Listen here to the Weekly Radio Readings by Sheila Winstead, RCHS Board Member or tune in to WiLD 102 Radio Sunday mornings.
Recorded May 2022
May 1, 2022:
Last week I read a little about Ingvard Sunset, a former curator of the Roseau County Museum. His son Vernon wrote a family history and explained their family’s beginnings in Minnesota, starting with grandparents from Norway who took the name Sunset when they became citizens. This part of his story tells more about his parents.
The Ingvard Sunset and Gena Larson (Dad & Mother) story starts when they married in February 1922.
Gena Larson (Mother) was born on March 25, 1896, in Pinecreek, Minnesota, and died on June 9, 1974. Unfortunately, I should have quizzed Mother more about her family. She was born on a homestead farm in Pinecreek, Minnesota. The only thing I remember was her telling about an Indian Chief named Mickinok, who came to their farm. She said she would sit on his lap and listen to his stories. According to the history of Roseau County, there was an Indian scare in the area in 1891. Many of the pioneers had packed up and left for Roseau to plan a defense. Some of them never returned. Mickinock, according to the published accounts, went around and fed the livestock. My dad, in the book, The Northland a History of Roseau County, tells of Mickinok stopping by the Fred G. Larson farm (my grandfather and my dad’s father-in-law) to borrow a rifle to hunt. He would return and would pay by sharing the game. Mickinock is pictured in the story with Peter Sjoberg, a local storeowner and pioneer.
At that time Mother was one of the few people who completed high school. She went on to become a country schoolteacher. At one time, she owned her own Model T Ford and taught in Lake of the Woods County near Rocky Point Resort in Minnesota. In 1922, she gave up teaching and married my dad, Ingvard Sunset. At one time, they homesteaded at Pitt, Minnesota. I am not sure why they left and moved to Roseau. The story continues down my memory lane. I was really blessed to have a mother who was a kind and gentle soul who has influenced every day of my life. There were tough times for my folks.
Small towns are tough where the well-to-do flourish and the poor struggle to exist. Roseau had a population of around 1,771 during this time. We were on the poor side, but we didn’t even know it. We were always well-dressed, clean, and always had plenty to eat. I did wear patches on my jeans; we got new duds at Easter and before the cold below-zero winters.
During the war, Mother worked in several grocery stores. I remember she was paid 50 cents an hour and managed Miller Grocery, and later, the Milt Eastman store. Mother never said anything bad about anyone and could forgive the rounders and wife beaters by saying, “But he is so good to his children.” My sister had very similar traits. Mother and Dad had many years of struggle just keeping the family fed and clothed. They raised us all with no welfare and did not depend on others for help. May God rest their souls.
Ingvard Sunset was born on April 7, 1890. He was born in Renville County, Minnesota. Dad died in Denver on May 28th, 1981. Dad was a hard worker trying to make a living and, at one time, worked in the Listug Furniture and Funeral Home. After that, he worked as a plumber, electrician, and framer, and also did manual labor. Many of Dad’s friends were storeowners, engineers, and lawyers. I suspect that he probably felt inferior, and at one time had a drinking problem. In later years, he overcame it. As a young boy and teenager, I hated what it was doing to me and it took me years to forgive him. As a result, I became focused as an athlete, dressed better than most, and had a great time in high school. During World War II, Dad was a member of the Roseau County Draft Board. He was a longtime member of the Roseau Volunteer Fire Department. During this period he and Andrew Sunset went to Portland, Oregon, to work in the shipyards. He earned more during that time and sent paychecks home to Mother, which improved our standard of living. After the war, he returned and became the curator at the Roseau County Museum starting in 1948. He loved that job and retired after about 25 years. Dad is mentioned in the various publications in the history of Roseau and was known as an expert in the history of the county. Dad is listed in The North Land – A History of Roseau County. The author, Hazel Wahlberg, says, “The museum has had several curators, but none as ardent or zealous as Ingvard Sunset who served for 25 years. Someone said that to talk to Mr. Sunset was like reading the history of Roseau County from an interesting book, for his knowledge and enthusiasm were so vast.”
When Dad was curator at the Roseau County Museum, he spoke of a legendary Chippewa Indian Medicine Man named Ka-Kay Geesick (which means Everlasting Sky). In one of Dad’s encounters, as told to me very recently, he gave Dad a peace pipe. According to Gretchen Hafdahl, my cousin Marilyn (Lee) Hafdahl’s daughter, who spoke to Robert Ka-Kay Geesick Jr, he mentioned that his great-grandfather had given a peace pipe to I. A. Sunset many years ago. Robert Ka-Kay Geesick Jr., a great-grandson, is a famous Indian artist living in Canada. I have in my possession a peace pipe that Dad gave to me years ago. Gretchen heard that my brother, Allen, had said that Dad had sold it. The Indian legend claims that you do not sell a peace pipe but pass it on. I wonder if this is the legendary peace pipe. Ka-Kay Geesick lived in Warroad, Minnesota, and died at the age of 124.
