A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE JAMES A. ROBIESON FAMILY
COMPILED JUNE 2002

By Roy L. Robieson

JAMES ALEXANDER ROBIESON, (father):  James was born in Clinton, IA February 4,  1886 and was raised on a farm in southern IA, near the town of Bunch.  His parents were Joshua, born in Lena, IL and Mary, born in Denmark. 

After completing about seven grades of school, James left the farm January 1, 1907.  He was hell bent on going to the Alaskan Klondike gold field and ‘striking it rich’.  He, and a friend, who was working for the Great Northern Railroad in western North Dakota and was home for the holidays, boarded a passenger train and headed northwest.  James got off the train at Berthold, ND.  It is not recorded if he stopped there because he was short of money or if the bitter cold and snow convinced him that going to the Klondike would not be a picnic. 

At Berthold, he obtained employment with the Great Northern Railroad as a warehouse clerk.  While performing those duties, he learned the Morse code and telegraphy operations, thus earning a position as a station agent and telegrapher in the little town of Niobi, ND, November 20, 1907.  (Niobi disappeared long ago.) 

Throughout his railroad career, James worked at various other railroad stations, Anselm, ND, Dooley, MT and Lowry, MN, all on the Soo Line. The move to Lowry, with his then existing family, was made in September, 1923.  He retired from railroad service in 1961 at the age of 75.  He was station agent with the Great Northern Railroad for two years and with the Soo Line for 51 years. 

During the mid teens, while living in Dooley, MT, James, in addition to his railroad duties, formed a partnership with another man.  They entered into the business of automobile sales and repairing.  A couple of card sharks came to Dooley and engaged James’ partner in poker.  The partner was ‘skinned’.  He lost all his money and all the assets of the partnership, then skipped town.  James was left with the debts of the partnership.  About all he received from the enterprise was a 1918 Oakland touring car. 

James learned many skills from his father.  One might say James was a frustrated farmer and, to keep his large family busy and fed, he farmed every bit of spare railroad right‑of‑way near the depot, kept a couple of milk cows, a flock of chickens and some pigs.  He dug a well, installed cisterns, built a small barn and made an excellent root cellar.  He needed many stretches of fence around the unused railroad property to keep his animals corralled away from the railroad tracks. When he built a fence, it was a craftsman’s piece of work.  Each of his five boys, as time went on, had the opportunity to work with him and to learn the art of building a fine fence. 

James was an excellent woodsman.  He kept his crosscut saws and his axes razor sharp.  He would buy a tract of forest from a farmer, then he and his sons ‘the boys’ would begin to fell the trees and haul the logs into town to be cut and chopped into firewood.  James would size up a tree from four cardinal directions to determine which way the tree should be felled.  He, alone, would cut the notch in the base of the tree.  When the notch was completed, two of the boys would work a crosscut saw.  In minutes, down would come the tree, always in a line not more than two feet from the predicted fall line. 

James loved wood.  To him, a nice board was like silk in his hands.  He was sufficiently skilled at woodworking to have become a master carpenter. 

For many years, James was Village Clerk of Lowry and, in his later years, He was elected Mayor of Lowry. 

James suffered several small strokes in his later years but was of sound mind, spirit and physique until he passed away of a stroke in Glenwood, MN in 1970 at the age of 84.  

ELLEN OWENS, (mother): Ellen was born in Llanddeusant, Wales in 1889. She immigrated to United States with her mother, Mary, and other siblings about 1894.  Her father, and some of the older children had immigrated to United States a few years earlier. 

After working on a farm near Arvilla, in northeastern ND for some years, Ellen’s father, William Owens, decided to move the family to Idaho. They loaded the family about 200 miles westerly and had to stop.  They encountered a severe North Dakota snow storm and took refuge in a cave near Des Lacs, between Minot and Berthold.  It was the middle of nowhere!  Lignite coal was readily available, so they were able to keep warm.  (It is interesting to note that years later, one of their grandsons, James L. Robieson, was Soo Line station agent at Burlington, ND, a town not more that eight miles from Des Lacs!) 

Ellen’s father began working for the Great Northern Railroad as a section hand. Although he was not literate, he was promoted to Section Foreman at Berthold.  A Section Foreman’s job was coveted because, in addition to earning a fair salary from the railroad, the Foreman was provided a house, free of charge.  No doubt the house was quite austere, but it would be a great improvement over the sod house in which they had been living.  His wife, Mary, performed the bookwork that the railroad required of a section foreman. 

William’s began operating a boarding house in Berthold for the many railroad workers associated with the new railroads being built. Three Owens girls worked in the boarding house, waiting on tables, etc.  James Robieson was working as a Warehouse Clerk at the Berthold depot and began eating at the Owens boarding house.  A romance developed between

James and Ellen, one of the working Owens girls, and they were married in Minot, ND  October 26, 1908. 

Ellen prided herself on being an accomplished horsewoman.  Riding horses was about the only way to get around in that prairie town in the early nineteen hundreds.  She tried driving the Oakland once and gave it up as a bad job.  Son James, who was about 10 years old at the time, became the family’s alternative driver. 

During the thirties, while living in Lowry, MN, Ellen wrote and passed a Civil Service examination.  She was awarded a contract to carry the mail between the Lowry Post Office and the Soo Line Depot.  Also, she was to load the outgoing mail on the mail trains and unload the incoming mail. The job suited her fine.  She always had a strong son to do the lifting and she was able to listen on the ‘Railroad Phone’ to determine if the trains were running on time or how late they would be.  She held that position for many, many years. 

At about age 50, Ellen contracted Equine Encephalitis (sleeping sickness).  It was a rare and serious disease for a MN resident.  After a long period of illness, she recuperated and suffered no long-term effect. 

Ellen was strong of mind, spirit and energy until she passed away of a stroke at the Glenwood Retirement Home in 1976 at age 86. 

CHIDREN BORN TO JAMES AND ELLEN ROBIESON:   Nine children were born to the marriage.  All were born healthy and lived into maturity.  It is believed that the Robieson family was the largest family to live in Lowry, 

JAMES LEONARD ROBIESON:  James was born in Anselm, ND in September, 1909.  After leaving High School in Lowry, MN, about 1928, he performed heavy‑duty jobs such as unloading boxcars of cement and working for farmers during the arduous harvest periods.  Because of his muscular, imposing size and good attitude, he was often designated Town Constable at functions, such as dances, where police protection might be required.  Whenever there was a wreck on the railroad, strong, extra workers were in immediate demand.  James was always ready. 

During the depression years, jobs became very scarce so James joined the peace time Army and, after training, became a cook and baker in the Army.  Later, about 1934, James bought the restaurant in Lowry and became a successful restauranteur and saloon keeper. 

When World War II became imminent, James sold the restaurant, went to Dunwoody Institute in Minneapolis and studied the trade of arc welding. Just before, and during the war, he worked in shipyards at Manitowoc, WI and Portsmouth, VA.  After the war, he returned to Lowry and, with the tutoring of his father, learned the Morse Code and how to operate the telegraph.  After passing tests, he was awarded an assignment as Depot Agent and telegrapher in the town of Burlington, ND.  Later, he became night operator at the Soo Line station in Buffalo, MN.  As work at the railroad began to fade away due to computerization, James began working part time as bookkeeper and office man at the Buffalo High School.  As time went on, the job at the High School became full-time and he was designated the title of Business Manager of the Buffalo High School. 

It is interesting to note that James changed major work directions three times in his life.  He was successful in each career and was able to change directions before the need was forced on to him. 

James did not finish High School.  He was expelled by the School Principal because he would not participate in a game that he thought was too far below the level of the pupils’ ability.  The Principal was a lodge brother of James’s father.  No doubt Masonic sparks flew over the matter at the following lodge meeting. 

While managing the restaurant at Lowry, James learned of an Indian mound (burial plot) near Barrett, MN.  One day, he and a buddy, his name is lost to memory, went to Barrett to dig in the mound.  They found two intact, human skulls and some arm or leg bones.  Upon close inspection, it was noted that at least one of the skulls had cut marks around the periphery, indicating that the individual had been scalped.  James displayed the skulls and bones in a case in his restaurant. 

