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Burleigh Spalding’s Early Years


Burleigh F. Spalding had his legal and political career in North Dakota, but he spent his youth in northern Vermont.He was born there in 1853as the son of a Methodist Episcopal minister,one of four children.Spalding left home at age eleven to work on farms for five years to pay for clothes and earn his keep to attend school.

When he was sixteen, he clerked in a country store and earned up to seventy-two dollars a year at one point.

Spalding attended the Lyndon Literary Institute and then Norwich University. He graduated from Norwich in 1877 with a bachelor of philosophy, then taught school in Albany, Vermont. He clerked for the Vermont Legislature in 1878, and studied law for two years in Montpelier, Vermont.Spalding was admitted to bar in Vermont on this date in 1880. Sixteen days later, he arrived in Fargo, Dakota Territory.

He partnered in a law firm in Fargo.His firm grew over time, becoming a “large and lucrative practice” with a few other successful attorneys who came and went.Spalding also wet his feet in public service.He was Cass County’s superintendent of public instruction for two years until 1884. He was one of nine members of the capital commission that voted in 1883 to remove the territorial capitol from Yankton to Bismarck.Spalding was also a member of North Dakota’s constitutional convention in 1889.

He held other roles throughout the years on a couple Republican party committees,all leading up to his elections to Congress in 1899 and 1903.In 1907, he was appointed to the North Dakota Supreme Court, and elected in 1908, became chief justice in 1911 but was defeated in 1914’s election. Spalding went back to law in Fargo, and also entered banking. He died in 1934 in Fargo at age eighty.

Dakota Datebook by Jack Dura




Compendium of History and Biography of North Dakota. 1900. Wilson, Humphreys & Co.: Logansport, IN

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