Bread if it contained not more than 80 per cent wheat flour.  No stipulation was made as to what ingredients should compose the other 20 per cent so long as they are selected from a list which included corn flour and corn meal, barley flour, graham, buckwheat, oatmeal, rice and rice flour, potato flour, etc.

City Bakery’s First War Bread ~ Itasca News 1-26-1918

“War Bread, or what is called Deer River’s first sample of war bread, has been on sale at the City Bakery for the past week, and the public is in ecstasy over it.  The bread is made in the shape of twin loaves, weighing two pounds each and sells for 15 cents.  The local shop makes it in two forms, in pans and on brick bottoms.  The patrons seem to prefer the brick baked style. 

“Baker A.J. Binder admits this is not the real thing in the war bread brand, as it is made of baker’s flour, not the real war flour, however the ingredients are on the conservation order as no lard nor milk is used, but instead of these, potatoes are use in the recipe.  The bread is lasting and slightly a heavier food than the regular baker’s bread. When the present supply of white flour is exhausted, which will be in but a few months, the new war flour will be the best flour on the American market and then we will get the real war bread.”

Families were also encouraged to prepare at home, foods that they had previously bought at a bakery. An advertisement for Royal Baking Powder gave the following recipe for Oatmeal Bread.  It appeared in the March 23, 1918 Itasca News.

Oatmeal Bread

1 cup flour

2 ½ cups corn meal

1 tsp salt

5 tsp Royal Baking Powder

2 T sugar

1 cup cooked oatmeal or rolled oats

2 T shortening

2½ cups milk

No eggs

Mix together flour, corn meal, salt, baking powder, and sugar. Add oatmeal, melted shortening, and milk.  Bake in round shallow pan in moderate oven 40-45 minutes.

If used three times a week in place of white bread by the 22 million families in the United States, it would save more than 900,000 barrels of flour a month.

The Royal Baking Company published a pamphlet, “Best War Time Recipes” available by request, which contained four dozen recipes like the Oatmeal Bread, to encourage families to save wheat for the soldiers. 

City Bakery weathered the restrictions and, after the war, supported the community that had become their home. The Binders advertised in the Deer River newspapers, first for occasional specials and then a general weekly ad. It seems they always had butter rolls, cookies, pies and cakes.  Some of the specialty items were cream puffs, rocks, raised doughnuts, bismarks, coffee cake, honey cream cake, angel food cake and loaf silver cake.  One year during the Itasca County Fair, they featured turnovers, butterflies, cinnamon rolls, and sunshine cakes.

In 1926, Deer River had a huge 4th of July celebration and the Binders worked long hours to ensure everyone was well-fed.

The Bakery was Busy ~ Deer River News7-8-1926

“The big celebration Monday brought a lot of people here to be fed, and for several days the latter part of the week the City Bakery was the busiest place in Deer River.  In addition to the regular trade with greatly increased baking of bread, the proprietors and help made 343 dozen buns, 160 dozen doughnuts and 194 Pullman sandwich loaves.  That’s 6,230 extra pieces, a good index to what it took to feed the crowd.

“Mr. and Mrs. Binder showed a fine spirit by selling to public concessions at wholesale as a contribution to the community effort.  We didn’t hear of any outside bakery doing anything like that, which proves again that we should boost the hometown product, the one that helps boost us.”

Two years later, Andrew and Julia having both celebrated their 60th birthday, decided they were ready to turn the business over to another baker.  Their daughter Florence, a music teacher in the community, wanted to be in a more populated setting.  The 1930 U.S. Census shows the Binder family living in Minneapolis.

City Bakery Sold to Hibbing Man ~ Itasca News 6-21-1928

“A deal was closed yesterday whereby one of Deer River’s oldest business institutions becomes the property of a new proprietor.  The City Bakery was sold by Mr. and Mrs. Binder to Anton Suomalainen of Hibbing.  Possession will be given the 1st of July.

“Mr. Suomalainen is not a stranger to Deer River.  For several years he conducted a bakery in Grand Rapids, selling out there last winter.  While in business at the county seat, Mr. Suomalainen supplied regular customers here, and his entry into the local field will find an established reputation.

“Mr. and Mrs. Binder have been in business here for the past seventeen years.  They came here from Duluth.  Under their management, the City Bakery built up a most enviable reputation for the excellence of its products, always clean and wholesome.  The host of friends who are numbered by their acquaintances, will regret to learn that the Binders have sold, and also regret to have this most estimable family leave Deer River, but will wish them many years of health, wealth and happiness.”

Other Owners

Mr. Suomalainen renamed the business, New Home Bakery, and all was well until he was injured the following spring.  “Anton Suomalainen, proprietor of the New Home Bakery, last Friday received a serious injury to one of his hands, which became caught in the machinery of the bread mixer.  The fingers were badly lacerated, and amputation of portions may be necessary.  Mr. Suomalainen went to Duluth for an X-ray examination and surgical treatment and is reported as getting along nicely.” [Deer River News 5-16-1929]

New Home Bakery struggled during the time Mr. Suomalainen was healing, and by August, he had no choice but to close. Within several weeks of that decision, a new owner was found. “R.W. Ziebell of Duluth has taken over the plant and announces that he will be open, ready for business next Wednesday, Sept 25.  Mr. and Mrs. Ziebell were in Deer River yesterday with Mr. and Mrs. Suomalainen, who have operated the bakery for the past year. Mr Ziebell stated that he has spent all his life in the bakery business, working for years in large baking plants of Minneapolis and Duluth.  He has frequently visited Deer River and is a great booster for this region.

“The reopening of the bakery will be welcome news to all local people.  During the time it has been closed the past fortnight, local residents have suffered a great inconvenience.  Mr. Ziebell was looking for a residence yesterday and hoped to be able to move his family here the latter part of the week.” [Deer River News 9-19-1929]

I am not sure how long the Ziebells had the bakery, but I do know that the name, New Home Bakery, was still being used in 1938. A receipt (see inset) indicates the Skottegard’s were owners, and had filled an order for

Williams Narrows Resort. According to the 1930 and 1940 U.S. censuses, the Skottegards were proprietors of a bakery in Grand Rapids but obviously had the one in Deer River as well.

The final notes I have on the local bakery are sketchy, as most of my research ends before WWII, but I do know there was a bakery owned by Tom Abbott for several years, which he sold to Mr. and Mrs. Robert Hallgren of Chicago.  “Mr. and Mrs. Hallgren have operated bakeries for the past seven years and know their business thoroughly.  They plan to conduct the business on a basis of the best bakery products and the best service they can give.

“Mr. and Mrs. Hallgren are not entirely strangers in Deer River.  They have a summer home on Moose Lake, and for the past three years have been spending their summers here.  Associated with them will be Mrs. Carl Jette and Mrs. Erika Jette of the Moose Lake territory.” [Deer River News 2-10-1944]

“Spring is on the Way”

4.18.2021 [archived ~ originally published 3.19.2016]

Postcard sent to Opal Fyfe (age 11) from her cousin Ethel Barrett in 1914
[Opal is Grandmother of Jim, Don and Chuck Root]

It appears we made it through another winter and a mild one at that! Not a lot of shoveling and only a handful of days with below zero temperatures.

According to the Minnesota Phenology Network, spring officially begins in Minnesota on Saturday March 19 at 11:31 p.m. Of course, we will still have snow in the woods and ice on the lakes on Sunday morning and certainly on Easter, but there will also be a tingle of green in the grass and perhaps a tulip or jonquil emerging on the south side of the house. And any snow we might have in the coming weeks (or months) will not last.

The following news articles highlight signs of spring in the late 1920s and early 1930s. In addition to the blackbirds and robins that we consider the first birds to return to our region, eighty years ago crows were also harbingers of spring. Now though, the crows are here all winter.

For this column I have arranged the news tidbits by month rather than year and as always, I have left the spelling as it was originally published.

Jan 3, 1929 ~ Sober and Saw Crows

“Additional comment on the weather! Frank Miller called The News office last Friday morning and said, ‘Mike Guthrie saw three crows this morning, and Mike was perfectly sober!’ We’ll take their word for it, but if those crows didn’t get out of the country before 1929 arrived, they didn’t have a happy New Year. [Deer River News]

Jan 12, 1928 ~ Stays all Winter

“It was a wise out blackbird that knew months ago that we were going to have a January thaw. To see a blackbird in Deer River in mid-winter is something unusual, but there is one right here. He can be seen daily feeding in the alley back of the F.W. Miller residence.

