These stories can also be heard Sunday mornings around 10 am on WILD 102’s “Look Back in Time” program. Each week’s radio story will be posted here on our website.
Weekly radio stories are researched, compiled, and read by Sheila Winstead, RCHS Board Member.
October 15, 2023
This story of an accident involving dynamite appeared 90 years ago in the September 28, 1933 edition of the Northern Minnesota Leader.
“While dynamiting stumps on his farm about eight miles north of Badger Tuesday morning, Bennie Mickelson had an extremely narrow escape when a charge of the explosive which he had lit for a second time, exploded.
Marvin Johnson, who was breaking for Mickelson, and Roy and George Wellen who were also helping remove stumps heard the explosion and looked in that direction but could not see Mickelson. They suspected something was wrong and ran over and found him unconscious about 16 feet from where the explosion occurred.
The attending physician found his left eye ball ruptured and macerated, a fracture of nasal bones, fracture of right arm and two fingers badly lacerated, as result of the dynamite explosion. He was treated for shock and relief from the intense pain he suffered.
On Wednesday morning, Dr. Culver of Thief River Falls, eye specialist, and Dr. Berge, the attending physician, removed the left eye. Intensive treatment is being given to save the sight of the right eye, which was scarred and showed ulcer formation at the time of operation.
During the interim between the accident and the operation Mrs. Mickelson was beside herself with grief. Having worked hard together to found a home and with brighter days ahead, the possibility of what might happen hung like a dark cloud over her. But the operation revealed that the brain was not hurt and last night Mrs. Mickelson said such a large load had been lifted from her and that her husband was resting quietly.
A large number of relatives of the Mickelson’s came over yesterday to learn what his chances were and offer encouragement. He will not be able to receive visitors for several days. Absolute quiet and rest have been ordered.”
A week later, October 5, 1933, again in the Northern Minnesota Leader, an update on his condition was posted.
“Bennie Mickelson, who was badly injured by a dynamite explosion on Tuesday of last week and had to have the left eye removed, is improving daily and yesterday had the bandage removed from his right eye. He wants his friends to know he is grateful that he is still alive and has one eye to take him through life.”
Bennie had been born in Canby, Minnesota in 1895 and came to Roseau County in 1916, settling in Moose Township. He traveled by boxcar with four horses, three cows and a number of chickens. He sold eggs on the way to other passengers on the train for extra money.
His wife Mabel Ohlquist was born in Northwood, North Dakota in 1889, one of the first white children born to the early settlers there. When she was 10 years old, her family moved to a farm near Badger, which they homestead. While traveling with three covered wagons and riding horseback, they had to ford the river at Pelan, Minnesota because there was no bridge. There were few schools in Roseau County at that time and too far for Mabel to walk to the one nearest to them, so she lived with an aunt in Mayville, North Dakota and attended school there. Mabel then continued her education at Badger and was one of the first graduates there in 1906. Then she went to Moorhead, Minnesota and attended Normal Teachers Training for a year, coming home to teach at rural schools in Roseau County for 14 years, walking four to five miles a day. She was respected for her teaching abilities.
Bennie and Mabel met and were married in 1916 and homesteaded 40 acres where he built a two-room house for his bride. Later he built a lean-to from logs. They started out with two cows, drill, binder, harrow, wagon and buggy, and the horses he brought with him on the train.
They had two daughters, Mildred, born in 1919 (who married Bill Nelson), and Florence, born in 1922 (who married Phillip Erickson). Their family were members of Roselund Lutheran Church, traveling 4-1/2 miles through all kinds of weather with a team of horses, where Mabel played the old pump organ for 25 years, and Ben put his beautiful tenor voice to good use. He always had an interest in music, played in dance bands, and also composed music, including the “Moose Overture”.
After his eye injury, they persevered and built a lovely home and farm through strength, faith and hard work. Mabel had a “green thumb” and raised many beautiful gardens and grew flowers both inside and out.
In 1964, they moved their house into Badger, and Mabel passed away that same December from cancer. Bennie then moved to Fosston to be near his family. He passed away in 1990. Both are buried at Roselund Cemetery north of Badger.
People that I talked to about them agreed that Bennie was a very sweet man, small in build, and pleasant to all that knew him. Mabel was talented and kind, too. They were good neighbors in their community.
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