Mother died at the age of 78 on June 9, 1974, from cancer, and she still was very sharp to the end. Allen and I visited her in the hospital for the last time, and I remember her saying, “I suppose this will be the last time I see you boys.” Those words are still fresh in my memory.
In his 90s, Dad lived alone and drove a bright red Chevrolet. He would back away from a curb without looking; I think the good Lord was watching out for him, as he never hit anyone. Dad died in a nursing home in Denver. I was chosen by Allen and Leila to fly to Fargo, North Dakota, to pick up Dad at the Veteran’s Hospital, and fly him back to Denver. It was Dad’s first-ever airplane ride, and he enjoyed it immensely. We all visited him often; Leila and Kathryn lived close by and visited him daily. Dad died peacefully at night at the age of 91.
Audio recording is not available…listen for the rest of the story.
May 8, 2022:
One hundred years ago, the community of Roosevelt was trying to entice settlers to move there. An article in the July 27, 1972, issue of the Roseau Times-Region tells about their efforts. I’ll read that 1972 article to you today.
Fifty years ago, Roosevelt was going after business in a modern-day manner … even to the extent of preparing a brochure that advertised the many advantages of living in the then-booming community. One of the original brochures, brought to the Times-Region by Estelle Brenden, clearly indicated the progressive attitude of the Roosevelt Commercial Club which had the brochure published.
Excerpts from the publication are as follows:
“The town of Roosevelt is situated in the north-east corner of Roseau County, on the main line of the Canadian Northern Railway, between Winnipeg and Duluth, seven miles from the southern shore of Lake of the Woods.
“This country has many advantages over a prairie country.
1st. Fuel – A settler can have all he needs for the cutting.
2nd. Cheap building material.-His home may be built of logs, saving the price of lumber.
3rd. Cordwood and other timber products may be utilized for his living.
4th. Less wind.
5th. After his clearing, he can, if he possesses any artistic taste, have a beautiful residence site with natural trees.
6th. After all – the soil is of the best.
The first question of the farmer is about the soil.
The timber will be of the past in a few years. What remains?
The soil is very fertile, composed of sandy loam with deep clay soil, with no alkali or gumbo. The soil has been fertilized for ages by the falling of the leaves in the timberlands. There are numerous rich meadows that furnish an easy harvest. Each year many of our successful men select the meadows for the annual harvest, in preference to the wooded districts.
The climate is GREAT.
In the summer the days are long with cool refreshing nights.
The nearness of heavy timber and large bodies of water assist in overcoming extremes of temperature.
The winter days are short but the air is clear, dry, pure and invigorating.
Good land is yet moderate in price, according to improvements and proximity to markets, but each year sees an advance.
The surface of this country is easily drained, there is a fall of about ten feet to every mile toward Lake of the Woods . . . good roads are rapidly being made.
What we have: Pure water. A number of artesian wells. The population of 350, five general stores, two blacksmiths, two sawmills, one lath mill, one shingle mill, several lumber companies, a barber shop, two pool rooms, a dressmaker, Presbyterian church, Scandinavian services held regularly, $3000 school house of 4 rooms, resident physician. Four passenger trains daily. Three flourishing lodges – I. F., Yeomen and Lady Maccabees, Commercial Club, Telephone with two long-distance stations, and a Bank whose last statement, August 18, 1913, showed deposits of $28,425.85 in less than three months.”
The phrase, “in less than three months,” was stamped in with an ink pad stamp as though the commercial club thought the length of time was important enough to stamp each and every pamphlet.
The commercial club also listed its wants: “1st, More boosters, no knockers. 2nd, A first-class hotel. 3rd. A good Hall. Roosevelt has the reputation of being a first-class show town. All the main shows that travel through stop at Roosevelt. 4th, A Steam Laundry. 5th, A shoemaker. 6th, Home Bakery. 7th, More stock, so that a creamery may be established in the near future. 8th, A Brickyard. There are fine beds of clay which will be valuable for brick, or finer products. (Perhaps Roosevelt folks might yet capitalize on this asset!) 9th, A Farmers’ Club to unite in the disposal of their products to the best advantage.”