“Mr. Blackbird didn’t go south when cold weather came. He found a gracious hostess in Mrs. Millie Hickthier, mother of Mrs. Miller, who feeds him daily. If there is no lunch out when he appears, he scolds in no uncertain terms. Mebbe you can fool the wise guys, but you can’t fool the birds on northern Minnesota winters. Our January thaw this week is a sample.” [Deer River News]

Feb. 16, 1929 ~ Notes

“Indications point strongly towards a free open air concert on the banks of the Bigfork river at Bigfork in about three weeks’ time. The concert will be given by an assembly of frogs that will pour forth all those vocal spring selections that are so welcomed in these parts after a period of several months of 30 below zero weather.” [Bigfork Times]

Feb. 20, 1930 ~ Spring is on the Way

“Emory Hadley called up yesterday afternoon and reported the first crow of the season, seen near County Road station. A few moments later Mrs. Henry Truempler reported seeing three of them. Here’s hoping these harbingers of Spring won’t get their toes frosted before the Mayflowers begin to bloom!” [Deer River News]

Feb. 25, 1926 ~ Find Pussy Willows

“On Friday, Feb. 12th, Wm. Mastellar and John Yuill, while working near the new state fish hatchery at Cutfoot Sioux, found a most unusual token of our fine winter weather. Popple buds were found that were opening, and fully developed “pussies” were waving in the breeze.  The circumstance is most unusual, indicating that the weather has not been severe enough to entirely freeze the tree and stop the sap from running. That’s another boost for our fine Northern Minnesota winter weather.” [Itasca News]

Mar. 23, 1928 ~ Notes

“Since the crows have made their appearance, we feel satisfied that spring is at hand and it is a good time to prepare the farm machinery for the spring work.” [Bigfork Times]

Mar. 26, 1926 ~ Notes

“The crows and robbins have returned t Bigfork after spending the winter in the south and their return here receives a cordial welcome. This nice spring weather, which has taken away that great white blanket that has covered mother earth for the past few months, gives us the assurance that the croaking of the frogs and the buzz of the misquittoes will soon be heard. With all the necessities to add to the pleasures of life what chance is there for say complaints in these parts?” [Bigfork Settler]

Apr. 1, 1927 ~ Notes

“Foster Root, who lives out on the Scenic Highway, was in town this week with some more of his big fish yarns which is another sign of spring. His latest is that the lakes weren’t safe for travel this winter on account of the many holes caused by the bass poking their noses out to look at the sun.” [Bigfork Times]

May 2, 1928 ~ First Arbutus Blossoms

“Trailing arbutus is in blossom. The first blooms were brought into town last Friday, although some were reported on Thursday. The time is long past when this beautiful flower could be gathered in the vacant lot in the village, although there are people living in Grand Rapids who remember gathering it where the Central school now stands. It is fund in abundance, however, within two or three miles of the village, and is always eagerly welcomed as the first wild flower of spring, as well as one of the most fragrant and pleasing of the entire season.” [Grand Rapids Herald Review]

May 30, 1934 ~ Albino Robin

“Red Lake Falls folks are interested this week in a white robin which has selected this city in which to establish its home in a tree on the Wm. Nieland farm. Aside from its color, which is white with black markings, the bird is of the same size and habits of the other robins, even to its chirping voice. Mrs. Nieland and others who have viewed the bird from close range state that it does not have “pink” eyes as white mice do. Local folks are speculating on the color of the new arrivals which are expected in this distinctive robin family in the near future. – Red Lake Falls Gazette.” [Grand Rapids Herald Review]

I encourage you to check out the Minnesota Phenology Network www.usanpn.org. It is a wonderful resource for those who like to monitor phenology and share their observations.

Another sure sign of spring is St. Patrick’s Day, so a happy day to those of you with Irish roots and a Happy Birthday to my great-great-great grandfather William Thomas Boxell born on March 17, 1830.

“Hunkidori” ~ We’ve Got Talent ~ Part III

4.11.2021

I think writing is one of the harder ‘talents’ to document as it is hit and miss as to what gets published in the newspaper.  So, consider this just a smattering of our local writers.

Essays Written in School

In 1904, the Deer River School consisted of about three dozen students.  In February, the sixth graders were assigned to write an essay about President Lincoln. Two were selected to be printed in the newspaper.

Roy Belcher’s essay was about a half a column and here is the first paragraph. “Not long after the Boones crossed the mountains to Kentucky, a man by the name of Abraham Lincoln followed their example and brought his wife and children with him.  The Lincolns and Boones were of the same class of people.  They were hardy pioneers always seeking a new country. This Abraham Lincoln was grandfather of President Abraham Lincoln, who was born in a log-cabin in Kentucky, February 12, 1809.”

Martha McDonald, daughter of John and Maria wrote a lengthy and detailed essay which was three and a half full columns! Martha started her essay as follows: “Not far from Hodgenville in Kentucky there lived a man named Thomas Lincoln.  This man had built for himself a little log house by a brook.  There was one room in the cabin.  The chimney was broad at the bottom and narrow at the top.  In the wall at one side of the fireplace was a square hole for a window. In the summer it was left open all the time.  In the winter a deerskin or piece of coarse cloth was hung over it to keep out the cold.  There was no door nor hinges to the house.  There was no ceiling to the room.  There was no floor but the bare ground.  And the people could look up and see the bare rafters and the rough roofboards, which Mr. Lincoln had himself split and hewn.  For chairs there were only blocks of wood and a crude bench on one side of the fireplace.  The bed was a platform of poles on which were spread the furry skins of animals and a patchwork quilt of homespun goods.  In this poor cabin, on the 12th of February 1809, a baby boy was born.” [Itasca News 2-10-1904]

In March 1925, Mary Mitchell, an eighth-grade student from Bigfork, and daughter of Bessie and William Kanz (Rufus Mitchell is her stepfather), wrote an essay entitled Three Characteristics of a Good Citizen. The three points she made and supported were [1] be patriotic to his country and to his country’s flag, [2] be kind to everyone, and [3] obey the laws of the United States.

Prizes for Student Essays

Miss Betty Brandes took first place in the state of Minnesota in the Grand Third National Meat Story Contest instituted by the National Livestock and Meat Board.  Betty, a junior in the Grand Rapids High School, “has won national recognition, as well as a substantial cash prize.  One winner was determined for each state, and a national winner selected as best from the nation.  The national winner was from El Paso, Texas.

According to the report sent here, there was a very large response to the contest, which was instigated some months ago.  Over 10,000 essays or stories were submitted, and to win a state championship in such keen competition as obtained, is an honor of which Miss Brandes and instructors here may be proud.” [6-2-1926 Grand Rapids Herald-Review]

Several months later, another article, including the essay was printed on the front page of the October 6, 1926 Grand Rapids Herald-Review.  Ann Foreseen, 14 years of age (immigrated from Sweden with her parents Johan and Anna just eleven years ago) and an eighth-grade student in the Dunbar School, won a valuable prize at the Minnesota State Fair. Miss Foreseen wrote an essay entitled, “The Training of a Forester and Preserving our National Forests.” This essay was collected with other good essays and exhibited in the rural school display of the Itasca County Fair, where she was given first place.  At the state fair, the essay again received a first-place ribbon and a valuable cash prize, as well as the satisfaction of taking the highest place in that class of exhibits. 

Her introductory paragraph begins, “A forest is not a mere collection of trees.  A forest like a city is a complex community, with a life of its own.”

Local Student Winner in State-Wide Contest ~Deer River News 3-21-1929

“Miss Mable Backlund, a member of the senior class of the local high school has been declared winner of first place in a state-wide essay contest sponsored by the Minnesota Federation of Women’s Clubs, and will represent Minnesota in the national contest which will be judged later at Washington D.C.

“Some months ago, high school students throughout the nation were asked to compete in an essay contest on the subject, ‘Why I Should Vote.’  The local Women’s Club offered $5 in prizes and five students entered. Local judges awarded Miss Backlund first place and Miss Helen Foresman second.  First place winners in local contests entered the state contest, in which Miss Backlund has again been awarded first place.  Second honors went to a Luverne entry and third to one from St. Paul.

“Miss Backlund deserves great credit for the distinctive honor she has won, in representing the state in the national contest, and is being showered with congratulations by her many friends.  At the regular meeting of the Women’s Club Tuesday evening, Miss Backlund read her prize essay, much to the enjoyment of the members present.”

I was unable to find a follow-up article regarding the outcome of the national contest, so I assume Mabel Backlund’s essay was not a front-runner in that competition.

The final story about winning a cash prize is from 1935. “Eleven-year-old Dorothy and ten-year-old Donald Stangeland were named two of the winners in a nationwide school essay contest staged by Butler Bros., St Paul.  Thousands of pupils from 3600 communities competed.  Donald and Dorothy, children of George and Esther of Sand Lake, are among those awarded a crisp, new one-dollar bill.” [Deer River News 11-14-1935]

Poetry and a Novel

Godfrey Knight was a lumberjack and a poet.  He was born in January 1891, in Red Lake Falls, Minnesota to Victor and Amelia.  The Knights moved to the Big Fork Valley in about 1900.  By the time Godfrey was nineteen years of age, he was employed as a lumberjack at the Caldwell camp north of Effie.

In 1912, he won a contest sponsored by the Hand Made Boot and Shoe Company for a poem he wrote about one of their products, Hunkidori boots.  The Bigfork Mercantile sold many things needed by the lumberjacks, including Hunkidori boots.  In the fall of 1911, as new and old “jacks” were getting outfitted, the store posted a flyer sent out by the company which announced a free pair of boots for the winning entry in their poetry contest. 

Godfrey found inspiration in the late evenings and most likely entrusted his poetic entry to be mailed by the camp cook who made monthly trips to town for supplies.  Like any of us waiting for a response from a contest he eagerly awaited the dispersal of letters from the weekly mail bag. As weeks turned to months, he quit looking for a legal sized envelope.  Finally, one day in April 1912, Godfrey received word that his piece was selected.

Imagine the satisfaction he got of seeing his poem on the front page of the April 25th issue of the Bigfork Times.  And of course, for the rest of the year, distributers of the boots could include the poem in their advertisement for the Hunkidori brand if they wanted to.

Local Girl Wins First Place in Poetry Contest ~ Bigfork Times 11-13-1932

“It may be news to many of our readers, as it was to us, to know that we have a young poetess of exceptional ability in the person of Agnes Peloquin, aged 14.

“The following poem which was awarded first prize in the weekly contest of the Fair Play Club conducted by the Duluth Herald reveals a great deal more than just ordinary ability and we hope that this is the forerunner of many other products of her pen.”   The poem is printed in the inset.

Books written by local authors prior to 1960, are a bit harder to find.  Therefore, I was thrilled to discover information about a novel written by local author Mary (Gray) Mooers, in the Itasca County Historical Society archives.  The book, “Westward Wagon Wheels,” was published in 1955 by Meador Publishing Company of Boston. The description on the back of the book jacket details the problems of traveling west in 1864, but weaves in a story of love and success.

“In this novel, the author portrays with invincible reality the life of our forefathers, their pioneering spirit, their hardships, trials and sorrows endured as they settled our western frontiers. Susan Carter a lovely young girl from Wisconsin traveling west with her parents by wagon train, falls in love with Alan Wilson, a handsome young man, also traveling west in the same caravan.”

