Ashley: Okay well I think we’re going to get started if everyone is ready [Audience Chatter] Ashley: So we want to thank everyone for… Oh you can’t hear back there Audience Member: Too loud Ashley: Too loud? Are we good? No? [Audience Chatter] Ashley: Okay so we want to thank everyone for coming out this evening March is Women’s History Month so tonight’s topic is Women in the Wild we did this series last year and it was very successful so this time we decided to come back and do Women in the Wild part 2 so we have ten brand new ladies to share with all of you and we’re also going to talk a little bit about the cultural and social impacts that women have brought to the Borderland so we’re gonna talk about women in industry talk a little bit about the women in Mando and the women in logging commercial fishing and things like that as always the bar remains open the entire time during the discussion so if your drink runs dry please feel free to go up and replenish your beverage we are filming again this evening we have KCC-TV here so if you are going to walk through just don’t dally in our walkway and we also have our History on Tap merchandise we have t-shirts and sweatshirts available and I also have some books that I brought with this evening I try to bring things from the gift shop that are kind of pertinent to what we’re discussing so if you have an interest in some of these ladies you can get material on them after the program so we’re gonna let Peggy start and she’s going to lead our discussion with homesteaders Peggy: Welcome everyone my name is Peggy Vigoren and I’m filling in for my brother Mike Williams tonight I’m going to speak about homesteading in the Loman area in the early 1900s before the railroad and when Kooch County was still a part of Itasca County I chose the Loman area because my family homesteaded there and I’m more familiar with that area but the homesteaders all throughout Koochiching County shared a similar experience In honor of Women’s History Month and the women in the wild I will focus on the women who homesteaded either by themselves or with their husbands only about 20% of the original homesteaders stayed long enough to gain title some unscrupulous people homesteaded in order to harvest the timber from the land and then they were gone tonight I’m going to talk about those who stayed and made a life in Koochiching Country as the esteemed historian Hiram Drache wrote in the beginning of his book Koochiching “the frontier this frontier was unique it had a divergent ethnic composition, long severe winters, a short growing season, and massive muskegs, swamps, and bogs” “which made travel difficult leading to intensive isolation. Settlers in Koochiching Country endured suffering that made pioneering on the barren high plains” “seem like child’s play by comparison. The 1889 Act of Free Grant and Homestead provided 20 townships for the homesteading in the Rainy River district” “every head of household was given 160 acres and permitted to buy an extra 80 at a dollar per acre” “but with certain strict conditions between 1900 and 1905 the population of Itasca County grew from” “about 5,000 residents to almost 12,000 by the year 1910 most of the habitable land in Kooch County was taken” “and about a third of that was homesteaded the homesteader paid a small filing fee and was required to take up residence within six months of filing” “After 5 years of living on the land for at least 6 months out of each year and after constructing a dwelling” “and cultivated enough of the land to show good faith the government would issue a patent or deed” “after the five years had passed and conditions were met the homesteader would file an intent to close the property and the homestead was considered to be proved out”

Although a small percentage of the homesteaders in the Loman area were women I did find several women listed in the records Listed among them were: Anna Hoard, Annie Hamlinson, Anna Hagerty, Esther Palm, Anna and Edith Knopke, Louisa Linstein, Moncina and Romina Moe, Mary Palm, Emma Thede, and Sarah Tinkum All these women are listed as proving up their homesteads in Watchus township near Loman Among these hardy women was my great-grandmother Anna Hoard. Anna filed for homestead in November of 1902 while living in her hometown Oakado Minnesota She arrived at her claim near Loman with her children in May of 1903 three of her younger brothers and a brother-in-law accompanied her and filed on property adjacent to or near to Anna. Anna’s homestead was located on the west fork of the Black River in section 9 of township 158 north range 25 west. The west fork of the Black ran through her property Anna was 39 years old when she arrived in Loman. She’d been widowed twice and she was the mother of 4. Her son Vic Linstein was the oldest at 20. He joined the family on the journey but filed for homestead on his own nearby his mother Anna’s daughter Hildegard Lindstein was 16 years old, her son Adolf Hoard was 13, and her daughter Hulda Hoard my grandmother was 10 years old at the time My great-aunt Hildegard and my grandmother Hulda became homesteaders in their own right and a few years later Hildegard married Ernest Helmer and Hulda married Andy Jespersen Young men who had both homesteaded on the west fork of the Black other families have homesteaded in the Loman area includes the surnames: Crawford, Palm, Menassa, Hammerlen, Peterson, Linstein, Moss, Hagar, Pearson, Porter, Haner, Reid, Hedlund, Moe, Carr, Riley, Amunson, Plummer, Stilner, Robertson, Nielsen, Christensen, Washburn, Sealander, and Dahl Some of these surnames are familiar to us because their ancestors still live in the area The homesteaders took various routes to get to Koochiching County One early popular route went through Tower Minnesota from the east this was a water route it went through the chain of lakes to Kettle Falls and down the Rainy Lake by steamer this was the route taken to Rainy Lake City at the time of the gold rush A second route was taken up through the middle of the state to where the railroad ended in southern Itasca County this route required walking many miles with packs on the back and then pulling barges up the system of rivers until reaching the border and Koochiching Country many young men took this route because it was less expensive and they were able to do so physically A third route was a popular route for families and most likely taken by Anna Hoard and her group in 1903 at the turn of the century JJ Hills Great Northern Railroad passed through the Red River Valley on the western side of the state and reached the Canadian border to connect with the railroad that came south from Winnipeg Most families that came from southern Minnesota would’ve took this route they took the railroad all the way to Winnipeg and then either a river steamer south to the Rainy River or they took the railroad to Fort Frances which had been completed in 1901 and then a steamer down the Rainy River to their homestead claims the railroad to northern Minnesota would not reach Koochiching County until 1907 until then many of the homesteaders including Anna Hoard did not leave the county to visit their family because the journey was simply too long with the western red river valley route becoming available due to the railroad the homesteaders were able to bring household goods supplies furniture livestock on the journey some used teams of oxen

