By Rita Maisel
When writing about a business that was here before the town was organized or North Dakota became a state, your mind goes back to the very beginning of Langdon. Officially Cavalier County was organized on July 8, 1884 with the names of Pat McHugh and W. J. Mooney prominent in the group who voted for this move. It was their privilege to choose the site of the new country seat, conveniently located on land where they had already staked a claim, and named the spot Langdon for Robert Bruce Langdon of Minnesota. Mr. Langdon was prominently mentioned as a nominee for the 1884 presidential election and just happened to be completing a section of the Canadian Pacific Railway from Winnipeg to Calgary that summer. Their reasoning was simple. To succeed, a new community needed a railroad and naming the town after a member of the federal railroad commission was a step in the right direction. McHugh and others from Cavalier County won seats in the Territorial Legislature and worked hard to get a commitment for a railroad but the going was slow. Much of the land close to the new town had filled with settlers learning how to farm, but getting construction materials for homes and stores was a major problem so only a few people lived in the new town of Langdon. They also realized that when the railroad would arrive it could be a few miles away, and the town would need to relocate.
The early business district was Spruce Street, now known as 9th Avenue or Highway 5. When the news that the line was getting closer became a reality they realized it would be more convenient to move the businesses to a north/south location, but the best location was already planted to barley! W. J. Mooney was not going to waste a good crop! The surveyors would have to wait until the crop was harvested – and they did. Some early business men set up smaller businesses or sold items from wagons, but the real shortage appeared to be a lack of dray animals. Most of the horses in the area were needed for harvest or had already been “loaned” to the railroad to transport rails, ties and workers mile by mile.
As early as September 1887 the newspapers told of stores planning to open, lumberyards ordering supplies and at least two larger hotel builders interested in erecting large modern hotels in Langdon. The hotels seem to have been named The Columbia and The Palace even before they were built. The Columbia would be one block north of the proposed depot site and the Palace a block north of the Columbia, the exact lot where the disastrous fire of January 5, 2018 occurred. One of these hotels opened around Thanksgiving of 1887 and the other by January of 1888. Both were immediately community centers used for weddings, church services and rented around the clock to people working with building the new town who at that time had no private homes to live in.
Mike O’Brien, spoken of as a man who was a friend to everyone, had been elected Sheriff of Cavalier County late in 1885 and had moved with his family to Langdon. Mike took on the management of the Palace Hotel as well. Older maps identify the hotel as O’Brien and Shelp and it is possible that these men may not have owned the land at that time. Archie Shelp came into the picture when he moved his saloon from its previous location on Spruce Street to the north side of the hotel. Archie also had a livery stable at the rear which we are told extended to the present post office location. O’Brien was associated with both the hotel and the sheriff’s office until his untimely death in 1895. Ever a wanderer, Archie Shelp whose saloon had closed when prohibition came in with statehood, had headed north after a few years in Langdon and readers of Langdon newspapers could read about his adventures finding gold in the Klondike and along the Dalton Trail. Klondike history tells us Archie died there around 1898. Meanwhile Mrs. O’Brien and her family remained in Langdon and she had an interest in the hotel property for several years. The establishment was managed for a short time by Thomas Holland and then taken on by Jerry Kelland. Kelland was a stone mason who did construction work around Langdon so it was not a surprise to see his family listed in the 1900 Census as living at the Palace Hotel as well as several other young contractors who had settled in Langdon. In 1901 a fire in the Palace Hotel resulted in its destruction, and while no pictures have surfaced we understand the original Palace was of wooden construction as were many of the early buildings in Langdon.
By 1901 the Palace Hotel location had become a major business intersection and re-building would be a wise move for an astute businessman. As it happened, there was just such a man whose business a short distance from the location had outgrown its premises. That man was Adolph Schulke, and out of the ashes of the Palace Hotel arose Schulke’s Trade Palace, this time of brick construction and named for the popular hotel that had once claimed that corner of Langdon’s Main Street. Readers will not be surprised to learn that former residents of the Palace Hotel with stone-mason training found jobs working on the new building. The cornerstone says it was built in 1902, but newspaper accounts stretch that date to later because not only was Schulke building on that intersection under construction but so was J. B. Boyd’s new enterprise to be known as the Boyd Block. There were reports of lumber famines, problems getting the bricks both stores would use, and later problems in stocking the stores with an early concept of one-stop shopping. Boyd and Schulke were competitive in their advertising, their specials and their clientele. Each had a grocery store at the rear end of their building, each carried furniture as well as dry goods, at times both specialized in furs, and they had on-site seamstresses, millinary shops and alterations specialists. Some of their items were ready to wear, but others could be tailored to meet the needs of their customers. Boyd had something called “Boyd money” to be spent in his store. Schulke offered ornate rocking chairs and decorative tables to farm families who paid their bill in full.
Boyd, whose story was covered in earlier columns, was from Ontario. Schulke was born in Bromberg, Germany which during his younger years was part of German controlled West Prussia. At age 17 he apprenticed to a grocery market in Bromberg (no longer on maps under that name) and two years later immigrated to the United States where he worked his way west in stores of various kinds from Chicago to Bathgate, often traveling with German speaking immigrants. Both Boyd and Schulke homesteaded farm land near Langdon as an added asset. Schulke’s land was in Section 5 of Langdon Township and almost next door was a pretty young girl on her own claim. Minnie Irwin soon became Mrs. Schulke. When he had enough money to open a small store in Langdon he did so with that first store north of where the Roxy is today. Fluent in German his store was frequented by many settlers with German and Canadian ties. Check p. 20 of the Langdon Centennial Book for one of the best photos of the two stores around the time they opened. Visible at the top of the one picture is a sign identifying the building as “Schulke’s Trade Palace”. That sign remained visible for many years while later owners identified their businesses with larger signs above their entrance doors.
Early in the 1900s the Schulke family built a house still standing and known to some as Mrs. Clifford’s house and to others as Mrs. Young’s home on the corner of 8th Ave. and 7th Street. In the 1920s they moved to Minnesota where their children had settled. At that time the store business other managers continued their business here, and we will include some of that later history in a column next week. Following the death of competitor J. B. Boyd in 1924 his oldest son, John J. Boyd, moved the Boyd’s Golden Rule Store across the street to the Schulke building. The east side store became J. C. Penney and Co., and the west side store became known for almost thirty years as Boyd’s. When John J. Boyd moved to Minnesota in 1945 the business was sold, but many of the workers remained in their jobs employed by Gamble-Skogmo. That change brought in with various managers including Jim Patton in charge of the Skogmo grocery department, and a short time later Harold Sandum in the clothing departments. Eventually Sandum took on management of Sandum’s Store and was followed by the Thoelke years.
Other remembered businesses housed in this same building either along with the Boyd or Skogmo eras or later included Verna Lou Taylor’s (later Ross) beauty shop, The Knights of Columbus (John Boyd was a member) who held many events there, doctors and dentists who had offices on second floor and as a home for the Langdon Library. Under later owners, apartments became an important part of the building. Some remember the downstairs as Langdon Floral with Needle Discoveries a part of that co-op effort. Various shoe stores were there, the Photo Shop, a framing business, a quilt shop and gift facilities. Somewhere along the line an owner re-named the building Boyd Square to keep it separate from the Boyd Block across the street which also had several occupants over the years.
Each of us have special memories of people who worked in the building or of events we attended there. After the first version of this column had been written, we found additional information that will be saved for another week along with the memories readers have of shopping in a building that has been a part of our community for 115 years or more. Hopefully the lot where the building stood has a future that is equally interesting.