Home History Culture
Interview with John Miller (JM)

Conducted by Robert L. Carlson (RC)
Golden Valley, Mercer County, North Dakota
21 November 1975

Transcription by Joy Hass Stefan
Edited and Proofread by Linda M. Haag


RC: This is Robert Carlson. The following is an interview I recorded with Mr. John Miller at his home in Golden Valley, North Dakota, on November 21st, 1975, beginning at about 2:00 p.m.

JM: [? 022]

RC: Mostly German.

JM: Yes, it was all German. Oh, later on they came from Deutschland. It always was all German.

RC: When did you come here, John?

JM: In 1903.

RC: Oh. Did you come over from Germany?

JM: No, from Russia.

RC: From South Russia?

JM: From South Russia, yes. From Krim.

RC: From Krim?

JM: Yes.

RC: Was that a dorf?

JM: No, it’s a, oh, how do you call it…

RC: Oh, like a province or a village?

JM: Yes. There were villages in there. It was on the Black Sea. I have a map.

RC: Oh. Here’s the Black Sea, right?

JM: Yes. That’s the Black Sea.

RC: Here are the streets. [? 042 – German phrase?] Why did you leave Russia and decide to come to the United States? Or your parents, I suppose, did.

JM: Yes. And see, the land was high priced at that time in Russia. And here you get a lot. There was good people [? 049] So without land you can do nothing. It was awful cheap, you know it was worth it. And here too, at first. The first year I got around 10,000 [? 055].

RC: Working for a farmer?

JM: Yes. But the next year it was really good. The price came up.

RC: How old were you when your dad and mother and you came over here, John?

JM: 17.

RC: Oh. What did you think of this country when you first saw it?

JM: Well, I liked it.

RC: Oh you did, huh? Never wanted to go back, huh?

JM: No. It is a nice country, especially around here. [? 065] That’s a big city, [? 070]. The people only had 10 miles to the river up here. But all the wheat was all up here. You got a better price.

RC: Because that was a seaport?

JM: Yes. [? 076…]

RC: How did you get along with the Russian people there?

JM: Oh, the Russians, they were good people.

RC: The Germans and the Russians got along okay then.

JM: Oh yes. There were not many Russians there. There were some others… Bohemian. There was about 17 miles of that. [? 086]. There was a Bohemian. And there were two kinds of Bohemians – There was [? 088] and Bohemian. The [? 089] they speak German. It was a big village.

RC: Did you learn how to speak Russian too?

JM: Oh yes. I was good. I could speak Russian good.

[other person]: He still has his reader.

RC: Oh, is that right? You must be what, now, close to 90?

[other person]: 89 he was in September.

RC: Boy, he doesn’t look it!

[other person]: He still reads without glasses.

RC: Is that right? That’s tiny print.

[other person]: I can’t read it with my glasses.

JM: See, that’s a picture of our school.

RC: In Russia?

JM: In Russia, yes.

RC: Oh yes. That’s an old picture.

[other person]: This is a [? 108].

JM: Yes, yes.

RC: Oh. Yes, you’ve changed a little bit. [laughter]

JM: Yes, I was… that was in ’98, and 86… [? 113] And that’s how the people make their living, you know. They cut the flax.

RC: Oh, by hand.

JM: Yes. They made their clothes. See here, it shows how they make the dresses.

RC: Yes. That’s an old book.

JM: Yes. And here it shows them making some material.

RC: Oh yes. That’s a loom, I suppose. [sounds of turning pages]

JM: Yes, it says it was 1901. That’s a history book. They built from stone. It was soapstone. It came in blocks, like brick.

RC: Do you remember coming over here on the ship?

JM: Yes.

RC: What was that like? Were you in a cabin by yourself with your family, or were you in a big room with lots of others?

JM: No, we were in a big room. That was a freight [? 147]

RC: Oh.

JM: They took some freight on here too.

RC: Was that a pretty hard passage? I talked to a woman in Richardton who came over about the same time you did and she said they didn’t get enough to eat.

JM: No, we had plenty to eat.

RC: Oh? Could you keep it down?

JM: There was a German ship. It was [? 154]. See that’s how they saw the Kaiser… it was Catherine. She sought to take the people in.

