1917 Red River Dog Derby, Part 2
If you were listening to Datebook on January 26, you heard about the Red River Dog Derby organized for the Outdoor Sports Carnival in Minnesota. Eleven dog teams were running from Winnipeg along the old Pembina trail through North Dakota and into Minnesota, to take their finish at Como Park during the carnival. However, cold weather and illness delayed and even knocked some participants from the race.
The three frontrunners throughout North Dakota were Hyurtur Hanson, Gunnar Tommason, and Mike Kelley. However, as the three departed from Fargo, Hanson’s dogs were experiencing dysentery – and he suspected poison. Kelley and Tommason backed Hanson on this. They all described a tall stranger with a black moustache who had followed them along the course, asking after the dogs in Pembina and in Reynolds. Many bets had been taken on the race, and they surmised that the poisoning was an effort to fix the race, but nothing more came of the accusation.
The remaining runners passed into Minnesota, on the 29. In a surprising run from 4:15am to 10:08pm, four of the contestants traveled almost 80 miles to overtake the three leaders, who were sleeping in Rothsay.
North Dakotans followed news of this tight and tense race with great interest as weather and illness continued to slow the racers. People had been lining up along the paths throughout the entire route, eager to catch sight of the dog teams as the runners sledded through their towns. On this date, the teams passed through Fergus Falls, where school had let out early for the event. Some people had stood on the street since 9am. Originally, January 30 had been projected as a possible end date for the race, but the finish line remained distant.
In the end, none of the men who led the way through North Dakota even finished. In fact, around half of all the teams dropped out. One of the racers to finish was Albert Campbell, whose dying father, with his last breath, had told Albert to win the race. Albert was indeed the first to arrive in Como Park on Saturday, February 3. He was followed closely by the four remaining teams, including his younger brother. Crowd favorite Fred Hartman came in last, collapsing after crossing the finish line. After all, it had been a long and grueling trip.
Dakota Datebook written by Sarah Walker
The Bemidji Daily Pioneer, January 6, 1917, p1
The Bismarck Tribune, January 23, 1917, p1
The Bismarck Tribune, January 26, 1917, p1
The Bismarck Tribune, January 25, 1917, p1
The Bismarck Tribune, January 29, 1917, p1