Tag Archives: 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? []

The Meta-Carver Notes

Observations Evoked By The Heck of a Guy George Washington Carver Posts

The following notes are tangents, asides, and other remnants that percolated to the surface of my cortex while I was working on the Carver posts.

Carver’s Influence On A Child’s Perception Of Blacks

Mrs. Linklater commented on one of the George Washington Carver posts:

I discovered George Washington Carver when I was about eight years old. We had to go to our grade school library and read a biography. I was fascinated first by his accomplishments, but more because he was black. Such was life in the fifties

My parallel experience was warped by the geodemographic quirk of growing up near the George Washington Carver National Monument in a rural area with almost no blacks in the population.

Except for two years of middle school and my freshman year of college, I lived in my hometown, Diamond, Missouri, until I was 21. During that time, the only black people residing in or near that town, frequenting the local stores, attending the consolidated school that drew students from the outlying farms several miles from the facility itself, or belonging to any of the numerous churches in town were the Superintendent of the George Washington Carver National Monument or members of his1 family.

They stood out not only because they were black but also because, in a population almost devoid of college educated individuals other than teachers and some of the clergy, the Superintendents assigned by the National Park Service were college graduates. They and their families were also well spoken, typically well traveled, and, if my recall is accurate, usually hailed from urban environments, traits which distinctly atypical in my immediate environment

Consequently, I grew up with the impression that blacks were especially well educated and sophisticated. Such was life in the 50s – in Diamond, Missouri.

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George Washington and George Washington Carver

All sources seem to agree that George Carver did not use a middle name in childhood or early adolescence.

The two prevalent accounts of how he acquired “Washington” as part of his name follow:

  1. Wikipedia and others state that “In order to avoid confusion with another George Carver in his classes [at Iowa State University], he began to use the name George Washington Carver.”
  2. Other sites, such as George Washington Carver, report that “In the spring of 1885 [6 years before attending Iowa State University], … he had given himself the middle name of Washington.” Some sources, such as George Washington Carver: From Slave to Scientist by Janet Benge, add that he used the middle initial “W” in his correspondence because mail addressed to “George Carver” was being delivered to another George Carver.

As late as the first or second grade when a teacher gently disabused me of the notion, I was convinced that the shared names denoted some special connection between George Washington Carver and George Washington.

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There are a number of photos of Henry Ford and George Washington Carver on the internet, but, as far as I can determine, this site has the only such photo emblazoned with the caption, George Washington Carver, left, and industrialist Henry Ford share a weed sandwich in this 1942 photograph.

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The two leaders of foreign nations best known for soliciting Carver’s advice on enhancing their respective county’s agricultural resources were Joseph Stalin and Mahatma Gandhi (Gandhi also asked for personal nutritional recommendations).

This is probably no more than a “how about that?” sort of coincidence, but doesn’t it seem somehow significant?

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There is a strong consensus that Carver was a talented artist and musician. It is interesting to speculate about how his life and history might have changed had he pursued a career, as he originally intended, in either of these fields instead of being persuaded by his college art teacher to change his studies and his focus to agricultural science.2

If nothing else, the Tuskegee Institute would have been a very different sort of place without Carver, and it is difficult to imagine who, had Carver not been on the scene, would have carried on Booker T. Washington’s legacy after his death. On the other hand, it is appealing to wonder if Carver might personally have been happier confronting artistic challenges rather than dealing with the problems caused by abject poverty, depleted soil, and illiteracy.

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George Washington Carver (left) and Allan Truax (right)

Ongoing readers will recognize the photo of Allan Truax, an individual who has been featured in several Heck of a Guy posts.3 Given that Allan Truax was a contemporary of Carver’s and that Truax was well read in general, it would be surprising if he were not aware of Carver’s work. Since Truax was specifically interested in horticulture and mycology (which were also areas of focus for Carver), it is not far fetched to believe he may well have had some insight into the extent to which Carver’s accolades were exaggerated.

In any case, I find myself longing to ask Mr. Truax about his opinion of Mr. Carver.


  1. As I remember it, during this period, all the Carver Monument Superintendents were male. []
  2. This may be an especially poignant point in my mind because a primary theme of the Anjani Thomas interviews I’ve been posting is her unwaivering focus on music as the only acceptable career path. []
  3. 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 []

Evelyn and Allan Truax Share Life's Journey

Baby, You Can Drive My Car – Please

Allan and Evelyn Truax 50th Wedding Anniversary

The Truax Projects

To say that Allan Truax 1 was a man given to projects is like saying Tiger Woods is a fellow who seems to know his way around a golf course.

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”2 as well as cultivating his extensive and much admired gardens. It also led to his membership in the North Dakota Horticultural Society,3 his submissions of mycological specimens to authoritative collections, and and his contribution of articles to botanical journals.4

Once he become involved in genealogy, he … well, he describes what happened next,

By a stroke of good fortune in 1925 I came in touch with Mrs. Thura Truax Hires of Philadelphia, who offered to take up the [Truax family genealogical] work where Theodore Truax left off, and carry it through to completion at her own time and expense. … Having retired 1933, and feeling a great obligation to Mrs. Hires, I assisted her in every way possible. From 1934 to 1945, I traveled extensively, interviewing hundreds of Truax descendants, copying gravestone inscriptions, unearthing old Bibles and consulting local records.

