Main Street 1896

By George Basil Edmondson

About the author, George Basil Edmondson was born February 2,1883 in Chatham, Ontario, Canada, and the family moved in 1892 to Cooperstown where they had relatives (Bothwells, McCullochs, Sinclairs and Churches were all related to them) who had emigrated earlier.  The Edmondsons came to stay, and they came to know the community very well.  Basil seems to have been an unusually observant person, and had a keen memory for people and events of his youth as well as an interest in history.  To the end of his days he clearly remembered the people he knew in his early years in Cooperstown.  He married Estelle Houghton in 1910, they lived here until 1939 when Governor John Moses appointed him to the post of state purchasing agent, and they moved to Bismarck.  Mr. Edmondson served in the state position under the administrations of five governors, retiring in 1965.  He and his wife then moved to Virginia, Minnesota, where their daughter, Beatrice, and her husband, John H. Lind, lived.  The Edmondsons observed their sixtieth wedding anniversary in 1970.  Both died the following year: 

Estelle in May and Basil in October.

A newspaper picture of the streets of Cooperstown in the snowy winter of 1896 (the picture was published in December, 1970) prompted Mr. Edmondson to write a short memoir in a letter to a friend in Cooperstown.

As he pointed out, his account may not be perfectly accurate.  He relied solely on his remarkable memory and from that he wrote a lively, sometimes-gossipy tale of some of the people who lived in Cooperstown around the turn of the century.  A portion of it follows.

This will be a refresher course in the history of the town because I have no notes or references of any kind to refresh my memory.  Most everything of that nature that I had was destroyed when we moved to Bismarck in 1939.

People are the leaven that makes the town, the ingredient that makes a good town or a poor town.  Cooperstown was fortunate in attracting good people - and with that off my chest let us go and see how many of these good people I can introduce you to.  I am intentionally going to mention some who were not here during the winter of 1896-7 but they are all a part of the same general picture.

Let us start west on main street and see how many people we can meet.

I remember that a man named Jacobsen had a law office in this first building in the early days but just when he moved out I do not know.  The building was owned by John Syverson as well as the next lot to it on which was a large pile of brick left over from the construction of Syverson's new store building because the State Bank building was not in this picture.  It must have been put up quite soon after.  Drs. Brimi and Rose moved in and had their offices upstairs for many years.  Dr. Westley had his office at the rear of the bank.  One of the large stockholders in the bank was John Syverson.  Andrew Burseth was cashier and Olaf, his brother, assistant.  Later on the death of Burseth (Charley Houghton and I sat up with him the night he died) Ed Blackwell took over as cashier.

And now we will cross the street to the new Syverson store, said to be one of the finest stores in the state at that time.  Before 1893 Syverson had bought out a general store from his two brother-in-laws, Knute Thompson and John Odegard.  This store was situated a couple lots west of the new store and occupied two separate buildings connected with an archway.  When the new store was completed he swung one of these buildings around and turned it into a large warehouse for the new store.  He also had another warehouse at the rear of the State Bank building.

We step into a vestibule and then into the main store building that is 75 feet wide and 140 feet long, which is the size of three lots and is about 18 feet to the ceiling.  It has a balcony at the rear over the grocery department and extending the length of the west side given over to wallpaper and furniture.  Down the center of the store was a wide island about 10 feet high, the east side was the shoe department, the west side men's clothing.

John Syverson was a rather small man, but full of energy and determination with a penchant for improving things.  He became the first mayor of the city, and it was through his efforts that most of the trees and nearly all the sidewalks in Cooperstown were put in.  John had three children: 

1.     Theodore,

2.     Jack and

3.     Gertrude, who married an aviator from Mayville named Earl Fladeland.

We have spent considerable time here so maybe we better move next door.

W. C. Jimeson came from New Jersey and had one of the pioneer grocery stores.  It was rather low and cluttered.  He was quite an old gentleman, but quite a gardener and his specialty was fresh fruits and vegetables.  In one corner was the post office and if you needed a stamp you would likely be waited on by Miss Alfson, who later became Mrs. Louis Berg and raised quite a family.  I believe it must have been when President Harrison came in that the post office changed hands and was taken over by Percy Trubshaw who moved it into the building across the street next to the Palace Hotel.  Jimeson later went into partnership with Arnt Olson and built a new building two blocks west.  He had two daughters, Alice and Maggie, and a son, Joel.

We are now going into a hardware store owned by Stevens and Enger.  They carry a good stock of hardware for a pioneer store with a tin shop in the rear with Jack Regner in command.  Alex Iverson is the chief clerk.

We now enter the one remaining building of the old Syverson store that has been turned into a men's clothing store by Gust Olson, a large jovial man who operated it for quite a few years.  The upstairs of this building was connected to the upstairs of the hardware store with a stairway between the two and serving both.  This is where a lot of the country kids who came to town to attend high school found rooms.  They used to drive Anton Christianson, who was the town's police force, crazy keeping them straight.

The next place is Si Black's barbershop.  Si built quite an attractive home and decent shop on ten cents for a shave and fifteen cents for a haircut.  He had several children.

I think next is a small building in which Attorney Jacobson had his office when he moved from the Syverson building and at one time Ed Warner was in with him, and Oscar Kerr who married a widowed sister of Mrs. Warner.

We don't need a harness right now, but we will visit with John McDermott for a few minutes anyway.  You see at this time harness making was big business as all the power used on the farm except threshing was horsepower and harnesses did wear out.  John appeared to be a rather stern man and I never did know him very well.  He married Anna Arneson.  John was quite a baseball fan for the home team.  Mrs. McDermott was left a widow at a relatively early age and boarded a lot of the schoolteachers for many years.

By now it must surely be time for dinner so let us stop in next door.  It will only cost us 25 cents for all we can eat of good wholesome food served home-style on long tables.  In the front of the building is candies and tobacco.  In the rear was the kitchen.  Emil Marquardt is the proprietor, a short, red-faced, rather stout German.  This was a sort of landmark for many years and in later years when soda fountains came into vogue they added ice cream, and connected with this he built a large ice house and delivered ice throughout the town until the demand for ice diminished and he turned the building into the city's opera house.  The Marquardts had three children.  The two boys stayed in town for many years.

Theo. was teller in one of the banks and when Nye became United States Senator on the death of Senator Ladd, Theo. received appointment as postmaster.  Otto and his wife Belle ran the restaurant for a long time.  A fire cleaned out this and the remaining two buildings in the block and Otto built a nice new brick building and continued the ice cream and restaurant.  Theo married Lottie Moffatt and Lizzie married Fred LaMont and lived in Fargo.

Next door the restaurant was a sort of general store owned by Henry Retzlaff, a brother of Julius who had a meat market in the next block.  This store didn't last long enough for me to know much about it, but I think Archie Bowden who managed one of the grain elevators was a pan owner.

Now we come to the corner store owned by Peter E. Nelson.  This is where I started regular work.  Nelson was a good hardware man and we got along well.  I kept the books, waited on trade, helped the plumber and tinner and set up stoves.  Pete had a large family and I think Mother helped bring all of them into the world.  This building was destroyed in the fire that burned out the drug store and Marquardts'.

David Bartlett had his law office upstairs and also living quarters.  Dave was said to be associated with Alex McKenzie the Railroad attorney and was a delegate to the state Constitutional Convention and later Lieutenant Governor.  Politically he was a Republican and an opponent of W. T. McCulloch, Mother's cousin and a Farmers Alliance advocate.  Dave brought a bride out from Boston and lived upstairs until he bought the P. B. King house.  Around back of the store was where Percy Trubshaw lived and published the Courier in the same building until he was appointed Postmaster and moved into Main Street.

We now cross the street to the next block west and the first building we come to is Almklov's Drug Store, a long one-story frame building.  At the rear end is another small building where Dr. Bergstrom had his office.  Mr. Almklov is said to have been a Lutheran minister, but I never knew him as anything but a druggist.  He patented an eczema cure that he advertised and sold all over the nation.  He had five children of his own and helped several relatives get a start.  Wadel was my age.  He studied law at the University of North Dakota but during this time he was going blind.  Leif became a doctor and practiced in Cooperstown.  He married Edith Johnson.  Sig was the other son.  Ruth married Andrew Hoel and Agnes married an undertaker who took charge of their undertaking business.  They used to say that Almklov could take care of you from the cradle to the grave.  Andy Reite was Almklov's early day druggist.  The frame building burned down and was replaced by a two-story cement block building and Norman Hoel still runs the drugstore.

I could tell you a lot about the next place but will try and be brief.  Julius Retzlaff operated a meat market here.  They were a German family and lived near us when we lived in the old Whidden building.  They had boys my age and I was over there most of the time.  Otto, the oldest boy, helped his father in the shop.  Orry was a little older than I, but we were pals.  Rudy was my age.  Hank was pretty young for us.  There were also Emma and Tony.  Julius later sold the business to E. E. Downe and farmed west of town for some years before moving west.

A short time after Downe bought the meat market he married H. P. Hammer's sister who had had a ladies hat shop in a small building next door for several years and he then built living quarters for themselves at the rear.  Later Joe Salisbury had a barbershop there.

We next come to the second rather large general store, belonging to C. T. Whidden.  He had a large trade with the farming community.  About this time we should meet John Benson, manager and Richard Howden, clerk.  Stella's sister Grace (Stella was Mrs. Edmondson) worked here for some time also and T. E. Warner also worked for Whidden.  The main grocery clerk was George Newberry.  George had a small building at the rear where he worked over the butter taken in trade from the farmers and turned it into about three grades.  The first was fairly usable and if you left your order with George you would get good wholesome butter from a well-known supplier.  The second wasn't good enough for local trade and the third was stale grease.  These two grades he packed in 50-lb firkins and shipped out.  Tupper had no children of his own, but a nephew, Blair Whidden, lived with him.  He was a nice kid.  The business prospered for several years but eventually ran into financial difficulties and closed out.  The building was then turned into a moving picture theater and confectionery store.

A congenial pioneer, William Stringer and his brother George had a harness shop next door and living quarters upstairs.

We now come to P. K. Moe's hotel.  This hotel was first started by Pete Johnson, but was taken over by P. K. about the time of our visit.  We could have a cup of coffee at the counter or a meal in the dining room.  P. K. was a good businessman.  Mrs. Moe was a sister of Mrs. Jack Flynn.  Flynn became sheriff of Griggs County and quite a race horseman.  He and John McDermott owned the trotter Wyandotte that was quite a racehorse at the time.  The Moes had two daughters, Mollie and Olga.  Mollie never married but worked in the county auditor's office for years.  Olga married Johnnie Mack, who came to town as a painter.

The next stop is Reier Anderson's pool hall.  He would also serve a light lunch and he used to bake pork chops that would melt in your mouth.  It seems to me that at this time the family was living up near Vinegar hill and later they lived above the pool hall.  When Reier closed it in 1918, I rented it and had a variety store there for four years.  Reier had three daughters.

The next two lots were covered by a livery stable.  I don't remember who ran it.  I think Reier Anderson had an interest in it.  When it was done away with, Tom Irgens and Walt Nelson built a one-story brick building and put in a stock of men's clothing and the Bergs built a filling station on the corner.

We have now reached the corner and there is nothing to speak of until we reach the railroad tracks, but in order to cross the street to the north we have to go back to Moe's Hotel and go through a tunnel, remember I told you this was the winter of the deep snow and no team up main street from fall until spring.  We will now go back west to the corner and here we find the old Union House, a very mediocre hotel, run by Sam Clark.

The next building was a rooming house built by William Schmidt, Anna and Billie Schmidt's father.  This was later turned into the printing office when the Sentinel and Courier merged.

Next door was a one-story building where Prof. Hodge started a store when he left the school, but did not operate it very long.  When it was closed D. B. McDonald put in a bakery that operated for years and years.

Here we have a small building that is Hans Hanson's shoe shop, at first it was just shoe repairing, but he later put in a line of men's shoes.  Hans was an old batch.

Now we come to another eating shop, Perchert's restaurant.  I think August was a brother of Mrs. Emil Marquardt.  His wife was the boss.  There used to be a new baby arrive about every year.

I think I missed Pete Tang's pool hall that was just beside Percherts'.  He was a husky man and had four husky sons and I think, three daughters.

We now come to a big new department store, put up by the Berg Brothers Larson and Erick Erickson had an interest in it.

The next two buildings that now occupy these lots did not appear until later.  Erick Erickson used to have some farm machinery here for sale, but no building to house it.  Of the two brick buildings that were built on this space, Pat Costello had his drug store in one and Hank Hammer had a hardware store in the other.  Of course you all know that Pat married Janette Bergstrom and Hank married Lois Cussons.

The next building covered two lots and was the Hammer & Condy store.  Condy was married to H. P. 's sister.  Condy was a sharp financier, Hammer was a shrewd horse trader, and they did a large general store business.  They had a large barn at the rear and always a bunch of trading horses on hand.  Later this became a large machine warehouse, when they took in as partners Elijah Hamilton and William Butler.  The building in the picture has the sign "BANE" on it.  In the early days this was Virgo's drug store where Dr. Kerr hung out.  Do you remember the old plug tobacco?  Dr. Kerr would take a plug and cut it into 4 pieces.  He would put one in each cheek and it would be there for half a day.  At one time there was a bank in here, run by Sharp and Clark, but it didn't last very long.  It was Hammer & Condy's office until Thompson, McDermott took it over and it became a part of their general store.

We again cross the street as we travel east.  I can't remember just what year the First National Bank was built.  It may be that Cooper had his office here at this time, at least it was about due to arrive and they swung the small building around on the rear of the lot and built a two-story brick building and Cooper had nice quarters upstairs.  M. W. Buck was cashier.  Edith Sinclair was teller.  Later we find a man named Jones as cashier and then Friswold.  Working at the window were Andrew G. Hoel, N. A. Patterson, Barney Martin.

Next door to the bank was William Glass's land office and next to it another building of similar construction, two-story.  William Glass was the most fastidious man I ever knew, precise in every detail and he never married.

I understand that Claus Jackson operated a saloon in the next building before prohibition.  It had to close of course in 1889 and he put in a general store, but I do not think it operated very long.  At one time there was a photography shop, then Mr. Scott had his barbershop and lived upstairs.  After Scott moved out Dr. Plonty had a dental office upstairs.  Claus Jackson became Sheriff of Griggs County and later a general merchant in Hannaford.

We now come to the building where the Griggs County Sentinel was born, started by the Farmers Alliance with Jas.  Sinclair as editor and A. P. Jones as manager, Gilman Nordhougen as devil.

For years the question of high and low tariff was the chief political issue dividing the farmer from the businessman.  The Sentinel was started to present the Democratic viewpoint and the Courier represented the Republican views.  Ben Tufte, a promising young lawyer, used to drop in Wednesday nights and furnish the power for running the press.  I worked here for a short time, but I got my big toe broken in the press and that was the end of that.  Upstairs Dr. Wanner had his office and his brother was high school professor.

C. J. Lucken, an old batch, had a machine business next door.  He invented an early day washing machine.  It worked like a large wringer, two rollers made of wood and used with two ordinary tug tubs.  The clothes were rolled from one tub to the other.  Small pieces had to be folded into the sheets.  It was fine for bedding and a lot of them were saved for that purpose.

John O. Oie had a land and collection office next and handled land for the D. S. B. Johnson Land Company, who had a large amount of Railroad right of way land for sale.  Reier Lunde was office manager.

In 1892 when we came to Cooperstown there was a meat market in the next building run by a man named Rasmussen and in the fall when they got Syverson's store basement in, Dad went to work in this shop and worked that winter, walking back and forth to the Cooper cottage, four miles southwest of town, every day.  I think the shop closed up in the spring and a drug store was in there for a while, then the Courier print shop and post office.  After Theo.  Thompson put up a new building for the post office, Charley Hall moved in from his farm and started a garage.  Oliver Stevens worked for him for a while.

We now come to the corner where stood the old landmark built in 1883, the Palace Hotel.  A lot of local history was made here, but I will have to make my remarks brief.  I first saw this building in 1889 when my uncle Joe McCulloch was running it.  He was married to Josie Haskell and Florence, her sister, who later married And. Sinclair, helped in the hotel.  My uncle Dave McCulloch drove us over from Blanchard for a visit the first summer we were in the United States I suppose it had several other people running it, but I can only remember two, the Arneson sisters who later became Mrs. Bergstrom and Mrs. McDermott.  Somewhere in here Fred Stone took it over and managed it for many years.  It was finally bought by Martin Wold, Thor Hetager's brother who tore it down and built three houses out of the salvaged lumber.  A garage now occupies the corner.

To make a town there has to be other services besides main street so we will stop at the Courthouse, two blocks south of main street.

I can't tell you who the early county officials were.  There was a bitter struggle between Hope and Cooperstown for the county seat for at this time Griggs extended to Traill county on the east and at a later date Steele County was formed out of a portion of Griggs and Traill and the county seat went to Sherbrook, an inland town that eventually died and Finley took over, so Hope never did get its heart's desire.  In our time William Carleton was Probate Judge, Fred Stone Treasurer, P. A. Melgard Auditor, Clara Feiring Superintendent of Schools, O. D. Purinton Clerk of Court, Frithjof Greenland Sheriff, or Jack Flynn.  Once a county officer was elected he usually held the office for quite some time.

The railroad tracks were two blocks west of the stores on main street.  The land in between was used for baseball games.  Four of the Sinclair boys played positions on the team at the same time.  Chet Hoar was a whirlwind pitcher, Tamber a catcher.  Later a second team was organized - the Cooperstown Grays.  Baseball and horse racing were about the only sports available at the time.  Jack Flynn and John McDermott owned a fast racehorse named Wyandotte, the Sinclair Brothers owned a running horse named Linden, and they had a standing challenge to anyone who wanted to race.

The Depot was two blocks north with R. M. Cowan in charge.  I don't remember if I mentioned the part played by the Railroad when prohibition came in.  They set up what was called the original package deal.  Gallons of liquor were put up in jugs and shipped to John Doe.  Anyone who wanted a gallon could sign the register, pay the C. O. D. charges, and walk away with a gallon of liquor.  Legislation finally stopped it.

Cooperstown became one of the largest shipping points on the Northern Pacific system for wheat and flax, drawing trade for 30 miles to the north and west until the road was extended to McHenry in 1905, so had several elevators strung along the tracks.  Al Bliss, W. D. Marsh, Carl Johnson, A. B. Stewart, A. M. Bowden, John Byers, Frank Barkee and August Anderson were some of the early day grain buyers.  R. C. Cooper built the first elevator in the town, a round one.  It burned after a few years.  The first elevators were operated by horse or mule power.  They were hitched to a sweep that went round and round.  So that they would not know when the driver left them and stop, these animals were blinded.  This cruel practice ended when gasoline engines were introduced.  Down at the south end of the yards was the round-house.  Ben Brown was in charge and it was his duty to have the engine oiled, steamed up and ready to go every morning.  William Buckley was engineer and J. E. Johnson was the conductor.  It was a mixed train, freight cars with a passenger coach on behind.

There were two lumberyards

the Gull River Lumber Company was managed by Ed Blackwell.  When Mr. Blackwell quit to become cashier of the State Bank it was taken over by Salzer Lumber Company.  The other was Crane-Johnson Company, and I think it is still there.  Maynard Crane was an early day state senator and upon retiring moved to Florida.  He had two daughters.  Mrs. Crane's sister, Miss Fitch, lived with them.  John E. Johnson, Crane's partner, had a daughter Lizzie who married Ed Blocker.

Down near the Depot was Phipp's Mill where they ground Phipps Best flour.  W. H. had two sons, Ben and Roy.  Bert married Anna Hammer.  He was running an elevator up at Mose and drowned while hunting on Red Willow Lake.  Afterwards Anna married R. M. Cowan.

Professor Hodge was the first principal of the school that I remember.  A two-room, two-story building was situated in the same place that the brick one is now.  The grades were downstairs and the high school upstairs.  Thirze Gimblett was the grade teacher.  Later she married a Reverend Taylor and William Carlton's wife taught the grades.  By the time of the deep snow, they had built a school down where the Berg Memorial building now stands for the first four grades.  During that severe winter my dad was janitor and it was my job to sweep and dust the little school.  A few of the early principals were Jas.  H. Sinclair, Prof. Warner and Prof. LaBoe.

When O. D. Purinton, pastor of the Baptist church, became County Clerk, Reverend Smithers took his place.  An evangelist named Rust had a gospel car that came to Cooperstown sponsored by the Baptists and I can remember the night that Ed Blackwell, Jack Flynn and several others were baptized in a tank under the pulpit by Reverend Purinton.

The Methodist church changed pastors quite often.  I can remember a man named Collins who was more interested in horse racing than in preaching.  The Congregational had a Reverend Shaw for quite a while.  I got $5 a month for doing the janitor work there.  The old time minister for the Lutherans was Reverend Silness.  I remember Mother taking me there once and it struck me so funny that all the men sat on one side and the women on the other.  I sat with Mother and felt very uncomfortable all through the service.

When the fire department bought the steam fire engine it ran into quite a little money so one method to help with the cost was to sell chances on the name of the engine at so much a vote.  Some wanted it named after the first baby boy born in town, Otto Marquardt.  Others were equally keen to name it after the first girl, Grace Thompson.  There were a lot of Norwegians in town and they wanted it named after the Viking god Oden.  When the votes were counted they found the Norwegians had won.  If you will look on the side of this old engine you will see a nameplate with the name ODEN on it.

When the thaw came in the spring the town was completely surrounded by water, and the only way in or out for about three weeks was by horseback over the Railroad grade to higher ground to the south.  We kids built a raft out of Railroad ties and rafted clear around the town and down south to Langford's farm where Langford had built a dam and a big swimming pool was located.  The water found its way from here to the Sheyenne River.

I can hardly bring this long tale to a close without mentioning the Masonic Temple.  The first recorded meeting was held July 5, 1895, and was authorized by the Grand Lodge in 1896.  They rented quarters from the Odd Fellows in the hall above the drug store.  It started with 19 charter members.

Source: Griggs County History 1879 - 1976 Page 37

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