The Dray Line

Here is a little bit of Rutland history for your enjoyment until we get another installment of the Rooster Crows.


In the grey dawn, Oscar Hoflen climbed to the spring seat atop his dray wagon and ordered his team of large draft horses to “Giddap”. The two Percherons, Pride and Bess, easily pulled the heavily loaded wagon away from the freight house door on the north side of the Rutland Depot. Oscar swung his team and wagon south on Main Street to begin delivering the freight which had arrived during the night to the businesses in town. Most mornings several loads awaited the dray man when he slid open the freight house door. When the freight had been delivered there would be coal to haul. It was hard work, but good horses and a strong back would see the job through. 1924 was the height of the railroad age, but it still took men and horses to move the goods to and from the rails.

The dray line was a business separate from the railroad. The dray line operator, called the drayman, contracted with local businesses to haul their freight to and from the depot for a fee. Otto Anderson, who had come to Rutland from Norway in 1901, operated the dray line during the early years of the century. Later, Irving Preble and his brother owned the business. Oscar Hoflen recalls that his brother, George, purchased the dray business in Rutland from Lars Holen shortly after World War I. George operated a line for a while and hired Oscar to assist him. In 1924 George purchased the Rutland Meat Market and sold the dray line to Oscar. For $1,800.00 Oscar purchased three wagons, three teams, three teams sets of harness and one Model “T” truck.

In those days the freight trains came through Rutland at night. The Westbound freight arrived about 10PM and the eastbound freight arrived about 2AM. Goods destined for Rutland would be transferred from the boxcars to freight wagons and pulled into the freight house where they would await the drayman. The drayman would begin delivering by 5 or 6 AM so the freight could be at the business places by opening time. Everything from whiskey to watermelons and panties to pianos came in on the train so there was a lot of freight to move. The businesses paid the drayman every week based on the weight of the freight which he had hauled for them.

Another job of the drayman was to deliver coal. Most homes were heated by coal then. Coal was handled by both the lumberyard and the elevator. The elevator sold most. The delivery charge for coal was $1.00 per ton.

Rutland Depot Jumps the Tracks

Adapted from an article originally written in 2008

For 100 years the Great Northern, later the Burlington Northern, depot had occupied the same location, north of the tracks and east of First Street, in Rutland. On June 1, 1987, a moving crew, commanded by Nick Schmidt, Wyndmere, picked the building up and moved it to new location one block south on the corner of First and Arthur Street, in Rutland. The depot now faces east. Once the center for commerce and information in the community, the 28′ X 60′ structure is now used as a Heritage Center for the Rutland community, “The Depot Museum.”

In 1886 the Great Northern Railroad laid track as far west as Rutland. The following year the Railroad was extended southwest to Aberdeen, and west, to Ellendale. During this year the Great Northern had a complex of buildings, including the depot, a water tower, coal dock, roundhouse and section house, constructed in Rutland to service its equipment and serve its customers. The business of the railroad was to move freight and the east half of the depot was a freight warehouse. The west half was a passenger waiting room. The office was located between the freight house and waiting room. Telegraph operators were on duty round the clock to send and receive messages and to relay messages to stations on the Aberdeen and Ellendale lines. Two freight trains and two passenger trains stopped in Rutland each day on the Aberdeen line. Another train originated in Rutland and made a round trip to Ellendale each day. The Ellendale line was extended to Forbes, N. D. in 1905 and was known as the Forbes line thereafter.

Mr. Bagley was the Great Northern’s first agent in Rutland. He gave his name to one of Rutland’s streets and is said to have contributed the name of his home town, Rutland, Vermont, to the new village on the prairie. At that time the agent’s pay was partly based on the volume of business transacted at his station. Because Rutland was a junction point and the station was open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, the business volume was greater than at other stations and the pay was correspondingly higher. Although this system was changed in later years it made the agent’s job a desirable one in the early days.

Continue reading “Rutland Depot Jumps the Tracks”

The Rooster Crows – Sept. 24, 2021

By Bill Anderson

September hesitated on its way to Autumn last weekend, when the temperature soared into the upper 80’s, with the humidity following suit, on Saturday & Sunday, September 18 & 19. Local mosquitoes thought that they might have a chance for a good season, after all, but their fantasies were foiled by a 35 degree plunge in temperature on Monday morning. Monday’s conditions wrung some moisture out of the air, resulting in a day long drizzle that left .2 of an inch of precipitation in Rutland, according to Roger Pearson’s rain gauge, and .4 of an inch of precipitation according to the rain gauge of Roger’s next door neighbor, Norbert Kulzer. As of Tuesday, September 21, the forecast is calling for pleasant, early Autumn weather through Uff-Da Day, Sunday, October 3. Cross your fingers!

