Tag Archives: State Historical Society of North Dakota

Living Heritage

Yesterday, September 11, 2014, was a national and international day of observance. It also was the day of my aunt Mavis Barth’s funeral. Molly and I were asked and had the honor and privilege of being pall bearers. Today, September 12, I took off the shelf my copy of Braddock, ND: 1884-1984, a local and celebratory county history published for the city’s 1984 centennial. I did this because, it seems, I have gotten into a pattern of storing family funeral bulletins inside of the appropriate local county histories.

BraddockFor example, within this history of Braddock, I also have funeral bulletins from my late Grandfather David Barth (or “Papa Barth,” as we used to call him), which somehow made it into this book, I’m thinking in 2003, shortly after he passed. His brother‘s bulletin was in there as well. And next to Vivian Barth‘s funeral bulletin (my late Grandma Barth), I placed Mavis’s bulletin. Also within the Braddock local history was the front cover of Volume 60, Number 2 (Spring 1993), of North Dakota History: The Journal of the Northern Plains. I have uploaded the photo here.

The caption of the photo is such:

“Front Cover: Iva Edholm, who lived outside of Braddock, North Dakota, sent this postcard picturing the Braddock train depot to his brother Linus Persson in Sweden. It is postmarked July 21, 1909.”

This photo further interested me because of the Barth family history, at least of the arrival of my family surname in the state of North Dakota. On page 108 of the Braddock history, it says, verbatim,

“David L. (Reny) Barth came out to North Dakota from Cleveland, Ohio on October 22, 1908. Leaving a job with the Ohio-Penn Railroad, he came to learn farming in North Dakota. During the first winter he lived in the back room of the Braddock depot. In the spring he moved to a farm six miles south of Braddock. He worked as a farm hand and as a substitute mail carrier.”

So I am kind of piecing together why that front cover issue of the North Dakota History journal made its way into the Braddock book: my great grandpa Barth spent a winter in the pictured depot. Heritage and history is fun this way, and I always hope that I can think about it a bit more than just when family funerals take place.

Happy Mother’s Day

Vivian in the late-1910s on the Swedish-American farmstead just northeast of Bremen, Wells County, North Dakota.

Vivian in the late-1910s on the Swedish-American farmstead just northeast of Bremen, Wells County, North Dakota. That is Vivian’s handwriting at the top of the photo too.

It’s Mother’s Day (of course, every day is mother’s day). It is a holiday with origins in the post-Civil War (American) generation, championed by Anna Jarvis just after the turn of the 19th century. The idea was to get together all the moms who had sons die in the Civil War. Today we use it to recognized the heroine feats of motherhood.

Molly and I drove over to Bismarck, North Dakota, to spend Mother’s Day weekend with Julie and Paul (my parents). I also got flowers for Molly’s late mother a couple days ago, because mothers are all around us. Always. Last night, before bed, Molly and I (or Molly and Me, which has a nice ring to it) stumbled into a family archive in Julie and Paul’s basement. Numerous photos from my late grandmother, Vivian Marie (Larson) Barth, who passed away a year ago this month.

There are a lot of photos within the archive, and a personal project goal will be to digitize them, get family members digital copies, and then consider conversations with archivists at the State Historical Society of North Dakota or NDSU’s North Dakota Institute for Regional Studies or UND’s Special Collections for eventual curation. This is why we have state historical societies and regional archives: it captures what us global locals have been on about from one generation to the next. And it is better to digitize and then curate them with a sound archives than to keep them in a box in your basement (which can flood, or something like that).

But back to Grandma Barth, and a couple photos I digitized for uploading purpose here. To celebrate Mother’s Day. The photo at top is of Vivian, taken likely in 1918 or 1919, just northeast of Bremen, northeastern Wells County, North Dakota. The second photo is of Vivian in the mid- to late-1930s, likely when she moved off the farm to Bismarck, North Dakota. And the third photo was taken likely during or around the time Vivian was attending one of those late-1930s college programs to train as a secretary. She later held positions at the Bank and state capitol of North Dakota. She did this while tending to her three boys and husband (a total of four boys). She was loving (and still is), hard-working (I remember she gardened up until she was 91), and she babysat us grandkids countless times.


Vivian in the late 1930s.


When I was real little, I remember being bummed out when my parents left for a couple weeks of vacation (I am blessed with great parents, so I tended to get bummed out in their absence). To set me at ease, before bed that night my grandma recounted a story of how her dad at the age of 13 boarded a boat in Sweden with his uncle, and set out for Ellis Island and America. She reminded me, “He was only 13.” Grandma had a way with bringing gravity and reason to any situation that was or seemed stressed. She also made extra ordinary chocolate chip cookies, Swedish meatballs, and, well, you name it. Here’s to you, Vivian. And Grandma Christy (for another blog, perhaps next Mother’s Day). And here’s to the memory of all mothers, and to making memories with our mothers today.