RC: To invite the Germans in, yes.

JM: There were all kinds of people who came in.

RC: There were quite a few Turkish people there too… Tartars.

JM: Yes. There were people from Turkey. Oh, they had a piece of land with cotton and a few sheep. [? 170…]. They picked wheat, so in that village there was a lot of good wheat. This was the last Kaiser.

RC: Oh yes. Alexander? John, did you know any people who left Russia because they might get drafted into the army?

JM: Oh yes. Yes. There was a lot of that.

[other person]: Your uncle was in it, wasn’t he?

JM: Yes, yes. He left in ’89. He was drafted. He was the second one. They left the oldest. They took the second one.

RC: The oldest they’d leave to farm, huh?

JM: Yes.

RC: Oh, I didn’t know that. Did the Russian officials pick on the Germans at all, ever? I mean the Russian government people.

JM: No. There were a lot of big farms and they had all the Russians to work, but they came from up north. And they had [? 203] so they can make a little profit there in the spring. Then when everything was done, [? 207] and some of them they stayed the winter. [? 210…] Most they went back again, they had to go back again. They hired them for three months.

RC: For thrashing and stuff, I suppose.

JM: Yes.

RC: Did your dad know anybody over here before they came?

JM: Yes.

RC: Had he been writing back and forth?

JM: Yes. There was… his brother was here. And [? 221] too. But he was dead already.

RC: What was your dad’s name? I should ask you that.

JM: Christian.

RC: Christ?

JM: Yes.

RC: Where was your homestead from?

JM: Minot.

RC: Or where did your dad homestead?

JM: His homestead was in Minot.

[other person]: The people across the street here in that corner house, they all had land [? 231]

JM: I was 9 miles NE of Minot.

RC: When you turned 21, then you got your own homestead.

JM: Yes. That was in ’07. Late in ’07....September, I think. [? 240…]. He went away to Canada, so…

RC: You contested it. Were there many people living around here when your dad and you and your mother first came here in 1903?

JM: No.

RC: Not many other homesteaders then.

JM: Only ranchers.

RC: Were there some pretty big ranches here then?

JM: Oh yes. Yes, there was one close to my homestead.

RC: Who was that?

JM: That was Arnett. And Notke [? 256] was his manager, you know. [? 259..] the ewes, and cows to milk. He had a section or two sections or something like that.

RC: Way back that early, in 1907?

JM: That was before the fence. In 1907 they’d left. They left in ’05.

RC: Oh, the rancher did.

JM: Yes. See, that’s starting when people came.

[other person]: Before that they used all the Government land for nothing.

JM: Yes. I bought 3 quarters from that rancher. He sold some of it to McHayden, and he made them cut the wells.

[other person]: Springs.

JM: Springs.

[other person]: So they homesteaded 40 acres at a time over there with a spring on it.

JM: So the ranchers wanted to sell a spring to us.

[other person]: They owned the water.

RC: How did the ranchers like it when the homesteaders started to come in here?

JM: I don’t know. I never see them. He didn’t live here.

RC: No. He just came in the summer.

JM: He mostly came in the summer.

[other person]: It was a long way from Texas up here. I remember [? 293] telling that. See [? Same person] had the home place for that ranch. I remember that was way back there, before I went in the service. He was our neighbor.

JM: Dad worked for that rancher that summer when we came over here. He paid a good price, $30 a month. For two months he cut hay. He had a lot of people in a small time to make hay.

[other person]: Did he have a contract with the army for horses? That Arnett – did the army buy horses from him when they had soldiers at [? 310] ? I thought somebody told me that. [? 313].

JM: [? 314…] Oh yes, they raised a lot of horses too.

[other person]: You used to hear the stories and then you forget them.

JM: And the horses were selling at a good price then.

RC: I suppose there were lots of homesteaders who wanted horses.

JM: Yes. I think there must have been 400 or 500 horses.

RC: Now would that be for just a team of ordinary broncos, or would that be for Percherons, or something like that?

[other person]: They didn’t have Percherons at that time.

RC: They didn’t, huh?

[other person]: They were mostly… oh they had some breed horses, but not too many. They were all crosses. In the east they probably had thoroughbreds, you know in the eastern states. But out here they just had…

JM: That was one of the biggest ranches out here. There were a lot more small ranches. But that was a big ranch. There were a lot of cattle.

