Thursday, February 8, 2018
HGB Ep. 244 - Bonanzaville
Moment in Oddity - Shoes in the Floor
Suggested by: Natasha Duhua
Our listener Natasha had posted in the Spooktacular Crew about purchasing a 200 year old home in Ireland and finding toddler-sized shoes under the floorboards. The placing of objects like shoes under floorboards, in chimneys, around windows and in the walls of structures has been a practice in Europe for centuries. The practice was so widespread that Northhampton Museum began maintaining a Concealed Shoe Index, which has well over two thousand reports. The practice was not done to store keepsakes, but were meant to serve as magical charms to protect the people who lived in the home from witches, demons and ghosts or they were meant to be charms to enhance fertility. Shoes were hidden in more than just homes. They have been found in public houses, churches and Benedictine monasteries. The earliest reported find was in 1308 and the shoes were found behind the choir stalls in Winchester Cathedral. Half of the shoes found were sized for children like those in Natasha's house and the majority have been well worn and some even showed signs of repair. The practice seems to have ended during the 20th century. Finding well worn toddler shoes under your floorboards, certainly is odd!
This Month in History - First Negro League Begins
In the month of February, on the 3rd, in 1886, the Southern League of Colored Base Ballists became the first Negro league. It was the first attempt to organize a Negro professional baseball league and had 10 teams that included, the Charleston Fultons, the Georgia Champions, the Jacksonville Athletics, the Jacksonville Clippers, the Jacksonville Macedonias, the Memphis Eclipses, the Memphis Eurekas, the New Orleans Crescents, the Savannah Broads and the Savannah Lafayettes. A call was put out in southern newspapers to draw the captains of black baseball clubs to join the league. The first games were planned to start in May, but the season actually didn't start until June 7th. Newspapers reported on the games and gave favorable reviews. The league didn't last and it was not until 1920 that an organized African-American league, which was the Negro National League, survived a full season. The second league formed in 1923 as the Eastern Colored League. In 1947, Jackie Robinson was signed to the Brooklyn Dodgers, which opened the doors for other African-American players and signaled the end of the Negro Leagues.
Bonanzaville (Suggested by listener Typhanie Schafer)
On 12 acres in West Fargo, North Dakota sits a treasure chest of historic buildings and artifacts known as Bonanzaville. This is a pioneer village and museum that is home to 43 historic buildings and over 400,000 artifacts. The historic park has been operated by the Cass County Historical Society since 1967. The buildings have been collected from various places and bring more than just historical stories with them, several of the buildings are reputedly haunted. Enough hauntings go on here that the village hosts its own ghost tours at times. Join us as we share the history and hauntings of Bonanzaville.
North Dakota became a state in 1889. The state was originally part of the Louisiana Purchase of 1803 and was part of the Minnesota and Nebraska Territories until it broke off with South Dakota into the Dakota Territory in 1861. North and South Dakota had an ongoing rivalry to see which state would be admitted into the United States first and North Dakota won. President Benjamin Harrison selected the bills at random as to which would be signed first. Denise and I already knew this little factoid: Dakota is the Sioux word for "friend." This is actually why our first dog was named Dakota. Our second pup, Rafiki, was also named friend because Rafiki is Swahili for "friend." North Dakota is known both as the Peace garden State and Roughrider State. A recent fun fact about the state for us is that in 1999, a teenager discovered a “dinosaur mummy” on his uncle’s ranch near Marmarth that turned out to be a 67 million-year-old duck-billed hadrosaur. It was so well preserved that much of its bones, tendons and ligaments remained enclosed in skin. The city of West Fargo in North Dakota was founded in 1926 and is in Cass County, which dates back to 1872 and was named for railroad executive George Washington Cass. They are both in the Red River Valley named for the river that forms the border of North Dakota and Minnesota and that is the Red River.
While some might think that the village of Bonanzaville got its name because it is a bonanza of historical treasures, it actually is named for the large Bonanza farms that once existed in the Red River Valley. These large Bonanza Farms existed between 1875 and the 1920s. They came about when the Northern Pacific Railroad sold large acreages to its investors to cover its debts. These farms produced large wheat crops and became highly profitable with the use of huge crews and new modernized machinery. Local managers ran the farms, which existed in Minnesota and North Dakota, until the land was exhausted and the land was sold off or rented out to smaller farmers.
