Pingree fixing up caboosePINGREE, N.D. — In its heyday Pingree boasted a population of nearly 1,000 with two banks and three elevators. Despite its shrunken population of just over 50 today, the townspeople and surrounding farm families celebrated the town and its past Sunday.
PINGREE, N.D. — In its heyday Pingree boasted a population of nearly 1,000 with two banks and three elevators. Despite its shrunken population of just over 50 today, the townspeople and surrounding farm families celebrated the town and its past Sunday.
It’s the second year of Pingree Heritage Days and this year, Mayor Joe Detmer said, proceeds from the silent auction and concessions will go toward refurbishing the old caboose the town’s heritage group got from Burlington Northern Railroad. For more than 20 years it has sat next to the old depot deteriorating from age and vandalism. Most of its windows are broken, the stuffing is out of the upholstery and there’s graffiti on the wall.
The Pingree Heritage Foundation is ready to change that.
“Sprucing it up will cost about $3,000,” Detmer said. “It needs to be sandblasted and repainted to start with. We want to renovate it and put in history panels.”
The depot, which is now Pingree’s museum, and the caboose are leftovers from the days of the Northern Pacific Railroad, which made regular runs through Pingree. Northern Pacific closed the depot in 1958, which had served the community since the 1880s. Pingree Heritage Foundation President Bill Riebe said it was purchased in 1970 for $150. Neither it nor the caboose is anywhere near the tracks anymore and no train stops in Pingree these days.
The caboose has a shorter history than the depot. Riebe speculates it was probably new in the late 1950s. Its historical importance lies more as a commemoration of an era when every freight train ended with a caboose.
The depot’s life spanned the glory days of the railroad and the town. Riebe said the Northern Pacific’s Galloping Goose, a milk and mail train, stopped in Pingree to pick up eggs and cream. It also served as an early-day commuter train.
Riebe remembers a long-ago teacher who lived in Spiritwood. He said she would drive to Jamestown and board the Galloping Goose to get to Pingree every day.
The depot has been kept as original as possible. The small waiting room still has its benches, but the hardwood floor is badly warped in places. Old teletype machines and typewriters still sit in the stationmaster’s office. The depot originally included a kitchen. It’s been restored with antique furnishings donated by the community. There’s also an old baggage wagon.
“We have all kinds of items that members of the community have donated,” Detmer said. “We’ve got a lot of stuff here.”
There’s the 1911 Cottage Hotel register, which says someone from London, England, and someone else from Seattle, Wash., stayed there. Trophies won through the years by Pingree teams also have pride of place. Detmer said the enormous ball of string in the stationmaster’s office was the work of Pingree’s postmaster, Richard Andweiler. He started the ball as something to do with string that tied up bundles of mail. It eventually reached a diameter of about 3 feet.
An old gazebo was also moved to what is now a park joining the depot and caboose. It, too, needs to be refurbished. But the heritage group, like the town, is small in numbers, Riebe and Detmer say, so the manpower isn’t there. Still, they’re doing what they can when they can.
“We’re trying to restore the heritage of Pingree,” said Detmer, who’s a transplant. He and his wife, June, have lived in Pingree for about 10 years.
The celebration of Pingree Heritage Days is also a restoration project.
“We used to have it every year, with lots of activities,” Riebe said. “Then we started running out of people. We just ran out of gas. So last year was the first for awhile.”
The founding father was Hazen Pingree, who settled in the area in 1880, but didn’t hang around to see the town thrive. He came, not to found a town, but to start a potato plantation. When it failed, Pingree moved to Detroit, Mich., where he eventually became mayor. The town named for him celebrated 125 years in 2005.
Among the visitors to the Pingree Heritage Days Sunday was Chet Pollert, a District 29 Republican member of the North Dakota House of Representatives. He grew up and went to school in Pingree.
“My dad ran the elevator,” Pollert said. “This is my old stomping ground.”
Although their numbers are small, interest in restoring and maintaining the town’s heritage is big. After the caboose, Detmer said, the town hall is next on the list for restoration. Already, it’s filled with memorabilia waiting for the Pingree Heritage Foundation to get to it. And there’s the jail.
“The Pingree jail is delightful,” Detmer said. “It dates back to the 1880s and still has the old graffiti in the two cells.”
Sun reporter Toni Pirkl can be reached at (701) 952-8453 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org