Wilson & Susan Proffitt

The Proffitts were not new to America. The family first came to Jamestown colony, and Wilson E. Proffitt was born in Harper's Ferry on June 10, 1856. He came to Indiana with his family when he was two, and lived there until April 1, 1902, when he moved to North Dakota.

He brought two immigrant cars from Indiana, carring four horses, six cows, machinery, household furniture, three barrels of fruit and meat, a barrel of canned meat, a barrel of jam and jelly, and another of cured meats.

He and two of his sons rode in one car, and the other son had gone ahead to Granville in early March, and had been there during a big blizzard near the end of that month.

The son who had come in March had filed a homestead claim in Rosehill Township 155, Section 5, in McHenry County, North Dakota.

A lawyer from Linton, Indiana, who was a friend of the family, had already settled in Granville, and built a shack. Wilson Proffitt moved into that shack until he could get out to the farm and begin building his own home.

The house he built was larger than that of most of the settlers, being 18x20 feet and, instead of having a car roof, it had a slanted roof. On April 12th, Mrs. Proffitt came with the family's three daughters.

The homestead in Rosehill Township was a big change for Mrs. Proffitt. She had been born Susan Ferguson, the daughter of John Arthur Ferguson, Esquite, an Indiana attorney. She was born in Indiana to a well-to-do family.

Wilson Proffitt was no pauper, either. He had courted her with Kentucky Racing Horses. They used to ride together. All of their children were born in Indiana. There were nine children in all, although three had died before they came to North Dakota.

Mrs. Proffitt and the girls had stayed with  John Arthur for a week after Mr. Proffitt had left for Granville. At that time, they had six living children, three boys and three girls.

Coming to Granville, Mrs. Proffitt and her girls caught a fast train in Chicago, one that had a pot-bellied stove in the corner where people warmed their lunches and made coffee.

One of the passengers on the train had the mumps, and all of the women and girls came down with it later.

As there were so many people getting off the train in Granville, the train made a stop there, rather than going on to Minot as it was ordinarily scheduled. It was late when they arrived, about 1:00 o'clock in the morning. The depot was filled with men on benches or sleeping on the floor. Two of the men got up and offered the Proffits their seats. She asked if any of them knew how her husband and sons were faring, and the man replied that everyone was okay except for the oldest Proffitt boy, who was sick with inflammatory rheumatism.

The family moved into the homestead in June of that year, putting up hay and starting a garden. Early on, they had to fight a large fire that nearly wiped out everything they had done.

When they first saw Riga, there was only a sign post and a side track there. The rest of the town was built up during the summer of 1902. The first school that the children attended in Riga had been built as a blind pig, which was an establishment that illegally sold alcoholic beverages. School was in session for three months in the fall and three months in the spring. Their teacher was Miss Ruth Thompson, who lived southeast of their homestead.

Later, they attended a school that was built a quarter of a mile from town. The first teacher who taught there was Miss Johnson, a woman in her early twenties.

After one point, the Proffitt family moved into Riga, where they ran a hotel during the winter months. Meals were served in the dining room. Food was placed on the table, and guests could have as much as they liked.

In Indiana, the Proffitts had attended the Methodist Church. William Proffit had been a United Brethren when he and Susan were married, but they had joined the Methodist Church. When they came to Riga, they went to the Baptist church, where the Rev. Gunter held revival meetings in the winter. New converts were baptized at Rock Lake. A hole was cut six-feet square through three or four feet of ice. The minister stood in the icy water of the lake in 20 below zero weather, as each person was baptized. As quickly as they came out of the water, they were wrapped in blankets and taken to a shack at the water's edge that belonged to Billy Hills. When the people got back to the church, the church members joined hands, sang, and marched around the new members. Mr. Proffitt could not join in, as he had been baptized by sprinkling; Mrs. Proffit had been immersed, so she was one of them.

The Methodist church was built in the spring of 1904, and dedicated the following summer. Most of the people in Riga had been Methodists prior to coming to McHenry County, so they joined that church, and the Baptist church soon closed. C.A. Thompson was the first pastor of the Methodist church, and Rev. Gunter was the first pastor of the Baptist church. It was not unusual for members of the Proffitt family to attend services and Sunday School at both churches, as they met at different times. Later, Rev. Thompson moved to Granville, serving in the Methodist church there, then coming out to Riga, and also conducting services in Denbigh.

At one time, there were two stores, a livery barn, dance hall, two churches, a hotel, post office, and a school in Riga. A hundred people lived in town, and nearly every homestead had people who came to Riga to do business.

There were very few trees. Homesteaders generally planted trees, and they usually did well unless destroyed by locusts while they were still young.

They often burned buffalo chips for fuel. When dried, it burned well, provided a good fire, and had no odor.

In 1904, Wilson Proffitt bought relinquishment from a man on Township 144, Section 8. He built a house there, and they moved.

In 1905, Fleeta Proffitt, one of the Proffitt's daughters, married Will Peterson, who was then running the lumber yard in Riga. The Methodist minister, C.A. Thompson, officiated. That fall, Fleeta and her husband moved to South Dakota.

Another son, Curt, went back to Indiana to work. He was married there, and brought his wife back to North Dakota, where they settled at Devils Lake, and a job working for the railroad.

Another son, Ray, married a neighbor girl, Lula Whitman, who lived about six miles southeast of the Proffitts.

The Proffitt's daughter, Renie, attended school, and two of her teachers were Kate and Nina Seright. Their older brother was John L. Seright.

After finishing school herself, Renie taught school in Riga, Rosehill, the Indiana School, and in Bergen. Her father, Wilson Proffitt, had moved south of Verendrye onto a wheat farm that he had rented, so she went there and taught school in 1913-1914. She had twenty-eight pupils, eight of whom were in the eighth grade, and large. None of her pupils could speak English, only Norwegian.

She was engaged to John L. Seright at the time that she was teaching at Bergen. Renie Proffitt and Johnny were married on December 23, 1915.

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