Inside The Archives


(easygoing instrumental music) – [Woman] In every county
is a treasure-house of wonderful records
for those interested in local history and genealogy. In the archives at the
Historic and Cultural Society of Clay County, you
will find a wealth of information about
the people and places around the county and the
changing community we live in. (gentle guitar music) – We’ve got about 350
linear feet of materials. If you stacked up all our stuff, in the end, there would
be a stack 350 feet high. There’s just overwhelming
amounts of information in there. Lots and lots,
lots of cool stuff. These have seen better days, but this is a register of death for the city of Moorhead
for the 19th century. The information recorded
includes the date of death, the full name of the
person, their sex, color, marital status, their
age, place of birth, the cause of death
or the disease that the individual had. Place of death and the
names and birthplaces of the deceased’s parents. A couple of things
really stand out when you look at these
old death records. One is the ages of people here. We did a study of the death
records a number of years ago and we found that half
the deaths in Moorhead in the 19th century were
children 12 and younger. These are young people
dying and you have to wonder what were they dying from
here in Moorhead at that time? And we look under the cause
of death, consumption. That’s tuberculosis today. It was the leading
cause of death in Moorhead in the 19th century. More people died of
tuberculosis than anything else. So many things that people
died of in the old days that we can fix like that
with antibiotics today. It was really tough to
be a kid in the old days. (solemn instrumental music) Newspapers give all sort
of great information here. I just happened to see it. It just happened to be on this,
what is, October 2nd, 1924 for the Moorhead Daily
News and the headline says First Car Sugarbeets
Left Moorhead. The sugarbeet industry
was just barely getting started here
in the Red River Valley in the mid-1920s. Here we have documentation
of the very first car of sugarbeets coming
out of Moorhead. (gentle guitar music) Many people are interested
in doing research on the history of their
homes or on their businesses. And we have a number of
resources we can use for that. We have a complete set
of city directories for Fargo and Moorhead
going back to the 1880s. And I think those, they’re kind of like telephone
books on steroids, just all kinds of information
in city directories. (gentle instrumental music) Sanborn Fire Insurance maps, these are highly-detailed
street maps that were drawn in cities
all over the country from the mid-1800s
to the mid-1900s, and they were designed to
provide fire insurance companies a detailed information
about individual buildings so they could set their
rates accordingly. This is all gone, all gone. Everything north
of Center Avenue and west of 8th
Street essentially, except for the old American
Legion building up here, Usher’s Restaurant today. Basically, everything
was taken out. In 1973, Moorhead’s Urban
Renewal Project, 93 acres about, was one of the largest in
the country per capita. So, for a city the
size of Moorhead, it dramatically
changed downtown. And this would very uphold
for researchers today trying to understand what
downtown Moorhead looked like. (gentle piano music) Well, these are materials from
Thortvedt family collection and they were extraordinary
documentarians. The whole family was,
particularly Orabel Thortvedt. She not only kept a daily
diary for many, many years. Her father did as well. This is his diary
from World War I. It has little cramped
handwriting down here. And at the end of each
year, Levi, Orabel’s father, would write up a very
brief description of what had occurred
during the year, during the base of the year. And this, he’s talking
about 1918 and he says, “Disease known as
the Spanish Influenza “as long as I have lived here, “many deaths in and
out of the county “and all over the world. “We are afraid and
it ain’t over yet.” (gentle instrumental music) This is one of many scrapbooks. It was put together by Orabel. She called this one her
Old Biography Scrapbook. And she wrote up
stories about people that she knew,
relatives that she knew or other people from
her community up there. Drew pictures of each of ’em, sketched them in the scrapbook, and then wrote down
detailed information about the individuals. And she was not afraid
of going into real detail about, and her own opinions
about what people were like. And it’s another great
extraordinary volume. (gentle piano music) Photographs, we’ve got tens
of thousands of photographs. Many different
photograph collections. We have the negative collection of a guy named
Sylvester P. Wang. S.P. Wang worked in
Hawley from the 1890s up through the 1940s, and we
have about 14,000 negatives that took down there in Hawley. About 10,000 or so
are studio portraits. We have about half
of those identified, so if researchers come in
looking for information about their family,
if they had relatives in eastern Clay
County, we always go to the Flaten-Wang index and
see if we have photographs. And there’s a good chance
that we’ve got photographs of their relatives
in that collection. (gentle guitar music) All of our collections
are open to the public. We don’t charge
anything for anybody to come into the archives. We can scan most
of the materials. And hundreds of people
every year avail themselves to their services comin’
through the doors. Many, many hundreds more write or more likely
these days, email, and we’ll help them with that. – [Woman] Prairie
Mosaic is funded by the Minnesota Arts and
Cultural Heritage Fund with money from the vote
of the people of Minnesota on November 4th, 2008. The North Dakota
Council on the Arts and by the members
of Prairie Public.

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