SOURCE: Compendium of History and Biography of Polk County, Minnesota, Major R.I.
Holcombe, Historical Editor; William H. Bingham, General Editor; W.H. Bingham
And Company, Minneapolis, Minn.; 1916; reprinted by Higginson Book Company;
Salem Massachusetts; (book no longer copyrighted)
Library of Congress control number 16009966
This book can be ordered from Borders Book Store or from Higginson.
Both companies have web sites.  The cost is about $70
and well worth the price.

FLEMING, William
pages 436-437

With his early manhood filled with hardships, privations and adventures and his later years devoted to arduous toil in the struggle for advancement and the full development of the land on which he squatted when other human habitations around it were few and far apart, William Fleming, who is now living retired at 501 North Third street in east Grand Forks, has had an interesting career.  He battled bravely with adversity and through all circumstances and conditions he maintained his steadiness of purpose, and in the course of time he won a substantial triumph over all obstacles and wrung from unwilling fate a comfortable competence for life.

Mr. Fleming was born in Lanarkshire, Scotland, November 24, 1835, and emigrated to Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, in 1860.  He was a farmer in his native land and in Canada, and was constantly on the lookout for better opportunities in his chosen occupation.  In 1867 he came to Olmsted county, Minnesota, and during the next four years worked at railroad building and in other lines, and in 1871 he became a resident of this county. 

Before leaving Canada he was married to Miss Mary Ann Dodds, a native of Dumfermline, Scotland, and when he settled in Polk county they had two children.  At that time Mr. Fleming had about $500 in money and two yoke of cattle, but after being one day on the road to this county, when near Rochester, his cattle wandered off into the brush and for four days were lost to him.  A heifer and calf that went with the cattle were never recovered, but the yoke cattle were, and for some time were of great service to him.

At Rochester Mr. Fleming fell in with Robert Coulter and Thomas McVeety, known as “Long Tom,” who had yoke teams and were on their way to Canada.  Mr. Coulter was married and had his wife and two children with him, but Mr. McVeety was single.  They traveled together and reached the Red river, which they swam and then moved down the west bank to “The Salts,” about twenty miles north of where Grand Forks now stands, there being no settlement there at that time.  At that place their longing for Canada ceased and they decided to locate in Minnesota. 

They chose a region on Red Lake river about seven miles east of what is now East Grand Forks and all settled close together.  The Hudson Bay company had a store at the Forks, and they made their headquarters in this, until they swam their cattle across the river to get to their land.  They were almost alone in the Wilderness, N.C. Nash, a Mr. Hunt and a Mrs. Alley being the only persons within miles of them, and they had come that spring.

For awhile our adventurers lived under a tree and began at once to break their land.  They got fifteen acres broken the first year, and then had a long fight with the blackbirds in getting their seed covered, and they also planted a few potatoes.  Mr. Fleming used his yoke teams for some years, then traded them for horses, which he found more satisfactory.  In winter he took a load of lumber to Grand Forks, a distance of seven miles in a straight line, but eighteen traveling on the ice on the Red Lake river.  In march the ice broke under his team and he lost both of his horses, during the deepening gloom of a dark night, and within eighty rods of his home.  The Sioux and Chippewa Indians were frequent visitors at his home, and they would dig potatoes and do other work for food.  He built a log house as soon as he was able, and his neighbors did the same, each putting up one for himself.  Upon once occasion three bears were shot within a few rods of the log house.

In the course of a few years Mr. Fleming became the owner of 423 acres of land, through which he gave the railroad company a right of way.  He raised grain and live stock, good horses and Shorthorn cattle, and was the first man in his locality to own an imported stallion.

By his first marriage Mr. Fleming became the father of ten children, one of whom died in infancy.  His son John died of fever January 26, 1894, aged twenty-two, and his son Robert of the same illness two days earlier at the age of twenty.  The children who are living are: William, who is a farmer in California; Mary, who is the wife of John Silcox and lives in Saskatchewan, Canada; David, who is a member of the police force in Crookston; Margaret, who married Thomas Cameron and is also a resident of Saskatchewan; Isabel, who is Mrs. John Chaplin, of Saskatchewan; Thomas, who is living on the old family homestead, and Frank, who is a mechanic and a resident of East Grand Forks.

