Friday, January 6, 2017

A Perfect Storm

 [Note: The Conductor of Train #412 was my great-great uncle, E. E. Hittle of Huron, South Dakota.  He was married to Maude Graves, sister of my great-grandmother Elvirta Knutz.  As far as I know, he walked away from the crash without injuries.





****



                Webster defines the term “Perfect Storm” as a critical or disastrous situation created by a powerful concurrence of factors.  And that is precisely what culminated on the morning of Sunday, April 25, 1937, when Chicago and North Western passenger Train #412 plowed into the rear of Train #504 just west of De Smet, South Dakota, killing one and injuring several others.


                It was described as a “freakish late-April storm” that rolled into the area on Saturday, April 24, bringing strong north winds of 60-65 mph.  Only an inch of snow was deposited in the city of Huron, but massive drifts high enough to cover the fence line could be found east of Huron between Iroquois and De Smet.  Highway 14 was quickly impassable, with dozens of cars stalled and abandoned near Manchester, as their inhabitants made their way into town to catch the eastbound train to their destinations.

Map of pertinent area in eastern South Dakota, courtesy of Google Maps.

                Late Saturday evening, Train #504 left the depot at Huron for its eastward run, hauling a passenger car plus five other cars, with a gas-electric motor coach that was hitching a ride, or “deadheading,” to Tracy, Minnesota, at the end.  All was uneventful but for a few small drifts until they were within three miles of De Smet, when the train met its match in snow and became stalled.  Conductor Arthur Howard, of Huron, and his Engineman Mr. Key, thought the train might have a better chance without the deadheading motor coach, so it was detached and they attempted to thrust the train through the deep snow, but this effort was unsuccessful.  The crew then attempted to get the detached motor car back to Manchester to summon help, but the high winds and heavy snow only allowed about 50 feet of movement before it, too, was stuck.  Engineman Key sent out the flagman to the rear of the train, and they made the decision to have Conductor Howard try to walk the three miles to De Smet for help and to notify the proper people of the stall.

                The Flagman Mr. McIntyre sprang into action to minimize a very dangerous situation.  This area of track was single-rail; trains were operated on a timetable, with train “orders” and a manual block-signal system during the day.  During other times, “time spacing rules” were in effect to prevent accidents.  Flagman McIntyre situated a red fusee (very similar to a flare) about 500 feet behind the train, and continued walking until he found another clear spot on the rail on which to put torpedoes to alert any oncoming trains.  Continuing, he put another two torpedoes down about 1/4 mile from the train, then went back to the train to warm up.  He went out a second time, this time 3/4 mile from the train.  Overnight, he made several trips back and forth, standing guard to get the attention of any approaching train, and returning to his train when his eyes and face were covered with the freezing heavy snow.  In the early morning hours, he and baggage man Fred Behrens, of Tracy, decided to try to get to a nearby farm house in hopes of being able to contact the depots in Huron and De Smet to let them know of their predicament, and bring back some food for the passengers, despite their conductor already being on the way to summon help.  In his absence, Flagman McIntyre enlisted Baggageman Venard to take his place as flagman.  Although Venard’s 16-hour “tour of duty” would soon be expiring, McIntyre did not consider it of importance during an emergency situation, and departed with Behrens. They were ultimately not successful in locating the farmhouse, and leaving Behrends behind, McIntyre proceeded to De Smet. 

                Meanwhile, Venard acted as flagman, but informed Conductor William Innes, who was in charge of the deadheaded motor car, that his 16 hours were nearly up, expiring at 7:40 a.m.  According to Venard, Innes replied that he would take over the flagging duties at that time.  When 7:40 rolled around, Venard came back to the train, and made a sign to Conductor Innes, who nodded back.  Venard took this as a sign that Innes would take over, and he proceeded to the mail/baggage car and went to sleep.

                Sharing responsibility with Innes for the deadheaded motor coach was Engineman Frank Carpenter, also of Tracy.  He and Conductor Innes alternated going to the engine for coal.  Carpenter was preparing for his turn and Innes went to the passenger compartment of the motor car, located at the rear, apparently having no knowledge that there was no longer anyone at all acting as flagman.


****

Depot and Rail Yard of the Chicago and North Western Railroad at Huron

                Meanwhile, at the Huron Depot, the crew of passenger Train #412 was preparing for its run.  Dispatcher Kelley came on duty at 6:30 a.m., and discussed the situation with the night shift dispatcher, who informed him that all communication east of Huron was down.  However, he had no reason to believe that the previous nights’ train, #504, had not been successful in reaching its destination.  As Dispatcher Kelley was preparing to issue orders for the outgoing train, he was distracted by a train patron inquiring about shipping animals, and he inadvertently issued the conductor a clearance card reading “block clear” rather than issuing a caution order. 

                At 8:18 a.m., Conductor Hittle and crew left the depot 13 minutes behind schedule.  Engineman J. C. Shephard noted the severity of the storm, but the visibility was at least good enough to see the front of the engine, and the train had no trouble attaining its regular speed.  But all that changed as they went through Manchester; the snow on the tracks caused the train to lose speed, and Fireman Hoffman expected a stall, but Engineman Shephard was able to use more steam to get the speed back up and keep the train moving.  Their speed was up to about 20 mph, but visibility was so poor that the front of the engine was now a blur in the blizzard conditions.  