Mary Verona Gray was born in Iowa in about 1898.  On March 5, 1922 she married George Mooers.  George was born in 1896, and by 1910, his parents George and Nellie had moved the family to Deer River.  After serving in WWI, George was a civil engineer for Itasca County and then one of the iron mines.  Mary and George lived in Coleraine, and later on Pokegama Lake.  Notes from the author’s great nephew, Wayne Mooers state, “Uncle George died in 1955…Mary’s book was copyrighted the same year–George watched her write and listened to drafts for many hours.”

The Grand Rapids Library has one copy of “Westward Wagon Wheels,” and I found another on ebay for $50!

In 2019, I wrote about a book, “Little Woodsman of the North,” written by prestigious author, Bernadine Freeman Bailey, while she was staying at the Hide-Away Inn resort in Itasca County in the late 1930s.  Since then, I have learned of another book, “The Cloth Wagon,” set in Itasca County in about 1915.  It is said to be based in part on Orin Patrow of the Big Fork Valley.  The author, Antoinette (Van Hoesen) Wakeman, was probably visiting her brother F.B. Van Housen, a Minnesota State Senator, when she came to northern Itasca County.  I have found mention of her visit and her book in the “Last Frontier” by Bergit Anderson, (published in 1941).

We’ve Got Talent will appear again in the fall with Song writing, Spelling, Farming Endeavors and Professional Success.  To share your stories, call 218-244-2127, email reminiscewithchris@gmail.com, or leave a message here. 

Easter Bits and Pieces

4.4.2021 [archived ~ previously published 3.29.2018]

Vintage Easter Postcard ~ circa 1900

Easter and April Fool’s Day

Easter and April Fool’s day has not fallen on the same day in my lifetime.  In fact, it has been 62 years since this has occurred.  Just a quick reminder, “The basic rule for determining the date for Easter is that it is on the first Sunday after the first full moon that occurs on or after March 21st.”

My google search shows that this is the 12th time Easter has fallen on April 1st since 1700.  A few quick calculations and I discovered that seven of the twelve times, there was eleven years between the years when this occurred, for instance, 1934, 1945 and 1956. I wasn’t going to try and figure out why this happened, but I did find it very interesting.

Easter Sunday School Program

In the 1920s the Deer River paper, called the Itasca News, was distributed on Saturday.  The publisher and editor, Murray James Taylor reminded readers to attend the Easter program the following evening. “Miss Velma Taylor who is one of the leading directors of the work, declares the features are of a nature to appeal to human interest and the most elaborate the church has ever had.  Admission is free and the public is earnestly entreated to attend.”

Full disclosure, Velma is the 14-year-old daughter of the newspaper publisher.

Easter Program was Splendid ~ Itasca News 4-10-1920

“That there is talent in the youth of Deer River is a fact proven and nailed down solider every time they are called on by the public, and the way they went ‘over the top’ in the Easter program was no exception to the high standard.  From cradlings to the young ladies every number was a winner and the entire program was keenly appreciated by the audience, which as usual, packed the church.

The opening number was a surprise to the little actor and the audience.  The name of Grace Johnson for a song was called, and the little lady of six summers who had just entered the door, sauntered up the aisle, hastily removing her wraps and with cheeks flushed by the chilly wind gracefully took her place on the platform and soon ‘warmed up’ in a pretty and lengthy Easter song, sweetly delivered and true to every note.

The vocal duet by Velma Taylor and Ova St. Peter was generally pronounced as excellent and the young ladies warmly applauded.

Norma Reid, one of those little angels, just learning to talk, did her part just like the big ones but much cuter, and spoke about four words.

Little Betty Bartholomew, always a favorite, sang charmingly.

Velma Taylor’s recitation on the ‘Easter Return of the Federal in Blue,’ captivated the audience and brought forth applause of feeling.

The six young boys in recitation each carrying a large letter which in line were to spell ‘Easter,’ did well, and more amusing than calculated as their letters in line read ‘Eatster.’

One of the best hits was the song by Gladys Hawkins’ class of fifteen girls. ‘Ring, Joy Bells, Ring,’ with Gladys doing creditable execution at the piano.

The booby prize must be yielded to baby Margurite Carlson, who, with her aunt near her side stood barely peeping above the railing and spoke some words, what they were, only her aunt Carrie knew, but the expressions and serious gestures of the little lady told more than words that her message was indeed grave.

Blanche Collard, soprano and Velma Taylor, alto, in duo gave the closing number.”

From the 1920 United States census, I learned the following about the talent named above.  I found it especially interesting that the two young ladies in charge, Velma, and Gladys were still in high school.  

~ Grace Johnson, daughter of Harry and Lillian (Metke), was born on December 12, 1912. She attended several years of college and married John Lynch. Later they moved to Hibbing where he was a member of law enforcement.

~ Velma Taylor’s parents came to Deer River from Nebraska in about 1896. He started the first newspaper, the Itasca News, which he was publisher and editor of until 1923 when he sold it to H.E. Wolfe, who changes the name to the Deer River News. Velma married Harvey Giles in 1924.  After the birth of their first two sons, they moved to Blackduck.

~ Ova St. Peter, daughter of Napoleon and Lucille, was born in 1905. The St. Peter family owned a confectionery store in town.  For many years Olga Sjolund, who was a few years older than Ova, lived with the family and worked at the store.

~ Norma Reid’s father, Hugh, is the minister at the Methodist church, and her mother Elizabeth, his helpmate. By 1930, the Reid’s had moved to Missouri.

~ Betty Bartholomew is the daughter Sam and Ella. Sam was in charge of the new telephone system. 

He bought it from the first proprietor M.L. Smith in 1915 and had it until 1926 when he sold it to J.L. Tucker. 

~ Gladys Hawkins’ mother is Nellie (Tellin). Her father, Milan died when she was quite young.  Her mother worked very hard to provide for her daughters on her own.

~ Margaret Ann Carlson was born in New York on October 2, 1917.  Her father, Albert, was in the service and stationed in New York.  After the war, Albert returned to Deer River with his wife Ethel and young daughter.  Ethel did not like the rural life and left when Margaret was still a young child.  She is raised by William and Anna Herreid. Anna was sister to Albert. 

~ Blanche Collard is the daughter of Joe and Mary. Her father’s occupation is listed as the proprietor of a railroad parlor.  So, does that mean he maintained the Deer River Depot or a recently defunct saloon? 

I wish I could have provided information about the six boys who inadvertently misspelled Easter!  Perhaps some of them were brothers of the girls whose talents are highlighted by the editor. 

Easter Baskets

By the mid-1920s advertisements for Easter candy and flowers appeared in the local confectionery and drugstores.  The candy available was not specified, but the plants included Easter Lilies, Rambler Rose Bushes, Hydrangeas, Cinerias, Begonias, Hyacinths, Tulips, and Ferns.

It wasn’t until near the end of the decade that I found mention of a local Easter egg hunt.

Hunted Easter Eggs ~ Deer River News 4-12-1928

“Mr. and Mrs. Robinson delightfully entertained fifteen little folks last Sunday afternoon at an Easter egg hunt.  Fifteen baskets of eggs were hidden in the fields adjacent to the Robinson home and there was a merry scramble to find them.  Prizes were offered for finding the largest number of baskets and the last basket.  Kathryn Wolfe found the largest number, four, and Alicemary Robinson the last one.  It was a delightful sport.”

“Percy has become quite an expert fiend of photography” ~ We’ve Got Talent ~ Part II

3.28.2021

I knew that my grandmother, Hellen (McQuillen) Scheer liked to paint. When she and Gramps moved from Bigfork to Colorado in the late 1960s, she began taking classes and painting in earnest.  What I didn’t know was that she first held a brush to hand-color a black and white photograph of my gramps when they were courting.  This was in the mid-1930s when film for colored photos, was still ­a dozen years in the future.

I have collected stories about artists from the old newspapers since I started the Reminisce project.  I know there are many more artists than those I am sharing, so please let me know who the artist in your family is. Today’s column is about visual art. The final segment, next month, will be on writing.

Painting

In 1908, the Bigfork Settler reported that William Lake had received two beautiful oil paintings last week of sceneries on the Bigfork River painted by his brother at Hoffman.” William and his brother Leonard, a house painter, were from a small town in west central Minnesota. William filed on a homestead in the Big Fork Valley in about 1905.  It would be interesting to know if Leonard sketched the scenes while visiting his brother, or if he had painted from memory or a black and white photograph.  Also, wouldn’t it be fun to know where these paintings are hanging now?

Ida May (Williamson) Martin was another painter identified by the Bigfork Settler. “Mrs. J. R. Martin shipped 4 paintings to Duluth Saturday.  She has shipped several paintings there in the past few months, where she has found a ready sale for them.  Many of these pictures are of different sceneries about Bigfork and the recipients of the same are loud in their praise of the beauty of the same.  What a treat it would be to some of the city folks to visit these parts and have the chance of seeing and enjoying all the real beauty that nature produces here at different periods of the year.  Beautiful sceneries that the majority of us, who live here, have become so accustomed to that we pass them by without even giving them a second thought.” In May 1925, when the article was written, Ida was 67 years of age and raising four grandchildren.

In the archives of the Itasca County Historical Society, I found a lovely pastel painting that was created by Mrs. Amy Porter.  She lived and farmed with her husband Charles near Rabey, MN in northwest Aitkin County. One of the small painting she made was for a dear friend, Josephine (Burt) Crowe who lived in Grand Rapids. Amy painted many pictures, Christmas cards and birthday cards with pastel paints. The painting she did for Josephine Crowe was created on a 1953 tax receipt!

