Flaxton History
History          History-1902          Early Memories

 
With the coming of the homesteaders came the need for mail Service, a Grocery Store and a Blacksmith Shop where the shares for the breaking plows would be sharpened and other implements could be repaired. 

The Mail Service was solved when W. H. "Dad" Post was appointed postmaster in 1899. That same year M. E. DeGree put up a Blacksmith Shop and Mr. Victor Forcier erected a Grocery Store. Mr. Degree & Mr. Forcier, both from Minnesota, shipped in a carload of lumber and became two of the few who could boast of having wood frame buildings.  Mr. Post's homestead shack and Post Office was a makeshift frame building tacked together with nails taken from dry goods boxes, the nails being driven into the building with a stone as a hammer. So said Mr. Post. 

The Post Office, Store and Blacksmith Shop were located on the southwest corner of Mr. Post's homestead. The Post Office was named, "Postville". The sight was approximately one and a half miles northwest of the present site of Flaxton. (1/2 mile west of the present Fair Grounds Site). 

In 1893 the Soo Line built a section house and hand car house east of Flaxton, in 1898 a water tank was constructed in Flaxton and a large wood tower and wood wheel windmill was put up on Soo Line property outside the city limits. Postville was located on a side hill and the Soo Line water supply was on the present town site of Flaxton.  To move the section house and car house across the big slough would be expensive so the Soo Line was in favor of moving Postville to the present site of Flaxton. 

Mr.D. W. Cassiday, Soo Line town site agent, purchased Emery Corkins one hundred and sixty acre homestead for a town site, the town to be called Flaxton. A large portion of the town site was a flax field at that time (Hence the name Flaxton cameabout).  The town site was soon plotted, lots were offered for sale, and Postville was moved to Flaxton. 

Flaxton's boom was on. Business buildings and residences sprung up as fast as they could be built. In a very short time Flaxton was in a position to serve it's large trade territory with hotels, restaurants, shops of all kinds, stores having groceries and dry goods, a hardware store, an opera house, a doctor, attorneys, mail service, and street buyers to buy the homesteaders grain. Four grain elevators were built later along with other businesses including the First Bank of Flaxton were established in Flaxton in record time. Flaxton was Incorporated as a town in the year of 1902. 



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Flaxton History - 1902

Flaxton's first newspaper, The "Flaxton Bee", established by W. E. Burgett and Ed Drinkwater, put out it’s first Issue on October 2, 1902. Later to be named the "Flaxton Times".  In 1902 there were no improved roads, the trail known as the Township Line Road, now U. S. Highway 52 and 5 through
Flaxton was the most used trail in the area.  The Big Slough, on the North side of Flaxton was a thorn in Flaxton's side, as those living on the north side of the slough could not drive into town, unless they drove on the Soo Line Tracks.  A makeshift grade of Flax straw and dirt was built across the slough in 1902 and was improved from time to time in later years.  Today the Big Slough would not present much of a problem for road builders as it is dry a lot of the time, but it is to be recalled that a Team of Horses, being used to haul straw for the grade built in 1902, were drowned in the deep water.

In 1902 Mrs. R. B. Town organized a Presbyterian Sunday School with meetings in her home.  Perhaps the Sunday School should be called a non-denominational school as children of other Faiths attended as well as Presbyterians.  Later Churches & Sunday Schools used the Hovland and Swennes hall as a place of Worship.

Dr. C. A. Hoyt, D.O. an Osteopath, was Flaxton's Doctor, Followed by Dr. McIvor, M.D.,  & later by Dr. A. J. Paulson in 1904.

When Hovland & Swennes built their Hardware Store, a two-story frame building, they provided Flaxton with an Opera House by using the second floor for that purpose.  The Opera House accommodated traveling show troupes, was used for roller-skating, movie shows, and local doings.

Flaxton's first school building, the main part of the Amos Nelson house (Ronnie now lives there) was built in 1902.  Rev. McKensie was Flaxton's first Presbyterian Pastor.

