AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF (BERNARD) BEN OLINGER COSTER I was born in New Salem.
May 24th 1901.
Father, Bernard Ferdin Coster. 1871-1962.
He was born in Aurora., Ill.
Mother, Anna B.
Mothers parents came from Germany.
Where she told me there was a statue of her Grandfather, in the village square, As former Burgomeister.
Mothers great grandmother, was a lady in waiting at the Court of Koenick Fritz.
There also was a connection, with Charlotta Von Zeiten.
Grandfather Nicholas Coster.
Along with six brothers.
Migrated, in the 1850s, to the U.S.
Trier was the most further north.
Roman Legion, outpost in Europe.
Many old Roman buildings, are still extant at Trier.
Some of the Costers, made Mill wheels.
In the days of the inquisition, some of the Costers were, driven out of Trier, to Spain.
Because of relegious persecutuin.
They again returned to Trier.
There is Basque blood in the family.
One of the six Costers, who came to the U.S.
Was a Railroad financial specialist For J.P.
Morgan, as a pardner.
Five of the brothers settled on the Hudson.
My grandfather Nicohlas, first went to Chicago.
Then moved to Aurora.
While I was visiting with my Aunt, Barbara Burkel.
At Aurora, in 1921, she invited a relative to her house.
To get acquainted.
She was Clara Marx.
A good looking Jewess.
Mrs Marx told me that the Costers & Marx, were relatives, in Trier.
Among one Carl Marx, was to become famous.
Thru writing his book Das Capital.
There was a Von Coster.
Who invented the first moveable type.
This was before the Gutenberg Bible was printed.
This invention made the printing of books practical.
On Mothers side of the family.
There was an ancester, who was an official.
In the organization of Der Scwachen Valt.
The first National Forest on the face of the earth. Grandfather, Nicholas Coster was a merchant, & saloon keeper.
He also had a general store.
Also a lumber yard.
Costers Corner, as far as I know still stands.
A two story brick building.
On the corner of Broadway & Fox Streets.
Ill. I shall digress, a moment from my story.
The art of Biography, is different from Geography.
Geography is about Maps.
But Biography is about Chaps. Literature probably began with story telling.
By Minstrels & Ancient Bards.
Thus originated The Iliad & Odyssey.
The primitive story teller.
Was not simply providing entertainment.
But was passing down to his listeners.
Of who they were..
Where they came from.
And what life was all about.
In other words.
He to was concerned.
With trying to make sense out of existence.
By discerning in it, some kind of pattern.
The meaning of life.
Ben Franklin said-The next thing, most like living ones life again.
Seems to be a recollection, of that life.
And to make that recollection, as durable as possible.
By putting it down in writing. My father, Bernard, moved to New Salem.
In the 1880s.
At the instigation of friend.
Calamity Joe Myers.
Also from Aurora.
Joe was arrested by Teddy Roosevelt.
In the Bad Lands.
On the Little Missouri river, in western N.
For stealing horses from Teddy.
Joe was incarcerated in jail.
Wherat my father put up bond for his release.
Then Joe skipped out for Mexico.
When Joe returned to Dakota.
My father had a saloon at Glen Ullen.
Joe came there, & while crossing the street, to go to the village well to get a drink.
Just then a freight train pulled in.
Deputy Marshalls, stepped off of the caboose.
Recognizing Joe, they shot him down.
Leaving him lay there.
They were afraid to go near him as he was a dangerous, gunman.
In later years when Joe came to visit our family at New Salem.
Joe showed us kids, on instigation, where he had been shot.
My father also was a U.S.
Deputy Marshall in N.D.
In the early days. There was no bridge across the Missouri River, when my father arrived in N.D.
The engines & rail cars, were ferried across the river on barges.
Placed back on the tracks west of Bismarck, they proceeded on west ward.
At New Salem the old Weinreich house built of stone, was used for a fort.
It had a well inside.
Pioneers retreated to this house during the Indian scares.
In first coming to Dakota, father bought land from the N.P.
There he started the Diamond C Ranch.
Seven miles west of Fort Clark.
Lewis & Clark wintered here.
With the Mandan Indians.
In 1804-05. The ranch was located, in a fertile valley.
At one end of which was a deep ravine.
Wherein was located a fine big spring.
Water being scarce on the praire.
Whoever controlled the waterhole, controlled the range.
