A Pioneer History of Arthur
February 27, March 12, April 2, April 23, 1936
Submitted by Steven Pueppke
There really was a time, less than 60 years ago, when not even the name Arthur existed. The "hill", now one of the main residential points of town, was nothing more than a hill and perhaps looked much as it did when waters of Lake Agissez lapped quietly against its eastern edges. If one could have stood on the summit of this barren hill in the year 1879 and looked westward, he would have seen none of the trees that make the town today; as far as the eye could see, there would have been no wheat fields, not a farm home, but only undisturbed prairie. However, a day was soon coming when this same land that had lain thus in solitude for thousands of years was to be the scene of new activities and developments.
In the year 1879, if one had again been watching from the same hill, he might have seen the humble appearance of one of the early homesteaders, Samuel Bayard, astride a mule, making his way from Casselton to the present site of Hunter. Then he met Peter Erickson, and we think Jorgen Anderson, who were that day choosing the sites of their homesteads. After eating a lunch beside the Elm River, the men chose their land in much the following manner:
Jorgen Anderson said, "Well, I think I'll take the piece of land where we are!" And he did.
Peter Erickson at the same time made his choice of the quarter section lying one half mile east of the present site of Hunter. And then the two men informed Mr. Bayard of a quarter they had observed earlier in the day; Mr. Bayard rode back that way, looked at the land and that same day, filed upon it for his homestead. That piece of land is now the west section of Paul Grieger's half section in Gunkel Township.
In like manner did other early settlers came within the next 3 or 4 years. Among the earliest homesteaders were Robert Stewart, Charles McKinnon, and August Faltz. By 1883 we find such familiar names as Wallace and Wilbur Heckett, J. O. Schur, L. D. Roberts and son, I. S. Roberts, Richard Vosburg, Daniel Webster, John Schlaet, and A. T. Burgum.
At this time we know there were enough settlers in the vicinity to encourage the building of a railroad in 1881, but there was no depot or agent until the fall of 1882. People were obliged to prepay their freight and purchase tickets on the train.
Just as the railroad played the major part in the development of all the Middle West, so it certainly aided the growth of Arthur, this tiny spot in the area of many thousands of square miles of productive prairie.
The first depot, opened for business in 1882 by William Winston, it was a crude building located on the west side of the tracks. In time it came to serve the patrons not six days of the week but seven, for on Sundays the settlers would gather here for Sunday School services. Since there was no minister, no church services were held. As time went on, the depot became also a recreational center, where dances were held and sometimes wrestling and boxing matches.
After the railroad came it was natural that the people should find it profitable to build places of business. The credit for putting up the first of these goes to Mr. S. W. Hall from Illinois, who built a general store in the exact spot where the Arthur Mercantile now stands. For convenience and economy, he used rooms in the rear for his living quarters. Perhaps there are a few in Arthur who remember this pioneer merchant, but we do know of his descendants. Mr. Hall's daughter Elizabeth, who became the wife of Anthony T. Burgum, was the mother of Mrs. MacAdam and Mrs. Scott, who are now living in the same house built by Mr. A. T. Burgum in about the year 1904.
Mr. Hall's store was not long to be the only one sitting on this embryo business street, for in 1881 John Brandenburg set up and managed the first lumber yard; he also built another general store, all of which is now part of Mr. Ross' store. Later Mr. Brandenburg sold out his lumber yard to Mr. Wallace Grosvenor, a Casselton resident at that time. Mr. Grosvenor employed Theodore Williams, father of Mrs. Vosburg, as manager of the yard and built for him a new house and office. This new office is none other than the present I. S. Roberts residence.
Another of the early buildings constructed was the confectionery built by William Wagner and John Russell in 1882. These two men carried on their business until 1885, when they dissolved the partnership. Mr. Wagner then built the first hotel, which is at present the H. J. Wagner house. Not long after this Herman Wagner moved to town from a farm and went into partnership with Mr. Russell for a few years.
A small elevator was built by the Northern Pacific Elevator Company sometime before 1882 on the present site of the St. Anthony Elevator. This may still be seen, for in truth it is now the low part of the Farmers Elevator on the south. When in 1882 the upright part of the elevator was built, this low part was moved from the site of the St. Anthony Elevator.
