© 2024
Prairie Public NewsRoom
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

April 30: Mayville Writer Mary Hilstad

Ways To Subscribe

There was a writer from Mayville who captured the essence of her town by opening her eyes to the simple beauty around her. Her name was Mary Merilla Hilstad (1889-1973), and her descriptions of her Mayville surroundings are both simple and profound.

On this date in 1936, the Traill County Tribune published Mary Hilstad’s impressions of colors in her everyday-life.

It is worth hearing:

We don’t need to go any distance to find beauty. If we stay right here, every season of the year brings its changes. Early in the spring, when most all of the fields are as black as earth can be, when the seeding is going on, you can see a square of the loveliest green where the winter rye is already growing. It looks like thick-green velvet.

“Then, almost before the snow is gone, look at Mrs. Elken’s flowers. They will be in bloom and Mayville will soon be covered with lilacs-white and lilacs-color.

“Our summers have balmy air and cool nights. Then comes haying time and real perfume is in the air.

“When fall comes with its hustle and bustle of the combine and the hum of threshing machines, then look at the color – the yellow straw stacks and the green fields. The trees – all shades of green, brown and yellow and the leaves of the woodbine turned scarlet.

“Nowhere can you see more beautiful sunsets and northern lights.”

Mary Hilstad also wrote about her perspectives on wintertime in response to outsiders who read newspaper reports “about blizzards and 40 degrees below zero.”

She would reply:

“That’s where you are mistaken. Our winters are looked forward to by all. This is the time of year when the busy farmer lets down. He makes his chores as handy as possible and spends the time getting acquainted with his family and his neighbor.

“We all know that a year with lots of snow is a healthy year. There are sleigh rides, ski tournaments, and lots of getting together with family and friend.

“We find time now to read the books we had to lay aside last summer. We read, too, about the floods and terrible storms in other parts of the country and thank our lucky stars we are here in North Dakota.”

Any North Dakotan knows that what she wrote of the continuum of the four season was most-certainly true.

Dakota Datebook by Steven Hoffbeck


  • W.W. Verne, “Unusual Facts of History Pertaining to N.D. and Traill County,” Traill County Tribune [Mayville, ND], April 30, 1936, p. 7.
  • “George Norman Hilstad,” “Mary M. Hilstad,” 1920 U.S. Census, Blanchard, Traill County, ND.
  • “George Norman Hilstad,” “Mary M. Hilstad,” 1930 U.S. Census, Mayville, Traill County, N.D.
  • Mary Merilla Hilstad (1889-1973), George N. Hilstad (1884-1969), U.S. Find A Grave Index, Ancestry.com, accessed March 12, 2024.
  • “Hillsboro Wedding,” Grand Forks Herald, November 15, 1909.
  • “Mikkel Larsen Elken (1857-1934),” Annie Christine Elken (1866-1946),” U.S. Find A Grave Index, Ancestry.com, accessed March 13, 2024.

Dakota Datebook is made in partnership with the State Historical Society of North Dakota, and funded by Humanities North Dakota, a nonprofit, independent state partner of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in the program do not necessarily reflect those of Humanities North Dakota or the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Related Content