A.B. DeGree

Mr. and Mrs. A.B. DeGree

A.B. DeGree grew up in Stewart, Minnesota, but he moved to Plaza, North Dakota as a young man.

When the Reservation land was opened for homesteading, Mr. DeGree drew the number 220 in the homestead lottery, giving him the right to file on a quarter of land, which he did in 1916, selecting land in Deepwater Township, McLean County, North Dakota.

Jess Shafer drove out from Plaza to start digging his basement. When A.B. DeGree went to finish the basement, he was unable to finish that day, so he went to see Pete Thompson, who lived down the road. Thompson said he would finish the work for him.

The following week, Mr. DeGree hauled out a load of coal, and put it in the basement. He then bought a shack from Al Shermul, who had finished proving up his land six miles north of Raub, paying $75 for his first house. Frank Schnider hauled the house home for him with his gas tractor, placing it over the basement, banking it with the dirt that had been dug from the cellar.

In order to meet the terms of the homestead agreement, he had to be on his land by November 4, and he recalls that was the day they went to Plaza to vote for President Wilson.

He lived on the homestead all that winter and part of the summer. Although the winter was cold, he had enough coal and food to survive it. He recalls that he had to walk a mile for his mail, using skis in the winter. He carried his groceries from Raub in a grain sack, and also had to carry his five-gallon kerosene can for five miles.

Mrs. Glick, a widow, and her daughter, Elizabeth, lived a mile from him. The daughter owned a good car, and she would invite him on different occasions. He remembers going to a dance in Elbowoods with her, celebrating the return from East of Chief Old Dog’s daughter, Jennie.

He recalls being caught in some terrible snow storms while walking between Raub and his homestead. Once, he nearly didn’t make it. He got to within a short distance from the shack, but was unable to see it. He made a path from his shack to the corner of a government fence and, for fear of missing the shack, he hated to leave the fence. Because the path was rounded on top, he was able to feel it with his mittened hand, so he crawled on his knees the rest of the way to the shack.

He remained on the homestead for only eight months, and had many worried. He owned the bank $2,000, and was paying 10% interest. That first year, the crop was poor and he barely got back the seed that he had put into it. That falle he went to Minneapolis to work, but returned in the spring broke.

He joined the National Guard in Washburn and, since he had still not proven up his homestead, he did the rest of it in the army. Unfortunately, he received a hand grenade wound in his leg.

Mr. Cole took care of his farm while he was in France, and was able to get him out of debt. He was gone for eighteen months but, upon his return, he had to learn a new way to earn a living.

He took training in watchmaking and repair, working for a number of jewelry stores in North Dakota. Mr. and Mrs. DeGree owned and operated DeGree’s Jewelry in Williston, North Dakota in 1967, when the Golden Jubilee book was published. They had one daughter, Ann Barbara.