Miss Lauren Kulzer of Kansas City MO visited at the home of her grandparents, Norbert & Beverly Kulzer, from Friday, September 10 through Sunday, September 12. Lauren is the eldest daughter of Stephen & Ann Kulzer of Hartford SD, near Sioux Falls. She is a graduate of South Dakota State University in Brookings SD, and is currently employed as an RN in a large hospital in Kansas City. As the old song goes, “Everything’s up to date in Kansas City.” Despite its modern advantages, though, Kansas City can’t compare to Grandpa & Grandma’s home in Rutland, or to Grandma’s home cooking.

Kevin Oland of rural Geneseo reports that a Marboe Township Reunion was held on Saturday, September 18. The Township is situated in the southeastern corner of Sargent County, and is south of the northern boundary of the Wahpeton-Sisseton Reservation and north of the North Dakota State Line. According to reunion organizer Carol Anderson, 60 current and former Township residents registered for the event, including 40 Alumni of Marboe Township’s 1 room country schools. The Wood Lake School building is the only one of the Marboe Township school buildings that remains at its original location. One of the Marboe Township school buildings is now part of an exhibit of structures from early Norwegian settlements in America on the island of Radoy in Norway. Carol Anderson is the daughter of the late Edwin and Fern Anderson of Marboe Township. Her grandparents homesteaded in Marboe Township, and Kevin Oland now owns and resides on the original Anderson homestead.

Continue reading “The Rooster Crows – Sept. 24, 2021”

The Rooster Crows – Sept. 3, 2021

By Bill Anderson

The drought is not yet broken, but it was seriously bent and dented during 8 days NEAR THE END of August. Depending on whose rain gauge you want to believe, Rutland and vicinity received between 3” and 3½” of rain from Friday, August 20 to Saturday, August 28, restoring green to the grass and hope to the hearts of local corn and soybean growers. The meteorologists on TV and radio are telling us that we are still 12” to 13” short of precipitation for the year, though. In the event that the precipitation shortfall is made up in snowfall this coming winter, we are looking at about 12 feet of snow just to get back to “normal,” whatever that is. Here in Rutland, we’re still praying for rain, but keeping the snow shovel handy.

A crew from Morris Seal Coat of Morris MN took advantage of the hot, dry conditions that prevailed prior to August 20 to apply a seal coat of oil and chips to 15 miles of County Road #10 and County Road #7 near Rutland and Havana. The sections of road in this area that received the treatment included the 3 miles from ND Highway #11 north to the intersection with County #10A; the 7 miles of County #10 from Rutland south to the intersection with County #7; and, the 5 miles of County #7 from the intersection with County #10 through Havana to ND Highway #32. Several other sections of Sargent County roads were also slated to receive seal coats, according to County Road Commissioner Jason Arth. The seal coat is intended to preserve the existing pavement and extend its life for another 7 to 10 years. Several other sections of County roads, such as #10 south from ND Highway #11 through Rutland; and, County #12 from ND Highway #11 at Cayuga to ND Highway #13; are in line for new pavement overlays, but those projects have to wait for funding from the Federal Government’s new infrastructure bill. The seal coat projects now underway and recently completed were paid for with funds from the existing Federal Aid program and matching money from the County’s Federal Aid Roads mill levy. Sargent County’s annual allotment was not sufficient to pay for the current seal coat projects, but the program does allow counties to borrow ahead if funds are available and to repay the borrowing, at no interest, with future allocations.

Rutland Community Club President Katie McLaen reports that preparations for Uff-Da Day XXXVI on Sunday, October 3, are progressing well. According to Katie, Lefse Lena has 2 more lefse making sessions scheduled: at 6:00 p.m. on Thursday, September 9; and, at 6:00 p.m. on Tuesday, September 14. Both sessions will be in the kitchen of the Rutland Town Hall. Anyone who wants to practice their lefse making skills, or who wants to learn just how lefse is made, is welcome to participate. Just give Katie McLaen a call, or show up at the Rutland Town Hall on Thursday, September 9 and Tuesday, September 14.

