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My Birthday Trip to Glen Ullin, North Dakota

By Anthony "Tony" Eiler

November, 1998


It all started as a birthday gift from my sons Mike and Jim. On November 21 1998 for my 75th birthday. They gave me a trip to my childhood home. I hadn't been there in 50 years.

The three of us, Mike, Jim and Myself left DFW 6:00AM Jun 18 1999 and arrived at Bismarck N. Dak at 10:23AM after changing airplanes in Minneapolis. We rented a car and started our visit to North and South Dakota.

After lunch at the Ground Round in Bismarck we spent some time between the Court House in Mandan and the Archives in Bismarck to find my Grandfather Weinberger Naturalization papers. With help from three very nice ladies from the State Historical Society we found the papers and got copies. They had so much information we could have spent much more time there but Glen Ullin was only 30 min. away and my adrenalin was rising so we left and took Interstate 94 west.

Mike was driving and I kept looking for some landmarks but all the small towns between Mandan and Glen Ullin were missing. Then we saw an exit to Glen Ullin. My thought was that they had improved US 10 and changed the number but I saw that we are on a new highway. We drove south a couple miles, we cross a bridge that looked familiar, below the bridge was a creek that I had fished in when I was in grade school. Next we came to a road, as I looked to my right I could see the main street of Glen Ullin. We were on the old US 10.

The last time I had been here was the summer of 1950 (49 years ago) they closed US 10, a two lane paved highway and now use a four lane Interstate. I wondered what else was changed.

We turned right and headed for town the skyline looked the same but some of the buildings, roads etc didn't look like they did in 1950, On our left was a new sign "WELCOME TO GLEN ULLIN" we stopped and took pictures, we were now in my HOME TOWN.

It was late in the afternoon as we drove through town to the Rock Roof Inn at 213 South 5th ST where we had reservations for two nights. (They now use house numbers and street names) Mr. and Mrs. Swift operated the Bed and Breakfast. They had bought a house from my Uncle and Aunt Peter and Monica Weinberger and made additions to it. In 1950 Peter and Monica were still living on a farm south of town. The drive through town showed me many changes had been made.

After checking in we spoke a while to Mrs. Swift and I ask her if Father Seeberger was still Pastor of Sacred Heart Church. She said he was and called the church I talked briefly to him. He ask us to come see him. He and I attended grade school together, served Mass together and had not seen each other since 1938. After grade school he went to the seminary and I went to high school in Glen Ullin then enlisted in the Navy. We had a nice chat about grade school days, the Sisters in school, the old church and school, what the town was like etc. Mike and Jim seem to enjoy hearing about the early life of their Dad.

The church I knew was gone, the grade school I attended was gone the sisters house was gone. There was a new church and a parish hall where the playground use to be. The only thing left of the old church was the three bells. They made tripod about 30 feet high in front of the church and put the bells near the top. The bells use to be rung by ropes but now they were rung by push button.

It was time to eat. There were three places to eat; the Bait Shop, Pizza at the gas station and Ronda"s Family Cafe. We chose Ronda"s. Ronda's was in a building that use to be Rueters Food Store. That is the store I worked in while in High School. Many changes had been made the including the front door and show windows.

As we drove around the town we stopped many times to see changes: The bank building is still there but is vacant. There is a new bank across the street west of the old bank. The post office building is there but is vacant; the new post office is across the street. The coal dock is gone: Trains don't use coal anymore. The train water tower and the pump house are gone; Trains don't use much water anymore, The streets are paved and have curbs & gutters. No more scoria roads to cut up bicycle tires. Geck's store is gone; I was told it burned down. Al.s Barber Shop is still there and was operating till a few weeks ago when there was an explosion inside. Both it and the Swift Wash next door were damaged. The town now has water and sewer system. No more outhouses. Most of the buildings on the main street (South Ave) are gone a couple have been replaced. The flower mill is closed and is used only to grind feed. A nice new house with a two-car front entry garage has replaced the Eiler house, on D ST. Mrs. Doll's house south of the Eiler house is still there, North of the Eiler house is John Behold house on the lots going to the alley. My grand parents house, also on D ST., is gone. The Public Grade and High School is gone. A new one with a football field is on the US 10 bypass at the end of D ST across the bypass from Uncle Joe Weinberger's house. The house Grandmother Weinberger lived in during her last years, across the street from the church, has been replaced. There is a nice retirement home in the South West part of town.

On Saturday morning we drove out to my grandparents homestead. We drove south on a one lane scoria road past Horseshoe Hill till we came to a "Y" in the road I didn't remember which way to go (its been more then 50 years since I had been on the road) so I told Mike to take the left fork and if we go ten miles without seeing our turnoff we will turn around. At about ten miles we came up on a rise and saw a white Church alone in the field (It looked like a postcard). The only church I knew of out that way was St Joseph. We drove around the church, stopped and went inside. We were taken back with the old "churches" interior and altar: we took pictures. Since we had gone ten miles we went back to the "Y" and took the right fork. Mr. Swift told us the road to the homestead was the first road on the right we came to. My landmark was a house on a hill. Getting close to ten miles Mike slowed and ask, "is that it?" My landmark was gone but the hill was there so we drove down the one lane dirt road with grass in the middle. About a mile down the road I saw the stock pond and the remains of the buildings. This was where Adam and Anna Marie Weinberger along with 12 children (the oldest was about 17 and the youngest less than a year) made their homestead in 1901/02. He was about 46 years old and she was 41 years old. All that was left was the pond and a lot of debris. I saw the sod house when I was very young.

The sod house they had built was gone many years ago. It was required that they also have a pond for water. The spring fed pond is still there full of water. We got out of the car and walked around my thoughts were about this couple with their 12 children starting a new life in America so far from their home land of Russia and Germany. They had arrived in New York October 7 1901 so it must have been in the spring of 1902 that they started their house. I wonder did they live in the open or did they have a tent. Maybe Adam and the older children lived out there and Anna Marie and the baby stayed with someone in town. I wonder what tools they had. Did they have a horse or two? How did they get to and from town (a half day ride by horse and wagon)? How did they cut the sod? How did they move the sod? What did they eat? How did they cook? So many questions went through my mind as I walked around their homestead. That first year must have been a rough one. They lived there till about the mid 1920. He died in 1927. She died in 1945. The place was sold in August 1947 after both Adam and Anna Marie were dead.

The house that the boys built many years later was down and stacked in a pile. The roof and some of the walls of cookhouse /washhouse that I had never seen was down. A wash machine from about the 1930 era was there, Part of a Russian type field stone building was still standing someone had used it for a barn a shop or garage, The water pump was laid over. It looked like a big wind had done the damage. We didn't see any sign of fire. We took pictures.

Saturday afternoon we went to Sacred Heart Cemetery to see the grave of Adam and Anna Marie. I told Mike and Jim that we walk in the front gate, go a few steps, Turn left a few steps and we will be at the grave. We did that and there it was. I hadn't been there since I was in grade school. Mrs. Swift gave us a big piece of paper and a crayon so we did a rubbing of the stone. We also found the grave of their son Ralph and the grave of their son Peter and his wife Monica. We took pictures.

We saw that there wasn't a year of death by Anna Marie's name. When I was back in Irving I called the Sacred Heart Church and got a Certificate of Death. I then called Bob Spangelo of Spangelo Memorial and made a request to have it put on her stone. So now the gravestone is complete.

Our last contact with Glen Ullin was Sunday morning. While Mike went to Bismarck to change cars Jim and I went to mass at Scared Heart Church. Father Seeberger greeted us and said goodbye. Jim and I walked to Ronda's to wait for Mike and have brunch. It was Fathers Day. We left and headed for Rapid City South Dakota about 11:00.

Mr. Swift told Mike the best way to go west to Dickinson then south. We did and in the four or five hours it took we saw very few cars. We did see a lot of wild life deer, turkey, Antelope etc.

We signed in at the Ramada about 5:00 and spent the rest of the day looking around Rapid City. The boys took me to a Fathers Day dinner at the Firehouse.

The next day we went to Deadwood, a restored mining town from mid 1800. About mid afternoon (after we did some gaming) we left and went to Lead, a town that grew up around The Lead Mine. The mine started in mid 1800 and has been operating since. We should have spent more time there.

We left to go back to the Ramada through the Black Hills. It was a nice drive along side a trout stream. We stopped at a place and had fresh trout for dinner.

We left early the next day to go to Mt Rushmore and stopped at Ft Hays for breakfast. Ft Hays is the movie set for DANCING WITH WOLVES We took pictures and toured the buildings then left.

Mt Rushmore is a sight to see. I stayed at the Visitor Center while Mike and Jim took a walk along the Presidential Trail, which took them closer to the Mt. We took pictures.

Our next and last stop was Crazy Horse Mountain. To get there we drove through the Bad Lands. It was a two-lane road going up and down (sometimes on pigtail turns) around and through (one lane tunnel) the mountains. We saw lot of rock, spires, cliffs etc it was a slow but interesting ride.

Crazy Horse is not finished. Only the Indian head and part of his arm is finished. The sculptor, Mr. Korczak, is dead. His wife and family are going to finish it. One reason it is taking so long is that it is funded by private money, which is hard to get. Mt Rushmore is a National project. We took pictures and started back to the Ramada to get ready to go home.

We took an airplane out of Rapid City at 10:30 Tuesday to go home via Minneapolis. What a great trip that was. A big thanks to Mike and Jim.

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