some used work horses and some used mules and horses as did Anna Hoard livestock was crucial to the homesteaders survival and success because livestock was used to pull the stumps of the felled trees in order to ready the land for building for crops and gardens livestock was also used to pull the logs to the nearest river in order to float the logs to the sawmills most of the homesteaders also kept chickens pigs and a milk cow after clearing enough land on which to build the cabin building the cabin and the barn was the first and most important step in the homesteading process many of the homesteaders lived with neighbors until the cabins could be built the homesteaders worked in bees and could put up a cabin rather quickly by all working together digging a well was also crucial although most of the homesteaders built near a creek or a river There was a hotel on the southern side of the Rainy River near the Watchus sawmill in Loman some may have also stayed there while they built most of the homesteaders bought building supplies from the Watchus mill Mr. and Mrs. Watchus operated their building supply mill and feed business for about 15 years in Loman they sold the business to Mr. Backus in 1910 Mrs. Watchus cooked for the crew and traded with the Native Americans for fish and game in the early days Before 1903 the population on the southern side of the Rainy River was sparse and only a few families lived in the Loman area. George and Mary Loman were among the first as were the Matcaf and Watchus families the hard daily life of the woman homesteader whether it be on her own or as a wife and mother is hard to imagine the flies and the mosquitoes in the summer and the subzero weather in the winter had to make things like hauling water and feeding livestock very difficult the flies and the mosquitoes in the summer were so bad that the homesteaders had to wear mosquito netting whenever they were outside the women were often on their own because the men were busy clearing the land and often times the husband would take up logging to make extra money leaving the woman in the homestead to care for the children and do all the daily chores every family planted a large garden with a surprising variety of vegetables which were canned for the winter most cabins had root cellars where potatoes and other root vegetables were stored when the homesteaders were lucky enough to shoot game the meat was also canned and dried they’d pick blueberries raspberries strawberries high and low bush cranberries ligonberries and dewberries and the homesteaders used them all either canning them as jams or sauces or drying them the homesteaders made bread several times a week and all kinds of baked goods all baked in the wood stove if you think the winters are hard now just imagine living all winter in a small cabin with a wood stove as the only source of heat the women homesteaders got up before dawn and hauled wood from the wood pile and water from the well or from the river in buckets once they had the wood stove stoked and the cabin warm they heated water for cleaning and cooking in buckets atop the wood stove they fed the livestock and milked the cow they fed the chickens and collected the eggs the women homesteaders usually sewed there own clothes and made patterns from the pictures from the mail order catalogs they bought supplies to last because they were usually located miles from the nearest general store they often had to haul supplies on their backs the homesteaders blazed their own trails or followed Native American trails at the beginning as time went by they widened the trails and made them into passable roads before the railroad reached Koochiching County the homesteaders rarely left the homestead other than to visit with the neighbors and there was a lot of visiting with the neighbors Samuel Plummer a young homesteader who lived near my great-grandmother Anna Hoard