****

   
             In De Smet, Train #504 Conductor Howard discovered that communication lines were down in the whole area.  He knew he would not be able to contact the depot in Huron, but was at least hoping to contact someone in Iroquois to warn of the stall.  He stayed in De Smet until 5 a.m., then headed back toward his train, but discovered the drifts had become 2-3’ deep and was forced to return to De Smet.  He was surprised shortly after that when his Flagman McIntyre showed up at the De Smet depot.  When Howard inquired who was doing the flagging, he was told that Venard was handling it.  They were in the train station when the mail clerk came over and told them that the unthinkable had happened.


****

                There was nothing the crew of Train #412 could have done to stop the crash.  They heard no torpedoes, and saw neither fusees nor a flagman.  After the accident, Train #412’s Flagman Shanahan went to the rear of the train to flag, and found an unexploded torpedo about a half mile behind the train – his train had slid right over it.1  He walked the 6 miles back to Manchester, and his face became covered with ice in the nearly 3 hours it took to get there.

                The deadheading motor car with Conductor Innes and Engineman Carpenter was the first to be hit, and it was hit hard.  Made of steel, it was crushed like a piece of aluminum foil, “telescoping” it.  Conductor Innes was in the rear part of car, and was critically injured.  Engineman Carpenter, in the front part of the car, sustained a broken nose, numerous head lacerations, and bruises.  After the motor car was hit, it propelled into the main train, partially derailing it and causing minor injuries among the passengers.  Had the motor coach not been detached, the situation would have been much more serious than it already was.

                A plea was immediately made in the passenger car for anyone with any medical skill to help.  A young Huron College student, Paul Besselievre of Pierre, was traveling to Irwin, South Dakota to preach a Sunday sermon, and his scouting experience gave him some basic first aid skills.  A nurse, Miss Beulah Vostad of Rapid City, was also aboard.  Nurse Vostad attended to the more seriously injured Conductor Innes while Besselievre cleaned and dressed Engineman Carpenter’s wounds, stating that the hardest part was keeping Mr. Carpenter still – he was compelled to go to the main train to see what he could do to be of service, despite his wounds and dazed condition.  Unfortunately there was not much that could be done for Conductor Innes other than an injection of morphine to ease his pain.  He was talking coherently Sunday night, but took a turn for the worse and passed away the following day.

This was the Perfect Storm of conditions – snow, wind, lack of visibility, downed phone lines, and a number of critical human decisions that went wrong.  The investigation questioned why the flagman would leave his job, which was paramount to the safety of everyone on the train, to duplicate the efforts of his conductor.  His replacement went “off-duty” in an emergency situation.  The next replacement apparently did not know he was expected to act as flagman in addition to what he was already doing.   In a moment of distraction, the depot clerk did not caution the outgoing crew of a potential problem down the line.  These were all factors that came together resulting in a large amount of damage and most importantly, the loss of Conductor William Innes’ life.

****


1Pg. 63 of Accident Bulletin, Issues 63-82, by United States Federal Railroad Administration, Office of Safety.
                “When a train is stopped by an accident, obstruction, or from other cause, the flagman must immediately go back with stop signals to stop any train moving in the same direction.  At a point one-third of a mile from the rear of his train, he must place one torpedo on the rail; he must then continue to go back at least one-half of a mile from the rear of his train, and place two torpedoes on the rail, 60 feet apart (two rail lengths), when he may return to a point one-third of a mile from the rear of his train, and he must remain there until recalled by the whistle of his engine; but if a passenger train is due within 10 minutes, he must remain until it arrives.  When he comes in he will remove the torpedo nearest to the train, but the two torpedoes must be left on the rail as a caution signal to any following train.  At night he will also leave a green fuse burning on the track.  If there is not a clear view for one-fourth mile to rear of train, the train must start before calling in the flagman, and move ahead at a speed of not less than 4 miles per hour until it reaches a point where the view is unobstructed for one-fourth mile in its rear.”

Monday, January 2, 2017

The 1880 Agricultural Schedule Sheds Light on William Graves

Years ago, I found digital copies of the 1880 Agricultural Schedule for my direct-line ancestors, William Graves and Lawson Lair in Peoria County, Illinois.1  The headings of the schedules were impossible to read, and I wasn’t terribly sure how valuable any of the information would be, so I stashed them to deal with later.  Yesterday I decided to put the effort into seeing exactly what was on those schedules.

William Graves
I was able to find a document online with information on the agricultural schedule and blank forms for several years2; then began the work of going back and forth between the blank form and the schedule until I had extracted the information.  I repeated the process on the second schedule I’d downloaded for Lawson Lair – but discovered that William Graves was also listed on that schedule as well!  Princeville Township only had one William Graves during that time period, so I assumed he had a second farm somewhere in the township.  I was aware that William, through thrift and hard work, had given each of his children (including his daughters) their own 80 acre farm when they became adults.  I began looking at plat maps for various years, and looking at neighbors both on the plat maps and on the agriculture schedules to determine which schedule entry pertained to which of the farms he owned.

