In 1912 Frank wrote to his brother Scott in Indiana that Winter had been temporary postponed by a splendid Fall. Frank had got his house up and the roof on but couldn’t finish it until he could get some lumber in but it wasn’t froze enough to get a team in to his homestead, he was hoping to be ensconced by Christmas. Frank’s son George had carried a tight heater five miles and it worked well and when he cooked the house got so hot that the door was open half the time. Building took much longer than anticipated and he told Scott that no more log houses for him but he had recently helped neighbors build three houses and two stables. Frank reported that seven new shacks went up with his during the summer pointing out that he was not the only one to think “this is all right”.
Frank was interested in politics, was known to vote “Independent” and in November of 1912 notated that Woodrow Wilson was victorious over Teddy Roosevelt, Eugene Debs and William Taft. Frank reported that he didn’t “go out” to vote but would have supported Mr. Debs, his sentiments were summed up to his family by iterating “let the Republican’s go once, it may be that it will be the turning point and make the people for the future”. Suspicion is heavy that Frank would have had succinct comment about the current Presidential kerfuffle.
Frank and his son George hunted but had no luck harvesting a deer even though they dined on his carrots, a neighbor gave them some venison and he was keen on the lean meat but thought the ribs and fat tasted too much like mutton. They ate lots of rabbits and pheasants and he pointed out in his missives that you didn’t even have to use a shotgun as they are not afraid and you can get plenty close to shoot them with a twenty-two.
Frank never variated from his support of the area and continued to advocate that fine land was available, he bragged about the Postmaster in Frontier when he had 2,700 bushels of potatoes off just ten acres and that he had seen some early radishes that “were as big as your fist”.
At last! George purchased and brought a team and a load of hay, he didn’t get home until 10 PM and was “most froze” as it was -30* and he had to ride and drive. They paid $100 cash and had to pay another $100 more in a month and so on until they paid $350 for the team and harness, plus another $50 for sleds and chains to be paid in the spring, “so you see we will have to go some now”. They had enough snow to make “very fair roads” and they brought out nine loads of telephone poles and wanted to get 25 or 30 loads of piling out. Frank cooked and helped load but noticed he was getting “played out” and testified that “the last two weeks was steady, -25 to -36 below, and that is enough”. It took about two or three hours to put up a load and “if you get started to the river from half past Eleven to One O’clock you can if you have no trouble with the load get back all the way from Seven to half past-Nine”.
Frank was ebullient about two new families arriving and they came with a house on a sled made of carpet and had a stove, they were two days on the road. He reported that a shingle mill would be there this winter, a saw mill by summer and “then we can build worthwhile” and he again ruminated about the big breakthrough when the railroad would finally come through.
Frank mused that he wasn’t feeling up to “snuff” some days, he told his brother that his health was not improving but that he was not as fleshy nor as quite as short of breath as he had been. Perhaps echoing what was to come Frank closed his missive by relating “some days I feel pretty good and others I can’t do much”.
His next letter to his daughter Esther was mailed, unsigned.
About the Author: Mike Hanson is a long time resident of Birchdale, Minnesota. He enjoys spending his time in the great outdoors, building birdhouses, and has a deep interest in uncovering and understanding settlement history. His writings come from hours of research, as well as engaging discussions with locals and area historians, both professional and amateur.