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Mail Order Brides


In the early days of North Dakota, there were plenty of wide open spaces. Settling this flat and untamed land did not come easy. Hard work, and a lot of it, was the order of the day. To survive in this new land, one needed a lot of grit, muscle and patience. These new settlers needed a spirit of survival; a “dog-ed” determination.

And as many might tell you, they also needed women.

So where does a young male settler start looking for a wife, when there are no eligible young ladies within perhaps several hundred miles? One of the answers came in the form of the “mail order bride.”

One particular account of a young farmer’s experience with a mail-order-bride bears repeating.

On this occasion, a young farmer in a remote area of North Dakota ran an ad in an eastern newspaper, asking for a woman to come west for “the purpose of marriage.” Soon a lady answered the ad, and made arrangements to meet with the young farmer in a nearby city. Without thinking, the young farmer made the mistake of bringing along on the trip, one of his handsome brothers. Yep, you guessed it. Upon seeing his brother, the mail order bride forgot about the young man who wrote the ad, and ran off with his older brother and got married.

End of story? Not quite. Although humiliated, the young farmer didn’t give up. He placed another ad in the same newspaper. In time, another young lady from the east showed up. This arrangement seemingly turned out better for the young farmer: she was certainly someone he could see being his wife. Just days before the wedding, well, you guessed it again: she ran off with another of his brothers and they too got married.

Now one might suppose that by this time, the young man might have soured on all women. But in the true spirit of North Dakota determination, the young man didn’t give up. The story turns out that after a while, and more importantly after all of his brothers were safely married, the young farmer finally managed to keep one of his own “mail order brides.”

For this young farmer, survival on the North Dakota prairie did indeed require dog-ed determination.

The Saddle Book Committee, “50 Years in the Saddle; Looking Back Down the Trail, Volume 3” , Quality Quick Print, Dickinson, North Dakota and Associated Printers, Grafton, North Dakota, 1990. pg.32-33.

By Dave Seifert