As it turns out, one schedule entry notes that William does not own this particular farm, but is leasing it for a share of the profits produced.  Looking at the other entries on the schedule and comparing them to neighbors listed on the plat maps for 1873 and 1896, I was able to determine the farm was located in Section 4 of Princeville Township, land that William owned in 1873 and his daughter Sarah A. Cox owned in 1896.  Sarah was married to Charles Cox in 1874, and may have been given that farm at that time, or at least prior to 1880.

1873 Plat map of Princeville Township, Peoria County, Illinois.  The red "X" in the upper left corner shows the location of land that would later belong to William's daughter Sarah; the green "X" toward the center shows the location of William's farm, with land he'd later give to Tom and Oscar; across the road, denoted by the purple "X" is the land that would later belong to Austin.

The second entry is a bit harder to explain.  Again, looking at those around him both on the schedule and on the various plat maps, this farm appears to be his personal farm.  William had purchased land that was clustered around his primary farm in the western half of section 2 and the eastern half of section 3.  On the earlier 1873 plat map, the section 2 land had been divided into two farms – one owned by his daughter, Martha Cox, and the other in his name.  Later that land would go to his son, Austin, who was just 3 at the time this map was created.  Across the road, in section 3, he owned a 240 acre farm, which would by 1896 have been divided into thirds – 80 acres for his son Oscar, 80 acres for his son Tom, and 80 acres for himself.  But this does not explain the findings on the 1880 agriculture schedule – William’s farm was described as 80 acres.  Twins Austin and Oscar would have been just 10 at the time of the schedule, and Tom would have been 18.  It is conceivable that Tom had gotten his farm by 1880, but unlikely that Austin and Oscar’s would have been in their names.  Perhaps these 240 acres of unaccounted-for land was rented out and appears on the schedule under the renter’s name.  Thus, William’s second appearance on the schedule with 80 acres of land would make sense.

William Graves' land, photo taken about 2007 by author.
Regarding the specifics of William’s farming, he tilled 79 of the 80 acres on Sarah’s farm, but only 30 of his own, keeping the remainder as meadow or pasture.  Each farm produced about $700 for the year in profits.   He kept horses, pigs, and chickens at both places, but also kept cattle on his own farm – 2 cows for milking and 16 others to sell or slaughter.   Butter was produced on his home farm – 150 pounds in 1879. 

Crops grown on both farms include Indian corn, oats, and Irish potatoes (as opposed to sweet potatoes).  100 bushels of apples were sold from the orchard on Sarah’s land, and 125 gallons of molasses were produced from there as well.

Besides an interesting snapshot of what a typical workday for William may have looked like, finding these two entries on the agriculture schedule really forced me to take a good look at William’s land ownership and how his land acquisitions were divided among his children, and when that may have occurred.

I have one question I wish I could ask William’s wife: Who really churned all that butter??


Both these men were great-grandfathers of Bill Knutz Jr.  William Graves’ son Tom married Lawson Lair’s daughter Nettie, and they were Bill’s grandparents.
2https://www.census.gov/history/pdf/agcensusschedules.pdf

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

An Unconventional Friendship

Iris Brown
An Unconventional Friendship.  That may be what you call it.  Of course, when a tipsy 16 year old girl at a party meets a woman in her fifties, who had probably been “tipping a few” as well, it’s going to be an interesting friendship.  And that, it was.

As a youngster, I could never really understand why Iris took note of me or even remembered my name for that matter.  But after knowing Iris for a while, I came to understand that Iris didn't just meet people, she made lifelong friends.  There was something about her that made it easy to talk to her – she showed deep interest in other people and freely talked about her own life and circumstances as well.

When I was in my late teens or early twenties, I was hired at J. C. Penney in the catalog department, which was side by side with the credit department, where Iris worked at the time.  We were scheduled together frequently.  One particular night, when a blizzard raged all around us, we stood at the catalog counter and gazed out the side door at the white flakes swirling around in the darkness.  It had been hours since we’d seen a customer.  Out of desperation for something to do, we made a huge dot game – you know, the whole page is filled with dots, and you try to connect them together into boxes, filling them in with your initial.  Whoever gets the most boxes wins.  We entertained ourselves for a while with that, and when our shifts ended we shoved it under the cash register for safe keeping until next time.  Well, when “next time” rolled around, we discovered our game was missing – apparently someone had found it – hopefully not our supervisor - with all the “K’s” and “I’s” written all over it, there was no way we could plead innocence!

No matter how mundane the situation, experiencing it with Iris took it to a whole new level.  One day as I was just getting home from class at Huron College, I got a phone call from Iris.  She was stranded by the mall, her car having run out of gas and was stalled on the street.  I drove over there and picked her up, and we laughed about it all the way to the gas station, where we realized neither of us had a gas can!  So we laughed all the way to the store to purchase one, then back to the gas station.  Everyone we encountered along the way probably thought we’d been drinking!  We continued to laugh about the whole situation for quite some time afterward.

