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A Baby First, Kent Conrad, German Shepherds


On this day in 1802, the first non-Native American child in what is now North Dakota was born. You’ll often hear this sort of event referred to as “the first white child born” in such-and-such a place, but that’s not the case here. The baby girl was born to Pierre Bonza and his wife, black slaves of Alexander Henry, Jr. The birth took place at Henry’s Pembina fur-trading post.

Senator Kent Conrad’s birthday was yesterday, also. He was born in Bismarck in 1948, and his history as a senator is an interesting one. In 1986, he defeated long-time Republican incumbent, Mark Andrews, for a seat in the senate, but in 1992, Conrad chose not to run for reelection.

Then, in September of that year, another long-time senator, Quentin Burdick, died in office. Burdick’s seat was temporarily given to his wife, but a special election was needed to fill the rest of Burdick’s term. Conrad reversed his decision to run and won Burdick’s seat in November 1992. But because he was finishing his own term while simultaneously assuming another senate seat, Conrad had to resign from the senate in order to immediately return and start serving the term he had just won. Otherwise, he would have been holding both of North Dakota’s senate seats at the same time.

The cliché is that trends start on the coasts, and that places like North Dakota are the last ones to get them. But that’s not always true – listen to the story of Torkel Njaa, who was born during this week in 1870 in Thime, Norway. He pioneered in Griggs County with a farm in the Sheyenne Valley southeast of Cooperstown. Njaa was well known for his experimentation with cerea1 grains and livestock, and some of finest horses and cattle in the county came from Torkel’s farm.

In 1914, Njaa wanted a good watchdog and decided try importing a German Shepherd. He was impressed, imported several more, and started breeding them for sale. The quality of his dogs gained widespread attention, selling in all parts of the country, including Hawaii, and also the Philippines. Torkal’s canine industry reached its peak in about 1924, but the popularity of German Shepherds continued to grow and ended up becoming a nation-wide fad.

Written by Merry Helm