Sunday, March 17, 2013

On the Road to Bathgate Act 5: Founding and Early Years

Original Plat of Bathgate Township
IJ Foster Quarter Section North of Town
Bathgate, North Dakota was formed in 1881 when my grandfather, Isaac J. Foster and his father (my great grandfather, William K. Foster) sold a homesteaded claim to a developer. They kept and farmed other claims the family had homesteaded in 1879. Their prime retained land, immediately north of town, was bisected by the railroad right of way, and the river ran through it.  

Isaac was born in Kemptville, Ontario Canada on February 26, 1862; he died in Bathgate on May 10, 1934, with his trade indicated on his death certificate as real estate and auctioneer of 30 years tenure. Isaac is interred in Bathgate Cemetery. William emigrated to Canada from Ireland. Isaac's father was born in Ireland and his mother was born in Scotland. Among other pursuits, Isaac was Pembina County Sheriff (1911-1915), a farmer, a realtor and auctioneer (as mentioned), president of the county fair board, and an insurance agent. He was a Grand Mason. He served on various state boards and along the way sired 11 kids.  

Issac J Foster
When Bathgate Township was founded in 1879 it was originally named Bay View after a the adjacent watery expanse on a bend of the Tongue River, and renamed when the post office was established. The town of Bathgate was platted in 1881 by the Comstock and White Co -- one story has it that Mr. Comstock named it for Bathgate, West Lothian, Scotland, the hometown of his wife.

Two historical
sketches of Bathgate were written for the nation's Bicentennial,. “History of Bathgate, North Dakota” by Shirley Hart, in "Heritage ’76: Pembina County, North Dakota, Then and Now," and “Bathgate History” in "Proudly We Speak: a History of Neche, Bathgate, Bruce and Hyde Park", pp. 47-48  (Neche/Bathgate History Book Committee, ca. 1976).

In the "History of" we are told,

Bathgate, our city, was once thriving and bustling like many other small cities in the state, and is still the center of a wealthy farming area. Its population has declined due to the advent of faster and more convenient transportation and the loss by several disastrous fires. Bathgate is located in township 162, Range 52; southwest quarter of Section 3, a narrow strip of land in Section 10, from the Tongue River east to and beyond the railroad track, and divided by what is now county Highway #1.
In "Bathgate History" we learn,
Settlers came from eastern Canada, the eastern states and from European countries came to start a new life in Dakota Territory. They came first in 1879 and kept coming for some years. They traveled by train, ox cart, horse and wagon and crossed the River by ferry, letting the cattle and horses swim.
William Foster, Sr. and his son "Ike" filed on the land which became the Bathgate town site. There are several stories of how the town came to be called Bathgate. One taken from the diary of Mrs. John Houston, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. William Campbell states that in July 1880 two men with a team of horses came to the Campbell home, the land now owned by the Thomas and James Martindale families and asked to stay overnight. The men were Comstock and White of the Land Company of Comstock and White, who had purchased the land for a town site from the Fosters. They went on to Winnipeg, locating town sites along the railroad. On their return, they again stayed overnight and Mr. Comstock said that the town site would be named Bathgate after the town in England, where his wife had lived. 
A Mr. Ewing was hired to plot the town into lots, streets and avenues. The Railroad brought the Boom. People came, buildings sprang up, businesses were started and the town grew. The St. Paul, Minneapolis and Manitoba Railroad was built from Grand Forks to Winnipeg. It reached Bathgate August 10, 1882. Service began in September, the north train arriving in the morning and the south bound train in the late afternoon. In 1890, this railroad became the Great Northern with the well known Jim Hill as President of the Company. The first grain was shipped September 27,1882. The telegraph came to Bathgate late in 1882. 
Great grandfather William Foster earned his designation as town father by more than merely selling off land to developers.
Original Town Plat
IJ Foster Property North End
Adjacent to RR
William Foster was the first to build a home, it was built in the north end of town. He built the building which housed the Post Office. Mr. Foster was the first Postmaster. He carried the mail horseback from Hamilton P.O., five miles south of Bathgate and two miles northwest of Hamilton to the Pembina-Cavalier Trail. He performed this service without pay for two years. William Foster was the town's promoter. Church services were held in his house. He donated land for the Cemetery. He and his sons promoted various business ventures.
However it came to be that the town's name was changed, everyone agrees that Bathgate became a thriving center of commerce.
Among the first buildings to go up were boarding houses and hotels in answer to the need of the people. The first hotel was the Grand Union. Others were the Chevalier Hotel and the Jennings House, which became the Chevalier Hotel when the first Chevalier Hotel burned. Mr. and Mrs. Peter Gariepy were managers of this hotel. There were many boarding houses and saloons in the 80's but Prohibition in 1889 put the saloons out of business.
Present Day Satellite Street Layout of Bathgate
Most Lots (and Streets) Returned to Green Fields
The first church was the Baptist in August 1882; then the Roman Catholic, late in fall of 1882; the Episcopal and the Methodist Churches in 1886. It was located in the north part of town and moved to the location of 'the present Lutheran Church. The Lutherans purchased the building and are still in the same location now. The Presbyterian church was built in 1883 and part of the original building is part of the present church though in a different location.
Banks and Loan Companies came into existence very rapidly. Interest rates were high. The first bank was the Bathgate State Bank. Other business sprang up. A Grist Mill in 1882, then a Roller Mill in 1893. The first newspaper was the Bathgate Sentinel with T. W. Douglas as Editor, then R. D. Hoskins of Crookston replaced him. The next Editor was F. A. Willson. He was in charge of the Pembina Democrat at Langdon as there was no Cavalier County at that time. He came to Bathgate and published the Pink Paper. Mr. Willson was active in many businesses and also farmed.
The Fire Hall was where the Post Office is now and the City Hall was across the street and a block north. There was a Creamery and a Cheese Factory. Machinery Shops were many. Blacksmith shops, Hardware Stores and Tinsmiths did a huge business. There were Photograph Galleries, milliner shops, dressmaking establishments. Harness making was a lucrative business, even tobacco was grown at Bathgate for a time and there was a Cigar Factory. There was a Wholesale Grocery and Farm Machinery business which supplied settlers as far away as west of Langdon. Many retail stores were in business. The last big retail store being the Hillis and Manning Store, which closed in 1927, after a quarter of a century in business. 
As was the case across the Great Plains, the railroad was a conduit of commerce and a huge spur to development.