Years later, after my family and I moved to Minnesota, I got a call from Iris saying she’d be coming through my town and did I have a bed available for her for a couple of nights.  Well, of course I did!  One of the days during her visit I was supposed to meet with a small sewing group at our church, and Iris joined us.  We worked together on my quilting project, and had a great time.  She fit in just perfectly with our tiny group.  As we were working, a couple of bridesmaids who were there for a wedding came into our meeting room, nearly in tears.  The one bridesmaid had come in from out of town and was just trying on her dress for the first time, and could not get it closed in the back.  It wasn’t even close!  Thank goodness the dress also had a silk shawl, so Iris got busy and sewed that dress around the girl with heavy thread, and then sewed the shawl to the dress, so it looked just perfect.  She single-handedly saved the day – and the wedding.  And of course, we all laughed through it, even the flustered bridesmaid!

Iris was there to help celebrate every big event in my life – my high school graduation, my college graduation, my wedding, and the births of my children, even if that meant she had to do a little driving.  It seemed she was always traveling somewhere.  When I remarked about her busy itinerary, she told me “A moving target is hard to hit!”  And that was Iris.  A Moving Target of love and caring for others.  She was involved in so many lives, and was such a part of us all.  Godspeed, Iris.

Friday, November 11, 2016

Something's Fishy...

It was a Christmas eve just like every other one in our family, except it was the first Christmas dinner I remember sitting  up at the table with the rest of my cousins, most of whom were a year or two or three older than I.  We little cherubs were all dressed in our holiday outfits, and my cousins Bobby and Brian were running their fingers through the candle flames and singing the naughty versions of Christmas carols while the adults were visiting.  Grandma was in the kitchen, stirring the rice pudding and keeping the tray of lefse and krumkake filled.

Photo courtesy of Jonathunder
But soon Grandma came out of the kitchen to see who wanted lutefisk.  One by one, she worked her way around the kids’ table and got everything from a polite “No, thank you,” to noses wrinkled up at the mere thought of it.  I had no idea what this lutefisk stuff was, but if my cousins didn’t want it, neither did I.  As she made her way closer and closer to me, I began to get a guilty conscience.  I wasn’t sure if she was getting her feelings hurt, or if she was genuinely perturbed at this sorry bunch of little Norwegians before her.  As she got closer to me, a sick feeling grew in the pit of my stomach.  Finally, she said, “Karen, do you want lutefisk?”  Silence.  I looked around the table, and all eyes seemed to be on me as the silence grew.  I looked over at my cousin Brian, whose face was still contorted at the mere thought of it.  I looked up at Grandma, gulped hard, and said, “Yes,” but it must have been a tiny, quiet little “yes.”  Again, she asked if I wanted lutefisk.  I looked around the table and my cousins were all wide-eyed and slack-jawed, waiting for me to actually repeat it.  “Yes,” I said a little louder.  She called me a Good Little Norwegian and went off to the kitchen to fetch the lutefisk, whatever that was.
 
My Grandma Lisa
The next thing I remember was a lovely gold plate with a wiggly, slippery looking parcel on it, being placed in front of me.  Grandma took a big ladle of melted butter and poured it over the top of the aromatic heap.  Every time I looked at that thing on the plate, it seemed to get bigger.  Grandma gave me another small word of encouragement about being a Good Little Norwegian, so I coaxed a jiggly piece of it onto my fork and struggled to keep it there.   I felt everyone in the room was watching me as I put the fork to my mouth, although I’m sure they probably weren’t.  The texture was like nothing I had ever experienced, and I noticed the slab of lutefisk on my plate suddenly looked huge.  Again, I gulped hard.  “Put some salt on it,” Brian mercifully whispered.

My delighted grandma reappeared from the kitchen and asked how I liked it.  Apparently I did not look as green as I felt.  “Good,” I recall saying, although nothing could be further from the truth.

Thank goodness for salt.

Eventually that lutefisk thing on my plate was gone and the taste (and memory) was replaced by the other delicious Norwegian goodies she served.  And after that night I didn’t give lutefisk another thought.

Until the next Christmas eve.

The cousins took their places at the table, running their fingers through the candle flames and singing naughty versions of Christmas carols.  And Grandma said, “Who besides Karen wants lutefisk?”

And so it went every Christmas eve while we were blessed enough to have Grandma with us.  And every year, eating the lutefisk was less and less of a chore.  I actually developed such a taste for it that I cooked and ate it voluntary a few years after my grandma had passed away.

This year, I’m going to serve it to my granddaughters.  They’ll hate it, but that won’t stop me.  Perhaps with a little persistence and a good old fashioned guilt trip, one of them might someday decide she likes it.

*****

Thank you to Elizabeth at the Genealogy Blog Party for hosting this event!

Lutefisk photo attribution:
By Jonathunder (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)], via Wikimedia Commons

Saturday, October 22, 2016

The Mysterious Lives of Freide, William and Henry, Part III

In posts 1 and 2, we saw the romantic tale of William and Freide Feige, and the fading of William Feige from the story, and the appearance of Henry Van Dalsem into it.

But the question still remains, what happened to William Feige?  His paper trail leaves some idea of the answer to that question, although some details are sketchy.

