Dakota Datebook

Bumper Ballots

written by Jayme L. Job
November 7, 2019 — A strangely unique political ploy was reported from Bottineau on this day in 1910. The ploy was enacted by the Democratic headquarters that city, and was discovered and reported by a group of angry Republican supporters.
Apparently, the Democrats were distributing bumper stickers in support of their candidate for governor, John Burke. Among the stickers was a design the Republicans found to be “…one of the crookedest and most insinuating” endeavors ever devised during an election. This sticker read, “For County Constable, C. A. Johnson;” the problem was that Johnson was Burke’s rival for governor. Because the trick was not discovered until the election came and went, several confused voters did just what the sticker asked, and voted Johnson for Constable. Burke went on to win the governorship for a third term.


Babe Ruth


written by Dr. Steve Hoffbeck, History Department, MSU Moorhead
November 8, 2019 — Babe Ruth, the premier slugger of the New York Yankees, the “King of Swat,” arrived in North Dakota on this date in 1926 after a “fast ride” by car from Brainerd. Although his feet got cold along the way, the rest of him stayed warm in his “huge raccoon coat.” Standing six-foot-two and weighing 220 pounds, Mr. Ruth “looked like two men,” observed reporters, “stacked inside” one coat.
George Herman “Babe” Ruth had started a 12-week vaudeville tour in Minneapolis – and Fargo was his third stop. Ruth’s Yankees had lost the World Series to the St. Louis Cardinals, four games to three, in October, and the Babe wanted to make some serious cash on a whistle-stop national tour. Ruth won the affection of North Dakotans by grinning his cheery grin and by putting on a great show.
The Babe was certainly distinctive, with his wide nose and large head, his thick chest and his stick-like legs. He was like a big kid, with an appetite for life and glory that few could claim. His name was almost a trademark, like Coca-Cola.
Ruth was in town for three days of vaudeville shows at the Fargo Theater. The Bambino had prepared his own act, which was said to be “exceptionally good.”
The show began with a mini-movie entitled “The House That Ruth Built,” showing Yankee Stadium and Ruth knocking out three homeruns in one game of the World Series. The film ended with a close-up of Ruth at bat when the Babe himself, “garbed in his New York Yankee uniform” clouted his way through a paper screen – “seemingly coming to life right from the moving picture.”
On his first day in North Dakota, the Yankee slugger presented a special matinee for 1,000 school children. “Kids, kids, kids,” Babe told a Forum reporter, “I had never seen so many in my life until I started west, and the more I see of them the better I like ‘em.”
The children loved the Babe. When the curtain went up, they gave a cheer as loud as a “World Series crowd.”
Ruth autographed six baseballs at every show and presented each one to a lucky youngster. The Babe also played to capacity crowds of adults. The vaudeville troupe also included the seven dancers in “Les Argentines” – a “snappy dance revue;” and Dawne June, billed as the “underwater girl,” whose bubbly act featured her “eating, drinking and singing under water.”
Ruth also visited St. John’s Hospital, shaking hands with every patient and all the staff. Altogether, Ruth put on ten shows in Fargo and left behind a bit of his magic—as one of America’s biggest celebrities of the Roaring Twenties.


Roy Rogers

Dakota Datebook written by Merry Helm

November 11, 2019 — On this date in 1950, the results of Bismarck’s Sears-Roebuck safety slogan contest were in. The winner was a 10-year-old from Ft. Lincoln, for his slogan, “Go Slow or You’ll Go – Fast.” His award was a gold-colored statue of Roy Rogers’ horse, Trigger.

Young Larry “Roy” Amon took possession of his prize that night, when Roy Rogers, himself, gave it to him on stage. Rogers and his wife, Dale Evans, were in Bismarck as part of a tour they were making with their cowboy band. Jack Case of the Bismarck Tribune wrote, “Roy Rogers is ‘King of the Cowboys’ and western fans couldn’t have found a more gracious, friendly, down-to-earth ruler for their sovereign.”

For young Larry, the highlight of the evening was sitting – for a good 10 minutes – in Roy Roger’s saddle. On the real Trigger. The story read, “…the Wonder Horse did not attempt any of his famous tricks for the young horseman’s benefit, [but] he did make a spirited show a moment after the flash photos were taken. A beautifully groomed animal, Trigger was well behaved considering the noise and excitement around him. Perhaps he has gotten used to that, traveling around with Roy in his numerous roundups of bad hombres as he does.”

Larry wasn’t the only youngster involved with the event. The Tribune chose two special reporters to conduct an interview with the western duo – 7th graders Jeanne Lewis, who had just moved from Mott to Bismarck earlier that week, and Billy Russell of Mandan.

The young reporters questioned Dale and Roy before the show, with Billy asking the first question: “Have you ever been on television?” Roy said he was still under movie and radio contracts and had appeared on TV only a few times. He forecast, however, that someday he figured he’d be a regular television performer.

Thinking of his own father’s ranch near Mandan, Billy asked Rogers how big his ranch was and whether he had ever performed in the Mandan Rodeo. Rogers replied, “No, I haven’t, but I would like to sometime. The reason for this tour is to give me a chance to meet a lot of people who I never would see if I stuck to the big city rodeo. Tiring? Sure it is, but I have never made such a tour and have always wanted to.”

The young reporters learned Rogers’ tour got off to a rocky start. Outside St. Joseph, MO, a wheel came off Rogers’ trailer, and his prize dog, Bullet, was injured in the accident. Bullet had to be left with a veterinarian because of an injured spine but seemed to be recovering at the time of the interview.

Jeanne asked Roy what his favorite song was, and he quickly replied, “Home on the Range.” Upon learning the Rogers had two daughters about her own age, she asked how they did in school. Roy said the girls did well, with pretty good marks. “They attend a public school just like anyone else,” he said. “I believe that is where they learn the most.”

Fans were crowding in for autographs, flash bulbs were popping, and stagehands were bustling when Dale showed up. Jeanne asked her if she liked to cook. Dale said she certainly did, and Billy jumped in, asking, “Roy, what dish of Dale’s do you like best?”

“Fried chicken and corn bread,” Roy said. “She can really cook them.”

“Do your daughters like to ride?” Jeanne asked.

“They certainly do,” Dale said. “I think they would sleep with their horses if we would let them.”

And then, the band struck up their opening number, and the interview was over. Roy and Dale walked out on stage to entertain an audience of some 3,000 adoring North Dakota fans.


Two Adoptions


written by Merry Helm

November 12, 2019 — On this date in 1929, it was announced John K. Kennelly, head of the ND American Legion, was adopted by members of the Standing Rock Reservation. Kennelly received the name Tasunkeduta, or Red Horse, and was given his namesake’s bonnet and beaded cloak during ceremonies in Cannon Ball.

Meanwhile, Christopher J. Martineson, Bismarck chief of police, was adopted by Yankon Sioux at Ft. Yates. His adopted name was Wambli Watakpe, or Charging Eagle. Martineson was the seventh white person adopted by the tribe. Others were President Calvin Coolidge; Marshal Ferdinand Fooh of France; Queen Marie of Roumania; Major General C. P. Summerall, U.S. Army Chief of Staff; H. A. McNutt, national commander of the American Legion, and Brigadier General Charles Hyatt, of the Pennsylvania Military Academy.


Whiskey Runners


written by Merry Helm

November 13, 2019 — At about this time in 1920, news came from Minot that whiskey runners appeared to be making their last trips of the season.

A news article read, “The runners are carrying heavy loads on their return trips from the border this week, but the roads are frozen and where the going is smooth, the ‘whiskey sixes’ thunder along between 50 and 60 miles an hour. The cars are traveling three and four in a string and for the first time in several weeks they are traveling…without an empty car ahead as a ‘feeler.’”

There was another indication this trip was a rush job – no women in the cars. Whiskey runners usually brought along female passengers to keep authorities from shooting at them.


