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Bob Lind, Neighbors columnist

Neighbors: Living monument to pioneer woman stands out in ND tree line

It's a picturesque area near McCanna, N.D., west of Grand Forks, with nice homes, a small white country church and trees — including one that is special, because it served as something of a monument.

The area is called Bachelors Grove, so named because it was first settled in the late 1800s by unmarried men.

As to that tree; well, in 1947, the late G.K. Ness, founder and long-time publisher of the Fordville (N.D.) Tri-County Sun, wrote about it. Ruth Olson, Detroit Lakes, Minn., sent his story to Neighbors.

"Throughout the nation and the world," G.K. wrote, "monuments of many kinds, styles and shapes are erected. Most of them are of stone or metal and built in honor of some hero who had done great deeds in war or peace.

"These monuments have been dedicated with great celebrations, long speeches and the blaring of trumpets.

"But not all monuments have received renown or dedicated fanfare, and not all have been erected from dead materials. In some cases — though too few — living monuments have been provided. Some of these monuments are for persons little known.

"One such monument is to be found in the Walsh-Grand Forks counties conflux — the Bachelors Grove area, where stands 'The Lone Tree.'

"Few know this is a living monument to a pioneer woman.

"Where the Bachelors Grove road crosses the Orr (N.D.) road stands a lone box elder tree.

"Few of those now living know the history of that tree and fewer have likely given it much thought. Perhaps some have commented that it is strange that this one tree should grow out there all by itself and that without care it should have grown to such size.

"The general idea most people likely have is that the tree came about by accident, probably by seed being blown there and because of particularly advantageous conditions prevailing at the time it set roots and got a start.

"However, such is not the case," G.K. wrote.

"The tree was planted there by the original owner of the land, one William Boutell, who planted it as a tribute to his wife.

"Later when he sold the land to the late U.G. Walker, he stipulated in the deal that the tree should be cared for and protected in memory of Mrs. Boutell.

"How well that part of the agreement was carried out might be in question, but the lone box elder has survived nevertheless, and although the one who planted it and the one in whose honor the tree was planted have both long gone to their reward, the tree still stands there as a monument to a faithful wife who forsook the comforts of an older community to share side by side the hardships and privations of early homesteading on the Dakota prairies."

So wrote G.K. Ness in 1947.

Is that box elder tree monument to a man's wife still standing? Maybe somebody from that area will let Neighbors know.

If you have an item of interest for this column, mail it to Neighbors, The Forum, Box 2020, Fargo, ND 58107, fax it to 241-5487 or email blind@forumcomm.com.

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