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Celebration Planning in Bismarck


July 4th, the opening day of the Constitutional Convention, was coming soon and in Bismarck the city fathers were weighing some very ponderous questions, such as which event would get the prime afternoon time slot – the baseball game or horse racing. Bismarck was planning one of the finest two-day celebrations that had ever been carried out in the territory. Not only was it the 113thIndependence Day for the nation, but in a sense it was an Independence Day for the citizens of North Dakota. Finally, the yoke of territorial carpetbaggers was being thrown off and the final step to self-government was about to begin.

Other questions that arose concerned scheduling for the foot races, the wheelbarrow races, the greased pole climb, the fat man’s race, and an ascent in a huge balloon. Band concerts, food fairs and numerous other events were also being discussed. So far, there had been a very serious, but bloodless competition between the baseball enthusiasts and those planning the horse racing, although tempers did run quite high at times. Both groups had solicited funds from merchants and supporters, and a significant amount of money had been raised for improvements to the baseball field and the race track.

Complete with fireworks, the 4thof July celebration promised to be a lively affair. Even the Northern Pacific Railroad vowed to assist with reduced rates to encourage attendance. All militia and organizations in uniform would be allowed to travel by rail at a cost of one cent per mile provided that they traveled as a unit and in uniform. It also promised to provide a reduced rate to the general public by charging only one fare for a round trip.

One of the main features scheduled for the two-day event was the 4thof July parade. James McLaughlin, the Agent at the Standing Rock Reservation, was allowing Sitting Bull and other notable chiefs to attend the parade. Sitting Bull’s notoriety placed him among the most well-known Indian leaders in the county. Only six years earlier he had attended the laying of the cornerstone ceremony for the Capitol Building, and his presence would add significantly to this event. However, a report had come from Standing Rock the first week of June that he was desperately ill with pneumonia and was not expected to live. David F. Barry, the noted photographer, visited the reservation several weeks later and found that, although very weak from pneumonia, the old warrior was recovering. Barry stated that his overall health had suffered significantly during his illness, but Sitting Bull remained defiant, resolute and outspoken.

Dakota Datebook written by Jim Davis


The Bismarck Tribune June 7, 1889

Ibid : June 21, 1889

Mandan Pioneer June 12, 1889