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Carole Butcher

Contributor, Dakota Datebook
  • Rumors about Bismarck city treasurer George Reed began circulating on this date in 1887. It was reported that he was thousands of dollars short in his accounts and he was nowhere to be found. It seemed he had departed for parts unknown along with city money.
  • On this date in 1877, there was a great deal of anticipation in Bismarck as a new stagecoach line prepared to set off the following morning. The gold fields of the Black Hills beckoned, but travel to Deadwood was on foot or on horseback.
  • Although not yet a state during the Civil War, the region that became North Dakota had a great deal riding on the conflict. President Lincoln said the country could not exist half-slave and half-free. It would be one thing or the other.
  • North Dakota is smack dab in the middle of the Central Flyway. It covers more than half the landmass of the continental United States and extends into Central and South America. It’s like an interstate highway for migrating birds. Many different species rely on the diverse marshes and wetlands on their spring and fall journeys.
  • As they moved out onto the Great Plains, pioneers were struck by the lack of trees. Trees were taken for granted east of the Mississippi. Trees provided building materials, wind breaks, and fuel. Among those who missed trees was Nebraska newspaper editor J. Sterling Morton. He became a strong advocate for tree planting.
  • In 1916, revolutionary leader Pancho Villa controlled much of northeastern Mexico. As a part of his campaign to destabilize United States interests in northern Mexico, Villa launched an attack on US mining executives. Eighteen Americans were killed.
  • Railroad executive James J. Hill is a giant of North Dakota history. Overcoming the disadvantages of an impoverished childhood, Hill took the helm of the Great Northern Railway and was responsible for the company’s huge expansion across the northwest that was in large part responsible for the settlement of the state.
  • People have proven remarkably adaptable to the extreme winter weather of the northern Great Plains. It is easy to overlook one item that has kept people warm for almost 250 years, and North Dakotans have a teenager from Maine to thank for it.
  • The winter of 1887-1888 marked the end of the Little Ice Age, an unbroken six year stretch that featured abnormally cold weather. The Little Ice Age seemed determined to go out with a bang. The year began with a severe blizzard that affected the Great Plains from the Canadian border to Texas. On January 12, an extremely cold storm hit. As many as 300 people died. It is still considered the worst storm in North Dakota history.
  • The early white settlers in North Dakota tended to cluster around the Army forts located along the Red, James, Sheyenne, and Missouri Rivers. The rivers allowed for easier delivery of supplies, since overland transportation was slow and difficult. That changed for Dakota Territory when the railroads arrived in the early 1870s. New settlers, and supplies to support the growing economy, could now arrive quickly and conveniently.