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Honors For Old Settlers


This was a day of mourning in 1897 in Grafton, as word spread that Jacob Reinhardt, age 51, had died. Jacob Reinhardt had been one of the first settlers of Grafton, and he served as the first Walsh County sheriff in territorial days.

Reinhardt was born in 1846 and grew up in Wisconsin. He served in the Civil War and then came to the Red River Valley in 1866. He later worked as a stagecoach driver on the Winnipeg route.

He was remembered as a pioneer settler and as a longtime member of the Red River Valley Old Settlers Association. It was a point of pride to be in the Old Settlers club for it was an “exclusive organization” – membership came only if a person had arrived prior to 1881.

To show their pioneer’s pride, the leaders of the Old Settlers group gave each member a badge of gold to wear on his jacket lapel. The Association authorized production of these small, oval, badges – gold on a blue enamel background, to honor its members. There were four different golden symbols for four different groups, from earliest to latest. Less than 200 people qualified to wear these badges of honor.

For the oldest settlers, those who reached the Valley prior to 1871, the badge featured a golden catfish design. In those early days, food was sometimes scarce, and there were times when pioneers subsisted solely by eating catfish. The river was full of catfish and so the saying went: “it was catfish or no breakfast.” The catfish-badge group was the smallest, for not many came that early.

The second badge had a dogsled as its golden symbol, noted as the main means of transportation for settlers arriving from 1872 to 1876.

And for the third group, those who came in 1878 and 1879, their badge portrayed the Red River oxcart.

The last badge had a stagecoach with six horses, marking the years 1880 and 1881.

For Jacob Reinhardt, his arrival date of 1866 placed him in the Catfish Award category, the earliest group. At his funeral, he was honored as a Walsh County pioneer, and, at his gravesite, riflemen fired three volleys as a final salute for a revered Old Settler.

Dakota Datebook written by Dr. Steve Hoffbeck, MSU Moorhead History Department.

Sources. “An Old Resident: Death of Jacob Reinhardt, One of Walsh County’s Best Citizens,” “Jacob Reinhardt,” “Jacob Reinhardt,” Clement A. Lounsberry, “Red River Valley Old Settlers Association,” “The Old Fellows,”