James married Verona Mary Bennett, daughter of R. G. Bennett, Lowry, MN.  They were married in 1934 and had three children: Jane Roberta, born in 1937, Joan Mary, born in 1939 and James Bennett, born in 1945.  Verona was, undoubtedly, the prettiest woman in Lowry at the time.  James won her because he was a strong, handsome man, unafraid of work. 

James passed away in 1973 of a heart attack aggravated by emphysema.  He was 64.  He had smoked Camel cigarettes for at least 45 years of his life. 

RUBY MAY ROBIESON:  Ruby was born May 4, 1914 in the frontier town of Dooley, MT, a town that no longer exists.  The following excerpt, slightly edited, is taken from James Robieson’s “Family Record”.  “Ruby Robieson was the third child and the second baby girl to be born in the new frontier town of Dooley, Montana.  Attending at the birth were her father and a young woman, Mrs. O.T. Pries.  The Doctor was from Wesby, Montana, which was 20 miles away.  There were no cars in the area at that time and only a few trail roads.  A blinding snow storm was in progress, causing  the Doctor to arrive hours after the birth.”  A snowstorm in May, even in Northeastern Montana, is highly unusual. 

After graduation from High School in Lowry in 1932, Ruby remained home for some years to help care for the young Robieson family.  During that time, she also worked as a waitress in the restaurant and as a telephone operator for the Lowry Telephone Company.   Later, about 1936, she entered nurses’ training at the Northwestern Hospital in Minneapolis. She graduated, became a registered nurse and worked in hospitals in Minneapolis during World War II.  Later, she served as nurse in several Midwestern Minnesota schools on a Tuberculin Testing Team. 

Ruby, with close ties to the St. Pauli Church that were hard to break, was the last of the Robiesons to live in Lowry.  She left there in 1998, after her husband passed away.  She had lived in Lowry a total of 75 years except for the time she was in nurses training and while she was away during the war. 

Ruby married Robert J. Bennett, the only son of R. G. Bennett, of Lowry, Minnesota.  They were married on Christmas Day, 1941.  Four daughters were born to this marriage:  Lynn Ellen in 1946, Roberta Jeanne in 1949, Sandra Kay in 1954 and Rebecca Jane, in 1956. 

Robert Bennett passed away in 1997.  Ruby lives near her daughters in Mankato, MN. 

KENNETH CLIFFORD ROBIESON:  Kenneth was born August 20, 1916 in Dooley, MT.  While attending High School in Glenwood, MN, Kenneth took a correspondence course in radio technology.  He was adept at that new technology and, while still in high school, built his own transmitter and amateur radio station.  He learned the International Morse Code and how to send and receive it over the airwaves.  Over the years, he made contact with other ‘ham’ radio operators around United States and throughout the world on his radio transmitter and receiver.  Kenneth won several code sending and receiving contests held nationwide. 

It is interesting to note that when Roy was working in East Africa, one of his engineers, living in Ethiopia, had established a clandestine ham radio station at a remote place called Arba, about 100 miles east of the capital, Addis Ababa.  While Roy was visiting the engineer in September, 1970, they made voice contact with Kenneth by radio.  Kenneth was living in Minneapolis at the time.  In that contact, Kenneth relayed the fact that their father, James, had just suffered a severe stroke and was not expected to survive. 

Hard times were upon the United States when Kenneth graduated from high school, about 1935, so he joined the Civilian Conservation Corps (the CCC’s, or just the C’s as they became known).  He was assigned to a remote camp in Northern Minnesota.  It soon became evident to the Corps that Kenneth had a rare capability that could be used.  The Corps appointed him camp radio operator.  He kept the remote camp in contact with its headquarters in Fort Snelling, near Minneapolis.  Later, the Corps sent him to be a radio operator in their Headquarters at Fort Snelling.  While there, he took a Civil Service test for a position with the Civil Aeronautics Authority (CAA).  Shortly after his discharge from the C’s, he was hired by the CAA in a position of Station Operator at the Jamestown, ND airport.  He worked for the CAA, later to become the FAA for 30 years or more.  During that time, he was assigned to major airports such as Wold Chamberlain in Minneapolis, Wichita, KA and Joliet, IL as an Aircraft Controller.   He also performed a stint as Controller at the Panama Canal during World War II, when a Japanese invasion  was feared. 