Foster Kids (Grace and Albina)
In "Downtown" Bathgate
"Boom-time" came for the town August 10, 1882, when "The St. Paul, Minneapolis & Manitoba R.R." (later became the "Great Northern R.R.") built a road from Grand Forks, ND to Winnipeg, Manitoba.
Rapid development occurred and by 1900, the community had seven elevators; four hotels; four general stores; two butcher shops; four hardware stores; four machine depots; two drug stores; two doctors; two furniture stores; six livery, feed, and sales stables; four attorneys. There were also two banks; a millinery shop; flour mill; harness shop; cheese factory; public school; boiler shop; cigar factory; watch maker; photography studio; two blacksmith shops; two ice-skating rinks; shoe repair shop; newspaper; bowling alley and five churches. Bathgate was incorporated as a city in 1907 with a mayor-city council form of government.
In 1908, Bathgate became the school for the Blind and remained so until 1961 when it was moved to Grand Forks. 
Norval Baptie was a world-reknowned speed skater, an original settler of Bathgate as an infant, who kept up ties to Bathgate throughout his life (he too is buried in Bathgate Cemetery).  Baptie is literally responsible for putting Bathgate on the map. According to the March 25, 1908 Pittsburgh Press:

Baptie Memorial Plaque
The man who was to become the marvel of the age as a speed merchant on skates was at that time only a green country youth, aged 16. The older skaters made him the butt of all the “kidding” and one remarked that Bathgate was not even on the map. They looked it up and found the statement was correct. A railroad schedule showed that it was on the Northern Pacific, and that the train, a combination accommodation and way-freight, stopped there once a week. This one was so slow that yesterday’s train usually arrived the day after tomorrow. 
James J. Hill, president of the (Northern Pacific) Road, happened to be in Montreal visiting his son. He saw the races and became interested in the young phenom. He heard the lad’s story and Bathgate immediately went on the map, and now is the most important stop from Winnipeg to St. Paul. Baptie has since done his best to keep it there.
It is no wonder that Norval Baptie is memorialized with a plaque, in town, located at the former site of the North Dakota School for the Blind.

1 comment:

  1. Love your blog article on Isaac as he is my great-great grandfather. His daughter, Charlotte, is my great- grandmother. I hope you don't mind but I added your article to my page with appropriate reference. Would love to hear more!