kept a diary of his homesteading days he writes in his diary of many social gatherings with the neighbors picnics and socials school plays and concerts holidays weddings and funerals and clubs the weather could make or break the homesteader there was no warning system as there is today the homesteader had no idea what was coming whether it be bitter cold or flooding or drought which invariably brought forest fires. before the railroad delivering mail was a huge undertaking mail to Loman came through the Tower route at that time many times the mail was delayed for weeks at a time if something unforeseen happened with the weather or one of the steam ships the post office at Loman was established in 1902. Mary Loman was the first postmistress and the post office was located in her home Gratten DeGraw was an early settler who held the mail contract for the Loman delivery he carried the mail to the village of Koochiching which is now the Falls by rowboat up and down the Rainy River when the river was open and over land when the river was frozen he delivered the mail three times per week as the age of the steamboat passed building a system of roads became more and more important One of the homesteaders biggest fears was a medical emergency if a doctor was needed it could take hours or days for them to arrive many times the doctors were forced to walk for miles to attend birth treat those who had been injured or those who had fallen ill when the homesteader arrived in 1903 there was no school in the area the mothers taught there children at home until a school could be established. Samuel Plummer arrived in Loman in 1904 and helped to create the first school in an abandoned cabin Mr. Plummer ordered the books and taught school for 2 years before the teacher the first teacher Mr. Baddleson arrived there was no church in Loman at the time Samuel Plummer taught Sunday school in the one room schoolhouse and the homesteaders got together to worship when a minister could visit according to Mr. Plummer’s Diary: George Loman loved to fill in for the minister loved to talk and preach long sermons Most of the time the homesteaders rested on Sunday and read their bibles at home when the railroad came in 1907 everything changed for the homesteaders most importantly they were able to travel to visit their families My great-grandmother Anna Hoard received the deed to her property in October of 1909 She filed her farm name designation form and dubbed her homestead “Cedar Grove Farm” Anna had lasted the five years and owned her property free and clear she had proved up Today Marlene and Hans Wagner own the property and have a lovely cabin there Thanks Ashley: Okay [Applause] Ashley: So the lady that I’m going to share with you her name is Bessie Berg Petterson she was a pioneer midwife and I think her story is very important to tell because she had no idea what she wanted to do with her life she didn’t know where she was going but she wanted to find her corner of the world so Bessie was born October 4th, 1858 to Peter and Rose Braustead she was born in Norway and then in 1878 she was 19 just getting ready to turn 20 and she decides that she is going to hop on a boat and come to America and she has no idea where she’s going to go and she ends up in Minnesota and she finds her way to the Minneapolis St. Paul area and while she’s there she meets this adventurous man by the name of Captain Andrew Petterson and just to give you an idea of how adventurous Andrew is his best friend is actually Roald Amundsen who was the first person or the first man to reach the south pole in 1911

So Andrew is a fairly adventurous kind of guy Andrew fell in love with Bessie he referred to her as his blue-eyed jenta mi and jenta mi means my girl in Norwegian they got married and they had 11 children and only 9 of them survived and then in 1905 Andrew decided that he didn’t like living in the metropolitan area he wanted to move somewhere that was more like his home country of Norway and he finds out that homesteading is open in Koochiching County and he sets out for Ericsburg of all places so he comes to Ericsburg he builds a two room house which ends up turning into a four room house a few years later and then in 1907 Bessie arrives by train with 5 of her 9 children and all of their household belongings and the family dog Shep well Bessie gets here and she realizes “wow there’s absolutely nothing here” and it’s terrifying to her because you know she’s used to living in this slightly metropolitan area but she settles in and kind of jumps into the community and I don’t know if she like where she had any type of training to do this but she kind of just starts nursing the people in her community she is sewing on fingers that get cut off in accidents and like suturing wounds and like taking care of the sick and then she starts helping deliver babies and being present for these babies being born and it’s so it’s said that she basically helped deliver or was present for the delivery of every single child from 1907 until 1926 in the Ericsburg area she passes away in 1926 none of her descendants stayed in the area as soon as she dies Andrew is like “see ya going out to the west coast” and his son lives out there lived out there at the time and he decides he’s going to race sailboats he had that you know he wanted to be out on open water because there’s no open water on the Rat Root River I mean I don’t know what he was doing so he decides he’s gonna go race sailboats and stuff which he does until he passes away at 82 so what I kind of get out of that is that the only reason why the family ever stayed was because of Bessie because she you know she integrated into the community and she was really important to people and she had found you know she found her place like her corner of the world was right there next to the Rat Root River so if you ever want to go and visit Bessie you can she’s buried in the Ericsburg cemetery she is resting there with her five year old granddaughter her granddaughter passed away her name’s Betty Mae I don’t know how Betty Mae died and if you go there you will find a single brick there’s a picture of it on our exhibit and it’s just marked with one word and it just says “Love” on it so I like to tell Bessie’s story because it’s one of those things where you might not know where you wanna go and it might be really surprising where you end up but there’s always a place for you somewhere and it might be interesting where you find where you actually belonging so that’s the story of Bessie and maybe she’s impacted someone’s life out there in the community maybe she delivered your grandma or your great-grandma who knows but I think she’s a cool person to talk about so Catherine: I’m Catherine [Applause] Catherine: I’m Catherine Crawford and I am both with the Koochiching County Historical Society on their board and with Voyageurs National Park so the people I cover are both in Koochiching County and Voyageurs National Park and I will talk first and quickly about the women’s federation clubs Minnesota Federation of Women’s Clubs and in Minnesota the Federation of Women’s Clubs started with wives of well-to-do businessmen they had their clubs and they organized the clubs they became the federation the Minnesota Federation of Women’s Clubs in 1894 or 1895 I have two different dates on that they were a social more than social organization