Kenneth married Izetta Zeller of Park Rapids, MN in 1938.  Two boys were born to marriage:  Kenneth James in 1939 and Gerald Douglas in 1945. 

Kenneth passed away in 1971 of a heart attack, at age 55.  His heart attack, no doubt, was attributed to by the extremely stressful job he held for many years. 

CLARENCE AUGUST ROBIESON: Clarence was born in Dooley, MT August 12, 1918.  Ellen called him “our War baby”.  The first World War was in full swing for United States at that time. 

Upon graduation from Glenwood High School in 1937, Clarence worked as a handy man and farm machinery salesman for two International Harvester firms, one in Lowry and later in Wendell, MN.  Clarence was an excellent farm machinery salesman. 

It was apparent in 1940 that World War II was imminent.  Clarence, with a couple friends from Wendell, joined the Morris, MN National Guard Unit.  It was a Coastal Artillery, Antiaircraft Unit, and was sent to the desert in California for training.  Clarence had had some military training, having attended a Civilian Military Training Camp at Fort Snelling during his high school summer vacations.  While in those training periods, Clarence earned an ‘Expert’ rating in small arms practice.  He had excellent military bearing and was a good soldier.   He soon determined that to get ahead in the Army, one had to be an officer.  He applied for ‘Officers Training’ and was accepted in the Officers’ Candidate School at Camp Davis, NC.  One can imagine the difficulty he must have had.   He had not taken math courses in High School because he had plans of embarking on a business career.  Antiarcraft gunnery technology consisted of application of trigonometric principles which is an advanced course in mathematics.   Clarence had just a few weeks to learn trigonometry and how to apply it at the same time. 

Upon completion of the rigorous officers’ training, and being commissioned a Second Lieutenant, he was assigned to an Antiaircraft Battery on the Island of Oahu, HA.  He was there for the duration of the war, except for a short time when he returned to the United States to train a new unit.  While serving in Hawaii, he was promoted to First Lieutenant and then to Captain.  He was the only person from Lowry, without any college education, to become an officer, in the service, during World War II. 

After being discharged from the Army, Clarence occupied personnel positions with various companies. After recuperating from a prolonged bout of hepatitis, he, at age 46, decided to obtain a college education through his G.I. Bill-of-Rights benefits.  After graduation from college, he became a school teacher in California – a position that gave him extreme satisfaction. 

Clarence married Ruth Jane Burby in 1943.  Ruth was a first Lietenant in the Army Nurse Corps. Ruth was born in Franklin, NE.  Two children were born to this union:  Ruth Ann in 1945 and Timothy Alan in 1947.   Ruth and Clarence went to Korea in 1959 and adopted a 5‑year old Korean girl. They named her Robin Lee. 

At this writing, Clarence and Ruth are retired and are living in Orange City, FL 

FRANCIS JOSHUA ROBIESON: Francis was born in Dooley, MT February 5, 1921.  Upon graduation from Glenwood High School in 1939, Francis, who was an exceptionally good student, entered the University of Minnesota. Having clerked in the Lowry Drug Store for some time during his high school years, Francis began the study of Pharmacy.  World War II intervened.   Although Francis’ eyes were not acute, he was drafted into the Army for ‘Limited Service”.  His scholastic qualifications earned him nomination as a candidate for an Army sponsored educational program at the University of Minnesota.  This time, he was studying to become an electrical engineer.  The program was soon abandoned because it became apparent that young soldiers were being sent to school while fathers were being sent to the front lines.  Francis was given cryptography training by the Army, and was sent to serve in the Pacific Theater on ‘special duty’.  He ended his Army service as a Technical Sergeant on the Island of Guam. 

After being discharged from the Army, Francis returned to the University of Minnesota.  He graduated with a Bachelor of Business Administration degree, with majors in accounting and mathematics.  He then worked as Production Planner for the Strutware Company in Minneapolis.  Later, he moved to California and became the Night Manager of a Safeway candy manufacturing plant.  Safeway then tapped him to open several new bakeries around the United States and, finally, to manage its large, new bakery in Denver, CO. 

