It was early April of 1903 when North Dakota welcomed the second sitting U.S. president to visit the state. The first, Rutherford B. Hayes, famously toured the giant Dalrymple farm, the first of the famous Bonanza Farms of the Red River Valley – the largest wheat operations in the world.
Theodore Roosevelt, North Dakota’s adopted son, was the second; and the two-day trip through Dakota’s plains was a homecoming for him.
The president’s special five-car train carried Secret Service agents, reporters and aides. Along every stop of the Northern Pacific track were eager North Dakotans anxious to see Teddy.
After a stop in Ellendale, the express headed to Edgeley. At each location, TR referenced his history with the local land.
“Ladies and gentlemen, I am delighted to get back into North Dakota. It is twenty-three years ago that I first came to what was then the Territory of Dakota. I lived for many years here and I am overjoyed to be back with you again!
My friends and fellow citizens, I am very glad to see you and to be greeted as you greeted me tonight. I have most naturally a peculiar feeling for your people and it does me good to see you.
You are a great state, a stock-growing state here; but the reasons I like you the most are the men and women. In addition, I am glad to see there are a few children down here too. You seem to be all right in the quantity of children and I am glad of that because I think it is a good stock, and I do not want to see it die out!”
In Fargo the next morning he addressed the crowd warmly.
“My fellow citizens, I want to say a word of greeting. I do not feel as I were a stranger, but rather I feel that this were more or less a homecoming. For I know your state so well. I lived on the western reaches of your state on the Little Missouri River. Indeed, I was a humble deputy sheriff. It is such a pleasure to meet you here and to have gotten a glimpse of you. I believe in North Dakota! I believe in your crops and above all, I believe in your men and women!”
Dakota Datebook: Remembering Theodore Roosevelt is written and performed by Steve Stark. Funding provided by the Theodore Roosevelt Medora Foundation.