William Feige
In Iowa, in September of 1882, he applied for an invalid pension about the same time he filed for the homestead land in South Dakota, a rather curious combination of events. 

In 1885, the Dakota Territory census shows him living on his homestead and his occupation was "farmer." He also had a hired man to help out.  He and Freide still had five children at home.

In November of 1887, significant things began to happen.  This was almost exactly five years after filing on his homestead, having fulfilled the requirement to live on the land five years and to improve upon it.  With that time being just barely completed, he appears to have sold the land to his wife for $1,000, and a land transfer notification was printed in the local newspaper.  It was also about this time that his wife and children moved to Huron. The month after selling the land to Freide, he was admitted to the soldiers home in Leavenworth, Kansas.

Two years later (1887), the newspaper printed a notice that land patents were ready for pickup at the post office, and patent #1174 with William Feige’s name on it was among them.  

In June of 1894, he transferred from the soldiers home in Leavenworth to another soldiers home in Dayton, Ohio.   

1895 – I believe he was married to a woman named Sophia about this time, likely in Ohio.  This is based on future documents.

On June 26, 1897, he was discharged from the soldiers home “at request,”  presumably his.  I was unable to find him in the 1900 census, but I suspect he and Sophia (or just him) were still in Ohio.

In 1903, he moved back to South Dakota, according to information provided in the 1905 SD state census.

In 1905, William Feige appears in the South Dakota State Census, a resident of Campbell county, is 67 years old, and divorced.  He lists his occupation as “minister.”   He said he had been in the state for two years.

In 1907 he was granted a military pension of $12 per month, with a second pension date of May 1912, at $22.50 per month.

In 1910, he was an “inmate” at the State Soldiers Home in Hot Springs, South Dakota, was 71 years old and is married, and had been married for 15 years.   The marriage information is inconsistent with this status as “divorced” in 1905.

In 1915, he again appears in the South Dakota State Census, age 77, living in Fall River county at the Soldiers Home in Hot Springs.  No occupation is listed.  His Civil War service is referenced, and he is not “blind, deaf, insane or idiot.”  No  marital status is noted.

Later that year (October) he once again transferred back to the soldiers home at Leavenworth, Kansas, pictured below (photo from Library of Congress):



Two years later, on September 21, 1917 – William Feige passed away from colitis.  He is buried in Section 22, Row 5723, presumably in the veterans cemetery there.  Again, his service is referenced, and his status is as an “Army Invalid.” 

Leavenworth paperwork indicates that it was his daughter-in-law, Mrs. Carl Feige, who was notified of his death and who received his personal effects, in lieu of William’s son Carl, who was serving in the military.

William’s pension payment card notes the date of his death, and that money was payable to his widow, Sophia Feige, Willow Wood, Ohio.   The widow applied for a pension based on his service in September of 1925 and filed from Ohio.  

While these facts help paint some sort of a picture of William’s life after his divorce from Freide, the most interesting questions remain unanswered.   Why did William and Freide Feige divorce?  Did his medical status have something to do with it?  Was this common knowledge among the citizens of Huron, or did they really believe he had died?  Almost exactly five years after filing the homestead claim, the land was sold to Friede and William moved to the soldiers home in Kansas, almost as though he/she/they were waiting to have full rights to the land before making any moves.  Was this a plan involving both William and Friede?  Did William’s second wife Sophia ever accompany him to South Dakota or Kansas?  If not, why?  Why did William’s daughter-in-law get notification and his personal effects after his death, and not William’s widow?

Without a doubt there is much more to William’s story, and the most interesting parts of it may already be lost to history.

