Early History

The first settler to the area was my grandfather Jim Johnson who died in 1932 which was the year of my birth and I suspect the source of my first name. He emigrated from Denmark and worked on the Colton farm in MN where he met my grandmother Ida. He left the farm for a period to work in logging in MN and later returned and he and Ida were married in Fargo and came to the present farm site in a covered wagon. Ida's parents accompanied them to the area, and Joseph Colton later laid out the original townsite in 1883. There is a book which traces the Colton family back to the 1600s in New England and one of the ND history books credits them with being on the Mayflower. Mail and many supplies were brought to Washburn by boat and then horse and wagon to the settlers. Jim maintained a mail box for holding mail--marked "up river" and "down river". This box is currently at the fairgrounds in what was the original Ward County Courthouse courtesy of the Ward County Historical Society. Later when application was made for an official post office a name for the proposed site was eliminated and the then US Postmaster being from Burlington Iowa inserted the name Burlington. The Minot Daily has a copy of a photo of Jim's first log cabin which sat in the yard of the current house near Burlington. There are pictures of the next house also in the current front yard with the newly constructed current house visible in the background. The current house and barn were constructed around 1905 and are of oak imported from MN. Having driven nails there over a period of years I can't imagine the hand labor involved in that job. Jim is quoted as saying he selected the location because of the confluence of two rivers, the abundant wood available and the fact that there were coal outcroppings. (see The Mines).

My cousin Ken and I were present when our fathers and their brothers held a "jam session" recalling the early days of Burlington and I have always regretted not having a recording of that day. We had heard many of the stories before, and in this case they were altered somewhat until they all agreed for the most part on what actually happened. I am of the opinion these were the most colorful of times and I can only touch on some of them. The general impression was however that early Burlington was not exactly a quiet and peaceful town.

Grandfather Jim was a farmer-rancher and property owner, but was best known as a successful and respected lawyer. He was also involved in politics, and much of his life can be found in the archives of the Minot Daily News. There one can also find articles about his descendants. My uncle Lyle also a lawyer wrote something of family history some of which he used as speeches and which I still have. These speeches were consolidated into a booklet on "Jim Johnson". The only thing my father wrote on the early days is entitled "The Mines" which he wrote and my wife Carolyn typed up, and which I will copy again and enclose. I wish he had written more but it dawned on me I cannot criticize and not do something myself so here goes. All my knowledge of very early Burlington is heresay of course and better sources would be the Minot Daily News, Ward County Historical Sociey , the public library, and a limited number of residents who are actually older than I am. The "Govt" mine was still operating during this period as well as the Miller mine which was between the farm and Burlington with a road running up the section line. The white mine horse which was pastured at the mine entrance could be seen as I walked to Burlington. Many of the men living in Burlington or on the project were or had been working in the mines.

I may do a further page on Grandfather Jims arrival at "the forks". Many of his recollections and old photos can be found in the book published for the Burlington Centennial in 1983. This book also cantains the history of other early residents and would be a good source for any geneaolgy searchers. The photos would be difficult to scan and the articles are quite long and I will not reproduce any of it here. I have the book however and would answer inquiries where possible.

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