North Dakota went through seven governors in its first decade of statehood, none of whom served more than one two-year term. One of them was Roger Allin, the state’s fourth governor. Allin was born on this date in Devonshire, England in 1848. He was North Dakota’s first foreign-born governor.
Allin was raised in England until age three. After his father died and his mother remarried, the moved to Ontario. He attended school there and began to farm, but relocated to Dakota Territory in 1881, eventually farming 240 acres in Walsh County.
His political career began with his election as justice of the peace in 1882. That was followed by terms in the Dakota Territorial Council in 1886 and ’88. He later served one term in the North Dakota State Senate, and also became lieutenant governor under Andrew Burke.
When Governor Eli Shortridge retired after one term, Republic Allin succeeded him. During his administration the state struggled through a depression from poor crops and low prices, and the subsequent shortfall in state tax revenue. The state’s budgetary woes made reelection a difficult prospect, and the death blow came when Allin drastically reduced funding for the University of North Dakota and the state colleges at Mayville and Valley City. Locals had to raise money to keep the schools afloat.
After losing the 1896 Republican nomination for a second term, Allin left politics. He returned to farming in northeastern North Dakota, and later served a two-year term on the board of the North Dakota Agricultural College. Governor and retired farmer Roger Allin died in Park River in 1936 at the age of 87.
Oh, by the way, those other foreign-born governors … they were Walter Welford, who, like Allin was born in England; and then from Norway we have Ragnvold Nestos and John Moses.
Dakota Datebook by Jack Dura
Capace, N. (2001). Encyclopedia of North Dakota. Somerset Publishers, Inc.: St. Clair Shores, MI
Lounsberry, C.A. (1919). A history of North Dakota including biographies of prominent citizens. Liberty Press: Washington, DC