Tracker Pixel for Entry

Nina Farley Wishek, ‘A Story of McIntosh County’

Culture | July 25th, 2023

By Michael M. Miller 

michael.miller@ndsu.edu

One of the most important books published about the Germans from Russia in North Dakota is “Along the Trails of Yesterday: A Story of McIntosh County” by Nina Farley Wishek, published by the Ashley Tribune in 1941.

Nina Farley Wishek (1869-1957) arrived in 1887 with her family in McIntosh County, Dakota Territory, where her father filed a homestead. Nina became an educator, painter, historian, and poet. In 1889, with the establishment of Ashley, she was the first teacher in the first school. She taught at several country schools before her marriage. Nina Farley married John H. Wishek in 1891 and they had eight children.

Nina was chairperson of the history department of the Federated Women’s Clubs of North Dakota for eight years and was director of the State Historical Society of North Dakota. Nina also authored a poetry book, “Rose Berries in Autumn.”

The Table of Contents includes: Geography and Typography, Old Trails and Stage Lines, The Coming of the Railroad, Pioneer Life, The Story of the Church, the Story of the Schoolhouse, Events of Early Days, And They Came Unto a Far Country, Manners and Customs, The Storms, German Maids Who I Have Knowns, Cities and Towns, Moving Forces in County Progress, and Our Soldier Boys.

In the foreword, Wishek writes, “When I came to McIntosh County in the year 1887, it was sparsely settled, and in all is broad expanse there was but one crude little town called Hoskins, located on the southern bank of the lake by the same name. There was neither stick nor stone to mark the spot where Ashley or other towns stand today – nothing but the waving grass and vast unbroken silence.

I have seen the great influx of immigration and the rapid settling of our own and surrounding counties. I have seen the families of the old pioneer grow into third and fourth generations. I have seen the passing of the oxen team, the ox displaced by the horse; the horse, in turn, by the power tractor, and the old stage lines made obsolete by the coming of the Iron Horse.

In 1887, at Ellendale, Dickey County, lay the edge of the frontier. There was no Eureka, Herreid, Artas, Greenway or Pollock over the line in South Dakota; there was no Linton, Braddock, Kintyre, Hazelton, or Strasburg in Emmons County; no Ashley, Wishek, Zeeland, Venturia, Lehr or Danzig in McIntosh County; no Kulm in LaMoure County.”

In the chapter, And They Came Unto a Far Country, Wishek, includes lists of settlers filing in McIntosh County in 1884, 1885, 1886, 1887, 1888, 1889. The author writes, “Some of the first arrivals came down from Bismarck, but the great majority came over the long stretch of flats and through the tedious range of hills from Ellendale. There were some with horse teams but hundreds with slow-moving oxen teams and lumber wagons.”

Wishek shares in her Manners and Customs chapter, “We must include the striking picture they presented in the style of their dress which they had brought from South Russia, and which was distinctly Russian in character. The women wore heavy woolen skirts, made extremely full and quite short and attached to a fitted underwaist. During the winter, their footwear consisted of high heavy shoes, probably half-skin, and home-knitted wool stockings.

On their heads, they wore small square fringed head shawl called “Tuechles.” For dress-up and church, the headcover was made of net or lace for coolness. On Sunday, with their best dress they always wore an apron – their best and nicest apron – even for church. These Sunday aprons were often made of dark or black fine wool material, with a cross stitch pattern of bright colors, or of fine cotton, or silk with a ruffle and lace.

When they first came from the old country, the men wore costumes which were extremely picturesque. Beginning at the top, they wore high round black caps of real, beautiful astrakhan fur. These heavy “peltz” as the coats were called, a man could endure the intense cold. No such garment was made in this country; all were brought from Russia.

Visually a tall Russian in a cap increased his height, his long fur coat tied with a scarf, his feet encased in in high top boots. Standing beside him his wife with her full short woolen skirts, her bright shawl wrapped around her ample form, and her “Tuechle” on her head. There you have a picture brought out from Russia of the nineteenth century.”

Wishek shares of women who bore large families during busy times of seeking or harvest. Wishek writes, “There was a mother who came in from the field, gave birth to a child and cared for it alone, and then prepared the meal in time for the workers when they came. They seldom employed a doctor. Each community supported a midwife who felt amply competent to care for such cases at a charge of $2 to $5.

Being frugal, these German people never used cream or butter, but saved all dairy produce to take to the nearest town in exchange for groceries. They used chicory instead of expensive coffee. In those times they knew nothing of pie or cake, but for a sweet taste they did make “kuchen” from bread dough. For fats, in place of cream or butter, they had their fat pork, meats, and gravies. They even ate fat salted pork raw; the children often brought a piece of it to school to eat with their dry bread.”

In Wishek’s chapter of German Maids of Whom I Have Known, she writes, “Often girls came into my home who had been over from the old country only a week or two. Not a word of English did they know, nor did they have the slightest comprehension of our American way of doing things. To them the land looked so different, so bare of trees and buildings. With faltering broken German, I tried to explain to them that this land of Dakota was a new land, even to me.”

_____________________

YOU SHOULD KNOW

For more information about donating family histories and photographs, or how to financially support the GRHC, contact Jeremy Kopp, at jeremy.kopp@ndsu.edu or 701-231-6596; mail to: NDSU Libraries, Dept. 2080, PO Box 6050, Fargo, N.D. 58108-6050; or go to www.ndsu.edu/grhc. You may also contact me directly at michael.miller@ndsu.edu or 701-231-8416.

Recently in:

By Maddie Robinsonmaddierobi.mr@gmail.com This article discusses topics related to mental health and suicide. If you or someone you know is struggling or in crisis, help is available. Call or text 988 or visit 988lifeline.org. …

Need more events? Check out our July 2024 and August 2024 calendars. (They're cleverly split up to save you some scrolling.)MaySpring CrowsNow - June 28, Spirit Room, FargoForty artists display works centered around a crow theme.…

June 2211 a.m - 3 p.m. and 3- 6 p.m.Words To Live By Bookstore819 Center Avenue, MoorheadThe Moorhead Friends Writing Group (MFWG) is a group of 40 writers in 13 states and Canada. They have recently published their third…

The WFF Unified School District?By John Strandjas@hpr1.com Both the Fargo and West Fargo School Districts are strategizing their futures. This is necessary, because of immensely challenging financial and geopolitical changes facing…

By Ed Raymondfargogadfly@gmail.comShould ‘The Chosen One’ be Sentenced to Spend Months at each Level?It’s not unusual on this planet, we have had hundreds of men and a couple of women who have used religion to become…

By Rick Gionrickgion@gmail.com Holiday wine shopping shouldn’t have to be complicated. But unfortunately it can cause unneeded anxiety due to an overabundance of choices. Don’t fret my friends, we once again have you covered…

By Rick Gionrickgion@gmail.com In this land of hotdish and ham, the knoephla soup of German-Russian heritage seems to reign supreme. In my opinion though, the French have the superior soup. With a cheesy top layer, toasted baguette…

HPR chats with Bob Carpenter of the Nitty Gritty Dirt BandBy Sabrina Hornungsabrina@hpr1.com When asked if it was fair to consider the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band as “the godfathers of contemporary Americana” during our interview,…

Now playing at the Fargo Theatre.By Greg Carlson gregcarlson1@gmail.comPalme d’Or recipient “Anatomy of a Fall” is now enjoying an award-season victory tour, recently picking up Golden Globe wins for both screenplay and…

New Minnesota sculptures include artist’s largest trollBy Sabrina Hornungsabrina@hpr1.com According to Danish artist and environmental activist Thomas Dambo, “All trash is treasure.” So far, he and his team have built 138…

By John Showalterjohn.d.showalter@gmail.comHigh Plains Reader had the opportunity to interview two mysterious new game show hosts named Milt and Bradley Barker about an upcoming event they will be putting on at Brewhalla. What…

By Annie Prafckeannieprafcke@gmail.com AUSTIN, Texas – As a Chinese-American, connecting to my culture through food is essential, and no dish brings me back to my mother’s kitchen quite like hotdish. Yes, you heard me right –…

By Sabrina Hornungsabrina@hpr1.comNew Jamestown Brewery Serves up Local FlavorThere’s something delicious brewing out here on the prairie and it just so happens to be the newest brewery west of the Red River and east of the…

By John Showalter  john.d.showalter@gmail.comThey sell fentanyl test strips and kits to harm-reduction organizations and…

JANUARY 19, 1967– MARCH 8, 2023 Brittney Leigh Goodman, 56, of Fargo, N.D., passed away unexpectedly at her home on March 8, 2023. Brittney was born January 19, 1967, to Ruth Wilson Pollock and Donald Ray Goodman, in Hardinsburg,…

By Jim Fugliejimfuglie920@gmail.com I am an old man. I have been a politics junkie most of my life. I have been involved in many campaigns, but have not run for office myself. Each time someone has suggested I do that, I tell them…