Weather Forecast


MARILYN HAGERTY: Sheriff serves papers via snowmobile in 1939

The truth is sometimes stranger than fiction when you peruse the files of the Herald. There was the sheriff on snowmobile in 1939. And there are photos and a story showing that nearby Gilby, N.D., began as a city of tents back in 1887, two years before statehood.

Sheriff Oscar C. Redwing was pictured in the Herald on his snowmobile on Feb. 16, 1939.

The story with the picture said, “Out in the snow-bound countryside, jackrabbits stepped aside Tuesday to let someone travel that could travel!”

That was the report on the initial cross-country jaunt of Redwing in his newly-acquired snow-scooter. Redwing served legal papers in the Merrifield, N.D., vicinity.

To Chief Deputy Sheriff Frank Sibell, the machine was “a devil for serving papers.”

The trip, Redwing said, was made without difficulty; and where the going was clear and the snow firm, the jackrabbits couldn’t keep up with him. He saw several.

The sheriff was planning to use the machine for official calls to outlying points as long as the side roads barred auto travel. So far as could be learned, Redwing was the only sheriff in the Northwest using a snowmobile for business purposes.

The machine was built in Grand Forks by mechanic George Dailey, 1524 N. Fourth St. He was building another to be used by persons who had to make country trips.

Three large skis — two at the rear and one in front — took the big scooter across fields and through ditches without trouble. The main obstacles were fences, and Redwing had wire cutters for them, the Herald reported.

The machine was driven by an airplane propeller and powered by a car engine.

A city of tents was pictured in the Herald 127 years ago. The picture tells of the beginnings of Gilby in 1887, two years before statehood. It was founded when the Great Northern Railroad was built through the area.

Among early settlers were James, John and George Gilby, for whom the township and city were named. Others were James Douglas, William Douglas, P.O. Reiton and J.W. Scott.

The first building on the townsite was a saloon, although a Gilby post office had been established two miles southeast of the townsite in the early 1880s with John Gilby in charge.

The second building within Gilby was a store building erected by J.P. Reiton, who later moved to Grand Forks, and his brother, Herman. They dealt in hardware and farm machinery. Eventually, there were two hotels operated by Alec Barr and Sam Lewis.

The first schoolhouse was erected near the townsite in the early 1880s; it was moved about two blocks to be within the townsite. An early teacher was M. Beatrice Johnstone, who later became Grand Forks County Superintendent of Schools. Joe Reynolds was the first Gilby postmaster.

Gilby reached its heyday as a trading center before statehood and before motor vehicles came into common use. But it continued as an important trading and shipping point.

Most of the early residents were natives of Canada, the British Isles and eastern states.