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Roots in the woods

September 3, 2011
By Karin Elton , Marshall Independent

People frolicking in the spring-fed pool at Camden State Park are only the most recent species to wallow about there. China hogs enjoyed the refreshing waters at one time. Before it was a park, the area was a farmsite owned by Andrew and Caroline Dale.

Their grandchildren congregated in the Camden woods the second week of August for a family reunion. Among the places they came from were Washington, Illinois, Florida, Oklahoma and Arizona in addition to Lynd, Marshall and Hanley Falls and Glenwood. Twenty out of 28 cousins came, along with spouses and a few children.

"We used to have family reunions every year," said Roger Dale of Hanley Falls, "but we haven't been together since World War II."

Article Photos

Photo by Karin Elton

Dennis Schroeder of Marshall, the son of Nora Dale Schroeder, the eldest Dale daughter of the farm family that once lived in the Camden Woods, looks over the spot where the farmhouse once stood.

The elder Dales died tragically in July 1921 in a car/train crash by the Marshall airport on Highway 19.

The children living at the time of their parents' death were Helmer, Nora, Alfred, Victor, Esther and Clifford. Helmer was the oldest and Nora was about 15, so they took care of their younger siblings.

"(Nora) had to quit going to school," said Shirley Irsfeld, Nora's daughter. "Their grandmother lived there a while. They had no money. They had hogs and milk from the cows."

"One whole winter they ate a lot of corn," said Dennis Schroeder of Marshall, who was Nora's son. "They ate a lot of Johnnycake (corn bread)."

Clifford Dale was the youngest and was sent to live with family friends, said his son, Gary Dale of Ellensburg, Wash.

Andrew Dale immigrated to America from Norway when he was 12 years old, said Roger Dale.

"He was a stowaway on a boat and the captain found him and signed for him to stay in America," he said.

After living in Bricelyn, he made his way to the Lynd area because it reminded him of Norway, said Jim Dale of Lynd.

"He moved there on a train - he moved his livestock and machinery on a train," he said.

The area then known as Camden Woods was used by locals for picnics and family gatherings.

Shirley Irsfeld remembers skiing on the hills of Camden.

"We had a lot of fun up there," she said.

Camden State Park was acquired by eminent domain by the state in 1934 and was officially established in 1935.

The house and barn used to be behind the pool. The foundation can be seen today and there used to be a sign saying the foundation was from an early fur trading post until somebody set the state straight, said Jim Dale of rural Lynd.

Perhaps a post was there earlier but the clan isn't sure.

At the reunion, the cousins walked past the pool uphill to where part of the stone foundation of the farm is still visible.

Gary Dale said he could see why the farm was situated where it was.

"With the water in front and the hill in back - it's a good spot for a house," he said.

Camden State Park Manager Bill Dinesen and historian Bill Palmer of Marshall gave a PowerPoint presentation on the founding of Camden State Park to the Dale clan during their reunion.

He said Helmer Dale lived on the farm when Camden State Park was under construction in August of 1934. Helmer Dale was a civilian foreman with the Veteran Conservation Corps (World War I veterans) and helped build the two shelters in Camden State Park.

The VCC and Civilian Conservation Corps demolished the Dale house and outbuildings, said Palmer, to which several Dale relatives expressed dismay.

"They didn't think about the cultural history at the time," Palmer said.

Palmer said the barn wood was used to make "Port-a-potties" - portable outhouses so the men wouldn't use the great outdoors as much.

Development in Camden State Park was completed by the end of September 1936.

Roger Dale said it was good for the cousins to share memories of their parents and grandparents.

"Each one knows a little bit of family history and we're sharing with each other," he said.



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