Category Archives: Allan Truax

The Reintroduction Of Allan Lincoln Truax

A.L. Truax Of Crosby, North Dakota Signs In

Routinely scanning my email, I noticed a signature that immediately grabbed my attention. Bill O’Byrne, who was then unknown to me, had sent a photo of  the fly leaf of Collected Poems Of A.E.1 inscribed with the signature of  A.L. Truax.

name

book

front

My interest was piqued because the signature was familiar to me. Beginning with Allan Truax, A.E. Housman, The Ex, and Me (February 9, 2007), I had published several posts about Allan Truax.

The Allan Truax & Me Back Story

From Allan Truax, A.E. Housman, The Ex, and Me:

A perceptive Ex once gave me an especially gratifying gift – A.E. Housman’s Last Poems, a copy of which was already in my library. The book she presented me, however, was an early edition, replete with well-thumbed pages, a few tears and folds, and blemishes galore.

lastpoems

The date of the first printing2 of Last Poems was October 1922. A second printing also took place in October 1922. My copy was “reprinted” (the publisher’s term) in November 1922. There is no special monetary value attached to this edition, but I’ve always relished reading from it, knowing it was published and appeared to have been well read while Housman himself was alive and still writing.

truax-sig

 

While I had noticed the inscription on the front page when I received the gift, I had paid it little attention until recently when it struck me as kinda, sorta interesting that the presumptive original owner of this volume was from “Crosby, ND.” Given that I wasn’t certain that a place called Crosby, North Dakota existed, it seemed worthwhile to check out that geographical point lest I discover a few years hence that “Crosby, ND” is a village in New Devonshire or something of that ilk.

As it turns out, Crosby, North Dakota, founded in 1904, is located 186 miles northwest of Bismarck in the northwest corner of the state and, as of the 2000 census, was home to just over 1,000 residents.3

crosby

After learning the town’s location and size,4 I began wondering what kind of guy living in Crosby, North Dakota in 1922 would buy a copy of Housman’s second book of poems.

It turns out that Allan Lincoln Truax was, in fact, an extraordinarily accomplished individual whose job was in the railway mail service but whose heart and mind were given over to his involvement with his family and community, his extensive travels, and his devoted pursuit of intellectual interests, especially horticulture, literature, and family, local, and American history.

  • He and his wife were well known for their civic and Church leadership. Allan developed great talent as a speaker and a writer.
  • Following an accident which severed his arm, he retired from the railroad in 1933. He and his wife bought a Model-T. Because of his handicap, he could not drive. She could. Together, they drove over 100 thousand miles, touring the country. They visited the 48 continental states in the process. They also visited Hawaii.
  • He wrote a history of the Revolution in several volumes, and a series on the history of the states.
  • At age 83, Allan spent five months in England touring the literary and historical sites he had read about.
  • To help complete a Truax family history, From 1934 to 1945, he traveled extensively, interviewing hundreds of Truax descendants, copying gravestone inscriptions, unearthing old Bibles and consulting local records.
  • Though he worked most of his life as a railway mail clerk on the Great Northern Railway (until his disabling accident), he accumulated an estate worth over $1,000,000.

I wrote about A.L. Truax and his wife, Evelyn, not only because they were themselves interesting but also because it offered insights into an era and an environment that, while they were only a couples of generations and a few states removed from me, were so unlike my own experience that, in many ways, the circumstances of Allan Truax’s life are as unimaginable to me as those of a Jules Verne character residing on another planet.

Allan Truax Timeline: From Post-Civil War to Vietnam

To place the life of Allan Truax in context, I’ve added historical markers (in red) to his timeline.5

It’s enlightening to grasp that Allan Truax was born only six years after the Civil War ended and died as Vietnam began; he was alive when scientists developed telephones, light bulbs, penicillin, radio, TV, and atomic energy; and automobiles, airplanes, and space travel had their beginnings during his lifetime.

