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Merry Helm


On this date in 1877, Bismarck saloonkeeper Peter Branigan* was supposed to be executed. He had killed a soldier named Massengale in his saloon on Christmas Day and was almost lynched by angry soldiers that night. Branigan was found guilty in February, escaped from jail in March, and was caught again Audubon, Minnesota, a few weeks later.


Doctor Herbert Wilson was born in Bethel, Vermont, on this date in 1921. Wilson was a physician at Fort Berthold for 43 years before retiring. Herbert’s college education was interrupted by World War II, which turned his life in a new direction. He served on B24s as a navigator and gunner. While in England, he met Lilian May Osborne, a corporal in the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force. They married in 1945.

Alf Clausen

Mar 26, 2021


This Sunday is Alf Clausen’s birthday. He was born in 1941 and grew up in Jamestown. In school he played piano and French horn and sang in the choir. But after high school, he decided to be a mechanical engineer and enrolled at NDSU.

Luckily, a trip to New York brought him to his musical senses. He went to visit his cousin, a piano player in Manhattan, and decided music was where his heart was. He switched his major to music theory, and after NDSU, he entered the Berklee School of Music in Boston where, upon graduating, he was hired as an instructor.

Mylo Hatzenbuhler

Mar 22, 2021


Ladies and Gentlemen… Mylo Hatzenbuhler!

On this date in 1994, came the debut of “I’m Big-Time Now!” a CD by Mylo Hatzenbuhler – who is known as the “Strasburg Superstar.”


Today marks the anniversary of one of the most memorable basketball games in North Dakota history. It took place in the Bismarck Civic Center as the Hillsboro Burros took on the Epping Eagles for the 1977 State Class B Tournament. The Burros had been to state eight times, had won back-to-back championships in ’73 and ’74, and had done so with an enrollment of 210 students. On the other side of the state, tiny Epping High School had a total enrollment of only 23, and during the late ’60s, they had suffered 96 straight losses.

Lawrence Welk

Mar 11, 2021


Lawrence Welk was born on this date in 1903. He grew up in a sod house near Strasburg in south-central North Dakota. His first clear memory was of crawling to his father who was smiling and holding out an old accordion. Another favorite memory was of the day his brother John got married. Lawrence volunteered to stay home to do chores so he could play John’s accordion the entire day without being made to stop.

Building with Stone

Mar 2, 2021

One would think that in a state with as many rock piles as we have, there would be fieldstone buildings everywhere, but they tend to be uncommon.

The Buffalo Herald described Angus Beaton, a stonemason from Nova Scotia, as a “reliable expert in the handling of brick and stone.” Beaton was an early homesteader in southeast North Dakota and was responsible for building the historic Calvary Episcopal Chapel in Buffalo in 1885. Now known as the Old Stone Church, it was the first stone church built in Cass County, and the third in northern Dakota Territory. The building was architect George Hancock’s first stone church design to also include a stone tower. While the building has since been rescued, the tower disappeared many years ago.


North Dakota native Polly Hamilton died on this date in 1969 under the name Edythe Black. Since 1934, Polly’s name had been linked to the notorious gangster John Dillinger. 

By 1934, Dillinger was Public Enemy Number One. It was about that time that he met 26-year-old Polly Hamilton, who had moved from Fargo to Chicago. When she wasn’t waiting tables, she worked the streets for brothel owner Anna Sage, who was facing deportation to Romania for being an undesirable alien of “low moral character.”

Opera Houses

Feb 18, 2021


It was on this date in 1735 that the first opera performance in America took place. The opera was Flora, and it was performed in Charleston, South Carolina.


On this date in 1868, Sondre Norheim competed in Norway’s very first national skiing competition. He had never competed outside his home territory of Telemark before and had to make the three-day journey to Christiania (now known as Oslo) on foot.