Continue reading “The Rooster Crows – Sept. 3, 2021”

Hens Do Crow! Jan. 3, 2020

Rutland native Rev. Ann Hoflen arrived in Rutland on Friday, December 20 to attend the Hoflen Family’s Christmas get-together at the Andrew Hoflen farm in Ransom Township on the next day, Saturday, December 21. Ann reports that since retiring from her long-time ministry at Paw Paw, IL she has moved to Roseville MN, near St. Paul, and has been doing some traveling. Earlier this year she accompanied her brother, Robert Hoflen of Rutland, and sister, Allison (Hoflen) Glarum, of Fargo, on a tour of the British Isles that included some stops in Scotland to visit the ancestral home of the McPhail clan, the land of Ann’s maternal grandmother, and also to make a couple of stops at some world famous distillers of scotch whiskey. Ann states that she did not taste any of it, nor did she buy any of it to bring home, but she cannot say the same for Rob. She states that she is enjoying her new home at Roseville, and that, for the time being at least, she is enjoying just sitting back with her feet up and letting others worry about the fate of the World. Ann departed Rutland for Roseville on the afternoon of Monday, December 23.

Nobody is quite sure when the practice of Christmas Caroling, groups of singers going door to door to entertain friends and neighbors with songs associated with the Christmas season, began, but the earliest mention of it in England comes from documents written back in 1426, during the reign of King Henry VI, nearly 600 years ago. On the evening of Monday, December 23,a group of singers armed with beautiful voices carried on the ancient tradition in Rutland by going door to door with the gift of music, spreading the spirit of Christmas throughout the community. The Christmas Carolers were: Hilary Mehrer; Shannon Mehrer; Thomas Mehrer; Jacob Mehrer; Chuck Anderson; Mary Beth Anderson; Pam Maloney; Taryn Jensen; Cohen Jensen; Megan Means; Kaci Millette; Cora Millette; Cruise Millette; Kathy Wyum; Phyllis Wyum; Pat Renner; Vicki Renner; Kyla Temple; Morgan Temple; and, Marlee Nebben. The Rutland community extends its thanks to the Carolers for sharing the gift of music with all during the Christmas season.

Continue reading “Hens Do Crow! Jan. 3, 2020”

Waiting for the Train

By Bill Anderson

Written December 20, 1999; Revised December 23, 2019

When we were kids, back in the early 1950’s, growing up in a small town in southeastern North Dakota, the rhythm of our lives was governed, to a large extent, by the schedule of the Great Northern Railway Company. Our father, Earl Anderson, was the station agent/telegrapher for the Great Northern in our hometown of Rutland, North Dakota. His schedule was set by the Great Northern and our schedule was set by him. Back then railroad trains ran on schedules, with arrival and departure times calculated down to the minute. Tough conductors like Shag Lehmann and Herb Cochrane would cuss a blue streak if their train arrived in the station as little as a minute or 2 ahead or behind the scheduled time, and woe be unto the locomotive engineer or brakeman who was responsible for the deviation. Back in 1951, you could tell what time it was by the freight train steam whistle or the passenger train air horn as it came into town or departed with a load of freight, passengers, cream cans and U. S. mail. It’s not that way anymore. Now, a person can’t even determine the time of the year by the arrival or departure of trains on the Rutland branch line. As the late Ahrlin Hoffman commented some years ago, “I used to set my watch by the old Great Northern, then, one day, I came into town and discovered I was two months late.”

Back in the 1940’s and 1950’s the trains ran on schedule every day, holidays being no exception, and the men who worked for the railroad were on duty whenever the company said they were needed. As the railroad’s agent and telegrapher, Dad had to be at the depot when trains were scheduled to arrive. Everybody knew the train schedule and, a lot of times, folks would go down to the depot in the evening to “meet the passenger train” just to see who got on and who got off. The arrival of the eastbound evening passenger train from Aberdeen was always looked forward to with anticipation. Everything from freight to passengers to postcards moved by rail in those days, and folks were always looking forward to either sending or receiving something. You could drop an envelope containing your order to the Sears Roebuck or Montgomery Ward Companies into the slot on the side of the eastbound passenger train’s Railway Post Office car on Tuesday evening, and expect the items you had ordered to arrive with the U.S. Mail on Thursday morning. All it took to send a First Class letter back then was a 3 cent stamp. Is today’s internet service any better than that? It’s certainly not any easier.

Continue reading “Waiting for the Train”