they were social reform they didn’t just play cards and eat canapes and so on and so forth they did things they were for legislation reform public health social services they in Minnesota actually legislated for better forestry practices of all things and they impacted what is now Chippewa National Forest and with their lobbying so it’s really interesting to read about the far reaching impact of women’s clubs more than just card clutches and social groups and gossiping in Koochiching County the first federated women’s group was the Women’s Civic League of International Falls which started in 1911 and was federated in 1912 now there were 15 clubs that were federated in Koochiching County and I have a very limited amount of time I can speak before they’re gonna get the hook so I’ll just cover a few really quick ones so with the women’s league they first the very first one worked on a scholarship for students they sponsored Girl Scouts and they were very concerned about health issues including cancer and they had Dr. Kent Well talk and he insisted that one of the proving causes of cancer was agitation so the education wasn’t perfect but they were interested in it in Loman the Loman Mother’s Club started in the home of Andrew Jespersen on the banks of the west fork of the Black River in 1913 and a teacher Ellis Mattson started the organization she called the women in the neighborhood to gather to help needy children from the families that she saw teaching school and the Loman Mother’s Club had unmarried women that wanted to join so they changed the name to the Loman Helping Hand Club over the years they helped with many many projects including sending Christmas packages to servicemen they were concerned with healthcare as Peggy said maternity, child birthing, child mortality or infant mortality rates, family health were the driving forces and concerns with families in rural Koochiching and that was one of the starts or reasons for starting these women’s groups and the Loman Helping Hands some of their interesting projects or one of I thought their interesting projects was they would give up part of their week to be aircraft observers it must have been during the war so but they did a lot of things including sending letters to shut-ins cards and letters and to patients at the sanitariums and so on so in Ranier Rainy Lake Women’s Club started in 1929 at a meeting in Annabelle Wood’s house and it federated in 1929 and their initial projects were the Ranier school that’s what they focused on was the Ranier school they wanted good drinking water clean toilets they donated a dollar for landscaping shrubs in front of the school and swings at the school and they wanted more efficient bus routes so they graduated from the Ranier school to other projects including during World War II they packaged over 50,000 dressings for the Red Cross they had tuberculosis clinics x-ray clinics and they donated lots of books to the library over the years The Margaret Corral Club started in 1928 1932 they started in ’32 and they were federated in ’33

and the Margaret Corral Club also was very interested in health but Margaret Corral it had started out actually as the Junior Civic League and they renamed it for Margaret Corral because she was a pioneering clubs woman in Koochiching County Including she helped the Loman Helping Hands start a community sing and they had there first community sing on the bridge in Loman which that’s unusual [Laughter] Catherine: Anyway the Margaret Corral Club worked also on healthcare they started actually a student loan program which turned into a scholarship program and they had for years and years the Christmas Seals drives and the Christmas Seals actually started with tuberculosis which was a greater killer than many things it was second only to heart disease back in the early 1900s and they spawned the Aquilo League which was their youth arm and the Aquilo League actually was an ancient Roman name for north winds anyway so those are some of the women’s clubs that were in Koochiching County and I’m done now [Laughter and Applause] Byrne: When you get to my age you lose your place and it’s hard to come back so I’m going to read from what I got here I have three people that I’m going individuals that I’m gonna talk about the first is Hilda Olson who represents the commercial fishing on Rainy Lake she was born in 1902 in Superior, Wisconsin in 1925 she married Eddie Olson and she was born as an Olson also so she didn’t have to change her name when she got married and she came up to Rainy Lake in 1925 they were commercial fishermen in the Cranberry Bay area and Eddie’s death by drowning in 1962 I said drowned but there’s some question on that but anyway he was 66 years old and Hilda stayed alone on the property for the next two years before she moved to the mainland According to Hilda they built there home their fish house their ice house and a boat from board that they had sawn from logs they had salvaged from the lake the commercial fishing operation consisted of lifting the nets on a regular basis to have the fish packed into hundred pound boxes to be picked up by the fish boat that came from Ranier twice a week the fish boat was originally run by John Erickson and Captain L. Anderson another colorful character and finally by Dan McCarthy Company all locations fish went to Ranier and then were put on a train for Chicago and the eastern markets the Olson were among the early mink farmers on Rainy Lake The walleye northern pike and whitefish were market fish the suckers burmits bluefins and tulabies were considered to be rough fish and fed to the mink although Eddie and Hilda both fished most of the mink farming was left to Hilda including all of the killing and scraping and stretching of the skins of 200 to 300 mink a year the skins were sent to New York for auction and from year to year the prices varied radically in the long run 2 dollars a pelt to 18 dollars a pelt from reading her oral history it’s clear how little she enjoyed the killing part and process All the animal rights activists were not at full strength at that time I was reminded of a great cartoon that I saw a number of years ago it showed a long haired hippy holding a sign “Save the Seal” as he’s standing eyeball to eyeball with the dowager lady in the long fur coat and said “how many innocent creatures had to die for you to have that coat?” and she replied “only one my aunt Ethel in Cincinnati”

