Henrietta "Pat" Christopher was born Helen Henrietta Conmy on July 15, 1892, in Pembina, North Dakota. Her parents, Judge Edward W. and Celina Conmy, were pioneers of Pembina County. Pat stated that "I acquired the nickname of Pat before I was old enough to have a say in the matter."
Pat finished high school in Pembina in 3 years and entered St. Mary's Academy in Winnipeg in 1909. In the spring of 1910 she was hospitalized with scarlet fever and returned home to recuperate. She went to Menomonie, WI in 1911 where she completed a 2 year course in home economics at the Stout Institute in 1913. This was followed by 4 years of teaching in Minot, ND. After 3 semesters of study, she graduated from the University of North Dakota in 1922 with a B.S. and then went on to teach in Grand Rapids, MN. This was followed by 2 years of teaching in Sauk Centre, MN.
While attending UND in 1921, Pat won the Neilson Award for Pioneer Stories. The article, "North Dakota's First White Settler," was written about Charles Cavalier of Pembina. The prize of $25 was the first money she ever earned for writing. The article is found in folder 1243-1-4.
"Pat" Conmy married Albert J. Christopher in June, 1925. Albert was born January 1, 1897, to Harley and Mary Christopher at Aitkin, MN. When Albert was 7 years old his father died, so he and his brother went to live with their uncle in Nova Scotia where he grew up. He served 3 years in WWI with the Ninth Canadian Siege Battery. On his return he attended the Denver Engineering Institute. In 1920 he came with his brother to Pembina and bought an automotive business. It was here that he met and married Pat. Melbourne was born to them in 1927 and Catherine in 1931.
In 1939, Pat wrote and directed "Red River Ripples: A Pageant of Pembina, 1818-1889." Pat also was an historical correspondent for the Grand Forks Herald. She helped establish the Pembina County Pioneer Daughters in 1940 and was their first president until 1942. She continued to remain active with the Pioneer Daughters, serving on various committees and in other positions. During this time she was also active in the American Legion Auxiliary, serving periodically as their District President.
Pat wrote "Early Pembina History" for the North Dakota Clubwoman in 1948 and in 1950 she contributed historical articles and photographs to the North Dakota State Historical Society. She conducted Pembina River Flood Research for the North Dakota State Water Commission in 1957. During this year, she also wrote and directed an outdoor pageant on North Dakota history for the Pembina County Pioneer Daughters. In 1958, she wrote and directed an outdoor pageant for the Minnesota Centennial year.
In 1957, Pat presented historical data on Pembina River flooding to the International Joint Commission, which was studying the feasibility of the Pembilier Dam. She also compiled a history of the Pembilier Dam Project for presentation to the International Joint Commission in 1965.
While Albert served in the North Dakota State Legislature, 1953-1967, Pat was active in the Auxiliary of Wives of Republican Legislators, serving for a time as President. She prepared and presented historical data to the Appropriations Board for the Pembina State Museum at the North Dakota legislative sessions in 1959 and 1963. From 1962-68 she served as the Pembina State Museum Exhibits Chairman. She and Albert received an award from the North Dakota State Historical Society for promotion of the Pembina State Museum in 1962.
Pat was a member of the Dakota Territorial Centennial Commission in 1961 and chairman of the Unwritten Tales Contest. In 1963 she became the charter Director of the Red River Valley Historical Society. She served on the Re-Organization Committee of the North Dakota Historical Society in 1966. She also served on the Board of Directors of the Pembina County Centennial and helped compile the county history, A History of Pembina County. Governor Guy asked Pat to serve on the North Dakota Heritage Committee in 1967 but she had to decline due to ill health. This same year Albert and Pat received a certificate of commendation from the American Association for State and Local History. In 1968, she was chairman of the History Committee for the Sesquicentennial of the Pembina Catholic Church, of which she was an active member. The Minnesota Historical Society presented her an award for her work on early area history in 1972. Henrietta "Pat" Christopher died on August 12, 1989.
Albert J. Christopher, like his wife Pat, lived an active life and one dedicated to helping others. He was a prominent businessman in Pembina, starting Christopher Sales and Service in the 1920's, running a garage and filling station, and later adding on a Chevrolet and John Deere dealership. In World War II, he joined the Seabees as a Chief Petty Officer and served in the Pacific for 2 years.
Albert had the record for the greatest number of consecutive years as a mayor of an American municipality, serving from 1931- 1970. Circa 1950, he became Republican Precinct Committeeman in Pembina County, serving for 13 years. He served in the North Dakota House of Representatives from 1953-67. In 1962, he received the Governor's "Man of the Year" award and on Veteran's Day, 1969, he was given special recognition by several state and local officials and also received a letter of commendation from President Nixon.
Over the years, he served as President of the Chamber of Commerce, Pembina River Flood Control Association, Economic Development Corporation, and the Red River Watershed and Flood Control Association. He served as Director of the North Dakota Water User's Association, North Dakota State Historical Society, and the Pembina State Museum which he also helped found. In addition, he was Post Commander of the American Legion and County Chairman of the American Red Cross. Albert J. Christopher died February 26, 1977.
The Henrietta "Pat" Christopher Papers date from 1920-1989 and have been divided into four series:
Series 1: Writings by Christopher
Series 2: Subject Files
Series 3: Oversize Materials
Series 4: Photographs