Almont North Dakota

1906     Centennial     2006

Eunice Klingensmith Evans has given me this information to post.  The letter and history was sent to her Mother, Thelma Klingensmith (Hyde) in 1971.  It is an unfinished history of Almont Ed Bond started to write years ago.  It gives a stunning insight into the life and times in that area in the early days.  It is our loss that he never finished it!

bond letter

Chetek, Wisconsin
January 21, 1971

Dear Thelma,

     I saw the notice of your father’s death in the Journal his morning.
     This, to me, is the end of an era, the end of a time that is gone.  He was the last of those who were responsible for and made this time of building and settling what it was: a start from nothing, a beginning that sprung from hope, survived disillusion and failure and foreclosure.  But they left the foundation for the prosperity that is their sons and daughters way of life today.
     I wonder how many there are who realize this and the great part your father played in this period of time.
     If I were you, I would be very proud of this man who was my father.
     I’m enclosing the start of a thing I’d planned to do for Almont. It didn’t work our very well so I left it lay.  When I saw this notice of your father’s death, though, I thought I’d send it to you as you too were there at that time, and will, I’m sure, understand something of what I was trying to convey that didn’t quite "jell".

Your friend,

Edwin Bond.


     This is the story of a country that was settled and plowed and made over into the kind of a place the people thought it ought to be.