His investment in the Masonic order is typical of the intensity he displayed in all his areas of interest. A Royal Arch Mason, a member of the Council of Royal and Select Masters and The Knights Templar, and a 32nd Degree Master Mason, he was one of the original organizers of Crosby Masonic Lodge No. 108 in 1914 and was elected Worshipful Master two years later.5

Consequently, it is unsurprising that to find that Allan Truax, an autodidact in American History, belonged to the Minnesota Historical Society and was a member, from 1904 until his death, of the North Dakota Historical Society, serving as its President in 1936.6 He also published articles on the Revolutionary War in the periodical produced by the Daughters of the American Revolution, collected and organized an American Revolutionary War Postcards & Photographs Collection now housed at the Institute for Regional Studies, North Dakota State University, Fargo, and wrote “A Guide To The American Revolution,” a multi-volume history of the national struggle for freedom, which is now part of the reference files at the Institute for Regional Studies.

He did not, however, pursue his goals alone. Although Allan Truax was self-motivated, appeared to prefer his own company to that of others, spent hours each day alone in his room reading about or working one of his pursuits, and was reserved to the point of reticence, he had the good luck or foresight to have found, in the best sense of the word, a helpmate.

Allan Truax and Evelyn Baldwin, who taught alongside him in Paige, North Dakota during the 1893 -1894 school year, married on January 8th, 1901 in Minneapolis. They would be husband and wife for over 64 years.

It is clear from my conversations with the family that Evelyn was considered a remarkable woman in her own right and capable of holding her own with anyone – including Allan Truax. And, I have a few (lamentably, too few) anecdotes about her to share at another time but the focus of this post is an episode that, I believe, precisely characterizes their relationship.

It is important that, by all appearances, Evelyn did not share her spouse’s enthusiasm for his projects, but – and this is the telling point – she not only tolerated them but actively supported them. Which brings us to …

The Truax Tours

1935 Ford Sedan. Inset lower left is "trunkback" model. Inset upper right is interior view.

Allan Truax decided that the best means of pursuing his interest in American history in general and the Revolutionary War specifically was to see the areas himself. Consequently, Allan, once he retired from the railroad in 1932, toured the country, starting with the eastern states, visiting historical sites.

In keeping with his pattern of ever-expanding projects, Allan’s travels grew to a total distance of more than 100,000 miles over often rudimentary and,in some cases, almost non-existent roads. He visited every state in the continental and then journeyed through the Canadian provinces and Alaska. He also spent time in Cuba, Mexico, England, Scotland, and Hawaii.

Almost all the North American destinations were by automobile – and that automobile was always driven by Evelyn7 – because Allan’s loss of his right arm in a railroad accident made driving the standard transmissions of American cars8 impossible.

Evelyn, by the way, first learned to drive sometime after her 60th birthday.

And, she and Allan were both 88 when they found themselves in Alaska.

According to Allan’s grandson, Roger, most of the post-retirement travel was accomplished in a 1935 Ford sedan.9 The other living grandson, Richard, adds that the car’s seats were rendered removable to make room for sleeping. Meals were prepared on the running boards.

While the argument can legitimately be made that Evelyn’s assistance on this 100,000 mile journey is evidence of nothing more noble than the subjugation of her goals to those of her husband, it is also possible, and from the family’s descriptions it seems more likely that Evelyn learned to drive, accompanied Allan on a trip of probably minimal interest to her, drove that 1935 Ford, and camped out when no lodgings were available – because that is what one does when one is in love.

And, yes, part of the reason I believe what I believe is that I also had the privilege of loving and marrying a very smart woman, one whose wishes I never refused, and one whose efforts repeatedly made reaching my goals possible. And I’m proud that I was able to reciprocate.

At the least, I am convinced that Evelyn and the family Ford would have been altogether superior models for ads of this sort that ran in the 1930s.

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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. 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. Mr & Mrs A.L. Truax, Richard Truax, A History Of Divide County, 1964. p 224 []
  3. Allen Lincoln Truax, Who’s Who for North Dakota, Avis Person, ed. North Dakota State Historical Society, Bismark ND, 1954, p 190 []
  4. Mr & Mrs A.L. Truax, Richard Truax, A History Of Divide County, 1964. p 225 []
  5. Mr & Mrs A.L. Truax, Richard Truax, A History Of Divide County, 1964. p 224 []
  6. Obituary, Divide County Journal []
  7. Evelyn also accompanied him on his other trips with the exception of his solo tour through Britain. []
  8. The first widely available American car with automatic transmission was the 1940 Oldsmobile with “Hydra-Matic drive.” Yahoo Answers []
  9. According to Wikipedia, The 1935 Ford was a thorough refresh on the popular V8-powered Ford. The four-cylinder Model A engine was no longer offered, leaving just the 221 cubit inch (3.6 L) V8 to power every Ford car and truck. The transverse leaf spring suspension remained, but the front spring was relocated ahead of the axle to allow more interior volume. The body was lowered and new “Center-Poise” seating improved comfort. Visually, the 1935 Ford was much more modern with the grille pushed forward and made more prominent by de-emphasized and more-integrated fenders. A major advance was a true integrated trunk on “trunkback” sedans, though the traditional “flatback” was also offered. Outdated body styles like the Victoria were also deleted for the year. []