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Langdon Long Ago

Miss Americas 2017

Those who enjoy watching the Miss America Pageant each year already know that Cara Mund from North Dakota will be touring as Miss America for the next year and will quite possibly stop in a town near you so you can see and visit with her in person during her reign. One reason that could be possible is that Ali Wilhelmi Downs, daughter of Bob and Jean Wilhelmi of Nekoma, has worked with the team who supported and helped Miss Mund with her pageant preparations.

By Rita Maisel

However, Miss Minnesota 2017 also has a local connection that pageant viewers from our area found interesting. Brianna Drevlow was Minnesota’s candidate for the Miss America crown this year, and because of her talent on classical piano won a special scholarship as well. Brianna is the granddaughter of Jim and Olive Goldesberry of Thief River Falls, MN. This couple have both been involved in teaching in Thief River Falls. Her grandfather is originally from Osnabrock, and her grandmother has ties to the Fairdale and Edmore area. Now people from both communities know her history without ever having met her.

Each year the pageant contestants have an issue they personally support and share with audiences as they campaign at events. Brianna’s 2017 platform issue is Juvenile Arthritis Awareness, a cause which involves her whole family and was inspired by her nine-year-old sister Brenna. Their support organization is called “Brenna’s Brigade”. Brianna also works as an advocate for strong families and children with both the Children’s Miracle Network and the Arthritis Foundation.

As the oldest in the Drevlow family, Brianna opened her own piano studio at the age of 14, has degrees in music theory and composition and has performed in major concert halls and international venues. Yes, her great-grandmother was Naom French Goldesberry, a familiar name and face from her years of teaching and 35 years at the Osnabrock post office. McNiven Research

Two weeks ago Doug and Carol Hunt from Utah visited Cavalier County in search of history on the McNiven side of his family. They went to the courthouse and then to Hannah and visited cemeteries where they hoped to find family members buried. While in Hannah they got to stand by the smoldering ruins of the Presbyterian Church that several generations of the family had attended. At both Hannah and Lebanon Cemeteries, they took pictures of tombstones which appeared to be family members.

They asked about death certificates and were told to contact Bismarck for those. It is possible they misunderstood those instructions because they called two weeks later and mentioned “visiting the courthouse at Bismarck which had no records for Hannah or Langdon.” Maybe they visited the wrong office or maybe records for the deaths they were tracing had never been sent to the recording offices. There is an on-ine index of North Dakota deaths which can be consulted and death certificates ordered without making a trip to Bismarck.

However ,original deaths from years ago were reported to township clerks, and some information may never have reached the vital statistics databases. In our first phone conversation the Hunts talked about the family living in Hannah, and yes, they did have a copy of the newest Hannah book, but they were surprised to know that there were other connections in Langdon, Wales and Calvin plus additional information has now surfaced listing other brothers and sisters whose stories have not been located.

When I mentioned Alec McNiven, who had a pioneer hardware store in Langdon, and Frank Ross, who married Flo Mc- Niven between his service in the Spanish American War and duty as captain of Company E in World War I, these were people they had never heard of. Both of those stories are covered in the Langdon Centennial book.

A condensed version of what might be helpful follows. Alexander McNiven and Wm. Plummer came to Langdon around 1887 while the railroad line was being constructed and obtained a spot, roughly where the FM Mall is today, where they would open a hardware store after the lot had been surveyed and the future rail line would bring in their merchandise. Annie Mc- Niven, one of Alex’s sisters, came with them and would later marry Peter Sandison who had arrived a year or two earlier.

The partners formally got the deed to their Main Street location in February of 1888. Wm. Plummer married Christena Sandison and a few years later Alec married Emma Hope who had been teaching rural schools since 1885. The Plummer-McNiven hardware store partnership was a fixture on Main Street for 20 or 30 years, depending on who is telling the story.

Plummer went to Texas to begin growing fruit that could be shipped north ,but after a time turned that business over to his sons and came back to Langdon to retire. After the death of a teenage daughter in 1910, Alex McNiven and his family tried “going west” to cities where other family members were living. Their oldest son, Howard, finished school at Langdon in 1913, went on to UND and later New York University where he became a professor. Over time his parents and the younger children in the family joined him in White Plains, New York.

