Journeys to the Past
By Rita Maisel
Readers might remember stories told to them by their grandparents or even great-grandparents. Quite often those stories were told in bits and pieces. My own grandparents and great-grandparents were not around to tell stories, but the relatives who did all had slightly different versions – mostly rooted in fact but with different details. That type of storytelling still goes on, and last week and weekend I had a chance to listen to possibly several “current” versions.
Darryl Dahl had a neat picture of an army unit his uncle born and raised near Milton was part of during World War I. How could we find the military history for that uncle who had moved to Montana and is buried there? He did not, at that moment, remember the town or county or maybe I did not write it down. But just off-hand, I told him to ask Leon Hiltner who must have the service records of military personnel from Cavalier County. At least there would be a service number and surely the VA could locate a website which might have more information.
The picture itself is too large to reproduce, but it has a story as well. A group of maybe 200 men in uniform were part of a unit giving a musical concert at Menlo Park, California. The background on the half of the picture where the men face the viewer is a row of tents where possibly the service men slept. The second half of the long picture shows the men with their backs to the camera and a view of the surrounding scenery. Both Menlo Park and a nearby Army base are close to San Francisco so my first guess was they might have been embarking for service from that port or might have been returning from Europe to that camp. The legend on the double picture calls this group the Ammunition Train Singing Group and gives the musical director’s name. So far we know no more details.
There was no obituary in the local clipping file for an Edwin Dahl, who died in Montana, but Edwin had filled out an old settler’s form (handed out to those who were interested at Cavalier County fairs in the 1920s) where he was questioned on military service and wrote 10 months in the Army. No details. He did give his birth date, that he had gone to Montana in 1913, gave his address as Dagmar, Montana, and the maiden name of his first wife. Dagmar is not a large city and did not come up readily on the internet, but the clipping file told us Edwin’s wife had died at a Plentywood hospital so the next try was what might come up on a Plentywood cemetery. That produced the extended family of Edwin’s brother, Andrew, who had also gone west to homestead before World War I.
Why not try FindaGrave? Much of the work done by volunteers for that website has been moved to commercial sites which want you to register (yes, there are fees), and they will search for you. The librarian that day found the original site and typing in Edwin Dahl brought up Nathaniel Lutheran Cemetery at Dagmar and Edwin’s family. On his tombstone is listed Pfc Edwin Dahl, who apparently was a member of the Montana Co. E S (a volunteer group like Langdon’s Company E), known as the Ammunition Train, World War I. Three generations of the family are listed in that cemetery with a surprise in small print at the bottom of the page. The pictures were given to the website by Traci Dahl who happens to be Darryl and Bev Dahl’s daughter.
And then there was a phone call from Kathy Muhs about a lady from Canada who had contacted her and wanted to come to Langdon this last weekend to visit the museum and research the Kinna family which was a new name to Kathy. The visitor would be in Winnipeg on Saturday for a wedding and would come to Langdon on her way back to her home at a town Kathy did not remember hearing about as well. Kathy would be busy on Sunday, and I knew I would be playing at church but could point them to the museum on Sunday. In our conversation she mentioned the lady was from Saskatchewan which is not that far away. She even had the name of the town written down – Weyburn – a place I have driven through when visiting relatives who live in a smaller town nearby.
Saturday, a phone call came from the lady on her way to the wedding to double-check if I would be home from church by 11 a.m. the next day to meet with them and have a cup of coffee. Her name was Judy, and the mention of coffee told me a bit more about her heritage. Not all Canadians drink tea. She specifically wanted to visit Lebanon Cemetery so I told her it was on the highway, and she might pass it coming to Langdon, thinking they might cross the border at Pembina, Walhalla or maybe even further west. She also wanted a copy of a Langdon phone book. Where could she get one? On Sunday that might be difficult, but she had hoped to phone descendants who might still live here. The last Kinna I knew about had died in 1911, and while buried at Lebanon, he does not have a marker. Then she mentioned the Lindsay family, who until recent years, have made Langdon their home. Yes, another grandmother had been a Lindsay. She rang off before I realized most of the Lindsay descendants are buried at Calvary Cemetery. However, there is a plot in Lebanon for her great- or great-great-grandparents, John and Mary Donnally Lindsay, whose descendants do have many stories in the local clipping file. The library would not be open on Sunday so Saturday was spent copying some of that information.
In the meantime, I learned that none of the local centennial books have stories about either the Kinna or the Lindsay families. That may have been an oversight because they were among the very earliest families in what is now Elgin and Manilla Townships with early maps showing claims by family members. Several also have tombstones in local cemeteries. One reason the information is scattered is that the John Lindsay family had 13 children, and eleven of them were girls! If they married and stayed here we may not find a record of their married names. Sarah Lindsay, one of the daughters, married William Kinna, but so far I have not found a mention of them being married in Cavalier County.
One of Judy’s first contacts which she thought was a Langdon City Hall website provided a tombstone for a little daughter of William and Sarah Kinna located in what is now the northeast corner of Lebanon Cemetery. She knew stories about this little girl buried at Langdon but nothing about relatives here who might have decorated the grave from time to time. On this trip the visitors brought with them flowers for the grave and photographed their trip to share with family back in Canada. As it happened, that little girl died within days of her own grandmother, Elizabeth Kinna, and they are buried together. Not far from that spot is the burial plot for John Lindsay (d. 1923), his wife Mary (d. 1905 in Estevan where several family members had settled) and their daughter, Emily Stauffer, which they found as well.
Homesteaders in the area included not only John Lindsay and his son, James, most of the brothers in the Kinna family, Jennie Kinna Sandberg- who had her own land and Emily Lindsay Stauffer and her husband. Coming in 1883 (before Langdon existed) was James Lindsay, his Donnally uncles, and a cousin Tom Hand – all mentioned as established here when E. J. Fox was hired to become Langdon’s first resident in December of 1884. Their names, at least under known spellings, did not appear on the 1885 Territorial Census of Dakota Territory which is available on the NDSU Library website. James Lindsay lived into his 90’s, and his story was copied for Judy to take back with her.
The visitors did not arrive at 11 or at 12, so I did a scouting trip to the cemetery and the parking lots of open restaurants and then sat down to have a cup of coffee. Yes, I fell asleep and had a hard time waking up when the phone rang and rang. The voice said, “This is Judy, and we are here. How do we get to your house?” Knowing the current state of Langdon streets, giving directions to a stranger would be difficult so I asked where they were, and they thought at a Cenex station (to me that might be Farmers Union). Are you on a highway? Yes, but they did not know which one. When I asked the name of the port where they crossed the line, they first said “after Carmen” and that they had gone through Winkler, so it must have been Maida. When they described buildings they could see, it appeared they were at Super Pumper, had found Lebanon Cemetery and were getting hungry. With some Langdon eating places closed on Sunday afternoons, we met at the Dairy Queen (conveniently on the road they were on!) . As I walked in the door a lady with gray hair gave me a hug—and then told me she was Louise. When Judy called she said “we” but had given no information on who was with her. The visitors were Judy Siwy and her husband, Jake; her brother, Ken, and his wife, Louise- all names that we did not have time to exchange until after a good visit. A copy of an old map showed some of the family claims and a star off the edge of the map marked Dresden- their next stop. When last seen they were heading west and talked about getting to North Portal (a 24-hour border crossing). There was mention of coming back, and they left their address and phone number.
Readers who remember descendants of these families are invited to share what they know.