Photography

In 1898, Percy Brooks purchased the interest of C.H. Marr, the joint owner on his father’s store, so that Percy and his father Asa were co-owners. The A.D. Brooks & C.H. Marr General Store was the first merchant in Deer River.  Percy enjoyed new-fangled merchandise and in 1901 he was busy with a camera. “Percy Brooks is making an album of large photographs of scenery and other things in and about Deer River when examined will already furnish amusement for several hours.  Percy is becoming quite an expert fiend of photography and he lets nothing pass that is worth ‘shooting’ at. He has one picture of a smallpox patient which looks so natural that it has actually given people the itch by looking at it.” [Itasca News 5-4-1901]

On the 1905 Minnesota State Census, Eric Enstrom is living in Milaca and his occupation is stated as photographer. By 1910, he and his wife Esther and son Roger are living in Bovey where he has his photography studio. Enstrom is best known for the photo “Grace” which he took in about 1920. It depicts an elderly man bowing his head and giving thanks. “Grace” was adopted as the official state photograph in 2002.  Before that photo received notoriety, Enstrom was recognized for his ability to capture subjects in a unique way.

Local Girl Model for Prize Photo ~ Grand Rapids Herald-Review 8-11-1926

“The Enstrom Photograph Studio of Bovey was awarded a silver loving cup offered to the best photographer on the Mesaba Range.  The contest, arranged by the Range Association of Photographers, was for the best photograph taken of the same model, and John R. Snow of Mankato acknowledged as one of the best photographers in the state, was the judge.

“Miss Peggy Wells of Grand Rapids was the model.  Miss Wells went from one gallery to the next and was posed and photographed by the different artists.  Each gallery was given a number, and the numbered pictures sent to the judge in Mankato.

“The prize of a large silver cup will be displayed in the windows of Enstrom studio.  The Larson Studio of Virginia won second prize. The Range Association is affiliated with the National Association of Commercial Photographers. The winning photograph of Miss Wells will likely be entered in other contests in the state and elsewhere.”

As this article was written between censuses, I am not able to provide much information about Peggy Wells.  In fact, the only document I could find for a Margaret Wells was through the Minnesota Marriage records.  It states Margaret Wells and Matt A.H. Gielen were married on Jan 26, 1935 in Itasca County.  On the 1940 U.S. Census, Gielen is listed as married and living with his brother-in-law in Grand Rapids.  I could not find Margaret or Peggy Gielen.

The next article is also about the subject of a photograph. Walter Olson is the eighteen-year-old son of Peter and Olga Olson. I searched through an online newspaper site but was unable to track down the pictures. Perhaps the name of the newspaper was incorrect, but the information is still interesting.

Local Young Man is Shown in Picture ~ Deer River News 7-25-1929

“Walter G. Olson, son of Mr. and Mrs. Peter Olson of Deer Lake, is one of several workmen shown in pictures taken recently at the hangars of the Universal Air Lines in Chicago.

In a series of photos published in the Chicago Daily News last Friday, Walter is shown working on a Fokker plane being prepared for a passenger run to Cleveland. He is shown placing radio shielding, for the use of the radio while flying.

Walter has been with the Universal Lines since last fall and is rapidly advancing in his chosen work.  Betcha some day he’ll fly back to Deer River.  And when he does, this paper hopes we’ll have a landing field that will permit a safe welcome home!”

Film

In August of 1927, Williams Narrows Resort on Big Cutfoot Sioux Lake was in the movies.  Charles E. Belle, a photographer for Paramount Pictures came to the resort for the express purpose of capturing the Northwoods on film. “While here Mr. Bell took nearly five thousand feet of film for his company, much of it of animals at the Narrows’ zoo.  It is hoped the films may be brought here for showing.  They will prove splendid advertising for this region.”

According to the Apr 7, 1927 Deer River News, “Mr. Williams reports the purchase of the following additions to the zoo: two each of leopards, Canada lynx, coati mundi, cougar, opossum, peccary, timber wolves, sphinx baboon, badger, black-faced ape. Angora goats. Black fox, Wanderoo monkey, Java Monkey, Capuchin ringtail monkey, smoky mangabey, white-face ringtail, African geese, pea fowl, cayuga black duck and Egyptian pelican, and four alligators. These additions will make this one of the largest zoos in the state.”

The final article I have to share was also filmed at a resort.  The local film star, Marvel Clarice Cleveland, is the daughter of Oscar and Jennie. 

Local Girl in Minnesota Movie Show ~ Deer River News 6-21-1945

“After seeing the Minnesota State Tourist Bureau movie ‘short’ at two theatres while on a recent vacation, the news editor had to come back to Deer River and see the same short at the Lyceum Wednesday night to learn that Miss Marvel Cleveland of Talmoon was featured in three scenes of a fishing excursion shown as part of the film advertising Minnesota.  The scenes showed Miss Cleveland catching a fish, a closeup displaying a string of fish and then one of the fishing party cooking and eating the fish caught.  The fishing excursion, it is understood, was filmed at Camp Idlewild, Marcell, not far from Miss Cleveland’s home.  Miss Cleveland graduated from the Deer River high school with the class of 1945 on May 30.”

Walter Stickler established the Idlewild resort in about 1912.  He was a staunch supporter of the resort trade of northern Minnesota, and on the 1940 U.S. census his occupation is listed as ‘lecturer’ and the industry ‘resorts.’ In August 1929, he invited Dusty Rhodes, a pilot from Hibbing to land his plane, a sister ship of the famous “Spirit of St. Louis.” During the afternoon, he took 78 lucky passengers, four at a time, for a ride.

To share your stories, email reminiscewithchris@gmail.com, call 218-244-2127, or leave a message on my blog chrismarcottewrites.  Just enter the following address in the browser and you should be good to go: https://chrismarcottewrites.com

Women on the Farm in Ardenhurst Township, Itasca County

3.21.2021 [archived ~ originally published 3.9.2015]

During the past four months, I have spent at least twelve hours a week at the Itasca County Historical Society in Grand Rapids.  For the most part, I have been looking at Deer River and Bigfork newspapers’ old issues.  The staff and volunteers are a close-knit group and very helpful to amateur genealogists or historians.  The research area is one large room with several workstations as well as computers for community use. I love being there on quiet days, but I also like the excitement of some of the busy days. 

Recently I was perusing the microfilm while the historical society director Lilah Crow was organizing books in a new shelving unit.   Well aware of the research and writing I have been doing, she said, “Chris, you might want to take a look at this.”  She held a non-descript book entitled Woman on the Farm.  “This has a very interesting story behind it,” she added and went on to explain that it belonged to Alma Anderson, a woman who lived in Ardenhurst.  This township is in the northwest section of Itasca and borders Koochiching County.  It is up Hwy. 46 about thirty-five miles north of Deer River. Alma had received the book as a gift from her daughter Ruth.  On the first page, Ruth had written, “With Love To Mamma from Ruth – An appreciation of a mother on the farm.”

Woman on the Farm was written by Mary Meeks Atkeson and published in 1924.  Atkeson explains her intent in the foreword.  “Introducing the woman on the farm – her work, her problems, and her point of view of life – is the purpose of the present volume.  In its preparation, the farm woman herself has given much assistance to the writer.  Nearly a thousand special correspondents, representing every State in the Union, have taken time in their busy lives to write their views upon one or more of the subjects here discussed.”  The fourteen chapters cover everything from the farm home, grounds and gardens, to home business, politics, and national organizations, with a liberal sprinkling of children, school, church, and community.

Alma enjoyed the book and decided to share it with her dear friends and neighbors.  As it was passed around, each reader signed the page below Ruth’s inscription.  In addition to Alma Anderson’s signature, it was signed by Mrs. A.W. Nelson, Mrs. J.E. Guptill, Mrs. J.D. Brandon, and Mrs. R.J. Field.  I eagerly took the book and spent a couple of hours reading chapters that caught my eye. 

I decided to see what I could learn about the five women who had also turned the pages.  I wanted to know when the women might have read the book and wondered, too, if the book was given as a gift on a birthday, Christmas, or Mother’s Day, perhaps.  The volume I found online had a jacket cover to protect it.  This copy no longer did.

Alma was born in Sweden in 1870 and immigrated when she was twenty-years-old.  I spent hours searching ancestry but could not definitively find her maiden name. She married Albert Anderson, a man from Norway, in 1898.  The Andersons lived in Polk County, Minnesota, in 1900, but by 1910 they were settled in Ardenhurst. Alma and Albert had seven children, Esther, Bertha, Hilda, Ruth, Andrew, Melvin, and one baby who died in infancy.

Mrs. A.W. Nelson, otherwise known as Emma Nesseth, was born in Wisconsin to recently immigrated Norwegian parents.  Her mother died by the time she married Andrew in 1899.  He emigrated from Sweden at age fifteen.  Andrew and Emma were married and raised their family on a farm in Washington County, Minnesota.  They moved to Ardenhurst between 1920 and 1930.  There were other Nesseth’s in the area who may have been Emma’s brothers or cousins, which might have been why the Nelson family moved north.  I found documentation that in November 1908, Edward Nesseth married Hilda Berg in Ardenhurst.  Martin Nesseth was a witness, and Rev G.P. Nesseth performed the ceremony.

Mrs. J.E. Guptill is actually Sophia Rose.  She was born in 1882 in Scotland and immigrated as a small child with her parents David and Mary.  Sophia’s obituary states that “her parents homesteaded at Island Lake in 1898. She and her sister Jesse were the first young woman at Island Lake.  They took out their own homesteads in 1903.  Sophia Lake and Jessie Lake were named for them, and Muggins Lake is named for their dog.” 

Eventually, the Rose family settled in Ardenhurst.  The Guptill’s lived down the road, and as often happened, the two young neighbors married. John and Sophia set up housekeeping near their parents, and soon, daughters Mary and Edna came along.  Their farm on Island Lake was often the site of community picnics and was said to be a very picturesque spot as some of the white pines were left standing when the area was logged.

