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Firemen's Tournament, Part One

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This date in 1910 marked the conclusion of a three-day, annual firemen’s tournament. This event had a long history stemming from the 1880s, and rotated through different cities, over different dates, drawing many participants and spectators. In 1910, the event was hosted by Bismarck.

Much needed to be done in preparation. Firemen of the city, responsible as hosts of the event, asked the city commission to help defray expenses, expected to be nearly $2,000. Under commission bylaws, the city was not able to make an appropriation, but the commissioners themselves were able and willing to help. The firefighters asked for $350 — a small price to help accommodate the influx of visitors.

A Grandstand was erected on the south side of Main Street between First and Second streets over the stone fence surrounding the site of Camp Hancock. An ad in the newspaper inquired if anyone could provide extra lodging. It said: “Anyone having a room … to rent, or knowing of rooms for rent at the homes of any of their neighbors or friends, will confer a great favor upon the boys.”

The Bismarck Tribune noted: “The Capitol City fire fighters stand ready to prove that they are royal hosts and jolly good entertainers.” Indeed, they fulfilled this promise, as Michael Tschida, Mayor of Glen Ullin, later wrote, “I do not exaggerate when I make the statement that I have never attended a tournament where the firemen were accorded a more royal treatment than they received in your city.”

The event was a way for firemen to showcase skills and showboat in friendly competition with fellow firemen. There were typically contests involving skill and equipment, and also parades and a dance. It was a fun event, a spectacle, and also a way for citizens to show appreciation for the work of the men.

That appreciation was shown in many ways; such as in Kenmare, where it was reported that the volunteer firemen would travel to the convention at Bismarck “by the Soo on a special train as an appreciation of the department’s good work in saving the railroad property at the time of the recent fire.”

However, a report from Fargo also noted that there was a general sentiment to change the annual event from a tournament to a convention, saying: “Many of the firemen believe that much would be gained by having less sports and more indoor discussions.”

To hear more about the history of this event, tune in next week.

Dakota Datebook by Sarah Walker

May 29th, 1910, p9
Bismarck Weekly Tribune, October 3, 1884, p1
Jamestown Weekly Alert, March 16, 1893, p5
The Wahpeton Times, August 1, 1884, p4
Jamestown weekly alert, May 19, 1892, p7
Jamestown Weekly Alert, May 25, 1893, p2
Bismarck Weekly Tribune, September 26, 1884, p3
Bismarck Weekly Tribune, October 10, 1884, p2
Bismarck Daily Tribune, June 1, 1910, p6, 7
The Oakes Times, June 2, 1910, p6
Bismarck Daily Tribune, June 4, 1910, p2
Bismarck Daily Tribune, June 7, 1910, p2
Bismarck Daily Tribune, June 5, 1910, p1
Bismarck Daily Tribune, June 15, 1910, p5
Fargo Forum and Daily Republican, June 9, 1910, p1
The Bottineau Pioneer, July 4, 1889, p3
Bismarck Daily Tribune, June 14, 1900, p1
Devils Lake Inter-Ocean, June 22, 1900, p1

Dakota Datebook is made in partnership with the State Historical Society of North Dakota, and funded by Humanities North Dakota, a nonprofit, independent state partner of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in the program do not necessarily reflect those of Humanities North Dakota or the National Endowment for the Humanities.

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