NILS KILDAHL
User Contribution
By Earl W. Kildahl
Nils Kildahl was born at Westedo, Minnesota, on September 30, 1871. When he was three his parents moved to Northfield, Minn. At five he witnessed the attempted robbery of the Northfield Bank by the James brothers and their associates, members of the Dalton gang. He especially remembered the rider on guard at the corner and horses and riders going by - as well as some horses without riders. This was considerable excitement for a small boy, an experience which he never forgot and before his death he was the last survivor of the witnesses of that event.
In 1881 the family moved to Grand Forks, North Dakota. In 1883 they moved to Maza, N.D., by wagon and oxen. In 1888 Nils started out for Montana on a horse, but sold it along the way and came in on a freight train. His first job was water boy for the Tongue River ditch construction. He then worked for the Bow and Arrow, holding 180 saddle horses - all that was left of the HV and C Bar after the winter of 1886-87. J.B. Rhea, the manager, sent five of his men with a pack outfit on the lower Big Dry to brand calves. It took ten days to make the trip and they branded only one C Bar calf. Down below Timber Creek they met Hank Cusker and an Indian who were hunting horses for the N-N. They heard how Hank and Jim McNany ran across a couple of bears on Bear Creek. Jim roped one and Hank decided to ride him. The bear reached up with both hind feet, depantsed Hank and scratched him up a-plenty.
The next spring Nils wrangled horses for the Bow and Arrow on the roundup. Charlie Taylor was cook and Charlie Erick, the ramrod. Taylor was the best Dutch oven cook in the country. The wagon worked from Pease Bottom down the Yellowstone to Custer Creek.
The next year Nils went to work riding circle for the XIT. O.C. Cato was then manager at the time the company was training 10,000 head of cattle each year from the XIT in Texas. The next year Mr. Cato gave him the job of horse wrangler as Nils liked and understood horses. It was while on this job he believed he originated the rope corral, which he fashioned with rope, crotches and pins. He made the pins from old Sharp's rifle barrels which were strong enough not to bend when driven into the ground. He knew many old cowhands and it was a new kind of corral to them and soon every outfit in the country used it.
In 1895 Niles established a ranch of his own in the Horton area and operated a cattle and horse ranch. In 1896 he married Anna Jonsson who had come to Montana in 1894 from Sweden to the home of her sister, Mrs. Olof Nelson. Their two children were born at the ranch, Ruth Alice in 1897 and Earl W. in 1899. During their residence on their ranch they saw it change from a stock outfit to a fertile and productive irrigated farm. After Nil's retirement, Earl owned and operated the home place.
Nils had been affiliated with the Yellowstone Lodge No. 26, A.F. and A.M. for 52 years at the time of his death, August 30, 1948. He was also a member of the Half-Century club and was a Charter member of the Range Riders, Inc. Mrs. Kildahl died June 27, 1959, at 86.
By Earl W. Kildahl
Fanning the Embers