[Laughter] Like many other people living in remote areas during the prohibition era the Olson’s were into making moonshine it seems they drank some they charged some neighbors and they use a little to trade goods with the Indians when you consider how much she did with how little she had to do it with it would be impossible not to admire the strength of that woman in the wilderness the second one I have a little difficulty with it because of the type of woman in the wild Gene Ritchie Monahan coming from an urban area which was certainly more wild than most woman put up with Gene Ritchie Monahan with son Robin and husband George spent the summer of 1960 at Rainy Lake at Ernest Oberholtzer’s Mallard Island George one of Ober’s long time friends he had spent much of his boyhood at the Mallard and they had company over on several canoe trips Gene was born in Duluth in 1908 She graduated from Denfeld High school and attended Duluth State Teacher’s College before earning her bachelor’s and master’s degree at the University of Minnesota she began painting in 1928 and 1930 was honored by art digest magazine for a prize-winning painting In 1934 Gene married George son of doctors Robert and Elizabeth Monahan who had built the Northern Minnesota Hospital in 1909 Three children were born to Gene and George: Jean E now Kelly, Laird, and Robert known as Robin While the children were young Gene’s art career shared time with her mother role and she limited her art activities to communities where she and Army officer George lived these included Fairbault Minnesota Anchorage Alaska and Colorado Springs when George retired from the Army the family moved to New York where he detected radio electronics Gene resumed her art career and her work began to win awards regionally, nationally, and internationally one award was a scholarship to the National Academy School of Fine Arts in New York where she painted and taught for 3 years She had a studio in Union Square later opening her Studio Gallery in Greenwich Village In 1962 Gene left New York and bought a house in Ranier then was her home, studio, and gallery upon her return to Minnesota the University of Minnesota presented a one man show of her paintings featuring her portrait of the wife of the University President O. Meredith Wilson In 1979 the Friends of the Iron Range and Kepler Center commissioned Gene to paint Rudy Krepases portrait Gene directed the Ranier summer arts workshop for three years she resigned as director when George died in 1965 and continued to teach portrait painting for several years in 1965 the University of Minnesota Duluth requested that she conduct extension classes in art these were held in the Falls library until the community college opened For several years at the request of the Ontario Department of Education Gene conducted workshops in communities from ThunderBay to Kenora and isolated Indian communities along the river in Northwest Ontario Gene’s contributions to the community are many: a four-year research project on Koochiching County pottery clays, representing the county on Regional Art Boards and on State Art Boards Committees, for 8 years for 8 years she contributed pen and ink sketches to the Rainy Lake Chronicle published here in Ranier in 1980 she was awarded a plaque for outstanding service to the Fine Arts community in Fort Frances and International Falls and then the third one the third one of the wild I will talk about this evening one from my earliest memories something like this:

“Who took me from me cozy cot and put me and put me on high school thought and then make me pee if I could not my bladder” [Laughter] Byrne: “Who would me hair so gently part and hug me gently to her heart and sometimes squeeze me until I fart? A mother” [Laughter] She was born Layna Cobb in 1910 the youngest of 6 children her father was a railroad man at Silica south of Hibbing who died when she was 12 years old She married my father when she was 15 and he was 19 and in 1929 they moved to Camp Kooch-i-ching where dad worked as a counselor with the camp owner Jack Vance who had been his football coach at Hibbing that fall they decided to stay on as caretakers for the winter a job they would keep until the summer of 1936 it was not easy for a young woman to live in a platform tent in the summer and a drafty log cabin in the winter and raised what turned out to be three children despite this she learned all the skills of a young women in her time: cooking, sewing, knitting in addition developed skills which most of her contemporaries would never achieve: piloting a motorboat, hunting, splicing rope, and motor maintenance in the summer of 1936 the Johnson family left Kooch-i-ching for a similar position at Redcrest in Bror Dahlberg’s summer estate on Jackfish Island it was here that Layna developed much of her people skills in dealing with the rich and famous and also as housemother for the Dahlberg nieces and nephews by the summer of 1944 the Johnson’s realized they could no longer continue to work for Gilda Dalhberg and that was only time to move on to something else the Dahlberg’s had left the car at the lake and arranged for Layna to drive it to California for them in 1944 it turned out to be quite a trip she stopped in Minneapolis and negotiated for the purchase of Dr. Hvoslef’s island went onto Chicago picked up one of Mr. Dahlberg’s niece’s sisters and nephew anyway they drove on to California and Gilga had expected her to stay and work for her out there but she had arranged for a ticket on the train back before she left Chicago that winter the Johnson’s built an ice house and two guest log cabins and transformed the pleasant Hvoslef summer home into an American planned toursit camp that could handle eight guests although that first encounter that first summer was successful two events the next summer did much to change the future Don accepted a position to operate the houseboat entertainment program for the paper company leaving Layna in total charge of the island and also she gave birth to her fourth child Karen in August Don’s rate didn’t work well and in 1950 the Minneapolis and St. Louis Railroad purchased the Backus Island and Layna added that to her portfolio and manager of that property also in 1953 they purchased land on the mainland built a house the first year round house with electricity and running water and also gave Layla much greater opportunity for social life she became a part of the Rainy Lake Women’s Club and had women neighborhood neighbors to share with in 1960 many entered into a long term lease the management was with the Archer Daniels Midland Company for exclusive island use