     Where the Northern Pacific railroad made a sashay through Rattlesnake Cut and pointed her trains up the grassy flats of Curlew Valley; where cattle grazed knee deep on the virgin prairie that had felt no hoof since the last buffalo; here, in July of 1906, E.W. Hyde, an enterprising young man, decided to build his town.  Did he foresee, I wonder, a vast empire of wheat or did he play a hunch? It was a big country.  Wide open it lay--waiting.  He may not have read about “Making a stake of all your earnings and cast it at one throw of pitch and toss” but that’s what he did. It took guts and it took money.  He had the guts, he got the money and a town was born.
     He was not the kind who has visions and sits around meditating on them.  On July 4th, the town was plotted and the streets laid out.  On the 15th, the first cars of lumber and equipment were spotted on what the Northern Pacific called “Almont Siding” and a busy place it was.  A grain elevator raised it’s head high over the prairies from where you could see for miles up or down the valley.  It was a beautiful view but disappointing if you were looking for fields of grain.  A lumber yard was built, a livery stable, hotel and restaurant. A lot in Almont will cost you a hundred dollars.
     A celebration is planned for August 12th, and the first event is a church service held in the lumber shed.  The grass is trampled up and down the street, the grass that five weeks ago waved in the wind like a field of grain.  Did they know, these people, did they stop to think what they were about to do to this country?  What, in turn, this country would do to them and all the families that would follow because they were here and found it good? Beckoning letters to friends and relatives with hopes and dreams in them and even some wishful thinking.
     They came in droves, hungry for land and the security that was, somehow, associated with it. Pitifully unaware of the caprice of a semi-arid land where every spring was a mirage of hope.  Where every plan, every dream must run the gauntlet of drouth, wind, rust or hail.  The newly broken sod, nourished and fabricated by the grass mulch of centuries, brought forth an abundance that fulfilled all but the wildest dreams.  Almont was a lusty, brawling town of boom and prosperity with a contributing territory reaching about as far as a man wanted to travel with a team.  Building went on at a pace limited only by the availability of lumber and carpenters.  The lumber came from Mr. Hyde’s lumber yard.  The largest submitting territory lay to the south and drew grain from as far as the South Dakota line.  Teams and wagons were waiting in lines a mile long to sell their grain to the only available facility; Mr. Hyde’s elevator.
     Mr. Hyde was doing well.  Mr. Hyde was prospering from a formula that succeeds only if you can follow the directions.  You must be able to see a bit further ahead of your nose then the average citizen.  You still can’t see the whole picture but you can imagine the rest.  The next requirement is to sell the idea to someone with a lot of money.  The last and by far the most dangerous ingredient is the process of dumping the entire aggregate into one pot, namely: the work of lifetime up to this point; your reputation as a business man and a good guesser in addition to all the money you have and all you can borrow.  Mr. Hyde’s success was a big success but it didn’t just happen.  He worked, he planned, he walked a dangerous mile but it seemed, at the time, that he was one of those lucky fellows who just happened to be in the right place at the right time.
     The cattle moved back into the hills.  The big cow spreads, and the small ones too, run on the open range.  No grant had they nor title. Free and open the land lay far beyond the horizons and they could not believe it would not always be so.
     The Krites brothers, George and Charley, rode for the big spreads.  Years of sweating it out in the hay camps, hard long hours in the saddle, freezing through the rugged winters.  They who survived were men who backed down for no one. Hard as nails, they could stand up and be counted.  At last, their dream realized, they managed a small cow spread of their own.  The cow sense, the know how, they had learned the hard way.  They would grow with good management and hard work.  Their brand would prosper and run wide.  They’d need help but then they could afford it, maybe back off a bit from some of the hardest work, they weren’t so young any more.  But that was a dream. That, with luck and hard work, lay ahead.  Now spring calving was in full swing and they rode from early till late.  One morning they topped a hill that gave them a view for miles and what they saw amounted to Hyde’s dream come true and their own shattered.
     The land was swarming with people.  Teams and wagons, some covered, some open, loaded and hanging with every imaginable belonging from pots to plows they scurried around like ants staking their claims, throwing up a shelter for the family and heading back for another load from their emigrant car that waited on the Northern Pacific siding. The teams sweat and strained and the sod slid in black ribbons off the plows.  The sod house went up apace and the men and teams headed for the timbered brakes and creeks. The trees, sparse in this land of prairies, fell to the eager axes and the wagons creaked and groaned out of the coulees with posts and fuel.  Smoke curled from the chimneys and fence posts marched down the section lines.  Bright new wire, deadly with barbs and taut as a fiddle string.
     The grass, the prairie, beautiful as God made it; mulching, grinding, covering the naked earth.  Where flowers may grow or a rabbit hide.  Where Meadow Lark and Prairie Chicken nest deep and safe.  The grass, bending and billowing where the wind walks, following the meandering stream in all it’s turnings, climbing the rugged slopes far up on the buttes.  But a new way of life is here.  The old is gone. It left with the grass and it will not return.  It will change the people, the country, the customs and even some of the laws.  It’s name is wheat.
     Few places there are where man may harvest year after year without replenishing the soil.  The prairie gives and continues to give asking only that enough of it’s grass cover be left for mulch to nourish and protect it’s rooted sod.  The hungry roots of seeded grain crop quickly depletes it’s stored up nutrients and prosperity waned as the last surge of nourishment was drained from the thin ribbons of sod.  The thing was done.  The land turned “wrong side up” parched and burned in the pitiless sun, stirred and shifted in the wind and at last with nothing to hold it rose in angry, black clouds that scourged the earth.  A country to test a man, but these emigrant cars that were kicked off on the railroad sidings brought a breed of men who didn’t stampede easily.  They cussed the country and the fate that brought them here.  They and their families suffered hardship and want to hold the inadequate 160 acres of homestead land.  One by one they lost them by way of drouth, hail and 12% interest but they stayed and eked out a living on the railroad, the “Sims Coal Mine”, or the “Riverside Cattle Ranch” where the living wage was $1.00 to $1.25 per day.  A hard country but it drew a breed that surpassed and finally conquered disappointment, disaster and whatever evil must befall an unfortunate race who dare to destroy it’s virgin beauty and purpose.
     My father, Wallace bond, was definitely one of this race.  They are an adventuresome sort who are convinced beyond reason that there is a “Utopia” and that they have discovered it.  They regard anyone who cannot realize this with tolerant impatience or even suspicion.  This is the hardy fellow who, in books and pictures, arrives at the outer edge of nowhere with his trusty plow and his frightened wife.  Takes on drouth and hail, fire and windstorm, conquering all.  He has become a romantic legend, this over-rated apostle of hope, this wishful dreamer who is willing, anxious, to trade whatever he has of goods and comforts for some place where the troubles he now has do not exist.  He is the picture we cherish of the spirit of daring and of freedom.  The epitome of rugged manhood--the pioneer.  True, he forged ahead into he raw edge of death and calamity from the Atlantic to the Pacific.  He was, taken as a whole, as an elemental force in history, a hero and an asset to the country, namely: to the wiser ones who followed along behind profiting from his misery.  It is an urge, a drive, this pioneer spirit that is present in certain family lines. A trait or, even worse, a heritage.
     Wallace Bond, from the vantage point of his emigrant car viewed the thriving town of Almont, No. Dak. huddled on the flats of Curlew Valley just north and west of the convergence of Sims and Curlew creeks.  It was now, in April of 1912 a thriving town six years of age.  He’d left a beautiful town in Iowa, a good business, a home the like of which he’d never enjoy again and a sizable piece of money.  He had bought a section of land ten miles south of town that was clear and paid for.  Standing in the open door of his emigrant car he looked it over with a glint in his eye and, for some unknown and unfathomable reason, knew that he was right where he wanted to be.  You see he was a pioneer.
     His ancestors came (fled, no doubt) from Wales, England.  Killed their quota of Englishmen in the revolution and started looking westward, wondering what lay beyond those mountains.  Two generations later found his (Wallace Bond’s) family in the vicinity of what is now Willmar Minnesota (he was still an infant) fleeing from the outraged Sioux in a covered wagon attached, of all things, to a team of oxen. They miraculously escaped but two years later when the offending Indians had been run off they returned to their ravaged homestead and begun life anew. This included the almost unprecedented achievement of rearing five pairs of twins along with several unexplainable singles to a grand total of fourteen children. At this point Corodon Bond, Wallace Bond's father and the head of the family, died.
     At this time, according to family tradition, they would, no doubt, have pulled stakes and headed for the Rocky Mountains but with so large a family and with my father, Wallace Bond, only fourteen years old, the oldest child, it was deemed advisable to abandon the westward ho idea for the time and retreat backwards to Iowa where lived some less adventurous relatives who had offered to help in this difficult situation.
Now, forty years later at the age of 54, Wallace Bond loaded what of his possessions he considered most advantageous in a new country.  The last item was a team of horses with the necessary hay and grain and a tub for water.  The car was the property of the Great Western railroad and was loaded at Belmond Iowa.  All went well until the final procedure; the billing out of the car.  The destination was the problem due to the fact that Almont, No. Dakota simply did not exist.  The agent wired the division point. They were able to locate a Mandan, a New Salem and a Sims but no Almont.  If indeed there was some such outpost it would be on the Northern Pacific railroad.  As a last resort a wire was dispatched to the Northern Pacific headquarters in Minneapolis and the information came flashing back over the wires that their records listed an Almont siding beyond the city of Sims and to this doubtful destination the car was billed.
     I relate this brief history of my father, Wallace Bond, to avoid any confusion that might occur when I stated that “from an open door of his emigrant car he looked it (Almont) over with a glint in his eye and knew that was where he wanted to be.”   The grass covered hills bordered the valley.  The land stretched on and on beyond the farthest hills. The air was light and dry and the wind blew free.  Here was the start of things. Here was the beginnings of whatever would befall this country.  He was here and the blood of his restless forbears told him here was where he belonged.