The countryside was uninhabited for miles around.
Father said, the spring was walled up with boulders, when he arrived.
Possibly placed there by hunters, from Fort Clark.
They would lay in the buckbrush, at the spring.
And gun down, Buffalo, Deer, Antelope, Wolves.
When they came to drink. Wild life abounded on the place.
Prairie Chicken by the thousands.
Jack Rabbits also.
As well as ducks, geese, badgers, muskrat, hawks, owls.
Bird life was prolific.
There were also large rings of granite boulders, on a bench, near the spring.
Indicating that Indians, had used this spot for centuries.
To camp, & lay in the brush, at the spring to shoot & spear game.
As they came to the spring to drink.
The rings of stones were used to hold down, the buffalo hide tent edges.
It must have been good hunting, for all variety of large game, particularily buffalo, antelope & deer, wolves & muskrats.
When I came to the ranch.
The hills around the spring were white with buffalo bones.
I gathered them into huge piles.
Then hauled then to town, with horses & wagons.
A ton or so would garner me $10.
I still have an extra large buffalo horn, that I mounted on a board.
On which I used to hang my six shooters, & lariet. Many of the pioneers, used to make a few dollars, by gathering buffalo bones, & hauling them to town to sell.
There were huge piles of buffalo bones, a couple of blocks long, piled along side of the railroad tracks, at New Salem.
The bones were shipped east, to make fertelizer, & for filtering purposes. Father used to keep six Greyhounds, to hunt wolves.
He also used strychnine capsules, placed in meat bait, to poison the wolves. When father bought the ranch property from the NPRR.
He brought the first Hereford Whiteface cattle into this part of the country.
His registered Brands were, Diamond Bar C & Pipe Brand-J.
The first year or so he lived in a Dugout, underground, as did most of the Pioneers.
Many also lived in sod houses.
Many of the Pioneers were very poor some wrapped gunny sacks, on their feet, in the winter.
One early settler, a Mr & Mrs Howder, started their farm this way.
They spaded up their first ground by hand, planting flax by hand.
Then Mrs Howder, cut the flax with a scissors, & threshed it our by hand.
While Mr Howder worked on the RR as a section laborer, $l per day, for 12 hours of labor.
They saved their money, & bought a cow, which they hitched to a hand plow, the harness was made of ropes.
Later they were able to buy a horse, so hitched the horse & cow in tandem, to the walking plow.
There were no Government checks, it was Root Hog or Die.
They were the kind of pioneers that built our country.
With generations of HARD WORK.
Father next built a house of adobe.
Mud mixed with prairie hay, white washed walls inside.
A drop siding addition, of two rooms was added later on.
Windows in the adobe were about two feet square.
One cattle barn was built out of granite boulders & mud for morter.
Another large section was added onto the first, as lumber came available, it was of board & batten.
Both cattle barns had pole roofs, with a couple of feet of flax straw for a roof.
Poles for the roofs were hauled from the Missouri River at Fort Clark.
There was a cattle corral on one side, & hay yard on the other, for prairie hay.
A horse barn & grainery, were on a little hill above the house. — I also operated the fire engine & Fire Dept.
Drove Patrol cars & Ambulance, when there was a bad flu outbreak, that laid up half of the Patrolmen.
I attended Intelligence every third week.
Every third week was on target practice with revolver.
I progressed thru all three stages in this, Marksman, Sharpshooter to Expert.
When one was Expert for three months one graduated to the FBI Course.
Which I did with revolver, Gas Gun, Riot Gun.
Thompson Machine Gun, I also made Expert on the FBI course, with either hand.
There was 75.000 men employed on the Manhatten Project, or Hanford Engineer Works.
A Col Matthias was directly in charge, on this project.
In the manufacture of Plutonium.
Which of course is the primary ingredient in the A Bomb, used at Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
As a war time situation, there was a shortage of copper.
So silver was used as a substitute for large 2 foot pipe gaskets.
These gaskets were two feet in diameter & 1/2 inch thick, thousands were used, I saw them lying in huge piles.
Huge solid silver bus bars were also used at transformer stations, as electric conduits. I took off a week while employed at the Atomic Plant & returned to Polson.
Where Julia & Barney were living in the house I had bought in Polson before leaving for HEW.
Barney was going to Hi-school in Polson.
While I was on this trip home.
Frank Faucett, County Engineer, a long time friend of mine.