and that lasted for eleven years retirement years then allowed them to indulge in travel which they thoroughly enjoyed to Vancouver, Florida, London, and Scotland and many trips to Mexico which gave them memories to cherish in July of 1988 Layla suffered a massive stroke in her home and died within 24 hours that’s it [Applause] Catherine: So I’m going to speak of three more women two that are the Grand Dames so to speak of Ranier and one and they did not take a backseat in their family business and one who by necessity took over the family business so the first I will speak about is Gina Erickson she was Gina Finstad born in 1892 in Superior Wisconsin she was the eldest of five children born to Melkor and Mina Finstad in the summer of 1906 they were going to move up for the summer to a remote homestead 160 acres in Buyck Minnesota and they were going to prove up on their homestead and protect the timber that was being eyed by Timber Cruisers and they ended up staying for life on that homestead in Buyck Gina gave up her formal she had started school but gave up her formal for five years to help her mother on the homestead with the younger siblings and then she continued on in Duluth Normal School which was the precursor to UMD and finished her teaching certificate and she went on to teach in Buyck the one room schoolhouse in Buyck to the Adams School in Duluth and then she was offered 90 dollars a month and she couldn’t pass this up in Ely Minnesota and she taught English and music and civics and also was the basketball coach for 7th and 8th grade she said the outfits were terrible big old bloomers and so on but they played and then in 1920 in August of 1920 she married John Erickson and John had been was a fur buyer and traveled all over and he would come to their homestead and pay the exorbitant prices that her siblings demanded for the fur she said she knew that they were way he paid way more than they were worth but he came to the homestead regularly and she was quite taken with him and she married him in 1920 and they moved immediately to Ranier Minnesota now John was a wanderer he loved to trade he loved to buy furs and Gina ended up mainly running the store in Ranier for decades she had a very very good relationship with the Ojibwe as did John they could both speak the language and they had many many many of the Ojibwe goods in their stores in their store as a result she worked for many years mostly alone in that store and then when her daughter Arden started a store she worked there as well so Arden was born in 1928 and was their only child now Gina and I was told I have to tell this story Gina Erickson, Clara Finstad, and three others each ponied out 1,500 dollars for the Ranier Muni and it was basically [clapping & laughter] it was basically a loan and it was to pay for the streetlights in Ranier they got the money back but that’s the story of Gina and Clara’s civic engagement [Laughter] Catherine: So Gina died in 19 I have to put my glasses on for this because I’m not really perfect with dates

she was 90 years old she died in 1983 still pretty close to the end an active member in the Ranier civic life Her sister-in-law Clara Finstad was born in 1905 and she was born to it would be again I have to look this up Byrne: Bloom Catherine: Yep it was Clara Bloom the name started out Blom Byrne: Now it’s called Bloom Audience Member: How was it spelled? Catherine: B-L-O-M was the name of her parents she was born Audience Member: How about B-L-U-M-E Catherine: Nope this one was Byrne: B-L-O-O-M that was the name her brother went by Audience Member: I knew two boys one was B-O-U-M-E and one was B-L-O-O-M two over here Finstad’s Catherine: Right born 1905 in Milwaukee to Frants and Marie Blom B-L-O-M was the name that was on their homestead or on the records like marriage and birth and so on and then she was the middle child and she had two brothers an older brother and a younger brother Daniel Byrne: Daniel was Will Catherine: William and they moved from Milwaukee to Toad Lake in Becker County to farm and between sometime in 1910 when their son Daniel was born in Milwaukee and in the 1920 census they ended up in Toad Lake and the name was B-L-O-O-M Bloom it changed somehow in the translation Byrne: Probably the same way my mother’s name changed from L-A-N-A to L-A-Y-N-A she was always known as Layna but people would pronounce it Lana I’d assume that Blom was always pronounced Bloom but they changed it so people wouldn’t make that mistake Catherine: I think a lot of names changed actually you know from the old country coming into the US or Americanized more Byrne: and those who were on the run Catherine: [chuckles] Yeah that too Byrne: You know when someone says that too Catherine: Or just to make it easier to say Audience Member: You said one of the Bloom’s were related to the Finstad’s? Catherine: Yes Clara. Clara married George Audience Member: The reason I ask is ’cause there was a Bloom that I went to school with but he left here early early in his seniors or late juniors he was here putting on that show when Finstad opened up the deal over there and I want to talk to him and he moved right away it the class of ’55 Byrne: Yeah he was Bill’s he was Bill’s son Audience Member: Okay Catherine: So so Clara went to Normal School as well and became a teacher and in the fall of 1925 she was teaching at Wolf Lake near Park Rapids and her brother William who roomed with a quiet man named George Finstad sent her some money to come and visit and these are Clara’s words “romance blossomed” between her and George so she had come to visit in 1926 she resigned from her teaching post on December 17th 1926 and George and Clara were married December 21st 1926 with a taxi driver and her sister-in-law Gina as witnesses in International Falls Byrne: She was working the store that afternoon Catherine: that’s right and she had hash for her wedding supper with Gina so Gina she worked for Gina and John until they were able to put enough money together to buy out her brother Morris George and Clara bought out her brother Morris’s auto-marine business and Finstad’s Marine Shop was there after Audience Member: That was here? Catherine: Yes and she although George was the genius in the shop she was the genius in the books she took care of the finances and never took a never let that go right so anyway they had two daughters one Joanne in 1933 at home