RC: But he quit two years after your dad came here? He didn’t come back. Arnett, his ranch, he quit ranching here in 1905.

JM: Yes. He quit then. He saw them preparing to homestead here, and he quit.

RC: What kind of a house did your dad build on the homestead, John?

JM: From rocks.

RC: He did, huh?

[other person]: It was sandstone. The house is still sitting out there.

RC: It is?

[other person]: Yes. It’s covered with siding that was put on it, but it’s still there.

RC: That’s one thing that people don’t know how to do anymore at all, I don’t think.

JM: Yes, but most houses were from sod.

RC: From sod strips, or from mud bricks?

JM: No, sod strips. Oh, there were some from brick too, but not very many. Most were from sod strips. After we were here, they built some of them, but not much. But when we came most houses were sod strips.

[other person]: There was no lumber around.

JM: Other ones were [? 372…]

RC: Are you talking about lumber? Timber, from the river?

JM: Yes.

RC: But that was quite a ways away.

[other person]: The river isn’t too far from here, no.

RC: Oh, I guess maybe it isn’t.

[other person]: About 12 or 14 miles.

RC: That’s still a pretty good haul, though, I suppose, to get enough logs for a house.

[other person]: Well, I don’t know. Where he lived out on the farm, the first years when he seeded, he hauled the wheat to Hebron.

RC: Gee, that must be 50 miles. Or 40 anyway.

[other person]: From out at the farm, that’s a good… see, it’s 35 miles to Hebron from here, and it’s 18 miles from the farm into town.

RC: Did it take him two days to get to Hebron then, with a load of grain?

JM: We made it in one day to Hebron the next day.

RC: You must have had a good team then.

JM: Well, we started out in the morning about 5 o’clock.

[other person]: Get out to the [? 395] River by noon.

RC: I’m sure you had to fjord the river then too, didn’t you?

JM: There was an elevator then, at the river, too, at Manhaven. At Expansion and…

[other person]: Manhaven. But this was at Walcott.

RC: That one I haven’t heard of.

[other person]: The stray dogs there… you know where the old [? 407] bridge used to be?

RC: Yes.

[other person]: It was just right down there in that area.

RC: Oh, it was on the reservation.

[other person]: Yes.

RC: The Wolcott elevator?

[other person]: Yes.

RC: And they had a chute going down to the boats then? Or did they just load sacks?

JM: No, it came from the elevator in a chute down to the boat.

[other person]: That was before my time.

JM: At Wolcott that was only there for three years. They built it in ’09, and they took the wheat seed and [? 423]. It was an awful rough road too, to Wolcott.

RC: Oh, I suppose, up and down hills.

JM: There were big hills.

RC: Yes.

JM: [? 428…] Still it was a rough road to build. It was always rough, to Hebron too, it was rough.

RC: So, until 1909, Hebron was the closest elevator, huh? Was there any town or any store close by where you could buy salt or sugar, or things like that?

JM: Yes, there was one in Defiance. There was a Jew.

RC: Now where was this?

[other person]: Defiance. Defiance, North Dakota.

RC: Where was that?

JM: Straight up.

RC: On the river?

[other person]: No.

JM: Pick up stuff in Hebron.

RC: Who ran that store there? You said he was a Jew.

JM: Yes, he was a Jew. Nacht, they called him, Father Nacht. [laughter]

RC: Father Night?

[other person}: Yes.

JM: Oh, he’d give you good pieces.

[other person]: Yes, there’s a little post office like that… a little store at Zapiah that’s just a post office.

JM: Yes, there was one at Zapiah.

RC: Now what was that?

[other person]: Zapiah.

RC: I’ve never heard of that.

[other person]: It’s straight north of here. Then there’s another one southwest of here. That’s Bronco.

JM: There was a farmer east… [? 477] was his name.

RC: And he had a little store in his farmhouse, you mean, or a post office?

JM: No, he had no store.

RC: Just a post office?

JM: Yes, just a post office. In Defiance they had a little store. Then in Halliday there was a little store too.

RC: In where?

JM: Halliday.

RC: Oh, in Halliday, yes. You mean there was a store there before the railroad got there?