In 1898 Mr. Fleming revisited Scotland, and on his return he built the fine dwelling house now on his farm.  He has also put up good bards and other structures needed on the farm at a cost of $6,000.  He has taken a very active and helpful part in the affairs of the Bethel Presbyterian church, which he helped to build, on the bank of the Marias river, and which all the members of his family living near enough attend regularly.

Mrs. Fleming died in California October 23, 1903, and in November, 1911, he sold the place and moved to his present residence in East Grand Forks.


NOTE:  Bethel Presbyterian, Mallory, MN, was formed in 1886.  On December 1, 1946, the church burned and the members transferred to Mendenhall Presbyterian Church, East Grand Forks.  Most of the founding members were of Scotch descent.

submitted by Jon Raymond January 2003


As told by Wilfred H. Fontaine

My grandmother, Delima Huet Fontaine, said her parents were both Norman[1]. She used to tell me that the Normans were taller than the rest of the French.  My aunt, Amela[2], took care of my grandfather[3] for about six months before he died.  She was interested in family history and she asked him a lot of questions.  He said the Fontaines were merchants and seamen living around the Norman coast in the area of Cherbourg even before the time of gunpowder. They sailed up and down the northern coast of Africa and between the British Isles and France up to the northern part of the European continent. 

In order to defend themselves against pirates they would sail their ships in groups.  The most precious shipment was placed in the center of the group. He said they used catapults with flaming missiles to throw at enemies and pirates.  The flaming missiles would ignite the sails.  When the sails caught fire it would spread over the ship. They also had to defend themselves from similar actions. 

Over the years they sailed close to the shore so they could signal to the people they had posted along their route.  Towers were used to flash signals from shore to ship.  Most of the captains had to be shipwrights.  If the ship developed a leak they would pull it up on shore and repair it.  The ships were less than a 100 ft long.

After gunpowder was introduced in the first half of the 13th century the ships became a little larger and more expensive with more modern riggings.  During the crusades they loaded crusaders from England, France, and Germany onto the ships and took them to areas where they were fighting.   

Adolphe said that when American ships started to appear in Europe they could see that they were better built than the ones they currently had.  The American ships had a better design and were built with better timber.  So they decided to come to America to buy ships only to find out the American ships were being sold to privateers.  They then went to Canada where some of the timber was coming from and bought ships and loaded them with cotton, wool, and wood.  They also started to buy tobacco because it was at a premium in Europe. 

The proceeds from the cargos were used to buy more ships. Originally when they came into port they would have an auction to sell the goods from the ship.  If the take weren’t good enough they would go up the rivers and sell goods.  The Fontaines built some of the canals and locks so they could go further inland.  They built barges to load the goods on.  They also carried missionaries with them to the places they went.  Some would travel by horseback and when they were approaching a town they would put on costumes and carry banners. They had jugglers and exotic animals so people would come out to see them and then buy the goods.  This was the beginning of the circus and traveling shows.  My grandfather made this remark to my aunt and I never

This crest was designed by Moses Fontaine (1694-1766), brother of Rev. Peter and
Rev. Francis Fontaine. He was an engraver. It is a phony—not a bonafide coat of arms--but has been generally accepted by generations
of the family since it was designed.


 forgot it. “It was impressive for the people to wake up in the morning to the trumpeting of elephants and to look out the window and see an elephant on each side of the canal pulling a barge.”

They convinced a lot of the rulers of these places, robber barons, they were called, to build some of the locks and dams and the barons would charge everyone who used them a robber’s fee. 

The Napoleonic Wars

When the Napoleonic wars started (1799-1815) the Fontaines supported Napoleon Bonaparte because of the open market it would provide merchants.[4]   

Napoleon needed ships so the American ships were converted into battleships.  He needed the cotton and wool for uniforms and blankets and so forth.  So they kept returning to America to get more ships and goods to help Napoleon. 