Told me that in my absence to HEW.
Had called on him & other officials, at the court house.
He said the FBI had asked him many questions, as to my character, reputation, Etc.
Then they asked if, “He would entrust me, with important secrets, that would affect the welfare of the U.S.” He signafied that I was entirely trustworthy.
About a month later I was approached by the officials at HEW.
They told me that I, after being investigated by the FBI, that I had been cleared to wear a triple ” Badge.
Which gave me access to all of the innermost secrets, of the HEW Plant & layout.
Particularily the Control Room.
The officials told me not to tell other patrolmen of this clearance.
As only a small percentage had been cleared.
So from that time on I spent quite a bit of time at the Control Room.
The object of this was to check Military Brass.
FBI & Top Scientists.
Who were to be recognized on sight, from photographs & description.
Thereby these Top men were not to be subjected to severe shake down & search, on entry to this sensitive area, that was imposed on every person entering here, or at other important points in the entire plant.
So I made the acquaintence of Gen.
Leslie Groves.compton, Openheimer-(he was later convicted as a spy) & many other scientists, active at HEW.
The Enola Gay plane, that dropped the first A Bomb on Hiroshima.
Which was led by Gen Jimmy Doolittle.
Was displayed at Hanford.
I knew Gen- Then Lt Doolittle in 1920.
While at the HEW Atomic Plant.
I later staid at a hotel In Richland.
The original town of Hanford.
Used during the construction period, housing 75.000 construction workers, was bull dozed into huge piles & burned up.
One day while I was in the lobby of this hotel.
Who walked bye, but Dr Stevenson, who was in charge of the prodject mentioned previously.
The secret Military work at Costers Point.
On Flathead Lake.
Dr Stevenson, went up stairs to a huge conference room.
I followed & knocked on the door.
The room became silent, within scientists were having a meeting.
Then one of them came to the door.
I asked for Dr Stevenson.
He came to the door, he recognized me.
He stepped out into the hall.
He was surprised to see me here, I was supposed to be on Flathead Lake.
I enquired about his presence on HEW.
He said since you now see me here & know I am a physicist.
I am now on the HEW project.
Further I can tell you that.
While we was at your place on Flathead Lake.
We were working on the development of Radar at Costers Point.
We made important discoveries & improvements on Radar while at your place on the lake.
Since leaving the lake we installed Radar at the Panama Canal.
Saipan the Philipines, etc. At the end of the war I saw a picture & news items in a magazine.
With a picture of President Truman Awarding the Presidental Award to Dr Stevenson.
For his outstandin acheivment, on the development of Radar & other acheivments towards the war effort.
While staying at the Hotel at Richland.
One day a maid asked me to come & look at an object, in the above mentioned conference room.
The object was a micraphone hidden back of the drapes.
The maid said, should I report this to the hotel Mgr.
I said No- Just forget you ever saw it. I have a book written & Autographed by a Major Jordan.
Who was stationed at the Malstom A.F, Base, at Great Falls.
In this book he states he personally kept a record, of seeing & checking & listing materials, used to make the A Bomb & other highly classified material going thru Malestrom every day to Russia.
All our tight security was wasted.
Do you remember how surprised everyone was when Russia came out with the Bomb. I returned from the Hanford-Manhattan Project in April 1945.
I sold the house I had purchased in Polson.
Re-opened Costers Point on Flathead Lake & continued its operation, renting boats & cabins to the public until I sold the place in Sept 1969.
But retained control until April 1970. Costers Point was kept primitive by me for 33 years.
The first roads from the property line, to the buildings were built by me by hand.
With axe, crowbar, pick-shovel and dynamite.
In later years, I had a bull dozer come in & rough out 3 miles of road.
Circling the outer perimeter.
I followed the dozer & over a 3 year period, building the roads by hand.
By this time I had a chain saw so was able to triple the timber work.
I also continuesly cleared brush, dead fall for 30 years.
Piling this material, as I worked, sometimes I had as many a 55 piles as big as a house.
When the first snow storm hit in the fall I would put the torch to these piles & they would burn for a couple of weeks.
I also kept the beaches cleaned up, they were piled high with hundreds of years of accumulations from, storm & floods.
I built our home, with its massive rock fireplace.
Three cabins to rent.
I built over the years, 35 boats to rent out to fishermen & cabin renters.
Also a barn.
A large garage & work shop.
