Tales of a Community That Was...

Book Review by Maralee Kalianoff, Emmons County Record, Linton, North Dakota, 8 September 2011, page 19.

Ibarra, Angie R. "Tales of a Community that was... Krassna, North Dakota: A Memoir." Okanogan, Washington: ElderBerry Books, 2011.

“Tales of a Community That Was…” by Angeline Reinbold Ibarra emulates a diary; a diary which affords the reader a peek into Angie’s early childhood years in Krassna, North Dakota.

Angie’s original intention when writing her book was just to tell about attending school in a rural one-room schoolhouse on the prairies of North Dakota. That intent is visible in her writing; the school is obviously an integral part of both her story and her life. Angie quickly realized her story could not be told without including the story of Krassna and her heritage, as well.

When North Dakota became a state in 1889, it offered many incentives to settlers; perks which caught the interest of the German families looking to leave Russia. Approximately twenty-three percent of the Germans from Russia population in the United States settled in North Dakota.

Many of them settled in the South Central area of North Dakota, fondly referred to as the “Sauerkraut Triangle” consisting of McIntosh, Emmons and Logan Counties. Krassna was located in Emmons County about ten miles southwest of Strasburg.

Leaving a temperate climate and fertile land along the Black Sea, the settlers were faced with unforeseen hardships in North Dakota.

In Russia, families lived in colonies and farmed the outlying areas surrounding the village. In Krassna, the Homestead Act stipulated that they must live on separated farms.

Early settlers lived a lonely existence, particularly during the long winter months when travel was impossible.

Ibarra’s memoir concentrates on the years from 1924 to the early 1960’s. Those years encompassed the Dirty 30’s, The Great Depression, and World War II; very difficult times for everyone. But the Germans from Russia were strong people; hard workers who did what they had to do in order to feed their families.

One of the things I enjoyed about this book was the use of excerpts from the Emmons County Record pertinent to the era. These included advertisements, poodle skirts for girls size 7-14 sold for $2.98 at J.C. Penneys in Linton in 1958, articles focusing on the topics of the day, “Last Hope Of Any Crop Vanishes As Scorching Sun Blisters Prairie”, July, 1936, and the small town local news columns which the Emmons County Record still feature today. Krassna column: Many of the Krassna people were at Strasburg Tuesday night, July 14th. They attended the dance played by Lawrence Welk and his orchestra.

Many of the excerpts used indicate Angie’s original storyline about rural one-house schools: In 1925 there are 4285 school-age children in Emmons County. In 1937 there are 4475 school-age children in Emmons County; over 1/3 of the total population in the county are schoolaged because people had very large families. In 1957 there is a shortage of rural teachers. They want better living conditions including telephone and running water. In 1959, there are 2862 school-age children in the county. In 1949 there are 103 one-room schools in Emmons County; in 1959, there are 55.

Considering Angeline Reinbold Ibarra has lived in S.D., Calif., N.Y., Tex., Washington, D.C., is now living in Minnesota and only lived in Emmons County until the age of nine. The fact that she wrote about Krassna, North Dakota indicates her years spent there made a lasting impression; an impression we thank her for sharing.

“Tales of a Community That Was…” is available at the Harry L. Petrie Library in Linton. Copies may also be purchased at the Emmons County Record office.

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