Vivian Marie (Larson) Barth, I'm thinking taken after she relocated from Bremen to Bismarck, North Dakota.

Vivian Marie (Larson) Barth, I’m thinking taken after she relocated from Bremen to Bismarck, North Dakota.

Historian Frank Vyzralek

So I’m sitting here at my desk this Saturday morning looking up some more details of the crop lien system of farming from the 1860s to 1890, and reading academic articles on the origins of agribusiness. I’m doing this in preparation for this coming week’s lectures that deal with a period of American history from 1890-1900. I’m engaged in my usual over-preparation, which I’m fine with. In fact, I find that as my over-preparation intensifies, the glorious edgy feeling one gets before lectures and presentations begins to ebb.

But even earlier this morning I caught an article in The Bismarck Tribune on the passing of Frank Vyzralek. Sometimes it’s okay to stop reading articles on the crop lien system of farming so as to direct that energy toward thinking about the passing of a friend and colleague. So I thought I’d type out just a couple immediate thoughts that came to me after reading about Frank this morning.

  • In doing my own research at the State Historical Society of North Dakota over the years, it was common to see Frank — long white hair and long white beard — at the microfiche reader, with laptop, typing out notes for one area of research or another.
  • On occasion, I would bump into Frank at a local watering hole in north Bismarck. I think the last conversation I had with Frank happened years ago, this about Joseph Henry Taylor. I remember Frank sipped a glass of red wine as we traded Joe Taylor points back and forth.

Thanks for all the history, Frank. Thanks for reminding us how unique a place North Dakota was, and is.

Welk Homestead and German-Russian Interest

The spike in blog visits resulted from a post on the State Historical Society of North Dakota's acquisition of the German-Russian Lawrence Welk homestead in Emmons County, North Dakota.

The spike in visits to my personal blog resulted from a post on the German-Russian Lawrence Welk homestead in Emmons County, North Dakota.

Just a couple days ago I looked at the blogging stats for a short piece I did on the Welk Homestead, this posted on January 21, 2014. I know that I’m interested in local history the world over, meaning that wherever I go, I want to know what happened before. But I also know that just because I’m interested in something doesn’t mean others are interested in it too. In the case of the Welk Homestead, though, and in the case of this blog (which, at this point in time, has a regular audience of 46), the number of views skyrocketed when I made some historical links between Welk and the German-Russians, and the State Historical Society of North Dakota acquiring the homestead.

Over at NDSU’s Center for Heritage Renewal and the Heritage Trails Facebook page, we’ve been chatting about the styles of various German-Russian vernacular architecture in North Dakota. On January 21, I posted my Welk/German-Russian blog to the Heritage Trails Facebook page, and this generated some feedback. It went like this, a comparative conversation between a German-Russian home north of Kulm, LaMoure County, southeastern North Dakota and that of the Hutmacher Complex just southwest of Killdeer, Dunn County, west-central North Dakota.

Janinne Paulson: “Great photo, Aaron!”

Suzzanne Kelley: “Interesting that this [Kulm] family added the L-porch, as did the Hutmachers [near Killdeer]. We’ve found that the porch corners created problems for maintaining the roof structure; here, they have TWO places for problems with erosion from convergent lines of run-off. Just wondering how that worked for them.”

Aaron Barth: “Was the L-porch used as a separate mud room, and perhaps as the initial entry to keep the cold out of the main home in the winter?”

Suzzanne Kelley: “Yes, which I suppose is what made the addition not only viable but necessary, despite the pitfalls of seaming an addition onto the original structure.”

Aaron Barth: “Not freezing to death is probably better than a leaky roof.”

Tom Isern: “OK, I just now studied this photo, and it’s evident this [Kulm] dwelling has an earthen roof, like the Hutmacher house, except this one uses some milled lumber for rafters. Also, it appears to me the earthen roof is composed of sods. This is different from what we tried with restoration of the Hutmacher roof. Recently we acquired evidence indicating that sods indeed were used in the Hutmacher case. So now we have to explore that further, and, I suspect, recalibrate. Also, I think Suzzanne is being kind, as usual. I think the L built onto the long house is a design mistake, vernacular though it may be, sure to cause water problems eventually.”

Aaron Barth: “We need an NSF grant to let someone live in the Hutmacher and a German-Russian east Missouri River home for a year and a half. I’m only 23% kidding…”

Richard Rothaus: “TV series.”

