The thriving town of Blanchard was completely wiped out on this day in 1908, as an enormous fire ravaged the community in the early morning hours. The fire spread quickly, consuming the entire business section within a few short hours. Several residences were also destroyed, leaving many people homeless and possessing only the pajamas on their backs.
Located in Trail County, along the North Dakota-Minnesota border, the small town of Blanchard was considered a boom town, with a rapidly growing population approaching four hundred. Although four hundred does not sound like a boom town today, in 1908, Blanchard was one of the quickest growing communities in the state.
Around 5 o'clock that fateful morning, the fire began in the city's Woodman's Hall. The exact cause of the fire is unknown, but it was believed to have started very small, as the first residents on the scene believed it would be confined to the Hall. But then a powerful wind began to blow, and the small fire quickly grew. The townspeople were unable to control its spread. The city, being rather young, had not yet established any type of fire department.
The fire on that November 5th spelled the beginning of the end for the growing town. Perhaps because the town had expanded so quickly, the city had not bothered to take out fire insurance. Additionally, fewer than half of the city's residents and businessmen were insured. Consequently, the city was unable to rebuild much of what was lost. The total damages amounted to over $50,000, and included the city's post office and community hall. The majority of the residents were forced to move elsewhere - even those who had insurance - because of the lack of services and employment. Today, the population of the town is around eighty individuals, or about a fifth the number recorded during the 1900 census.
Dakota Datebook written by Jayme L. Job
The Fargo Forum and Daily Republican. Thursday (Evening ed.), Nov. 5, 1908: p.1.