Harris Baukol and Baukol Noonan Lignite, Inc.
It was this day, October 2, 1980 that the University of North Dakota acquired a collection of records from Baukol-Noonan Lignite, Incorporated through a donation from its president Robert Rovelstad.
Baukol-Noonan Lignite was first conceived of in 1928 when Harris Baukol and Hugo Domrese started a small holding company in order to buy coal land near Noonan in Divide County, North Dakota. As research revealed large deposits of coal in the region the two men began to acquire options and leases on nearby property, eventually forming Baukol-Noonan Lignite, Incorporated in 1929. The next few years were a busy time for the company. Steam shovels, trucks, wagons and a variety of other necessary equipment were brought to the Noonan mine, and production was kicked into full gear. By 1933, the company had grown to the third largest mining organization in the State, and as the years marched by the company continued to expand its production.
From its founding Baukol-Noonan Incorporated was a unique company. Its leader, Harris Baukol was a mining innovator, being among the first to use surface mining to extract coal. Rather, than dig shafts and tunnels into the earth Baukol simply removed the top few lawyers of soil to reveal the large coal deposits beneath. Furthermore, Baukol was a firm reclamationist. Long before reclaiming surface mines was popular, Baukol restored the land from which his company retrieved coal. Beginning in the 1930s Baukol returned the top soils to his spent coal mines and planted trees, shrubs and grasses to encourage birds and other wildlife to return to the area. In 1949 Baukol-Noonan Lignite Incorporated was reincorporated simply as Baukol-Noonan Incorporated, and sold all of its capital stock to the residents of North Dakota. A year later its long-time leader Harris Baukol retired, leaving behind one of the largest companies in the state.
Baukol-Noonan continued in its founder’s tradition of innovation and expansion. In 1953 it started offering year-round work to its employees by manufacturing lightweight building material from local unused clay supplies during the months when mining was untenable on the northern plains. In 1962 large mining operations were started in Larson, and in 1970 the company began yet another mine at Center, North Dakota.
The 1980’s saw radical changes to Baukol-Noonan. The original mine at Noonan was closed in 1986. Two years later the company was sold to the Minnesota Power Company, and its headquarters were moved to Bismarck. Although the company started by Harris Baukol has greatly changed over the years, it continues to provide jobs and clean efficient electricity to North Dakota.
Written by Lane Sunwall
BNI Coal, Inc., "Our History" http://www.bnicoal.com/about/history.htm (accessed September 19, 2008).
University of North Dakota, "Baukol-Noonan Lignite, Inc. Records", University of North Dakota http://www.und.edu/dept/library/Collections/og584.html (accessed September 19, 2008).
________, "North Dakota Entrepreneur Hall of Fame", University of North Dakota
(accessed September 19, 2008).