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Death of Frank J. Thompson


A man present for many firsts in North Dakota died on this date in 1910. Frank J. Thompson came to Fargo, Dakota Territory from Michigan in 1878 to practice law. Thompson was a man of many hats prior to coming to Dakota; he was a machinist, taught music and later studied law. He formed a partnership in Fargo with Henry Krogh in law and real estate that lasted eleven years until 1892. Thompson married in 1882 and had two children with his wife Elmodine. In 1892, he became grand secretary of the Grand Lodge of Ancient Free and Accepted Masons of North Dakota. Until his death, he worked to improve the organization.

Thompson was also a member of the state’s first legislature as a Republican, though he was only partially affiliated with the party. He served as Judiciary Committee chair and worked closely with his friend, William Mitchell, the first superintendent of public instruction. Thompson also served as state assistant attorney general from 1891 to 1893.

Thompson’s greatest legacy is rooted in the Fargo Public Library. He was the library’s first director and organized its founding through the Grand Lodge in 1900. For two years, the library was housed in the Masonic Temple. An assistant librarian was hired for $3 a week. Fargo Mayor John Johnson supported the library founding and solicited donations, which brought in “several hundred volumes.”

In 1902, library promoters turned to industrialist Andrew Carnegie, who donated $20,000 for a brick building, which opened in 1903. Thompson was also a founder of the North Dakota Library Association and was its first president. He championed education, a privilege he did not have as a young man. He served on the Fargo school board and sought to improve educational opportunities all around.

Thompson lived in Fargo for over 30 years. His death came as a surprise as a result of a heart condition. He was only 54.

Dakota Datebook by Jack Dura


North Dakota Public Library Commission. (1908). First biennial report of the North Dakota public library commission. Bismarck, ND: Tribune, State Printers and Binders. Retrieved from:


State Historical Society of North Dakota. (1910). Collections of the state historical society of North Dakota. Bismarck, ND: Tribune, State Printers and Binders. Retrieved from: