John S. Byington

Biography of John S. Byington

Helton Ulstad

Parents-Mr. and Mrs. S. K. Byington

Pioneer--John S. Byington

Birth--March 14, 1861, in Cairo, Greene County, New York State.

Pioneer left former home to make a home for himself for he had always had the desire to take Horace Greeley's advice and go west. He came to North Dakota because there happened to be some neighbors of his that were coming here, and being so anxious to go west he embraced the first opportunity.

We had no experiences worthy of being mentioned until the morning I arrived in Fargo where I saw a shower of small toads, the streets and sidewalks being literally covered with them. I came to North Dakota April 17, 1882.

We left Valley City on the morning of the 22nd of April, 1882, for Griggs Co. with a load of machinery and feed. At dark that night we arrived at a couple of shacks a little ways north of the Al Booth farm, the buildings of which still stand just north of Rogers, We slept in one shack and put our horses in the other. In the morning when we got up the ground was white with snow and it was still snowing quite hard. We had about 30 miles further to go with not another shanty in sight till we came to our destination. We were fortunate in having a man with us by the name of William McDonald, who had traveled through this country with a bunch of surveyors at the time it was surveyed. This man had a compass with him and with its help we made our way on north through the snowstorm till about 4 o'clock in the afternoon when we arrived at what we were to call home for the time being at least. We were vet through, tired out, and somewhat hungry. We had nothing but a few biscuits, crackers, cheese, and some sardines. Since we left Valley City the previous day I was about as sick as I ever have been in my life, about 1700 miles from mother, 50 miles from a doctor with a bunch of 5 other men without any medicine whatever except a bottle of -----hennesey, which was the first I had ever taken but I must confess that since then there has been a warm place in my heart for it (for medicinal purposes, of course). We used to follow the harrow or seeder on foot all the week, and on Sunday we were in the habit of hiking over the Prairies looking for a place to squat on as this land was not surveyed north of Township 144. On the 20th day of May we just finished seeding our first crop of wheat and two days later we had a real North Dakota. 4 blizzard. We lived in a shack without tarpaper and were it not for the lath over the cracks you could have stuck your fingers right outdoors. Outside of the one woman that belonged to our crowd (the wife of Mr. J. W. Fiero) we didn't see the face of a woman till fall.

We finally got our land located but had to wait for it to be surveyed and put on the market before we could file on it. I signed the petition to get this township surveyed in January, 1883, and the following summer it was surveyed and in March, 1884, was placed on the market.

My homestead is the northeast ¼, section 24 Township 145, Range 61. My first shack was built of shiplap with sod on the outside. I used to get my provisions from town through my nei7hbors. During the summer of 1882 a few settlers came and settled around there among them was Charles Mosely (now dead), also Edward and Richard Sellwood, all coming from Union City, Michigan. That year was the first year the twine binder was brought into this country. Previous to that the old goose neck wire binder was used with an occasional Marsh harvester which had two men standing on a platform binding the grain as it came through the binder. A great many of the teams were oxen with a few mules and the balance were horses with an occasional cow used to fill in end make a full team. The only crops raised here at that time were wheat, oats, and barley with an occasional piece of rye or flex. Yields varied in those days the same as now. In 1882 wheat went about 25, in 1883 about 12 or 13, in 1884, a little better and in 1885 about 25. After that they were only fair till 1888 when we had prospects for e good crop but it was a little late on account of a late spring, but on the night of the 16th of August it froze ice ½ inch thick and it made our wheat look like some of the rust smitten wheat we see now-a-days. I took two loads of it to Cooperstown, 18 miles away, and received the enormous sum of $10.00 for each load.

We went to the Sheyenne River and Lake Jessie a few -times after fuel gathering up down timber and if we thought we would not get caught at it cut down a real good tree. But we came to the' conclusion that it wasn't worth the price so we bought our fuel after that which consisted of herd and soft coal but at a price much lower than it is today (1927).

