COVID Victory Gardens
May 12, 2020
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Reports are coming in from parts of the country where spring planting comes sooner than here: Covid-19 is causing an outbreak of vegetable garden fever. Growing your own food makes a lot of sense at a time when a trip to the grocery store has an element of risk, when our food supply chain is warning of disruptions, and when people have a lot of extra time on their hands. Growing vegetable gardens during a time of crisis is bound to remind people of the most successful home gardening campaign in our nation’s history: the Victory Gardens of the World War II.
While everybody has heard of Victory Gardens, the idea of the homefront war garden actually began with World War I Liberty Gardens. National War Garden Commission president Charles Lathrop Pack explained Liberty Gardens would “arouse the patriots of America to the importance of putting all idle land to work, to teach them how to do it, and to educate them to conserve by canning and drying all food they could not use while fresh. The idea of the ‘city farmer’ came into being.” That may be a bit of an overstatement. People in cities certainly did grow vegetable gardens before 1917, but the Liberty Gardens of WWI really produced results both here and nation-wide. The new Clay County Extension Agency helped 300 people in the county start a garden and taught 500 local women to can. These women canned 10,000 quarts and dried 5 tons of fruits and veggies. Americans canned 1.45 billion quarts of food in 1918.
Liberty Gardens also had a major effect on the development of community gardening in America, as urban residents without yards of their own shared resources, tools, and labor to cultivate large lots together. Gangs of gardeners even bullied owners of vacant lots to let them turn the “slacker land” into a garden. No such tactics were needed in Moorhead, though. Susan Lally offered 17 lots she owned just north of the courthouse to anyone looking for free gardening space. Students were encouraged to grow a school garden, and the kids at Glyndon Elementary did just that.
A generation later a Second World War called gardeners into service once more and on a greater scale. It is estimated that 1 in 3 vegetables grown in America in 1943 were grown in a home or community Victory Garden. According to county extension records, an astonishing one in nine residents of Clay County attended classes on food preservation in 1944. Those who attended classes canned 730,714 quarts and dried 455,094 pounds of fruits and veggies just in this county! And for those who needed gardening space, “The Merchants and Professional Men of Moorhead” sponsored a community garden by the courthouse and Barnesville offered free land by the fairgrounds.
I will warn you, however, that once a new gardener realizes just how delicious homegrown tomatoes are, they will find that, like the flu, vegetable garden fever returns every year.
*This article is taken from Clay County Histories, an HCSCC column published in the FM Extra.
Alsop Brothers’ Steamboats at Moorhead, 1881. Piles of lumber from the Alsops’ mill await loading onto their barge, Aimee, and steamboats Pluck, at right, and the H. W. Alsop, at left. This is the only photo we have of the H. W. Alsop, the finest boat to ever ply the Red. She boasted the best passenger accommodations of any local steamer. On her third trip sparks from her smokestacks caused a devastating fire. Though rebuilt, she was never the same. After the St. Paul, Minneapolis and Manitoba Railway bought the Alsops’ boats in 1884, she was sent to Grand Forks where she worked for several years. The Pluck remained in Moorhead until 1888 (HCSCC).
Fargo-Moorhead Steamboat Landings, 1880s
May 4, 2020
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In the 1870s and 1880s steamboats plying the Red River tied up just two blocks south of today’s Hjemkomst Center. The waterfront was located between today’s Center Avenue and 1st Avenue North bridges. It was a very busy place 130 years ago.
Initially, in the 1860s, steamers hauled furs from Canada to Georgetown, thirteen miles north of Moorhead, where they were transferred to Red River ox carts destined for St. Paul. Trade goods went north along the same route.
Railroads reached the Red River in 1871 and Fargo-Moorhead popped up. The faster and more efficient trains put the carts out of business but gave steamboats a boost. Lots more stuff was shipped to and from Canada.
In 1878 rails reached Winnipeg. Like the carts before them, it looked as if the boats would disappear, too. But steamboat owners took on a new task, carrying farmers’ wheat from isolated riverside grain storage elevators to rail heads like Fargo and Moorhead. From 1878 to 1888 steamboats carried wheat to facilities on both the Fargo and Moorhead riverbanks. The accompanying illustrations are from this period.
The Grandin Steamboat Line shipped wheat from the Grandin brothers’ huge bonanza farm near Halstad, Minnesota to their elevator on the Fargo bank. They had one boat, the J. L. Grandin. On the Moorhead side, brothers Charles and Henry Alsop built facilities for loading wheat and milling lumber. They had two steamboats, the side-wheeler Pluck and the H. W. Alsop, the finest boat to ever ply the Red.
Grandin Line’s Operations, about 1880. The J. L. Grandin waits on the Fargo side of the Red to be loaded with lumber and shingles for a return trip north. The 120-foot long sternwheeler also carried passengers. The narrow doorways on the second deck lead to very basic cabins. The sternwheeler is tied up alongside the Grandin’s Warehouse Number 1. Their Elevator A and Warehouse Number 2 can be seen at left (HCSCC).
Both companies struggled for a few years but eventually the railroads won out. In 1883 the St. Paul, Minneapolis and Manitoba Railway built a branch north from Moorhead along the Red to Halstad. The next year the St. P., M & M Railway bought the Alsops’ two steamboats. The railroad continued to ship through the Fargo-Moorhead facilities for a few years but with the completion of a railroad line south of Moorhead to Wolverton in fall 1887, the end was near. In May 1888, the former Alsop boats left Fargo-Moorhead for Grand Forks and the Grandins permanently docked the J. L. Grandin.
Local steam boating came to an end.
The Fargo-Moorhead waterfront today. The red shapes show the locations and footprints of the two companies’ buildings in 1884 on a modern aerial photograph. On the Fargo side are the Grandin Steamboat Line’s Elevator A, and Warehouses 1 and 2. On the Moorhead side the Alsop Brothers’ grain elevator is shown. Railroad spur lines ran down to both operations from the Northern Pacific Railway (now Burlington Northern Santa Fe) tracks, visible at the bottom of the photo. The small squares mark storage buildings (HCSCC).