[other person]: Yes. Yes.

RC: Oh there was.

[other person]: In Golden Valley too… there was Old Golden Valley out here.

JM: There was [? 492…].

RC: Did your dad have some machinery when he started?

JM: Yes, he bought it. The first two years we worked out, we had no water too.

RC: Oh, so he worked, you worked for other people?

JM: Yes. Oh, on the threshing machine I worked five years. I worked in [? 508] in ’05 and ’06 and ’07. Eight.

RC: Were you a bundle hauler, or a spike pitcher, or…

JM: Well, at that time they stack…. They stacked the bundle.

RC: They stacked instead of hauling from the field, the shocks, yes.

JM: Yes. Later on they threshed the shocks, but at first they stacked the bundles.

RC: Was that a steam threshing rig, then? Or was it a horse-powered?

JM: At that time when we came there was all horse-powered. It was in 1903 there was the first, in Mercer County, the steam. It was when Abe… but the rest of us it was all horse-drawn.

RC: How many horses did they have on the one you went on?

JM: 14.

RC: 14?

JM: Yes. And in Russia there was horse-drawn machines too. They had only eight. They brought that machine with the belt… [? 543…].

[other person]: They had a shaft instead of a tumbling rod. That would be with the universal… see the horse power, and then your gear box, and then the shaft that was like a power take off from the gear box to the machine. Of course they could do more power than a belt.

RC: And the horse would have to step over that shaft every time?

JM: Yes. Over that. And in Russia there was like a wheel…

RC: Well a 14-horse horse-power must have been must have been about the biggest one they made then, wasn’t it?

JM: Yes. Then there was… I didn’t see any smaller ones.

RC: I’ve heard people…

JM: Well, there was a smaller one for grinding feed and stuff like that, but in threshing there was always the big ones.

RC: Oh?

JM: [? 569].

RC: Yes. And cut the twine first, I suppose. Were any people still seeding by hand when you got here, or when your dad started?

JM: We seeded first by hand.

RC: You had to be pretty good to be able to do that, didn’t you? To get a good crop, I mean. You had to know…

JM: Yes.

RC: Somebody told me they used to mix dirt with the seed when they’d seed by hand so they could throw evenly and not throw too much.

JM: I don’t know; I never did that.

RC: You never did that.

JM: Yes, he did that with the seed. He was used to that.

[other person]: [? 591…].

JM: At that time when we came they had some [? 598] already. But some of them couldn’t buy [? 600]. In Russia it was the same way. There was a lot of people, they had seeding [? 606]. The smaller farmers seeded by hand.

RC: How much did your dad break up the first year?

JM: We rented some land the first two years. [? 615…]. Then after that, [? 620…]. We had only one team. The horses were so high priced.

RC: Let’s see… what was I going to ask you? You got your own homestead in 1907. Do you remember what years were good years and what years were bad years from 1907 up to…

JM: Well, I started in ’08, and it was not so good. It was dry that year. [? 638…] and break up the land to 24 acres, the main homestead. We tried to break up more. Then in ’09, that was a good wheat year for us… a real good year. In ’09 I put in 24 acres of wheat and 50 acres I break up in flax. [? 660].

RC: Really? You got rich!

JM: And flax, about 18.

RC: Really? Man!

JM: In ’09, it was a very good year. But [? 666] at that time. It was not very good. It was about 60-cents, 65. All the flax was really good. It was up to $2.50.

RC: 60-cents probably bought as much then as $5 does now.

JM: Yes. I bought horses for a team. In the spring I paid $300 for a team. They built the granary then.

RC: How were ’10 and ’11?

JM: ’10 was, well, ’10 was not much. And in ’11 there was nothing. It was an awfully dry year. And ’12 was a good year. ’13 was good and ’14 was good. ’15 was good, and ’16. But in ’16 there were grasshoppers. There was a good stand of wheat, and there was nothing left. But the flax was good in ’16. In ’16 I had [? 719…], so I didn’t cut any of the wheat.

RC: I suppose prices got better then in ’15 and ’16 and ’17.

JM: Well, the flax was $2. The wheat…

[742 – end of taping on this side. Begin Side B]

RC: Go ahead.