and that was quite enough of that and their next daughter Connie was born in 19 I think 40 Byrne: 46 Catherine: Was it that much later than Joanne? Byrne: Yeah Catherine: Okay and she was born in the Littlefork hospital Byrne: They decided to try again [Laughter] Catherine: So George died in ’75 Clara worked in the shop until that time and then after that she ended up moving to New York she died in New York her daughter Joanne lived there and she died in 1994 at the age of 88 so she and her sister-in-law were both active now I understand Gina liked to see who was doing what in the Ranier if they were doing their business and Clara was very involved in civic clubs So my last person by necessity entered an industry her name is Annie Bowser Knox and Annie Bowser was born in 1876 (Catherine is mistaken she was born in 1878) in a place called Green Isle it was an Irish settlement in Minnesota then her parents moved to Superior and she married a fellow named Allen Davidson in 1899 and a short while later by 1903 she was widowed so being the adventurous soul that she was she had some sisters up here in this country near the Crane Lake area and she came up and homesteaded on an island called Knox Island now Pine Island on Kabetogama and under the name of Anna Davidson and she met a logger named Tom Knox and married him in about 1908 (actually 1907) Tom and his brother Oliver were logging on the peninsula of Kabetogama and they had this acreage that they were logging and they were hauling hay for the oxen and the horses and Tom hit a dead poplar with his sleigh and it broke and hit him in the head and as Peggy said doctors were far away and he died in transport to get to a doctor so Annie was again widowed and I don’t think this is uncommon my great-grandmother outlived four husbands you know this happened so anyway Annie had this money into the homestead and the logging so she took over her husband’s part and helped her brother-in-law log by 1910 they had finished up and moved towards Kettle Falls they built a large log home on the Canadian side of Kettle Falls and it was a boarding house In 1914 Annie married Oliver Oliver was by well was listed as his profession as a steamboat operator they had the Rambler but it was often Annie that you saw piloting it So Oliver and Annie could not get a title to their property at Kettle Falls on the Canadian side so they moved to Crane Lake where they lived out their years Annie died at the age of 89 in 1967 and is buried in Buyck and Oliver lived to be 90- oh he was old 90 some years old he was younger than Annie when they married she married a younger man and then she was a cougar and early cougar and then so Oliver lived for another about 10 years after Annie died and was 93 years old or no was 99 I think Anyway dates are not my thing just history but that is a woman who had to get into logging most women were cooks in the camp or something like that but some actually had to log because they had to live back then [Applause] Ashley: Okay so in the home stretch I’m going to wrap up talking about women in the mill this part of the conversation was really interesting for me because

there’s absolutely nothing about women working in the mill at all which I thought was really unfortunate but also not really surprising given that it’s the mill it’s women no one wants to talk about that so anyway so prior to the outbreak of World War II you know women are primarily homemakers and if their working outside of the home they have these you know gender-specific roles that they’re working in so you know they’re secretaries, they’re receptionists, they’re you know maybe they have a different type of career like nursing or they’re department store clerks waitresses that kind of thing but after World War II breaks out all of these men are going off to war so what do you what do you do you have to have all of these women start to come into these positions and this is a really pivotal moment in history for these ladies because this is not only allowing them to proudly serve their county because some of these women are moving into military roles they’re also being provided with this empowering independence they’re learning new skills and they’re able to provide for their families so what does this mean for women in Mando? So during World War I we have some women that are coming into the mill and at that time the war is stimulating the economy there is some activity there and the unions start to cause some local disturbances ’cause they’re like “oh well the economy is kind of going up we want to have like a little more money” and because there is a shortage of men they decided to take advantage of this because they kind of do some not very nice things sometimes and they start a 96 day strike so to make up for the shortage they stick women into the mill So three of these women were: Jenny Baker, Alice Marie Peterson, and Mary Curran and they held jobs in the woods room, insulite mill, and in the sawmill respectively now there are women working in the mill as far as like office positions like secretarial work or working as a receptionist but again we’re talking gender specific like stereotypical jobs and not that there’s anything wrong with those they’re still very important but I you know I spent some time talking with women who worked in those positions and one of the things that they said one lady that I talked to Margareet Davison she’s a lovely lady thanks Steve for telling me to talk to her she started working there in 1947 and she said that there were absolutely no men working in those jobs at all it was just it was just all ladies so we do see women coming into health services in 1940 why 1940? because that’s when the mill decides maybe we should have a health services department instead of having men administering first aid and hoping that if someone has their arm lopped off in like a calendar stack that they’ll maybe survive and get over to the hospital in time maybe we should have nurses here and have some medical attention so then during World War II women are called back into the mill again but primarily from what I’ve been told from people that I’ve interviewed they were basically working in insulite and the bag factory I was not aware that Mando made grocery bags thought that was interesting but that’s where these women were going so what they were doing is they were pulling men out of insulite and they were pulling men out of the bag factories and they were pushing them over to the paper machines they didn’t want women into the paper machines because it was very physical it was physically demanding it was very heavy the cores off of the rewinders for the paper rolls are solid iron at that time I mean I don’t know what they are like now but you know now we have a lot more help so women are able to have those jobs but they couldn’t do it then so women they’re making bags they’re making insulite they’re working on the sheeters and stuff like that so when do women actually come in to insulite when do they actually start coming in to the production floor of the mill I thought this was a little bit surprising maybe it really isn’t bit women actually aren’t allowed to come and work in physical production until the early 1970’s

