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Jack Dura

  • People all over North Dakota turned out for two former presidential rivals on separate speaking tours in 1920. Republican William Howard Taft had defeated Democrat William Jennings Bryan in the 1908 presidential election, serving as president from 1909 to 1913. It’s unclear why the two came to North Dakota, but their speeches drew thousands of people.
  • Today’s story takes us just south of the border to the Petrified Wood Park in Lemmon, South Dakota. The roadside attraction features pillars, spires, a miniature castle, and other creations made of petrified wood. There are also cannonball concretions, various other geologic specimens, and even several quartzite Dakota markers, originally installed in 1892 along the boundary of North and South Dakota.
  • Plans to observe North Dakota’s centennial of statehood in 1989 involved more than just a celebration. The state’s Centennial Commission set an ambitious goal in 1987 to plant 100 million trees by the year 2000 – 1 million trees for every year of statehood, to honor pioneers who planted trees on the open prairie. The Centennial Trees Program was to be a “‘living legacy’ that will serve as a lasting reminder for future generations to enjoy.”
  • Bismarck Tribune reporter Mark Kellogg has a unique place in the story of the Battle of the Little Big Horn, or Greasy Grass. Though he died in the battle, his diary and newspaper dispatches record the movements of Lt. Col. George Armstrong Custer and the Seventh Cavalry’s through Dakota and Montana territories in the spring of 1876.
  • The Texas outlaw couple Clyde Barrow and Bonnie Parker roamed the South and Midwest on their crime spree from 1932 to 1934 during the Great Depression. But it doesn’t appear they ever made it to North Dakota. A bank robbery in 1933 in southern Minnesota is attributed to the Barrow gang, and their exploits were front-page news in The Bismarck Tribune, including the breakout of inmates at a Texas prison farm in 1934.
  • The 1930s were chaotic for North Dakota politics. In one seven-month period, four men served as governor. Similarly, five men served as state tax commissioner over a few months in 1938 and 1939. The tax commissioner oversees state tax collections.
  • North Dakotans have sometimes found themselves in the thick of historical disasters. In 1915, early in World War One, a German U-boat torpedoed the SS Lusitania off the Irish coast. The ocean liner sank within 20 minutes. Over 60% of the passengers died.
  • A prominent North Dakotan was in Europe when the Chernobyl nuclear disaster unfolded. Lieutenant Governor Ruth Meiers was on a three-week trip to the Soviet Union for an international women’s conference. At 10:45 in the morning on this date in 1986, she called from Porvoo near Helsinki, Finland, saying she was OK and in no danger from the disaster.
  • The populist Nonpartisan League ushered in a new era to North Dakota’s state government a century ago. The League’s legacy includes the state-owned Bank of North Dakota and the State Mill and Elevator. But the League also pushed a raft of changes for the state constitution, including a law for recalling elected officials.
  • North Dakota’s 1991 legislative session was one of the last to have a split statehouse, with Republicans having a majority in the House and Democrats narrowly controlling the Senate. The session was short by today’s standards. Lawmakers used 67 of the 80 days allowed by the state constitution to write new laws and pass budgets.