Langdon Long Ago

Rita Maisel

While most people reading this will find their mail filled with Christmas letters and updated family pictures, a part of my mail has research puzzles that the writers hope I will help them solve.  I am moving a bit slower these days so hoping for help answering their questions. I put my Christmas cards aside to share their stories with people who might know more answers than I do.

Judy and Jake Siwy from Weyburn, Sask., along with her brother, Ken, and his wife, Louise, briefly visited Langdon last summer to search for Kinna and Lindsay family ties.  In doing so they found some of the family graves and were given an old map which showed land owned by their ancestors in what is now Elgin Township.  When the original settlers lived here, that area was Jackson Township, then Langdon township and later divided to form present day Elgin with the town of Langdon centrally located.  Since the visit was short and on a Sunday afternoon, they did not have a chance to visit any of the claims their family had lived on, to check courthouse records or the clipping file for obituaries.  That clipping file now at the library was begun by Ed Franta in the 1930s and would have had no real information on people who left the area before World War I to homestead a second time in western Canada, but an old obituary can sometimes be found through other methods.

Judy’s request with her recent letter asks for the obituary for her grandmother who died at the age of 59 in 1902.  While both the Courier-Democrat and the Cavalier County Republican newspapers did print some obituaries in 1902, in-print copies of those papers are not readily available or may be in a tattered format.  Fortunately, the older local newspapers were microfilmed by the State Historical Society years ago, and if obituaries were in the paper, copies can be obtained from the Heritage Center in Bismarck for a price.  Microfilm of Cavalier County Republican newspapers available in Cavalier County today begin with papers printed after the Historical Society was formed in 1903-1904.  She would have to request earlier copies from Bismarck and give the date of death as a guideline to receive that type of information.  I wanted to spell this out for readers since copies of very old obituaries are often requested and simply not always available in legible format from local sources.

On the other hand the visitors last June had hoped to find relatives of the Kinna or Lindsay families (also the Sandbergs) who might still live in this area and have additional information.  So far, I have not been able to locate family connections and would appreciate help from readers who may have known later generations of these families.

A second letter that might be of interest to several families included a picture which is in this column of two young ladies.  How we got the picture is a story in itself.  Someone with Langdon roots or memories now living in Montana went to an estate auction and picked up the picture at the sale.  He read the name “Opie Studio, Langdon, ND” and passed what was initially a picture printed in the form of a postcard on to Barbara Manos who lives in Clancy, MT, along with a comment about “old friends from Langdon”.  Barbara, now known as BJ, and her sister, Susan, are the daughters of the late Wallace and Helen Osmon.  They read Langdon Long Ago and thought it would be a good research subject.

That assumption was correct.  While I do not know the young ladies pictured there are people in the Langdon area who might recognize them as daughters of settlers here before the town of Langdon was begun.  There are maybe a dozen family histories in the Langdon Centennial Book with details on a small group of people who originally left Borgentreich, Germany, for America around 1880 or a short time earlier.  Most were related.  The group included Joseph Hamann, his half brother, Louis Rose, half sister Mary (Rose) Muhs and her husband, Anton Muhs, another half brother Anton J. Clodt, an Albert Konze and others.  They first lived for two years near Keokuk, Iowa, then moved to southern Manitoba for a short time before settling in Cavalier County where most of them still have some descendants and some have quite a lot of descendants.  Because most of these families were members of either the Dresden or Langdon Catholic churches, a group of ladies who often met for coffee at Mary Hladik’s home knew most of them and shared stories at their gatherings about their long ago neighbors and their relationships.  It seemed that most everyone they knew had many relatives, both past and present, but those coffee parties were where I first heard stories of people with this heritage.

While in Manitoba the Borgentreich group became acquainted with the Konanz family (originally from Odessa then in Russia), and while some of the Konanz family came to North Dakota others stayed in Manitoba and are buried there.  Meanwhile others from Borgentreich, some related and others possibly friends, also came to Cavalier County.  These included the Herricks, Geisens and Muensterman families; Herman Arendes and his wife, Theresa Clodt; some of the Rohde families and others.  All appear to have had large families and they liked to give their children family names.  Most of what current Langdon people know about the families comes from stories told by the original settlers and later by Mary Arendes, Mildred (Muhs) Geisen, research done by Dick Hamann or Louise (Stamm) Kram and others.  Mary Rehbein, daughter of Agnes (Hamann) Rehbein, grew  up and lived in Montana so wrote a book about their family history.  Details were added by Henry Stamm and Dick Hamann, and younger generations have continued the stories.   Mary Arendes visited Borgentreich while teaching overseas, and Charlie Rhode also went there either while in service or on a later trip with his wife.  As a result there is a picture of the house in Borgentreich displayed at the museum in Dresden, ND, that descendants can visit.

While the postcard picture sent by Barbara appears to have not been distributed by mail, the backside lists it addressed to Mr. and Mrs. A. J. Clodt, Langdon, ND.  Here is what else we know: the Opie Studio opened its doors in 1908, and this type of card was popular during Mr. Opie’s lifetime.  He died in 1917.  At that time, his wife and son Ross took over the studio, and since Ross was really into radio communication by the 1920’s he had moved on.  Mrs. Opie continued the studio until selling it to Sam Heimbecker in 1941.  That information and the clothing worn places the picture taken between 1908 and possibly 1915.  In that era a number of the first generation born in Cavalier County residents began going west to Montana to homestead newly opened available land.  Some rode the train to Malta (still a major stop on the Amtrak line), worked in harvest fields in that area or went south to claim homesteads near Roundup.  Others rode the train to Williston, Sidney or Glendive and found land near those localities.  In the stories of families who stayed in Cavalier County, we find references to some of these towns and to a town named Bainville, a few miles north of Sidney, where people from the Langdon area lived.  Sisters Theresa Hamann (married to Konstand Konanz) and Daisy Hamann (married to Albert Clodt) appear to have lived near there with their sister, Agnes Hamann Rehbein, a short distance away.

The A. J. Clodt Sr. who might be listed on the back of the card along with his wife, Francesca Konanz Clodt, remained in Langdon until their deaths as did some of their large family who were mostly girls and would have to be traced by married names.  A son, John Anton Clodt, lived in Langdon until 1957 (married to Regina Bachman), and an Anton J. Clodt (Jr.) died here in 1913.  Another Theresa Clodt, this one the daughter of A. J. Clodt, is pictured with her family in the Langdon Centennial book and was one of the younger sisters in this relatively large family.  She married William Klemisch, and some of the family information was added when we worked on cemetery records.  Bill Klemisch helped dig graves for Calvary Cemetery and recalled being one of several who “worked three days to dig through frozen ground to bury three Clodt family members who died in the flu epidemic”.  He remembered them as representing three generations who ended up all in the same grave since one was a grandmother and at least one other a small baby.   Francesca Konanz Clodt died at the home of her daughter, Mrs. George Bodnar (Frances), possibly in 1928 which was after the flu epidemic and could have been the grandmother in the Klemisch story.  There is a memory of having seen an obituary for her in the past which I did not find in this search.  Anton J. Clodt from this family also had a sister, Elizabeth, who came to America at a later date than the original settlers.  That Elizabeth was the grandmother of Rohde family members here today.  Knowing there are descendants from that general family still in the area, we suspect a second copy of the picture might be available in our community and that a relative might know the names of the two girls pictured simply by the fact that they resemble family members.

Meanwhile, thanks to Barb and Susan for maintaining their interest in Langdon down through the years and passing on the picture which would now be available for an interested family member.

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