Turkey Track in Storm
It was exactly 100 years ago that The Fargo Forum and Daily Republican reported that, statewide, farmers had broken a record for early seeding. “For the first time in many years,” the story read, “wheat seeding in the northwest is practically completed on the first day of May...there has never been a year when wheat has gone into the ground in better shape. Hon. M. F. Murphy of Grand Forks, who farms several thousand acres of land, says that in the 27 years that he has lived here, he has never known a season in which all conditions were so favorable.
The article went on to say that seed sown in February had in many cases sprouted and was already greening up. In other cases, the early seed had rotted and had those fields needed to be replanted. Acreage in that category was small, the paper reported, because “the farmers as a rule were distrustful of the unusually early opening...”
Everybody agreed the only thing needed now was moisture. And that’s exactly what they got. On this date in 1905, it began to drizzle, which turned into pouring rain. Eventually it turned to sleet and what several people reported as “the beautiful.” The Forum reported, “Probably the severest snow storm that North Dakota has ever experienced in the month of May prevailed over the western and northern sections of the state yesterday and last night, and from four inches to (four) feet of snow fell at various points.”
Chancey Langdon reported, “After a (24-hour) rain my farm at Hannaford yesterday afternoon was under a blanket of snow. The ‘beautiful’ cut up such capers on the (railway) branch from Carrington to Denhoff that a rotary plow with two engines had to be used to clear away the drifts, and train No. 8 had difficulty with snow drifts in its journey from Leeds to Jamestown...”
Northern Pacific headquarters stated Conductor Dinehart couldn’t leave Denhoff because of eight-foot drifts in the cuts. Out near Esmond, a train with 21 passengers got stuck.
R. H. Hankinson said, “I met Mr. Plumley in Bismarck yesterday and he probably will tell you all about the Washburn train being stuck in the snow. The ‘beautiful’ was covering the capital city when the train left yesterday afternoon... on the whole it will do a great deal of good if Old Sol will only follow closely in the wake of Jupiter Pluvius – but not too strenuously.”
“From Valley City to the Montana line the snowfall was heavy,” the Forum continued. “At Langdon fifteen inches of snow fell (and) at Neche the storm was even more severe, and many of the telephone and telegraph wires were blown down. From Crary the information came last night that the blizzard was one of the worst of the winter, and in many places snow was drifted to a depth of five feet.”
Our old friend Turkey Track Bill was working with a crew northeast of Flasher when the storm hit. They were moving cattle during spring roundup on the old Fallon Ranch on the Black Hills Trail. The rain started that morning, and then a wind came up that was so strong they couldn’t keep their tents up. Turkey Track and the others took refuge in a barn to wait out the storm. The next day they found their saddle horses frozen to death.
Florence Aunger Beery’s parents ran a hotel in Flasher, and Florence later said, “(That) storm caused the death of lots of cattle. The rain soaked their coats, and the snow froze on them. Many were found over the creek banks, eyes and nostrils iced over and frozen. It was a frightful experience. Then the sun came out,” she said, “the snow melted, and the wheat just kept on growing.”
Sources: biographical information from an unspecified history of Flasher book, pgs 221 and 223;
The Fargo Forum and Daily Republican, May 2, 3 and 5, 1905
Dakota Datebook written by Merry Helm