In 1902 # 1 hard spring wheat brought $.73 1/2 cents per bushel.  The Modern Woodsmen of America was organized in 1902.  M. E. Degree was Flaxton's first blacksmith; he moved his shop from Postville to Flaxton.  W. F. Schoregge was the first Lawyer.

Other Business Concerns in Flaxton in 1902 included, Town & Davis, General Store and Farm Machinery; Smith & Rogers Lumber Company (later to named, Great Plains Lumber); L. B. Lodmell, General Merchandise; Arley Ostrander, Barber; Florence Hotel; Schoregge & Iverson, Land Office; R. D. Schultz, Billiard Hall; Hotel DeFerron; J. A. England, Farm Implements; Nestler Bros., General Merchandize; Boyd's, Pharmacy; Hajek, Meat Market; Langworthy Lumber Company; Huntington & Boylan, Lumber Company; W. E. Burgett,Lands & Loans; Miss Engebretson, Millinery Shop; Dan McMullen, Barber Shop; G. E. Jenks, Hardware; Flaxton, Feed & Mill; Flaxton, Lumber Company; Mrs. E. E. Stubblefield, City Bakery;  and R. B. Burger & Co., Farm Implements.  Flaxton's first Band was organized in 1902, Del Latterell, Director.

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Memories of Flaxton North Dakota
60 Years Ago
By Alvie W. Bird

(This letter was written in honor of Flaxton's 60th Anniversary in 1962.)

No one in his right mind would have started from Ojata, in Grand Forks County, North Dakota, to drive a team of horses almost across the State on November 9, 1899.

But, my sister’s husband, Will Marston, Fred Stibb, my brother Harry Bird, and myself with two horses hitched to a Democrat wagon with no top, but well packed with food and oats, decided this was the way we would travel to the land of unclaimed homesteads, in Ward County North Dakota.

We learned of this open land through a neighbor’s son, Chet Corkins, who had already filed homestead rights on the quarter section of land where the town site of Flaxton was later located.  Chet saw the opportunities of the new country and with his uncle, “Daddy Post” as a locator; Chet went into the “homestead locating business”.

Will, Fred, Harry and myself followed the roads west that ran nearest the Great Northern Railroad until we came to Minot.  From Minot we traveled northwest until we came within a couple miles of Donnybrook.  We had camped along the way at nights having grain for the team and food for ourselves.  No great progress could be made, as the horses needed regular rest periods.

As we neared Donnybrook we came to a sheltered spot by the river with a couple of deserted old sheds and a small field of corn shocks right at hand.  We decided to camp here as our horse food was low and those sheds looked like a good shelter for man and beast.  But, as we climbed stiffly down from the wagon, suddenly Fred Stibb gave up.  He flopped onto the ground in the shelter of a tree and simply refused to move.  We were thankful that during the trip the snow had melted and the ground was bare and dry.  We prepared our evening meal over our campfire, and finally after consuming a couple gallons (more or less) of coffee and a goodly portion of our remaining food, Fred was persuaded to move.  But, no more of that Democrat Wagon! 

So, he and Will Marston walked to Donnybrook where they got aboard the train.  The train stopped at a water tank where Flaxton is now located.  The two men found “Daddy Post” who took them to look at some land.  They picked homesteads for themselves and got descriptions of adjoining quarter sections, and came back by train to Minot to file homestead rights at the United States Government Land Offices there.

Meanwhile, Brother Harry and myself rested, and then turned back to Minot.  We got there about the same time as Fred and Will.  Will and Fred filed, and Harry and I looked over the descriptions they brought us, and we filed, sight unseen.  My homestead was the Northwest Quarter of Section 3, Township 162, Range 91.

Will and Fred decided against any more Democrat Wagon rides, and went home to Grand Forks by train.  Harry and I stayed with the team and wagon and arrived back in Ojata in late November.

