A Tribute to and 1936 Obituary of Thomas F. Berry of Velva ND

(Read about Tom Berry's sister) Eliza Masteller: My Biography

Thomas F. Berry was one of the earliest pioneers in McHenry County North Dakota. He came with Jacob Andrew Pendroy, James M.Pendroy and his son John B. Pendroy to the Souris/Mouse River via Bismark in August, 1882.

They drove across the prairie camping where the Verendrye monument now stands. James Pendroy took that claim. They started out in search of a neighbor as their food provisions, tent bedding, coats all ammunition and part of their guns were destroyed by fire.

They came to the cabin of Yankee Robinson, a trapper who had located in the same section that Spring. After spending the night at the Robinson home they were given flour to make pancakes on their four day journey. The unsatisfactory pancakes of flour and water, fryed in a dry pan at noon, were much improved at supper with the aid of grease.

In February, 1884, T.F. Berry volunteered to take his turn spending a night on the prairie in an attempt to carrying mail. He was caught in a blizzard as there was no stopping places between Washburn and the Dogdens.

dogden_butte.jpg (28460 bytes)

February 22, 1884, the Pendroy boys and T.F. Berry with four horses on a sled drove to Burlington to a dance, gathering up a crowd as they went. Four days were required for the trip. Music was furnished from Scriptown.

At another party at Jim Wilson's near Scriptown, T.F. Berry danced a jig on the bread board since there were no floors in the log cabin.

November 6, 1884 Johnny Pendroy, Tom F. Berry and T.S. Donnel accidentally camped with the 18 Montana cowboys, who came and arrested three horse thieves, ....(Author note-Dec 1998: I have omitted the last names of the three arrested thieves, which were printed in the newspaper article.) Next morning, when the cowboys, with provisions, were ready to leave, one told Berry to get word to his family he would not be back for some time.

The cowboy leader smiled at Berry as much as to say that he agreed with the thief. This was the last known of the three horse thieves, but the next spring the bodies of three men were found near the shores of Strawberry Lake. This put an end to horse stealing along the Mouse River for the time being.

(The above text was taken from an essay by Ruby Cowell of Verendrye in 1928. She was awarded first prize in the historical contest sponsored by The Federated Clubs of North Dakota, winning $50.00 cash. Her information was secured from diaries kept by John B. Pendroy and families.

Photo source: Old (rare) photo of an authenticl western posse - this one archived in the Special Collection at Utah State University. Title: Ready to Ride. 

Old photo of an actual western posse in Utah: Title: Ready to Ride. Utah State University: Special Colllection.

Obituary of Thomas F. Berry

Read about Tom Berry's sister Eliza Masteller

October 1, 1936: Thomas F. Berry passed away at his apartment in the Velva Hotel building Friday morning. He was taken suddenly ill that morning with a heart attack and passed away a few hours later. Prior to that time he had always enjoyed good health. Surviving are his wife and two sisters.

Services are being held from the Methodist Church, of which he was a charter member.

Tom Berry was closely identified with the history of the Mouse River Valley. He came to this section in search of grazing land. Tom was born in Marion County Iowa in November 5, 1854. only son of William and Rachel (Pendroy) Berry. (Author note: Tom Berry died at age 82)

In 1892 Tom married Miss Isabelle Smothers at Iowa. They established a home on the Berry Ranch northeast of Verendrye. In 1893, following laying of the Soo Line Rails, Mr. and Mrs. Berry engaged in the restaurant and hotel business. Later they built the Hotel (Russell House) then the Hotel Berry.

In the early days of Velva, Mr. Berry was also engaged in the livery business and at one time was Vive President of The Merchants State Bank. After selling their Hotel to C.V. Swanson, Mr. and Mrs. Berry spent some time in Minnesota, later returning and again engaging in the mercantile business at Genoa. Hunting and checkers were Mr. Berry's hobbies. Tom was always jovial, he had  a hearty greeting for friends and neighbors.  

From "A Brief History of Velva, N.D." by Oscar Anderson in 1955.   "Old Tom always delighted in telling his customers the early experiences of his travels to Devils Lake to bring supplies, before the Railroad was built. Tom built the present fine three story Hotel Berry. In those early days a meal  ticket good for 21 meals , could be bought for $2.50."

This page was published in the "Journal-Register on June 21, 1979. It was an article called "Yester Years" by Mabel Olsen.

A special thanks to the Duncan family in Oregon - Mary E. (Berry) Stickels's great great grand daughter - for this information. Thomas F. Berry  was son of William and Rachel (Pendroy) Berry. Rachel Pendroy was a daughter of Jacob and Margaret (Boots) Pendroy.

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