Pardon me if I leave out the hardship endured during the early days for I often hear the young people of today speak of the hardships they have to endure. (Self made the most of them). It might be hard for most people to believe that we had any hardships worthy of mention, in fact I have heard people say that the North Dakota people of the early days were the biggest liars on earth. The only time that I enjoy talking about those days is when I'm in conversation with someone who had a few experiences like my own. I have seen many bad storms and fires but was fortunate in never getting either burned or hurt in any of them.

I was married to Miss Nora. Sullivan on November 25, 1891, at Jamestown, North Dakota, who died on the 29th day of July, 1892, and was married again to Miss Ida Ellendson on April 5, 1894, to whom five children were born. Edna Ione, who is Mrs. Albert Nelson of Palermo, North Dakota; L. Kenneth who is at home in Sutton, North Dakota; Chester V. 809--11th 3t. South, Fargo, North Dakota; Nina May, Mrs. H. K. Sorvik of Kathryn, North Dakota; and Lillian V. who is in training at St. Luke 's hospital, Fargo, North Dakota. I am now living in Sutton, North Dakota, having left the farm and moved to town just a little over a year ago.

Early Sutton Vicinity

as related by John S. Byington, of Sutton, early pioneer.

As near as I can remember the first schoolhouse built in those parts was on the Northeast corner of Section 36 in Dover Township on the homestead of D.R. Swarthout in the year of 1883, at a cost of $4,000 for the lumber being hauled from Sanborn. Mr. Swarthout was a veteran of the Civil War and after the Soo Railroad was built he moved to Wimbledon where his son and daughter now reside. The next school aside from the one in Cooperstown that I remember, was built in Helena Township ion Section 33 in the year of 1886 and the first teacher was Miss Nora Sullivan who taught in the summer of 1887. Her first home was in Illinois and after teaching in Griggs County for several years she changed her name to Mrs. J. S. Byington, in November, 1891. She died in July 1892. Some of the early settlers of this section was C. H. Mosely, Spencer Leigh of Michigan, J. G. White (a cousin of Ex-Governor White of North Dakota), J. W. Fiero, Peter Fiero, A. G. Lindsey, C. S. Roe, J. S. Byington from New York, August Palm, Carl Berg, Chris Sonju, Claus Jackson, Chris Jackson, and C. C. Frydenberg, all of whom lived in the south half of Helena Township and Mabel Township or just over the border.

Other early settlers were Nicolai Swenson who was at one time our county Treasurer, John Michaelis, N. L. Michaelis, who became sheriff of Griggs County in 1886; Barney Berlin, who came in 1883 from Larimore with his family and moved to the Gifford and White farm in the southwestern part of Dover Township; Sandy and Howard Wilson, residents of Bartley and Dover Township. Both Sandy and Mr. Wilson at Valley City, with his daughters, Mrs. Florence Newson and Mrs. Charles Newell.

Other early settlers in this vicinity were John Ebentier, Joseph Ebentier, A. LK Rhodes, William Kingsley, John Nicoll with father, and three brothers, Sandy, Dave and Charles; William Howden and two brothers, James and Ben, Robert Bailey, George Hartman, Scott Van de Bogart, Robert Starr, Jacob Westerhauser, Willie Wilson and Lyman Lewis, resident of the north part of Mabel Township, or the southern part of Kingsley or Clearfield Township(s).

Charles Gartman, Andrew Fenner, August Feske, John Francis, Ed Guest and W. S. Hyde, of Helena Township.

Helena Township was named after the wife of Peter Fiero, as Helena was her given name. A petition was signed by the residents of Helena Township for that purpose. Bartley Township was named after a young man by that name - one of the early settlers in Bartley Township. Kingsley Township was named after William Kingsley who I believe was the first settler in that township. Mabel Township was named after Mabel Boeckman (Mabel Nicoll) who was a daughter of John Nicoll and was the first child born in that township.

