100 years of Oliver County roots
By Annette Tait
One hundred years ago, in 1915, Pearl Cahoon’s parents made their way to North Dakota. As with many homesteaders of the day, Alfred and Gena (Anderson) Benjamin were seeking a new life for their family, and had been told of all the opportunities that awaited them.
“Uncle Wes, my dad’s brother, wrote to him about all the free land to be homesteaded here,” Pearl said. “My uncle wrote to Dad with a rifle shell, because he didn’t have a pencil.
“They came up with what they could haul in a railroad car – a team of mules, sheep, household things. Our daughter Debbie has the bed they brought with them.
“Dad was afraid he’d be drafted into the First World War, but it turned out they only drafted the mules because he had a wife and family.”
Pearl was born on that first homestead, about three miles northwest of Center, the last of Alfred and Gena’s five children. Her brothers were the oldest – Jess, Art, and then Cliff – followed by Alice, who was 11 years older than Pearl.
“My real name is Lorraine, but I’ve always been called Pearl,” she said, laughing. “I’m not sure why – it can be a little bit of a problem some times.”
When she was four years old, Pearl’s family moved to a farm about 15 miles northwest of Center, and about two miles south of where she lives now.
Pearl grew up on the farm, learning to keep herself occupied.