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North Dakota

  • 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.”
  • North Dakota is a great location for fossil hunting. Enthusiasts come from all over to participate in public digs. North Dakota is rich in prehistoric discoveries due to its geography. Most of its surface is made of sedimentary rock that has not been touched by glaciers, creating ideal conditions for finding fossils. While most of the discoveries are by people looking for them, every once in a while someone stumbles across an ancient sample by accident. This is what happened at an oil drilling site in 2005, reported on this date in 2007.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • North Dakotans in years past have celebrated St. Patrick’s Day with school recitals, town dances, church events and more. Here is a sampling.
  • When in doubt, flee to Canada. This must have been the thought process of N.C. Mossgaard when faced with mounting debt and potential embezzlement charges. On this date in 1914, a newspaper account about Mossgaard began by detailing his life as a once-successful postmaster in Scranton, North Dakota, who was married and had twelve children. This happy life took a sad turn when Mrs. Mossgaard and several of the children contract typhoid fever and pass away. Mossgaard turned to alcohol, leaving the Scranton post office to unsuccessfully run itself. The neglect led to an examination by auditors who found the post office funds were short.
  • The Links of North Dakota is a golf course on Red Mike Hill. It is a gorgeous area, but this idyllic landscape was once rife with controversy. It began with Stan Weeks. Weeks wanted to build a golf course and asked Stephen Kay, a course designer, to help. Once they found Red Mike Hill, Kay said, “...I could work until I was 95 and never get a better site.” Weeks needed help buying it so he recruited Mike Ames, a water irrigation expert. They tried to raise $1 million but only raised $300,000. They went forward anyway, saving money by building a very natural course.