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Women of Hatton, Part 3


Yesterday’s story was on the anniversary of a remarkable event in North Dakota history. The setting was the six-year old town of Hatton, which had a general store, a post office, a church (St. John’s Lutheran), two grain elevators…and six saloons.

On that January day in 1890, a group of mostly Norwegian immigrant farm women burst into the drinking establishments of Hatton and proceeded to smash every bottle and keg they could find, along with mirrors, windows, glassware, and anything else that might contribute to the desired effect. One of the leaders of the women, Ragnhild Raaen, informed a protesting bar owner she had every right to destroy property that had been paid for with her family’s hard earned money. The record doesn’t indicate whether he tried to argue the point.

As on most battlegrounds, there was some unintended “collateral” damage, and that was followed by some unforeseen consequences. During the fray, Peter Lomen, a regular saloon patron, suffered a cut on the head from Orlaug Aasen’s shingling hatchet. Pastor Gronlid, who had taken a strong interest in the women’s work, was close at hand and helped Lomen get out of harms way. Though Mr. Lomen reportedly resumed his drinking that evening, he apparently failed to tend to the hatchet wound on his head. Three weeks later he was dead after infection set in.

A few months after the mess was cleaned up, all of the women and Pastor Gronlid were summoned by Traill County Sheriff Sven Heskin to a trial in Caledonia, the county seat at the time. The saloonkeepers contended the women had caused Peter Lomen’s death.

Aagot Raaen wrote briefly of her mother’s experience at the trial in her book, "Grass of the Earth," “Mor was gone over a week and the children had to do all the work. They were glad when she returned. She said, ‘We had such a good time listening to all the funny things the witnesses said and the speeches of the lawyers and the judge! We had good food and slept in good beds. I had a real vacation.’”

We have to assume the women were cleared on the merits of their case, and not because the sheriff and the judge were afraid to take the women of Hatton into custody!

Incidentally, you might think the women of Hatton were inspired by the well-known deeds of Carry Nation, of Kansas. Not so…Carry Nation’s famous saloon busting episodes took place ten years after the women of Hatton North Dakota went on their rampage.


Raaen, Aagot Grass of the Earth: Immigrant Life in the Dakota Country. Northfield, MN: Norwegian-American Historical Association, 1950 .

Handy-Marchello, Barbara. (1992). Land, Liquor, and the Women of Hatton, North Dakota. In Lysengen, J., & Rathke, A., (Eds.), The Centennial Anthology of North Dakota History (pp. 223-231). Bismarck: State Historical Society of North Dakota.