Mildred had a Dream
There is rarely a week that goes by that someone does not ask where to find one or more of the centennial books from Cavalier County. Most ask for the story of their publication and if any copies can still be purchased. The correct answer is that some might still be available, possibly at a price that would be within your budget. But first it helps to tell the story again of how so many really terrific books were compiled in roughly a 25-year span of time.
By Rita Maisel
Fifty years ago the late Mildred Rutledge started talking about “our centennial book” which she envisioned as one book for Cavalier County which would cover all of the pioneer families who had ever lived here. As she talked to others they caught her enthusiasm for the project and formed the Cavalier County Historical Society. They also acquired the use of the stone church at Dresden for a museum but as a group decided early on that they were not in the publishing business. When individual groups did publish their history friends of the museum donated copies and today their library has copies of most or all of the centennial publications which can be read in their library. On a recent visit there we noticed they also have family histories similarly donated and those books or booklets are not all located at any other facility in Cavalier County. Maybe some day they will be.
Up until 1970 I had never heard of Mildred Rutledge or the Cavalier County Historical Society. Part of the reason for that is that I had been living, working and teaching in Colorado for years and what I knew of North Dakota came from occasional visits and letters from home. A cousin and her husband who also lived in Colorado had just spent a good part of the year before teaching in North Dakota, going back and forth to Colorado to take care of things on the farm there. Trying to be two places at once was just not feasible. But that year in North Dakota made them aware of family needs here and because teaching jobs were plentiful in North Dakota they simply said, “this year is your turn…” Added to that was an aunt in the Langdon hospital and an even older aunt asking me to come home. A letter to the ND Department of Education resulted in phone calls with job offers and a week later I was on my way to North Dakota with classes starting a few hours after I arrived.
The first or second weekend after school started there was a pile of typing sitting on the dining room table at my aunt’s home. Who left this? She did not know. “Someone from the court house…..” We later learned that someone was Mildred Rutledge who had counted on my mother to help with previous projects and assumed I would do the same. Some of the material Mildred had collected was background for a book about Cavalier County history she hoped might be printed in 1984 – the future centennial of the day the county had been organized.
Several things would occur between those early days and 1984 and as it happened Mildred died before any local centennial books were published. But there were the early Lucy books which local people read avidly and there were all the stories Edith Christie and Emma Hahn and Lawrence and Cyrilla Kartes and Bill Coffey and dozens of others knew. My job became listening and sometimes taking notes.
By the time of Mildred’s death Leo Beauchamp was thinking of an Olga book and later he wrote about wanting “someone” to put together a book about Olga until one day he realized he was someone and so were others in the Olga community. They worked together and later his dream became a shelf of books, one for each town. If you have looked at the Cavalier County Library or bookshelves in many local homes, you already know that dream has materialized as well.
The story of publishing a shelf of books is long and involves many people. After Olga came Milton with the first contacts being calls from Magnea Swanlaw and Chuck Stabo. Each group passed on their experience and their encouragement. Grant Swanlaw met with both Langdon and Osnabrock before they began working on their books. Each committee approached the projects slightly differently but they all got inspiration and support from people who had worked on previous projects. Each group was comprised of volunteers with a connection to their specific town or area. Being I lived in Langdon where some of the information might be stored and had a typewriter (these were the days before computers), there were times when typing help was welcome. Norris and Nellie Nelson would pick me up right after breakfast and we rode together to Osnabrock where the book committee had set up shop in the Marchell Apartments. Langdon’s committee worked at the Masonic Temple under the leadership of Vivian Baird and Margaret Kertz. There are memories of riding the school bus with Lawrence and Cyrilla Kartes out to their farm where we worked on the book until time for them to pick up and deliver students to their homes. Wales later got help from Mt. Carmel friends and the result was book after book.
Reading the old newspapers was a full time job for several people whether it was Olga workers reading old Langdon and Walhalla papers, the Milton committee pouring over bound volumes of the Milton Globe at the Senior Center, or Osnabrock ladies making many trips to the library at the museum to read the Osnabrock Independent. Langdon got a head start from all the stories Mildred had shared with me and her insistence that I read both the early Courier-Democrat and the Cavalier County Republican volumes that were available. Lawrence Kartes ended up with a book of his own from reading the bound volumes stored at the court house. Ed Franta and the clipping file were invaluable to each of the committees. Vera McIntosh spent day after day reading old Hannah Moons on microfilm. Linda Nickerson and the Sarles group had copies of the Sarles paper stored in their community. Dawn Pankratz and her mother concentrated on people they knew at Munich and Alsen for the Munich Area book while Eileen Morris poured over many sources of Clyde history for that section of the same book. Gail Melland, who had begun reading Nekoma newspapers years before, was not only part of Nekoma’s Jubilee Book but also took on the 2005 Nekoma Centennial Book with help from new and old friends. Later Gail and Dorothy Johnson coordinated the work on the Edmore Centennial Book. There is a Hampden Book in the library collection as well as similar local history books from some of the surrounding counties.
The following list is the best summary I can come up with on known books with notes on the ones that may still be available for purchase:
The Olga book was sold out years ago but a soft cover version which has the same information was printed later and may also be sold out today. Check with Leo Beauchamp or attend an auction sale in that community before you check e-Bay as the local price may be better.
The Milton Book may be available by inheritance or at an auction sale but they sold out around the time of their centennial celebration. Proof the books have been read often shows up in the existing copies that no longer have covers.
The last of the original order of Osnabrock books went to a researcher from Norway several years ago. This book has not been reprinted but is much appreciated by those who still have original copies.
Langdon learned that people still wanted Jubilee books from 1963 many years later so ordered lots of centennial books. These were stored locally and there were some left after the 125th Celebration in 2013. It is my understanding they are available as long as that supply lasts. Bill Brooks would be a good contact for ones that might still be around.
Mt. Carmel sold out their first printing and ordered a second time. As might be expected, the second printing was more costly and may again be sold out.
Wales had some books left not long ago and you could start your search with Sharon Lundgren.
Hannah still has some books left and Vera McIntosh is the lady to consult. If you pick up the book it is the original price and if it needs to be mailed the price includes postage.
Sarles Books may be at a store there or may be getting rare. This was one of the later books published and Linda Nickerson would be a good contact person.
Munich books have at times been available at the bank. Dawn Pankratz was the editor and she is a good person to consult if you wish to purchase a copy.
Nekoma book committee members took charge of the few that were left after various celebrations and I do know of two that were mailed to happy recipients in recent months.
Hampden – if any are left check with Mrs. Neidlinger.
Edmore – Gail Melland or Dorothy Johnson would be a good first contact.
Pembina County – Books available can be purchased from the Historic Society site or from the Icelandic Heritage Center.