Sunday, October 5, 2014

On The Road to Bathgate Act 4h: Aunt Laura Albina Foster

It was common back in the day for the eldest daughter to take on her mother's first name. She then would be known by her middle name within the family, and in many cases beyond, so as to avoid confusion with mom. It was normal back in the day to be named, first or middle, after an aunt or uncle. It was ordinary back in the day that if any of the children attended college, that would mean the eldest. And so it was with my aunt Laura Albina Foster.

Bina, as she was known to all, was born in 1890 to Isaac J. Foster and Laura Elizabeth ("Lizzie") Armstrong Foster. She was the eldest of the 11 Foster children who survived infancy. My father, George W. Foster, born 19 years later, was the youngest. Laura Albina Foster, pharmacist in her adulthood, died on November 3, 1928 of mortification of appendicitis. Following are the surprisingly large number of snippets and the themes we have been able to uncover and piece together of her life on this earth.

Until about a year ago the only picture of aunt Bina known to me was her appearance in the iconic 11 Foster family sibling lineup, circa 1911, that we used to introduce the Foster family last year. We reproduce the picture below.

Laura Albina (Bina) Foster, Florence Foster KingAdams FosterGrace FosterLyndon (Red) FosterHerbert FosterMargaret Foster Cameron, Bryant Foster,Jimmy FosterCharlotte Foster Von Allman and George Washington Foster

Bina is on the far left. My dad is on the far right.

Frank and Albina Wasgatt, July, 1952
Bina was middle-named after her aunt Albina Catista Armstrong Wasgatt (1871-1954), who was the youngest of Lizzie's six sisters. To the right is a late in life picture of Albina Wasgatt, with her husband of more than half a century, Frank, pictured at ages 82 and 81, respectively.

Like her sister Florence Armstrong Hoskins, Albina Armstrong had married a lawyer. Frank Wasgatt (1870-1954) attended Parker College and Hamline University, and received a law degree from the University of Minnesota in 1896. As is not surprising given his stature even at an advanced age, he was a jock. Frank Wasgatt lettered in baseball and was renown as one of the best baseball and football players, and golfers that his home town had ever produced. He was a prominent businessman and had a private law practice in Winnebago, Minnesota where he resided 87 of his 88 years. The Wasgatt's had four sons. 

Grace, Albina and Florence Foster
But back to my aunt Bina.

In the last year or so, we have come into possession of several additional pictures of Bina thanks to gracious and helpful cousins.

As a girl, Bina had several long ringlets of hair draped over her shoulder and flowing down the nape of her neck. We have this photo of Bina (to the right) courtesy of our intrepid California cousin. Bina's younger sisters Grace, and Florence are on Bina's left and right, respectively. Aren't they precious?

As my aunt Charlotte described it, Bina was among the dark haired children in the Foster clan.

Here is another childhood photo. Bina and her sister Florence are front left, pictured with the O'Sheas.

One time, when Bathgate was ravaged by fire, Bina was front and center helping out the firefighters in concert with her mama and sisters. The next day, sadly, her father Isaac put his inherited coffin building skills to use.

Aunt Charlotte's reporting (she was born in 1906 and would have received the information from others) was off by a year. By virtue of contemporaneous newspaper reports we can pinpoint the date of the fire, and thus also the date of the baby's premature birth.

Bismarck Tribune, October 27, 1907.
Baby Doe Foster was born and died on October 28, 1907. We shall add the dates to our family tree in 

Bina was musically inclined. She played the piano at home and the organ at church.

Sometimes when playing the organ at church, she led a chorus of her siblings.

Bina's initial foray into professional life was as a teacher, having attended the University of North Dakota long enough to receive a rural school teaching certificate.

Bina and Florence moved west and taught in Belfield, which today is a freshly thriving community centrally located in the Bakken oil fields. After spending one or two school years in Belfield, Bina and Florence stopped by to visit with their aunt, uncle and cousins in Bismarck, on the way back to Bathgate for summer vacation.

Bismarck Tribune, June 11, 1910

Laura Albina Foster
Thanks to our cousin in Little Fork, Minnesota, we have (to the right) this lovely studio shot of Bina as a young lady.

I am guessing, but do not really know, that this photo was taken around the time that Bina was a student at college in Fargo. 

Her college years there are well documented. Fondly referred to as the "A. C.," North Dakota State University in Fargo, North Dakota was originally named the North Dakota Agricultural College.  In Bina's day, the A. C. advertised that "[f]or completeness of equipment and faculties for instruction" the college was "unsurpassed in the Northwest." The college offered courses in pharmaceutical chemistry and pharmacy. Tuition was free. Students were responsible only for their own room and board, $3.75 to $5.00 per week.

Aunt Bina attended the A.C. and earned a pharmacy degree.

The first mention we have of her at the university is from the school newspaper in 1911, where it was reported that "Miss Bina Foster was made happy by a short visit from her father last Tuesday afternoon."

The Weekly Spectrum (N. Dak. Ag. Col.), November 28, 1911

We learn from these 1911-1912 school year reports that Bina lived in Ceres Hall on campus, "Miss Lancetta Steele was a guest of Bina Foster at Sunday dinner," in January 1912.

The Weekly Spectrum (N. Dak. Ag. Col.), January 23, 1912

The adjacent ads promote food and meals at the Copper Kettle Inn, and 10 percent discounts to A. C. students at the S & C Clothing Company (phone no. 1324-1). Here is a picture of the Copper Kettle Inn.

Copper Kettle Inn, Fargo, North Dakota, circa 1916.

Bina was in the first wave of residents housed Ceres Hall, which opened in 1911.

Ceres Hall post card, circa 1911. 

Here is North Dakota State University's Ceres Hall history blurb.
Ceres Hall was the first women's dormitory on the North Dakota Agricultural College campus. In 1909 the State Legislature approved the construction of a women's building on campus, allocating over $85,000 between 1908-10 for the construction of Ceres Hall. The dormitory accommodated 115 women and contained a cafeteria.
The building was originally to be named after Jessie Slaughter from Bismarck, ND, who was the first female student at NDAC. Fearing that students would nickname the building 'the Slaughter House' it was decided to call it Ceres Hall after the Goddess of Wheat. Today Ceres Hall houses a variety of administrative offices.
While taking a two-year long break from the A. C., Bina was admitted as an assistant registered pharmacist by the North Dakota State Pharmaceutical Board  .
Northwestern Druggist, December 1913

Bina worked in her new chosen field while she stopped out from college.

Bathgate Pink Paper, June 14, 1914

Bina ended her break from college in time for the 1914 fall term when she returned to the A C.

The Weekly Spectrum (N. Dak. Ag. Col.), September 23, 1914

During her final school year at the A. C., Bina, still rooming in Ceres Hall, took a fall trip to Bismarck to visit relatives.

The Weekly Spectrum (N. Dak. Ag. Col.), October 21, 1914

The college newspaper advertised Victrolas for sale at Luger Furniture Co., "[a]lso headquarters for Edison Phonographs and records." 

Bina's trip back to Fargo after winter break in 1914-15, and forthcoming graduation, merited mention in the Bathgate newspaper. 

Bathgate Pink Paper, January 13, 1915
Lizzie traveled west two months later to visit her then married daughter, Florence Foster King in Belfield. On the return trip Lizzie visited her sister, Florence Hoskins, in Bismarck, and then circled by to visit Bina at the A. C. in Fargo.

Bathgate Pink Paper, March 24, 1915
My aunt, Margaret Foster, then 11 years old, visited sister Bina as she prepared to graduate from the pharmacy school at the A. C. in June, 1915. What a treat that must have been for the pre-teen girl!

Bathgate Pink Paper, June 15, 1915
Bina graduated with a two-year degree in Pharmacy.
The North Dakota Agricultural College

Alumni Directory

That man is best educated is most useful.
 SEP 27 1917

Malvin Ash Baernstein, B. S., '09, 293 Catherine St., Montreal, Canada.
Orlando Boucher, '15, Esmond
Leroy Cook, '11, Cavalier
Rov G. Cook, '05. Fargo
Gilbert Cnimett, '07*  Peter DeBoer, '15, Pollock, S. Dak. A. C.
Male Englehorn, '10, Churchs Ferry A. C.
Einar G. Erickson, '07, Souris
Alfred E. Foss, '09, Hatton
Palmer Foss, '11, Page
Arthur Fossum, '14 Christine
Albina Foster, '15, Bathgate Ross Fowler, '04, Hankinson
Fred Hall, '06, Valley City
A. M. Hammes, '13, Fargo
Lincoln Hanson, '14, Wyndmere
Clarence Hay, '13, Fargo
After receiving her diploma from the A. C., Bina returned to Bathgate for a time. Within the year she accepted a position in a drug store at Bismarck and moved there to live with relatives.

Bismarck Tribune, April 4, 1916
Bina had barely settled in when she entertained a visit from her brother Lyn.

Bismarck Tribune, April 25, 1916

Lyndon R. Foster would find work in Williston, North Dakota, 115 miles north of Belfied, and 175 miles northwest of Bismarck. Lyn lived in Williston until he enlisted in the US Army to serve in WW I. 

Bina took a brief vacation later in the year to visit her sister Florence (Mrs. C. E. King) in Belfied.

Bismarck Tribune, October 24, 1916

In Bina's day pharmacies used etched dose cups to mete out prescriptions, including this vintage example from the Finney's Drug Store.
Vintage dose cup, Finney's Drug Store
During Bina's tenure, Finney's Drug Store sold goods to help cope with the heat.

Bismarck Tribune, July 25, 1916
And cold weather alike.

Bismarck Tribune, January 30, 1916
Finney's sold greeting cards.

Bismarck Tribune, October 28, 1916

Finney's sold chocolates, and

Bismarck Tribune, February 13, 1916
hawked tickets to spectacular productions.

Bismarck Tribune, August 2, 1916
Home remedies were sold as well by Finney's Drugs.

Bismarck Tribune, May 18, 1916

Bismarck Tribune, January 13, 1916

Having started as clerk, Bina no doubt was pleased to leave the Finney Pharmacy to "accept the position of manager of the Milton pharmacy," a billet more fitting of her education.

Bismarck Tribune, March 6, 1917
Bina's host in Bismarck, Mrs. P. J. Meyer, known to many even today as Etta Hoskins Meyer, is best known for 36 years later founding Bismarck's first television station (KFYR TV). The Meyer/Hoskins family founded the KFYR clear channel, 5,000 watt radio station in 1926.

After relocating to Milton, Bina visited college friends back in Fargo.

The Weekly Spectrum (N. Dak. Ag. Col.), October 28, 1918
Aunt Charlotte wrote that Bina's Milton residency was reason enough to crank up the Model T in Bathgate for Sunday road trips to visit her oldest sister.

Pre-automobile, a 70 mile round trip without a direct rail link would have been unimaginable.

Lizzie traveled to Milton to care for Bina during the 1918 flu pandemic (tens of millions died worldwide). Then Bina and Lizzie went west to care for Florence Foster King and family.

While in Milton, Bina was listed in the 1920 census as pharmacist, in a household headed by Lisa Swanlow, druggist. The Swanlows owned and operated the Milton pharmacy.

With backup available in Milton, Bina was able to return to Bathgate for a time when the local druggist became incapacitated.

By the early 1922, Bina had moved on to Fargo. The alumni association at the A. C. reported:

COLLEGE AND STATEA Publication of the North Dakota Agricultural College, Fargo, VOL. IV., JANUARY-FEBRUARY 1922, No. 1

The dispensaries of both the Fargo Clinic and St. John Hospital, Fargo, are directed by graduates of this school. Albina Foster, '15, manages the Fargo Clinic dispensary, and Keziah Evinason, '20, that of St. John's hospital.
We have this picture from our California cousin of women of the Foster/Armstrong clan, I am guessing in the early 1920s, decked out in their winter finery. Love those hats!

Grace Foster, Aunt Angelia, Aunt Albina Catista Armstrong Wasgatt,
Bina Foster, and Laura Elizabeth Armstrong Foster.

The next news we have of Bina, tragically, is her obituary.

Cavalier Chronicle, November 16, 1928

Former Bathgate Girl 
Albina Foster Laid to Rest
The death of Laura Albina Foster, which occured on Saturday, November 3rd, at a hospital in Grand Forks, came as a shock to the Bathgate community when it was reported after an operation of about a week, from mortification of appendicitis.
Bina as she was called in the Bathgate community was born in Bathgate in 1890, the beloved daughter of our citizens Mr. and Mrs. I. J. Foster. After graduating from Bathgate High School she taught school at Bellefield N. D. for two years, later she went to the A. C. at Fargo and graduated from the Pharmaceutical school in 1915. Miss Foster has been employed in several towns in North Dakota, the latest at the Fargo Clinic and at Vold's Drug Store at Grand Forks. She passed the State Board of Examinations of Pharmacists in 1926.
Bina was a member of the Bathgate Baptist church and of the order of the Eastern Star, she was also active in Sunday School work and very much interested in ministries.
Miss Foster was a member of the Phi Omega Pi Sorority at the A. C. and of the Quota Club of Fargo.
Vintage dose cup, Vold's Drug store.
Aunt Bina may have used this cup or
one like it to mete out prescriptions
On Monday her remains were taken to Bathgate and laid in state at the M. E. church until Tuesday at two o'clock when services were conducted by Rev. Cawthorne of Neche, and was laid to rest by her sister [Grace] who preceded her in death in the year of 1926.
The floral offerings were many and beautiful. The floral offerings were from friends and relatives of Chicago, Milton, Fargo, Winnebago, Minn., Grafton, Minneapolis and Bismarck.
As a member of her church and services to her creator Bina Foster was an example in service in always giving the helping hand.
The community extends to the sorrowing ones their sincere sympathy. 
Bina leaves to mourn her father and mother, three sisters, five brothers and many, many friends.
Brothers Herb and Jim, and sister Charlotte, came back to Bathgate for the funeral, as did Mrs. F. G. (Albina Armstrong) Wasgatt.

Cavalier Chronicle, November 16, 1928

In death, Albina's Phi Omega Pi sorority recognized high achievement in scholarship by the Albina Foster prize, "awarded annually by the sorority alumnae to the active member of the group attaining the highest scholastic average during the year." Miss Doris Wilner won the initial award in 1929. Ila May Tucker was the recipient in 1930.

The Weekly Spectrum (N. Dak. Ag. Col.),
March 5, 1929

The Weekly Spectrum (N. Dak. Ag. Col.),
March 14, 1930

The Weekly Spectrum (N. Dak. Ag. Col.), /
December 19, 1943

In later years qualifications for the Albina Foster award were broadened to be given to "an upperclass girl who has shown outstanding qualities of leadership within the fraternity and in extra-curricular activities and at the same time has maintained a good average." In 1941, the award was made to Jean Halbeisen. Bernise Wichmann was the award recipient in 1943. Beverly Halbeisen received the Albina Foster award in 1945.
The Weekly Spectrum (N. Dak. Ag. Col.),
March 7, 1941

The Weekly Spectrum (N. Dak. Ag. Col.), March 8, 1945
We are hopeful that someday we will be able to get into the microfiche newspaper archives of Milton, Grand Forks and Fargo, North Dakota to find more on the last decade of Albina's life. Until then and thereafter, may Laura Albina Foster rest eternally in peace. 

Laura Albina Foster's headstone in Bathgate protestant cemetery, located on land donated by William Foster, Bina's grandfather.

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