Bonanzaville consists of the Cass County Museum, the Pioneer Village, a Rotating Exhibit Gallery and a gift shop. The Pioneer Village was established in 1967 and has 43 buildings on the property that were collected from various cities. Arthur Town Hall is from the town of Arthur, North Dakota and was built in 1890. It features six stained glass windows that are from the Little Theater Company at NDSU. Not only were town meetings held here, but silent movies were screened during the 1920s. Community members played the piano to accompany the movies. The Blacksmith Shop is from Tower City, ND and houses the original furnishings and tools used by the blacksmiths. It arrived in the pioneer village in 1970. Bandstands were popular in towns during the 19th century and a bandstand from the town of Buffalo in ND found a home here.
Gilby, ND featured the Bjerklie Drug Store, which was built by a man named Jud A. Freeman in 1887. Ownership changed two years later to L.P. Bjerklie for whom the store is named. He operated it until his death in 1942 and then his son took over and ran it until 1975. It closed at that time. This was like a typical drug store at the time, so it featured a soda fountain. The building is a recreation of the original, but all of the interior furnishings are original. The medications were donated by the North Dakota State University School of Pharmacy. There is a decorative structure that features an eagle standing on a globe with the word CASE stamped on it. This is the Case Eagle and was placed on the former J.I. Case building on NP Avenue in Fargo. It was a logo created in 1865 and was named "Old Abe." The symbol was taken from Company C of the 8th Wisconsin Regiment, which fought during the Civil War and the logo was their mascot.
The Cass-Clay Creamery is a replica of a common 1920s small town creamery. Many of the furnishings are originally from the Kenmare, ND creamery, which was the last of its kind. The Cass County District Courthouse was actually the Hagemeister School in Berlin Township from 1930 to 1956. The furnishings; however, are from the Cass County Courthouse and are set-up as they would have been in 1904. The bell outside is original to the courthouse as well. The Checkered Years House is from a bonanza farm in Mapleton Township and was built in the early 1880s. The first person to live in the home was Mary Dodge Woodward. She kept a detailed daily diary that her granddaughter compiled into a book entitled The Checkered Years. Mary wrote of how the farm started with only two buildings, but eventually had twenty-seven buildings causing many people to think it was a town, rather than just a farm. She joked that if they built a saloon, they would be a town. Clearly, Mary never expected her diaries to become a book since she wrote, "I’ve nobody to talk to except this diary, and here I can say what I please for nobody but my children could ever read it."
Dawson Hall was built to be used for demonstrations and programs during the annual Pioneer Days celebration. It is named for Jim Dawson who donated much of the building's contents. The Dobrinz School was built in 1895 and was originally located in Mapleton Township. The school was named for John Dobrinz, a farmer who lived near the school. Thirteen of his children attended the school, which was a one room schoolhouse that taught children from grades one through to eight. Grade level was decided on completion of books rather than age. Some students were even older than the teacher. The Eagle Air Museum has a collection of over a dozen aircraft and related artifacts. One of the aircraft is the Douglas C-47 that was used in World War II during the D-Day Invasion. The Embden Depot was built by the Northern Pacific Railroad in 1900 in Embden, ND. Telegraph services were also offered at the depot. The Eugene Dahl Car Museum houses a collection of over sixty vehicles from the early years of automobiles to more modern vehicles. And many of them were donated by Eugene Dahl and Lester Melroe who purchased a large collection of automobiles from the Paul Hemp Automobile Museum in Rochester, Minnesota.
The first permanent house in the Fargo area was built by immigrants in 1869 near Fourth Street and Second Avenue South. The house was built from logs cemented together by a mixture of cement and sand. That first home is now here and known as the Fargo First Home. It not only served as a residence, it also was used as a hotel and jail. The Forness Log Cabin is actually a reproduction of a typical log cabin of the area and is named for the man who built it on the grounds of the Pioneer Village, Palmer Forness. There is a cast iron stove in it that was used more for heating than cooking.
The Furnberg Store was built in the late 1800s by Christian Furnberg near the train stop at Osgood, ND. Furnberg was a young boy when he moved to the Dakota Territory in 1871 and he started his life selling goods by peddling them to people in the area. He opened the general store after borrowing $50.00 from his sister-in-law. The store remained in business for 75 years and closed in 1953.
