Listen to the Weekly Radio Readings by Sheila Winstead, RCHS Board Member
Recorded July 2020
August 2, 2020: This story of William and Mary Geroy comes from Ray Geroy’s 1979 book “Sandridge Settlers” about the original settlers of part of what is now known as the Beltrami Island Forest.
Bill Geroy came to the River country from Warren, Minnesota in the year 1908. He was a trapper and hunter and supplemented his income by acting as a land locator. He was also a cook and baker and in his later years, did farming.
While at Warren, he married Emma Gerrue, who died sometime later. They had one son, Marlowe, who at about the age of four, was taken by an old friend of Mr. Geroy’s for bringing up. In the River, area lived the Espes, and William later married their daughter, Mary. Six sons and daughters were born to this union – Allen (Bud), Raymond, Clayton, Leverne, Jennie, and Lola.
About the year 1910, the Geroys moved to Spooner, Minnesota, where they operated a restaurant called the Beanery. Jennie, Allen, and Raymond were born there.
In 1915, they went back to the Espe farm at River and lived with the Espes. They moved out of the Sandridge country in 1917 and back again for good in 1924. Raymond now lives on the western edge of the Sandridge but the River store and post office are long gone…listen for the rest of the story.
August 9, 2020: Today’s story about the Soler Fire is based on family legend and an article written by Rudy Billberg appearing in County of Roseau Centennial Book published by the Roseau County Historical Society. The Billberg article was based on information provided by Clara Hagen Halverson, Lillian Kelly Nelson, and Hector Graff.
It was also submitted by Eunice Korczak, Julius Graff’s Granddaughter, for inclusion in the Greenbush, Mn. 1905-2005 Centennial Book.
It was hot and dry in northern Minnesota during the summer of 1910. Although the area farmers knew drought could mean economic disaster, undoubtedly, no one expected it would bring personal disaster. Feeding their cattle through the upcoming winter was their primary concern.
The limited hay farmers were able to gather from the stunted fields would not provide enough winter feed for their livestock, so, although it would be inferior feed, they went north to the bog near Roseau River and made swamp grass hay. Poor as it was, it was precious; it would help avert a disastrous winter. The hay was left stacked near the river. Come winter, it would be hauled out with horses and bobsled racks.
The drought continued. In the bog, peat fires smoldered. The precious swamp hay needed for winter survival of the animals was threatened. With teams and wagons, farmers returned to the haying site and camped on the banks of the Roseau River to be available to protect their haystacks. Among these farmers were Edor Hagen, 19, and Tom Kelly, 47. Also camping there were Julius Graff and his wife’s brother, Carl Hellickson…. listen for the rest of the story.
August 16, 2020: In 1889, the first few settlers came to Pinecreek to take advantage of new land available for homesteading. They had come from North Dakota, and all were of Norwegian heritage. Several years of bad farming conditions made the move a practical decision. Five of those men camped together the first night in Pinecreek right along the Creek itself. While they were staying there, they selected places along the creek that they’d claim for their homesteads. The property where they camped was claimed by Lars C. Rugland.
Several other families came to live in Pinecreek after word got back to them that it looked like a promising place to settle, with plenty of woods to use for building and heating, wildlife to feed families, and good land for farming, flat and much of it free of rocks. They quickly built homes from the logs, and as soon as homes were set up, they decided to organize a church. A pastor came from Grafton, North Dakota, in July 1890, and services were held at Arne Knutson’s home. By that December, Pastor J. U. Pederson of Hallock, Minnesota, visited and helped the group of families create a constitution for their newly organized church. Their first officers were: Trustees-Nils Skogstad, Knute Kompelien, Anders Lund; Chairman-Christian A Lyste; Secretary-Lars (also known as Lewis) C. Rugland.
