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Fred Haas home in the early 1920's. Fred and daughter Enid (Mrs. George Stroup) in foreground.
Fred Haas was Pioneer Grain Buyer

McCampbell, Lula Haas. "Fred Haas was Pioneer Grain Buyer." Hazen Star, 30 October 1986.


Hazen was only a few weeks old only when my father, Fred Haas, arrived to become one of the community's pioneer residents and manager of the newly built Occident Elevator.

Frederick William Haas, the third son of Jakob Haas and Susan Dilia Parchen Haas, was born October 3, 1886 in LeMars, Iowa.

His formal education was meager, but he educated himself far past his fifth grade terminus, reading, studying, attending bookkeeping classes and moonlighting at bookkeeping jobs.

In 1911 he homesteaded in northwestern South Dakota, beginning a lifetime sideline of farming, raising cattle, sheep and horses. He went to work for the Columbia Elevator at Mott and later the Occident Elevator in New England. When the Occident Elevator in Hazen was under construction he was offered the job as manager, coming to Hazen in December, 1913.

At about the same time, Alice Thomas had come from Moorhead (Minn.) State Teachers College to take a teaching job in Krem, and the two newcomers met at a dance in Keeley's Opera House, above the Martin Engeseth store. Their courtship was conducted on Fred's Indian motorcycle, Alice riding on the back seat, Fred using an occasional backfire to scare off pursuing dogs.

They were married in Barnesville, Minn., at the home of Alice's parents in August, 1914, returned to Hazen by train and for several years lived in an apartment attached to the elevator offices. Alice continued to teach school until I was born April 1, 1917. The previous year Fred was joined by his father and two brothers, John and Herbert. Two other brothers, Frank and Louis already were living in the Hazen area. Jakob, with sons John and Herbert, ran a dairy on what was later known as the Otnes farm south of Hazen. They delivered milk in Hazen for several years.

Fred and Alice acquired property closer to Hazen where the road south of town crossed the Knife River and built a stucco home, featuring French windows and doors, sunroom, and hardwood floors plus a coal-burning furnace. Alice preferred not to mention that the rear of the house was formerly a sod building, neatly disguised and decorated, comfortably cool in summer and warm in winter.

Son Wilfred and daughter Enid (Mrs. George Stroup) were born in the new home.

The elevator business thrived and Fred continued his involvement in farming south of Hazen, his homesteading interests in South Dakota and South Range, Wis. He also was engaged in raising grain, livestock, and the family dairy.

Besides buying, storing and shipping grain, the elevator handled seed, feed, flour, and coal, usually requiring an extra person during harvest season.

As his eldest, I was enlisted to help many times during the summer months, particularly as a tester of gluten and protein content of the new wheat. Later I became proficient as an assistant who could weigh, dump, and fill bins as well as write checks and fill out consignment reports. For heavy lifting and more unpleasant chores I could call on Fred Froeschle, who performed similar chores for his father at the Farmers Elevator next door.

When I was 12, Father bought me an old Dodge, put a platform back on it and turned me loose to run errands. It was a special thrill when I was put in charge of things when the rest of the family went on vacation trips.

Fred Haas's community involvement grew, including the school and later the school board. He was president of the board when I graduated from high school in 1933, and I can still see the tears in his eyes as he handed me my diploma.

He bought the dance hall and theater that once had been Eddy Doherty's pool hall, restaurant, barbershop, and hotel. He renamed it the Voodoo, a name he considered catchy and not likely to be confused with theaters in any neighboring town.

Presenting motion pictures was both exciting and demanding. Henry Barthel, a local car dealer, was projectionist for many years, followed by the Conrad Olsons and, later, Bill Metcalf. If the train was late with a film, the show was late. During silent picture days, May Held usually played the piano accompaniment, and sometimes I was the pinch-hitter, not enthralled with the job because my musical talents didn't match Mary's. Later a "Panatrope" was purchased to play music, much more pleasant that sitting at the keyboard.

Everyone in the family took turns selling and taking tickets, ushering, dusting and arranging seats, sweeping between productions, making and selling popcorn and mailing flyers to announce coming attractions.

On dance night the seats were cleared and a band took the stage. Bill Gutknecht's bank was a local favorite. Little known at the time, but eventually the most famous of them all was a small band from Strasburg, led by an accordionist named Lawrence Welk. (Years later Enid Stroup encountered Welk at the Bismarck airport, and in his courtly way, he greeted her and kissed her hand. She vowed she would never wash it!). At that same time he sent a note, via Enid, to Alice, as a remembrance from him.

The theater - renamed the Mars about the time sound film ("talkies") came - also served as a roller rink and for staging local plays, visiting magicians, Chautauqua groups, wedding charivaris (locally known as "shiverees") and minstrel shows.

The locally produced minstrel show was an annual affair, popular because it featured community leaders who hammed it up in blackface. Among them: Frank Wernli, Edgar Martin, Dr. L.G. Eastman, Mike Keeley, Gus Daffinrud, Roy Seibert, Tom Thorson, Iver Lee, John Drewelow, Al Personius, John Lightbody, Paul Busenbark, Dr. C.R. Chapman, Sam Olvis, Ralph Chase, Forrest Vreeland, Matt Pridt, John Moses, Haines Millard, Arcus McBride, Ralph Itskin, Jack Gallagher, and a myriad of others.

Fred and Alice were involved in everything they felt was good for Hazen. Some of their interests included Eastern Star, Masons, Evangelical Church and Parent-Teachers Association, as well as the Hazed Community Club.

Vacations in the family car often included inspections of widely ranging family interests. Travel was over primitive roads. Tents and camping gear were standard equipment; flat tires, overheated engines and occasional breakdowns were part of the adventure.

Alice's parents, Jacob and Nancy Thomas, moved to Hazen around 1919 and had a home halfway between town and the Haas home. Jake worked in Forrest Vreeland's Standard Oil bulk station. From the local icehouse he dispensed ice cut from the Knife River near the Hass farm.

The elevator business had its hazards. One employee was thrown to his death when he was caught in the big iron flywheel while starting the gasoline engine, which powered the elevator. Horses, spooked in the driveway, sometimes tore away the doors. A supervisor from Bismarck had his hands severely burned while working on a defective fuse box.

Fred once fell in one of the high storage bins and hung, almost by his wedding ring, shouting for help. Alice, in the elevator apartment, heard him and summoned help. Another time he spent weeks in bed after falling from a catwalk between the elevator and a boxcar he was loading.

There were costly accidents on the farm, too. A registered Angus bull, worth several thousand dollars, wandered onto the railroad tracks and was killed, ending the dream of a Black Angus herd. Once, during the excitement of a flood, Gypsy, the favored sheep dog, wildly drove a herd of sheep into the Knife River floodwaters, drowning most of them and insuring her own demise.

Alice recalled a time when she, en route to town in a buggy with her children and mother, found herself engaged in holding a runaway team frightened by a maddened sow.

Fred did not deal out allowances. Jobs had pay scales; theater popcorn was the children's business. A reward for a job well done might include transportation to a dance while Fred and Alice waited in the car for the dance to end.
As Fred neared 50 he developed the symptoms of chronic nephritis but the diagnosis came nearly a year later. During that time he continued to run the elevator and supervise his farms and the theater. When the illness required extensive hospitalization he sadly turned his responsibilities over to others. He died on the coldest day of 1936, Jan. 29. Funeral Services were held in his Mars Theater.

Alice continued to make her home in Hazen until her death in November 1982.

Reprinted with permission of the Hazen Star.

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