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Memories by Alice Farnham Lillie

Alice Lillie is the daughter of Edith Elizabeth Burgum (1869-1953) and a granddaughter of A.T. Burgum (1834-1913). I had the honour of meeting with her and corresponded with her over many years. Her knowledge of family history was second to none and it was a privilege to speak with her and her family.

Alice was born at Arthur, North Dakota, in 1906 and has been one of my greatest supporters. I am very grateful to her. Despite the great demands on her time, Alice has found time to sit down and put her thoughts on paper. The original spellings are used throughout.

Some memories of Tom Owen and his family

My memories of my Uncle Tom (my mother's youngest brother) are related to the fact that he owned a threshing machine which came to our farm each fall and threshed the grain raised on our farm. He also owned a farm south of Arthur, but he lived in the town, in a big house up on the hill at the east edge of the town. The land around Arthur was so very flat (it was an old lake bed) that even a small rise seemed large. At the east edge of the town there was a hill we always called "The Big Hill" to distinguish it from the smaller one about a half mile farther east. A.T. Burgum's house stood on this "Big" hill and across the road, just to the south, was the home of A.T.'s son, Tom Owen Burgum and his family.

That house seemed very elegant to me. It had a double parlor - two rooms with highly polished hardwood floors and the large doorway between the two rooms was semi-closed by a set of portieres consisting of long strings of glass beads and polished reeds (hollow) and all jingled when touched. Those parlors were 'sacred' and not to be entered by children. This house was damaged by fire in perhaps the 1930's and replaced by another, fairly similar which is still standing. (Doug says- the house was destroyed by fire on January 11th 1923).

Uncle Tom seemed to me a large man, but probably he was about five foot ten or eleven inches tall, rather stocky in build, with a mustache which was gray when I knew him. The arrival of his threshing machine at our farm site was always exciting. It was hauled by a very large engine and usually arrived at dusk, accompanied by several wagons drawn by teams of horses. It would be necessary to remove sections of barbed wire fence so that the outfit could enter our barn yard and the machines could be placed so the straw from the grain could create a large stack of straw in the right place for use during the winter. It was used for bedding for animals in our barn. The outfit consisted of a steam engine which furnished the power to operate the separator, which separated the grain from the straw, plus a tank wagon for water and another wagon for coal, both needed by the steam engine. To be the owner of such an outfit gave my Uncle Tom great prestige in my opinion.

My Uncle Tom was never called Thomas, for he was christened Tom. In later years he was often called T.O. and I believe his second wife often referred to him by that 'moniker'. I did not know my uncle's first wife, Maggie Ranard, but I have fond memories of his second wife, Marie Josephine Gillis, who was born in Liverpool, England. She spoke with an accent which was certainly different and so was she. She was a very small woman, not over five feet in height and never became plump. Her volabulary contained a number of expressions which ladies did not use, but she used them on occasion. She kept her house spotless and we children were careful never to track mud into "Aunt Marie's" house.

When I was named Alice Marie, the Marie was in honor of my aunt and I guess she was proud of being so remembered, at least she never failed to use both names when she spoke of, or to me. Double names were not uncommonly used at that time, to my knowledge, but I was always 'Alice Marie' to this particular relative. When I was about eleven years old she decided to make a dress for me ans so, after school ended for the day, I would climb the hill to the T.O. Burgum house for a fitting of the garment she was making. You can be sure that I had to stand very, very still while she fitted the garment around my form. It was a woolen jumper (sleeveless dress) in a pretty shade of burgundy and she made two white blouses to wear with it - one of white poplin and one of white dotted swiss. This, of course, was a "Sunday best" dress, worn on Sundays to church and Sunday School, and for parties, but never for school. As I grew the hem was "let out" so I wore it for years.

T.O. Burgum was elected to the State Legislature and attended sessions held in the State capital in Bismarck - in about 1906-7. Altho he was a member of the Arthur Methodist Church (probably a charter member) he did not attend as regularly as did his older brother Joe Burgum. In retrospect, I believe Marie Gillis Burgum was more "at home" visiting with men than she was with women; she had scorn for people who "put on airs" or were overly "lady-like". But she took painting lessons and painted delicate designs on fine china.