Francis married Jeanne Ann Bennett, daughter of R. G. Bennett, Lowry, in 1943.  (Perhaps you have noticed that there were three marriages between the Robieson and Bennett families!)  Three children were born to this union:  David Gene in 1945, Craig Francis in 1948 and Diane Lee in 1956. 

Diane Lee passed away in 1998.  She succumbed to cancer.  She was the first of the second generation of the James A. Robieson family to pass away. 

Francis is retired and is living with his wife in Arvada, CO. 

DORIS ELIZABETH ROBIESON:  Doris was born September 25, 1923 just two days after the Robieson family arrived in Lowry.  When Doris graduated from Glenwood High School in 1941, World War II appeared unavoidable for United States.  Many young people left Lowry to go into the Services or take well paying jobs in defense plants.  Doris enrolled in a trade course at Glenwood, wherein she learned some shop practices.  That gave her the opportunity to become a ‘Rosie the Riveter’ in an aircraft factory in California. Women, like Doris, working in defense plants, were life savers during the war.  President Roosevelt wanted 5,000 planes built a month.  Women were called upon to accomplish that goal, and they did. After her defense work, Doris returned to Minneapolis where she went to night school to learn to operate office machines. She worked for many years in important business offices in Minneapolis. While Doris was working in Minneapolis, a Lowry man, Donald Hoplin, moved into a house across the street from where Doris was living with several other girls.  Doris and Donald had been good friends during their High School days.  One thing led to another and they were married in May, 1948.  One child, Mark Donald, born in 1950, resulted from this union. 

Doris and Donald, after managing the Hoplin Nelson Hardware in Brandon, MN for some years, moved to Glenwood where Donald became a partner in the Hoplin Funeral Home.  Doris and Donald are now retired and continue to live in Glenwood. 

ROY LUTHER ROBIESON:  Roy was born August 8, 1927.  At age three, Roy was involved in a very serious machine accident at the Lowry Farmers’ Elevator.  His injuries were so serious that he was not expected to survive, or, at best, it was expected that he would lose his right arm. Under the constant care of two local Doctors, and after a long convalescence, Roy made a full recovery. 

During his grade school years, Roy developed the skill of reading blue prints and constructing model airplanes. He was reasonably successful in building planes that could fly.  Some didn’t. 

After graduation from Glenwood High School, Roy joined the U. S. Navy in 1945. Shortly thereafter, President Truman opportunely called for dropping two atomic bombs on Japan, quickly ending the war. Roy was called for active duty in the Navy and served on ships in the  Pacific, active in cleaning up the debris of the war. 

After being discharged from the Navy in June, 1946, Roy attended college and received a Bachelor of Science degree in Civil Engineering from the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology.  He worked for the North Dakota State Highway Department for 16 years, then for a U. S. Consulting Firm on highway projects overseas (Tanzania, East Africa and Jordan).  He rose to the position of Regional Vice President in the Middle East for the Consulting Firm.  He then went to work for the U. S. Government as a Foreign Service Officer, rising to the position of Chief Engineer for the Agency for International Development in Honduras.  Roy was the first person from Lowry to graduate from college with a degree in engineering. 

Roy’s interest in aviation continued and while he was in Tanzania, he learned to fly a light plane and even owned one‑third interest in a new Piper Cherokee.  His East African pilots license allowed him to fly all around Tanzania to various highway projects and on trips to game parks.

While serving in Honduras, Roy was given a Superior Service Award for his outstanding  performance when the U.S. Aid building was set afire by rioters. Roy was sent to Washington to meet with high AID Officials to describe the damage that was done and what repairs would be required before the building could be reoccupied. 

Roy married Marjory Bellinger of St. Thomas, ND in 1951.  One daughter, Deborah Kay, born March 10, 1953, resulted from that union.  Marjory passed away in Tanzania. 

In 1972, Roy married Cleo (Pat) Swisher who was born in Bemidji, MN,  They were married in Arusha, Tanzania.  Pat was a secretary in the U. S. Foreign service then. 

Roy and Pat are retired and are living in Fredericksburg, VA. 

THE TWINS 

Fraternal twin girls were born to the Robieson family in 1930.  They were named Laberta, after the attending Doctor, Bertrand McIver, and Gertrude, after the attending nurse, Gertrude McIver, the  Doctor’s wife.  Later, Gertrude’s name was changed to Roberta so the twins could have twin names.  Laberta was born first, followed by Roberta, 35 minutes later. 

