Tuesday, February 11, 2014

On the Road to Bathgate Act 4e: Isaac J Foster's Civic and Public Lives (Part 1)


I. J. Foster 1910 Campaign Poster
Our latest I. J. Foster post revolved around the simple summary of life that is published in an obituary. We promised to return with additional posts on a life "long and well lived." This will be the first such post, covering various facets of I. J. Foster's life freshly researched, documenting family and local history, and dedicated to our grandfather.

I. J. Foster was a son, brother and uncle, a husband, father and grandfather, a farmer, rancher, real estate man, auctioneer and public servant.

In addition, throughout Isaac's adult life he was politically active and engaged in matters of civic importance. He attended and participated in county and state political gatherings and conventions. He hosted town, civic and local political meetings in his office building in town. I. J. served on the Pembina county fair board. He ratcheted his political involvement up a big notch in 1911 when he ran for county sheriff. After winning that election and serving the citizens of Pembina county for two terms in law enforcement, Ike was appointed to three five years terms on the state Livestock Sanitary Board. He was active, committed and respected. 

Here we present the story of I. J. Foster's devotions to civic welfare and public service. But first, we delve into a time not long prior, when his fitness to serve and freedom to do so were put into question.


I went to the State Historical Society of North Dakota (SHSND) on the capitol grounds in Bismarck, North Dakota, late January, to conduct research. Previous I had found the following list in the SHSND online database. Records maintained at the Pembina Museum had acceded to the state repository some sixteen or seventeen years past, when the local museum closed down. Look at item 18 below, which I've highlighted in bold print.
Title: Pembina (ND) Museum Dates: 1863-1980
Collection Number:  10737
Quantity: 17 ft.  (including oversized material in map case drawer)
Abstract: Consists of records of the Museum, records kept by the Museum for exhibit and preservation purposes, scrapbooks and photographs. Includes records of the Pembina Parent Teacher Association (PTA).
Provenance:  The Pembina Museum was closed and under state law, the State Historical Society of North Dakota acquired this collection of photographs and historical documents. 
Box 1:  Records 
14 Programs (Girls’ basket ball club [Drayton], Pembina High School, Pembina city [public] school, churches, Joseph Rolette Memorial dedication, “the Modern Pantomime Cinderella” [Canada]), ca. 1890s-1969     
15 Geroux Bridge District No. 102, Pembina County, citation for service to the War Savings Program, February 1944 
16 Miscellaneous printed material – graduation announcements, letterhead, brochures, political broadsides, ca. 1900s-1959 
17 Advertisements, land and Lindsay Brothers buggies, 1900-1914
18 Trial transcript, State v. I. J. Foster, 1905
19 Adjutant’s report, muster roll of Werdin Post No 83 at Pembina, ca. 1880s
20 “Red River Carts Trek Historic Pembina Trail,” prepared and written for Marshall County Statehood Centennial Committee, E. Neil Mattson, 1958 
21 A. J. Christopher WWI materials: “’Active Service’ Testament 1916” given to Christopher and carried throughout the war; “Canada and Her Soldiers” 1919; “Information and Service Handbook for members and Ex-Members of the Canadian Naval and Military Forces”; Pay book, Canadian Expeditionary Force
The State v. I. J. Foster? No other court files were among the materials shipped down from the shuttered Pembina Museum. Why was this transcript preserved? It must have been a humdinger. 

I speculated, perhaps it was an important case about water rights or flood protection, taxation, election law or land use, or it concerned important property and individual rights. I looked forward to opening this bit of history. Or it could just be an order, ruling or something, a paragraph or two signed by a judge, probably mislabeled -- nothing as complete or contextual as an actual trial transcript from 1905. 

After settling down in the Historical Society reading room, I consulted with a staff archivist. He explained the rules of the road -- limited copies made by staff only, and no copying permitted of documents that could be damaged by the copying process, and could I please group requests to facilitate efficient use of his time. We completed the requisite document request form, which he carried along as he disappeared to retrieve Item 18 of Box 1 down from storage, as well as several other other items I requested, returning a short time later with the materials on a rolling cart. 

When I opened the file folder I discovered that Item 18 indeed was a hearing transcript -- printed in mimeographed blue ink on onion skin paper, loosely bound. It crinkled aloud on opening. I doubt that it had been opened for decades. I read from the beginning -- startled -- Isaac Foster had been charged with rape.

Back in the day, the Foster family was a diverse and prosperous enterprise, brokering real estate and mortgage loans, developing properties, auctioning goods, selling hazard insurance and farm equipment, operating a steam mill, incorporating a creamery, farming and ranching, and tending to the property of others. All eleven children pitched in. My dad learned to milk cows when he was five. 

I. J. Foster household entries in the 1910 Federal Census included Clifford
McCulligan, Occupation, Boarder, and Joseph Hook, Occupation, Hired Man.
The family would hire help from among "hobos" who slept under the railroad bridge, as needed. Isaac employed roving crews at harvest time and typically took on two or three hired hands regularly employed. When they could arrange it, the Fosters would employ a girl or a lady, as they put it, to assist with household chores. The rape complainant was a former such employee.

1905 I. J. Foster Real Estate Ad
Emma Marquadt was the 15 year old daughter of one of Ike's real estate clients. It is disputed who initially brought the matter up, but there was discussion between the men of her availability to work in the Foster household, with the result that she ultimately was employed. The young lady toiled for several weeks and then left. When a baby was born some time later, the rape complaint against Isaac was lodged and expeditiously tried.

Miss Marquadt testified in support of the charge. She said she was taken in the ice house when she went down to milk a cow. She said there was "no ice," just sawdust. On cross examination she said she barely protested and did not resist (she was afraid), nor did she complain of the crime until the baby was born. The defense lawyer asked when the crime was committed. "June 29" she said. "Are you sure?" the defense lawyer asked. "Yes" she insisted. "Absolutely sure?" "Yes." She testified Isaac was around and about on the 27th through July 1st.

Isaac took the stand. His lawyer inquired of the veracity of the charge. "It's not true" he said, "Not a word of it -- never even thought of it." Isaac's lawyer continued, asking Ike where he was on June 29. On a trip to Estherville, Iowa, Isaac responded. He produced telegrams sent and received by him in St. Paul, Minnesota, during an afternoon train stop on June 29. The defense produced a corroborating witness who testified Isaac was not in town on June 29, nor the previous or following days. Another witness testified he had heard the complainant's father bragging about the monetary settlement he expected to extract from Ike.

The girl was asked when the baby was born. Realizing, it seemed for the first time, that this could be an issue, she equivocated -- couldn't come up with the specific date. But it was established that the baby was born in January. In other words, a miracle baby -- a seemingly full term, bouncing, healthy baby born after just more than six months gestation. Evidence was introduced of a boyfriend who was hanging around her in the spring. It was claimed that the complainant's father had instructed Emma to file the complaint.

The evidentiary hearing was closed so the lawyers could sum up and argue their positions, the result being the case was dismissed for lack of sufficient evidence -- a dismissal or directed verdict that never made it to a jury. And so life, and Isaac's public career, went on, lessons learned. I imagine from that point forward that Lizzie arranged for and hired domestic help, preferring ladies to girls.

A. Isaac's Engagement in Civic Affairs and Political Life

Isaac repeatedly stepped up to the plate on civic matters. He met, he participated, he organized, he led and he volunteered.  I. J. served a term as Master of the Bathgate Masonic lodge and was a regular attendee at the Grand Lodge of North Dakota. 
I. J. Foster per diem record for 1906 N. D. Grand Lodge attendance.
When farmers organized Ike was there. On April 20, 1907, neighboring farmers met for the purpose of forming a local lodge of the Society of Equity. Organize they did by electing a slate of officers for the forthcoming year, including I. J. Foster as secretary (see Exhibit A below). Isaac stepped up to provide a meeting place for conducting civic and political business and, in the absence of a city hall, to discuss future provision of the same.
At the city caucus held at I. J. Foster's office on Saturday evening of last week the old alderman were re-nominated for the ensuing two years. The subject of a city hall was discussed at some length but no
The Bathgate Pink Paper, April 5, 1911
definite conclusion was reached. Mr. Hillis of Hillis & Manning was present and made an offer to rent their hall to the city for a term of years at a rental of $600.00 a year. This amount would be materially reduced by the rentals paid by various fraternal societies which would occupy it for their meetings.
Isaac got around politically -- quite literally. On August 8, 1906 The Pink Paper reported, "Wm. Wright, I. J. Foster, Joseph Morin and F. A. Willson were the delegates form this place in attendance at the democratic state convention held at Minot last week." (See Exhibit B below). The paper noted on March 25, 1908 that, "Isaac Foster, Michael Nevin and F. A. Willson attended the democratic convention held at Cavalier on Saturday of last week." (See Exhibit C). F. A. Willson was, as well, editor of The Bathgate Pink Paper, which to promote circulation outside of Bathgate, touted itself as the "only Democratic" paper in Pembina county. 

Isaac served on the Pembina County Fair Board. The fair was a place where business and social lives mixed. Ike was a fair aficionado. He loved to exhibit and attend -- the bigger the fair the better, including crossing the Red River of the North to partake of the festivities in the Land of 10,000 Lakes.
I. J. Foster left on Saturday for to take in the big Minnesota State Fair. This is Ike's annual holiday and he says that he enjoys each year's fair better than the one before. He has been a regular attendant for the past twenty-two years. (See Exhibit D).
He went down to Bismarck for the North Dakota State Fair too, so reported The Pink Paper on July 31, 1907 -- "Ike Foster, Matt Fee, Morman Watson, Ernest Purday and S. Messacre formed a party of State Fair visitors from this place." (See Exhibit E).

Modern day entrance to Pembina County Fair.
Isaac avidly exhibited at the Pembina County Fair held annually in Hamilton, North Dakota. The Pink Paper reported on August 10, 1910 that "I. J. Foster's big Currumpaw Stock farm was represented by many entries and exhibits at the fair at Hamilton" and "I. J. captured first money on nearly everything he entered." Isaac was not shy about promoting his livestock exhibition leading up to the fair.
The Bathgate Pink Paper, July 12, 1905
I. J. Foster will exhibit his heard (sic) of registered Herefords at the fair this week. There will be nothing better in the exhibition stables in any class of cattle.
Of course, the children loved the fair too. One year, the kids got involved with a turkey, a lamb and a wagon. Aunt Charlotte described fair experiences in her family history.

I recall, as a youth, we planned a trip to Bathgate to coincide with the county fair so my dad could relive and reminisce his youthful experiences. The harness races were dusty, dirty and brutally contested, the exhibition buildings filled with prize animals and tasty pies, and the runway populated with rides and treats. A good time was had by all.

This is the first part of a three part post. To be continued tomorrow with Part 2 on I. J. Foster's life and times as Pembina county sheriff and Part 3 the next day on I. J. Foster's service on the Sanitary Livestock Board. Exhibits for today's post follow.

Exhibit A, The Bathgate Pink Paper, April 24, 1907

Exhibit B, The Bathgate Pink Paper, August 8, 1906

Exhibit C, The Bathgate Pink Paper, March 25, 1908

Exhibit D, The Bathgate Pink Paper, September 7, 1910
Exhibit E, The Bathgate Pink Paper, July 31, 1907

1 comment:

  1. Fantastic stories and great research. Wish someone in my family was putting in all that effort for us. Keep it up!