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Fourth of July


With many of North Dakota’s young men and women already serving on the battlefields in Europe, the 4th of July in 1917 promised to be a day of commemoration and consecration. For some, it was difficult to call it a day of celebration, but unlike Memorial Day, with the somber reflection that death may await loved ones serving overseas, the 4th of July remained a celebration of patriotism, commemorating the battle for independence and democracy. According to the Pioneer Express from Pembina County, “It was observed as a day to be joyful of the memories of the past, proud of our history and progress, but thoughtful of the present and future.”

The town of Pembina celebrated with an impressive parade. This included many floats with themes such as Liberty, the Conservation of Food, Law and Order, and Transportation. There were other war-related floats such as a Field Hospital, a Red Cross Ambulance and even a naval theme represented by two large submarines complete with deck guns and radio antennas, and powered from beneath the waves by hidden automobiles. Young ladies flitted through the crowds pinning ribbons on lapels for those who contributed to the Red Cross.

The parade was followed by patriotic speeches, a ball game and picnics. Notably missing, however, were the fireworks, an otherwise grim reminder of the millions of shells falling on the battlefields overseas.

In Fargo, Island Park was the scene of a special flag raising with the Fargo Band playing the Star Spangled Banner. That was followed by a day of patriotic speeches. A flag committee had been organized to hand out flags as people entered the park. A reading of the Declaration of Independence was followed by the audience singing “America.” Here too, a ball game entertained the crowds, and the evening featured a patriotic program. As a special treat, free lemonade was supplied for the children.

At the Chautauqua in Tolley, North Dakota, Governor Fraizer spoke to more than fifteen thousand people, the largest crowd ever assembled at that event.

But as celebrations commenced across the state, war news continued to worsen. Battlefield causalities mounted, and National Guard units were entering the final stages of the organization as they readied for activation. North Dakota would soon be entering the war in a bigger way, with much more at stake.

Dakota Datebook by Jim Davis


The Ward County Independent, July 5, 1917

Fargo Daily Courier News June 30, 1917

The Pioneer Express July 6, 1917