Being the holiday season, we thought it might be a good time to reminisce a little—to remember the rich heritage of our past at the same time we recognize and express thanks for all the blessings of the present.
94 long years ago (but doesn't time fly?!) three couples who came to settle at Strawberry Point celebrated their first Christmas together in their freshly built "Honeymoon" log cabin. What an enormous accomplishment they must have felt arriving in June of 1914 with virtually nothing, and managing a warm & hospitable shelter before the dark, cold winter set in. Imagine how thankful they were for food (yes, rutabagas!) on their rough built table, for kerosene carefully portioned out in their Aladdin lamps, and for the wood they could gather with their own hands. They were people of faith and trusted God to help them make their way.
This Christmas season 2008 is a wonderful time to remember all those in Gustavus who have gone on before. Our brave homesteaders' blazed trails, built shelters, carved out roads, designed bridges, and lived off the land. The forerunners of our community pleaded for a school (and got one!), faced isolation with hope and optimism, and hung together when the going got tough. They worked, squabbled, and partied together celebrating each new day with determination, fellowship and song—and they died one by one.
There are those who say Gustavus has lost some of its former soul. Old timers have expressed to GHAA the change that seemed to take place when electricity (1983) and TV became a part of most of our lives. They say that the people started looking to the entertainment screen and electronic toys rather than to each other. Yet all of us who remember reading with a flickering flame over our shoulder, storing our food in screened coolers attached to
outside walls, and pumping endlessly to fill buckets on wood stoves for hot water, appreciate all the amenities that have come our way—and the people that brought them. The changes have been monumental. Even the outhouses that threatened to freeze raw flesh in the wintertime are a fast fading memory.
Just for fun (and Christmas cheer) GHAA would like to share a hand written letter that was recently found in some old records at the Gustavus Dray. The letter was from Jessie Buoy who came to Gustavus in 1955 and settled in her Uncle Sam's (by marriage) vacated homestead at Rink Creek. Jessie handled all of the hardships of remote living like a pro—which she was! Having grown up literally in the woods of Oregon, she was spunky, colorful, one-of-a-kind, and adept at most everything. Jessie was also one of the few pioneers that lived long enough to see electricity come to the Flats. But, country smart (if not street wise) she was nobody's fool, and certainly not going to trust some little meter spinning around on the outside of her house! Alas, prepared for just about anything, she had not figured on just how much the convenience of "throwin' a switch" would cost. And being Jessie, she wasn't afraid to say so. Here's her letter. You'll see for yourself!
Dear Sir, I don't care what you guys say but I know a little electric heater doesn't burn $259.00 worth of electricity in one month. It ran all of December and January and the bills weren't over $100.00 a month. So something is screwy in Denmark somewhere. When your engines go up and down, this meter out here goes round miles a minute. So don't tell me it's all our fault If it goes over a $100.00 next month I guess we'll have to get our own electric plant At this rate we could pay for one in three or four months. Yours truly, Jessie Buoy
Merry Christmas & Happy Holidays from GHAA! To see this
letter written by Jessie's own hand go to www.GustavusHistory.org and search under documents.