- Associated Press - Monday, February 8, 2016

MOORETON, N.D. (AP) - It started in 1990 while listening to the historic recounting of the Bagg Bonanza Farm in Mooreton from one of the farm’s descendants, Ella Bagg, the youngest of the F.A. Bagg family.

A recurring thought kept returning to a Wyndmere resident, reminding her that someone should preserve the history of one of the Red River Valley’s most treasured ties to agriculture.

Virginia Goerger has always had an interest in preserving history, but usually documented happenings behind the lens of her well-used camera, the Wahpeton Daily News (https://bit.ly/1SYu4sW ) reported. Currently though, the photographer-turned-author has recounted the history of the Bagg Farm’s rich agricultural background through her children’s book, “Bonanza Farm Life and Beyond,” and her historical non-fiction, “A Century of Life on the Bagg Farm and Red River Valley.”

In the fall of 1990, Ella Bagg began telling Goerger her stories and requested that Goerger capture the farm during the heyday of the bonanza culture and especially discuss women’s role on the farm. Goerger feels both books do exactly what Ella asked of her all those years ago.

“It has taken me three years to write,” Goerger said. “In the back of my mind I didn’t feel qualified to write books.”

But after spending two years helping write the 2010 125th history book of Wyndmere-Barney and after taking classes on writing children’s books, she feels as if her work speaks for itself. What is so significant about the book is time itself. The Bagg Bonanza Farm was started in 1915 and 100 years later her books were published, showing the hard work and sheer acreage of these booming farms.

“Experience in cooking meals for many people was a requirement for the women on the bonanza farms. The women of the surrounding area of the Red River Valley who were hired as head cooks made meals for 50-100 men. The head cook received a wage of $35 per month in the 1800s,” she wrote.

“The younger women who were hired ranged in age from 16-mid 20s. They worked as waitresses serving food in the dining area of the bonanza farmhouse. They received a lower wage than the head cooks.

“Women were responsible for cleaning the house, gardening, preparing vegetables, baking, cooking and taking meals to the field. The women made sausage, lard, butter, smoked meat and whatever was needed. They made soap from the rendered lard from the fat of the butchered hogs. The lard was cooked with lye and poured into a flat container. When it cooled, the women cut the soap into square to use in cleaning and for washing clothes.”

Goerger has been a part of the Bagg Bonanza farm for many years, first in its restoration and later as one of the farm’s tour guides. After showing so many people through the grounds and receiving encouragement from visitors that “someone” should preserve the memories the guides talked about in a book, Goerger kept thinking that “someone” should be her.

“The books are based on my research. The Bagg Farm is a national landmark and obviously of historical significance to this corner of the state,” she said. “I felt I was an authority on the farm and I already had the historical pictures. After working with Ella, I felt qualified.”

Now that the books have been published, Goerger is hoping to visit area schools and libraries to discuss her work. They are for sale on consignment at Wahpeton Drug, Hankinson Drug, Popp’s Hardware and Julie’s Pharmacy and Home Décor in Lidgerwood. Her children’s version was edited by her granddaughter, Samantha Goerger, who felt the material in the larger book was too detailed for children.

“These books are timeless because of what they are,” she said.


Information from: Wahpeton Daily News, https://www.wahpetondailynews.com

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