Wednesday, August 21, 2013


We have driven through Valley City ND several times, not pausing to take in the local sights.  This time we stayed a week in a nearby Corps of Engineers campground (the subject of another blog). We found that there are a lot of interesting things around Valley City.



The Valley City Visitors Center in a brochure touts several bridges around the city, all crossing the Sheyenne River. The most impressive is the 3/4 mile long single track railroad trestle completed in 1909 by the Great Northern RR. It is still in use by the BNSF and often carries mile long crude oil or coal unit trains across the valley. It is 165 feet over the river and is claimed to be the longest and highest railroad trestle in the US. This view is looking east from the highway crossing under the trestle.


Looking northwesterly from the road.


Details of the ironwork of a pier (or does it have another name?).


A point of interest along the highway to the campground is this horse-drawn grader. The operator has to be very muscular to turn the wheels to make adjustments to the blade. No power assist on this machine!



On  Aug 19 we took a day trip to drive the Sheyenne River National Scenic Byway its entire length of 65 miles.  From the north it took us first to a fish hatchery and the Baldhill Dam which backs up 27 mile long Ashtabula Lake. The road ran south along the river. The 26 mile graveled southern part of the road led is to the tiny village of Kathryn. It survived because it was built on a railroad  which transported the main agricultural product of the area, wheat. The original Co-op grain elevator still is in use.


Another point of interest on the route is Standing Rock. It sits on top of an uplift moraine perhaps 300 feet higher than the surrounding countryside. The rock was carried from Ontario by a glacier and left in this standing position when the glacier melted. It was a landmark used by early surveyors of the area and was thought to be a sacred place by the natives.


This country Lutheran Church still is in use by the local residents. The cemetery is nearby.



Another point of interest, this cabin was the home of to the Slattum family which raised nine children while living in it. I trust  that they were not living there all at the same time!



This Lutheran Church serves the community of Fort Ransom at the southern end of the journey. Local farmers and artisans built the original part of the building as a community project, without outside help.


We have driven through Valley City ND several times but have paused only to look in antique ships. This year we decided to park at a Corps of Engineers campground north of Valley City on 27 mile long Lake Ashabula. The amenities were good - a nice swimming beach, playground for children, and great views of the lake, shown below.The only hookup at the sites was 30 amp electricity. A few water spigots were available, and a dump station was at a companion campground across a bridge.









BUT  few of the camping sites  were sufficiently level to park a motor home without ramps to level. There was no warning on the campground website of the sloping problem.


Travel trailers could be leveled as their wheelbases for two axle trailers is short.



Site 36 was so sloping that even though we ramped up the back dual wheels on both sides the motor home still was far from level.


The only advantage of site 36 was that we could fill the fresh water tank at the site. As soon as the weekend crowds left we moved to a less sloping site and still had to ramp.

Eggert’s Landing, another Corps of Engineers campground a few miles away had mostly level sites,

Monday, August 12, 2013



Strong Family Association of America has been in existence for many years, but I joined just recently, Its 2013 annual meeting was hosted by my first cousins once removed,Todd, Dick and Ford Nicholson in White Bear Lake and St. Paul, MN . We arranged our summer itinerary so we could attend. We parked the RV at an Elks Lodge in Stillwater MN, an easy commute to the venues for the meetings.   The Friday evening function at the White Bear Yacht Club was attended by 27 and the Saturday dinner by over 30 at Dove Hill Mansion in St. Paul.  It was great to socialize with other descendents of Elder John Strong who migrated to America in 1836.

The history of the mansion is interesting and uplifting. The mansion was built by railroad tycoon James J. Hill, president of the Great Northern Railroad, as a wedding present to his son Louis in 1903. An addition was built on its front 1913. When Dick and Nancy Nicholson bought it, perhaps 15 years ago, there was no furniture and the home and it had suffered deferred maintenance for many years. Since then, they have completely restored the house including furnishing it with period furniture putting up period wallpaper, cleaning and resealing all of the woodwork, and doing everything necessary to restore it to its former grandeur. They installed a kitchen on the first floor for the family and completely restored the large kitchen in the basement for use by caterers, complete with a restored dumb waiter which carries food, etc. to the second floor ballroom which they use for large family parties and, more often, are loaned, without charge, to various non-profit organizations for fund raising dinners.

Dick and Nancy Nicholson live in the less formal back of the house, which has four floors and is serviced by a large elevator.  This includes a complete swimming pool and exercise area in the basement (original to the house) along with the caterer’s kitchen and a large storage area.


