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Death of Ole H. Olson


North Dakota’s history of governors is turbulent, with several removals and even a recall. Ole H. Olsen, lieutenant governor under William Langer, became North Dakota’s eighteenth governor in 1934. He died on this date in 1954 in New Rockford, North Dakota.

Olson was born in 1872 in Wisconsin to Norwegian immigrants. He graduated from Concordia College in Moorhead, Minnesota, in 1892. He moved to North Dakota that year, and later homesteaded in Eddy County. Olson farmed near New Rockford. He married in 1912 and had 10 children.

In 1916, he entered politics, serving in the North Dakota House of Representatives until 1919, and then the state Senate, where he became president pro tem in 1929. In 1933, Olson became lieutenant governor under William Langer.

Langer was removed from office in 1934 after being found guilty of “conspiracy to obstruct federal relief legislation by soliciting political contributions from federal employees.” Langer was sentenced to 18 months in prison and fined $10,000, but several court battles later he was acquitted of all charges. Langer again became North Dakota governor, and then served 18 years in the U.S. Senate.

But following Langer’s removal, Olson shifted into his seat, serving 200 days before Thomas Moodie’s election. During Olson’s term, demonstrators marched on the new Capitol. It was a time of political upheaval. Olson called in the National Guard to handle the demonstrators, and people opposed to Langer’s removal were openly hostile to him. Members of the Farm Holiday Association “roamed the streets of Bismarck” in July 1934, shouting support for Langer.

North Dakota’s National Guard adjutant general placed troops around Olson’s hotel as a precaution. Crowds gathered with mob leaders shouting to “yank him out and shoot him at sunrise.” Olson, meanwhile, said he should “be out on the farm looking after the hay instead of wasting time on all this tomfoolery.” He also said he had no “revolutionary” plans for his governorship, but would fight to hold office until the next governor took over.

When he left the governorship in January 1935, Olson was done with politics, turning his attention to the Farmers Union Livestock Commission and the Farmers Union until his death at age 81.

Dakota Datebook written by Jack Dura


Capace, N. (2001). The encyclopedia of North Dakota. St. Clair Shores, MI: Somerset Publishers. Web. Retrieved from:

"https://books.google.com/books?id=-0yEn8zrrDYC&pg=PA140&lpg=PA140&dq=ole+h+olson+demonstrators&source=bl&ots=V5kplg24PP&sig=c6ZxDdt_iDiKVj5oPMTvwI726Eo&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwj_gt2et4zKAhUBy2MKHTfxCyoQ6AEISDAI#v=onepage&q=ole%20h%20olson%20demonstrators&f=false" https://books.google.com/books?id=-0yEn8zrrDYC&pg=PA140&lpg=PA140&dq=ole+h+olson+demonstrators&source=bl&ots=V5kplg24PP&sig=c6ZxDdt_iDiKVj5oPMTvwI726Eo&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwj_gt2et4zKAhUBy2MKHTfxCyoQ6AEISDAI#v=onepage&q=ole%20h%20olson%20demonstrators&f=false

Langer may seek to impeach Olson, other officials. (1934, July 20). The Daily Banner, 42(237). Retrieved from:

"https://newspapers.library.in.gov/cgi-bin/indiana?a=d&d=TDB19340720-01.1.1" https://newspapers.library.in.gov/cgi-bin/indiana?a=d&d=TDB19340720-01.1.1

"http://www.nga.org/cms/home/governors/past-governors-bios/page_north_dakota/col2-content/main-content-list/title_olson_ole.html" http://www.nga.org/cms/home/governors/past-governors-bios/page_north_dakota/col2-content/main-content-list/title_olson_ole.html

"http://history.nd.gov/exhibits/governors/governors18.html" http://history.nd.gov/exhibits/governors/governors18.html

"http://history.nd.gov/exhibits/governors/governors17.html" http://history.nd.gov/exhibits/governors/governors17.html