The Northern Pacific Elevator Company gets also the credit for building the first house in Arthur. This was a small two room house, occupying the present site of the T. O. Burgum home and was built for W. H. Compie, the first agent employee by the company.
The year 1882 seems to mark the first real beginning of a business nucleus in the community; by the end of this year there were Mr. Hall's small mercantile store, Mr. Brandenburg's mercantile store and lumber yard, the Wagner and Russell Confectionery, and the Northern Pacific Elevator.
Still another elevator built in 1882 was that owned by Dalrymple, the well known "bonanza" farmer of Cass County, who operated the elevator mainly for his own convenience. In the fall of the year, during the threshing season, the Dalrymple's own grain would be brought here from the various farms which he had rented in the vicinity. The elevator was operated for about 15 years and then after standing idle for several years, it was finally torn down, hauled away, an sold for lumber. Where it used to stand, the potato house is now located.
Since Dalrymple is one of the most famous early land owners of Cass County, he for many years rented the familiar sections 7, 17, and 29 of Gunkel Township, more may be said of him. Making his own headquarters at Casselton, Dalrymple hired foremen to manage these many farms which he owned or rented; these foremen in turn had the privilege of hiring or discharging all of the rest of the men used on the farms. Possibly to encourage friendly relationships among his men, and because he liked their industry, Dalrymple insisted that only Norwegians be hired for his farms.
In the spring of the year, when the men would come here to seed the land, in the three sections mentioned, they would have with them 20 teams of mules with four mules in each team. Perhaps there are a number of people in Arthur who still remember the evening concerts set up by these 80 mules when they were ready to quit work for the day. Two weeks was the length of time usually required for the spring seeding, and then the men and mules left the fields until it was time to come back for the harvest.
Each visit made by these 20 men was no doubt much the same as the other, yet one year was marked smallpox within the group. Before the inroads of disease were known, one of the men had quit and made his way to Fargo. When the authorities, realizing the danger of a possible epidemic, enforced a strict quarantine to such an extent that an armed guard watched over the men night and day for three weeks.
After about 15 years the large Dalrymple land holdings became the property of his heirs and by 1920 al had been divided into small farms and sold.
A rather solitary road, unshaded by any trees, led past the few and scattered business places, then from Hall's Mercantile Store turned diagonally northeast and preceded in that direction, going over and down the hill about where Richard Grieger now lives.
Before the fall of 1882 had passed, the road was to be traveled for a purpose other than that of getting supplies at Hall's and Brandenburg's stores or hauling wheat to the Northern Pacific Elevator; for during that summer on the spot where now stands the Lutheran church, a schoolhouse had been built by Dave Comb of Hunter.
Mrs. Hayde Williams, the first teacher, taught two or three months, and then Miss Elizabeth Williams, whom we know as Mrs. Vosburg, took her place.
Some of the names of the first pupils will be familiar to many of Arthur today: Anthony and Luther Hall, Edith and Clara Burgum, Gretta and Will Morrison, Sabfa and Willet Williams, Sophronia Carter, Carl and Oscar Hansen and two Danish boys who could not speak a word of English.
The subjects taught were reading, writing, spelling, geography, and algebra. Mrs. Vosburg received $35.00 per month and did not receive her salary until the following year when the taxes were paid.
The first school building served the community for 20 years. As well as a place of learning, it soon became a social center, where dances were held, church, Sunday School, and the big event of the year, the Community Christmas Tree.
It was a long and low building so crudely constructed that many times, because of the cold, school would be dismissed for several days. As in most country schoolhouses, there was a stove in the center around which in winter weather the pupils would gather, faces burning and backs freezing.
When a new school was finally built, this old building was sold to Albert Viestenz and moved to a lot near the Good Samaritan Home, where it was made into a dwelling house.
Besides being one of the first teachers, Mrs. Vosburg had the honor of being the first bride in Arthur Township. She and Richard Vosburg were married on November 21, 1883.
Like other pioneers of the community, Richard Vosburg, accompanied by George Signor, came to Casselton by train. Then since there was no railroad to take them further, the two left on foot for this community. Unintentionally providing humor for his companion, while the two were crossing the Rush River on planks, Mr. Signor lost his balance and fell in. At G. Clark's in Amenia they had dinner and then journeyed on to Arthur, where they took claims on Section 8.