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Ray Crandall Ran Away From Home In 1914


In the fall of 1914, Ray Crandall ran away from everything he knew to seek the adventure of his life. Twenty-one years old, Crandall was a farmhand threshing wheat near New Salem when he seemingly disappeared. Ray’s father, Mr. H.A. Crandall, who had a farm a mile north of Zap in Mercer County, had no word from his son and began a long search. Half a year passed before the story of the mysterious disappearance finally became known to Ray’s father.

On this date in 1915, the Ward County Independent published a story that traced Ray Crandall’s path from North Dakota. “I’m with the Canadian soldiers on the battle field in France,” wrote Crandall in a letter that explained his motivations for leaving. “Farm life was too dull,” he wrote. He and a fellow worker named William Falk of Glen Ullin had “left the threshing fields of New Salem” and headed to the Canadian border at Portal. There the authorities refused entry to the young men and sent them away.

After a stop in Minot, Crandall and Falk tried again to cross the border at another location. Once again, they were sent away, ending up in Grand Forks. Refusing to give up, the two men crept to the border after nightfall and finally crossed into Manitoba. They “hiked to Winnipeg” and joined the Canadian Army.

Their regiment was eventually sent to France, where Crandall and Falk fought under the flag of Great Britain. Transferred from France to the Dardanelles combat zone in Turkey, where the two men were caught in the thickest fighting. William Falk was killed and Ray Crandall was shot through his right shoulder.

After recovering in England, Crandall rejoined his regiment in France and was again “severely wounded” in a “shower of sniping by the Germans.” When he healed, Crandall began training as an aviator and served as a pilot through the end of the war.

Coming back to America, Crandall made his home in Vancouver, British Columbia, venturing into business there. In 1921, he quietly returned to his home state to visit old friends, sharing many “interesting tales” of his “combat days.”

The man who disappeared from the Dakota wheatfields had finally reappeared, having found excitement and harrowing adventures … on the battlefields of World War I.

Dakota Datebook written by Dr. Steve Hoffbeck, MSU Moorhead History Department.

Sources: “Mercer County Boy on Battle Field,” Ward County Independent, March 18, 1915, p. 7.

“North Dakotan Is Now With Canadian Army,” Weekly Times-Record [Valley City, ND],

“North Dakotan With The Allies,” Grand Forks Herald, March 4, 1915, p.1.

“Ray Crandall,” Bismarck Tribune, March 5, 1915, p. 4.

“Ray Crandall,” Bismarck Tribune, March 16, 1915, p. 4.

“Mandan Boy Was Injured,” Bismarck Tribune, May 28, 1915, p. 5.

“Glen Ullinite Died In Dardanelles,” Bismarck Tribune, June 23, 1915, p. 2.

“State News and Comment,” Bismarck Tribune, September 4, 1915, p. 4.

“Ray Crandall Who Enlisted in the Canadian Army,” Bismarck Tribune, October 20, 1921, p. 7.

“Zap,” Bismarck Tribune, June 17, 1914, p. 5.

Herbert A. Crandall lived one mile from Zap, according to the 1918 Mercer County Atlas.