This Week in History, March 11-18

March 11:
1886: Damaging evidence in the murder trial against Gilbert was seen in court. J.J. Jackman and J. Laudgrebe both testified to having seen the body of Lenz lying in a shack, while Duncan, the Chief of Police of Brandon, Man., testified that he had gone to Gilbert’s camp in order to buy a saddle, where he acquired a watch that had belonged to Lenz. Multiple other witnesses testified as having seen Gilbert and Lenz together shortly before the murder.

– Samuel Falconer, postmaster at Falconer, was indicted by the United States grand jury for suppressing a letter mailed at his office. The indictment was predicted to be fully disproved, as it occurred after a family quarrel among Russian Jews.

– Captain Thomas Woolfolk, who became known in the area as a river pilot and captain along the Missouri, was appointed post trader at Standing Rock Agency.

– Extensive preparations were being made for a St. Patrick’s Day ball, by the Irish National league. Meanwhile, the Germans in the city had a phantom ball, which was well attended.

1890: Captain Fechet, of Fort Yates, had his court martial postponed until April 5.

1891: The city of Bismarck was being hit with one of the heaviest snow storms of the season. Going on for more than 24 hours, it impaired railroad traffic severely.

1901: Mandan was planning on having a busy summer. An Indian school was set to be erected, as well as a state reform school. The entire country around Mandan was also being visited by land seekers, who were looking to take advantage of cheap rates that were being offered by the railroad.

1907: Local solons were uneasy after E.G. Patterson, ex-mayor and then president of the city council and a county commissioner, was arrested on charges of running a “blind-pig.”

1912: The first real fox hunt took place in North Dakota. Two foxes, three hounds and 15 men covered 30 miles of prairie near Mandan. The foxes had been imported from Minnesota.

H.L. Henke shot the first first fox, named Sir Reynard, and was able to acquire its hide. The second fox was taken alive and would be held until a second hunt could be planned.

1913: James Flanngan, lost a number of toes after breaking into the railroad yards in Mandan. Climbing onto a boxcar, Flanngan got his foot stuck being the track and the cars, and his right foot were ran over by the wheels.

1941: After taking a shortcut, Paul Conner found himself without a car. Trying to retrace shortcut along the abandoned Bismarck-Mandan highway, Conner found himself getting stuck after coming to the railroad crossing, where the boards had been moved. Shortly thereafter, a freight train collided, and wrecked, his car.

March 12:
1802: The first non-Indian child was born in North Dakota. It was a girl who was born to Pierre Bonza and his wife. They were black, and had been employed at Alexander Henry Jr.’s Pembina trading post.

1884: Sitting Bull and Maj. McLaughlin arrived in Mandan as they traveled to Minneapolis. The trip was to show Sitting Bull how “white people live in the big cities.”

1887: Col. Tyner and Capt. Yorkey returned from Devil’s Lake with bad news. It had been learned that the civil authorities in St. John were powerless to collect taxes from “half-breeds.” It was expected that the President would order at least two companies of militia, from Grafton and Grand Forks, to go to the scene at once.

1889: Opium smugglers were being hunted down in the state. The case against Archibald J. Curran and James M. Leonard, who were charged with smuggling opium to the United States from Canada, was being called in to the United States Court. Curran had been found with $20,000 worth of opium on him.

1894: Two North Dakota men found themselves in the penitentiary. Joseph Maley, a letter carrier from Grand Forks, was found guilty of stealing registered letters. Thomas Murray, a blind pigger at Winona, was found guilty of selling liquor to Indians.

1904: The Bismarck photographer, Boyce, returned to the city, and set up business in the Dakota Block.

1915: A fire was raging in the abandoned lignite pit in Adams county. The flames were seeping upwards of 100 to 200 feet high at the entrance. It was beyond control.

1917: Mandan was the scene of a train wreck. Having occurred in the Northern Pacific Yards at Mandan, a yard switch engine No. 1112, and a Bismarck switch No. 465, collided head on. No one was injured. However, the cab on engine 465 was demolished, and both water tanks were thrown from the track.

