Jack Dura | Prairie Public Broadcasting

Jack Dura

Politics has been chaotic in North Dakota history, even on the local level. Such was the case for the creation of Golden Valley County in far western North Dakota. Fifty-two percent of Billings County voters in 1910 approved splitting the county to create Golden Valley County. Slope County’s creation was also on the ballot and passed, but one faction of residents challenged the election before the county auditor could certify the results. The dispute started a lawsuit, and a judge in Dickinson agreed with the plaintiffs that the election results didn’t carry.

Today we share another story from the journals of The Rev. Richard C. Jahn, who served as a Lutheran minister at several churches in McKenzie County a century ago. The 20-year-old, fresh from seminary in St. Louis, spent ten months in the county. He lived in a cabin east of Watford City with a bachelor homesteader and immersed himself in rugged western life.

A parade of national figures came together to lay the cornerstone for the new Dakota Territory Capitol in Bismarck on this date in 1883. They included Henry Villard, president of the Northern Pacific Railway; financier Jay Cooke; former President Ulysses Grant; Hunkpapa Lakota holy man Sitting Bull; and a German minister appearing for Chancellor Otto von Bismarck. More than 3,000 people attended the ceremony.

Old Settler’s Day

Sep 2, 2019

On this date in 1967, the town of Alexander in McKenzie County was celebrating Old Settler’s Day. It originated in 1946 as a community picnic to honor residents of more than 40 years. Ten “Range Riders” were honored in that first year. The yearly celebration traditionally honors a longtime resident or couple in the Alexander area or McKenzie County. The 1956 Old Settler’s Day celebrated Alexander’s golden jubilee. More than 410 old timers that year wore ribbons signifying the number of years they’d been in McKenzie County.

The Cathedral of the Holy Spirit is a local landmark in Bismarck, North Dakota. Its soaring white bell tower can be seen across town from a variety of directions.

Years of setbacks had delayed construction of the cathedral, which was built during World War II. The first bishop of Bismarck, Vincent Wehrle, bought land in Bismarck in 1917 on which to build the cathedral he had long dreamed of. Plans were drawn up within a few years, but construction was delayed due to the Great Depression. In 1940, the new Bishop Vincent Ryan got cracking on the plans. He hired William Kurke, who was an architect who helped design the new North Dakota Capitol in the 1930s. Kurke designed an Art Deco style cathedral of monolithic concrete. The decorations and accoutrements were expected to make it the most beautiful cathedral in North Dakota.

Lawrence Welk was, in some ways, North Dakota’s first celebrity. The famous bandleader was born on his German-speaking family’s homestead near Strasburg in 1903, but his dreams of music led him away from North Dakota. Welk worked and played local dances for four years to repay his father $400 for his first accordion. He left North Dakota at age 21 and pursued professional music, growing in popularity as his career progressed, playing dances, ballrooms and resorts, then to television and the long-running “Lawrence Welk Show.”

Something wasn't right after Gov. Arthur Sorlie returned from a visit to the Badlands near Watford City in July of 1928. He and several U.S. senators had participated in dedicating the new Theodore Roosevelt Memorial Bridge spanning the Little Missouri River. The group also toured a site for a potential national park.

Vang Lutheran Church

Jun 26, 2019
Jack Dura

Like many prairies churches of North Dakota, Vang Lutheran Church at Manfred had its start with a group of parishioners worshipping wherever and however they could. Local Norwegian settlers held services in their sod homes and schoolhouses for worship, weddings, baptisms and burials.

A drizzly June made for mucky conditions for a young preacher and his neighbors in McKenzie County a century ago. The Reverend Richard C. Jahn came to North Dakota in the fall of 1915 from seminary in St. Louis, answering a call to preach at a church in Schafer. For 10 months, he immersed himself in the rugged lifestyle of McKenzie County, riding horses, shooting wild game and providing services to neighbors, while also keeping a daily journal. He lived with a bachelor homesteader in a cabin east of Watford City while preaching for several Lutheran churches. Being bilingual, he preached in both English and German.

Sioux Sun Dance

Jun 18, 2019

It was on this date in 1934 that President Roosevelt signed the Indian Reorganization Act, which sought to restore self-government for indigenous people. In keeping with the act, tribes were encouraged to adopt constitutions or charters. In North Dakota, the Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara, as the Three Affiliated Tribes, soon adopted a constitution. Other tribes in North Dakota would later follow suit.