In addition to the events listed on the timeline, Truax’s lifetime included

  • 1871: The Chicago Fire
  • 1876: Invention of telephone
  • 1879: Invention of electric light
  • 1890: Battle of Wounded Knee
  • 1893: Tesla invents radio
  • 1898: Spanish American War
  • 1903: First airplane flight
  • 1910: Death of Mark Twain
  • 1915: Einstein’s Theory of Relativity
  • 1918: Prohibition begins
  • 1919: League of Nations founded
  • 1928: Penicillin discovered
  • 1945: US drops the bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki
  • 1950: Korean War begins
  • 1952: Reign of Queen Elizabeth II begins
  • 1964: Vietnam War begins
  • 1965: USSR spacewalks

I was also motivated to record this miniature biography by my conviction that Allan Truax – and Evelyn Truax – were special, stalwart individuals who deserved to have their story written and read.6

All Allan Truax posts can be found by clicking on the Allan Truax category

A.L. Truax visits Hawaii

The Bill O’Byrne Connection

Bill O’Byrne, who formerly owned a used book store in Livingston Montana, bought a shed full of 2,000 books (mostly history and poetry) in Albert Lea, Minnesota and, after selling most of them (Larry McMurtry bought a lot of them for his Texas store), decided to look up  “A. L. Truax,” whose name was signed in the books. He soon came upon the Heck Of A Guy posts about Allan Truax and emailed me.

Other Books From Allan Truax’s Library

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  1. A.E. in this case refers to George William Russell, the Irish Renaissance poet []
  2. The publisher is Grant Richards, LTD , London []
  3. Wikipedia – Crosby, ND []
  4. I should point out that Crosby’s population is more than twice that of my own home town in the Ozarks []
  5. I’ve also added a few dates from his own life to the the timeline. []
  6. These posts ended when the death of a loved one caused me to lose interest in many activities, including, unfortunately, the life of Allan Truax. []

Allan Truax, Jim Sand, The Forest, And The Trees

An Email From Jim Sand About Allan Truax

I recently received an unsolicited email from Jim Sand (who was previously unknown to me) about Allan Truax.1 The pertinent portion of that message follows:

When I was 8 years old (1957) my family moved into a house across the alley from Mr. Truax. His yard was fenced and had more tree’s and bush’s that any other yard I can remember. I did not know he had lost an arm in a railroad accident, but do remember being somewhat frightened by the black glove that was always one of his hands. My best friend and I would sometimes crawl over the fence to see what was in his yard. We never stayed long, but I remember that it seemed his yard was a forest. Since in that part of North Dakota, the only trees were those planted by farmers as shelter belts or the cottonwood trees along Long Creek about 5 miles north of town.

Why An Email2 From Jim Sand To Heck of a Guy About Allan Truax Is Important

I’ve featured the email from Mr. Sand in this post for two reasons:

1. The content confirms and clarifies an important detail about Allan Truax. In Evelyn and Allan Truax Journey Through Life Together, I wrote “Allan Truax’s interest in horticulture, for example, resulted in his planting trees and shrubs around the Truax home in Crosby, North Dakota, at a time when those “were about the only trees in town.”3 The email, describing the Truax lawn from an 8 year old boy’s perspective, is significantly more effective.

2. This email is an example of one of the genuine advantages blogs confer on humanity: mutually beneficial interactions. Obviously, interactions are hardly blog-dependent, but the accessibility of blogs and effective search engines have dramatically increased the number and quality of such connections compared to pre-internet technologies.

Even if I had, for example, written the definitive Allan Truax biography and even if Mr. Sand had read it, what are the chances he would have written me about his childhood memory? And, even if he had written, how could I have circulated that information short of publishing another edition of the biography?

Further, this is no fluke. Some readers may recall the The Great Ozark Folk Festival Flood of 1973 adventure. I have heard from at least two readers who were at that same bluegrass festival deep in the Ozarks that same weekend in 1973, one of whom has promised to write up her own story from that weekend – a story which equals if not surpasses the weirdness of the sojourn I described.

That’s why – ya gotta love the blogs.