1920: Bloodhounds were used to search for escaped convicts. Arthur Buck, serving a life sentence for murder; Ray Burke, sentenced to three years for grand larceny; John Stubard sentenced for five years for grand larceny; and Charles Breyer, sentenced to three years for grand larceny, had made their escape by tunneling through a wall of the prison.

1932: North Dakota hens are more efficient. From 1931, an average increase of 40 eggs per hen were reported.

1964: Governor William Guy suggest a “Fat Boys” farm plan. Said in jest, the governor said he would double the income tax for any male who didn’t measure 52 inches around the waist. He argued that it would cut farm surpluses.

March 13:
1880: The blockade of Bismarck was finally raised. The Northern Pacific railroad was reopened after it had entirely ceased on February 15 because of excessive snow.

1885: Gov. Pierce vetoed the woman’s Dakota suffrage bill.

1886: Chestor Gilbert, who was charged with the murder of August Lenz, was acquitted. The people of Emmons County, where Lenz was killed, were enraged.

 1887: An ice gorge near Washburn broke, causing the river to rise rapidly. The ice carried everything down the river, and struck the immense warehouse of the Northern Pacific, which at the time was one of the largest in the world.

Less than two hours from the time the gorge broke, the water was in the second story of the river boarding houses, which were built on what was considered high ground. The warehouse, which is nearly 700 feet in length, was moved thirty feet, and sent crashing into a bluff.

Meadow land south of Bismarck was under a “vast sea,” which accounted for the river, at that point usually only being three-quarters of a mile wide, was now over six miles wide. The amount of water caused the Northern Pacific trains to be unable to cross the river.

Mandan was largely submerged under water. All of the small buildings on the banks of the river were swept away, and the steamboats at Rockhaven were in danger of being destroyed. The high trestle of the Northern Pacific was also damaged.

The worst was still predicted to be coming, as the ice at Fort Buford was moving out, and caused a rise of thirty feet. Bismarck and Mandan were preparing for the worse. Causing additional problems was that communication between the two cities had been wiped out.

1888: The Mandan roller mill company shipped a carload of flour to those who were suffering from a blizzard in the east.

1889: Curran, who had been arrested on the charge of smuggling opium from Canada, having changed his plea to guilty, had his case dismissed. Leonard, the man to who the opium was consigned, did not get off so easily. He was sentenced to seven months in the penitentiary.

It was believed that Curran would be furnish evidence which would lead to the arrest of an entire gang that had been engaged with smuggling of opium over the years.

1890: “The evil spirit of legalized gambling banished from Bismarck.” The lottery bill was killed in the senate, and it was believed it would remain dead.

1897: Thirty-five Lakota Indians, who had survived the Battle of the Little Big Horn, applied to homestead lands in Burleigh County. Having been confined on the reservation at Standing Rock since the battle, they were the first to take such action.

1913: Julius Tiffts, who was conducting a resort near the reform school, was arrested on charges of violating the prohibition law. Tiffts wife was said to have been “dispensing the stuff that cheers.”

1920: North Dakota is recognized as being in the corn belt. After their corn exhibit at the Mississippi Valley Exposition at St. Louis, showed visitors that North Dakota was part of the famous corn belt.

– North Dakota made the decision to uphold their dry amendment. The fight for prohibition, which began in 1889, when the state entered the union as a dry state, continued as North Dakota joined 30 other states in employing Charles Evans Hughes to help defend the federal prohibition amendment to the United States supreme court.

March 14:
1883: Sheriff Harmon, traveling on a passenger train, was making his way to Dickinson in order to arrest George Mattox. Mattox had shot and killed a hunter in a camp near Dickinson.

1888: Bismarck’s aid not needed. Mayor Abram I. Hewitt, of New York city, responding to telegram received from the Bismarck chamber of commerce, said that “New York is grateful to your citizens for sympathy and offers of relief, but we are not in need of any outside assistance.”

1894: A North Dakota woman was killed by a hired man. Mrs. Myron R. Kent was shot and killed by a hired man, while her husband was away from home. The Kents lived two miles from Bismarck.

The hired man, and a little boy, sated that two burglars were trying to get into the house, so the hired man got the shotgun, and it accidentally went off, killing Mrs. Kent. The hired man was sent to jail.

1908: A manhunt begins for two dangerous convicts. Joe Bassanella, who was serving a life sentence for murder, and Alfred Woolen, escaped from the state penitentiary by tunneling under a prison wall.