Mrs. J.D. Brandon’s birth name was Isabelle “Belle” MacDonald.  She was born in Canada in 1839 and immigrated in 1870.  She and Jesse Brandon married and started their family in Wright County, Minnesota.  In 1900 they were in Morrison County, in 1910 Koochiching County, and finally, by 1920, they resided in Ardenhurst.  Four of their seven children Earlie, Pearl, Roland, and Norman, lived to adulthood. 

Mrs. R.J. Field was born in Beltrami County in 1908. The name her parents, George and Frances, gave her was Cecelia Nina Horton.  Cecelia and Ralph Field’s parents were born in the United States, so this couple is the only second-generation family of the five.  Ralph’s father was a postmaster, and Ralph was the proprietor of a confectionary store in Northome when they married in 1926.  Shortly after 1935, the Field family with sons Charles and Lyle moved to the state of Washington.  As far as I can tell, this family never lived in Ardenhurst Township, but it is probably the Cecelia was friends with Belle Brandon as they both had connections with Koochiching County.  Also, it was much closer to shop in Northome, which is in Koochiching County, than it was to go to Deer River.

Ruth Anderson was about twenty-years-old when Woman on the Farm was published.  According to the 1940 census, she had attended college for four years, so she certainly had a good education and may have taught before she married Carl Peterson.  Alma and her daughter Ruth were both widows and living together in Ardenhurst by 1940.  Cecelia Field was the last person to sign the book, and her family had moved out of the area about 1936.  It can be assumed then that Ruth gave her mother the book sometime between 1924 and 1934 and that it was carefully read and passed from Alma to Emma to Sophia to Belle and finally to Cecelia by 1936.  As far as the occasion for the gift, we can only imagine.

“See America First ~ and Don’t Forget Craigville!” ~  Itasca County during Prohibition ~ part 8 of 8

3.18.2021 [archived ~ previously published 10.25.2020]

“Saturday Night in a Saloon” is one of the most famous photographs taken by photographer Russell Lee. It was shot in a bar that were still operating in Craigville in 1937. Lee was employed by the Farm Bureau Administration and traveled throughout the United States between 1936 and 1943 documenting American classes and cultures. The popularity of the photograph is the result of the producers of the television show ‘Cheers’ (1982-1993) using it in a montage with the theme song at the beginning of the show. [Courtesy of the Library of Congress. Access permitted reproduction number LC-USF34-030584]

Craigville is an unincorporated village located in section 36 of township 63-26, in Koochiching County.  Effie is four miles from the northern boundary of Itasca County, and Craigville is just over the county line (although locals know that at times Craigville has extended south into Itasca County).

The community is named for John Craig who was a woodsman who emigrated from Canada in 1883. John Craig (1941-2015) explained, “My grandfather came to Grand Rapids as a lumberjack for the Itasca Logging Company and he was the foreman in charge of all the camps.  His job was to hire lumberjacks and make sure the camps were running.  In the spring when they took the logs away, his job was to set up new camps for the next year.  Usually they built five camps every year and that was his perpetual job, keeping the places running.  That’s really how the town of Craigville got started. It was when they hired them [his crew] up at Craig.” [2010 interview, Itasca County Historical Society (ICHS)]

It is not clear exactly where the last camp that Craig built was located.  He died in January 1912.  John Reid of the lumber company Blake, Hawkins and Reid, stated in a 1960 lecture. “We built the first structure there [at Craig], a log camp, in 1912.”  [ICHS]  Reid bought out his partners in 1914 and operated a successful saw mill and lathe mill in Craigville until the Depression curtailed the need for the product in 1929.

Craigville Snapshot

The site had such extensive logging around it that during logging season thousands of loggers might be found in the local taverns. For most of the fourteen years that Prohibition was in place, the taverns of Craigville remained active. There were no lawmen in Craigville and it was a full day of travel from International Falls where the county jail was located.  Plenty of moonshine was made in the area, and it was rare that a tavern didn’t have what was needed to supply their patrons. Thus, Craigville was visited by folks from Itasca County as well as hordes of loggers.

Marion Brown (1902-1999) was a brakeman on the Minneapolis & Rainy River Railway between Deer River and Craigville during the latter part of Prohibition.  He commented on the way some situations were handled by the federal agents. “They [saloon owners] had an agreement with the bartenders in the event that the federal men would come down and close the joints up.  And they would put an official sign on the door.  But they had a standing agreement, the owners, and the bartenders, that the bartender would say that he was the owner.

“Well naturally, they would arrest him and take him to Duluth, and they had a standing agreement that he got five dollars a day for tending bar, and he also got five dollars a day for sitting in jail in Duluth.  And those feds wouldn’t be at the top of the hill about two miles out of Craig, and there would be another bartender in these joints.  The signs on the door didn’t mean a thing.” [Interview with Marion Brown conducted by John Esse 1975 ICHS]

In February1926, Frank Miller, the proprietor of a hotel in Deer River, reported to the Itasca News that he had seen the sights and sounds of Craigville and recommended that others do too. Miller had been to one of the logging camps with a local physician to check on a family member and they stopped on the way home at a saloon. “‘We saw seven fights [bar brawls] in fifty-two minutes,’ said Mr. Miller. ‘And believe me, they were no petting parties.  It was just zip-bang-whang from start to finish.’

“Entering a refreshment establishment with one of the proprietors, the bartender was found prostrate across the counter.  The owner shook him savagely.  An argument followed, ‘Come out doors and tell me that,’ yelled the barkeep.  Out they went. Bim-Bam-Flooie! And it was all over.  The other partner appeared.  ‘Hey! What you doing’ with that fellow? I hired him.’ ‘And I fired him,’ was the reply.  ‘What you goin’ to do about it?’

‘You would have thought it was the month of June,’ said Miller.  ‘They sat around on ice cakes, piles of timber, just anywhere, at midnight.’ Mr. Miller insists that the management of the Great Northern railway has overlooked a good bet.  On the side of every box car put out by the company, is painted in large letters: See America First!  He says the slogan is incomplete, and at the next meeting of the commercial club will ask for a committee to appear before Great Northern officials and ask them to add at the bottom: And Don’t Forget Craigville!” [2-11-1926 Itasca News]

Two months after Miller’s visit to Craigville, the infamous gunfight between Dan McGinty and Mike Cunningham took place in the Gem Cafe.  Although Cunningham was seriously injured, he shot McGinty through the heart, killing him instantly.  Cunningham survived, but did not return to Craigville. My guest contributor, Mark Anderson wrote about this in a 2016 Reminisce column. Email me to request a copy.

Howard Park was born in 1922 in Internationals Falls.  In about 1925, the family moved to Craigville where his father, Mike, built a saloon, poker parlor, lunchroom and sauna.  Many of the lumberjacks were Finnish and patronized all facets of the business built by a fellow Finn. The Eagle Bath House was a busy and lucrative place.  Howard described it as one of the nicest businesses in town. Practically all the buildings were tarpaper sided shacks and saloons.  Ours had siding that was blue-gray mineral surface roofing with battens.  It was about 32 x 60 with the rear 15 feet devoted to a sauna and dressing room.  An adjoining shop allowed feeding the sauna heating stove.  We also had the only electric lights in Craig via a generator and several banks of large glass batteries.

“My father served moonshine, Canadian liquor, and a home brew to the jacks as did the other saloons.  He also served as mediator during fights, loaned money, and kept a ‘tab’ for the jacks which they paid when payday came again.  I can remember seeing him coloring moonshine with caramel to look like bourbon.  Also using charred wood kegs to ‘age’ some of the harsher booze.”  [Correspondence Howard Parks and Bill Marshall 1995-2000, ICHS]

Howard was about six years old when he had a bit of a run in with a lumberjack he refers to as Pillicuffie. This may be Billy Coffie, a man I have found mentioned elsewhere. I have a vivid memories of Pillicuffie.  For some reason, probably on a weekday, only a few jacks were in the saloon, my father must have been out temporarily, and I was sort of babysitting the store.  My memory is faint but Pillicuffie started to tease me or something and I became angry.  I ran into a side room where my father kept his only gun, a single shot 410 shotgun, and grabbed it to chase Pillicuffie. 

“Well, I knew I would not shoot him for such a small reason, and he realized it soon also.  So he, in turn chased me around the bar with me threatening him with the gun. (He had more guts than sense to provoke a 6-year-old with a loaded gun.) Anyway, it was resolved, probably with my father’s returning to the saloon.” 

Sadly, in January 1929, Howard’s father Mike committed suicide.  Howard, his younger brother, and their mother Lydia were devastated. Lydia, with the help of her sons, kept the business running for a few more years before selling it.  The steam bath was the only place to get clean other than the river, so it remained a viable business into the 1950s.  

Seclusion Made it Easy

It seems hard to believe that there wasn’t more of an effort made to follow shipments of supplies that could be used for making moonshine.  Maybe northern Minnesota was just not a place to worry about compared to the large cities where organized crime and moonshine went hand in hand.  Marion Brown recalled: “We used to haul practically by the carload, it wasn’t brown sugar, but it was some type of hard sugar that felt and handled more like a bale than a sack of sugar, and raisins.  That’s what they made the moonshine out of, and the going price for moonshine I know at that time to these joints, from the moonshiner was four dollars, four and a half dollars a gallon.  We had one moonshiner up there that was better than the rest of them, and he would get five and a half, six dollars for his, but his clientele were more or less the business people, the loggers and people like that around the area. [Marion Brown Interview 1975, ICHS]

Alcohol arrests in the far north were minimal.  These are the only records I found in the local papers. 

