On this date 100 years ago, my great-grandfather, John T. Johnson would have been sitting in this train depot. The depot, originally at the town of Brantford, ND which was very close to where Rinda had been working and where she died, is now the Eddy County Museum in New Rockford. Try to look past the museum’s artifacts; these are the seats on which my great-grandfather sat, waiting for the train to take him back to his family home in Leroy, Minnesota 100 years ago today. It would have been very cold in northern North Dakota this day but the pot belly stove surely would’ve been cranking out heat.
Back in July, 2018 when I visited the museum and farm where she died, I had planned on getting a sense of what it might have been like when she and my dad had arrived exactly 100 years before. But my focus actually turned to what it would have been like four months later on a cold November day as a man sat waiting to escort his daughter’s body home for her funeral.
But on this day in 1918, my 2 and a half year old father would have probably been running around getting into trouble. Or maybe just crying for his mommy. She, my grandmother Rinda Shetler, was in the depot baggage room, in her coffin, ready for her trip home too.