Do you know where Ray, North Dakota, is? This Great Northern Railroad townsite was founded in 1901 in Williams County. It was incorporated as a city in 1914, and had its peak population of 1,049 in 1960, resultant of the 1950s oil boom in the Williston basin. Population has picked up again, as so many areas in North Dakota have, with the recent oil activity.
This is a common story throughout North Dakota – small towns thriving or failing, their fates swinging back and forth in the economic winds, but their true stories lie with the residents, through whatever records, pictures and documents they leave behind. What is recorded and what is not? Some of the smaller areas don’t even publish newspapers.
However, on this date in 1950, the small town of Ray did publish its own paper. In fact, the Minot Daily News reported that two women, Helen Weyrauch and Louise Aldrich, had been publishing a weekly newspaper, “The Rakota,” in Ray for a little more than a year, though for the first five issues it was called the “U-Name it News.” The two women started publication in June 1949, with financial backing from the Ray Community Club.
Weyrauch and Aldrich did not have any experience in running a newspaper. They were locals, only few years out of school. Weyrauch graduated from Ray’s high school in 1942, and Aldrich in 1946. Despite their inexperience, they took on the challenge, editing copy and arranging for advertisements. They made every deadline their first year…even though, within seven weeks of each other, they both gave birth to a child. By the end of the first year, they had approximately 600 subscribers. Between home and starting up the newspaper, the two young women kept themselves busy—though they enjoyed the work and considered it a “nice part-time job.”
The Rakota filled a need in the community, and it was published until 1962, when it merged with the Tioga Tribune, a newspaper still published today. Most issues of the Rakota, and all of the history and stories it recorded, are available at the State Historical Society of North Dakota ... thanks to the two young women who pushed to publish it.
Dakota Datebook written by Sarah Walker
the Minot Daily News, Thursday, December 28, 1950