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Identification: Allan Truax, Allen Truax, and A.L. Truax
“Allan Truax” and “Allen Truax” appear with approximately equal frequency in the written material I’ve reviewed, with “A.L. Truax” occurring somewhat less often. The name Mr. Truax inscribed in his books was “Allan” so I use it preferentially

Other Heck Of A Guy Posts About Allan Truax

  1. An explanation of who Allan Truax is and why he is a feature of the Heck Of A Guy Blog can be found at Who’s Allan Truax? []
  2. Mr Sand also sent a second complementary email:

    I only lived across from Mr. Truax for about 2 years. We then moved to “south hill” as the south side of town was called. Coincidentally, after we moved, I lived two houses up from Mrs. Truax. Mrs. Truax was my music teacher throughout elementary school. I assumed she was Mr and Mrs. A.L Truax’s daughter-in-law. Unfortunately, I have no additional information about Mr. Truax. (I do recall seeing a sign that read A.L.Truax. I can not remember if it was on the gate to the fence around his house, or if it was by the door to his house.)

    []

  3. Mr & Mrs A.L. Truax, Richard Truax, A History Of Divide County, 1964. p 224 []

Crosby, North Dakota In The Time Of Allan Truax: Railroad Depot and Hospital

As part of my ongoing project describing the life and times of Allan Truax,1 I occasionally post photos or information about Crosby, North Dakota, the town to which Allan Truax, then 37 years old, and his wife, Evelyn, moved in 1908 and where they lived until his death in 1965.

Train Depot

Allan Truax was employed as a railroad mail clerk for the Great Northern Railway which operated this depot in Crosby, North Dakota, the beginning and the termination of the daily train route Truax worked.

Healthcare In Early 1900s

According to the local newspaper, Crosby’s first physician was Dr. Blake Lancaster, a graduate of the Ontario College of Physicians and Surgeons.

… Dr. Lancaster received an X-ray machine from Chicago which, aside from being a most beautiful piece of furniture, will be widely used in his practice.

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Identification: Allan Truax, Allen Truax, and A.L. Truax
“Allan Truax” and “Allen Truax” appear with approximately equal frequency in the written material I’ve reviewed, with “A.L. Truax” occurring somewhat less often. The name Mr. Truax inscribed in his books was “Allan” so I use it preferentially

Other Heck Of A Guy Posts About Allan Truax


  1. An explanation of who Allan Truax is and why he is a feature of the Heck Of A Guy Blog can be found at Who’s Allan Truax? []

Another Allan Truax Avocation

Another Item Added To The Allan Truax To-Do List

In Evelyn and Allan Truax Journey Through Life Together, mention was made of the variety of projects Allan Truax1 pursued, including Truax family genealogy, horticulture, American History, leadership within the Masonic Lodge, and travel across the continental United States, the Canadian provinces, Alaska, Hawaii, Cuba, Mexico, England, and Scotland.

In the time he spent nearly every day alone in his private room that served as his office, den, library, and retreat,2 however, Allan Truax not only read, wrote, listened to opera,3 and worked on those projects noted in the previous paragraph, but he also pursued at least one other interest not yet listed in these posts, one, in fact, that was not revealed to anyone until the results of his efforts were discovered after his death.

Another Item Checked Off The Allan Truax To-Do List

As it turns out, he also was interested in the stock market.

Prior to his death in 1965, Allan Truax accrued the sum of $1,000,000 through his investments,4 a feat rendered all the more impressive when considered in the context of his retirement from his position as a railway mail clerk 30 years earlier, after which he and his wife were dependent on his railroad pension as their income.

Having sporadically researched Allan Truax’s life for almost a year now, I am convinced there are few things I could discover about him that would surprise me. Earning a million bucks with a self-taught investment strategy while living on a pension in a small town in the northwest corner of North Dakota – all without telling another human being (other than, presumably, his broker) – does, however, come close.

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Allan Truax At Heck Of A Guy
An explanation of who Allan Truax is and why he is a feature of the Heck Of A Guy Blog can be found at Who’s Allan Truax?

Identification: Allan Truax, Allen Truax, and A.L. Truax
“Allan Truax” and “Allen Truax” appear with approximately equal frequency in the written material I’ve reviewed, with “A.L. Truax” occurring somewhat less often. The name Mr. Truax inscribed in his books, one of which ended up in my hands and led to my interest in its former owner, was “Allan” so I use it preferentially

Other Heck Of A Guy Posts About Allan Truax

  1. Those readers now asking themselves Who the heck is Allan Truax? may wish to read Who’s Allan Truax? before proceeding with this post []
  2. See Allan Truax Through His Grandson’s Eyes: The Relationship []
  3. Personal communication: Rosalie Truax []
  4. Private Communication: Richard Truax []

Crosby, North Dakota In The Time Of Allan Truax

The Divide County Courthouse in Crosby, North Dakota

The most imposing building in Divide County, North Dakota has been and continues to be the County Courthouse in Crosby, which was the city where Allan and Evelyn Truax1 made their home and spent their adult lives.