Migration to Minnesota

When the war was over the supporters of Napoleon were no longer welcome in France. If the Fontaines made peace and were accepted by the French they were given the name of bien-venue, e.g., Fontaine bien-venue.  That meant they were welcome in France.  The British didn’t want the Fontaines in Canada, because they supported Napoleon.  They were being pushed out along with those associated with the Fontaines.  So they moved in groups of 10, 15, or 20 families to America.  Some moved to western Canada.  Most of them came from Trois Rivieres, Ontario, where the headquarters had been for their merchant activities.  They could get a quarter section of land in the US and so about 22 families migrated to a wooded area in Minnesota near Crookston.

The Fontaines brought all manner of livestock with them when they came.  They lived together in tents or covered wagons while helping each other build houses.  The houses were made of logs with a dirt floor.  They built the houses close together where the four corners of their properties met for defense against Indians and other marauders.  They cut the trees from the house out.  Logs were made of the bigger trees.  The smaller ones were used to build fences, corrals and root cellars.  They used the root cellars for the crops and protection from tornadoes and, occasionally, to live in.  Logs were put over an excavation and dirt and sod placed on top. 

They grew flax and raised sheep.  My grandmother, Delima, told me of taking the stems of the flax plant and beating them over fence rails till they would split into fibers. They had spinning wheels to produce thread and looms to weave linen and wool.  They made most of their own clothes.  Flax seed was used for tonics.  When they sheared the sheep they boiled the wool and skimmed the top of the boiler to get the lanoline that they used for salves.  They raised cattle, pigs, ducks, turkeys, and chickens.  They preserved eggs and made their own ham. They grew corn, wheat, hay, potatoes, turnips, and cabbages.  There was a lot of wood and they made charcoal by heating wood in a sealed container so that the wood would not burn but the gas would come off of it and they’d burn the gas to heat more wood.  From the ashes they made potash that they used to produce soap.  They rendered all the fat from the animals to get lard for their soap.  They processed it with potash and they’d wind up with a yellow soap.[5]  Time was very precious because it took so long to do many of these things and it all had to be done in summertime because winter there was nothing but ice and snow.

Delima did just about everything she had to do as a pioneer woman and that’s what they actually were.  They were pioneers in that area.  After building the sawmill they improved their homes and built the village called Gentilly.  The settlement still exists and is now an incorporated town. Crookston was in existence at that time.  They built a church and a one-room school.  A schoolteacher was hired for about ten dollars a month. (Even in the cities they had small schools because in most cities at that time there was no transportation except by carriage.)  Before the school was built my grandmother was a school marm to the considerable number of neighborhood kids.  Some of her kids didn’t want to learn to read and write so they didn’t.  Delima also provided care as a midwife.

The families tied together very closely and were friendly with each other from the beginning.  Diseases plagued them where they lost children and members of their family.  In a lot of cases, like my grandmother who lost her husband and my grandfather who had lost his wife, marriages were entered into of necessity.  If you were a widow with a number of kids and had 160 acres of land to farm you needed somebody to farm it.  By the same token, if you were a man with a bunch of kids you needed somebody to cook and take care of them.  So this went on for, I would say, two generations in that particular area. 

Delima’s Family

Delima Huet[6] was born 23 Sept 1842 in Canada.  She was married to Noah Faille[7] when she was 15 in Ontario.  Anyone above 18 was considered an old maid.  My grandmother had her son, Asarie, in Canada.  The next son was Ovid.  They moved to Minnesota about 1854 or 1855 and the rest of the kids were born there.  She had a daughter who married George la Blanc and they had a family with a son named George, about 2 years older than my dad.  (Those kids used call my dad uncle when he was a kid.  A lot of times these people had nephews that were much older that they were.  My dad had nephews that were 15 years older than he was.  He told me that he was called uncle ever since he was 12 years old. William Rivard, who was about 10 years older than my dad, used to call him Uncle Duff all the time.)  Delima had a son Clophis, and another daughter that ended up in Seattle.  Then a son named Mitchell.  

Delima’s husband, Noah Faille, died in a flu epidemic.  She then married a man named Beaudry.  When he died she married Adolphe Paul Fontaine in 1885.  Delima and Adolphe had two more children, Adolphe and Amela.  Delima was 51 years old at the time of Amela’s birth.  My grandmother raised the kids and, by combining families, they ended up with 320 acres of land, two quarter sections.   

Adolphe’s Family

My grandfather was born in 1830 in Quebec.  My grandmother and my aunt both told me that Adolphe was a healer and he would have out of body experiences.  He would pray for someone and he would accept their illness into his body.  He would go out and heal someone with rheumatism and he would have rheumatism for a week.  He could also perform hypnosis.  There was a story told that he and another were confronted by Indians that wanted to rob them.  He spoke to the Indians asking why they wanted to rob him and while speaking somehow hypnotized them.  He caused them to believe that he turned into a fierce tiger.  After that the Indians gave him a wide berth.  He also vetted the neighbor’s animals using tree bark, herbs and leaves.

Names on back of original:
Top row: Narcisse Raymond, Anthony Bombardier, Alex Rivard, Amie Fontaine
Middle row: Adolph Fontaine (father), Sorphine Bombardier, Mrs. Rivard (Valestine), Mrs. Euclid (Aglea) Beaudry
Bottom row: Mrs. Emicia Hamel, Mrs Narcisse Raymond (Mary), Mrs. Adolph Fontaine

Click for large version of above photo

[1] The Normans were a proud people.  They sacked Rome and a lot of other places in Europe.  They sacked until they got religion.  I can’t prove that and I never wanted to.  They raided England a couple of times and Scotland and even some of North Africa. 

[2] Amela Fontaine Allard, born 08 Dec 1887 of Adolphe Fontaine and Delima Huett

[3] Paul Damasse Fontaine, born 23 Aug 1806

[4] I found this out when visited Fontaineville, a small village in France.  My grandfather also had told Aunt Amela a lot of this.

[5] Now, the person who can tell you the process for all these things is Paula.  She knows how to do everything.  How to make soap which she has done. 

[6] Also spelled Huate or Huette.  Eva Fontaine’s version was Martin de Huette.

[7] Also spelled Foy

*Here is some information from Wilfred that explains what became of some of these folks in case anyone wants to know.
Information from Wilfred Fontiane:
Narcisse was known as Jean.
Bombardier should be two words: Bon Bardier
Alex Rivard owned the Rivard Ranch in Selah, WA.
Mrs. Adolph Fontaine is Adeline Marie Appoline Berard-dit L'Epine or Marie L’Pine like the town in Oregon close to Prineville, LaPine. (Actually, it is south of Bend, OR.) Marie’s people were settled there at one time.
This picture was taken in the 1850’s, 55 or 56.
Narcisse was 6’8” tall. Alex Rivard was 6’3” tall. Adolph was 6’4” tall and weighed 240 lbs.
Adolphe was a healer and he had out of body experiences.
This Adolph was NOT ever a Bien Venue. That’s why they had to leave Canada and move to Minnesota.
The Hamel’s settled in Klamath Falls, OR.

Submitted by Yvonne Fontaine February 2007

SOURCE: Compendium of History and Biography of Polk County, Minnesota, Major R.I.
Holcombe, Historical Editor; William H. Bingham, General Editor; W.H. Bingham
And Company, Minneapolis, Minn.; 1916; reprinted by Higginson Book Company;
Salem Massachusetts; (book no longer copyrighted)
Library of Congress control number 16009966
This book can be ordered from Borders Book Store or from Higginson.
Both companies have web sites.  The cost is about $70
and well worth the price.



Page 189

LD Foskett, of Crookston, cashier of the Crookston State Bank and prominent citizen, was born in Northfield, Massachusetts, in 1865, the son of Elmer C. and Celia M. (Darrin) Foskett.  Elmer C. Foskett was a native of Massachusetts and his wife of New York.  They have made their home in Iowa for a number of years and now reside at Primghar in that state.  LD Foskett was educated at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa, and upon leaving the university in 1898, he located in Marshall [Lyon County], Minnesota, where he engaged in the abstract and loan business for several years.  In 1902 he removed to Crookston and promoted the organization of the Crookston State Bank and since that time has continued to be identified with its successful transactions as cashier.  In addition to his banking interests, Mr. Foskett is extensively associated with the agricultural enterprises of the county and devotes considerable attention to the operation of about two thousand acres of farm land. 

