Author Archives: probstfield

The Wambachs–Probstfield Family Friends

wambachs bar

In the spring of 1904, Matt Wambach and his brother-in-law Nick Zenk turned an old machine shop in Georgetown in the Palm Saloon.  From the looks of the place, most of the money went into the beautiful wooden bar.  The wooden bar from the Palm Saloon survived in a local basement until the Flood of 1997.  

The Wambachs are Clay County pioneers who have been close neighbors and friends of the Probstfields since the 1870s. Here we see the Palm Saloon in Georgetown, opened by Matt Wambach in 1904.

wambachs

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A “Wet” Family Legacy

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Cornelia Probstfield Gesell moved to Wisconsin and became active in the fight for women’s suffrage in La Crosse.  According to family lore, this pennant and a matching banner, were also used in a parade in Fargo, ND.  HCSCC Collection – donated by June Probstfield Dobervitch

The Probstfield family was Progressive in their politics. Randolph and Catherine’s daughter Cornelia was active in the Women’s Suffrage movement. She married and moved to La Crosse but her son, Ray Gesell, returned to the Probstfield Farm in 1916. He was the driving force behind the farm until his death in the 1980s. Although the Women’s Suffrage movement was often Dry in their politics, Cornelia’s father (Randolph) owned a saloon for a time, her brother (Andy) worked in a brewery, and her son (Ray) opened a bar after Prohibition.

Randolph, the Homebrewer

moorhead brewery

This engraving ran in a booster publication for the city of Moorhead. From the HCSCC Collection

Probstfield family diary entries mention that Randolph stopped by John Erickson’s brewery from time to time on trips into Moorhead. He bought Erickson’s beer and he also bought hops, which indicates German-born Randolph did some homebrewing. One of Randolph’s oldest and closest friends from the pioneer days, Nick Hoffman, owned a brewery in East Grand Forks. Randolph’s son Andy worked at Hoffman’s brewery. According to family letters, Randolph eagerly awaited Andy’s gifts of Bock beer in the spring.

A “Wet” Randolph Probstfield

electionWet and Dry politics played a big role in every election.  In 1876, Randolph Probstfield campaigned in saloons for election as the Clay County Sheriff.  On November 7, 1876, pioneer farmer Randolph Probstfield, a Wet, wrote in his diary that he was “Handsomely defeated as Sheriff for Clay County” by the Dry incumbent, J.B. Blanchard.

Bogusville – A Tent Town

early moorheadThe exhibit starts in 1871 when Moorhead was founded by the Northern Pacific Railway bridge over the Red River. By that time, though, the Probstfields had lived on the Red River Frontier for most of a decade. The exhibit talks about the Wild West tent town of Moorhead but it does not mention that the year before, that tent town was at Probstfield Farm. Everyone thought the railroad would cross at the Probstfield’s place, so all the gamblers and gunmen and townspeople gathered around the house and set up a tent town. Randolph sent the family up to East Grand Forks to get away from the rough characters in the town. When the real site of the railroad bridge was announced, the tent town left Probstfield Farm and went three miles south, creating Moorhead and Fargo. They called the old tent town at Probstfield Farm “Bogusville” from then on.

Wet and Dry: Alcohol in Clay County 1871-1937

exhibit intro horizProbstfield Farm President Markus Krueger helped create a new exhibit at Moorhead’s Hjemkomst Center called “Wet and Dry: Alcohol in Clay County 1871-1937.” The Probstfield family played a central role in the community all through these years. A series of blog posts to follow will highlight the ways in which Randolph Probstfield and his children were connected with this era. 

Vote Gesell in ’44

ray for office

Front and back of a Ray Gesell political campaign card from 1944.
Collection of the Historical and Cultural Society of Clay County

“It all started as a joke,” Ray said.  One day, while talking politics over beers, two of Ray Gesell’s friends told him he should run for office.  Ray, jokingly, said he would.  Within a few days, his friends were actively campaigning on his behalf.  “I tried to back out and I couldn’t.”

Ray Gesell served in the Minnesota House of Representatives from 1945-1951.  Again, he found himself following in the footprints of his grandfather Randolph Probstfield, a poor but respected farmer who served as a Minnesota State Senator.