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Dogtooth and Smoke


In 1909, a Mandan Pioneer article read, “Hurrah for Dogtooth, it has a great out look for a thriving metropolis...” Now, less than 100 years later, there’s nothing left but a grassy knoll.

Dogtooth was the third stagecoach station on the 1876 trail between Bismarck and Deadwood. It was given its name, because a nearby range of sandstone buttes were thought to look like the molars of a dog’s lower jaw. By 1880, the Northern Pacific Railroad replaced the stage line, and it looked like Dogtooth would fade into history. But, that didn’t stop people from moving there, and in 1910, a post office was established.

Ten years later, however, the post office was moved a mile east to the new townsite of Raleigh, where the Milwaukee Railroad had arrived. That was in 1910, a year after the Pioneer forecast that Dogtooth would become a “thriving metropolis.” In reality, the people of Dogtooth moved to Raleigh, and Dogtooth ceased to exist.

On this date in 1910, something unusual led to the death of Dogtooth resident, Ole Wagseth. The Flasher Hustler reported the story: “Fate seems to be cruel to the dwellers around Dogtooth. Tuesday night...Ole Wagseth, five miles southwest of Dogtooth, was killed by driving out over a high embankment only half a mile from his home. He was coming home from McIntosh, and as it was pitch dark on account of all the smoke, he failed to see the road. The wagon and team must have turned over several times in descent. One of the horses was also killed.”

The smoke mentioned in the story was covered on August 26th by the Mandan Pioneer in an article titled, “Turned Day to Night – Smoke from Forest Fires Envelopes City on Monday.”

The story reported that fires in Washington, Idaho and western Montana had created in the Mandan vicinity “one of the most peculiar experiences in its history, a dense pall of smoke obscuring the sun, making the darkness so dense that artificial light was necessary.”

The article read, “The cloud of smoke bore down on this section last Sunday morning, and at first it was thought it came from prairie fires, for at times veritable hot blasts as from a furnace swept over the city. As the smoke increased in density it became apparent that the cause was something more serious than a prairie fire, though at first it was scarce believeable [sic] that the air a thousand or more miles from the forest fires could be so filled with smoke.

“Monday morning when it should have been daylight at five o’clock it was almost as dark as midnight,” the story went on. “Those who were up at from five to six o’clock witnessed the strangest phenomenon. The whole sky was filled with a blood red light for nearly two hours. Then the smoke became more dense and many a man drowsily opened his eyes at seven to drop off to sleep again waiting for daylight which did not come, only to get down to their work several hours late. All Monday morning it was so dark that one could not see to read a newspaper on the streets at ten o’clock in the morning. At times the smoke would clear a little but it was well into the afternoon before the light improved, and at no time during the day could work be carried on indoors without lights.”

The article finished with, “By Tuesday conditions had improved somewhat though the sun was obscured and the day reminded one of the London fogs we read about.”

Dakota Datebook written by Merry Helm