The Habberstad Cabin was built by a group of Finnish settlers in 1874 and was moved from Kindred, ND. It is made from oak logs and has two levels. The second level was used only for sleeping. The Hagen House was built by Martin Hagen in 1897 near Horace, ND. There was no electricity or indoor plumbing for the four generations that lived in the house. There is a summer kitchen behind the house. The Harness Shop was used for harness and horseshoe repair and was brought from Addison, ND. The Horse Drawn Building is a museum featuring a collection of horse-drawn vehicles and equipment that include buggies, sleighs, farms wagons, drays and a milk wagon. The Land Office Bank is a replica of a Cogswell, ND building that served as a place for new land seekers to file their plots and receive titles to their property. The Law Enforcement Museum has displays donated by the Fargo Auxiliary Police Association.
The Maier House was built by John and Dora Maier in 1896 in Moorhead, MN. The house started out with two rooms and later a lean-to was added that added two more rooms. Electricity was installed in 1940. The house features a collection of historic medical devices. The Martinson Cabin was the former home of the North Dakota poet and labor organizer Henry D. Martinson. Before Martinson bought it as his home, it was a barn. Many of the furnishings inside had belonged to Martinson. He was named Poet Laureate of North Dakota in 1967. The Melroe Tractor Building houses a display on the history of American agricultural innovation. Two of the earliest steam engines built by J.I. Case are in this building. The Moum Agricultural Building also houses farm machinery and the very first Steiger tractor is Housed here. The Pioneer Fire Company was built by area firefighters as a replica of an 1890s station. The original horse drawn wagons of the Fargo Fire Department are here and the upstairs is furnished how the living quarters would have appeared at the time.
The Railroad Museum houses an 1883 Northern Pacific steam locomotive, caboose, Russell snow plow and a 1930 eighty-passenger coach. The steam locomotive was known as Number 684. Herb Banks, the General Foreman who worked getting Number 684 restored, summed up the importance of the American Standard class of steam engine by saying, "The American Standard’s history from 1837 to the late [1880s] is full of deeds of conquest over wilderness and trackless wastes – the bitter cold and mountainous snows and battles against almost insurmountable obstacles which they fought to settle the frontiers of the nation… No other single item has done more to make our country great than the Standard – by uniting vast territories into one nation and converting gloomy untrodden forests, dismal swamps and pathless prairies into prosperous states and fertile farms." The Telephone Museum used to be a hardware store in Tower City, ND. The Telephone Pioneers of America converted it into the museum and it features displays of 20th century receivers, switching equipment and line insulators which were made of glass. Before direct dial, calls had to be connected by phone operators. Many slept in the office.
Hunter Times building houses machinery from newspaper printing history that includes a strip casting machine, hand-operated press, flatbed press, and linotype machine. The Hunter Times was originally published in Hunter, ND and ran until the 1940’s. The first paper printed in Hunter in the 1890’s was known as the The Eye. and then in the 1920’s, the paper was known as The Hunter Herald. The building burned in the 1930’s and was rebuilt and renamed as The Hunter Times. The Kathryn Depot/Spud Valley Railroad Club is a building that houses the Spud Valley Model Railroad Club which operates a model railroad inside. The Thue-Brink Store is a general store from Horace, ND that was built in 1896 by H. H. Thue and his father-in-law C. O. Brink. At the time, it was the largest store in North Dakota. The store supplied flour, salt pork, molasses, nails, lumber, farm machinery, lace and even lingerie. The store also featured a post office that was run by the Thue family for 56 years. This is a two-story building with a basement and warehouse. The second floor was used for school plays, speakers and for living quarters and it was the town’s auditorium until 1937. There was a six-foot candy counter to tempt the children, which included the Thue children. Their father was strict about them taking any candy for themselves and one day H.H. followed one his daughter to the depot where he turned her upside down in front of everybody and shook the candy out of her pockets.
The Trangsrud Elevator was originally built as a granary in the early 1900’s near Kindred, ND by Amund Trangsrud and his son, Henry. Amund Trangsrud's house is also here and this was constructed between the late 1860's and 1871. The family lived there for seven years until and they moved into a bigger home. The smaller house then became a bunkhouse for hired men during the summer and eventually was used for storage. Amund's grandson restored the house and gave it to Bonanzaville in 2009. The U-R Next Barber Shop was built in 1900 and was located near Buffalo, ND. The objects and furnishings inside are original to the shop. The Wheatland Town Hall and Jail was built in 1905 for Wheatland Township, ND. The building housed two constables, a justice of the peace, and lawbreakers. There are two cells that featured a cot, a chair and a blanket. The hall also has its original safe with a hole blown in its side.