His career has been marked by worthy accomplishment and success and, although he avoids active interest in political matters, as a public spirited citizen, he is widely known and popular in all circles.  He is a member of the Commercial Club and in fraternal orders, is a Mason and member of the Commandery and a member of the Elks and of the Modern Woodmen of America.  He was married, July 25, 1905, to Bernice Addison, who resided in Marshall, Minnesota, and they have two children, Florence and Elmer.  Mr. Foskett and his wife are members of the Congregational Church.

submitted by Jon Raymond February 2007

SOURCE: Compendium of History and Biography of Polk County, Minnesota, Major R.I.
Holcombe, Historical Editor; William H. Bingham, General Editor; W.H. Bingham
And Company, Minneapolis, Minn.; 1916; reprinted by Higginson Book Company;
Salem Massachusetts; (book no longer copyrighted)
This book can be ordered from Borders Book Store or from Higginson.
Both companies have web sites.  The cost is about $70
and well worth the price.

p 211

Paul K. Fossbakken, for many years a prominent farmer of Brandsvold township, was a native of Norway, born October 20, 1860.  In 1879, at the age of nineteen he was married to Ellen Dalen and soon afterwards came to this country to find a home on western land.  He spent two years in Ottertail county, Minn., where he had a farm of forty acres.  In 1885 he came to Polk county and took a homestead in Brandsvold township, six miles north of Fosston; the southeast quarter of section 10.  He later bought another tract of land, increasing his farm to two hundred and eighty acres, all but fifty of which, he cleared and put under cultivation.  With unceasing industry and skillful effort he developed this plat into one of the finest farms and most attractive county homes in the county.  He devoted his best interests to this work and took a just pride in his achievements. 

A county ditch crosses the farm and with the exception of the barn all of the present buildings, which occupy a pleasant situation, a quarter of a mile removed from the public highway, were erected by him.  He kept a large herd of dairy cows and was a stockholder in cooperative creamery at Olga.  In 1908, his barn burned and during his heroic efforts to save the other buildings, he suffered injuries which resulted in his death on February 25, 1908.  He did his share toward founding the agricultural prosperity of the county and is gratefully remembered by its citizens as a worthy pioneer of Brandsvold township.  He was a member of the Republican party and an efficient member of the school board for several years.  He was a faithful supporter of the United Lutheran church at Brandsvold.  Mr. Fossbakken was twice married. 

Five children were born to the first union, Mollie, who is a teacher in the Polk county schools, Christopher, Lewis, Ida and Ella.  His second marriage was with Anna Hansel, who survives her husband.  They had four children, Elmer, Ira, Ruth and Esther, all living at Dalton, Minn.  The five older children are the present owners and managers of the Fossbakken homestead and are capably advancing the interests of the estate which their father founded.  They have all attended the agricultural college at Crookston and their farming enterprises are flourishing under progressive and able management.  The place is well equipped with a silo, with a capacity of one hundred tons, a fine well and tank, a gas engine and windmill.  In 1912 they began to breed Holstein cattle and have four head of registered stock and a large herd of blooded cattle.  They engage in the dairy business and sell their produce to the Fosston Creamery, and are further interested in the stock business in the raising of pure bred Yorkshire hogs.  The Fossbakken family are members of the United Lutheran church at Brandsvold.

Brandsvold Township is in the SW corner of Polk County.
Township 148 North, Range 40 West, 5th PM

submitted by Jon Raymond January 2003

Ingeborg Sovick (nee Frostad)

 Born in Norway Apr 4th 1847. Maiden name Frostad. She was the second wife of Lars Sovick. She died of influenza (Le Grippe, in the parlance of that day) on May 4th 1891, and was buried on Lars Sovick's farm as there was not yet any church or cemetery.

In Feb of 1892, Lars Sovick donated the land around Ingeborg's grave for a church and cemetery. In 1899 an agreement was Sovick for a piece of land on the south side that abutted the road. This required the reburial of those persons buried north of the new line. Ironically, Ingeborg Sovick was one that had to be moved. She was the mother of eight children : Peter, Ole*, Hans*, Edwin, Henry, Carolina (Bjorke), Juliana (Holden), and Emma (Halkinrud). Henry was adopted out after his mother died and went by Henry A Berg.

Source - Sexton of St. Petri Cemetery, Tim and Laura Johnson Sept 2008

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Updated September 3, 2008
Updated March 24, 2015