~ “Frank Flint was arrested in the northern part of Itasca County, near Craig, by Deputies Dickie, Dunn and Tupper.  He pleaded guilty to operating a liquor nuisance and paid a fine of $100.” [12-17-1924 Grand Rapids Herald-Review]

~ “John Quinn and Ethel Hines, formerly located at Craig, moved to an old logging camp west of Bigfork, where they were in Itasca County instead of Koochiching, in order to be handy to sell liquor to the road crews operating in that vicinity.  Quinn paid a fine of $100 and costs, while his consort paid $50 and costs, and it was intimated to both of them that Itasca County was not a place for them.” [8-3-1927 Grand Rapids Herald-Review]

~ “Cornelius B. Francisco of Craig was arrested last Saturday by a deputy sheriff and charged with maintaining a liquor nuisance at the Effie Fair.  Francisco pleaded guilty and was sentenced to pay a fine of $100 and costs or serve 60 days in jail.” [9-10-1930 Grand Rapids Herald-Review]

~ “Victor Parsons of Craig was arrested at a dance near Effie by Harry Lamson, special dance deputy.  Parsons was charged with selling liquor at the dance, and when arraigned before Judge Keo Leroux pleaded guilty. As this is a matter for determination by a district judge, Parsons was remanded in jail until he could be brought up in district court.” [3-2-1932 Grand Rapids Herald-Review]

Why Quit a Good Thing

Gene Rajala was born three years after Prohibition was repealed, but he told me that anyone who made good moonshine always had buyers. “We had a moonshiner who made moonshine way later.  He lived about two miles from us and when he’d come by, he always brought my dad a pint or half pint. His name was Archie Loven, but you won’t find his name [in the newspapers] because he was too smart.  He always had a nice big shiny car and wore a bow tie.  His wife, Lizzie had really nice clothes compared to the farmwives and homesteaders around here. He wasn’t employed. He had a homestead but never cleared land or farmed it or had livestock.  He was just kind of a ‘fancy Dan’ moonshiner.

“He took his product to the dances at all the town halls.  He’d park in the parking lot and sell half pints from the trunk of his car.  You never got rid of a half pint bottle (slender, easy to fit in shirt pocket) – it was worth more than the whiskey in it! Archie had contacts with the town hall supervisors and maybe some of the bands. They were here making and selling moonshine up until the 1950s.” [Interview 10-10-2020]

I verified the facts on the Lovens, but have not (yet) on another moonshiner Gene remembers.  “Tryanoski’shad made booze in Chicago and then set up an operation on Holstrum’s Spur which was in Koochiching County.  They brought all their equipment with them and also some folks who had been making it for them. One of them was named Joe Hammond.”  [Interview 10-10-2020]

Final Words

I wrote the first of this series in July, encouraged in part by the memories of my grandfather, Clarence Scheer.  I’m sure if he was still alive Gramps would chuckle as you did at the names he recognized and the ingenuity of the moonshiners.  Regarding Craigville, there are many more stories to be told, some of which I will highlight in this column in the future.    

“Peddling Booze on the Side” ~ Itasca County During Prohibition ~ part 7 of 8

3.16.2021 [archived ~ originally published 10.11.2020]

In 1925 Dr. Dumas was manager of the Deer River Baseball Team.  He is pictured here with the three Guertin brothers.  All were indicted as part of the Bootleg Ring in 1928. The players are left to right, front row: L. Guertin, Fleming, Grimes, H. GuertinP. Guertin. Back row: Dr. DF Dumas, manager; Kester, Jake Reigel, coach and utility, Zackariasen, Schouweiler, Lavoy, and Geo. H Herreid.

Six months ago, I wrote about the dedication of Dr. Delbert F. Dumas, the primary physician for Deer River, during the 1918-1920 Spanish Influenza epidemic.  Ten years later, he was arrested as part of a bootlegging ring and eventually sentenced to Leavenworth Penitentiary.

I first came across the name Dumas and the words booze and prison years ago when reading the transcripts of an interview done with Isabelle (Wagner) Lekander from Deer River.  Born in 1914, Isabelle would have been about the same age as Dr. Dumas’ children, and her most likely was a patient at one time or another.  She said, “Dr. Dumas was peddling booze on the side and got sent to some prison. He is in with these big deals.  Then he moved from here to Bemidji.”

Delbert Frederick Dumas graduated from the College of Physicians and Surgeons at the University of Illinois. He had been a practicing physician for five years before opening an office in Cass Lake in 1907.  Nine years later, he and his wife Hazel settled in Deer River with their two children, Fred and Julia. Their last child, Delbert Jr. “Buster,” was born in 1917.   

Dr. Dumas seemed to have a lucrative practice and was a community leader.  In 1925, he was the manager for the Deer River baseball team and expanded his time to include the northern communities.  “In order to give better service to patients, Dr. Dumas has changed the day of making visits to Bigfork, and in the future, he will be at the Woodland Hotel every Tuesday instead of Saturday. This change is made for the reason that in case medicine needs to be mailed to the patients, it will reach them much earlier than if he made his visits here on Saturday.” [ Bigfork Times 6-19-1925]

In 1927, he was lauded for investing in an ultra-violet ray lamp for the treatment of tuberculosis, eczema, anemia, and various skin diseases.  “When installed, the doctor will be the possessor of equipment most uncommon in villages the size of Deer River. This is a most expensive piece of equipment, and the doctor is to be commended for bringing one to this section.” [Itasca News 1-27-1927]

What Happened?

I’m not sure why Dumas was involved in illegal liquor activities.  I have a few sketchy newspaper articles, but because the trial took place in Federal Court in Duluth very little information was available in the local newspapers.  The initial arrests were made in the fall of 1928, but Dr. Dumas and others involved were not convicted until December 1931.  The only mention that might be about this case was in the last paragraph of an article about Prohibition. “Several other arrests were made by members of the sheriff’s force during the week, but trials or hearings are yet to be conducted after thorough investigations have been made.” [Grand Rapids Herald-Review 11-21-1928]

Liquor Ring is Broken Up Now ~ Grand Rapids Herald-Review 12-16-1931

“Several Itasca County citizens are concerned in a liquor ring which it is alleged operated in two counties last spring.  Seven men were sentenced to the Federal Penitentiary at Leavenworth, Kansas and one is to be confined in the Itasca County Jail. The man who federal operators claim is the leader is to be tried this week in Federal Court in Duluth.

“Dr. Delbert F. Dumas who practiced for many years at Deer River but who moved to Bemidji some months ago, pleaded not guilty when brought up in Federal Court and is to be tried this week.  In the same case, Leo Guertin of White Oak Point was sentenced to three years in federal prison but placed on probation. Paul Guertin, Jr. was sentenced to six months in the Itasca County Jail.  Andy Walker and Ben Peterson, who live west of Deer River, pleaded guilty but will not be sentenced until after Dr. Dumas has been tried.  Charges against Henry Guertin, Arthur Haglund, and Oliver DePalma were dismissed.

“Seven men who live in and near Hibbing must go to Leavenworth or some other federal prison for their connection in this alleged liquor ring.  They are Mike DePalma, one year and a day; Joe Venni, two years; Louie Schiclich, one year and a half; George Potvin, one year and a day; Frank Sikich, two years; Louis Salata and Jack Green, each a year and a day.

“This case has been under investigation by federal operators for about half a year.  It is claimed that the still which was finally seized at a location north of Hibbing, had been operated at one time west of Deer River and again in the vicinity of White Oak Point.  There has been a great deal of speculation locally as to the identity of all parties involved, and this statement coming from the federal court will clear up that matter.”

Leo, Henry, and Paul Guertin were brothers.  At the time of the arrests, they lived with their parents, Paul Sr. and Mary, on a farm at White Oak Point about six miles south of Deer River.  Andy Walker’s farm was four miles northwest of Deer River on what is now County Road 46, and Ben Peterson lived nearby.  Dr. Dumas lived in the village of Deer River.  The other men involved in the moonshine operation were located in St. Louis County. 

Of course, my interest was piqued by the last statement in the article, “there has been a great deal of speculation locally as to the identity of all parties involved and this statement coming from the federal court will clear up that matter.” Therefore, I was disappointed when none of the trial details were available in later local newspapers.

Dumas Convicted on Liquor Count ~ Grand Rapids Herald-Review 12-23-1931

“In a verdict handed down by a jury in Federal Court in Duluth Friday morning, Dr. Delbert F. Dumas, Bemidji physician, was found guilty on manufacturing liquor.  A sealed verdict had been returned in the case the night before after the jury had deliberated three and one-half hours.  Sentencing was continued by Judge William Cant to 10 a.m. Monday, Dec 28.  A.M. Carey of Minneapolis, attorney for Dr. Dumas, asked for a stay, claiming that Dr. Dumas is in a serious condition physically.  Pending an examination, Dr. Dumas is out on a $10,000 bond.

“Dr. Dumas faces a maximum sentence under the Jones act of five years in the federal penitentiary at Leavenworth and $10,000 fine.  Although indicted on three counts involved in connection with the operation of a still on a farm four miles from Deer River in the fall of 1928, possession of mash and manufacturing of liquor, the first two charges were dismissed at the opening of the trial, and the defendant tried in the manufacturing count.

“Arthur Haglund of Hibbing, a partner in the truck firm who testified for the government that he hauled sugar and supplies to the farm and was indicted with Dr. Dumas, was released yesterday.  Mike Knozovich of Hibbing, another defendant, was also released.  Ben Peterson and Andy Walker, owner of the farm, also indicted with Dr. Dumas, who had pleaded guilty earlier in the week, were placed on probation.  Peterson was given a year and a day at Leavenworth and paroled for two years.  Walker’s sentence was continued to December 1933, with a two-year parole clause included. Five other men indicted with Dr. Dumas have not been apprehended.”

On Monday, Dec 28, Judge William Cant sentenced Dr. Dumas to serve 3½ years in the Federal Penitentiary at Leavenworth, Kansas, and that he also pay a fine of $2500.  Dumas’ attorney, A. M. Cary, indicated he would ask the circuit court of appeals for a new trial.  I could find no further mention of this and had to search before I eventually located brief notes about the case in the Iron Range Magnet News of the Week column.