In 1900 Harry and I returned to our homesteads to build our shacks and break the ten acres necessary.  The summer of 1900 was very dry, so I went back to Grand Forks for a few months to earn some money to buy a few of the necessities needed on a homestead.  This was the summer that a post office was opened in a little shack by “Daddy Post” and he named the place Postville.  This name was later changed to Flaxton.  Mr. Post had a wealth of dry humor.  One never knew how many of his stories to believe.  One of his favorites was about the day he went to the coalmines for a load of fuel and didn’t get back in time to get the mailbag on the train.  The Post Office Department, however; was disturbed and wrote Mr. Post a letter asking an explanation.  The bag being now gone, Mr. Post simply destroyed the letter without answering.  A second letter from the Department was treated the same way.  “But”, said Daddy, “when the third letter arrived, it was p-r-e-t-t-y strong, and by Gad I thought I better answer it.”

Early in the spring of 1901 I moved permanently to my homestead.  This time I “shipped by rail” what personal property I owned – three horses, a cow, a heifer, and a breaking plow that proved to (sic) light for the homestead soil.  Also I had an old drill and an old binder both of which had been discarded as not usable, a crippled wagon and a fairly good mower.  The mower cut a lot of hay on the prairie that summer.  I rode in the freight car with the excellent company of all my worldly possessions.

In the meantime, my brother Howard Bird, who was working for the Milwaukee Railroad, had gone to Minot and had filed on a homestead about three and one half miles north west of where Flaxton now stands.  In the fall of 1901, with his wife and son Arthur, he moved to the homestead where he made his home until the time of his death in 1940.  And on this same homestead, his widow Louise still makes her home.

In 1900 Chet Corkins sold his homestead to a Town site company.  In 1901 this company brought Charley Davis and Ray Towne to this area to lay out a town site for the Soo Railroad near the water tank and the “depot” which the company already had there.

Davis and Towne asked John Gee, Hogeson, and myself to help the surveying, which we did.  Other homesteaders helped in their spare time but many had families and were quite busy at home.

Free town sites were offered to any one who would build a business building of approved specifications.  Towne and Davis themselves built the first store in Flaxton – a general merchandise and grocery store.

A Mr. John Svenskrewd got a free lot for a “hotel building”.  Mr. Davis protested that the shack that was subsequently built on this lot could under no circumstances be called a “hotel”.  Where upon John Gee came to Mr. Svenskrewd’s support with the remark, “But, Mr. Davis, he is going to build it fourteen stories high.  The man was allowed to keep his lot, and his “hotel”, which was plenty large enough for himself, his bed, his table and stove.

Lots were also taken by Hoveland and Swennes, who built a hardware store that has lasted through out the years.  Mr. Merrill built a general store, with hotel rooms in the second story.  Mose DeGree built a blacksmith shop.  A Bank building was erected by Mr. Bond.  An elevator for grains was built, with M.E. Baker as first manager.  Other buildings that I remember as going up in 1901 and 1902 were Nestler’s Store, Stensrud’s Store, Chris Schultz’s Livery Barn, Mr. Boyd’s Drug Store, Pete Johnson’s Hotel, a implement house, and a school.  There were no sidewalks at first, but there was a platform in front of each business place.

Homesteaders were ready and willing to give of their time in establishing a town near their homes.  They brought their teams to help build the grade for the railroad siding in 1901 and took their pay from the Railroad Company in feed grain for their stock.  This was also a chance for a get together for the homesteaders, where we all worked, joked, and ate the noon luncheons we had brought from home.

Some of the homesteader names that I now recall are:  John Fossum, George Nygaard, Mr. Donahue, the Carters, the Smiths, the Dickmans, Fred Ingerson, Ed Ingebretson, John Rossell, Otto Hall, Carl Rutzhagen, Hans Peterson, the Christiansons, Mike Murphy, Dan Lynch, Gene Murdick, Harschbergers, Iverson, Stalesons, Stibbs, Strubbe, Hollingsworth, Pete Grove, the Kostads, the Jensens, the Froshaugs, the Van Dergrenters, the Undjems, as well as my brothers whom I have already mentioned.

