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Dakota Datebook
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Sitting Bull to Phil Jackson, cattle to prairie dogs, knoefla to lefse. North Dakota's legacy includes many strange stories of eccentric towns, war heroes, and various colorful characters. Hear all about them on Dakota Datebook, your daily dose of North Dakota history.

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.

You can find all Dakota Datebooks from 2018-today below. Our archive of Datebooks from 2003-2017 can be found here.

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  • In the summer of 1910, former president Theodore Roosevelt was still making headlines in the Fargo Forum and Daily Republican newspaper. Roosevelt had been on page one in June as the paper recorded his interaction with passengers at sea off the coast of Ireland as he began his return after a triumphal tour of Europe.
  • Few county officials in North Dakota have been removed from office, but one of the most dramatic cases reached the state Supreme Court. Sioux County State’s Attorney George H. Purchase was serving his second term when on this date in 1927 five voters filed charges against him for misconduct in office, malfeasance and habitual drunkenness. The accusations prompted Gov. Arthur Sorlie to suspend Purchase.
  • Grandma Mary, a pseudonym, got AIDS from a blood transfusion in 1984. Her friend, a nurse, wanted to lift Grandma Mary’s spirits, so the Bismarck Tribune ran a story about her, and gave a post office box address for people to write her. On this date in 1990 the Bismarck Tribune reported that Grandma Mary had received 300 letters. Mary said, “I was amazed. It was overwhelming. It was a surprising, amazing thing to happen to me.”
  • When we picture high-powered attorneys or the leaders of major corporations, we often think of the stereotype presented by Hollywood – someone who got their start as a brash twenty-something with East Coast roots, fresh out of an Ivy League college. However, as is often the case, such stereotypes are inaccurate, and the real version is much more interesting.
  • At the end of July 1877, Steamboat Captain and Missouri River pilot, John Harris of Missouri, passed away in Bismarck. At his death, the author of his obituary acknowledged his fondness for drinking, commenting that the passed soul “was master of a very lucrative profession,” and that he “might have enjoyed a happy home …” and that he “Might have been able to breathe out his last moments surrounded by loving, sympathizing friends,” if he hadn’t given in to “intemperance.” The author ended this article by stating, “Truly, virtue brings its own reward.”
  • This week in 1974 brought a sudden change in Vice President Gerald Ford’s schedule when he abruptly cancelled a 12-day political excursion. The reason soon became apparent. The news leaked out, and a three-inch-high headline on the front page of The Fargo Forum screamed “Nixon to Quit!”
  • Born in Springfield, Ohio in 1818, Charles Cavalier moved to Carmel, Illinois at the age of seventeen. After a few years he pulled up stakes and headed west. He settled in Red Rock, Minnesota, six miles south of St. Paul, but soon relocated to St. Paul where he opened a shop in 1845. He sold out in 1847 to start the town’s first drugstore in partnership with a doctor. However, he was a restless soul. In order to move on to other adventures, he sold his share of the drugstore to the doctor.
  • On this date, in 1920, a newspaper advertisement touted the virtues of Huiskamp’s “Barn Yard Shoe” and Huiskamp’s Barnyard Shoe Oil. These work-shoes, according to a 1913 advertisement in Valley City, were manure-proof and ammonia proof; guaranteed “not to rot or crack-through from barnyard service.”
  • Mary Sherman was born to Michael and Dorothy Sherman on a small farm near Ray, North Dakota in 1921. She graduated from Ray in 1939 as Valedictorian and went on to college at Minot State University majoring in chemistry. When World War II broke out, most men joined the service creating a shortage of chemists and other scientists. Mary was noticed in her chemistry classes and offered a job at Plum Brook Ordnance Works in Sandusky, Ohio. Short on money, Mary decided to postpone her degree and take the job.
  • Five thousand Indians of the Sioux nation gathered in 1888 for discussions on a treaty that would open up land in the Standing Rock reservation for non-native settlement. The government was represented by three commissioners who needed three-quarters of all adult Lakota males to approve the treaty. Today marked the eleventh day of discussions, and the commissioners had yet to gather a single signature.