Jan 29, 1932 ~ “Dumas has been granted an additional stay until Feb 17, according to an Associated Press dispatch from Duluth, which stated there was no federal judge in Duluth at the present time. At the time of sentencing, counsel for Dr. Dumas intimated an appeal would be made.”

Feb 26, 1932 ~ “Dr. D.F. Dumas’ sentence has again been extended until Mar 1, as Judge Cant is ill.”

I could find no more information on Dumas until 1934 when he is listed in the Bemidji City Directory as a physician!  He died in 1939 and was interred beside his parents in the Lakewood Cemetery in Minneapolis.  I believe there is much more to Delbert Frederick Dumas. When the Gale Library at the Minnesota Historical Society is open once again, I will pursue my research there.  If Cary appealed his case, the court documents should be on file.

“Did You Ever Hear Oscar Pearson Sing?” ~ We’ve Got Talent ~ Part I

3.14.2021

My grandfather, Clarence “Conny” Scheer, was a jack of all trades – lumberjack, fruit picker, miner, barber.  He also, on occasion, sang for his supper. As a kid, I remember him playing the ukulele, one of his many stringed instruments.  He would sing, “You Are my Sunshine,” “Good Night Irene” and even some bawdy tunes he learned while in the Philippines during WWII. Gramps started singing for the public when he was about nine years old, under the tutelage of William and Ivy Bischoff.  The Bischoffs lived in Bigfork, provided music for local dances, and taught violin, piano, and voice.

As a young adult Gramps entered contests when he had a chance, and I found evidence of this in an article in the July 28, 1938, Itasca Progressive. “The Major Bowes Amateur Hour and dance at the village hall last Saturday night proved to be a function that furnished ample entertainment to all those who took advantage of attending and was pronounced a success both from the financial and social standpoint.  The winners are as follows: Rosemary Lorgren first prize as piano accordion player, Jasmer Bros., second prize singing and guitar, and Clarence Scheer third prize for solo singing and guitar.  Thanks goes to the judges Mrs. F. Evensen, Sextus Solomson and Lindy Kyndahl. Also to Mr. Graham for the very satisfactory manner in which he carried out the part as Major Bowes.” The Major Bowes Amateur Hour was an American radio talent show broadcast in the 1930s and 1940s, created and hosted by Edwards Bowes.  The Bigfork event was not affiliated with the radio show, but because of the popularity the name was used, and Mr. Graham acted as the host.

Circus performances, minstrel shows, and other traveling entertainment have always included northern Minnesota in their circuits, but back in the early years, such events were generally few and far between.  Local talent was encouraged and cultivated, sometimes to raise money for a worthy cause, sometimes it was a contest, or other times it was  pure entertainment.  Below is a smattering of local performance artists.

In 1909, a five-act drama was performed as a benefit for first the Deer River Catholic Church and then the Methodist Church.

A Home Talent Play “The Strike” ~ Itasca News 1-16-1909

“The talk of the town is the home talent play, ‘The Strike’ or ‘In the Shadow of a Crime.’ Which will be staged at Winslow’s Hall next Tuesday night by all local talent for the benefit of the Catholic Church. The show is an exemplification of the conditions of today as between the laborer and mechanic and the big employer, and as the company having the entertainment in hand has the production well mastered, these facts and together with the cause in mind for which the play is given ought to ensure a liberal attendance.  It is expected that more tickets will be sold than there are seats in the opera house, and so that all who wish may see the play, it is agreed that if the hall is overcrowded the play will be put on again at a near future date for the benefit of the Methodist Church.”

The cast included the following individuals: Mrs. Odelia Golla, Albert Hachey, James Hewis, Owen Hulehan, Cyrus King, Frank Mohr, Fred Nelson, Laura O’Connell, and Earl Shreve. The performance was considered a great success and the church netted eighty-seven dollars.  A second performance was indeed scheduled for early March to benefit the Methodist Church.  Many of those who went to the first performance promised to attend again. Some went for the play and others to hear Miss Francis Winsor and Miss McCormick sing between the acts.

When radio became something that could be enjoyed in the rural areas, some radio stations offered opportunities for local talent to be discovered.

Staging Big Radio Discovery Contest ~ Deer River News 4-14-1927

“Broadcasting station WAMD will stage a talent discovery contest at the Grand Theater in Grand Rapids next week.  Preliminary contests will be held Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday evenings, with the finals Thursday night.

Six contestants will compete each night in the preliminaries.  The audience will choose two, who enter the finals.  The winner of the final contest will be given a free trip to Minneapolis, to compete in the statewide contest, when $1,000 in prizes will be awarded.

Several entries have been made from Deer River.  They will compete Monday night.  The list up to today included Roberta Womack [vocal solo], Marguerite Foley [vocal solo], Helen Holl, Esther Lindgren [vocal duet], Lawrence Brown, Wm. Forsman, and Wm. Stejskal [vocal trio].”

The winners of the first night in the preliminary contest were Lawrence Brown, William Forsman, and William Stejskal. Lawrence was sixteen, and the other two boys were eighteen.  The final contest was also at the Grand Theater in Grand Rapids, but I could not find the results of the competition in either the Grand Rapids or Deer River newspapers.

Dances have long been an enjoyable pastime for young and old.  If someone with a fiddle would play, others would dance. If more than one member of a family was musical, they might consider establishing themselves as a band for hire.  The Fideldy brothers near Cohasset and the Ingstad brothers from Jesse Lake are two examples. Another is the Niskanen family from Good Hope township in the northern part of Itasca County.  John and his wife Manda immigrated from Finland in 1913. By 1927 they had four children, and at least eleven-year-old Hans was musical. Hans played the accordion while his father played the drums (see photograph). As a young man, Hans received a generous cash prize for another excellent talent he possessed.

Wins $1,000 in Fur Dressing Contest ~ Deer River News 6-2-1940

“Hans Niskanen, popular young man of Squaw Lake and well known for his ability as an accordion player, this week won an honor well worth winning.

Several weeks ago, the large firm of Sears, Roebuck and Co., Chicago, inaugurated a fur dressing contest, offering liberal prizes for the best dressed pelts submitted.  Mr. Niskanen entered the contest, submitting a mink pelt for his entry.

Last Monday Mr. Niskanen received a letter from the company, with which was enclosed a check for $1,000, and announcing that he had won first prize. In a nationwide contest, this is a great honor and Mr. Niskanen deserves great credit.”

In 1929, Deer River organized a very successful talent contest at the Lyceum Theater.  It was free to enter, offered cash prizes, and included a pie eating contest.

Home Talent Show Largely Attended ~ Deer River News 4-25-1929

“The home talent contest staged at the LyceumTtheater last night brought out what is believed to be the largest attendance that ever packed the local show house.  Long before the regular program began, every seat was taken, and more than a hundred people were standing.  Scores were unable to gain admission.

“Two dozen contestants from communities reaching from Grand Rapids to Bass Lake appeared on the program.  J.R. Mallatt of Grand Rapids was awarded first for all-round old-time fiddler and also in playing ‘The Girl I Left Behind Me,’ and ‘The Irish Washerwoman.’  W.T. Morrison won first for fiddler over 75 years of age, and Levi Lagos, from Bena placed first in playing a selection of the contestant’s own choosing.

“Other awards went to Ingstad Bros. of Jesse Lake for best duet, Karl Hammergren for best old-time song and accordion playing, Fideldy Bros. for best vaudeville number, John Byers for best stringed instrument number, and Albert DeZutter for the pie-eating contest.”  Albert was 14 years old!

I had previously learned that the Fideldy brothers were quite musical and traveled throughout the county to help make ends meet on the family farm. According to the 1930 U.S. Census there were three brothers, Vincent, Jerome, and Ralph.  There were five Ingstad brothers on the same census, Carl, Bernard, Thomas, Edward, and Arthur. In both instances I’m not sure which and how many brothers were the musicians.

Certainly, there are many more performers than I have highlighted here, and as always, I love to learn your family stories. Please email reminiscewithchris@yahoo.com or call 218-244-2127 to share.

And here is one more story I think you’ll enjoy.

Did You Ever Hear Oscar Pearson Sing? ~ Deer River News 1-19-1933

“Itasca County received special mention from the legislative scribe in last Sunday’s Minneapolis Journal.  Discussing Speaker Munn, the Journal said:

Mr. Munn incidentally renewed a friendship of 30 years ago when Oscar Pearson of Bigfork, Minn., member of the Itasca County Board, walked in on him at the Capitol Friday.  Back in 1904, Pearson was on his way to the St. Louis Exposition.  It was a long trip and he paused at Osseo to work a few days to earn his keep.  He connected up with Charles Munn’s father, who put him to work on a ditching job, and he stayed there some weeks.  Speaker Munn reminded Pearson that he later taught him many hymns some of which he still remembered.’”

Oscar Pearson immigrated from Sweden in 1901 at the age of 18.  It was three years later when he met seventeen-year-old Charlie and his father Matthew Munn. Charlie Munn served in the Minnesota House of Representatives 1927-1934.  Oscar Pearson was an Itasca County Commissioner when they became reacquainted at the State Capitol.

