Beaulieu: Last week’s column was on some of the earliest homesteading families who settled “at the foot of the mountain” when the present day boundary between Pembina and Cavalier Counties had not yet been formalized in the area named Beaulieu Township by Pembina County officials. That early Beaulieu Township was four townships in size. When fifteen townships at the west end of Pembina County voted to separate and become the east end of Cavalier County in May 1885, two townships now located in Cavalier County were given the name Olga. Later they were divided and became North Olga and South Olga. The site of the store and a stopping place for a meal or overnight became known as Beaulieu, named for the view of the valley to the east as seen from that part of the ridge of the Pembina Escarpment. Beaulieu Post Office established at this general location in 1884 and was in Sec. 27 of currently North Olga Township. The post office closed in 1931. The cemetery and a weathered gray church building with a small traditional “rose window” on the western wall were still standing but no longer in use when I first visited the cemetery in the early 1970s. A school building was part of the community from its earliest days. One of UND’s more colorful alumni, Arctic explorer Stefansson, taught at the Beaulieu rural school before enrolling at the University and wrote about his experiences there in compiling his memoirs. The area also had an active Woodman Lodge pictured in the Olga book.
More as a clarification than a correction would be to mention that what is now Prescott and Russell United Counties in eastern Ontario, plus the area of Vaudreuile in western Quebec, contributed many Irish and French settlers to what we now know as Cavalier County. Settlers from other parts of Ontario also came here with a number of early Langdon residents from counties along the shores of Lake Ontario. Many early farmers who would settle in both Pembina and Cavalier Counties came from land along the shore of Lake Huron. Settlers in the Hannah area often listed Manitoulin Island as their previous home.
The journeys were usually on immigrant trains. If a whole community wanted to come, the families would arrange for a train for their group and bring livestock, furniture, hired help listed as servants, or neighbors with them. Father St. Pierre came to Olga with one of those groups and is thought to have gone back a year later and again accompanied a group coming to Dakota Territory. The immigrant trains were still bringing families in 1910 to settle communities in the western part of Cavalier County. Other early settlers were young people who wanted to see the country and would bring a few clothes in a wooden box or a homemade trunk. My grandmother had two brothers farming in the Cavalier area when she came with a group of young girls in 1883. Her future husband came earlier with a group of young men, and they met at church in Cavalier. Many families have similar stories.
COVID-19: Because the pandemic is “history in the making” and has altered all of our lives accordingly, I would have preferred to write months ago that it was just a blip on a radar screen and life had gone back to normal. That comment would not be the truth. Whatever your age or social level, your life and mine have been irrevocably impacted by a virus we knew very little about until it arrived. Little children who may have seemed to race joyfully to the front of the church for their special children’s sermon or to get a quiet bag to entertain themselves during the worship are no longer there. The story hour at the library is not available, and whole families may still come to the library to check out books, but children seem to have forgotten the train they used to race to visit. Day cares have new rules. School children have had to adjust to distance learning, to not being able to run and play on the playground or in the park. Yes, some ball teams have tried to have normal games but even those efforts were at times disrupted.
Young families who counted on day care and both parents working had to change their life styles, As stores and offices closed to the general public, some worked from home and some lost their jobs and possibly a good part of their income. Lockdown took on a new meaning when it was a favorite business, the courthouse, the bank or the hospital. Remember the days when walkers in couples or groups used to be a common sight? Coffee drinkers met at one place as soon as it opened in the morning and another a couple of hours later at a different location. I knew ladies who had an exercise class at one place, went for coffee together, did some shopping and then met another group for lunch or a meeting with refreshments included. In the evening, husbands could be talked into taking them out for dinner and some even found people to play cards with or maybe a ball game to watch at a nearby park or stadium. There might be a concert or a movie they wanted to attend. Some still do some of those things, but we do them masked and less frequently.
Older people went into this time with mixed feelings. I had phone calls from friends both local and far away who had determined not to leave their homes until it was over. No one wanted visitors who were not immediate family. We took for granted we could talk to neighbors in the yard if we stood far apart. Or we could call them on the phone. But even phone calls got less and less as we had no news to share. For a while we could listen to the governor’s reports in the afternoon, but they are no longer on the radio. School news went to “Facebook only” from the beginning making it off limits to anyone not into that form of media. Being in the age group not expected to live to the end of the virus, well-meaning friends and relatives were the first to assure me I would not live out the pandemic, and of course, they could be right. There were many suggestions that I do the things on my bucket list now which they felt would be reasonable. Their advice did make sense.
Yes, some do have a long list of the things they call their bucket list: mountains they want to climb, making their second million since the first one was too hard to reach, writing their memoirs for posterity, places they always wanted to go or things they were too afraid to try. In that category they often claimed skydiving or whitewater rafting were on their bucket list. Personally, I had just planned to do whatever I was doing as long as I could. But the pandemic intruded on even the unimportant things that had kept me busy for years. Research has always depended on the questions people asked me to help them with. Reading has always been a wonderful leisure time activity, but increasingly favorite authors died or were no longer able to write. I miss Lillian Jackson Braun and her Cat Who series; Phyllis Whitney who wrote up to and past her 100th birthday; Sue Grafton whose A, B, C books ended with “Y is for Yesterday”; M.C. Beaton whose Hamish McBeth stories took you to the highlands of Scotland; and Mary Higgins Clark who died earlier this year (more on that later). Awhile back I realized I had been playing for church, poorly but hopefully adequately, for more years than the average church-goer has been alive. A cousin reminded me that a lady in one of his churches was 100 and still playing. That milestone was not in my wildest dreams. The love ribbons I have made “forever” celebrated their 50th anniversary last year. Because the ladies who relied on me to make them have not met since last Christmas, that mission project is on hold as are the sweaters normally needed for mission kits. When you do not have a definite deadline to meet, it is harder to tackle new routines.
The following are some of the ways I found to keep on keeping on. As part of reading bingo, I set out to see if there were any Mary Higgins Clark books I had not read, and even if I re-read one or two, they were still enjoyable. Currently I am finding Agatha Christie books I did not remember reading and, also, finding she spent from World War II until her death in 1976 combating the comments of people who thought everyone over sixty should be exterminated. She disagreed vehemently. Hercule Poirot had retired before one of his best-known cases was solved in 1926 and came out of retirement to solve “The Murder of Roger Ackroyd,” one of his and Christie’s most famous stories. Miss Marple was 80 before she hit the pages of print and 50 years later was still 80 but using a cane.
Even though it has been a long time since our pastors have been called to local nursing homes, I have not played there or had a chance to visit with friends living at Maple Manor or Osnabrock; we do have social distancing and in-person worship at our church and yes, we sing hymns behind our masks, and someone plays the piano. Sometimes that someone is me. Research requests still come by phone, e-mail and snail mail. There are still bags of yarn on hand “to make something out of” when inspiration strikes. As the oldest recipients of mission sweaters have now celebrated their 15th birthdays, new and special little ones are arriving in our own community and may welcome a handmade gift with cooler weather approaching.
I can send cards and letters or make phone calls, but I do not go visiting or attend anything where I might have to drive home after dark or when the sun is coming up or going down. That feature has to do with vision problems when driving, not just the virus and cancelled events. I do appreciate the sports announcers who not only call the games but keep us informed of community events. Meals and groceries can be ordered and delivered, but fresh air is beneficial so I pick up mail, necessities and sometimes news on those excursions. Friends do still call and allow for the fact that it takes awhile to get to the phone. Things could be worse, but I still have fond memories of how much easier life was without the virus.