A smoke house that smoked thousands of salmon, as well as bear, venison, hams & bacon.
We smoked 400 salmon at one time.
I also built 3 docks that withstood 30 years of violent storms.
Some waves 11 feet high, sometimes completely entombed with ice.
The docks were built with big logs as cribs, then filled with boulders.
I also built a 1/2 mile of fence, on my property line.
From the west shore clear across the peninsula.
I worked on the place the year around, except such winters, when snow was too deep.
I did all my own carpenter work, plumbing, pump system, electric wiring.
Dock log work.
Thru the influence of Senator B.K.
Wheeler & County Engineer, Frank Faucett.
I was enabled to have about 4 miles of roads built to my property line.
The work was done by hand, during the depression.
By a 55 man crew of WPA workers.
Sen Wheeler also secured for me thru his influence, with the Indian Dept, in Washington.
A high tension power line & transformer, right down to my buildings.
He also secured for me daily mail service, over a seven mile stretch.
Thus was opened up & developed a wilderness area.
For over 30 years I worked alone in the timber, with a sharp axe.
I also had plenty of axe work at Camp Senia.
In the Beartooth Mtns & as a lumberjack.
Wild life became tame & friendly.
Deer would stand nearby & watch me as I whistled as I worked.
The wind singing in the pine boughs & the pungent odor of pitch pine, the singing of the Wood Lark & Hermit Thrush, the wild goose call must be the finest music, found only in the wilderness.
We protected all the wild creatures.
We allowed no guns on the place, except our own. The sale of Costers Point, on Flathead Lake.
In Sept 1969.
Generated considerable notoriety.
In the press, TV & Radio alover the state.
The place was purchased by a group of professional developers, from Atlanta.
They were led by a Mr Mellet.
They brought a group of sharps & lawyers from Atlanta, to first close the deal.
Then they tried to tangle up the contract.
They also employed a group of Polson lawyers.
Headed by Cal Christian (Lake Co Atty) & pardners.
Larry Doyle, he was ex-State Supreme Court Justice.
He also prosecuted Admiral Tojo, of war time crimes.
In addition they had Attorneys, Wold, McCurdy & Ingraham.
Money got very tight & the Atlanta group became desperate to bust my contract.
The above group plus their Atlanta lawyers.
Were all arrayed against my lone Attorney Jean Turnage.
He was a match for them all.
Jean is a Montana State Senator.
He is the Republican Minority Leader.
Jean has a top legal mind.
He was able to forstall all of their legal machinations.
The Atlantans stalled.
On the second payment to the point where Jean said if they arent here with the $150M at 12 noon, lock your gate.
At 15 minutes to twelve they arrived at the bank to make their payment, they stormed in without a word to the group of us awaiting them.
They threw a cashiers check on the desk & stomped out.
All red in the face. While all of the above was going on.
Because of the press coverage.
I was beset by numerous sharps, from alover the state.
They wanted to help me invest my money.
I guess they felt an illiterate country bumpkin, with all the cash the papers mentioned in the press, that I surely required expert releif.
We finally quit answering the door bell to strangers, also the phone calls.
We just suffered alone & in silence. When I was ready to leave Montana.
I went in to say goodbye to Jean Turnage.
Also to tell him that not only was he a top counciler, but also a fine man…
His rejoiner was.
As long as compliments are being bantied about, he said.
You are the shrewdest client that I have ever had. I also had good support, and advise from Mr Hanson.
The President & Owner of the Security State Bank of Polson.
He started me on a sane investment program, with the money I recieved from the sale of Costers Point.
Mr Hansons parting remark was- “Now Ben you are sitting in the golden chair.” At about the same time the above transactions were transpiring.
I was also approached by a Mr Ruby.
He was the head of a chain of banks.
He wanted to put up a 5 million dollar hotel & resort on Costers Point.
Similar he said to the Broadwater Hotel at Colorado Springs.
This was to be a pardnership. At the last minute I was also approached by Samuel Gary.
He was the largest stock holder of Del Webb Corp.
As well as its titular head.
He wanted Costers Point for his own personal family use.
He wanted us to stay on.
He later sold out to Frank Sonatra.
Dell Webb is listed on the NYSE. James Ling, was also interested.
In buying Costers Point.
That is LTV, notorious in the 60s for Lings wheeling & dealing.
LTV is also listed on the NYSE.
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