The temps in North Dakota, while we were (and still are) blogging and social-media-ing about this, have been sustained sub-zero, described by international meteorologists as some kind of Polar Vortexing. We don’t let the weather discourage us. But it does make us think about how 19th century inhabitants of the northern Great Plains survived, perceived of, described and thrived during the winters. Earthen homes are excellent for this, though, whether Dakota, Lakota, Nakota, Mandan-Hidatsa, or German-Russian. Want to learn how folks survived in pre-industrial times? Listen to the local history.

The Killdeer Mountain Battlefield Landscape

Basin Killdeer Proposed Route

The Bismarck Tribune’s graphic of the proposed route through what essentially is the Gettysburg of the Northern Great Plains, the Killdeer Mountain Battlefield from 1864. Historical actors involved included Sitting Bull, Inkpaduta, Gall, Sully, among others.

This morning a story broke in The Bismarck Tribune on a proposed transmission line route directly through the core area of the Killdeer Mountain Battlefield. North Dakota State University’s Center for Heritage Renewal, led by Professor Tom Isern, responded with the following media release:

Aug. 30, 2013

Media Advisory

The Center for Heritage Renewal at North Dakota State University is preparing a submission for the North Dakota Public Service Commission hearing in Killdeer on Sept. 4. The subject is an electrical power transmission line and substation proposed to be built, by Basin Electric, in the core area of the Killdeer Mountain Battlefield. The topic has been covered by North Dakota media, starting yesterday.

The Center for Heritage Renewal was established to identify, preserve and capitalize on the heritage resources of North Dakota and the northern plains. One of the center’s objectives is to assist state agencies, private organizations and the people of the state and region in generating prosperity and quality of life from heritage resources. Another objective is to provide expertise and action in the fields of historic preservation and heritage tourism.

The center recognizes the efforts of Basin Electric to support regional development but is concerned that the environmental impact statement for the project takes no cognizance of the historical significance of Killdeer Mountain. 

The center has signed a contract with the National Park Service to survey and study the Killdeer Mountain Battlefield, which the park service has identified as a significant Civil War-era site in North Dakota. The contract is with the American Battlefield Protection Program of the National Park Service.

Killdeer Mountain was the chosen ground on which Dakota and Lakota fighters, including Inkpaduta and Sitting Bull, confronted the Northwest Expedition, commanded by General Alfred Sully, on July 28, 1864. This was the largest military engagement ever to take place on the Great Plains of North America, and a crucial episode in the Dakota War of 1862-1864.

University Distinguished Professor Tom Isern, founding director of the center, observes, “Killdeer Mountain is the Gettysburg of the Plains. It is, arguably, the most significant historic site in all of North Dakota.”

Isern is available to discuss this issue. He can be reached at 701-799-2942

More to come…

Remembering Whitestone Hill 150 Years Later: August 24, 2013

On August 24, 2013 (a week from tomorrow), the State Historical Society of North Dakota is hosting the 150th year of observances at Whitestone Hill in southeastern North Dakota. You can drive to the site, and there is an official Facebook page which you can link to here. I also thought I’d just copy and paste the August 24, 2013 line up below. Here it is, verbatim, and I’ve also provided links with the particular names (just click on them to learn more):

Whitestone Hill 150th Commemoration event, Saturday, August 24, 2013
Schedule – August 2013
9 a.m. – 4 p.m.
Demonstration stations: all day
Dakota Lifeways, Dakota food demo, military life re-enactors, settler life re-enactors, Dakota drum and dance, Dakota War information, interpretive signs –either a prototype or actual sign that will be installed on site by SHSND
9 a.m. Kevin Locke – opening prayer 
9:15 0r 9:30 a.m. Ladonna Allard – Life in the James River Valley 
11 a.m. Richard M. Rothaus – “The Military Context of Whitestone Hill–Tactics, Artillery, and Non-Combatants.” 
11:45 a.m. Aaron Barth – “Remembering Whitestone Hill” 
1 p.m. speaker to be announced – Identity and Story of the Native People of Whitestone Hill
3 p.m. Speaker Panel – Preservation of Whitestone Hill – Past, Present and Future. Alden Flakoll, Board member of the Whitestone Hill Battlefield Historical Society, Dakota Goodhouse, Program Director for North Dakota Humanities Council, Ladonna Allard, Tourism Director for Standing Rock Reservation, Tamara St. John, Tribal Historian for Sisseton Wahpeton Tribal Historic Preservation Office, Diane Rogness, Historic Sites Manager for the State Historical Society of North Dakota.
4 p.m. Kevin Locke – dance
5:30 p.m. Buffalo supper, RSVP required

Memories and Material Culture for the State Historical Society of North Dakota

This is a historic pony truss railroad bridge that spans the Missouri River between Bismarck and Mandan. It is a cultural icon, and has an infinite amount of individual stories attached to it. If someone were to destroy or replace this bridge in the name of "progress," it would seriously hurt and damage the living local history and culture of Bismarck and Mandan.

