Posted 7/14/15 (Tue)
By Nicky Ouellet
As a Boy Scout, John Hilleren used the same hat his father wore during World War I.
It was 1927. Money for the Tioga family was tight, and the designs were nearly the same, so the young Hilleren made do with what he had.
Ninety years later, that hat has a home in Tioga’s Norseman Museum. Hilleran donated to the local exhibit the military hat belonging to his father, Henry C. Hilleren, along with his father’s bayonet, helmet and other articles from his uniform, to remind Tiogans of days gone by.
“I had all that stuff and I thought that was the place to put it,” he said. “They didn’t have another full uniform at the time.”
Hilleran grew up in Tioga, then a poor farming town untouched by the advances in technology that shaped most of the rest of the county. He joined the Navy straight out of high school and later drifted between Tioga, Williston and Minnesota as a traveling salesman.
He returned to Tioga each year for the Farm Festival and watched as the town transformed to an oil and gas mecca.
“In 1951 when they first hit oil here, there was a lot of people coming in, but it wasn’t so machine oriented as it is today,” he said.
Most of those early rigs were trucked in over bumpy unpaved prairie paths and assembled on site.
Hilleren remembers watching Henry and Harry Bakken, the two brothers for whom the region is named, use a truck, caterpillars and cables to move a pre-assembled well nearly a mile through cow fields.
“The job they done moving that thing, I’ll never forget that,” he said. “That was a job in precision without a bunch of fancy equipment.”
Slowly, the industries in town have incorporated such fancy equipment into daily life. And soon, the museum will too.
Last month the Economic Development Corporation received notification of a grant award to fund the purchase of a computer and inventory software so the museum can catalogue its historical artifacts.
It’s unclear when this will occur, as there is no staff personnel assigned to the task of inventorying the museum’s collection.
But it will carry some of Tioga’s past into the future, a reminder of how things were that Hilleren says is still very much needed.