About six weeks after the twins were born, Roy, as described above, was injured at the elevator.  He required full time attention from his mother as his recovery was accomplished at home.  It was not possible for the mother to take care of Roy and the two new babies at the same time.  The babies were ‘farmed out’ for a while.  Laberta went to stay with Mrs. Clarence (May) Hagstrom and Roberta went to the home of Mrs. Ole (Mable) Pladson.  Both women were kind Christian women. 

LABERTA CATHERINE ROBIESON:  Laberta was born July 12, 1930 in Lowry, MN.  After graduating from Glenwood High School, she moved to Minneapolis and worked in office jobs.  Her sisters, Roberta and Doris were also in Minneapolis at that time.  In 1954, Laberta married Corydon P. Larson, of Cass Lake, MN.  They moved to Cass Lake where Corydon managed the Cass Lake Marina and the Larson Boat works. 

Three children were born to this union:  Steven Conrad in 1955, Catherine Jayne in 1956 and Jeffery James in 1962.  Corydon passed away of a  heart attack in 1969.  Laberta then began working for the U. S. Forest Service in Cass Lake. 

Laberta married James K. Lyle in 1974.  James was a Forester Working for the U. S. Forest Service in Cass Lake.  One child came to this marriage, Ellen Elizabeth, born 1987. 

The family moved to Florida in 1988.  Laberta and James are now retired.  They, with Ellen, live in Tallahassee, FL. 

ROBERTA MARY ROBIESON:  Roberta was born July 12, 1930 in Lowry, MN.  After graduation from Glenwood High School in 1948, she moved to Minneapolis and entered nurses training at Northwestern Hospital.  She became a registered nurse and began working at a hospital in Austin, MN.  While working there, she met Robert Clayton  from nearby Brownsdale, MN.  They married in 1953.  Four children resulted from this union:  Robert Scott, 1954, Rene Yvonne, 1957, Ross William, 1958 and Raymond Lee, 1960. 

Robert Clayton passed away in 2001.  He had cancer. 

Roberta is retired and is living in Brownsdale, MN. 

Roberta was the more robust of the twins.  She was heavier and stronger than Laberta at birth.  Laberta was not well during her early life. When she was about five or six years of age, it was determined that she had infected tonsils and adenoids.  After those infected glands were removed, Laberta’s health improved considerably. 

When the twins were in first grade, Roberta contracted scarlet fever during the winter.  It was a highly contagious disease that required quarantine of the entire family.  Laberta contracted the fever almost immediately after Roberta and Roy contracted it three weeks later.  The whole family, except the father, James, was under strict quarantine for six weeks.  James had a cot for sleeping in the depot office and ate his meals, perhaps, at his son’s restaurant.  That way, he could continue his work which required his daily contact with the public. 

SOME FOOTNOTES OF INTEREST: 

Although Doris was born just two days after the Robiesons arrived in Lowry, her brother, James, cut things a bit shorter.  He was born on September 1, 1909, the same day that his Dad checked into the Anselm station. 

Four of the Robieson family, including in‑laws, were Registered Nurses: Ruby Robieson Bennett, Ruth Burby Robieson, Jeanne Bennett Robieson and Roberta Robieson Clayton. 

The last time all eleven members of the James Robieson family were together was sometime in 1938.  

Kenneth, like his Dad, was stocky and strong.  He could carry an impossible number of mail sacks on his back.  He just needed somebody to pile them on. 

In the early 30’s, three families, Phil Chan’s, Ole Hoplin’s and James Robieson’s made up just over 10% of the population of Lowry.  Nobody from any of those families is a resident of Lowry today. 

All four railroad stations where James Robieson worked are now gone. Three of the towns where those stations were located are gone.  The only remaining town where he was Station Agent is Lowry.  Its railroad station was closed in the mid 60’s and the depot was moved away. 

It is interesting to note how World War II had a profound effect on the Robieson siblings. 