and so you have women coming in and that’s into insulite and insulite has women coming in in the early 1970’s and their working as sheet pullers or some other quite labor intensive positions that these women are being put on and I talked with some women that were in that first wave that come into insulite and I asked them “you know what was your job like what were you doing” well you know they’re pulling giant 4×6 or 4×8 or 4×12 hot insulite off and the foreman was trying to be kind to them but then there were other foremen that were just like “we don’t like you” “we don’t want women in here and we’re going to stick you with the weakest possible man you know as your partner pulling sheets” so this is a terrible job that you hated but in the 70’s at that time minimum wage was $1.10 and the mill was paying $5 an hour so you’re pretty much going to do whatever terrible job they give you for $5 an hour I would I mean you could have me doing anything when women come into the paper mill however the date is a little I don’t know I talked with Bob Anderson and he said like the late 60’s but I talked with a bunch of other people and it’s pretty much around the same time of insulite so we’re thinking like late 60’s early 70’s we don’t have the numbers we can’t like go in and ask for the records but we’re thinking around that time simply because of the way that the machines are starting to operate women are more capable of doing those jobs and the places that they were primarily being placed were in the cutter room, finishing, and wrapping maybe because they were the least labor intensive positions in the mill they weren’t as physically demanding as far as how people felt about women in the mill I asked a lot of these ladies what their opinion was how well they were received there was it seems there was a lot of animosity of women coming into the mill from other women there was this idea that “well if women are coming to work in the mill then my husband isn’t going to work in the mill with a woman so he’s gonna have to quit” oh okay Karen like please sit down [Laughter] Ashley: or other women were putting women down because they were working in an industrial setting they weren’t working those stereotypical jobs where they were a secretary somewhere else where you know it wasn’t as manly or something I don’t know women are weird or they shouldn’t be working at all because they have children that they should be at home being a mom they also experienced some discrimination in the hiring some women had these questions posed to them like “well are you going to have children?” “are you going to have more children?” or “well you know that family they have a lot of kids she might be a fertile Myrtle we better not hire her” “nobody wants that we don’t want to pay maternity leave costs the company money so overall” women in the mill some people liked them some people didn’t they started in the 70’s but they were pretty awesome during the wartime they were capable and that’s all I have for now [Applause] Audience Member: This was in the 90’s I was a pipe fitter in the mill we had a director ford and a welder’s shot but before that women started coming into maintenance they were hired on mill rights which was not bad but they had to try to get up on the fitters well our boss had a 48 inch pipe wrench sitting in the corner and they talked to the girls real nice yeah we’re going to do this and this but we’ll take a walk and see what you’ll do pick up that wrench and take it with you please she couldn’t lift it sorry we don’t need you so anyway that-this is in the 90’s now and this girl came in the welding shop no women allowed in welding all men she come in there and boy she was catcalled one guys goes “what are you doing with denims on work pants on? Where’s your skirt where’s this stuff?”

and she just took it took it took it surprises one day she says “hey all of you so and so’s get your asses in the lunchroom I wanna talk to you” we all went in there and she let loose did she ever “I’m a damn girl I want to do this job I think I’m damn good at what I do so accept it or tell me to get the hell out” she was welcomed Ashley: wow that’s great Audience Member: she was a short little blonde that got good Ashley: That’s awesome do we have any other questions or stories or anything? I know this one went kind of long we had lots of people to talk about and lots of things to share we’re good? Ed: I got a story Ashley: Oh we got a story Ed has one story for us Ed: I got one story that I’ll pass on anyone that lives in Ranier and lives close to the railroad has a number of concerns a number of likes and a number of dislikes you name it and Gina Erickson was no different Gina had a running battle so to speak with the railroad and not because it was noisy not because there were a lot of trains but it seemed that every time Gina would do her laundry the train would come through and of course this is a time when it’s not Beezles but it’s the old steamers where they would be pumping out the creosoted and the soot so Gina would be over at the depot literally chewing out these engineers and this went on for quite some time and of course the engineers finally got tired of it and so the engineers would stop on the Canadian side and just fill the coal chambers full so that when they pulled up to the depot here in Ranier the engine would just be spewing this smoke out and of course that just got Gina really really mad so that’s my Gina story [Laughter] [Applause] Audience Member: and I was a railroad engineer for 44 years and 4 days [Ashley Laughs] Audience Member: You told a story about a woman who did multiple things as a health nurse our grandmother I was born and raised or born in southern Ontario and my grandmother she was considered doctorate but she also delivered a lot of people like in one of the instances I know she delivered a baby of the Neil family and ran across the road to deliver another baby Ashley: Oh wow Audience Member: and she also she lined the caskets up and she dressed the dead people and got paid in the deal Ashley: Wow Audience Member: a woman was raising I think it was eight kids oh I know she lost three of them when they moved to Minnesota She would have raised those five kids but like you said whatever help back then there was a lot of death at a young age right in her mid twenties Audience Member: Let’s here it for women [Cheering and Applause] Ashley: Alright well thanks everyone for coming out and thanks for sitting through the program I’m sure I know it got a little bit long We appreciate you coming so thank you

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