JM: There was in ’11 and ’12, two years I just [? 005…018]. There was a rancher who had some sheep. I went out and got some sheep – I don’t remember how many. And I made a little fence.

RC: You started in the sheep business, huh?

JM: Yes. Butchering.

RC: Yes. That’s kind of tricky to do, isn’t it? They say, anyway, that you’ve got to know how to butcher sheep; you can’t just…

JM: My dad, he butchered in the old country. [?125…].

RC: Was there any big steam plowing rigs that people were using here? A steam engine to pull twelve bottoms or 10 bottoms?

JM: Yes, later on. There was… [? 032].

RC: He owned it?

JM: Yes. He had a big steam-run…

RC: How did that work if they hit a rock? That’s what I always wondered, because they didn’t have a break-away hitch like they had later.

JM: Yes.

RC: Did it break off a bottom?

[other person]: No, no. Those bottoms were all individual. I remember that yet. [? 040] had one of those big [? 041]. Oh, I was maybe about 10 or 12 years old, and the folks would visit. They were in a big frame, those bottoms, the beams were attached to one end of it and each bottom had to be, when they lifted it up, each one had a lever on it, you see, so they were not solid. That helped absorb some of the shock.

RC: Of course they didn’t go six miles an hour either.

[other person]: They went six miles a day. [laughter]

JM: Yes, they’d go slowly.

RC: Do you remember the flu epidemic in 1918?

JM: Yes.

RC: Was that pretty bad around here?

JM: Oh yes, there was a man in my neighborhood who died. [? 055…067].

RC: Was there a doctor here then that you could get from town?

JM: Yes, there was a doctor in town.

RC: What was the doctor’s name, do you remember?

[other person]: Oh, that was Doc White. I don’t know, maybe there was a doctor before him, but he’s the one that I remember.

JM: Yes, there was one before, but I forgot the names.

[other person]: Was it Gabee?

JM: Yes.

[other person]: And Doc Graul.

JM: Yes.

RC: Did your mother, or did any of the older women from the old country have some home cures for fevers or colds, or things like that too? Do you know what I mean, like a…

JM: Yes. My mother, she was… when people got sick, she got all kinds of oil.

[other person]: Medicines.

JM: Sometimes they came at night. There was no doctor at that time. The doctor [? 088] about 1914 or 1915 that he was in those towns.

RC: Was your mother a midwife too, then?

JM: Yes. She was.

RC: Women didn’t go to a hospital then, huh?

JM: No.

[other person]: Those were quite different days.

RC: Yes, but maybe they should do it again. I just read a story in the paper that out in California they did an experiment, and women who had kids at home with a midwife had fewer problems than those who went to the hospitals. When did you get married, John?

JM: I got married in 1910. February 22nd.

RC: You were all established on your homestead by then. I suppose you were a pretty good catch after your big crop, huh? [laughter]

JM: Yes. Yes, it was a cold day when I got married. Snowing, wind blowing… But after that we were kept warm. We had [? 111] and that was the best thing… kept warm. [? 113…117].

RC: Say, that reminds me, I wanted to ask you…. Go ahead.

JM: But afterward, it was a dry year. We had a lot of snow in the winter, but in the spring we had some rain, but not much.

RC: Do you remember any bad prairie fires?

JM: Oh yes.

RC: Was that quite a problem here?

JM: It was in the first years, yes. We’d go out and, well the most fires were on the reservation. And then they bring all this to watch, so then all the neighbors around would go and the farmers would go and burn stuff, you can set fires. Sometimes it was about nighttime. Yes, those first years there was a danger of fire. But later on [? 136].

RC: You say a lot of them started on the reservation, huh, a lot of the fires?

JM: Yes. Most of the fires would start on the reservation with the Indians.

RC: How did you get along with the Indians in those days? How did the White man and the Indians get along?

JM: Oh, okay, I guess.

RC: No trouble, huh?

JM: No trouble.

RC: What did people do for fun there, just for entertainment, back, well, about the time you got married, let’s say, in 1910 when there wasn’t any radio or TV?

JM: Well, there was, in the evening, reading stories and stuff like that.

RC: How about dances or baseball games?

JM: Later on, they started the ball games. Yes, there were quite a few ball games.

