Part two of the MER documentary series, A Sense of Place. Program is titled “Prairie People, River Folk and Denizens of the Big Lake Region”, and focuses on how geography influenced the settlement of various regions in the state.
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We came in 1883. Yeah. We left Norway on the coast steamer and went to went to a place called Hamburg in Germany. And then we called Germany by rail to Bremen. I mean we got to Brandon. Our boat is loaded with couldn't get on there. Show where to stay in the hotel that one whole week waiting for a different boat blonde immigrants came by sail aboard. We were fortunate we had a steamer. The state of both will take several months sometimes across the ocean that got bad winds in them. I remember specially one time. Everybody learns to one side of the boat, and we're afraid to go and tip. Let me talk to someone with automatic going overboard, but they're all excited over a school of porpoises to replace the Bruce proud of y'all a lot of immigrants we had. very small space we had to eat in our rooms and all in there earlier date before that. Everybody had to bring their own food along but we are fortunate they furnished food on the road. We've been on the ocean for a couple of weeks and we own one to come in here and let my brother his two and a half and I was four and a half. I'm not we haven't had a drink of milk during the whole trip. So we eat stood with a cup in her hand waiting for mother the strainer fresh Middleton Park still taste that warm milk a good it tasted. A sense of place a documentary series, which looks at regions and regionalism in the state of Minnesota produced by Minnesota educational radio under a grant from the Minnesota Humanities commission. This program is called Prairie people riverfolk and denizens of the Big Lake Region. How good it tasted the milk the freedom the new world of opportunity and how rugged they must have been those Pioneer people that after 90 years some are still alive to tell about it. Only Olson it 94 lives alone in his home in Fargo North Dakota. He shares with us his Recollections about life on the Prairie from the 1880s on dr. Hiram draki of Baker. Minnesota is a scholar professor of history at Concordia College at Morehead and author whose research in the development of Frontier farming and the agricultural economy offers special insights about the process by which the great tree less fertile stoneless Prairie was plowed planted and became a prize week growing region whose golden grains are now nourishing million here and also in countries across the ocean and land was the great opportunity and they Farms were small and the Europeans Many of these people cannot make a I go over there and they wanted to stay in the countryside. I think we all know that there's a natural urge and the part of man to be close to Nature. He was a sailor. And he was the second boy and if oldest boy had a right to the farm and he had no one know we're making a living except sailing. So he didn't like sailing and didn't like to serve the king of a year so many months. He came here. When filing a homestead he saw that 160 acres of land promised by the United States government and under the Homestead Act and started a part at the end of the rainbow. He wanted this and that he was prepared to come to United States and come to the New Frontier and take the rest necessary to have a better opportunity. Ring was high. So right on the ocean in the mountains right up behind us and Timber so it was a great change for them to come to a prairie. They had a song in Norway. Minnesota Dakota, Nebraska, one of those three places. I thought these people were encouraged to come to America by immigration agents of worrying the European scene at this time the Northern Pacific railroad, which covers this region from Duluth to the Pacific coast along the northern part of the United States. And 1500 agent Salon Europe and these agents did a very good job as far as selling the area. Minnesota poet Rose muckley in an anthology of Minnesota verse published in 1934 inspired by Largo from dvorak's New World Symphony a Homeland loneliness descends on him the Midland Pioneer in Alien lands wear sweater. Bottom days are tears that demon in her seeing weary Hulk East and backed up against the sky the sinking Sun Scoops out a dizzy pass behind the federal Empire where Mississippi water is running Badgers and Kyle's. Liron Borough. His night brings homing needs the spelling things of woman's giving for him a new world Springs. We had many bad years. My father was a carpenter and he managed to work in town and help build buildings and where else we have been. we've been going like the rest of us are moving ugly covered wagon day after day if they had no one they probably would not have been so eager to come here and we sense this in the fact that by 1890 there were Large migrations of people leaving the area going back to the established areas are going to some other places where they thought would be better because in a sense the region had been oversold. I remember. Father worked in town and need walk homemade miles every Saturday night. And mother used to have a lamp standing in that deep window. He won't get home until about 11 or so. I guess you worked at 6, and then at supper so he 8 Mile taking quite a long time. I was already asleep when he came home but mother always set up for the lamp in the window because when they came home they came across the road to follow just watch for the lights and the light. For some particularly the women that single lamp in the window did not shed enough light to ward off the threatening darkness of the Prairie only roll dogs. Classic novel Giants in the earth portrays Barrett the sensitive wife of paramahansa a woman who never wanted to come to the frontier and who sank deeper and deeper into depression as winter took hold of the region. The Days War on sunny days Bleak gloomy days with cold with congealed all life. There was one who he did not the light of the day whether it might be gray or golden Barrett stared at the Earthen floor of the hot and so lonely night around her. Yes. She faced only Darkness she tried hard, but you could not let in the sun ever since she had come out here a Grimm conviction have been taking stronger and stronger hold of her. This was her retribution. Hard to get the right kind of stuff to cook try to raise a garden and they dry out too and the grasshopper has a lot of it. We had grasshoppers that eat their curves out of the garden and left a hole in the place for the grandmother Karen understood mother never liked it there. She just dreamt of Norway ever and ever night to just left. She says you're going to running up and down those mountains and I recorded the story of for women who went the way they have a mental sickness died earlier in life than probably they should have if they had not had to go through the burdens and I can think of some of these These are names that are prominently Red River Valley area even to this day as one of the sons of one of these lady said that as I was sitting holding my mother's hand when she died at the age of 55 that she was Grist of the Frontiers meal the frontier then to him was a grinding sort of situation that took women down another individual pointed out that that's success here was only possible because of the unpaid labors of of women and children. we lived in a frame houses shot on the roof inside or around the walls on the outside too kind of protected from the storms and the prayer of hard to come along and burning the weeds off the roof and we'd come out like the Gophers and be alright Woodhouse wouldn't burn with all that sat on it. What do you think? It must have been like living in 01 window side house warehouse? Had a very small house about 12 by 14 in. and dad made of bed for them and they put a drawer under the bed the brother and I pull it out and sleep in that in the man that got a girl like that hung up. A box over the bed sores that ReStore in bed one woman in the area south of Fargo made a comment that every time it rained mother had to take the clothes and the bedding outside and hang it up to let it dry out because it wouldn't dry out inside another woman made the comment that in eight years of living inside houses the roof only leak once and that was doing a terrific downpour. The the side house was probably more more comfortable in both winter and summer are then where the wooden houses? I really wear long vendors. It wasn't any skating don't know I strong or we lived. No heel so I couldn't ski. Just flat Prairie no trees. We just sat in the house, I guess. Listen to the wind blow that these people were dependent upon the nature and they were dependent upon the whims of Nature and no doubt that they did a lot of praying they certainly did some Mass praying in Minnesota for the grasshopper plague back in the 70s. That was a famous blizzard about 60 of people Norton South Dakota lost their wedding died. I remember one of our neighbors went out after strong, but we all burn straw in the winter time. Is 440 Robinson the house? He loaded his strong and it will snow storm struck and he unhitched his horses and let him lose and that he headed for the house and they had. the barn you never found Israel next morning. The horses were standing by the barn. So she got on the back key to come home. He laid in here laying in the ceiling near the house. And the woman had to burn up on all the furniture in the house to try to keep from freezing to that damn any stories of fires that they went for days on end took Haystacks the buildings everything in their way in areas where there were scattered homesteaders. They had to plow rings around their Homestead Place and here is another one of these. I don't know what we called apathy or one of these things that people Overlook so much they knew the danger of the fire. Are they knew it could get them at any time and yet they left their firings and their firebreaks deteriorate and get the grown over again. So that the fire would jump them lights there would take out sheet and go out on the lawn and then lay down in the lawn and sleep at night outside and just terrible Hut they could not have made it without something spiritual to turn to and they've and the end. It was the spiritual strength that was necessary to pull them through. Faith in God sustain the Prairie dweller and the knowledge that a gentler World lay not too far to the east after all French explorers had begun charting the Minnesota waterways as early as 16 18 trade settlements along the shore of Lake Superior have been ports of call ever since Minneapolis and st. Paul were burgeoning metropolises and to the cells city is like Winona, Mississippi. We're already centers of Commerce and culture one of these other people's those who is Journey's End of the shores of Minnesota's water highways whose economic and psychic resources would be forever influence by the body of water dominating there landscape in Winona 3 academic humanist came together to explore the matter poll Gras assistant professor of English at Winona State College and brother Rayfield earlier professor of English at Saint Mary's College talk about the historical relationship between rivers and planes. You have to realize there were a lot of things United the prairie in the river in this area. And we we make that border distinction but I think that the biggest distinction that the people say in the 1850s and 1870s felt. What is that? The river area was settled already was the older civilization almost. Where is the Prairie was the last big expanse that nobody was in so in all their gold value find them coming from Fillmore County which is just down the river here about 20 miles and bear. It looks back on Fillmore and and Houston counties is civilization and she so upset by it by this vast expanse of prey or she doesn't know what anything is on the other hand her husband sees the Prairie. Is this great big open Kingdom for him to sell. And thought of whose tomb in Fillmore County says to populated you couldn't make a go of it. Their prices were already too high in their the connection is at apala saying between the river and the term as I think is very closer because even when the rainbow is came they were up this part and they debated a long time on whether to run a railroad out while Highway 43 an hour out the way they Territorial Road went and eventually went up to Minnesota to sitting in class that way and the idea wasn't the most economical way to get out to the Prairie because what they wanted was the wheat a grain Good evening. Is he saying there was a rolly rolly by it at the parallel in the Hamlin Garland Hamlin Garland father thought of the Prairies. We look across the river the big Bluffs and know the Prairies were Beyond and that's what he wanted and the mother wanted to save her. She was laughing because of his family. The river was very often settled in this region by Yankees think that was really the first where is that when you read them somebody like holy roller hockey had a feeling that the plane was mainly inhabited originally by early first generation immigrant Lawson from northern European countries, something like my right. It just happened at the River Thames. Got to be very rich and I think civilization in the terms and we normally think about it is a matter of having a certain extra to put into it. Now Wynonna here was a great Lumber Town has a great many millionaires who brought in these people and we drew our wealth in far from the Prairie if we were the fourth largest grain exporting city in the world. Where do we get stand? Nobody got rich and I'm thinking Winona simply by working with Winona. Looks like I got rich by and taking Lumbers far up the Black River as you could get it putting it down here in similar things across your wife says the same kind of old aristocracy that we do and some of the way this we trade was taken from straight west if you're all the way out to Mankato. One thing that I've heard this may or may not have any truth to it. Is it write down along the river any one thing that spoiled the woods were the steamboat which needed Fuel and anything that was near the river was was being cleared for that almost continually and So if there's still a lot of lot of places that should have good wood on its own quiz has kind of a radical to because I grew up because the bolts and he left off $2 while his name was Johnson. We have Johnson Street hear you let them up here on the shore to stack up wood. So then when they come back again Downriver, they have more fuel that is you're saying here. They were in raiding the shoreline for the number I suppose you could stretch. It didn't say well if they didn't do that we wouldn't have went on a metaphor for the whole region many cents. Its people exploited the region, but without this kind of exploitation and both of massive scale in an individual's camp. We won't be here was just a huge Untamed very dangerous kind of place to be and that people didn't come out here who weren't sort of desperate one way or another William Goodrow chairman of the English Department at the College of Saint Teresa is a poet whose childhood was spent in New England. He's lived in Winona for 15 years and only recently has he been able to Grapple in his writing with the influence of the river on himself and on the community the following are some excerpts from his first play reverie for a river town is a lady from an old family. Obviously from Winona, my father was born in this town and died in this town and I'm not going to let just anybody come in here and dictate what goes up and let's goes down. I'll probably die in this town too, but I've been around. Let me tell you that these are not Jerry Built Homes just look at them. Go inside. Look at the size of the rooms the woodwork the moldings. Look at the high Windows a fine glass the tiles to why there is life and a girl comes along and said, I have no intention of staying here. I am leaving mother. I am leaving for New York City sewer Korean the dance and I have characters coming in the same thing going they're going to leave then that's an old man. Because I'm not sad when the river speaks to the old schools in the tumble down churches. I am not sad when the river Steel's clean slabs of lumber and sends them to the sandbars in the herons remembers how it was when it first thought to Cuyahoga Valley and then a deep of a lie exposing the Limestone ribs the world the flicker in the sun. I dream of less than that, and I careful as the man Man in shirt sleeves says at one point. I wonder if it would be possible in any other evening to look out over the river from my front porch and any of the season and see the Pearl Light spread so evenly on the wide expanse of the Mississippi and thank the song on the river hot driving blood through human veins. My old man had another little speed. She says a river moves in our blood varying bits and pieces of what we will become that transports the companions of our past their faces. They're shaken voices. It brings us forests of sleep and shells of moonlight. It carries us over the wrinkled skin of the state. It carries us under Isles Valens from the rivertowns Into the Heart of the world where storms and Seasons By The passions of love. And then characters that these are types of us the banker you see if we lower the interest rates on loans for the riverfront property. We are starting to realize a sizable profit in no time at all. And we have a voicemail voice commands as well. Just pour it into the river many clergymen. We have gathered here today to pay homage to the river without which we could not claim our comfort and prosperity of the voice as well. Just put in the river and the congressman it is with great humility that I cut this ribbon which will open a inefficient Bridge linking asked where her sister stayed one more Point long are common River border another male voice as well. Just watch it in the river in a female voice is no not here dear do it in the river. This ends with a kind of coral prayer to the river. River moving without us take us home boy is outward into the cool steel surface of your flood. Let us read the silver green. Awnings of your missed. Let us number the map Red Barn's gazing on your changing body carry us into growth as you carry crops of apples and corn to Goldman turing's fill us with refreshment as you wanted cattle and please turn us into your wide names to think beyond our Gardens and our streets that are mine stretch to touch it. Once each of your Shores River Electric Spring flood drain chest with a sense of our first needs River teachers to stand up and speak in your life meme voice in your herds of tumbling clouds in your merciless. Summer rains River reason Lift us. So you're Moonlight rose meaning on our dreams Feed Us house at school bus with your Longing To Move beyond our levies dams are Stone and iron Bridges. To reach an April field feeder house as close as Clovis with your Longing To Move among the wings of Hawk and teal Domingo with the highest winds and clouds River Feed Us houses close us with your longing for the never seen for the ever-changing for mystery River Feed Us house Us close us with your longing and the girl sings in the background silently silently. We let it slide by taking from ourselves the mirror of the sky Another skymirror emotion mirror for minnesotans is the big lake Lake Superior Fierce. I see raging for calm inviting and waiting how it is is how it was all the type of power used by a Lake Superior boat is frequently a little more sophisticated now than it was in the old days. But essentially the people who set out in them are pretty much the same thing. I had to do quite a few. When some of the larger both came and I couldn't get into the dock. I don't always have to take the mo Dalton. And thick as flies off and roll those in to shore. sometimes I have to Take fish out of the boat Amor off. Now. I seem to have to jump taking a supplies in some of the things that I used to come in and load gravel. And then you know, there is The beach is just blowing everybody. I mean the owners weren't there to to check on it. And so these Growlers calls are coming in and they might have pizza pie or something for you or something exciting for a kid when I was a kid Rock's ring 4 stones and many a time. I was petrified out there and I think it more or less left the fear of Lake for me. And now I the only time I really cared one leg is when it's nice and calm and not too far out. I went sailing when I was 15 years old. so it was a job by then and I liked it. So I stayed with it. I started on the Great Lakes. and then I am Went to a deep-water ocean in World War II and 1946 when war was over with a I came back and legs and then I subsequently. Became a master. and the 1959 when the Seaway opened up I haven't had the experience of being out in deep water and having worked with Pilots out and well all ports of the world that I entered and left. I liked it or you lived by that like the more sensitive you are. You know about any changes that take place anything that's going to hurt the Lake Erie have a much greater sensitivity than somebody just coming in here. and you know I don't know what life was like before and they don't even know what the ladies like now turned out to be because we had to go out in the lake and help him sitting at some take them in and real them up and split fish and when I went to HighSchool, I used to set up until 2 or 3 in the morning and play Fisher am very familiar to me and I look at it as my friend. I always look at it as a challenge to and I once in awhile if you could complacent the legal rise up and kick you in a Tale 2. Keyshawn the wall You got to watch your weather. You got to watch. Existing conditions you got to constantly be aware that the lake is not totally yours and you shared with other ships. Other ships have a tendency of meeting each other once in awhile has always been as much as Americans and Canadians him and circle the lake other are segments Sabbath which are very sparsely settled today or segments which have been bypassed. Also, of course American civilization has used areas and then passed on leaving these areas to revert and there's a certain thrill of Discovery vestiges of a former civilization. Maybe I should quarter A Taurus that came in for many years and he sends something. It only said that late can you said there's just nothing like it in the world. He says it has his mood and Grandeur E7 is always changing. You become attached. Decosta's of images to two objects the things and they they become more than what they know objectively are in a region a place becomes, you know, the end becomes an inner landscape. It becomes an inner world that is as soon as you if you can't relate it to the end into your own interiority your own tree of life and it is only local color, but when it becomes becomes part part of a model landscape are a Visionary landscape than it No, it is what it is, but it transcends itself. Rosmuc Lee's poem from an anthology of Minnesota versus the times Publishing Company of Saint Cloud Giants in the earth published by Harper Brothers modern Classics Edition music from dvorak's New World Symphony the ABC Music Guild series. A sense of place was written and produced by Claudia daily for Minnesota educational radio under a grant from the Minnesota Humanities commission engineering by David felland.