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Snowbound Ball

A series of Northern Pacific passenger trains pulled into Fargo in the early morning hours on this date in 1910. The seven east-bound trains had been scheduled to arrive in Fargo three days earlier. Rumors of their whereabouts had circulated through the city, as nervous friends and family members feared the worst for the train’s passengers. With a blizzard raging through Montana and rumors of a horrific train wreck blocking the Northern Pacific’s lines, many imagined the passengers huddling for warmth within the confines of the train cars or even worse.

As it turned out, the passengers were experiencing a much different situation. Most of the trains had left from Seattle on January 3rd. Familiar with January in Montana, several snow plows accompanied the trains. Near Big Timber, Montana, the trains were met with blowing snow in a forty-mile an hour gale. Met by three-foot high snowdrifts, train operators dispatched the snowplows. The front snowplow began to clear the snow, but the blistering winds toppled it sideways across the tracks. Workers attempted to turn the plow upright, but the blowing snow quickly packed the machine tightly into the snowdrifts. It quickly became apparent that it would not be possible to remove the plow until the blizzard let up.

In the mean time, the passengers received the news that they would be delayed in their present position for some number of days. Undeterred to have a jolly time on their trip, passengers on Train No. 2 began planning a number of “entertainments” to be enjoyed while the blizzard continued.

The highlight was to be a fancy dress ball in the train’s dining car. Several of the men made the short trip into nearby Big Timber and purchased material and novelties to be used for the ball’s preparations. The women on the train busied themselves by creating gowns to wear. One of the passengers, Alfred Landry, left the train in search of a musician. He found a dentist in the nearby village of Pierre who happened to play the three-string violin. While friends and family in Fargo worried about the fortunes of their loved ones, the dentist from Pierre was busy enjoying such a good time that he played from 8:30 until 1:30 in the morning.

Dakota Datebook by Jayme L. Job

The Fargo Forum and Daily Republican (Evening ed.). January 10, 1910: p. 6.

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