“Accused of Dabbling in Illicit Sale of Liquor” ~ Itasca County During Prohibition ~ part 6 of 8

3.10.2021 [archived ~ previously published 9.27.2021]

Women Bootleggers received much lighter sentences for their crimes. “In 1925, a woman in Milwaukee admitted earning $30,000 a year bootlegging. That is over $400,000 in today’s dollars. The court only fined her $200 and sentenced her to a month in jail. Another court sentenced a 22-year-old bootlegger in Denver, Esther Matson, to attend church every Sunday for two years. The President of the U.S. pardoned a Michigan woman bootlegger. Similarly, the governor of Ohio reduced a woman bootlegger’s sentence to only five days.” [www.alcoholproblemsandsolutions.org] 

According to prohibition enforcement officials, “more than 50,000 women are engaged in some way in the business of evading the laws formulated in accordance with the prohibition amendment to the Constitution of the United States.  They claim that the best smugglers of liquor over the borders of Mexico and Canada and through various ports of entry into the United States are members of the fairer sex. Some of the fair smugglers have had special garments made for them, which contain many pockets at points where they would not be especially noticeable.” [Bemidji Daily Pioneer 11-22-1921] This statement was made at the end of the second year of Prohibition. I wonder what the statistics were at the end, a dozen years later!

There were famous female bootleggers with names like ‘Queen of the Mountain Bootlegger,’ ‘Birdie Brown’ and the ‘Henhouse Bootlegger.’  Though there were plenty of women involved in the manufacturing, transporting, and selling of illegal alcohol in Minnesota, none were considered famous.  The Princeton newspaper offered this editorial about women who made moonshine. “The dailies tell us that a woman bootlegger was captured in Chicago.  We fancy woman ‘galosher’ would be a more correct appellation.” [Princeton Union 2-2-1922]

Whatever state they were arrested in, women were likely to receive lighter sentences.  “In 1925, a woman in Milwaukee admitted earning $30,000 a year bootlegging. That is over $400,000 in today’s dollars. The court only fined her $200 and sentenced her to a month in jail. Another court sentenced a 22-year-old bootlegger in Denver, Esther Matson, to attend church every Sunday for two years. The President of the U.S. pardoned a Michigan woman bootlegger. Similarly, the governor of Ohio reduced a woman bootlegger’s sentence to only five days.” [www.alcoholproblemsandsolutions.org] 

In Itasca County, most of the arrests of women breaking liquor laws (recorded in the newspapers) were living in towns on the Iron Range.  On the western side of the county, where there were farms, the women who were caught with moonshine were assisting their husbands with the process. This column focuses on the women from the Iron Range but first a bit of humorous history. When William Jacob Stockey was arrested, his wife Pauline “Polly” came to his defense at his trial.

Moonshiner has Novel Excuse ~ Grand Rapids Herald-Review 4-4-1923

“All sorts of excuses and alibis have been offered by those who violate the liquor laws of this state and nation, but it remained for W.J. Stockey, who lives in the east part of the village of Grand Rapids, to spring an entirely new one.  He claimed that his wife had made the mash discovered in his home and used it as medicine, benefitting from outward application.

“Acting upon information received, Sheriff O’Brien went out to the Stockey home last Sunday evening and arrested Mr. Stockey.  A search of the premises revealed several jugs which had contained moonshine, and still held small quantities, a still concealed in the attic, and in the parlor of the home, nestled alongside the heating stove, a 50-gallon barrel nearly full of corn mash, sizzling away in good shape.

“Upon being arraigned before Judge Keo Leroux for a preliminary hearing Monday, Stockey denied all knowledge of the barrel of mash.  His wife asked to be permitted to take the stand and said that she had made the mash to prepare medicine to relieve sore and aching feet.  She found it hard to explain why 40 gallons of mash were necessary for the foot soaking process but claimed that she had derived much benefit from the novel remedy, which most users take internally.”

Widows Trying to Make Ends Meet

Nora Gallagher, one of the notable women bootleggers, was a widow with five children. When she was arrested for making moonshine in her kitchen, she explained that she needed the money to buy Easter outfits for her children.  In our county, there were three widows with children arrested for violating liquor laws.

In March 1922, Mrs. Anna Sertich’s home in Keewatin was searched by a county deputy on suspicion that she was making illegal alcohol. Moonshine, mash, “and a still that has seen much use during a long period of time were seized.  It is expected that the children will be taken care of under the direction of C.B. Webster, judge of probate, and the mother tried for violations of the liquor law.  Moral conditions are said to be far from what they should be in this home, and there is little likelihood that the children would be permitted to remain there even if the violations of the liquor law were not involved.” [Grand Rapids Herald-Review 4-5-1922]

Anna (Krpon) Sertich was the wife of Emil.  He worked in the mines and died before her youngest child’s second birthday.  When she was arrested, she was caring for four children under the age of ten and her elderly father.  Her children may have been placed in foster care while Anna completed her sentence, but according to the U.S. Census, they lived in Keewatin with her and her second husband, John Schimich, by1930.

Annie Chrep married Mike Tarbuck in 1914, ten years after she had immigrated with her family from Austria. Mike died in 1921, the same year their third child was born. With three small children, women in Annie’s position had little choice but to take in laundry and mending or do piecework of some sort in the home.  That was often not enough to put food on the table. 

Mrs. Tarbuck was arrested on liquor nuisance charges in Calumet twice in November 1923.  She promptly paid the fines of $50 and $100. Liquor nuisance could be supplying alcohol by the glass.  Perhaps she thought it would be less dangerous to pour drinks for those who came to her home, rather than making moonshine. By 1925, Annie had married Paul Santrach, and the number of children in the family had grown to five.

Mary (also called Zivka) Bogdonovich was another widow from Calumet struggling to make ends meet.  Her husband, John, had died in the early 1920s leaving Mary with five school-age children. Her two adult sons contributed when they could but also had their own families.  In September 1924, Mary was found guilty of maintaining a liquor nuisance and was fined $50 and costs.  Mary did not remarry.  She died in 1932 when her youngest was thirteen.

Mr. and Mrs. Arrested

Edna Giard was another notable bootlegger. She married a bootlegger, and they were both involved in the manufacturing and distribution of alcohol from Chicago to the northern states for Al Capone.  From the Iron Range, there were five couples arrested at the same time for manufacture, transport, or sale of alcohol.

 ~ “Rosie Wuckovich, who had her place of manufacturing south of Keewatin, pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 90 days in the county jail.  She will begin her term in 45 days, as her husband is already serving a 90-day sentence in St. Louis County for a similar offense, and the wife was allowed to remain at home until his release, in order to care for the family.” [Grand Rapids Herald-Review 4-21-1924]

It appears that Rosie wanted to drink with friends one last time before going to jail. As luck would have it, she was arrested.  She pled guilty to a liquor nuisance charge and started serving her extended sentence immediately.

~ “Mr. and Mrs. Ed Wills, of Bovey, were arrested up in Lawrence Township and charged with transporting liquor. They pleaded guilty. Mrs. Wills was fined and began her jail sentence.  Mr. Wills will start his jail term of 30 days when she is released.” [Grand Rapids Herald-Review 10-15-1924]

~ “George and Rose Mandich of Calumet, both old offenders, pleaded guilty when confronted with the evidence obtained by members of the sheriff’s squad.  They had liquor in possession with intent to sell.  Fines of $200 each were levied on Mr. and Mrs. Mandich, and both will be compelled to serve thirty days in the county jail.” [Grand Rapids Herald-Review 5-25-1927]

~ “Judge Stanton sentenced several persons who desired to plead guilty to violating the liquor laws of the state.  Rex Morrow of Lawrence Lake, an old offender, was given a jail term of 90 days and a fine of $300, with 60 days additional if the fine is not paid.  His wife, Anna Morrow, arrested at the same time drew 30 days and a fine of $150, with 30 days additional if the fine is not paid.  Mrs. Morrow will serve her sentence, then return to their home to care for the farm while her husband does his time.”  [Grand Rapids Herald-Review 7-15-1925]

~ Nick and Sarah Skorich of Calumet were arrested at different times but started their jail sentence on the same day. “Sheriff Harmond and his deputies raided many places in this country during the past week, with the result that the flow of illicit liquor was still further dammed up.  Some are in jail. Some paid heavy fines. Others are out on bail awaiting trial in district court. Nick Skorich of Calumet was arrested on a charge of manufacturing moonshine, waived examination, and furnished bail in the sum of $1000 to ensure his appearance in district court.” [Grand Rapids Herald-Review 8-3-1927]

~ “Sarah Skorich of Calumet was bound over under bail of $1000 when charged with having intoxicating liquor in possession with intent to sell.  Bail is not yet furnished.” [Grand Rapids Herald-Review 8-31-1927] A few weeks later, Sarah was given a sentence of 30 days and $100 fine. Nick received a sentence of 60 days and a $150 fine.

Women Imbibing

Though women had always imbibed, they rarely did so in public before Prohibition. In small towns, there were no places for women to drink anonymously. With Prohibition, it was easier for women to set a place up in their home for others to assemble, drink homemade liquor, and perhaps dance. Here are three examples of ‘home speaks’ (speakeasy drinking establishments) on the Iron Range.

~ “Mrs. Delia Hagen was arrested in Calumet on Sunday, and a gallon of moonshine was found in her possession.  She pleaded guilty to a liquor nuisance charge on Monday before Judge Leroux and was given a jail sentence of 60 days, without the option of a fine.” [Grand Rapids Herald-Review 2-6-1924]

~ “Monotony of the daily grist of the law violations was broken in justice court on Tuesday when Mrs. Sam Dimich of Bovey pleaded guilty to maintaining a liquor nuisance at her home there.  The arrest was made by Sheriff O’Brien and Deputy Dickie.  Upon her plea of guilty, Mrs. Dimich was assessed a fine of $100 and costs, with an alternative of 30 days in the county jail.” [Grand Rapids Herald-Review 5-28-1924] Mrs. Dimich’s first name was Katherine.

~ “Mrs. Selma Rikala of Nashwauk was arrested last Saturday by Phil Griffin, deputy sheriff, and accused of dabbling in illicit sales of liquor.  Upon being arraigned before Judge Leroux in Grand Rapids, Mrs. Rikala pleaded guilty to maintaining a liquor nuisance, and was fined $100 and costs, which she paid.” [Grand Rapids Herald-Review 7-29-1925] Selma’s maiden name was Vesola, and her husband’s name was Isaac.