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Republican Triumph

10/16/2014:

As one of his last acts as governor of Dakota Territory, A. C. Mellette would meet with Secretary L. B. Richardson and Chief Justice Bartlett Trip in Bismarck on October 17thto certify the fall election. Once that was completed, he would send a certified copy to President Benjamin Harrison along with a copy of the State Constitution. Harrison would then issue the Proclamation of Admission, and Dakota Territory would no longer exist.

The voting for state officeholders was a landslide for Republicans, who garnered 68% of all votes. Henry Clay Hansbrough became North Dakota’s first Congressman, and John Miller assumed the office as governor.

Along with certifying the votes for the Constitution, Gov. Mellette also confirmed that prohibition had passed and North Dakota was a dry state. Mellette proposed that the brewers, distillers and saloon keepers be compensated, reasoning that the businesses had been legally established and should be reimbursed because the law made them illegal. Fred Miller of the Miller Brewing Company had invested over one hundred and fifty thousand dollars to establish his brewery only a handful of years earlier and now its value was one tenth of his investment.

People were in disbelief. One man stated he voted for prohibition but never thought it would pass. Others planned to sell their stores and move on. In larger cities, such as Fargo and Grand Forks, taxpayers would need to take on thousands of dollars in debts formerly paid through fees from liquor licenses. Druggists in the state were being offered large sums for their businesses as they would have the only access to legal alcohol. At Jamestown, a hub of prohibition activity, turnout at a victory observance was minimal. They were stunned at the unexpected triumph and there was little celebration. An advertised parade failed to materialize.

When asked about the passage of prohibition, Dennis Hannifin, the well-known gambler and political commentator known as the “squatter governor,” jubilated in the fact that Dakota was an “antagonizers” paradise, a home of extreme men, and he felt vindicated. In fact, he believed that every man who lifts a glass to his mug should get ninety days, every man who sells a drop should be banished to the Sandwich Islands, and every man caught with a bottle should be arrested for high treason. “Now let’s have Women’s Suffrage and Free love,” he exclaimed, and then loped away with an evil smile.

Dakota Datebook written by Jim Davis

Sources:

The Bismarck Tribune October 18, 1889

North Dakota Capital October 18, 1889

Jamestown Weekly Alert October17, 1889