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Harvest Help


As the men of North Dakota rushed off to Europe to aid in the battles of World War Two, others were needed in Ramsey County to help in that year’s harvest. Today in 1944, The Devil’s Lake World reported on two groups that did just that.

On July 28, Governor John Moses gave a welcome speech to 455 Mexican laborers in Camp Grafton. The workers had arrived in order to help farmers in Ramsey County harvest. “In the name of the citizens of North Dakota,” announced Governor Moses, “I am privileged to welcome you to our state. You have come to help us in our most difficult, and our most important war-time task–the task of harvesting our crops and of starting them on their way to provide food and clothing and necessary equipment for our fighting men and our fighting allies...Every hour you spend in the harvest fields of North Dakota will be a direct contribution to the cause for which we are all fighting.”

The Mexican laborers were brought to North Dakota to help in the labor shortages that had plagued farmers for years. The Mexican government selected the Nationals based on character and health, and those selected were again checked by US officials. Many of the farmers who had already received help from these transient workers were pleased by their work ethic. Several returned to the camp to hire more.

The Mexican Nationals, however, did not only take advantage of the work opportunities due to the labor shortages, but they also took advantage of the American culture. While in America, the laborers learned many games, though baseball was their favorite. According to a Devil’s Lake World reporter, “the group was apparently living up to the best American traditions in baseball including ‘razzing the umpire,’ and cheering a home run to the echo. But their principle interest was to go to work, as was apparent when a big bus arrived to take a group of them to some distant point. Even a home run by a potential Babe Ruth was unable to hold the players and the spectators when the bus pulled in.”

The custodian of Camp Grafton, Captain Phil Christopherson, also arranged a gathering between the Mexicans and the Native Americans of Fort Totten. The Native Americans danced and sang traditional songs in full costume for the Mexican Nationals. The Mexicans followed with their guitars and songs in Spanish. The Devil’s Lake World noted the significance of this cultural exchange. “Enjoyment was equally keen among the whites in the audience who apparently realized they were privileged to witness something unique in entertainment.”

Though the Mexican Nationals stood by ready to help, others were also called upon in case their help was exhausted. Two hundred registered members of the “Shock Troops” of the North Dakota Guard stood by to help in case of labor shortages. Made up of Guards, area businessmen, and other city workers, these volunteers would help if all other laborers, including the Mexican Nationals, were hired out. In that case, the Shock Troops would be called to duty. At a time when Europe was being torn apart by war, these men, along with the Mexican Nationals were able to come together this fall in 1944.

Dakota Datebook written by Tessa Sandstrom


“Shock Troops ready to move into harvest,” The Devil’s Lake World. August 2, 1944: 1.

“Ramsey County farmers find Mexican labor good,” The Devil’s Lake World. August 2, 1944: 1.

“Governor Moses extends welcome to Mexican harvest workers,” The Devil’s Lake World. August 2, 1944: 6.

“Indians, Mexicans stage unique show at Camp Grafton,” The Devil’s Lake World. August 9, 1944: 1.