There were Indians in the neighborhood, and there was never any trouble with them, but in 1891, rumors spread from nearby communities that there was going to be an uprising of some sort. The local men cut some trees along the creek and were prepared to build a fort for protection when word came that it was a false alarm. The logs lay unused until the following year before the congregation decided to use them to build a church. Before that, all meetings had been held in the homes of the settlers. By 1894, that church was completed about a half-mile west of the creek. You can see it now, restored to its original form at the Pioneer Farm west of Roseau. Inside are photos of those first five settlers, placed there by Roseau County Historical Society.
Off and on for 44 years, Lars and his family lived in Pinecreek. He was married to Julia (born Gunhild Knutson Berg), another Norwegian immigrant, in 1884. She had come to the US as a little child with her parents. Lars was the Secretary of the church for some time and also helped take the census for Dieter and Pohlitz Townships in 1900 and 1919. He helped organize School District 11 and was its first clerk. He also served his community as a township clerk and supervisor…listen for the rest of the story.
August 23, 2020: Today’s story was written by Rudy Billberg and included in the book, County of Roseau Centennial 1895-1995.
In the mid-1930s with the deepening depression, young men, mostly in their teens, desperately sought out work. Most efforts were futile, but a need was seen to make use of this valuable workforce. Our government wisely decided to harness the energies of these boys into projects that would help our country in years to come.
This need created the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC). The aims and hopes of the CCC are clearly outlined in one sentence from the Minnesota Department of Conservation pamphlet, 1933-1941. “Those jobs which will increase the production of wood, water game, recreational opportunities, and soil fertility of natural resources now on hand, or restore those which have been destroyed.”
With these lofty goals in mind, the United States Army was asked to build and operate the camps. They built barracks and tent frames as shelters. They supplied, prepared, and served the food. Clothes were supplied with laundries to keep them clean. Military doctors and dentists came regularly to serve the medical needs of the workers.
In each camp, older men, hired by the forestry department, taught woodsmanship, proper tool care, and use. Many of these were ex-lumberjacks. Forest rangers planned projects some of which were forest thinning, tree planting, fire tower watch, and firefighting. Trails, roads, bridges, and recreational areas were built.
In Roseau County, a CCC camp of Black men, stationed at Clear River, built the well-known recreation site at Bemis Hill and the Thompson-Bednar road from Clear River west to County Road #9 near Hayes Lake. This road and the Bemis Hill recreation area, located in Twp. 160N, Range 37W, Unorganized, are still serviced and used more than 50 years later…listen for the rest of the story.
August 30, 2020: Today’s story was submitted by Myrna Sovde for publication in Greenbush, Mn. 1905-2005 Centennial Book. The information came from Kenneth Langaas, Merlyn Sovde, and the Greenbush Tribune.
Often roads were the incidental by-products of ditching. When the dredges piled up ditch dumps in certain locales, the ditch spoils were leveled for roads. One time when area residents complained the dredging companies hadn’t leveled the banks very well, a Tribune article offered the explanation that the purpose of the ditching was for drainage and not for roads.
County Road 29, now 170th Avenue, in Southwest Hereim, was probably built before 1913. Several years ago Julius “Ted” Johnson told about the floating dredge that built the road in the area through the bog south of the ridge. When he asked his brother Harold if he remembered it, Harold replied, “How could I remember that, I wasn’t even born then!” Also, Jens Pederson had a picture of the dredge dated 1910, when it was cleaning Two Rivers South Branch in that area.
In very early days horses pulled a slip scraper to move dirt. A slip scraper was a metal scoop with two handles. The slip was about three feet wide and slightly less deep with sides rising to about a foot high in the back. The “operator” tilted the narrow edge of the open scoop into the soil. As the horses moved forward, the slip filled and the operator tilted it back. The bottom was smooth, allowing the slip scraper, loaded with a half yard of material, to slide on top of the ground. To dump, the operator lifted the handles until the edge caught into the ground. It would then tip forward and dump…listen for the rest of the story.
Thank you to for letting us share the history of our county with your listeners.