This is a historic pony truss railroad bridge that spans the Missouri River between Bismarck and Mandan. It is a cultural icon, and has an infinite amount of individual stories attached to it.

Think of this for a second: one of the primary interests and concerns of historians is that memories are fixed to the stuff we use and live with. Memories are also fixed to the stuff that our parents, grandparents, and great grandparents used (landscapes, homesteads, historic buildings and structures included).

I recently received an e-mail forward from archaeological comrade and colleague Amy Bleier, Research Archaeologist with the State Historical Society of North Dakota (SHSND). As the lot of us within range of Bismarck already know, the SHSND is experiencing a much-needed expansion. This also means that Len Thorson, the Registrar with the SHSND, is looking for material culture, or 3-dimensional objects, or what we call “stuff.”

Stuff is much more meaningful if it has those stories and memories fixed and secured to it. And it allows historians to do what historians are trained to do: track change through time.

Thorson sent out the following e-mail the other day. It is cut and pasted below. In Thorson’s words:

The Museum Collections Committee is looking for contemporary items from North Dakota businesses and organizations that you have purchased and/or used… or someone you know who would be willing to donate objects to the SHSND. The items should be relatively small (for space considerations). A history of the object(s), along with appropriate documents and photographs, would add much historical significance to the objects.

Examples include product packages from Cass Clay, Hugo’s Family Marketplace, Dakota Pasta, Noodles by Leonardo, Red River Commodities/SunGold Foods (SunButter), HIT Inc. products, or many other products listed on the Pride of Dakota webpage: http://www.prideofdakota.com/

Other items (used in ND) we are seeking include: beekeeping equipment and supplies; Highway 10 memorabilia; items showing ND school consolidation; solar power devices; objects from the Bank of North Dakota; contemporary powwow related items; contemporary immigration related items; and modern agricultural items such as GPS equipment, and air seeder/drill parts, etc.

If this is something you wish to participate in, please let us know, but PLEASE don’t bring objects in for us to view. Simply reply to this e-mail, or even better, provide the information requested below. The information requested by us may also be sent online via the form at http://www.history.nd.gov/data/padq_emailform.html

Consider this. It is important. If you have some sweet modern artifacts — in the business, we often call this contemporary or modern archaeology and history — with a memory attached to it, you might contact Registrar Thorson, or anyone from the SHSND Museum Collections Committee. It is by and for North Dakotans.

Killdeer Mountain SB 2341 Post-Hearing Report

Rob Sand, a landowner local to Killdeer Mountains, testifies in support of SB 2341.

Rob Sand, a landowner immediate and local to the Killdeer Mountains, testifies in support of SB 2341.

A follow up to today’s hearing today at the capitol in Bismarck on Senate Bill 2341, spear-headed by North Dakota Senator Rich Wardner, and co-sponsored by a host of legislators. Individual archaeologists, Native historians, historians and local Killdeer Mountain land owners that testified in support of this bill included Tamara St. John, Dakota Goodhouse, Ladonna Brave Bull Allard, Waste Win Young, Tom Isern, Richard Rothaus, Kimball Banks, Rob Sand, Fern Swenson, Merl Paaverud, Tim Reed, and Mary Hoff (and I also testified, the synopsis of my testimony here). Private land owner issues mentioned in this article linked here are being addressed. Amy Dalrymple brings a more balanced angle to what happened here today linked here. Our conversation afterwards re-emphasized how private land owner rights are and continue to be protected throughout North Dakota, and our dutiful legislators said it may be a good idea to re-emphasize this in the bill. So there you have it. Props to all who came out today (there were many more in the crowd), and props to all of those that were there in spirit.

Black Friday at the State Historical Society of North Dakota

Earlier today I dropped in to the archives of the State Historical Society of North Dakota, officially “Black Friday,” to comb over some coveted primary sources. It was quiet when I strolled through, the construction for the addition at a momentary standstill on this day after Thanksgiving. The bookstore and gift shop, normally at left of this photo, have been relocated to make way for chop saws and ladders and piles of lumber and extension cords and so on. Some of the ceiling panels have been removed, and bits and sections of the SHSND’s 1980 skeleton exposed. After my time in the SHSND looking at some letters sent to Washington, D.C. from Dakota Territory and some official surgeon reports from Fort Abercrombie circa 1857-1863, I thought I’d snap a photo of the historic addition and remodel. So here is that shot, looking to the north-northeast.

Note: there are some spectacular holiday gift ideas within the gift shop of the SHSND.