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Jack Dura

Contributor, Dakota Datebook
  • Happy Thanksgiving! Today’s story is a sampling of how the holiday was observed in North Dakota more than 100 years ago.
  • North Dakota’s bare landscape isn’t known for its trees, but in the state’s centennial year of 1989, North Dakota provided two trees for Christmas in the nation’s capital.
  • In the fall of 1917 as the Great War was raging, eight prominent businessmen of Anamoose, North Dakota, were caught up in espionage charges. The accused included a former state senator and his brothers, as well as the Anamoose mayor and several store owners.
  • The federal prison on Alcatraz Island in San Francisco Bay held several infamous convicts throughout its 29 years of operation, even a handful of prisoners with connections to North Dakota.
  • You may have read the Sherlock Holmes story, “The Hound of the Baskervilles,” about a demonic hound that terrorizes the heirs of a wealthy estate. Similarly, people throughout North Dakota in the fall of 1936 were gripped by reports from the Canadian border to Bismarck about an African lion.
  • North Dakota is definitely not in the mainstream of pop culture. Most people’s only reference point to the state is the film “Fargo.” But North Dakota is found in other stories too.
  • U.S. Highway 85 crosses the rugged Badlands south of Watford City in one of the most dramatic drives in North Dakota. The roadway runs for a few miles through the Little Missouri Valley in the area of Theodore Roosevelt National Park before climbing out of the Badlands.
  • Dakota Territory was very much the wild West in the days of U.S. Marshal Laban H. Litchfield. He was born in 1839 in Pennsylvania. At age 20, he settled in Bon Homme County in what would become South Dakota. He was involved in Republican politics, and rose from appointed county offices to a seat in the Territorial House of Representatives and then to deputy US marshal. He was also a volunteer courier between Yankton and Fort Randall during the Dakota Conflict of 1862.
  • Perhaps the most violent moment in Dakota territorial politics was the killing of the territorial secretary in 1873. General Edwin Stanton McCook was a distinguished Civil War veteran and one of the “Fighting McCooks,” a prominent Union military family. In February of 1872, President Grant appointed McCook as secretary of Dakota Territory, a position which also served as acting governor. McCook soon afterward arrived in the capital city of Yankton with his family.
  • A man wanted for various crimes in other states met his demise in 1938 in Oberon, North Dakota. A sheriff’s deputy intervened in late-night street brawl, and as one of the troublemakers fled, Benson County Deputy Sheriff Walter Crane called for him to halt. The man drew a gun and fired at Crane, who shot back, killing the man.