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In 1907, North Dakota was hit by a winter so bad, it almost surpassed the imaginations of friends and relatives back east - "almost" being the key word.

There was no doubt that it was cold. The old-timers called it a "regular old-fashioned winter;" in fact, since mid-November, the temperatures had mainly remained below freezing, though there were mild spells, from time to time.

The hard winter brought with it reports of a coal shortage and winter deaths, setting off a Ward County woman who decided to report back to family and friends by sending letters to an eastern newspaper editor. Her letters blew the North Dakota winter out of proportion, as she described conditions: "...With the snow three and four feet on the level ground and the thermometer registering below zero every day and most of the time 20, 30 or 40 degrees below-and the wind blowing, but blowing is too tame a word for the aerial disturbances which we have occasionally."

The woman didn't intend for her somewhat exaggerated letters to create a stir, but the eastern paper played it up, which prompted a response in Minot where a newspaper reported, "It is pie for the newspapers of the eastern states to flaunt such stuff in the faces of their people who have been coming to North Dakota to make their homes. ...The easterners think that by telling harrowing tales of suffering which is supposed to have existed in North Dakota this winter, they will cause a lot of people ...to remain in the ungodly country where they have been eking out an existence for long years."

More false and exaggerated information also reached the eastern press. Every time a report got passed on, the North Dakota papers scoffed and held the falsehood up for ridicule. Cream of the crop was the report of poor Robert Gallagher, of Sawyer, one of several men reported frozen during the harsh winter.

On this date in 1907, Robert had the last laugh. After the reports of his death, he visited Minot and the Ward County Reporter, to "let the editor see what a lovely ‘stiff'" he was.

The news spread quickly to other papers, and the Ross Promoter wrote in response that they did "not think much of Mr. Gallagher-or any other man for that matter-who will not remain decently dead after having been ‘frozen stiff' by some cheap correspondent. Mr. Gallagher's conduct shows a lack of consideration for yellow journalism, which is most reprehensible."

The Eastern papers surely agreed.

By Sarah Walker


Ross Promoter, March 1, 1907, p.1

Ward County Independent, Feb. (28), 1907

Ward County Independent, Feb. 21, 1907

Ward County Independent, Jan. 31, 1907