And now we come to the haunted buildings on the property:
The Houston House was built in 1881 by David Houston and was originally on a bonanza farm in Hunter, ND. Houston was a Scottish immigrant, farmer, poet, and he invented the roll film camera. You probably have not heard Houston's name in connection with this invention because Kodak Eastman never gave him the credit he deserved and even Thomas Edison is credited with creating the moving camera when he actually was building off of Houston's original invention. And Houston actually called his first device Kodak, but George Eastman claimed he came up with the name out of thin air. The house features maple floors, cherry and oak wainscoting, walnut stairs and large bay windows. The decor features fine lace curtains Victorian in style, an Art Deco mahogany bookshelf towering above parlor chairs, a pump organ and a medieval hunting tapestry. Houston installed a new type of heating system in the basement, a hot air furnace, and metal conduits and air registers brought the heated air into rooms. There was a bathroom as well, which was uncommon at the time.
This house is reputedly haunted. Staff have claimed to hear the disembodied voices and laughter of children inside the house when no kids are in the house. Brenda Warren is Bonanzaville’s Executive Director and she said, "In the upstairs southeast bedroom of the Houston House there is always an indentation in the pillow and I always fluff it back up. When I come back to check on things there is always the same indentation in that pillow. I’ve never really believed in the paranormal; however, this keeps happening over and over again so it makes me wonder if maybe there might be something there.” Houston died of a brain hemorrhage in this room. David Houston and his wife Annie were both spiritualists and they had one room set aside for seances.
The Brass Rail Saloon and Hotel was built in 1889 in Page, ND. It moved to Bonanzaville in 1971. There were nine rooms in the hotel and featured entertainment and fine dining, but no alcohol. North Dakota entered the Union as a dry state and so no alcohol was served until Prohibition was repealed in 1933. A room could be rented for 50 cents, with the elegant Bridal Suite going for 75 cents a night. There was no indoor plumbing. The furnishings are not original, but date to the early 1900s. Some of the entertainment available at the saloon and hotel came in the form of a brothel. This tavern is near the Houston House and is apparently haunted as well. Brenda Warren's daughter, Missy, who heads up special events at Bonanzaville once heard a loud noise inside the Brass Rail Saloon and said of it, "There is something in the saloon, and everything that has been heard has come from the upstairs, where it was most likely once a brothel." Warren herself has had an experience in the saloon. She was locking up by herself one night and says ofthe event, "I kind of got an eerie feeling. There's an upstairs — the hotel part of the Brass Rail — so I locked up downstairs, and as I was reaching for the door to go upstairs, something hit the floor very, very hard — I mean, shook the floor, it hit so hard. But the crazy thing is, there were renovations going on at that time and there was nothing up there. It was pretty much gutted — nothing that could have fallen off of a wall onto the floor or something. I didn't see anything, but I didn't stick around, either."
The South Pleasant Church arrived in Bonanzaville in 2015 and was built over 125 years ago. the church is originally from Christine, ND and was moved to replace the former church at Bonanzaville, St. John's Lutheran Church, because it burned down. This is another one of the haunted location in the village. In 2016, a crew from Horsley Specialities came in to clean up the steeple and restore it when they experienced what they describe as haunting activity. Raul Turrubiates Jr. and his workers had just climbed the stairs to the steeple tower when they heard what they thought was someone walking around on the wooden floor beneath them. Access to the church was limited, so Raul went downstairs to chase the person out. He didn't see anyone, so he called out. There was no response. Then to his astonishment he saw a set of footprints in the dust made by bare feet. The footprints led in different directions. Some went up to the altar and others led away. All of his crew were in boots and he found no one else in the building.
The crew went back to work figuring that someone had come in at some other time and that they just hadn't noticed the footprints. Then one of the men saw a small shadow movement. He told Raul and said that he thought the shadow was about the size of a seven-year-old child. He claimed that the shadow ran past him and around the corner of the doorway. He followed it around the corner and the shadow had disappeared. Then he saw another set of barefoot prints that were small, like a child's, in the corner of the pews where he thought the shadow had crossed. The crew decided that they would not stay to work into the night. Raul said, "I told my supervisor, 'I'm out of here by 5 (p.m.),' since it starts getting dark then. We've worked on many old buildings, many, but this has never happened before. It's a little creepy." The crew later claimed to see a large, unplugged 20-gallon shop vacuum move on its own across roughly 4 feet of carpeted entryway. Former members of the church were asked about hauntings, but nobody gave any further information. There had been a cemetery next to the church at its original location.
Bonanzaville is like a time capsule of another time that keeps history alive for those who visit. Are some of the buildings that were brought here still serving as home to some former residents who no longer are living? Is Bonanzaville haunted? That is for you to decide!