The business meeting was held in the large dining room. The historian/webmaster, Ed Barnard, fourth from the left, asked for help in digitizing lots of data about the Strong family in the 24 shelf-feet of archive files he has.


At the head of the table were the secretary, Helen Stoutnar and President, Bob Cihla. The next gentleman is a member of the board of directors. Interestingly, just four of us at the business meeting had the surname Strong!



Here are most of the members who attended the Saturday night dinner at Dove Hill Mansion.IMG_4983

Eighteen in attendance were descended from Elder John’s son Ebenezer  or were married to Ebenezer's descendents. My first cousin, Abby Jane Nicholson Hodges, is in the center of the first row. She and I were the oldest ones there descended from Elder John and son Ebenezer.


These attendees descended from another son, Jedediah, if memory serves me.


We had a nice dinner in the ballroom. The speaker is third from the left on the subject of  the mansions along St. Paul’s Summit Avenue and why they survived.


Here is the youth table, all Hodges and Nicholsons.






Sunday, August 11, 2013



We parked at a small RV park near Chippewa Falls WI for 5 days and toured the area, including Eau Claire. The weather was fine, and the park even had free wifi!

But before we take you to the mansion, we must recognize that Chippewa Falls the home of Leinenkugel Brewery.


Lots of folks were touring the brewery and visiting the gift ship/tasting area on this sunny day,


The mansion was built in 1873 and extensively remodeled by its second owner in 1887. An interior decorator guided  the remodeling, resulting in very nice  millwork and trim, decorated ceilings, and fancy wallpaper.  It has 5 rooms on the first floor and  three bedrooms with servant’s quarters on the second .


This is a small part of the nice flower garden.


   Here is the coal burning fire place in the family sitting room. I have lost a little weight but have a ways to go. Note the image of the photographer in the mirror!



The parlor is reserved for special occasions and guests.


The silver platter bears the name Rutledge, and his picture appears over the desk. The third family to occupy the mansion had at least one member of the family living there for 58 years! Mabel Cook sold it to the Chippewa County Historical Society in 1973.


The ceiling has a decorative design as  well as  the  trim  at the top of the wall. The  horizontal board is for hanging pictures without using nails which would crack the plaster wall. The lighting fixtures were either powered by gas or by gas orelectricity as electricity then was not reliable.


The  stained glass window is at the landing of the grand staircase. IMG_4972

This desk is in a bedroom. Note the wall paper.


The doll (at the left) is a life sized model of the lady of the house so it could be sent to the dressmaker in lieu of the lady spending time there.


One of the bedrooms with the highly patterned wallpaper and ceiling treatment.



Master bedroom

Wednesday, August 7, 2013


We  met Waukesha friends Dale and Mary Graves on July 30 for a fine afternoon at Old World Wisconsin, a project of the Wisconsin Historical Society. Original buildings from areas of Wisconsin have been relocated to replicate various ethnic settlements as they existed in the1800s. Many of the areas had costumed docents to talk about the specifics of the area.


This lady told us that this building was made of cross sections of branches of trees left after the timber cutters had cut the best trees. the slabs were set in mortar. This particular building was constructed as a small home for parents who could no longer work. It was located near their childrens’ farmstead so the children could look after them.


The docent demonstrated hand threshing of wheat – beaten with a stick to separate the wheat from the straw. Then the straw is raked to one side and the wheat swept up.


IMG_4956 Here the blacksmith lets the girl turn the handle powering  the fan to bring the fire temperature to 3000 degrees.


This docent explains the products carried in the general store.


These buildings represent the farmstead of the German farm.



Jo and I took a ride one day west of Beloit to Brodhead and  Monroe in the heart of the cheese making country.  (The pictures are taken by a Canon A1100IS 12.2 mp camera.)


Fortunately the Brodhead Railroad Museum was open while we were in the area. Above and below are two views of a Fairbanks Morse switcher locomotive made in Beloit while I lived there.


IMG_4947 Downtown Monroe - The store at the white sign reading Baumagartners sells cheese in front and beer and cheese sandwiches in back.


The white sign behind me modestly claims “Through this portal are served the best cheese sandwiches in the world.”  When visiting, I order a swiss on rye bread with horseradish mustard. GREAT!


And here is the bar area. Sorry that the signs are not readily legible.


Painted farm animal statues decorate the sidewalks.






Downtown Monroe has the traditional square in which the county courthouse is located. This one still is in use, including the courtroom.


I asked one of the locals where he buys his cheese, and he referred us to this store a few miles from Monroe. The cheese is delicious!