© 2024
Prairie Public NewsRoom
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Garrison Dam Deaths


Over two miles long, the Garrison Dam is one of the largest rolled earth dams on the planet. It’s construction brought degrees of misery for many of those involved. The Three Affiliated Tribes lost the rich Missouri river bottomland of the Fort Berthold Reservation. The Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara people had cultivated these lands for generations. The flooding forced them to higher ground and poorer soil.

The dam took seven years to build. It was constructed for flood control and hydroelectric power. Damming the Missouri was by no means an easy task – fifteen men died during the construction. One of those deaths occurred on this date in 1952 when carpenter and foreman John Hoffman fell from the dam’s intake structure. He was 29 years old and a World War II veteran. His death was the first in over three and a half years at the site.

Most of the deaths took place after the project was well over halfway done; with eleven deaths in the last three years. Early on, the project had logged 16 million consecutive man hours without a fatal accident. However, numerous non-fatal accidents did occur … from vehicle accidents, equipment problems and falls. Contractors received a number of letters advocating safer practices.

Some workers also died from heart attacks, which might also have been linked to the work. But despite the deaths and injuries, the Garrison Dam project was reportedly considered the safest project of its kind in the 20th Century. Signs remembering those who died are on display at Garrison Dam Park.

Dakota Datebook by Jack Dura


Fundingsland, K. (2008, Oct. 1). Several died, injured during construction. Minot Daily News. Web. Retrieved from: "http://www.minotdailynews.com/page/content.detail/id/519527.html?nav=5576" http://www.minotdailynews.com/page/content.detail/id/519527.html?nav=5576

Memorial signs in Garrison Dam Park, west of Riverdale, ND.