Frank Briggs’ Birth
An early North Dakota governor, who died a dramatic death, had a humble birth and upbringing in Minnesota. Frank Arlington Briggs was born on this date in 1858. He was the only son of his parents’ four children. His father Thomas was a carpenter, successful enough to acquire servants at one point.
Briggs had worked in journalism, becoming editor of the Howard Lake Advocate when he was barely 21. He went on to become an editor and reporter for the St. Paul Pioneer Press. Briggs married Nannie Rachel Meek in 1877. The couple had two children, Stella and Bessie. They moved to Mandan in Dakota Territory in 1881 where Briggs, just 23 years old, worked in real estate.
A few years later, he became the Morton County treasurer, serving for two years. In 1894 he became state auditor a post he held for two years, before becoming the Republican nominee for governor. He went on to win the election, taking office in January of 1897, but his term was short with a melodramatic end.
Just weeks before turning 40, Briggs died of tuberculosis. In his final hours, he watched from a couch on the porch of the governor’s mansion as Bismarck burned. A raging fire, fanned by the wind and two explosions, had started in the Great Northern freight depot. North Dakota lost its capitol city’s downtown and its governor on the same August day in 1898.
After her husband’s death Nannie Briggs moved to Tacoma, Washington. Lieutenant Governor Joseph Devine took office, and Frank Briggs went down in history as the first North Dakota governor to die in office.
Dakota Datebook by Jack Dura