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Hail and Ancient Pottery


The Bismarck Tribune was founded on this date in 1873, but the first issue didn’t come out until a week later, on July 14th. It hit the streets with an printed apology; the materials needed for printing the paper were late in arriving, and a lack of supplies forced the editor to leave out some of the advertising he had sold.

Among the front-page stories in that first issue was an update on the Yellowstone Expedition, which was traveling under General Custer’s protection. One segment dealt with the difficulty of keeping the different segments of the group together because of rough weather and rising waters.

A reporter traveling with the expedition wrote, “The rains of the past week have been a great drawback and prevented the union of the different parties of the expedition and its forward march as a whole. The hail storm which struck this detachment (8th regiment infantry) and engineers a week ago was fearful, and the reports would be incredible did I not see evidence of its effects.

“Antelopes and a dog were killed. Men were knocked down and rendered black and blue from head to foot, mules and horses made frantic and uncomfortable, and the only surprise is that no more were injured, as but two men were hurt. The hail fell to the depth of three or four inches on the level, and in ravines from one to two feet deep. The stones were as large as hens’ eggs.”

Another story that made the front page concerned the discovery of ancient pottery in the area. The report read, “Two miles and a half above Bismarck is the site of an ancient fort. The ground consists of about fifteen acres situated on bluffs, perhaps one hundred feet in height, on the east side of the river. The position seems to have been well fortified, the ditch, the embankment and camping grounds being distinctly marked. The grounds are covered with bones and on every hand may be found specimens of ancient pottery. The vessels [are] fifteen to twenty inches in diameter and perhaps two feet deep.”

“The patterns were somewhat rude,” the story continues, “and yet in some instances considerable taste as well as skill was shown in ornamenting. The vessels do not seem to have been burned but dried in the sun, though they are almost as hard as flint. The material seems to be the fine clay which abounds on the Missouri River mixed with, say, pulverized quartz, or something having that appearance.”

The article goes on to say, “The specimens of pottery are found on the side of the bluffs, in the camp and in many instances five to six inches under ground. It would be interesting to know what parties occupied these grounds and by whom and when this pottery was made. Can any one throw any light on it. J.O. Simmons owns the claim on which the old fort was situated.”

Again, this has been news from the first issue of the Bismarck Tribune, which was founded on this date in 1873.

Written by Merry Helm

Source: The Bismarck Tribune. Friday July 14, 1873: 1.