One hundred twenty-five years ago on this date it was a week after the vote on North Dakota's constitution. The votes were still being tallied, but newspaper headlines proclaimed a huge Republican victory and the passage of the Constitution.
With the exception of Richard Cowen in Rolla, not a single Democrat had been elected west of Jamestown. Chronicling the overwhelming Republican victory, the front page of the Griggs Courier depicted a crowing, strutting, Republican rooster. Below it was a withered sickly chicken representing the Democratic Party, which, it said, “… died October 1st…and fell into the soup with a dull thickening thud and is now a thing forgotten.”
Democrats did manage to capture thee judgeships, but for the most part, the Democrats were the proverbial spring flowers that died in the fall. They carried only thirteen contests out of almost one hundred. Only Oliver County voted predominately Democratic, and most of the success came in the northeastern part of the state such as Cavalier County where they claimed all three legislative seats.
The vote for the Constitution went three to one in favor, but a majority was not attained in all counties. In Nelson County only 127 voted in favor, with 660 opposed. The voters in Grand Forks also went heavily against the Constitution on a three to one basis. With the Agricultural College placed in Fargo as a constitutional mandate, Cass County voted 4,049 to 31 for passage. In the west, the Constitution passed by wide margins. In some counties such as Logan and McIntosh there were no negative votes.
In contrast, the vote for prohibition carried by a very slim margin. In fact, as the returns were being processed, the Bismarck Tribune announced prematurely that the prohibition clause had failed. In the western part of the state prohibition was soundly defeated with Bismarck voting two to one against. In Billings County only four voters opted for a dry state. Communities settled by people of German origin also voted heavily against it. As the votes from the eastern third of the state were received at Bismarck, the margins were small but the accumulated effect supported the prohibition clause. It won by slightly more than one thousand votes. Up to the last minute, anti-prohibitionists had remained confident it would not pass and they failed to turn out at the polls – a failure that would slow immigration and turn many forthright North Dakotans into criminals.
Dakota Datebook written by Jim Davis
The Bismarck Tribune October 4, 1889
Grand Forks Weekly Herald October 4, 1889
Jamestown Weekly Alert October 3, 1889
Griggs Courier October 3, 1889