Rumors quickly circulated; however the warden believed that the escaped men had traveled north on two stolen horses. It was later discovered that the men had doubled on their tracks, and instead made their way to the river, where they sought protection in the dense underbrush and timber.

It was thought that they would try to escape by hopping a ride on a Northern Pacific train, which was a common manner in which escaped convicts made their getaways.

1910: Steamer Expansion was wrecked in gorge of ice. After an ice gorge formed in the Missouri River, damage occurred along the levee, and wrecked the steamer Expansion. The west approach of the Northern Pacific bridge was also under five feet of water for a length of two miles.

1914: Homesteader met an awful death. George Piffer, who was temporarily employed on the farm of Magnus Nelson, which was 16 miles southeast of Mandan, was killed when he was crushed between a wagon and a door.

1920: A fairly heavy vote had been cast throughout the cities in the state’s presidential preference primary election, but in the rural areas, the turnout was much less because of a terrific blizzard.

1935: A Wells County resident, having received relief from the state, went into the county office to repay what he had received. Not expecting any charity, the man repaid the $54.28 that he had been given in relief.

1953: Candies packaged to resemble cigarettes are forbidden in North Dakota. Gov. Norman Brunsdale signed a law that outlawed cigarette looking candies, believing that they encouraged “young folks” to smoke. The law went into effect on July 1.

March 15:
1880: There was rejoicing in Bismarck as a train finally reached the city. It had been four weeks since the last train had made its way to city, but was delayed by blizzards and snow blockades that had made travel impossible. 90 sacks of paper mail were also delivered.

1890: Conde Hamlin, who was a celebrated Pioneer Press reporter, attempted to “blow (Alex) McKenzie’s brains out.” Mckenzie, who approached Hamlin complaining about a negative story written about him, was surprised when he was suddenly staring down the barrel of a revolver.

Reacting quickly, McKenzie seized the gun, and the hammer fell on his finger, cutting it badly. Seeing the blood, and revolver, those who witnessed the brief fight were afraid that Hamlin was going to be dealt with roughly; however, acting “like a true hero,” McKenzie stood off.

Giving the revolver back to Hamlin, McKenzie told him to shoot him if he wanted. Hamlin was so frightened that he was unable to speak or even hold his revolver. Saying that the Attorney General Goodwin had told him to write negatively about McKenzie, he begged for the crowd not to hurt him.

Saving Hamlin from the angry crowd, McKenzie escorted Hamlin to the train, and sent him on his way.

1902: The temperature dropped to five degrees below zero, as a storm rages through the area. All business and railroad traffic was suspended, and the Northern Pacific trains were snow bound in Mandan and Dawson.

1908: Joseph Bassnelia, a convict who escaped from the state penitentiary, was shot and killed by Sheriff Beck, after refusing to surrender. Alfred Woolen, who had escaped with Bassnelia, was recaptured.

1910: The largest boat on the Upper Missouri, the steamer Expansion, was wrecked, and more than two miles of Northern Pacific railroad was washed away. Dozens of individuals were driven from their homes, and the main section of Mandan was flooded. On the Bismarck side, there was little damage done.

The flood was so severe that Mandan was cut off from communication, as the telephone and telegraph lines are destroyed. The water supply was also cut off, as the water works pumping station was submerged.

1920: North Dakota was in the grip of the worst blizzard of the season. The lowest barometer was reported that the state had known for 45 years. Winds were blowing over sixty miles and hour, and four inches of snow had covered the ground. The storm covered much of the midwest.

March 16:
1877: Defensive buildings and relay stations were being set up every 15 miles along the stage route that traveled from Bismarck to Deadwood in the Black Hills. The intention was to prepare for a coming Indian campaign against the travelers along the path. Activity at Fort Lincoln had also increased as preparations were being made for the campaign.

1887: Fears of flooding were rising in Bismarck. After a Northern Pacific train, which was delayed 70 hours by floods, finally reached Bismarck, reports began circulating that the Missouri River would break within the week. For those living along the banks, there was alarm that their homes would be swept away.