The brochure also included some true stories of the area saying, “Roseau County has won championship for State Fair exhibit for three consecutive years. One settler, on 1-1/2 acres, harvested 360 bushels of potatoes without fertilizing. One raised a cabbage of 17 pounds. Another a squash of 74 pounds and a pumpkin of 64 pounds. Aside from gardening, the country has plenty of game and fish; these, with the abundance of wild fruit, help out the table. Small fruits do well. One man cleared $89.00 from a one-sixteenth acre of strawberries. On 2 acres, was cleared $300 on sale of vegetables, leaving enough for man and wife for winter. One sack of potatoes weighed 63 pounds, with 48 potatoes.”
The promotional piece concluded with the following admonition: “We want no ‘Rolling Stones’ but there is work and a good living, for those who are willing to work. There is a good home awaiting you here, if you are willing to hustle. All drones please move farther on. Those who have lived in cities, possibly very comfortable in rented homes, but with no prospect of a competence for old age, had better come here and secure that home. Practically free fuel, good water, good soil, good air and good wages. Come and see us.”
Do modern towns do much better advertising than this?
Audio is not available…listen for the rest of the story.
May 15, 2022:
100 years ago, the town of Roosevelt was actively looking for settlers. Last week I read from a pamphlet they had published to tell potential residents all about their little town’s best features. This week I’ll tell the story of Anthony and Diane Carlson who were married in 1922 and spent their married years in Roosevelt. In 1972, they were interviewed on their 50th wedding anniversary. I’ll read from the interview which was published in the Roseau Times-Region on August 10, 1972.
They met at a church service in his home at Roosevelt when she came in from her father’s homestead to attend. He took her home in his Overland touring car … courted her for nearly two years and then “popped the question,” (she doesn’t remember just how) and they were married on August 9, 1922, in her parents’ homestead.
Anthony Carlson and his wife Diane are old-timers in Roseau County. He came here in 1900 from Princeton with his parents. They homesteaded near Greenbush until 1910 when they moved to the Roosevelt area, “It was the fall of the big fire,” he recalls.
She was born in Pipestone and moved to a homestead north of Roosevelt when she was three.
Their courtship was aided by the Overland auto which he used to take her to church, “and once we even went to a circus in Rainy River,” she recalled.
When they were married they began housekeeping in a house he had ..listen for the rest of the story.
May 22, 2022:
Last week I read about a couple married 100 years ago, Diane and Anthony Carlson from Roosevelt, who were interviewed on their 50th wedding anniversary. In that interview, they mentioned driving to visit a couple married the same day as them, the Melvin Dvergstens of Greenbush. They were also interviewed by the Roseau Times-Region on their 50th wedding anniversary in 1972, and I’ll read that article today.
Like many other pioneer couples, Mr. and Mrs. Melvin Dvergsten met in a church near Greenbush and more or less grew up together in the same area. He had come from Spring Grove and Big Lake with his parents to homestead; she was born in Huss Township where her parents homesteaded. “We didn’t live too far apart,” he offered … although they did go to different schools. Again like most pioneer children, they walked – rain, shine, or snow.
Their folks visited one another occasionally and they went to a few dances, to very few movies, and mostly to the monthly Luther League meetings and neighborhood gatherings. “People visited then … had ice cream socials, etc.,” Mrs. Dvergsten said.
They were married by Reverend Berge Olson in the Lutheran parsonage in Greenbush on December 16, 1922, and started homemaking on a farm he had previously purchased. They moved to …listen for the rest of the story.
May 29, 2022:
Fifty years ago, Mrs. Olive Smith of Warroad was celebrated on her 90th birthday. An interview was published in the August 10, 1972, Roseau Times-Region. I’ll read from that interview today.
What does a lady of 90 sunny years who still crochets beautifully without the use of glasses; who has keen hearing, does her own housework, baking, and cooking say to people who feel they are old and who sit and do nothing?
“Well, if you give up, that’s the end … that’s what I say to others who seem to have lost interest,” Mrs. Olive Smith, Warroad, affirmed.
The white-haired little lady who lives in a bright, neat-as-a-pin home in Morningside Addition in Warroad, does everything but her washing. “My daughter-in-law wanted to do the ironing for me but I told her that’s silly … why should she iron my things when she has so much to do.” So Mrs. Smith not only mops her floors, she bakes bread when she feels like it, makes cookies and pies, and does all her own meals. She says matter-of-factly, “If you give up, your life is behind you.” She doesn’t intend to let that happen!
Her crochet work is intricate and beautiful! “I have glasses right there on the table,” she points, “but I get along better without them.” She crochets for people who furnish the thread, making placemats, and covers for …listen for the rest of the story.
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