Putting down roots in Oliver County
By Annette Tait
Emil and Elenora (Buttke) Erdman transplanted their growing family into Oliver County, putting down roots that remain today with their son, Robert “Tex” Erdman.
The Erdmans arrived in North Dakota with their oldest son, Elroy, and made their home in Center. Emil served in the U.S. Army and saw action in France during the First World War, receiving shrapnel wounds to his legs.
After his discharge, Emil returned to Center where he became a carpenter and worked for many years on the Gaines Ranch, which was later renamed Cross Ranch and is now a part of the Cross Ranch Nature Preserve. He also worked part-time for Schultz’s Bar, and helped out with special occasions such as Old Settlers’ Day and at parties, dances and fairs. Emil was also a member of the search party that helped to find a toddler who had wandered after her siblings when they left for school and was missing for most of the day when she was found.
Elenora stayed home and cared for their home and growing family. As Emil’s and Elenora’s roots grew deeper in Oliver County, five more children arrived to join Elroy: Melvin, Marcella, Viola, Leona, and Robert, who’s always been known as “Tex.”
Tex came by his nickname honestly, playing cowboys and Indians with his friends.
“I was always the Texas Ranger,” he said, explaining his nickname. “A lot of people don’t know I have another name.”
Tex remembers growing up in Center, going to school, playing with friends, and going fishing and camping. He was always a hard worker, helping his mother at home and doing odd jobs for friends and neighbors.
“I mowed grass with a push mower,” Tex said. “I’d bring cold water from the well, and coal for the stove.”
He also worked for Grace Jennings for a time at the variety store, which was on Main Street near where the Fire Department is now.