The first house built in Helena Township was on the farm that Jens Nelson now lives - 1 ½ story 16' by 24' with an "L" 16' by 16' - 1 story. This was located just half a mile south of Revere. At the same time a granary was built on the same farm by Hiram Shoonmaker of New York. The granary was 10' by 80 ft.

The contractor was a Mr. Bowers of Sanborn and all but two loads of the lumber was brought by team by the writer of this article. The distance was over forty miles one way. One little incident that happened to me at that time was my introduction to the flying ants. I was riding home one hot afternoon on a load of lumber when I felt something bite me on the neck and after brushing them off for about a half an hour I thought I better investigate as the misery was almost unbearable so I stopped my team, got down on the ground, took off my shirt and what I found took me a good half hour to get out of the inside of my flannel shirt. Having never seen anything of the kind before, I related the incident to the carpenters when I got … from that time on.

The first post office was established in the above mentioned house with Peter Fiero for postmaster, and the only time we wver got the mail was when some member of the family or one of the nearest neighbors went to Sanborn and returned with the mail. That is the way things were 'till there was a postoffice established at Montclair, at the section house, one mile north of Hannaford. Archie Sinclair was awarded the Star Route job to carry the mail two or three times a week to Helena Post Office. From there our post office was changes to a settler's home - named Dick Sellwood. After a while the post office was moved to the Eimon Ranch where Harry Holpin now lives. A short time later A. J. Anderson built a store on his farm and the post-office was moved there, and there it stayed until the Great Northern Railroad built the Fargo-Surrey line through this part of the country, when the post office was moved to Revere - within half a mile of where it was originally.

Another incident I remember that might be of interest to some who are howling about the hard winters we have had to endure these past few years. In the winter of 1895-1896 Martin Thompson who was foreman of the Einon Ranch at the time, went to Hannaford with a load of wheat and was to bring back a load of groceries and coal for the farm. He was overtaken by a blizzard and when he was just west of the Mosely farm, as it was called at that time, he got lost and strayed about half a mile and got into a big hollow place on the prairie, where he got stuck and being dark and not knowing which way to go, he had to unhitch his ten team and start out to find a place of shelter. After walking about two miles northwest of where he had left the sleigh, he was fortunate in reaching what is now the Fred Councilman farm, where he stayed till after the storm, which was a terrible one and lasted three days. After reaching the Einon Ranch, he with others looked for many days for his sleigh but it was entirely covered up and was not found until spring.

Another time, in the winter of 1887 = when M. S. Michaels was sheriff, he was ordered to go out to Oscar Kjelson's place and get a team of horses which were owned by Ole Johnson and someone had a mortgage against them so he takes Chris Jackson with him for company. On the way out out there it came up one of these storms you read about but seldom see. I think it was about the 9th of January. They got along alright till towards night, when the storm got worse and just about where Sutton is located now, they got lost. After dark they decided to take shelter in a haystack, and here the horses could eat a little, too. After staying there for a while, Mr. Jackson was so cold, he wanted to give up. The sheriff, being a strong man, thought differently and he shook Mr. Jackson out of his lethargy and told him things were not as bad as they looked and just at that time, there was a lull in the storm and in looking around the corner of the stack, they saw a light just a short distance ahead. They shouted for help, when lo and behold, they were only a few rods from Kjelson's home, where they received a generous welcome where and where they stayed until after the storm. The next clear day, several teams with officials, left Cooperstown (and also business men) looking for the ones they supposed were lost and perhaps frozen.

Before I quit, there are Chris Kjelson, Oscar Kjelson, and Adolph Kjelson among the early settlers which I failed to mention, also Ben Thorsgard and Otto Thorsgard, all good men of early Mabel Township.

Bibliography: Quoted word for word, as John S. Byington, the earliest pioneer in Mabel Township - who is still living there.

John S. Byington

Sutton, North Dakota

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