*********

SOURCES CONSULTED

“Pioneer Huron Woman Doctor Poses for Picture Showing 5 Generations.”   The Evening Huronite (Huron, South Dakota).  18 May 1936, pg. 9.
“Proceedings of the Board of Commissioners, Beadle County, South Dakota.”  The Daily Plainsman (Huron, South Dakota). 01 Aug 1907.
The Dakota Huronite (Huron, South Dakota).  22 Jul 1909, pg. 5.  Short local news items.
“Observes Ninetieth Birthday.”   The Evening Huronite (Huron, South Dakota).  06 June 1934, pg. 6.
“Do You Know.”  The Evening Huronite (Huron, South Dakota). 29 May 1928, pg. 6.
“Grow Old Along With Me.”  The Evening Huronite (Huron, South Dakota).  21 May 1929, pg. 6.
“Women’s Relief Corps Has Meeting Friday.”  The Daily Plainsman (Huron, South Dakota). 04 Sep 1937, pg. 6
Classified Ads.  The Daily Plainsman (Huron, South Dakota).  06 Sep 1893, pg. 4.  Lost Pocket Book.
Claims submitted to County.The Daily Plainsman (Huron, South Dakota).  14 Aug 1894, pg. 4.
Board Minutes.  The Daily Plainsman (Huron, South Dakota). 20 Sep. 1894, pg. 4
Van Dalsem & White printing equipment.  The Daily Plainsman (Huron, South Dakota).  07 Mar 1895, pg. 4.
“Without the Huronite!”  The Daily Plainsman (Huron, South Dakota).  23 Nov. 1894, pg. 4.
“In Memoriam.”  The Daily Plainsman (Huron, South Dakota).  30 May 1928, pg. 12.
“A Valuable Book.”  The Daily Deadwood Pioneer-Times (Deadwood, South Dakota).  17 Nov 1916, pg. 2.
“Poems of Soul and Home.”  Lead Daily Call (Lead, South Dakota).  18 Nov. 1916, pg. 2.
“City Briefs.”  The Evening Huronite (Huron, South Dakota). 17 Jul 1929, pg. 6.
“Buy Liberty Loan Bonds, She Says.”  Aberdeen Daily News (Aberdeen, South Dakota). 4 Jun 1917, pg. 1.
“Huronitems.”  The Daily Plainsman (Huron, South Dakota). 10 May 1892, pg. 3.
Birth Announcement.  The Daily Plainsman (Huron, South Dakota).  29 Sep 1890, pg. 4.
“Real Estate Transfers.”  The Daily Huronite (Huron, South Dakota). 14 Nov 1887, pg. 3.
“Land Patents.”  The Daily Plainsman (Huron, South Dakota). 08 Aug 1889, pg. 2.
Child kicked by horse.  The Daily Plainsman (Huron, South Dakota). 20 Jul 1893, pg. 4.
Called to Highmore. The Daily Plainsman (Huron, South Dakota). 02 Aug 1889, pg. 4.
Lane family has diphtheria. The Daily Plainsman (Huron, South Dakota). 06 Jan 1893, pg. 4
“Birthday Dinner for Dr. Van Dalsem.”  The Daily Plainsman (Huron, South Dakota). 06 Jun 1930, pg. 6.
“Do You Know.”  The Evening Huronite (Huron, South Dakota). 25 May 1928, pg. 5.
“Dr. Van Dalsem Celebrates Birthday.”  The Daily Plainsman (Huron, South Dakota). 08 Jun 1933, pg. 5.
“Pioneer Days.”  The Daily Plainsman (Huron, South Dakota). 29 Jul 1960.
“Delinquent Tax List.”  The Evening Huronite (Huron, South Dakota). 10 Dec 1937, pg. 8.
“City Briefs.”  The Evening Huronite (Huron, South Dakota). 16 Apr 1934, pg. 7.
“Twenty Years Ago Today in Huron.” The Evening Huronite (Huron, South Dakota.) 20 Apr 1933, pg. 6.
“Celebrates Birthday Quietly Tuesday.”  The Evening Huronite (Huron, South Dakota). 9 June 1932, pg. 6.
“Celebrate 56th Wedding Day Saturday.”  The Evening Huronite (Huron, South Dakota). 09 Mar 1931, pg. 5.
“Dr. Van Dalsem Has Guests.”  The Evening Huronite (Huron, South Dakota). 31 Mar 1931, pg. 6.
“City Briefs.”  The Evening Huronite (Huron, South Dakota).  08 Jul 1930, pg. 5.
“Twenty Years Ago Today in Huron.”  The Evening Huronite (Huron, South Dakota). 04 Dec 1929, p. 14.
“Entertains for Out-of-Town Guest.”  The Evening Huronite (Huron, South Dakota). 17 Jun 1930. Pg. 6.


1870 Federal Census, Sedalia, Pettis county, Missouri.
1880 Federal Census,  Eden twp., Sac county, Iowa.
1885 Dakota Census, Beadle county, Township 112 N. Range 61.
1890 Veterans Schedule, Wisconsin, Chippewa county, Village of Bloomer.
1895 South Dakota State Census, Beadle county, Huron, 2nd Ward.
1900 Federal Census, South Dakota, Beadle county, City of Huron.
1905 South Dakota State Census, Beadle county, Huron.  Card for H. A. Van Dalsem. 
1905 South Dakota State Census, Campbell  county, PO Artas.  Card for Wm. Feige.
1910 Federal Census, South Dakota, Fall River county, Hot Springs.
1915 South Dakota State Census.
1920 Federal Census, South Dakota, Beadle county, City of Huron.
1925 South Dakota State Census.
1930 Federal Census, South Dakota, Beadle co., City of Huron.

1907 Huron City Directory, listing of Physicians, p. 135.  Home listing pg. 108.
1930 Huron City Directory, listing of Physicians.

John M. Comstock, “The Congregational Church of Vermont and Their Ministry,” pg. 87.
William Phipps Blake, “Centenary of Hamden, Connecticut,” pg. 197-198.
O. W. Coursey, “Literature of South Dakota,” pg. 186.

1906 Land Ownership Map, Iowa twp., Beadle co., South Dakota

Pension Card, William Feige.
United States Veterans Administration Pension Payment Cards, 1907 – 1933.  FamilySearch.org. Card for  William Feige.
U. S. National Homes for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers 1866 – 1938, Leavenworth, Kansas. FamilySearch.org.
U. S. National Homes for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers 1866 – 1938, Dayton, Ohio. FamilySearch.org
Military Enlistment record, Henry A. Van Dalsem.
Veterans Burial Records, William Feige.