At one time there was a degree of rivalry between Marie Gillis Burgum and her sister-in-law, Josephine Slaughter Burgum, the wife of Tom's brother Joseph (J.A. as he was sometimes known). The women differed in personality but both were strong charcters and both influenced the people who knew them well. I sometimes wonder how much these two people were affected by their determination to display different characteristics of behavior. It seemed that if one of them got attention for a certain act or remark, or accomplishment, the other one did just the opposite. The children in the two families and the two brothers remained friends and, after a great many years, the rivalry died and the two women ceased to make disparaging remarks about each other and were, I think, friends. In a small town such as Arthur everyone knew of the situation concerning these two women.

My mother became a widow at the age of forty-four and I know that it was a great help to her to have her brothers Tom and Joe living so near by and able to give her moral support and comfort. There was a great relationship between the Farnham and Burgum families, which exists even today. On a Sunday afternoon the Tom Burgums might drive to our farm to visit and sometimes the Joe Burgums would do the same and immediately the first arrivals would immediately leave.

Tom's older daughter, Ollie, was a very close friend of my sister Edyth Farnham. When the girls were high school students, three cousins travelled together daily by train to the town of Hunter, six miles from Arthur, where there was a four-year high school. Marjorie, daughter of Joe Burgum, made the third person in the triumvirate. Tom's second daughter, Lillie, attended high school in Arthur at the same time that I was a student there. Tom's son, Foster, lived with my mother and me in Grand Forks, North Dakota, while attending the University of N.D. I believe he was studying law at that time. Foster died from a kidney disease which could not be treated with dialysis. (He was twenty-seven).

Some memories of my Uncle Joseph Burgum and his son Leland Burgum

I remember my Uncle Joe as a very kind, patient, gentle man - gentle but not weak. He was nine years older than my mother (Edith Burgum Farnham) and as mother was widowed when she was 43 or 44, left with 9 children, 8 of them living at the farm home near Arthur, she was greatly helped by her two brothers, Joe and Tom, both of whom lived in Arthur. Uncle Joe ran the Farmers' Elevator and the electric light plant in Arthur. He was an important member of the local Methodist church - I remember him passing the collection plate. Many Sunday afternoons, especially in summer, he and some or all of his family would drive out to our farm for a visit. His home in Arthur was our "home away from home". We felt free to go there at any time for any reason - to wait for a ride home after a basket ball game played in the town hall just across the road from the Burgum home, or after Epworth League meeting at the church on a Sunday evening.Often Marjorie, the only daughter, would make cocoa for us and for her brothers and she would thank us for rinsing our cups when we had finished our refreshments - saying she wished her brothers would remember to do the same. Marjorie and my sister Edith were "bosom pals" going to high School in Hunter, North Dakota, together at intervals all through their lives.

Leland Burgum was about 3 years older than I. On those Sunday afternoons when his family visited mine, we played games - hide and seek, etc. I always think of Lee and music together, because music seemed to be so much a part of his life. He played the piano at the movies - accompanying the action with the appropriate music. He led the band, or was a member of it, depending on the circumstances. Tall and rather thin, not especially handsome, but full of life and a ready wit - he was an important part of the community.

Memories of the Joe Burgum family are inextricably interwined with my memories of my childhood and early adult life. Leland's mother encouraged young people to take advantage of any opportunity to practice a skill or develop a talent. She persuaded Leland and me to memorize selections to receite at various meetings. She would rehearse with us until our performance satisfied her. One day we eached delivered a "piece" at a meeting of the W.C.T.U. society. When Leland left the "stage" after rendering his selection he approached his mother with an outstretched hand and said "A dollar, please." I wouldn't be surprised if she hah had to promise him a dollar to perform that afternoon, as he was getting rather grown to be easily persuaded to perform. I have always been grateful that she gave me the chance to gain poise before an audience. She was always lavish with her praise for our efforts.