Keep village where it’s at

Arlene Saugstad, Minot

I’m writing this letter as a proud member (by marriage) of the family of Saugstad. When teenager Tilman Saugstad and other Iowa teenagers drove cattle up into Canada in 1901, he fell in love with the Mouse River Valley, its turf and the innocent meandering of the Mouse River. His parents, Nels and Kari, upon hearing his description of our valley loaded up their belongings and came here. Like all pioneers they turned the earth, dug wells, cut wood for warmth and settled down. Their home has been lived in by six generations. My son Craig’s daughter Crystal represents the sixth generation to call this house a home. This house has stood through every flood since 1904. Which indicates the same kind of determination by its builders.

Fast forward to the 1970’s- a small group of Ward County residents, including the late Stanley Saugstad, were determined to preserve and keep alive remnants of the past – their heritage, founded the Northwest Historical Society which later became and remains the Ward County Historical Society. The museum which was the first building on the Pioneer Village site was made possible by the generosity of Einer Madsen. For a long time this museum was the only Ward County Historical Society building. It still remains the holder of a showcase of “what was”. For many years my children and I sat in this building behind an old Norwegian chest on a table. Viewers dropped their freewill offerings into this chest. Present day seamstresses and quilters have seen and been amazed at the miniscule sewing machine used by Kari Saugstad as she made dresses with tiny tucks and ruffles for her three daughters.

With very little cash but a huge amount of determination the Ward County Historical Society kept remnants of the past secure for the present and the future. Through the undaunted efforts of the board members, buildings appeared. Ancient farm machinery also appeared, which to the amazement of visitors actually still ran and visitors watched the shoeing of horses in a livery stable and an old time barbershop was added. For the serious, the first Ward County Courthouse was a must to visit and scan the pages of court documents to see who did what illegally. Today’s visitors to our Pioneer Village can walk into a tiny pioneer home thanks to Oscar and Edna Folden, a log cabin which was a gift of the pioneer Mostad family, and the tiny rural church in which during its residence on the Pioneer Village grounds has been the scene of many “I dos” and thanks to my late husband Stanley, the Samuelson Home was moved from its longtime spot where the Milton Young Towers stand to a commanding area in the Pioneer Village. Through the years couples occupied this home and were responsible for it as well as that of the village buildings and arranged for tours, weddings and other events such as sleigh rides and making ice cream during fair week. The village has been and still will be the scene for family reunions and picnics.

My family and I share the pride of having this Ward County Historical Society’s Pioneer Village. It represents the past for the present and the future to view and hopefully appreciate. This village, like those in other states deserves to be appreciated. Its location in our North Dakota Fairgrounds is ideal. It is a “jewel” during fair week for hundreds of visitors to see.

In closing I am reminded that heritage is precious and not something to be cast aside for temporary expediency.