Bids for the Divide County Courthouse were opened in March 1917 and its cornerstone laid 1 July 1917. To put that in context, North Dakota was admitted to the Union as the 39th state on November 2, 1889, Divide County was formed in 1910, and Allan Truax moved to Crosby in 1908.

DivideCountyCourthouseDome

Dome of the Divide County Courthouse (click to enlarge)

Divide County’s location and population changes in the 20th century are displayed below.2
The architectural group responsible for the Divide County Courthouse was Buechner and Orth, a firm which also built 13 other courthouses in North Dakota, still others in Minnesota, and many other structures, including the ornate Fargo Theater. Examples of their work are shown below.

Built at at cost of $104,951, the Courthouse is impressive in its size, Beaux Arts design, and materials. Ornamentation is lavish, a mural of pioneer scenes is featured in the dome of the rotunda (see photo below), and the floors are terrazzo with marble wainscoting. Atop it all is a glistening silver cupola.

I’ve devoted this post to the Divide County Courthouse in part because it was a fixture of the environment in which Allan Truax lived. The Courthouse also conveys a significant message about the psychological tone of Crosby, North Dakota – and Allan Truax: living on the northern prairies near the turn of the 20th century for forthright, unequivocal measures and the rejection of the illusory safety of halfhearted gestures.

Divide County North Dakota Courthouse

Divide County Courthouse, 2004 (click to enlarge)

Credit Due Department:
The incredible photo of the interior of the Courthouse dome and the contemporary photo of the courthouse at the end of the post were taken by jwwalter

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Allan Truax At Heck Of A Guy
An explanation of who Allan Truax is and why he is a feature of the Heck Of A Guy Blog can be found at Who’s Allan Truax?

Identification: Allan Truax, Allen Truax, and A.L. Truax
“Allan Truax” and “Allen Truax” appear with approximately equal frequency in the written material I’ve reviewed, with “A.L. Truax” occurring somewhat less often. The name Mr. Truax inscribed in his books was “Allan” so I use it preferentially

Other Heck Of A Guy Posts About Allan Truax

  1. For an explanation of my interest in Allan and Evelyn Truax and other posts about Allan Truax, see Who’s Allan Truax? []
  2. Figures are from Wikipedia []

Aloha, Allan and Evelyn Truax

A Journey Completed: Allan and Evelyn Truax1 Arrive In Hawaii

In Evelyn and Allan Truax Journey Through Life Together, the most recent post in The Life and Times of Allan Lincoln Truax series, I noted that Allan and Evelyn first set and reached the goal of visiting all the states in the continental US.

As states were added to the Union, their total-destinations goal was congruently altered, and they traveled through the Canadian Provinces to Alaska.

For good measure, Allan also journeyed through Cuba, Mexico, England, and Scotland.

Then, Hawaii became the 50th state.

And so it came to pass that, in the early 1960’s when both Allan and Evelyn were in their 90s, they made it to the Island State for a Shriners Convention.

Reaching their visit every state in the Union goal is not the most significant of Allan’s or Evelyn’s achievements, but it’s certainly an event worth commemorating in a Friday Heck of a Guy post.

Enjoy your weekend.

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Allan Truax At Heck Of A Guy
An explanation of who Allan Truax is and why he is a feature of the Heck Of A Guy Blog can be found at Who’s Allan Truax?

Identification: Allan Truax, Allen Truax, and A.L. Truax
“Allan Truax” and “Allen Truax” appear with approximately equal frequency in the written material I’ve reviewed, with “A.L. Truax” occurring somewhat less often. The name Mr. Truax inscribed in his books was “Allan” so I use it preferentially

Other Heck Of A Guy Posts About Allan Truax

  1. For an explanation of my interest in Allan and Evelyn Truax and other posts about Allan Truax, see Who’s Allan Truax? []