Langdon Long Ago

Cavalier County Library:
In response to some comments on library use in last week’s paper, I want to begin this week by expressing some personal thoughts on the topic. Patrons of the Cavalier County Library come in all sizes and ages. Babies smile from their infant seats while other family members browse the stacks of books or pick out movies. To be honest the library serves several generations of local families on an everyday basis. Some of the busiest times are story hours where little ones who do not yet recognize words enter the door and race for the tables where there are art projects or where they will sit to listen to a story or do an activity. On other days, Moms bring in little ones whose goal is the train set in a far corner. Kids sign up in droves for the summer reading program, and the library provides activities for all ages. Some of the rare historic materials are kept in the North Dakota Room including the clipping file which gets a work out every day and is kept current by library staff members. Researchers from all over the world consult this library for information on where their family members settled in homesteading days.
There are sections for new book releases, newspapers, biographies, non-fiction, local authors, and most amazing of all (to me) a wonderful children’s section. On a regular basis I remember the tiny section for children in the Langdon library when I was a child and how carefully it was guarded so not just anyone could use the facilities. In those days the library belonged to the Woman’s Club. If your mother was a member you could check out books. Mothers who worked in stores or offices were not members of this group, but their children could purchase a library card (25 cents for three months) provided they were at least ten years old. I personally visited Mrs. Donovan, the librarian in those days, many times before I turned ten and was delighted when “birthday money” equaled the requested fee. Today residents are not charged, but many grateful patrons donate books and funds to purchase books for special needs.
One comment made recently was about those who use the library computers and that resonated with me. For years I worked at home until the last in a string of computers had serious problems. While the computers took vacations at a repair shop, I would drop by the library and use one of their machines. Sometimes I was typing for only a few minutes and other days when the traffic was slow, I could work for longer times. Eventually as I got older I realized that getting out of the house every day meant a chance to visit with friends and do research at the same time. This column is much easier to write when you are next to sources of information that would be impossible to duplicate in your own home.
Many people are not aware of the library outreach which set up the original shelves of books at area nursing homes or has often shared books from their collection with local schools. For several years there were mini-libraries comprised of duplicate books from the Cavalier County Library available on shelves in senior centers, grocery stores or other frequently visited sites in most of the then existing Cavalier County towns. Another lesser known resource is inter-library loan which brings us books on a temporary basis that the library budget might not cover or find room to house.
When the local library first moved to the Masonic building, I joked with a member of the Masonic organization that it would be convenient for their members to check out books. He was shocked. I was firmly informed that “men do not check out books”. But then some special little granddaughters liked to visit the library and Grandpa was designated to accompany them. Soon he was pushing their stroller and a bag of books “he had always wanted to read” was hanging on the stroller handle. If you have not been to the library lately or maybe ever, feel free to step out of your comfort zone and see what they have. You may be surprised.
Harvey’s Book:
Last week’s column on research dealing with early Loam Township settlers may have mentioned a book by Harvey Jacobson detailing his family’s journey from Norway to Dakota Territory where they settled in Loam Township and family members still live and farm. After the column had gone to the newspaper, we found a copy of Harvey’s book on the shelves in the North Dakota Room. Like many one of a kind books, this one can only be read while at the library. I started that day and am now part way through history and more history.
Not only is this book the work of Harvey Jacobson who grew up in our area and graduated from Langdon High School but it includes quite a bit of research done by his cousin, the late Leland J. Johnson and a long bibliography including many other history seekers who readers might know.
The map section includes Ringebu which is north of Lillehammer and marks the Stiveland Farm where Harvey’s grandmother Karen Stiveland Jacobson was born. Gulbrandsdalen, a scenic area curves north of that site and a few miles southwest is another area known as Valdres, the original home of other original Cavalier County settlers. Harvey, Lee and other family members have been to this area and write glowing reports of the countryside where their ancestors were born.
One of the more interesting maps in this book shows the settlers from Norway landing at either New York or Montreal. Those landing at Montreal went southwest on the St. Lawrence and crossed Lake Ontario lengthwise to Buffalo. Those from New York appear to have gone north on the Hudson River and then west on the Erie Canal to Buffalo at the point where Lake Ontario and Lake Erie meet. They crossed Lake Erie lengthwise to south of Detroit and then went north to possibly Sarnia where they entered Lake Huron and sailed to Sioux Ste. Marie, then into Lake Michigan and down to Chicago. Later a railroad would take them easily from Detroit to Chicago. Many settlers from Norway would spend a generation in Wisconsin, Minnesota or Iowa which could all be reached from Chicago or Milwaukee. This route was quite different from the Scotch, Irish, English, Swiss, German and French settlers coming to North Dakota who often landed in Quebec or Ontario and then took the train across to Winnipeg. Icelanders often landed on the shores of Hudson Bay and made their way south on foot or by dog sled. Whatever route they came was lengthy and filled with hardships.
The book has ancestry charts going back many generations and in even scanning them you find the surnames changing in generation after generation. First, they have a given name, then their father’s name followed by son or dotter, and then there might be a name in the third position which seemed to remain constant for more than one generation. That is their farm name or the place where they lived. In describing this Harvey writes that if they moved to another farm this third name became the name of the that new farm whether they owned the land or rented it.
Some of the families settling in Loam Township filed their citizenship or homestead papers as Pederson, Peterson, Petterson, Nelson, Nilsson, Paulson, Stulen, Johnson, and many other variations. Sid Stivland from Minnesota whose questions began the current research found inconsistencies in land ownership in North Dakota. Why were the paperwork for naturalization, homesteading and census filed under different family names and years later yet another name appears on their tombstones? It could be that some of the people recording this information wrote or spelled the name differently simply by the way it sounded to the recorder. Or it could be that family members changed a name they used here in the early days for one that sounded “more American” or that was simply different from other settlers in their community. Some families have legends that explain these changes, but a great many do not and leave behind a small bit of mystery over how or why the current names evolved.