Dakota Datebook

Lucky Hand

written by Jayme L. Job

January 21, 2019 — A Fargo newspaper reporter played a very fortunate game of pinochle on this day in 1910.

The newspaperman, L. W. Brooks, had formerly worked with The Fargo Forum and The Call, but had left the city of Fargo to seek his fortune out west.

News and rumors of Brooks’s successes poured into the city after the man’s departure, but none was more sensational than the true account of the man’s lucky gambling spree.

While travelling through the state of Idaho, Brooks met Harry Moore, the owner of a weekly newspaper in the small mining town of Wallace, Idaho. Brooks and Moore began a friendly game of pinochle on this night, but decided to up the stakes by wagering a bet. Brooks, having no possessions of high value on his person, put in a box of cigars, while Moore placed his weekly paper, The Dividend, up for stakes.

Brooks won the game, and because of a game of pinochle and a box of old cigars, became owner of his own newspaper.

Carter Amnesty

written by Jayme L. Job

January 22, 2019 — The Fargo Forum reported that President Jimmy Carter issued an amnesty to Vietnam War draft evaders on this date in 1977.

The amnesty came a day earlier, as one of President Carter’s first acts in office. The move also fulfilled one of the President’s most popular campaign promises.

The amnesty granted a complete pardon to all Vietnam-era evaders who were not involved in any acts of violence.

Although it did not apply to deserters, the amnesty allowed any overseas American evaders to return home without prosecution. It also freed at least five evaders being held in U. S. prisons. Carter ordered complete reviews of deserter and other-than-honorable discharge cases on an individual basis.

John Russell of the Justice Department claimed that the amnesty would affect an estimated 10,000 individuals nationwide, but the U. S. Attorney for North Dakota, Harold Bullis, reported that only ten former North Dakota men would probably be affected.

Of these ten, nine were living in Canada, and one in Mexico.

Two of the Canadian evaders that the Forum were able to locate did not plan on returning to the U. S. and had become Canadian residents, although with the amnesty, they could now return to North Dakota to visit family and friends.

Both men were already living in Canada when the draft was implemented.

Although the pardon proved popular to many Americans, not everyone was pleased with the President’s decision. Veterans, most notably, were upset by the move, claiming that the amnesty would endanger the country in future outbreaks by weakening the ability of a draft to be successfully instituted. The Veterans of Foreign Wars and the American Legion, the nation’s two largest veterans’ organizations, were among the first to speak publicly against the move. T. Cooper Holt, executive director of the Washington VFW office, referred to the date as “…one of the saddest days in the history of our country.” Holt believed that President Carter would “…have to accept the responsibility of arming our military in case of another confrontation with a foreign power.” More than 50,000 Americans were killed in the Vietnam conflict.

Asteroid North Dakota

written by Jayme L. Job

January 23, 2019 — The Associated Press issued a release on this date in 2009 announcing that Asteroid #114703 would henceforth become known as “Asteroid North Dakota.”

Renaming the asteroid was proposed by UND graduate student Vishnu Reddy of India, and approved by the International Astronomical Union’s Committee on Small Body Nomenclature.

Reddy discovered the two-mile long space rock while researching at an observatory in Arizona, and decided to honor the state of his graduate studies because he hoped it would draw attention to the state’s dark skies.

Because North Dakota lacks a large population and subsequent light pollution, its skies are ideal for astronomical observations, but the state does not have an observatory or high-power telescope.

Asteroid North Dakota is located between Mars and Jupiter, and has a surface temperature of 170 degrees below zero, which Reddy commented was “chilly even by North Dakota standards.” It is one of only fourteen asteroids named for U. S. states.

Widows Go West

January 25, 2019 — Horace Greeley encouraged more than just young men to go west.

“Young men! Poor men! Widows!” he said. “Resolve to have a home of your own! If you are able to buy and pay for one in the East, very well; if not, make one in the broad and fertile West!”

In her book, “Land in Her Own Name,” NDSU Professor of Sociology Elaine Lindgren describes hundreds of women who followed Greeley’s calling by staking claims in North Dakota. Today we look at just a small sampling of those who came as widows.

Norwegian immigrant Kari Skredsvig became a widow when she was only 38 years old.

Left with seven children between the ages of 2 and 10, she was destitute.

A friend urged her to put her children in an orphanage so she could go out to find work, but instead, Skredsvig moved to North Dakota to file a claim in Burke County.

Breaking the land for the first time was a grueling job, and many homesteaders hired the job out. Kari didn’t have the means for that, so with a team of horses, she and her 10 year-old son broke their first 10 acres by themselves. To supplement what she could make from her land, she washed clothes for others, cared for the sick, cleaned and cooked ducks for hunters and also became a mail carrier.

Kari helped organize one of the first churches in the area, but she wasn’t allowed to be a charter member, because that favor went to men only. Sadly, being a widow further lowered her status in the community; when her children tried to bring in money doing odd jobs, they were paid less because they “were the widow’s kids.” Kari managed to prove up, however, and she lived on her 160-acres for 42 years until her death.

Anna Hensel was 67 when she came here from Southern Russia as a widow. A year later she declared her intent to become a citizen, then homesteaded in Hettinger County. Six years later, she proved up, and for eleven years, she provided a home there for her daughter’s family.

Anne Furnberg came from Norway with her husband in 1869. Two years later, he died shortly after their first child was born, so Anne went to North Dakota in a covered wagon pulled by oxen. Her first home was a log cabin west of Fargo. To support her young son, Christian, she kept a cow and some chickens so that she could sell butter and eggs – but her market was across the Sheyenne River, which she had to cross by crawling on a log. When she was 38, Anne filed on 80 acres south of Fargo. While she did the farming, her 11 year-old nephew, Ole, cared for little Christian and cooked the meals.

In Towner County, a family of four women each filed their own claims. Karen Olsen Storberget, a 64-year-old widow, homesteaded in Grainfield Township. On nearby claims were her daughter, Karen, a 36-year-old widow, and two other daughters who were yet single, 22-year-old Bertha and 23-year-old Maren. Between them, they all proved up.

Not many people realize how many women filed claims in North Dakota. Lindgren’s research sampled only 9 of the state’s 53 counties, but in these 9 counties alone, more than 4,400 women filed for… Land in Her Own Name.

“Dakota Datebook” is a radio series from Prairie Public in partnership with the State Historical Society of North Dakota and with funding from the North Dakota Humanities Council. See all the Dakota Datebooks at prairiepublic.org, or subscribe to the “Dakota Datebook” podcast.


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