The Militia at Grand Forks
Many towns throughout the new state of North Dakota had National Guard units. But by 1898, the Grand Forks unit had disbanded. The Grand Forks Herald noted that at one time the Grand Forks militia was a first-class company in the forefront of the North Dakota National Guard. The primary reason for disbanding was the lack of a suitable armory. There was no place for the militia to meet and drill. The Herald said this was “much to the regret of every citizen who took pride in the fine company….”
On this date in 1898, the newspaper announced that the militia would reorganize. A move was being made to build a new armory. The Herald was certain that with public support the effort would be successful. Captain Gordon, the leader of the previously active Company F, said that a new armory would serve as encouragement. He was sure he could raise a new company of one hundred men. He stated that this new company would be the pride of North Dakota.
The newspaper estimated that an armory could be built for $2,000, noting that the Grafton armory was built for $1,800. The Grand Forks armory would not have to be located in the main business area. The cost of the land would be more reasonable, and it would leave more space in the downtown area for businesses. The building would provide space for a drill hall, but a new armory would benefit Grand Forks in other ways as well. There would be space for meetings and conventions. It was expected to be a very profitable investment.
The Grand Forks militia was indeed revived, and it didn’t take a new armory to do it. By April, 1898 the battleship Maine was sitting on the bottom of Havana harbor. President McKinley called for volunteers to fight Spain. Grand Forks answered the call. Volunteers from Grand Forks formed Company F of the First North Dakota Volunteer Infantry. They reported to Fargo where they joined the rest of the First North Dakota for training. Then it was off to the Philippines. The North Dakota troops performed admirably, and ten of them were awarded the Medal of Honor. Company F finally returned home to Grand Forks in October, 1899.
Dakota Datebook written by Carole Butcher
Grand Forks Herald. “Grand Forks’ Popular Military Organization, Co. F. N.D. National Guards Is To Be Reorganized.” 19 March, 1898.
Cooper, Jerry with Glenn Smith. Citizens as Soldiers: A History of the North Dakota National Guard.” Fargo, ND: Institute of Regional Studies, 1986.