Iowa, Deaths and Burials (Ancestry.com).  Death of Sarah L. Van Dalsem.
Cemetery Record Search.  https://apps.sd.gov/dt58cemetery/

Find-A-Grave gravestone photo for Henry and Freide Van Dalsem, courtesy of Brenda Behlke.


Friday, October 21, 2016

The Mysterious Lives of Freide, William and Henry, Part II

Huron, South Dakota.  About 1915

Our story left off in Part 1 in 1887-88, when Freide and her children moved from their homestead in Beadle County, Dakota Territory, into the nearby town of Huron.  One source claims she moved to the current site of the Marvin Hughitt Hotel building, and later moved to 319 3rd St. SW.  Her home initially served as her office as well.  In 1894, she married Henry A. Van Dalsem, a local publisher.

Just who was Henry Van Dalsem, and how did he come to be in Huron, South Dakota?

Henry was born in New York in 1842.  He married Sarah Lindley Thomas, and at age 20, he enlisted for service during the Civil War, in Albany*.  From 1873-74, he served as a Congregational Church minister in Hamden, Connecticut; in 1880 he was an editor in Fairfield,  and shortly afterward returned to the ministry in Pomfret, Vermont until 1887.  The Van Dalsems, like the Feiges, had eight children in all.  By 1890, he had moved to Bloomer, Wisconsin.  Since his wife and children appear in Wisconsin (sans Henry) in 1900, they are probably with him at this time as well.** For whatever reason, the Van Dalsems were divorced, and it appears that Henry left them behind when he came to South Dakota.

Henry Van Dalsem was in Huron by 1892, working as a partner in the Van Dalsem and White publishing firm, and married Freide Feige two years later.

Van Dalsem and White publishing house may have faced an uphill battle from the beginning.  This era of newspaper and publishing work appears to have been a rough one for anyone trying to be successful in these vocations.  What little reading I have done on the subject suggests that newspapers were commonly used as pawns in political fights, and editors needed to write editorials that backed the groups that kept them financially afloat, whether or not they were personally in agreement.  A newspaper article in the Daily Plainsman (Huron) reprints an article from the Redfield (South Dakota) Journal-Observer, and points out that Huron is never without drama regarding its newspapers. 

                “First, one of its leading newspapers suspends publication, or rather, is absorbed by another.  Then one of its leading and foremost citizens, the whilom publisher of the defunct Journal, Ham. Kerr, is reported as skipping out under suspicious circumstances.  Now comes a tale of a first-class row in a publishing firm of Van Dalsem and White – the former being remembered as a member of the pop convention here two years ago – wherein Van Dalsem is charged with looting the office at night.  Verily, ye Huron citizen is on the move, in both senses of the word.”

Around the time of his business’s demise, he married Dr. Feige.  Over the next 20 years, he had various occupations including notary, working for an employment agency, an account collector, and interestingly, considering his previous looting charge, a judge.  But his real passion and calling appears to have been writing.  He wrote editorials for “The Ruralist,” created writings for a fraternal organization, and authored scholarly addresses for a variety of organizations.  And after his death, his widow published a well-respected volume of his poetry and prose.

Henry passed away on December 1, 1913, and left instruction with his wife and friends regarding his wishes.  One of them, ironically, illustrates his apparent disdain for organized religion.

“Fourth – Let no so-called ‘sermon’ be preached over me.  No perfunctory encomiums nor condolences fit either them or me who are in actual interest.  No pulpiteer knows them or me, nor aught of the world and condition to which I go, wherefore his conventional ministerial flatteries must be as idle in death as they have always been distasteful to me in life.”

Dr. Freide Feige Van Dalsem

Dr. Freide Feige Van Dalsem was a pioneer in many respects, and it’s hard to imagine anyone working harder than she.  As a physician, she called on sick and injured patients day and night, both in town and miles away from town in every direction, including the town of Highmore, nearly 70 miles away.  Most of her early travel was done on horseback.  She performed services for Beadle County, in 1907 being paid by them for attending to 25 births and one death, a total of $6.50, or in total’s labor value, about $1,150.*  The county certainly got their money's worth out of Dr. Freide.

Freide was one of ten physicians in Huron, and the only female.  By 1930, as her practice was winding down, there were more physicians but she was still the only woman in the ranks. 

Over the years she kept busy, and birth announcements involving her were numerous.  One very long and tiring day in 1909 she delivered three Huron infants –

“At 6 a.m., December 5, a daughter was born to Mr. and Mrs. E. W. Bandy of Simmons avenue.  At 10:40 a.m., the birth of a daughter took place at the home of Mr. and Mrs. W. D. Oreline on Beach street and at 6:20 p.m., Mr. and Mrs. E. R. Adams welcomed a new born daughter to the circle of their family.  Dr. Frieda [sic] Van Dalsem helped all three of the little ladies to a safe arrival.”

But she was hardly a glorified midwife.  Newspaper accounts record her involvement as attending physician in everything from accidents, farm mishaps, and even a prominent family with diphtheria.
One of the last newspaper accounts of her medical practice was in 1931 when she attended to the birth of yet another young Huron citizen.  At that time she was 84 years old.

Besides tending to the sick and injured, she was a frequent speaker for many groups on various topics.  She herself was involved with the Homeopathic Medical Association, the National League of Women Voters, her local Presbyterian church, Eastern Star, the Rebekahs, and the Relief Corps.

She was also a landlord, owning “considerable property” including at least two homes, one garage she rented out, and the land she had homesteaded with her husband, Rev. William Feige.

After the death of her second husband, one of her sons and his wife made their home with Dr. Van Dalsem at 1219 3rd St. SW.  This son, along with another son and Freide all died within the same year, 1937.

The graves of Henry and Dr. Freide Van Dalsem, Riverside Cemetery, Huron, South Dakota
Photo courtesy of Brenda Behlke

Notwithstanding a complicated personal situation, Dr. Van Dalsem made a huge contribution to the burgeoning town of Huron and its residents, and was an inspiring example to women who desired uncommon roles in life. 


But still the question remains – What happened to William Feige?   Part 3



*Interestingly, William and Freide Feige were in Albany at this same time, where William also enlisted, and where he also pursued ministerial opportunities, but I found no indication of whether or not they knew each other.  
**The 1890 Veterans Schedule does not list anyone other than the veteran himself. 
 ***https://www.measuringworth.com/uscompare/relativevalue.php

Friday, October 14, 2016

The Mysterious Lives of Freide, William and Henry

It was a tale of intrigue, romance, and secrets.  It was also a tale of female pioneer strength and of community service.  But if you were going to categorize it, you'd have to call it a mystery.

There was something different about Freide Werner from the time she was a child.   The daughter of a minister in Bitterfeld, Saxony, her intent desire was to become a doctor, but it was unheard of for a young woman in 1850s-era Germany to be accepted into any medical school.

Her father was no stranger himself to traveling the hard road – he was the first Baptist minister in an area where Baptists weren’t particularly welcome, but he persevered.  He arranged for his daughter to study medicine privately with Dr. Lautze, who himself had studied under Dr. Samuel  Hahnemann, the founder of homeopathic medicine.

Meanwhile, as Freide tended to her studies, young Captain William Feige, stationed at Magdeburg, was being transferred to the town of Bitterfeld.  He boarded next door to the Werner family, and 15-year-old Freide caught his eye.  While just 20 years old himself, he approached Freide’s father asking for her hand in marriage when she became of age, and her father accepted the proposal – all without Freide’s knowledge or consent, and the notion of being married did not go over well with her.  However, Capt. Feige was “charming, highly educated, and handsome” – and over the course of the next three years, she warmed up to the idea.

However, Capt. Feige’s family did not.  Vehemently opposed to the engagement, the Feiges, who had ties to the Prussian royal family, had made other marriage arrangements for their son.   After their wedding, William and Freide had to immediately board a ship bound for America to escape the fallout.

The year was 1862, and they newlyweds made their first home in Albany, New York.  William was interested in preaching and missionary work, and took that as his vocation.  Freide meanwhile, gave birth to their first child in 1863.  When the call went out for soldiers to defend the Union, William answered.  He sent his wife and daughter to German friends in Missouri. While awaiting the end of the war, Friede began providing medical services to those in need.

While Freide tended to the sick in Missouri, her soldier husband was having his own health problems.  In April of 1865 during the Battle of the Wilderness in Virginia, he became ill from an unknown malady, and like so many other soldiers, afterward suffered from chronic diarrhea as well as rheumatism.  He would never again be the same.

After the war, William went to Missouri to fetch his wife and family, and they lived in various other communities in Missouri and Iowa.  For a while, he worked as a teacher.  But his religious calling moved them to Marengo, Iowa, where he worked as a preacher and Freide built up a rather large medical practice.  By this time, Freide’s parents, brothers and sisters had also come to America.  After Marengo, it was Sac county, and then Spirit Lake, where William was called to be the first pastor in a newly-organized church.  They spent four years there and had a total of eight children, and then William had a strange idea.

He decided to be a farmer. 

Not such a strange idea in and of itself, but factor in that neither of them knew the first thing about farming, and William was dealing with a disability, and it becomes a rather curious notion.  Perhaps his disability clouded his thinking, or perhaps he overestimated what he was able to do.  He took up a claim in Dakota Territory, in Beadle county in late 1882 and moved his family there in February of 1883. Freide had saved some money from her medical practice in Iowa, and it was enough to build a small house for the family of nine.  She did much of the lathing and plastering with her own hands, when she wasn’t busy with the children or tending to sick patients.  Despite being new to the area and people, her medical services out on the prairie were in demand, day and night.   The roads were often poor, or there were no roads at all; and typically she made her house calls on horseback.  At night she used a compass, or tried to follow the railroad tracks to keep from getting lost.  

With the exception of occasional preaching, William was unable to work much once the family moved to the homestead, so Freide’s medical practice became vital not only to her patients, but to her family as well.

And then, her story takes a turn.   There is curiously little written about her personal life during this time.  One biography, however, mentions that she was “left a widow.”   She and her children moved into nearby Huron and she went on to marry Henry Van Dalsem, a local publisher.   The Widow Feige was beginning a new chapter in her life.  There was only one problem.

William Feige wasn’t dead.

To be continued...   Part 2