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Anamoose Sisters Keep Track of History: The Siblings Have More Than 150 Years Worth of Memories

Cantlon, Cleo. "Anamoose Sisters Keep Track of History: The Siblings Have More Than 150 Years Worth of Memories." Minot Daily News, 13 July 1998, sec. 1C.


Helen Rice Nolden, left, and Minnie Kapfer collected photographs and memorabilia like these hairbrushes and accessories to display at the Anamoose centennial July 3-5.
The Rice sisters from Anamoose have more than 150 years of memories to sustain their interest in recording the history of the area.

Minnie Rice Kapfer and her sister Helen Rice Nolden were born in the railroad section house at Anamoose, Kapfer on November 5, 1919, and Nolden on April 5, 1924.

Their father, Kasimer Rice, who first came to the U.S. in 1908, helped construct a bank on the east side of Anamoose's main street. Then he returned to Russia for his fiance Helen Kraft. They were married May 30, 1910, in Aberdeen, South Dakota and came to Anamoose where he was railroad section foreman for 44 years.

Kasimer and Helen Rice, who changed their name from the German `Reis,' had six children who grew up in the drafty, old railroad house in Anamoose. He was in charge of the section of track several miles either side of Anamoose.

Living so close to the railroad put the children at the center of activity in the town and area. That created an interest in people and history which has been important to Kapfer and Nolden and valuable to Anamoose.

City historian
Nolden, named the city's historian in 1975, and her sister set up shop in the old post office for the town's centennial, displaying memorabilia of times past and photographs of the city and area. The building itself has an important past as a hotel, then as the post office for many years.

The sisters' interest in history did not come from education.

"I only got to go to high school for two years," Kapfer said. "There just wasn't any money."

She recalled borrowing pajamas, a suitcase and her music teacher's shoes to use when she sang with a school group that advanced to music contests at Velva and Minot.

Kapfer left school, married Harold Kapfer on June 1, 1937, and moved six miles southwest of Anamoose where they shared a farm home with his parents and his sister's family.

Harold and Minnie had four children, Eileen, James, Robert and Donald. Minnie Kapfer milked cows, stacked hay, tended chickens and a huge garden and canned 700 to 800 jars of food each year.

"In 1949 we got electricity, with lights, a refrigerator, and, the most important thing, indoor plumbing," she said.

In 1968 after her husband suffered a severe heart attack and several strokes, they moved into Anamoose. He died in 1994.

Kapfer's education ended early but interest in music established in school remains with her. She loves to play music, on the organ in her home, at the Senior Citizens center and public gatherings.

"Last Christmas I took my keyboard out to Sage Hill Bed and Breakfast, the old white consolidated school, for their Christmas gala, and I played for four hours straight," she said. "I play everything,-- religious, modern, waltzes,-- everything."

While Nolden admires Kapfer's ability to play by ear, they strongly disagree on what is good music. Nolden opts for classical, Kapfer for country-western.

Writing is Nolden's major interest. In 1986 she published a collection of essays, family papers and reminiscences, "Helen's Love (Family)."

Nolden, who has been a winner in the State Fair writing contest, has been a columnist for Velva, Harvey and Towner newspapers.

The sisters stay busy with more than history. Kapfer's children, Eileen, James, Robert and Donald, 14 grandchildren, 11 great-grandchildren, and one great-great-grandchild, occupy much of her time. She has crocheted afghans for each of them.

"Minnie loves auction sales and likes to shop, especially for her family," Nolden said.

Nolden, who was married to Jake Hieb and later to Erven Nolden, dedicated her book to her four children, Jacqueline Reis in Minneapolis, Tom in Milnor, and Barbara and John in Minot.

They urged her to record family experiences such as Grandmother Kraft's years in Siberian concentration camps. Although she had written many of her experiences, she found large gaps in the family record when she began compiling the book.

Nolden, who reads German, communicates with relatives still in Russia and Germany.

Nolden received early encouragement as a writer.

"My high school English teacher Miss Gilmore liked my writing," Nolden said. "She urged me to write more, and writing has always lurked in the back of my mind."

In 1975 she moved to Minot and edited the newspaper for North Dakota Seniors United for several years. Later she worked at the Minot tourist information center.

"I always wanted a job where I could tell people where to go," she joked. Nolden said she enjoyed meeting people from all over the world, seeing a story in every one.

"I'm one of the few people left in the world who doesn't drive a car," Nolden said. "It got to be such a problem to have people haul me around so in 1986 I moved back to my roots, to Anamoose."

When Nolden is worried, she also does what she calls "rock therapy," collecting small stones and gluing them together to create figures of people or animals.

"Just handling the stones is calming," she said.

Having diverse hobbies is just one difference between the feisty, look-alike sisters. For example, their memories of their parents and early life also differ sharply, which Kapfer believes stems from the difference in age between her and Nolden, the baby of the family.

But they agree on most things. Nolden felt Anamoose centennial T-shirts should feature the Soo Line railroad.

"There would not have been an Anamoose without the railroad," she said.

When centennial organizers chose a more generic shirt design, the Rice sisters proudly wore their minority opinion, a locomotive logo designed by Nolden.

Nolden and Kapfer expect to do a lot of living yet and to record and remember each day of it.

Reprinted with permission of the Minot Daily News, Minot, North Dakota.

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