Joseph M. Devine
Dakota Territory and Joseph M. Devine almost share a birthday. The sixth governor of North Dakota was born on this date in 1861, thirteen days after an act of Congress created Dakota Territory. Devine served five months as governor before he left in early 1899, one of many oddball stories in the state’s gubernatorial history.
Devine was born in Wheeling, West Virginia. He graduated from the University of West Virginia in Morgantown, and came to Dakota Territory in the summer of 1884. He settled in LaMoure County and engaged in farming. In 1886, Devine was elected superintendent of schools in LaMoure County, a job he held for 10 years. In 1890, he was appointed to be the state’s educational lecturer, giving instruction to educators. It’s a role he held for eight years. He also served as North Dakota Education Association president.
His first taste of politics came as North Dakota lieutenant governor in 1897, but the next year, Governor Frank A. Briggs died in office. Briggs was not yet 40, and he died from tuberculosis just as Bismarck burned in a great fire. Briggs watched the city burn from a couch on the executive mansion’s porch. He died the next day, the first North Dakota governor to die in office.
Devine stepped into Briggs’ shoes, and finished his predecessor’s term, continuing to advocate for education. Frederick B. Fancher became the next governor, with Devine continuing as lieutenant governor for another term, through 1901.
His career in education continued after he left office. He served as state superintendent of public instruction and as superintendent of the state training school. He even spent a decade as state immigration commissioner. In that capacity he helped dedicate a peace monument in Cannon Ball, North Dakota.
Joseph Devine died in Mandan in the summer 1938 from heart failure. He was 77.
Dakota Datebook written by Jack Dura
Trinka, Z.I. (1920). Out where the west begins: Being the early and romantic history of North Dakota. St. Paul, MN: The Pioneer Company. Retrieved from: