Laura Soleta has shared these remembrances of the Clarence Green Family.

Clarence and Emma Jane Green on their 50th wedding anniversary
Parents of Wilford, Ralph, Edna, Howard, Mabel, Gladys, Dora and Winnifred

Clarence and Emma Jane Green
As Told by Winnie Green-Booker)

Clarence Asrue (Azrow) Green was born September 26, 1860 in Will County, Illinois the son of George Washington and Emma Jane (Harridan) Green. When he was three years old his mother died. Soon after that George married a widow and the family moved to Three Oaks, Michigan.

In Michigan, the Greens had an orchard and kept bees. Clarence worked in a store while he was growing up.

Emma Jane Rizer was born in Michigan on September 11, 1866, to John and Elizabeth (Waldfogel) Rizer. When Emma was still a small child her parents were separated. John was very irresponsible and Elisabeth was over worked and careworn as most women were in those days so when he came home one night and told her that he was going on a hunting trip with his friends, she in anger told him not to come back.

For a number of years Elisabeth and Emma lived alone in a little cottage on the shore of Lake Michigan. Elisabeth worked for other people to support herself and Emma.

Emma kept house as soon as she was big enough. Almost every day she went to the beach and brought up a pail of white sand and used it to scrub the white maple floor. It was always as clean as the kitchen table. There were home made rugs on the floor and snowy white counter panes on the beds. Everybody took his shoes off before entering the cottage and nobody ever sat on a bed. Every day she went to the neighbors for milk. There was a parrot who squawked “you’re spilling your milk!” Emma loved the parrot and wished she had a pet, but Elisabeth said they were too poor.

Emma loved the beauty of the big lake and all the good times she had there, but she never got over the fear of it. She knew so many people who had lost their lives on what she called the treacherous lake.

When Emma was fifteen she visited her Aunt Mary who lived in Chicago. It was so exciting. She would go there by boat and it would be her first experience in traveling alone. The black smith would make her trunk and the dressmaker would make her dress. A dress – a real dressy dress was not just something you could make in a few hours. There were many fittings and pinnings. There were not many things you could buy at a store, you had to go to a shop and ask to have it made. Emma’s Uncle was a doctor – an herb doctor. He made his own medicine. He had an office in the front of his house and a place in the back room where herbs hung drying and there were some that were powdered in apothecary jars. Emma liked that room; the herbs smelled so good.

Shortly after John died Elisabeth married Ben Garland. Emma didn’t live at home very long after her mother married Ben Garland. She loved to dance and one time at a dance she met Clarence Green who also enjoyed dancing and they both went to the same church (Baptist) and so they became very good friends and fell in love and were married in July 1885.

Clarence and Emma had two sons born in Michigan, Wilford and Ralph. When Wilford was about three years old and Ralph was a year and a half, the little family decided to move to North Dakota. Grandpa George lived with them so he would go too.

The only house they could find to live in was a sod house. It was warm in winter and cool in summer, but it was dreary and hard to keep clean. The landscape was bleak and the wind never stopped. Very different from Michigan. They did not like North Dakota but they lived there twelve years during which time six children were born; Edna, Howard, Mabel, Gladys, Dora and Winnifred. When Winnifred was a year old the family decided to move again, this time to Minnesota. George died a couple of months before Winnifred was born.

It was in the fall after harvest that they were able to move there wasn’t much time before cold weather for them to get settled.

Emma and the younger children would stay in Tamarack in the old Roebottom Hotel and Clarence and the two older boys would go out to their new location and build a log house and barn. They lived in a tent until the barn was finished then they lived in one corner of the barn while they built the house.

Emma and the children moved to their new home in April. There was not even a fairly good road. It was so bad that the family had to walk most of the way and it took most of a day. It was twelve miles.

There were no windows in the house yet and no doors. The children were so excited they climbed in and out of the window spaces and the new wood smelled so good. Emma was afraid someone would get hurt but she was not able to stop them from climbing around. She loved her new home and the forest was just like Michigan.

The land was being claimed on all sides. Tom Hamel, Albert Tweedy and the Heaths were already there and in the next few years many more came. Only a few of the more hardy ones stayed.

Before there was much land cleared and before the roads were made, about the only industry was logging and lumbering. Thomas Hamel, Clarence Green and Louis LaMeir all had logging camps and Clarence also had a mill those first years. There were no sanitation nor safety laws and there were people who were not honest. It was pretty rough sometimes and it was always hard, dangerous work. The logs were cut in the winter and hauled out to the river and unloaded on the ice. When the ice melted in the early spring, the men had to be ready to put on their spiked boots and float the logs on down the river to Aitkin. This was called “the drive”. It took tough brave men for this job, they were often working in icy water for hours and hours.

Clarence usually hired only the local boys. Emma used her influence here because she had two sons of her own who worked in the woods and on the drive and she and the other mothers felt that their young sons were in better company if they were camping and working with their neighbors.

Communication was very poor; often the postmaster would get a letter from a worried mother, “Can you tell me if my son is working up there?” Sometimes the postmaster could find the young man and get him to write home – most often he wasn’t able to help. Often the men were known only by a first name or a nic name. Usually no one took an interest in them personally. Often the men drifted in and drifted out staying only a few days on the job. Some men got sick and died in camp. Some met with an accident or foul play. There are many unmarked graves along the rivers.

The Green family broke up enough ground right away for a large garden – and what gardens they had while the land was new! There were no pests nor diseases and the soil was very fertile. The climate must have been pretty favorable, too, because they were able to raise even watermelons. Tom and Mary Hamel had a pile of watermelons like a small haystack one year. They had a party for the whole neighborhood and still had more so they told the school children to come and help themselves at noontime breaks until they were gone.

Clarence soon acquired some cows and horses, pigs and chickens. Of course there were no tame meadows at first, but there were wild meadows all along the rivers. In the spring everybody turned his cattle out to feed on acres of wild grasses. There had been some bad fires that killed a lot of trees and left places in the forest that had grown up to vetch and then all along the logging roads clover seed had gotten spilled so there were places where cattle could find food.

Then in the fall the cattle were gathered up and the surplus animals were shipped to South St. Paul. Clarence always raised all of the meat to feed his workers, but men like the Weyerhausers had an expert hunter who did the hunting for a living and they fed the men on game that the hunter brought in. There were wild raspberries, gooseberries, currents, strawberries, pin cherries and blueberries – especially blueberries! Emma always had at least two hundred quarts of blueberries on the shelves. Since no one had yet learned to can non-acid foods nor how to freeze them, the Green family got pretty hungry for green vegetables toward spring. They were able to find wild plants pretty early. There were dandelions, cowslips, lambsquarters, and fern buds, sour dock, sorrel and nettles, all good, some better than others.

Emma had a green thumb. One of her greatest pleasures was watching plants grow. She always had a beautiful vegetable garden and lots of flowers. In the long winter months there were always flowers blooming in the windows. One thing she must always have was windows, lots of windows. She needed sunshine and fresh air, nothing else seemed to matter much.

People used to say that Clarence was a typical Scotchman. He was stern – black was black and white was white. He was blunt and outspoken. He was a great reader and he loved to discuss politics and scientific theories. He was always right and he was always ready to speak his mind.

He had a lot of old New England sayings such as: “Everybody to his taste – as the old woman said as she kissed her cow.” “As independent as a hog on ice with his tail froze fast.” “No he doesn’t want much – just heaven and earth with a barbed wire fence around it.”

He used to say they would turn the cattle out on the “old fog” that meant the meadow in spring when it was covered with some of last years hay and there was a little fresh grass coming up through it.

“They hardly ever spoil two families.” When two unlikely people marry, meaning they are probably more alike than we think.

He was able to laugh at himself. One time he had been skidding logs with his old white mule. The old mule was very intelligent – seemed to understand everything that was said and he seemed to have a sense of humor too.

It was time for a lunch break and Clarence sat down on a log right behind the mule to eat a doughnut and to drink some coffee. He always talked to the mule when he had no one else to listen so now he began telling his troubles to the sympathetic old friend, but soon with no one else to blame for his misfortunes he began berating the mule, calling him all kinds of insulting names. It probably made him feel better, but the mule didn’t think he had to take it. After a few minutes – putting an ear back and then forward and then both ears back to make sure he was hearing straight, he picked up one hind foot and pasted Clarence rather gently – for a mule – right in the left eye. Clarence wasn’t badly hurt but the eyebrow was cut by the steel shoe so that the eyelid fell down and blood streamed over his face. But it was so funny and Clarence knew he had it coming. It was exactly what the mule should have done so he laughed all the way back to the house and laughed while Emma sewed him up.

Young mothers often ask, “What in the world did people do back then when there was serious illness in the family?” They did what they could – they did what they had to and usually it was all anyone could do. Every mother had to be a nurse and they were pretty good doctors too, and sometimes undertakers too. They all helped out whenever they were needed, but Emma and her friend Matilda Larson were the ones who were usually called on to help new babies into the world and usually helped people in their final hours and then had to get the deceased ready for burial. Someone would have to go however they could to town to bring back a death certificate and one of the old “Sky Pilots” if they could find one. Many of the old abandoned farms have a little fenced in plot where there are crosses to mark the graves.

There was no church as such, but most families got together and had Sunday school. Sometimes a “Sky Pilot” – a roving missionary would come and hold services in the schoolhouse but the greatest moral and religious teachers were the mothers and fathers of the community and it was more by example they taught than by preaching. There were no doubts about right or wrong. Everything was clear. You were to observe the Golden Rule, love God with all your heart and your neighbor as yourself, and all the other commandments. They also believed in the goodness of our country and our government and its officers.

Marriage was a sacred commitment. A child was a blessing from God bestowed on deserving couples to love and care for. Divorce, abortion, adultery were words and ideas never heard nor read except as it was found in the Bible and they didn’t understand it so it didn’t mean anything, but unmentionable sins. God was always very close – always there to turn to, to guide and protect them. They were taught to pray without ceasing and that is how they lived.

In the early years, there was no music except what they made for themselves they sang patriotic, Christian songs, sacred hymns at school, Sunday school and at home. They also sang old ballads, cowboy songs and a few rollicking dance songs.

Shortly after they got settled the young men decided they needed a meeting place for recreation as well as for town meetings. They all pitched in and built a town hall they could be proud of. It served the community for many years.

Mr. and Mrs. Lumbard played the fiddle and organ for dances. Albert Tweedy had the first record player. People called it a “Talking Machine”. The right name was “Graffaphone”.

Few people had much formal education “book learning” it was called, but surely they knew the necessary skills to survive. Clarence with a fifth grade education could build substantial houses and barns, do all kinds of blacksmithing work, knew how to feed and care for cattle and horses. He knew how to grow and harvest garden and field crops, build roads, run a logging operation. He served on the town board and the school boards. Even taught Sunday school.

There was no state nor federal funding for schools or roads and no welfare programs and of course there was no other public funding. Everybody pitched in and built the schoolhouse and furnished it as best they could. Everything was taken care of in the same way.

Emma was a tiny person. She was about five feet one inch tall with a very delicate bone structure. She had black curly hair, brown eyes and a lovely complexion. As she grew older she put on weight and became too heavy. She then weighed about 140 pounds. She was very gentle and always happy. She loved everybody and wanted to help them in every way she could. Emma was quite an outdoor person she liked horses and she knew how to handle them. She loved to wander around in the woods. She used berry picking for an excuse.

Emma died July 18th, 1940 of hypertension. Clarence died of old age – heart failure on November 13, 1948.

Howard, Ralph and Clarence
Sons of Clarence and Emma

Louise Fairchild who would marry Wilford Green, son of Emma and Clarence.

Webmaster says ~ I love this picture!
Here is a stylish young lady in the latest flapper fashion
with her lacy bloomers (strictly NOT flapper wear) peeking out!

Popular Tamarack Girl Bride

At an informal wedding at high noon on Wednesday, December 12, Miss Helen Louise Fairchild, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. D. L. Fairchild, became the bride of Mr. Wilford C. Green of Balsam township. Only the immediate families and a few intimate friends witnessed the ceremony, which was performed before an arch of evergreens in the home of the bride’s parents by the Rev. Ole Nielson.

The bride entered to the strains of the Wedding March from “Lohengrin,” played by Miss Irlene Kelley, and was preceded to the improvised altar by her little sisters, Phyllis and Mildred, as flower girl and ring bearer, and her bridesmaid, Miss Hazel Green, sister of the groom. Mr. Green was attended by his brother, Mr. Ralph Green.

Following the ceremony, a buffet luncheon was served, and the newly married pair left for their home in Balsam where they will reside.

Source: Aitkin Republican. front page, December 20, 1928

This is a letter Laura's Grandfather, Wilford C. Green, son of Clarence and Emma Green, wrote in response to an inquiry from the park manager at Savanna Portage State Park about the early days of the area encompassing the park. Savanna Portage State Park is in Balsam Township.

September 29, 1982
Wilford C. Green
Polson, MT

Dear Mr. Williams:

First I must say that I’m ninety-six years old, and like the trail my memory is rather dim. It has been nearly 70 years since I left the homestead.

The first I knew of the portage was when an old Indian by the name of Joe Barney came along one morning and stopped. He told me that he got lost in the swamp in the fog and laid out in the woods all night, but when morning came he found he was only a short ways from the Hudson Bay Portage. He also told me that the trail went right through my dooryard. He said the packers had a rest stop in the little clearing between my house and the lake, because he said it was the only good water between the two rivers. He said they came across Lake Superior up the Saint Lewis River, then up the East Savannah River and packed across to the West Savannah, then across Sandy Lake to Libby which was another trading post. They followed high land as much as possible.

I can’t give you the exact location of the Portage, but I marked on your map the general direction both ways from my place. He also told me that sometimes there would be as many as 20 or 30 or more packers.

