A Step Back In Time

Pembina County Historical Museum tells story of early settlers

Imagine taking a step back in time and following the footsteps of the early settlers in northeast North Dakota.

The state’s homesteading spirit is brought to life at the Pembina County Historical Museum. Visitors are transformed into turn-of-the century pioneers as they interact with the antique farm machinery that helped families prosper from the rich Red River Valley soil. They stroll through an original homestead, barn and church that once brought rural citizens together.

The Pembina County Historical Museum is located across the road from the beautiful Icelandic State Park near Cavalier, N.D. Established in 1964, the 912-acre park allows visitors to learn about the state’s early settlement and provides an array of recreational opportunities. Boating, swimming and fishing are a few favorite summer activities while snowshoeing and cross-country skiing are popular during the winter. Picnic areas enable visitors to enjoy a relaxing afternoon in the shade of old oak trees.

The Pembina County Historical Museum was originally located within the city of Cavalier and moved to its current location in 1999. The land for the museum and Icelandic State Park were donated to the state by G.B. and Esther Gunlogson. The museum officially opened for visitors in 2001.

On the grounds are 13 buildings to tour, including the historic St. Anthony’s Church with a choir loft, an 1882 homestead and a 1930s barn filled with tack and tools of a real working barn that fed and housed animals. There is also a blacksmith shop, granary, engine building, restored Great Northern Depot, three buildings of restored farm equipment and the main museum building containing exhibits and a jail converted to a research library. It also has one of the largest antique vehicle collections in North Dakota, including the rare 1925 Case Model X Suburban Coupe, which was originally purchased by G. B. Gunlogson when he was head of the Case motor car division. The Society purchased it from a collector in Maryland a few years ago.

The granary is located on 20 acres leased from the state’s Parks and Recreation Department. It’s adjacent to 22 acres of land owned by the Pembina County Historical Society where the barn and tractor pull track are located. Collectable historical items are donated to the museum from local collectors and those as far away as Florida.

“People originally from around the area stay in contact with the museum and help in bringing in historical items,” said Zelda Hartje, museum administrator.

Although the museum is filled with the state’s history, new attractions are being added on a regular basis. Recently, two 6-foot-tall statue soldiers weighing 1,300 pounds each were added to the Veterans Memorial.

For the last three years, the museum has also worked with area youth to help build a community orchard. The public is invited to visit the orchard to view the progress of the trees, bushes and pollinator plants.

The museum is free to the public and is open daily from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Machinery Show To Raise Funds

The Pembina County Historical Society will hold its 26th annual Pioneer Machinery Show at the museum on Sept. 8. The event is the Society’s largest annual fundraiser and typically draws more than 1,000 people.

The day includes a Threshermen’s breakfast, church service, blacksmith and sawmill demonstrations, parade, kids activities, kids pedal pull, Jim Johnston Memorial Antique Tractor Pull at 2 p.m., threshing demonstrations and much more to do and see.