[other person]: When I was young, we had a lot of teams, back in the ‘30s. Every four or five miles, wherever there were nine boys, there was a baseball team.

RC: Did Halliday have a team?

[other person]: Yes. We played Halliday, Dodge, Gold Valley, and we played Werner. And we beat them quite often, too. Then there was, straight north of here, there was a couple of teams, north of Dodge, north of Halliday and north of Werner a couple of them. That’s the way it went going south too. We didn’t play anybody from the south. It was too much traveling.

JM: Yes, there were a lot of teams at that time for many years.

RC: Were things like 4th of July celebrations pretty big things too, or rodeos, or anything like that?

[other person]: There were a lot of 4th of July celebrations out on the farms. Like Weisenbergers, they had them for many, many years. John Weisenberger. And Herb [? 174].

RC: How about blind pigs… were there any blind pigs in Halliday or Werner or…

JM: No.

[other person]: The saloon.

JM: Oh. Well, there was a blind pigs in Hazen and Krim. But not around here.

RC: Well, the German people are supposed to like their beer pretty well. Did some make their own, because it was illegal to…

JM: Yes. Oh, you could send for beer.

RC: Oh you could?

JM: Yes. It was cheap. Only you couldn’t sell it. But you could send for it. There was [? 188…] I sent for some beer too, and whiskey and alcohol. There was alcohol… it was real cheap back then. For $3 a gallon you could get alcohol, the best alcohol. You could send for it, and it really was cheap at that time.

RC: But you weren’t supposed to sell it.

JM: Yes.

[other person]: So that’s where the blind pig deal came from.

JM: In Hazen there was two or three.

[other person]: Did you shop in the blind pig in Hanover?

RC: I’ve never stopped in there. I’ve driven by there. It’s got kind of an interesting name.

JM: And later on, when the dry came up, you couldn’t.

[other person]: In 1918? Oh, prohibition.

JM: No, I think it was in 1916. Then you couldn’t sell any alcohol. Then they started to make it, alcohol, you know. There was a lot of that. Some of them, they’d catch.

RC: Well the sheriff never got too tough with anybody, did he? People he knew?

[other person]: Some, like Adolf Horth, he had to go to jail. He was down at Fargo for about three months.

RC: Really? Just for making…

[other person]: Selling moonshine. Of course, he had a big family and that’s the only money he had.

RC: Yes, I suppose.

JM: There was, not very far from here… Olstrom…

[other person]: Charlie Olstrom, yes.

JM: He made good – he was one who perfected it.

RC: Oh, so he knew how to do it.

JM: Yes. He made real good stuff. He sold to Halliday.

[other person]: They used to supply Bismarck to this little [? 230] and they’d get it.

RC: He must have had a good reputation. He should have opened a brewery, or a distillery when it got legal, and market it.

[other person]: It was legal for him all the time. [laughter]

JM: And sometimes he’d hide something else. [? 236…]

RC: Let me ask you about politics for a few minutes. Was this country pretty strong for the Non-Partisan League or for Townly or Lempke, or any of those fellows?

[other person]: I don’t think he cared about… he was not a politician.

RC: Wasn’t much of a politician, huh? You probably were smart.

[other person]: I never heard him say too much.

JM: There was a lot of talk at that time too, about politics. [? 251…]

RC: Kind of like entertainment to hear some politician speak, I suppose.

[other person]: They used to come out once in awhile. One thing I remember yet, which was quite an event for about 3 or 4 days when a Chicagoan would come. That was something.

RC: In Halliday?

[other person]: Yes.

RC: For 3 or 4 days?

[other person]: Yes. They were usually for 3 days. They set up in different towns, you know… the performers and the speaker that was here today would be in the next town the next day.

RC: Oh, so everybody would keep moving, but you’d get a different…

[other person]: Yes.

RC: Act then.

[other person]: Different act, yes. Put up tents… that’s something the younger people have all missed. Those were good events.

RC: What kind of things would they have, like plays and songs?

[other person]: Well, they had singing, and they usually had a speaker or two. Very articulate speakers. They spoke about current events and stuff like that.

RC: How did this country make it through the 1930s, or people who lived here? Was it pretty tough to make a living here in the 1930s?