In March 1902, Will Marston returned to his homestead to put up some buildings for his home and his livestock.  A few hours after he landed at my place, a heavy snowstorm struck.  We turned Will’s livestock including pigs and chickens loose in some sheds and waited out a three-day blizzard before Will could move on to his own place and get started to work.  Mrs. Marston and the children came later that spring.

My Mother, Mrs. Eliza Bird, a widow, filed on a homestead just south of mine, and moved there in 1903 with her sons, Raymond and Percy, and daughters Estelle and Flossie.

The drought of 1900 and the continued dryness that extended into the spring of 1901 made a rather discouraging prospect for the homesteaders.  We went ahead, however; and planted our crops.  On my land, I planted 10 acres of flax and five acres of oats.  On shares on some of the neighbors’ farms I also planted 35 more acres of flax, wheat, and oats.  The wheat and oats came up but the flax lay there until we got a snowstorm on June 5, 1901.  Twelve inches of snow lay on the ground and melted there.

That fall we threshed about 28 bushels of flax to the acre.  The wheat went about 25 bushels, and the oats just came to the spout, with no tally and had to be measured in the bin.  They checked in at about 75 bushels to the acre.  Flax brought $1.27 a bushel and wheat fifty-some cents.  The oats we kept for feed.  We had known what it was to be short of feed grain.

We also knew what it was to be not only short, but also absolutely devoid of money, before that crop came in.  The cow I had brought with me, proved to be a lifesaver.  And I discovered that prairie mushrooms baked in cream were delicious and nourishing.  I remember one day I drove past “Daddy “ Post’s shack on my way to the railroad ditch to get a barrel of water.  I had just finished my dinner of my one last biscuit, and had my eyes peeled for mushrooms along the way.  “Daddy” sat on his doorstep, a can of slough water in one hand, and on one finger of the other hand a small hard doughnut.  I answered his question by assuring him that “yes, I had dinner”, and we talked while he ate his doughnut and drank his slough water.  When he had finished, he set down the can, wiped off his lips, and said, “Well, I’ve dined now too, and on the last in the house.”

A few days later “Daddy” visited me on a Sunday afternoon.  Suppertime came and I wondered what I could offer him, besides milk.  By chance, I found part of a box of cornstarch that I had somehow overlooked, thinking that it was an empty box.  So I made cornstarch pudding ---a whole pot full, and with milk to wash it down, we had an excellent supper.

When I could earn enough cash to get fifty weight of flour, I was really in luck.  Fifty pounds of flour makes a lot of pancakes.  One evening, as I was making pancakes, a man whose name I have forgotten, came to the door.  He looked weak and tired, so I invited him in for pancakes.  He ate and ate until I wondered where he could put any more.  When he had finished he apologized for being a “hog”.  “But”, he said, “This is my first food for forty eight hours.  A few days later he gave up his homestead and left.  Most others stayed.

The first implement I had to buy that year was a self-rake reaper.  I bought it from Berger in Bowbells.  Then I had to buy another horse, for which I gave John Gee my note for $65.00.  Later from Gee I bought a drill, a binder, and a heavier breaking plow.  I was reluctant to buy when I could only give notes instead of cash, but John always said; “That’s all right, son, you’ll pay for it someday, in spite of hell’.  And somehow, when the notes were due, I was always able to pay them.

Credit was needed, especially before harvest, and I am sure many beside myself were grateful on this score to the businessmen of Flaxton.  It was a time when a man’s word was as good as his bond, and for the most part; the integrity of all was unquestioned.  I lived on the homestead until the fall of 1918, when I moved to Fargo, North Dakota.

At this time my health, or rather my lack of health, makes it impossible to be with you for the 60th anniversary celebration at Flaxton, so I would like to take this opportunity to extend greetings and good wishes to all friends, relatives, and neighbors who will be gathered in Flaxton for this celebration.  Assuring you that I will be with you in spirit.
I am

        Sincerely yours,

         Alvie W. Bird
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