By Rita Maisel
First of all, an apology for last week’s column which ran into some problems following a storm the night before with power outages which may have affected the half-done story. Then came some problems with editing before the column was on its way to the newspaper. In other words, the story had bits and pieces of two different stories on the same subject plus some sentences ended in mid-air and others appeared twice. However, we have already heard from local relatives of some of the “unknown visitors” mentioned last week. And, in addition, there are more visitors searching who might appreciate your help.
One recent visitor has been Mary Lou Lorenz who I did know was working on her family history but was surprised to meet her for the first time this week. Part of her family reached Cavalier County by way of Canada coming as some of the earliest homesteaders in the Koehmstedt and Howatt families. She mentioned having compiled books on those lines earlier while her mother, Anna Mae Hansel, was able to help her identify family pictures. Mary Lou’s more recent books are on the Hansel and Lorenz lines and are beautifully done. I had a chance to page through them but not to read all the stories. Family who have a chance to read them will be amazed at her detailed work. Like many searchers, her work is not complete on some of the families from Galicia where the boundary lines have had many changes since they immigrated, so she continues to try to pin down the necessary facts.
Immigrants from that area who came before the Civil War are remembered as telling stories about escaping down the Oder-Niesse River at night under cover of nets of fish and sailing from Stettin in the Danzig peninsula. Census in America would list them as German and maybe born in West Prussia. Others said they were Austrian, White Russian, Galician, or maybe Pomeranian depending on where the boats began their journey or which side of the river they lived on. In another generation, families who would come to North Dakota often went south and may have sailed from Odessa. Some of those people listed their homeland as the Ukraine, Romania, Hungary, the Crimea and Russia. There is an old Gellner family story which details their adventures living in several places in Eastern Europe and, if my memory is correct, they mentioned escaping by train to Belgium or England and then coming to either Canada or the US. Mary Lou’s grandparents on that side of her family came early in the 1900s and may have come through Ellis Island which did not exist until the 1890s. Local family stories may have a lot of similar information, but most have just a few things that are different and make the search unique.
Others who have researched these eastern European families include Margaret Kertz, Ken Moos, Alvin and Ken Wilhelmi, LeeAnn Miller (Kram and Gapp families among others), Gail Melland, Doug and Pam Stremick, Alverda Gellner Mirehouse, Betty Hasey Jones, the group involved in the Wilhelmi Web (an on-line resource of years past), Delebo family members, Bob Domres, and probably many more. During the years I worked at the courthouse I met some of those people while they were doing their projects, and a few of the published results may now be at the museum at Dresden or under specific family names in the North Dakota Room at the Cavalier County Library. Most of the work takes years. You do not push a button on the computer and have it all print out “for free” as genealogy sites promise.
Sometimes you need expert help, and it could be that some interesting glass slides Darryl Dahl found fall into that classification. He was not sure just how he got them, but being interested in old things, he thought I might have seen something like this before and possibly I have and did not know what I was seeing. These are pictures of vehicles sold by a dealer in cars, trucks and farm implements which look to me to be the type of pictures sent for use in newspapers as an advertisement for a vehicle with the company name and sometimes the price listed in hand-set type under the picture. Identifying them as to make or year would be way beyond my limited knowledge, but there might be a car buff out there who could help.
The following is a sample of what Darryl knew about the man who possibly sold these vehicles. Herman A. Helgeson came to Osnabrock before 1910 with that date given for the building of the Helgeson home in Osnabrock. He was from Illinois and opened a bank in Osnabrock known as the Great Western Bank, a company with its headquarters in Chicago. His first bank was on the site later occupied by the Smith Hardware. He later built a new brick bank which, at the time of the Osnabrock book, was the site of the Town and Country Senior Citizens. He also sold real estate and encouraged new citizens to come from Illinois. When prospective buyers came, he had rooms above the bank where they could stay and used his car, described as a Thomas Flyer, to show them the farms he had for sale.
He also operated an implement business located near the Hewitson and Rourke Garage where he sold Wallace Cub tractors which later became the Massey Harris line of machinery and automobiles. What we do not know is what line of cars he sold. My first thought was to print them with this column, but we do not know if the slides would scan into a computer or not so that might have to wait for another week. If any readers have experience with glass negative or glass slides, please give Darryl or me a call.
There is a bit more to the Helgeson story. In the 1920s the bank failed along with many other banks across the United States. In 1929 the Helgesons sold their home in Osnabrock and moved back to Chicago where he died in 1957. Quite possibly, he may have continued to work for the Great Western Company or one of its successors. A picture in the Osnabrock book shows him with his wife in 1951 as a typical older couple.
Then we found more in the clipping file. In 2005 Bev Paulson from Concrete sent a picture to the Republican for their ‘Remember When’ section. The caption is of Mr. and Mrs. Helgeson and their sons, Robert and Kenneth. While the studio picture is not dated, it is typical of the World War I or early 1920s era and possibly Mr. Paulson had inherited it from his parents. At some time in the early 1900s Joseph and Catherine Paulson lived in Osnabrock. I believe Joseph was described as a grain buyer or had something to do with the elevator at Osnabrock. There were several children in the family, and in later years the Paulson family had a farm near Concrete where Bev Paulson farmed.
Mrs. Catherine Paulson, a former teacher, was a prominent lady in the community of Concrete for some time after the death of her first husband in 1931, but she became even more well-known after her second marriage. In 1937 she married Lynn J. Frazier of Hoople, who at that time was serving his third term in the U. S. Senate. He had previously been governor of the state of North Dakota. The couple traveled and were active in political circles for many years. Besides the farm where Bev Paulson farmed there were five other sons and two daughters spread across the United States. One of the daughters was Mrs. Ruth Kippen, living at or near Cavalier, and Mrs. Marian Hamilton, a long-time teacher at Langdon Elementary School.
And yes, yet another family has re-discovered some interesting stories saved by their grandfather and great-grandfather. That will be for next week.