Doyle Set Free


written by Merry Helm

November 14, 2019 — News coming out of Grand Forks on this date in 1906 stated that Martin Doyle had been acquitted for the charge of murdering his Cavalier County neighbor, Vincent Weiler.

The previous winter, Weiler mysteriously disappeared, and soon after, Doyle produced a deed for Weiler’s land. The deed was executed at Snowflake, Manitoba, where the two men had last been seen together. Doyle was then arrested for kidnapping Weiler, but there was no evidence.

Toward spring, Weiler was found dead, on the banks of the Pembina River in Manitoba, with a hole in his head. Doyle was arrested again, now for murder. The leading witness disappeared after the preliminary hearing, and a jury found Doyle not guilty, due to lack of evidence. Justice Richards concurred, and Doyle was set free.


Ladbury Church is Saved


written by Merry Helm

November 15, 2019 — The village of Sibley, on Lake Ashtabula, was formed in 1954, the same year that Karnak, named for an Egyptian king, closed its post office. They had in common the Ladbury Church. This church building was the first built in the town of Kensal, in 1899. When it closed in 1926, a rural congregation near Karnak bought it and pulled it 25 miles east with a steam-driven tractor. One boy made the trip by riding inside the building. Originally lit with kerosene lights, it had recently been wired for three electric bulbs, but electricity wouldn’t reach “rural” ND for another 25 years. So, the light bulbs were cut off, and the wires were used to hang kerosene lanterns, again.

The church closed again in 1936 due to out-migration during the Great Depression. It had been named Union Congregational Church, but locals called it Ladbury, for the man who donated the land. The locals used it for Memorial Day picnics, but that ended in the 1990s. The foundation developed problems, the roof started to leak, the building was neglected, and wildlife moved in.

In 2000, a group of concerned citizens approached Preservation North Dakota (or PND), a grassroots non-profit organization working primarily on a project called Prairie Churches of ND. The project is a national pilot program, the first to deal with preserving rural churches; it was also included in the White House Millennium Council’s “Save America’s Treasures” projects.

With PND’s help, the Ladbury group laid out plans to save and restore their building. The first step was taken in the dead of winter, when volunteers climbed onto the roof to cover holes with sheets of tin. The altar area furniture was taken to a local museum for safekeeping, and a volunteer architect began plans for dealing with structural issues. Interested families donated more than $3,000, and PND awarded the group a $7,500 grant.

The following spring the east wall of the basement caved in, so stabilizing the foundation became priority number one. During that same time period, the National Trust for Historic Places put ND prairie churches on its list of America’s 11 Most Endangered Historic Places.

In 2002, an increasing number of volunteers donated more than 3,000 hours to scrape, paint, clean, make repairs, re-tin the steeple, renovate the interior, and shingle the roof. Local businesses and contractors donated materials. The group developed a plan to make “natural scaffolding” from bales stacked against the exterior walls, but, instead, a group of nearby farmers brought in their tractors, and people shingled the roof from the comfort of tractor loader buckets. Electric generators powered many of the tools, a dilapidated outhouse shared with a field mouse provided necessary facilities and drinking water was carried in.

By late August, the Ladbury Church was restored top to bottom, and used by a couple who flew in from Hawaii to get married – they were looking for an “exotic” experience on the prairie! The Church received nationwide coverage when House Beautiful magazine published an article called Answered Prayers two months later. The project was also featured in a History Channel documentary on the nation’s endangered architectural jewels, and the Prairie Churches of North Dakota project made the cover of the New York Times and the St. Paul Pioneer Press.

On this date in 2002, Preservation North Dakota awarded the Ladbury group the state’s highest honor in historic preservation, the “Preservation Excellence Award,” which was accepted by Keith and Lois Muncy and George Amann. The “Volunteer of the Year” award went to Becky Heise, who championed the project.


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, subscribe to the “Dakota Datebook” podcast, or buy the Dakota Datebook book at shopprairiepublic.org.


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