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By the end of October in 1918, the people of North Dakota held an apocalyptic view of unfolding events.  The whirlwind pace of an incredibly violent year had eclipsed anything ever witnessed before.  Editor F.W Wardwell of the Pioneer Express at Pembina had stated that it took blood to make people understand what war means, and, in his words, the war demon had spread his red cape across the state as loved ones were dying on the battlefields of France.

By mid–October the casualty lists were swollen with the names of local heroes, when just as suddenly, in the cities and towns across the state, pestilence, in the form of the Spanish flu was taking its toll, adding to the misery. Death was on most doorsteps.

Famine was the final member of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, as mentioned in a book by that name, which was becoming popular at the time. While not manifest in the state, rationing and food shortages, had become a part of everyday life. To add to the turmoil, in many parts of the state, vigilante law dealt with slackers and seditionists, as an intolerance of German ethnicity greatly strained communities. Meanwhile, as huge forest fires in northern Minnesota killed hundreds of people and destroyed complete towns, clouds of smoke rolled through the state, casting an eerie gloom.

But if it is always the darkest before the dawn, news from the battlefield and the home front was beginning to indicate that the end of the war was in sight. After battlefield deaths had risen with the latest push, they now declined with the Germans driven back and Austria surrendering unconditionally. On the home front, flu death likewise had peaked and communities were beginning to allow social gathering. Meanwhile, a bountiful harvest had lessened the food shortages, but there was much work to be done, as it would be months before conditions in Europe would allow the return of most troops. 

On this date in 1918, the war-weary population of North Dakota was preparing to launch the United War Work Campaign on November 11. The major welfare organizations had combined their fund drives into one major effort to promote the welfare of the soldiers in France and in training camps across the nation.  Nationally, two hundred and fifty million dollars was the goal, with North Dakota’s share being slightly over $1,000,000.  Peace was in sight but the war effort carried on. 

Dakota Datebook by Jim Davis


Devils Lake World and Inter-Ocean, November 13, 1918

The Bismarck Tribune, October 14, 1918

The Oakes Times, October 24, 1918

The Pioneer Express, April 13, 1917

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