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Clement Lounsberry


Clement A. Lounsberry was born in 1843 in DeKalb County, Indiana. Like many people who gained notable success as adults, Lounsberry overcame great hardships during his youth, including being orphaned.

Lounsberry was working as a farm laborer when the Civil War broke out, and he soon enlisted with the First Michigan Volunteers. He was wounded and taken prisoner at the First Battle of Bull Run in July 1861. After spending a year in the hands of the enemy, he became part of a prisoner exchange and was released in June 1862.

Lounsberry promptly received an officer’s commission and was sent back into battle; over the next few years, he sustained three more injuries. He was a Colonel in command of the First Michigan Sharpshooters and the Second Michigan Infantry regiments when he accepted the enemy’s surrender of Petersburg, VA.

After the war, Lounsberry moved to Martin County, MN, where he began publishing the Martin County Atlas, but he made the decision to move farther west wherever and whenever the Northern Pacific constructed a line that crossed the Missouri River.

Meanwhile, he joined the Minneapolis Tribune as a legislative reporter and editorial writer. Finally, it came time for his move west, and on this date in 1873, his first copy of the Bismarck Tribune rolled off the press.

Some say Mark Kellogg received the second copy; Kellogg was an early contributor who wrote under the penname Frontier. Lounsberry couldn’t afford to hire him full time – he called Kellogg his attaché. Truth be told, Kellogg is believed to have edited the 2nd, 3rd and 4th issues of the paper, because Lounsberry was absent a great deal that first year. Plagued with financial problems, he was still working as a legislative reporter for the Minneapolis Tribune, and he was also handicapped with a painful limp from the last wound he suffered during the war. This condition was so problematic his leg ultimately had to be broken and reset.

The Bismarck Tribune reached an early zenith when Lounsberry became the first newsman to report on the death of Custer and 268 cavalrymen at the Little Bighorn. Lounsberry couldn’t accompany Custer on that occasion, so he asked Mark Kellogg to go. It was the last time Kellogg and Lounsberry would ever see each other.

Lounsberry was a staunch Republican, and when he sold the Tribu

ne in 1884, he was hoping he’d be appointed governor of Dakota Territory. Unfortunately, the position was awarded to a different newspaperman, Gilbert A. Pierce of the Chicago Daily News.

For the next 20 years, Lounsberry had a tough time sustaining success. During this period, he worked for a Land Office and published a historical monthly magazine in Fargo, an activity that led him to help organize the North Dakota Historical Society in the 1890s. Ultimately, his history magazines became the basis of his seminal creation, a huge three-volume book called North Dakota: History and People, which first appeared in January 1917.

In 1905, Lounsberry landed a job with the General Land Office in Washington, D. C., and despite his strong ties to ND he never came back. He died in October 1926 and is buried in Arlington National Cemetery.

Source: Arlington National Cemetery Website. Clement A. Lounsberry: Colonel, United States Army. Courtesy of Sandy Barnard.

Dakota Datebook written by Merry Helm