Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Icelantic State Park, the Metis and the Red River Valley

July 11 - 13, 2017:

This was one of our longer rides at 215 miles on route 2 east to the geographic center of North America in Rugby, ND and then routes 3 - 66 - 20 - 5 to our destination at Icelandic State Park.  I passed through several towns enroute and stopping at Towner, Rugby, Rolette and Langdon to check out the sights.  It was all farm country, decent two lane roads with very light traffic, it threatening to rain a few times, but never did.  The windshield was a mess on arrival from the bugs and honey bees.  Each time on passing a group of bee hives (they were frequent) in farm fields I would hear the honey bees hitting the windshield, really messy and the windshield washer only makes it worse.  My only scary moment was when I was being passed by a big rig and a family of Turkeys just casually walked across the highway in front of us.  I saw them and immediately started braking, the truck driver barely missed them in the left lane and I was able to swerve behind him to also miss them.  Some days I really enjoy the the getting there.

These views along the highway were inspiring

Memorial park in Towner had nice murals

Towner claims to be the cattle capital of North Dakota

Rugby claims to be geographic center of North
America, but new technology claims the center is 15 miles away

Nice brick work in Rugby

Definitely one of the most authentic old Great Northern Rail
Depots remaining and still used by Amtrak

Painting of Rugby Train Depot and yard

Interior of the Depot

Rugby remains a railroad town

Town of Rolette has a row of mural similar to this on a market 

The Roxy Theater in Langdon

Our cat, Alice, still hides under a bedroom pillow when we travel and acts terrified, but seems to just sit there calmly and when we stop she will come right out as if nothing happened.  The strange thing is that she sort of watches us, particularly me, every morning and if I go outside and open a door on the RV or make any noise (ever so quietly) she heads for her pillow.  She almost seems to have a special sense to know when we are getting ready to travel.

This State Park has several hiking trails, a lake formed by a dam with a swimming beach, fishing, a pioneer heritage center museum with sever historic buildings.  We took at look at the exhibits in the Heritage Center which was way better that we had imagined.  This State Park was established in 1963 with 200 acres of land donated to the North Dakota by G.B. Gunlogson.  This was the family homestead built by G.B. Gunlogson's parents who immigrated form Norway. 

Lake Renwick at the Icelandic State Park

Historic church moved to the State Park

Also this pioneer cabin 

Potato fields near the State Park were in bloom

Nice Potato bag, I've handled my share of similar ones


Our first evening here was a little stressful as there was a strong storm warning in effect.  We got more nervous when a park ranger came through the campground warning everyone to seek shelter in the bathroom if the warning siren went off.  We thought we were done with that stuff a couple of states ago ?  The major part of the storm missed us, but we had a good downpour for about a half hour and luckily no hail. 

I stopped at the Pembina Museum across the highway from the State Park with a complex of display buildings, an 1882 church, an 1882 railroad depot, an old jail, a barn, a railroad depot, lots of farm equipment and much more.  A most amazing “Twilight Zone” thing occurred as I was in the main Museum building when the woman docent asked me if I would like to see this rare car behind closed doors in the back room.  She explained how this car was owned by G.B. Gunlogson who donated money to the museum to make this museum possible.  He also donated his parents homestead and farm land on which he spent his youth to create the Icelandic State Park.  He went on to get an engineering degree and became the head of the Case Motor Car division of J.I. Case Threshing Machine Company.  She explained that this 1925 Case Motor Car would eventually become the center piece of a new transportation exhibit at the museum.      
She then started to tell me how they had acquired the car at an equipment auction in the state of Maryland.  At that point, I interrupted to ask if they had bought the car from Herb Wessel.  She couldn’t believe how I knew that so I went on to explain how I knew Herb from the Dodge Brothers Club where he was a member and had I had met him at several Dodge Brothers Club functions and had been to his farm a couple of times.  Herb also had a 38 Dodge similar to mine that was his favorite car to drive.  Herd accumulated an immense car, truck and farm machinery collection on his farm, it could have been a museum.  He was also a huge J.I. Case collector with probably the most impressive collection in the country including several immaculately restored Case Motor cars.   I was amazed when I heard a couple of years ago that he was selling at auction almost everything due to health issues. 

It's a great museum from a former North Dakota governors hat

To electric insulators

To a Nehi drink advertisement

To a spare tire cover advertising the Pembina County Fair

To a vintage Pontiac sedan

To a 125 year old steam engine that blew up killing someone
that was then buried for 75 years on a farm, dug up in 1976
and restored

To a famous John Deere plow

To all kind of old farm machinery

To rusty tractors

To a Tractor like one my father owned

To a rare Case car that I last saw on Herb Wessel's farm

The history of this area derives from the fur trade and and the Metis people.  The   Metis people were derived mainly from french Canadian trappers or traders who married Indian women.  Their offspring were a balanced mix of the two cultures and became known as Metis.  They were centered from the late 1700's in two communities centered around Pembina and St. Joseph.The Metis trapped and traded as free men as they didn't work for a single trading company.  They went off each year for an annual Buffalo hunt for months with their families and lived in Teepees carrying everything in large horse drawn carts.  The Canadian government after buying all land owned by the Hudson's Bay Company started to infringe on the Metis land rights which resulted in a rebellion led by Louis Riel.  The rebellion was put down quickly and Louis Riel was convicted of treason and hung in 1885.  The Metis people sort of died off and were replaced by a large influx of Scandinavian settlers in the late 1800's.  

The second oldest town in North Dakota, Walhalla, originally called St. Joseph was settled in 1801.  There are two old trading posts in the area, both claiming to be the oldest buildings in North Dakota.  The Gingras Trading post built in 1843 sits on its original foundation a mile outside of town and has been restored by the park service.  It was built by Metis businessman Antoine Gingras.  The sad thing is that after mega bucks was spent restoring this building, it is now closed to the public due to state of North Dakota budget cuts. 
The other trading post, the Kittson Trading Post was built in 1843 and has been relocated into the city limits of Walhalla at the Walhalla state Historical Park.  It is in embarrassing condition for such an historical attraction. 

The Walhalla Theater is in the process of being restored, but
the sign said it was to reopen in 2016 ?

A interesting sign shop in Walhalla

The Gingras Trading Post reported to be the oldest
building in North Dakota

The Gingras house at the Trading Post

Metis taking a break with their carts

Louis Riel met a tragic end

The Kittson Trading Post 

The nearby town of Cavalier is another very old town in North Dakota settled in 1875.  It’s another town where time has virtually stood still, not much has changed in decades.  Thompson's Cafe on Main Street seems is the place where the locals go to eat.  This area is all agriculture with dark fertile soil and flat terrain. 

The Pembina County Courthouse in Cavalier

The Cavalier Theater

Ugly's Tavern in Cavalier

We are now heading deeper into the North woods near the Canadian border.

Next stop is Zippel Bay State Park on Lake of the Woods;
Twinkles and Slick

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