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TRAVELING JACK

Posted 8/01/17 (Tue)

By Jack Dura
Farmer Staff Writer

In a sparse cemetery in Milton, I found the grave of my great-great-great-grandfather.
It was October and the tiny town was all but vacant. Maybe one or two people were doing yardwork. For a Catholic cemetery, there were few grave markers.
Wow, this is already sounding pretty morbid.
I promise you, it’s not. Just a young guy tracing his roots out from Fargo.
My great-great-great-grandfather was August Dziura. He arrived at the port of Baltimore with his wife Maria and three children in August 1892.
They eventually settled in Marshall County, Minn., and after his wife’s death in 1917, August Dura (note the name change) moved to Milton, N.D., to his widowed daughter’s farm. He died there in 1937 from a heart condition at age 80.
So it was that I, the inquisitive descendant, came to stand at his grave, starkly marked with his name and years of birth and death.
Here lies just one of 20 ancestors who settled in North Dakota.
They came from all corners of the world. My great-great-grandmother Ella Neste came from Wisconsin and purchased a store in Portland, N.D., with her first husband in 1881 before he and their two children died from tuberculosis.
From 1877-82, three generations of my paternal grandmother’s family settled around Mapleton, one of North Dakota’s earliest towns, predating even Fargo. They came from Ontario, and from there, Ireland.
Dad’s grandma Barbara was a German from Russia and a refugee who fled her wartorn and famished village in the Volga River Valley. She, her mother and two surviving siblings made their way from Moscow to Latvia, London to New York, Thief River Falls to Alsen, N.D., reunited with her father after 11 years.
Today most of these forebears lie in roadside cemeteries, memorialized and visited on two or three days of the year.
Barbara’s mother died four years after coming to North Dakota. She was 44 and is interred in a tiny graveyard near Calio, N.D.
Her descendants today live throughout the United States, including Texas, North Dakota, California, Idaho and Washington.
All who trace their roots back to a woman who spoke no English and buried two children as a single mother in starving times.
I’ve visited Loma in Cavalier County where the Duras once farmed. There’s not much left. My 98-year-old aunt Florence informs me there was a school, grocery store, churches and a thriving Main Street.
Today, nothing.
Yet a century ago, that tiny North Dakota town was home to many folks whose descendants eventually moved elsewhere.
Like Fargo, where my story begins.