Posts Tagged ‘north dakota history’

Requiem For the KKK, 1930s

Sunday, September 10th, 2017

In the archives for State Senator William Martin — remember him? He suggested North Dakota secede from the US — is this unique image, so unique it bears a mention in the state archives indexes:

It’s titled “Bright and Shining Hopes Blasted? by the Kass Kounty Klan.”, and the poem reads:

Here lies 44 as dead as Well

He tried his best-but you never can tell.

And 45 his little brother

Who is just as dead as the other

But of all the Bright Hopes

Of this family of Three

Our bitter tears 46 are for thee.

As you might guess from the group’s name, the Kass Kounty Klan was an ‘affiliate’ of the Ku Klux Klan, the US-born racist group that has been stubbornly causing trouble since the 19th century.   The North Dakota arm of the group started in the mid-1920s, and quickly grew to a political influence in the region.  By the 1930s, though, their power had faded and they remain a footnote of sad history in North Dakota.

Martin served in the state Congress in the late 1920s and early 1930s, so he came in towards the end of the Klan’s presence in North Dakota — at first, I assumed the image above was threatening in some way; combining the Klan with imagery of graves would seem to be a warning to their enemies.

By 1927 or so, the Kass Kounty Klan had lost steam: their northern counterparts in Grand Forks had gotten members elected to positions in government, but the Kass Kounty Klan never saw that level of support.   In less than ten years, the group had disbanded, and I interpret the page above not as a threat, but as a requiem for the group late in its life.   It could also be a satirical piece written by someone opposed to the Klan.

44, 45, and 46 are legislative district numbers in Cass County — they’ve moved around a bit over time, I couldn’t find a map for the 1920s, but those three districts have traditionally been Fargo state legislative districts.    Happily, this comic shows the Klan’s political efforts as dead and buried. as it should be.

Vanish, North Dakota, 1950s

Sunday, November 13th, 2011

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In the early 1950s the Garrison Dam was well under construction, and the government was working on accommodating several communities that were about to be soaked by the newly-formed Lake Sakakawea. Two villages, Van Hook and Sanish, were only a few miles apart with a little ridge of high land between them, so a new town was platted out in the middle. The media wittily called the new town Vanish, a play on Sanish’s name and its unavoidable fate, but there’s no “Vanish, ND” on the maps today. When you lay the map below over nearby towns to figure out which one this is, you realize that the government was far less witty than the newspapers. The powers-that-be named the new town…New Town.

Dakota City, 1859.

Monday, September 14th, 2009

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In the 1850s, as what would become the Dakota Territory grew in population and industry, townsites were claimed in hopes of profiting on the westward expansion. Dakota City was one: at the confluence of the Sheyenne and Red Rivers, opposite Lafayette, Minnesota, it hoped to grow and flourish. Today, it no longer exists. The location of Lafayette (which also no longer exists) is well documented, but the original location of Dakota City is still inconclusive. Image above from an 1860 edition of Harper’s magazine, documenting a pre-Territory trip along the eastern border of Minnesota, a freshly-minted state at the time.

Downtown Fire, 1948.

Thursday, May 7th, 2009

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Located in the Grand Forks area (based on other photos in the set), a brick building is consumed by fire, 1948.

Dakota City, North Dakota, 1890s.

Wednesday, March 18th, 2009


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Greetings from scenic Dakota City, North Dakota! It took a little research to figure out what the cartographer was going off of, but the issue may be the result of lazy mapmaking. The full-sized map comes from the Harmsworth Self-Educator, a British encyclopedia from the 1910s. On closer examination, it’s odd to see a river called the “Yenne” running curling around the eastern half of the state — that is actually the “Sheyenne River”, which had at some point lost the first part of its name. The mapmaker who produced the map during the 1890s was copying off a map about 40 years older. “Dakota City” was a small settlement, just north of the Sheyenne/Red River confluence about ten miles north of Fargo, north of Harwood’s current townsite, established in the 1850s. According to Origins of North Dakota Place Names by Mary Ann Barnes Williams, “In 1895, one log cabin stood at the crossing of the Red River, just opposite LaFayette, Minn., on the Dakota side…known as Dakota City.” That one lone log cabin was occupied in the 1860s by “Monsieur Marchaud, a French Canadian, his Chippewa wife and twelve children,” according to Seat of the Empire by Charles Coffin. Dakota City, its neighbor Lafayette, and numerous other small townsites never succeeded in reaching actual town status, disappearing well before this map was published.

Climate Map of North America, N.D.-Centric, 1929.

Monday, November 10th, 2008

Saying “North Dakota is the center of North America” is a factual truth; just outside Rugby N.D. is a monument to that fact. What’s more remarkable is the interpretive turn: the map paints North Dakota as the baby bear’s porridge of our continent. West is Too Dry, north is Too Cold, east is Too Wet, and south is Too Hot. North Dakota meets in the middle, and is thus the perfect place to live, right? I’m a fan of the state, you know, but we’re actually in a position that gets all of the above: deadly droughts, destructive floods, sub-zero winters and 100°+ summers. It seems the cartographer who drew the map was mistaking us for Hawaii. I know, it’s an easy mistake to make, but it’s an over-simplification of what North Dakota’s climate is like.

Sinner For Congress, 1964.

Sunday, November 2nd, 2008

In 1964, a fresh state senator from Casselton, ND, made an attempt to move up the ladder and join Senator Quentin Burdick in Washington D.C.. Unfortunately, State Senator George Sinner was beat out by Republican Mark Andrews. Sinner’s attempt at Congress was barely a speed-bump in his career: after working with a variety of local and regional governments and organizations, he became Governor of North Dakota from 1985 to 1992.