I owe this column to John Andrist
Posted 3/06/18 (Tue)
Whines & Roses
By Cecile Wehrman
Last week I found a printed copy of an email from the late John Andrist -- and knew I’d put off doing something with it long enough. John’s message related to a letter we published Nov. 29, 2017, from reader Mark W. Meyer of Portland, Ore., asserting “Crosby was established when the Great Northern Railway arrived in 1903.”
Regardless of the fact that my own knowledge of Crosby history disputes that statement, I printed the letter. Obviously knowledgeable on the subject of railroad history, if not that specific point, Mr. Meyer’s opinions deserved to be aired, even if his statement, “Rarely have I witnessed anything so full of disinformation as the anti-railroad editorial by John Andrist,” seemed a tad heavy handed.
I can’t defend John’s original column or motivations for writing it anymore than I can ask him, today, what he meant by it, but I can clear up the erroneous fact Meyer’s rebuttal included, not to mention share John’s reminder to me how important it is to guard facts contained within our own archives.
John wrote, “Crosby’s origin was about 1904, but it was a mile west of the present city, where it lived for perhaps 5 years.
“The Soo was the first railroad to build into Divide County and they had an established townsite called Imperial about a mile east of the present Crosby. It was somewhere between 1907 and 1909 when the GN built from Berthold to Crosby. Since they had been given a townsite which is the present Crosby, they elected not to extend the line to the old Crosby settlement, forcing the whole town to move.
“There is a pretty complete history in that old golden anniversary paper in the 1954 file. I don’t know if you share my concern but it only takes two or three misrepresentations to change historical records.
“Crosby’s founding was pretty unique, and the story is worth preserving. -- John”
As soon as I read John’s letter I inwardly cringed, realizing anew the danger of letting a piece of “fake news” into print.
I chastise myself because being too busy to argue ancient history is no excuse for letting something false into the newspaper of record -- even if it pertains to events over 100 years ago.
From my own reading of Crosby’s early-day newspapers, I have documentation of the following:
1. It is true that S.O. Crosby founded the original townsite in 1903, and it is true that it was located a mile west of today’s town.
2. The Great Northern began selling plots in the new Crosby townsite in Sept. 1906.
3. The Great Northern arrived in Crosby on Sept. 23, 1907.
John taught me many lessons about being a good publisher, this just being the last one, and maybe, one of the most important given how facts are under fire today.
Looking back, John’s concern for preserving accurate history, as well as a personal effort he shared with me to try to impress upon others the importance of making provision for resources they will leave behind, today seem prescient of his impending passing.
It’s an honor to take care of this one piece of “unfinished business” for John, even if I did put it off too long.