Another McNiven brother, Peter, his wife Mary and several children came to North Dakota in the 1890s. Peter had been a grain-cradle-maker in Owen Sound but here worked in hardware stores at Langdon and later in Wales or Calvin. Peter’s wife and one or two small children are buried at Lebanon Cemetery along with Alex’s daughter Annie and other family members. Children of several McNiven families attended school at Langdon in the same classes which made tracing them difficult. Peter’s daughter, Flora (generally called Flo), met Frank Ross, a dashing military man, and married him. Frank worked in hardware stores with other family members, but as the descendant of former military men he also drilled the local National Guard group.

In later life Frank and his wife settled in California where he kept in touch with his Cavalier County army friends to the end of his life. And then there was a brother Duncan McNiven. The death notices for him read 1857-1897, and we suspect one or both dates may be an error. Duncan showed up in Langdon around 1891 and was a victim of a Red River Fever epidemic (possibly 1895 or 1896) which from written accounts was a cross between typhoid and influenza.

Duncan recovered but was weakened from the after effects of the illness and died a year or two later. His age is clearly given as 28 years old at the time of his death. He is thought to have been the first family member in the lot at Lebanon but has no marker to identify the location.

Lachlan McNiven and his older son John came to Cavalier County around 1895. Lockie worked as an apprentice blacksmith in Langdon for a year before setting up a shop of his own on land owned by Archie Sillers (near where Calvin might one day be). The railroad was extended to Hannah in 1897 so Lockie moved his blacksmith shop to the rail head. His son John (grandfather of our recent visitors) got a job in the Adams Hardware at Hannah and followed that line of work in later life.

Lockie’s wife, Isabella Cameron, and other children came to Hannah in 1900. One of the children who came with Isabella was a small boy born in 1897 and named for his uncle Duncan. This child died in 1903 from scarlet fever,

is buried at Lebanon, and has a marker. Like many pioneer families the McNivens believed when you found a good name you continue to use it. Lachlan and Isabella also had a daughter named Flora who was known as Flo. Whether she met the Dixons while attending school in Langdon or after they moved to Hannah is not known but Flo married Buzz Dixon. The Robert Dixon family, not related to the Dicksons at Hannah or at Langdon, lived in both towns at different times and at both locations Robert Dixon ran a dray line.

And then there was Mary Mc- Niven (Mrs. John Currie) who must have lived at Langdon with her husband and family. A note from the Courier-Democrat (undated, but around 1898) tells us Mrs. Flora McNiven from Walkerton in Bruce County, Ontario came to Langdon “to visit her several sons and her daughters Mary Currie and Annie Sandison. Another scrap of information tells us that Grandma Mc- Niven died at Walkerton, Ont. at the age of 94 in 1914. Canada cemetery records are sometimes on line so from that source we learned she was buried at Walkerton Presbyterian Cemetery.

In what appears to be the same lot are other recognizable family members: Jennie Mc- Niven daughter of Peter and Mary, Margaret (a married daughter), and the grandfather, Malcolm McNiven, b. 1817 in Scotland, d.1889 in Walkerton. Because some of our family members lived in or near Bruce County, I once spent $10 on an 1880 Atlas of that county only to find it lists ancestors of many Mt. Carmel residents down through the years.

A note on a long list of early settlers says Malcolm McNiven came from Scotland in 1830, settled in Bruce County in 1869 and got his mail at the Malcolm post office (not a town that shows on maps today or then). His wife’s maiden name was Flora Currie, b. 1819, immigrated 1830. To date we have not found them on any census listing but their concession land contained 100 acres and could be located on maps or in person. One of the local obituaries suggest there were nine original children.

Several people who met the visitors or heard about them have mentioned hearing stories about Lockie, once thought of as a character in Hannah history. If any readers have a story they would like to share with his great-grandchildren, we do have their address and phone number.