Now the pump you found was not mine but belonged to a family by the name of Anderson, a father, daughter and three sons. They were the only ones that done any real farming. There is a wet spot just north of where you found the pump, cross that and turn east about 2 or 3 hundred feet and about two hundred feet from the lakeshore is where the dugout was, as near as I can remember. East of that, there should be a hard maple tree about two hundred or 250 feet. I marked the dugout in red, and the tree in black on the map. These distances are only approximate, maybe more or less.

The tree that I marked with a black dot was only about six inches through the last time I saw it, should be there yet, and it’s the only land mark that would be visible that I can think of.

You wanted to know about the people that lived in the Park, well, Andersons lived where you found the pump. They were the only real farmers that lived in the Park. Richards and Skinners lived on section nine. Richards was a veterinarian, Skinner was a lumberjack, Henning Larson lived south of Andersons on the Lake, worked in the woods, on the river, and worked for his Dad on the farm. Knutson and Jackson lived on the east side of Savannah Lake. Knutson was a shoemaker from Minneapolis. He had two boys, carpenters and lumberjacks. Charlie Knutson lived on the west side of Savannah Lake, T.B. Thompson lived on Wolf Lake. He was a barber. Kelly lived at the north end of Savannah Lake.

You asked for something of the logging days. In the early days lumbering was the main occupation. Everything was cut in the winter time, cutting and skidding started as soon as the ground froze, hauling started as soon as the snow came. Some of the bigger outfits built ice roads. Sleighs were used on the ice roads, 9 ft. runners, and eight feet apart, 16 foot rockers and the logs were bound with chains. The loads were 5,000 ft. or more according to the terrain. In the early days, they were loaded with a chain with a team on one end of it and a hook on the other. Skids were used for the logs to roll on. A loading crew was usually five men and a team of horses. The top loader straightened the logs on the load, and then the ground hopper guided the logs as they went up on the load and two men rolled the logs into position on the skids. These loads were hauled to the river and piled on the riverbank. There was generally a crew there to unload them. They cut the logs with two sawyers. Then the swamper cut the limbs off. The skidder hauled the logs to the skidway. Generally there was a man that piled the logs at the skidway.

The lumberjack was a combination of all nations. He might be a college man or he might not be able to write his own name. He was a product of his time. He was proud of his skill, his tools were the ax, cross-cut saw, canthook, peevey and pickpole. His skills were to use them and stay on the sunny side of a log in fast water. He worked hard, played hard, drank hard, and at times fought hard. He was mostly generous, he would divide his last dollar or his last sandwich and then 10 minutes after knock your teeth out over and insult real or fancied. He disappeared with the big timber as the old time cowboy disappeared with the longhorn and the mustang.

They were very similar, a product of their time. They never saved a dime but spent their wages as soon as they got to town. I knew them both well.

The river towns along the Mississippi in the early days lived off the lumber business. The town of Aitkin, the first time I saw it, had 14 saloons, which was a good half of the business places and that would apply fairly well to Deer River, Grand Rapids, Aitkin and Brainard. That is as far as I knew the Mississippi.

The Mississippi Boom Company employed between 2 & 3 hundred men every spring and summer. When the river pigs hit town the good folks went home, shut their doors, and they used to say even the town Marshall hid or left town.

As for myself, I came from Michigan to North Dakota in 1890. I was raised on a ranch until I was 18, then in 1904 my dad moved to Minnesota. In 1905 we started a lumber camp with about 50 men. We run the lumber camp for about 7 years. I worked with my dad in the winters. I did everything from swamper to foreman. In the spring, as soon as the ice broke we started the drive. When the drive was over, which was generally the last of July, then I went to the harvest fields in Dakota. I got back home sometime in November, then back to the woods and that lasted about 7 years.

We developed the farm where Bookers live. At one time we had a good dairy farm but lost it on the stalk during the depression of the thirty’s. Black flies and mosquitoes made life miserable in the early days. We had to build roads, and sometimes it took us two days to get to town and back. We hauled our supplies out late in the winter before the swamps thawed out. If there was anything we needed in the summer we went in with a packsack, and carried it out on our back. The first sign of civilization was when we got a post office. The mail was carried on foot from Tamarack three times a week. A man by the name of Tom Hammel, who lived a mile and a half southeast of Bookers had the first post office. It was later moved to my dad’s place.

That is about all the information I can give you, but if you would like more information about the four townships, around Tamarack look up Mrs. Kai Kelly Kent. I believe she lives in Tamarack. Ask her if she has a history of that county called “Among the Tamaracks”.

Tell her Wilford Green said she might have an extra one that you could buy, or perhaps lend you one that you could read. It will give you an idea of something that the early settlers contended with. It was really a rough country.

Yes I would like to have any information about what you have found about the country and the Park.

Wilford C. Green