JM: Oh no, not too bad. [? 278]

RC: Did many people leave during the Depression in the 1930s? I mean, just give up their farms or give up their business and leave?

JM: Yes. So many would lose their homes, the land I mean. It was a lot. Well, there were a lot of farmers at that time that left the farm.

RC: Did Halliday have a bank then? I suppose Halliday had a bank at one time.

JM: Yes. Two.

RC: Two banks?

JM: Yes. And Golden Valley had three.

RC: Is that right?

JM: Yes. But they all closed.

RC: Did they all go broke during the 1930s, or was it before then even?

JM: I think it was before then.

[other person]: It was in the 1920s mostly then, 1927, 1928.

RC: Did people lose much money in them then?

JM: Yes, some of them. [? 299…] There wasn’t much money… there was about $200 or $300. [? 305…] The trouble was that the credit was too big and the interest was high at that time. 12 % interest. They couldn’t collect anything, so the bank closed.

RC: Did they take a discount then too? If you borrowed $100, would they only give you $90, and then they’d keep the $10 plus charge you interest? Do you know what I mean? A discount or something?

JM: Yes. There was an auction always at that time. Then you could keep that, but if you sold that to the bank, then the bank would get 10%. [? 324…]

RC: Did you have a telephone system out of Halliday on the farms?

JM: Yes.

RC: In the early days?

JM: In 1906 and in 1908.

RC: Is that right? That’s going back there quite a ways.

JM: Yes.

RC: Who ran that? Was it a company, or farmers who got together?

[other person]: The farmers got together. I don’t know how it originally started, but later on we organized, and that’s how I know what it is. We repaired our own line then. We had our own little telephone deal. Then, of course, when we organized we were also liable for taxes, so we had to pay some taxes. I don’t remember what we charged a year. Then in Halliday, that’s where the central was at, and I guess he charged a dollar a month to subscribe to central service.

RC: Oh. For the switchboard.

[other person]: The switchboard.

JM: Halliday had that [? 345] set up. Not all of them, but all of [? 346]

[other person]: Yes, one of the reasons [? 346] That didn’t last very long. Nobody wanted to go out and repair it. See our system was quite long. On the east end was myself and my uncle Chris Mueller, and then there was [? 353] and a bunch, Goetz. Twice a year we’d get together for a day and we’d fix up those lines. If a pole broke, we’d reset it and splice the wire, put new insulators on.

JM: See, at that time, lightening did so much damage.

RC: Oh.

[other person]: Our ring used to be two short and one long. We had code rings.

RC: And one long ring for general or something like that?

[other person]: A long ring… that was central.

RC: Well, just let me ask you one, maybe two more things. You are almost 90 years old now. Do you think people have changed any over the years in the way they think or act? Sometimes people say they think people used to be more neighborly than they are now. Do you think that’s true, as far as helping out your neighbors? That’s kind of a fuzzy question I guess.

[other person]: Well, I don’t know, as far back as I can remember, you always had those people that, always have had, they expect help all the time, but they very seldom help back. And that goes way back. I’m 65 years old so I remember.

RC: Oh, you are?

[other person]: Yes. I will be in January.

RC: You guys are such a young looking pair, here.

[other person]: I’m not in very good shape now. I had a stroke this summer.

RC: Oh you did?

[other person]: Yes. I couldn’t walk for a couple of months. My hand I couldn’t use. So that’s about… I don’t think it’s changed too much as far as… you don’t get the changes in these small communities like you do other places.

RC: No, probably not.

[other person]: It isn’t quite so much dog eat dog or, how can I put one across on them.

RC: And you still know your neighbors here too.

[other person]: Yes.

RC: Well, I think that’s about what I had in mind. Is there anything we didn’t talk about that we should have?

[other person]: No, I guess we’ve talked about everything.

RC: I’d like to take your picture.

[400 – end of Side B taping session]


Permission to use any images from the GRHC website may be requested by contacting Michael M. Miller
North Dakota State University Libraries
Germans from Russia Heritage Collection
Libraries
NDSU Dept #2080
PO Box 6050
Fargo, ND 58108-6050
Tel: 701-231-8416
Fax: 701-231-6128
Last Updated:
Director: Michael M. Miller
North Dakota State University Library North Dakota State University North Dakota State University GRHC Home