Langdon Long Ago

Remembering 1989

Posted 9/12/19

By Rita Maisel

Much of my time this summer has been spent working on a church-related craft project which is celebrating its 50th anniversary and trying to remember life from and how things were done fifty years ago.  Finishing that up this week did not leave a lot of time for research so while browsing through titles of early Langdon Long Ago columns, a group from 1989 looked intriguing with update possibilities.  One was mention of the walk on the moon which had been written about as a 50-year story earlier this year.  In 1989 both people who had participated in that walk, and those of us who had watched from afar, were celebrating the 20th anniversary of that event.  The following are memories from other stories of 1989.

The Party of the Century was North Dakota’s biggest party ever to celebrate 100 years of statehood.  If you were alive that year you might remember Jason Olson in a centennial band marching down the streets of Bismarck with some local people on floats in the hours long parade.  One float that caught the eyes of the people commenting on the street was the Cavalier County Wildlife entry with mounted samples of game shot by local hunters.  Interviewers were charmed by a “real wild mountain man” from Wales.  Finley McLean starred in that role and media personnel were still talking and writing about him long after the parade had ended.  A frequent comment was that he got more screen time than governors past and present.

The same week that story was featured had statistics from family reunions in our area mentioning in particular 37 sets of Koehmstedt twins and 43 sets of twins in the Kartes/Girodat families.  Many of those twins might have attended the Mt. Carmel Centennial as well.

Another amusing story was that of Trevor Woolner from England.  Trevor wanted to trace family members who had come to America many years ago.  The last news the family in England had heard indicated some family members had moved to Langdon.  He had written 73 letters in search of information about these relatives and was ready to give up because the first 72 of the letters went unanswered.  Someone passed the 73rd letter on to me.  A long-ago uncle of Trevor seeking the information was Daniel Woolner, British soldier in Malta and elsewhere, who married Maria Jacobs, at that time a maid-in-waiting to Lady Adelia, whose husband was also in the military.  Daniel was stationed at various places, and in 1970 they came to America where he was on duty guarding the boundary line between the U.S. and Canada.  The next assignment was to guard the construction of the railroad from Duluth to Fargo and then west to Jamestown and Bismarck.  While on this duty his wife traveled with him in a covered wagon bringing along a small flock of chickens which provided eggs for the troops when in garrison.  Their story is in more detail in the Langdon Centennial Book.  Daniel was discharged at Fort Pembina in 1875 and “joined the Army of the Lord” preaching at Pembina, Drayton and, eventually, Petersburg.  After Daniel’s death his widow moved to Langdon to keep house for her husband’s nephew, James Woolner, a newspaper man who worked for both the Courier-Democrat and the Republican for the rest of his life.  A skilled knitter, Maria taught many Langdon women the art of knitting socks for soldiers serving in World War I.  James had married Lucy Ann Smith, also from England, and their home on now 7th Street was just across the coulee from people “on the hill” and part of the Presbyterian Church in Langdon learned to know them well.  Some of their antique furniture may still be prized in Langdon living rooms.

Al and Marlene Peterson, living in Canada where Al was employed as a Mountie, decided to take a “Journey to the Past” and set out on a trip that would take them from Edmonton to Easby in search of Eagleson and Simmons relatives.  Marlene was not well, so they brought food she could eat, equipment and oxygen for her use and described the trip as “going into the wilderness.”  There is a vague memory of The Stables serving steak and lobster to the visitors, and they kept in touch with friends here for several years.  Al was into a strange communication device which eventually became email.  They also sent us strange discs which someone at the REC tried to translate.  I believe the contents were early Peterson genealogy records but beyond my expertise to tie it all together.

A column titled “The face is familiar but…..” was the story of 28 class pictures taken by the Langdon photographer of classes attempting to get together behind the school we knew in 1988 as part of Langdon’s Centennial.  The photographer charged me $3 for each of these small prints because “they should be saved somewhere in Langdon.”  Unfortunately, the pictures were not labeled by class years, and we never did identify the pictures.  Many of the classmates on the pictures have now died, but several still remember three guys from our class who did not recognize “those old people” as their classmates so stood some distance away under a tree while the picture was being taken.  Two of that sub-group are still alive, and the third died a short time ago.  I have no clue as to the whereabouts of the envelopes of the prints.

Another story was about a Mehok sword.  The sword was given to the museum and identified as a KC Sword which had once belonged to a member of the Mehok family from Dresden.  Long-time members of the Knights of Columbus wanted a story about their organization.  That was out of my league.  The final version was memories down through the years provided by Alphonse Hiltner, Carl Wild, Emma Hahn (not a KC member) and George Hiltner.

The next week had a story about the last bear shot in Cavalier County.  It was based on a much older story than the 1989 story – something like “this happened a century ago.”  In more recent times bear cubs have been photographed in the Pembina Gorge.  Possibly the title was written prematurely.

Traveling in Style 1916 was a story about Claude Crockett’s car which he had purchased from his grandmother, refurbished, and loved showing to anyone who showed interest.  This car had been in several parades in more modern times.   Harry Franta had found a picture featuring the car when it was new at an Experimental Station Demonstration Tour.  We are not sure if the tour began at the station and went from town to town (some auto tours did that in the pre-World War I era) or if was a time when people wanting a trial ride could observe a demonstration of the car.  I do remember Emma Hahn and I got to ride with Claude when he showed his car at the museum one Sunday afternoon.

September 4, 1989, brought the centennial issue of the Cavalier County Republican as it began its second century of publication.  The paper listed all the editors and employees that readers could remember plus numerous pictures of old equipment and places the newspaper had occupied down through the years.  Officially, the paper is now 130 years old.

That same month the newspaper ran most of the original 1885 story of the death of Susan McKeown and the lynching of Louis Olson Gunderson with C.B.C. Doherty’s original title “Murder Most Foul” first appearing in the Cavalier County Courier (before the Democrat, Republican or Times existed).  A word used freely in the original was deleted in 1989 because the Cavalier County Republican was a family newspaper.  That word was rape, which was not synonym for canola in 1885.  Gunderson was not the killer he was made out to be in the original headlines but died before a formal trial.  The first person to confess to having killed Susan did so on his deathbed in the 1890s.  Others continued to confess until 1927.

The house tour in 1989 took many interested visitors into the former Kessler home still owned today by Paul and Michelle Olson and to the original Allert home, then owned by the Goodliffe family.  Lunch following was at the library.

In November of that year bands in east and west Berlin began practicing long ahead of time for a huge parade beginning in both East and West Germany.  As the bands played Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy” they marched down Under dem Linden Strasse to the Brandenburg Gate and history tells us “the wall came tumbling down.”  If you were not alive to see that momentous celebration, check out a history channel and view it for yourself.  1989 may be long ago, but it was an exciting year- both for people in our area and for people around the world.  Just reading about it, I wish I knew what I had done with the piece of the wall David Piehl brought back from his year as an exchange student in Germany.

And in the meantime, other searchers for long ago Langdon have visited us and might find stories for upcoming weeks.  Does anyone know history of the Abar family who ran a grocery store on the east side of Main Street or where they lived in Langdon before 1940?  Other visitors (this time from Missouri) are interested in a branch of the Eickenbrock family who may have lived in Grey Township.

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