Thinking back, I marvel at the hardships that our Dad and Mother endured while living in the upstairs quarters furnished by the railroad at various depots.  Those quarters were initially sparse  and their early tenants did nothing to improve them.  I’m unfamiliar with the Anselm and Dooley locations, but I know at Lowry, our Dad had to do the following and do it quickly:  Build a shed for their cows, put shelves and clothes hanging rods in the living quarters, dig a well, install a concrete cistern, build a root cellar, fence pastures for the cows, build a garage for their Oakland car, establish a garden and begin removing rocks from a field that he wanted to cultivate for forage. 

I have little information regarding their move from Anselm, North Dakota to Dooley, Montana.  It was made in January, 1914.  Young Jim was just a bit over five years old.  Dad did tell me that the agent he replaced in Dooley “hated me like a rattlesnake because I was awarded the Dooley Station. He wanted the station himself, but I had more seniority”. 

Dooley was a new, wild, prairie town in 1914.  The station was located on what was called ‘The Flaxton Branch’ of the Soo Line.  Trains ran from Flaxton, North Dakota to Whitetail, Montana and back.  Whitetail was the west end of the Soo Line.  Farmers were still moving into

Eastern Montana in 1914 and were homesteading on 160‑acre parcels of land.  Times were good, crops were good and the town was thriving.  Fall prairie fires were a scourge.  Few roads, trails really, existed then to contain the prairie fires. 

Although Dad’s $64 per month railroad salary was not a bonanza, the large influx of freight, express and telegrams all provided him with commissions that often exceeded his salary. Additionally, many of the farmers and townspeople were illiterate, so they would come to Dad with the Sears-Roebuck catalog and point out the things they wanted to buy. That provided Dad a three-way commission, one for filling out the Sears order, one for writing the Postal Money Order and one for handling the merchandise when it arrived. 

A severe storm struck the Dooley area in January  1916.  For thirty days, the railroad east of town was blocked by deep drifts of snow. Activity in the town came to a standstill.  The only communication with the outside world was through the Postal Telegraph that my Dad operated at the depot. 

The dry years around Eastern Montana started about 1921.  Dooley began a long downhill slide until it completely disappeared after World War II. The Robieson family, the parents and one son, arrived in Dooley in January, 1914.  On September 20, 1923 the family, then consisting of the parents, four boys and one girl, left For Lowry, Minnesota. 

Lowry was a good station for Dad in the early days.  It has always been a thriving business town and a prosperous farming area.  The depression years created havoc with railroad business.   In 1935, new highway #55 was completed through to Minneapolis.  Soon  a bus line drained away railroad passenger traffic.  Then stock trucks began hauling stock from Lowry to the stockyard at South St. Paul and hauling merchandise from the Minneapolis supply houses to Lowry on their return trip.  Railroad business was reduced to hauling grain out and hauling bulk freight (coal, lumber, machinery, etc) in.  Dad retired in 1961 and doors to the Lowry station were closed a few year later. 

My parents continued to live in Lowry after their retirement until Dad passed away in 1970.  Mother then moved to the Glenwood Retirement Home and lived there until she passed away in 1976.  Sister Ruby remained as the last Robieson living in Lowry until 1998 when she moved to Mankato, Minnesota. 

It is interesting to think about how Lowry businesses changed in the 77 years that the Robiesons, or some of them, lived in Lowry.  Gone are: The Harness Shop, the Livery Stable, Ben’s Cream Station, Lowry Cooperative Creamery, the Farmers Equity Company, Lowry Oil Company, Hoplin‑Nelson Hardware, Nelson Lumber Co., Anton’s Cement Business, Happy’s Garage, J. J. Hagstrom Implement Co., Holden’s Carpentry Shop, The Drug Store, The Clinic, Lowry Roller Mill, Chan’s Blacksmith Shop, Boyer’s Blacksmith Shop, Chan’s Café and Pool Hall, Jim’s Café, McIver’s Department Store, Bisek’s Store, The Barber Shop, Warren’s Enterprises, The Hoplin Funeral Home, Lowry Public School, The Meat Market, Farmer’s and Merchant’s Bank, Bjorklund Painting and Wallpapering, AM’s Dray Line, Lowry Hotel, The Cornell Garage, The Benson Dairy, etc.  Some new businesses are thriving.  The town is still prosperous and is growing. 

Roy L. Robieson
July 28, 2002

 

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