More than 30 bridges between Bismarck and Billings, Montana, had been swept away, as flood waters continued to rise and cause damage. Passengers began warning Bismarck residents that Miles City had already flooded twice in the last week, with flood waters being 10 feet deep in places.

In Medora, the water had surrounded the slaughter houses and refrigerators of the Marquis de Mores. To help prevent such disaster in Bismarck and Mandan, dynamite was being shipped in order to blow up the ice around the bridge. However, for most people along the banks, no protection could be given.

Adding to the growing problem was the amount of snow the area had received, which was quickly melting and pouring into the river, making it swell even more.

1889: A young girl, Emma Russell, who was employed at the prosperous dairy farm of E.H. Sperry, was suing the farmer for support of her new born child. With Sperry being married, the ordeal caused an interesting scandal when it was brought to the District Court.

1890: Talk began circulating about impeaching the governor. It was claimed that Gov. Miller had used his office to influence members of the legislature as well as defeat certain legislation.

1897: Bismarck and Mandan got a breath of summer. While the day before it was 36 degrees below zero, on March 16, the temperature rose 81 degrees, to 45 degrees. Snow was melting fast, and it was likely that the river would soon break, causing great destruction.

1910: Mandan suffered a loss of $50,000 from the overflowing of the Heart river and breaking up of the Missouri. Electric and water services had been cut off due to the flooding.

1919: North Dakota was hit by a massive snowstorm, that dropped three feet of snow in just 15 hours.

1920: North Dakota wins title of Sunshine State. Literature that was being handed out by the state commissioner of immigration, declared that the state had “160 hours more of sunshine during the year than the central states.”

Other statistics cited was that the state had 7,700 school teaches, 577 consolidated schools, and 144 state high schools. Land also did cost any more in the state than it did 25 or 40 years ago in older states.

-Four sons of Gus Wohlka, a farmer at Rider, were found frozen to death after a blizzard earlier that week. The boys had been returning home from school, when their team and wagon were buried by snow.

After 24 hours of searching, the wagon was found by the father, where three of the sons were found. The fourth boy was found about a mile from his home. He had apparently made an effort to seek help.

It was reported by the Weather Bureau that it was the worst blizzard since 1888. Upwards of eight inches fell through the state.

1933: Governor William Langer was proposing militia action, when necessary, to prevent mortgage foreclosures. Langer also threatened to declare an embargo on wheat shipments from the state, because of price range fluctuation limits.

March 17:
1880: St. Patrick’s Day was celebrated by a firemen’s parade, as well as other events. However, the Irish were mad and fighting broke out because the German and Swedes wore green ribbons.

1887: As the Missouri River was threatening to destroy Mandan with high flood waters, the Little Heart river became open, and it was expected that when the Missouri breaks, Mandan would be inundated.

1888: “One of the most horrible and atrocious affairs that ever agitated this city just” came to light. The daughter of John Millett, had previously died quite suddenly and under suspicious circumstances.

Suspicion grew as the child wasn’t buried in the graveyard, but instead in a lot owned by Millett near the town. It caused such as stir that a coroner’s jury was impaneled, and the body was exhumed.

It was discovered that the child’s body had been severely beaten, and it became quite clear that the child had died as the result of the cruelty of their parents.

1894: The Northern Pacific Company lost a suit involving possession of business property in the heart of Bismarck, worth $50,000. The plaintiff was also ruled to receive $26,000 in damages.

1920: The story of the self-sacrifice of Hazel Miner, an 18 year old girl from Center, started circulating around the nation. Having been caught in the worst blizzard that had swept the state in 30 years, Miner had used her life to save that of her siblings.

Taking off her coat, she wrapped it and a blanket around her young brother and sister. For 24 hours, they lay in a snow drift before they were found. Hazel had passed away, but her siblings survived.

March 18:
1887: Ice gorge finally breaks. An ice gorge in Washburn finally, broke, causing the river to rapidly rise. A second gorge formed below the city, and the ice carried with it, struck the Norther Pacific warehouse, which was one of the largest in the world.

Within just two hours of the gorge breaking, the water had reached the second story of the boarding houses that had been built on what was considered to be high ground. The N.P. warehouse itself, nearly 700 feet in length, was moved 30 feet, and sent crashing into the bluffs.

All of the small dwellings along the river were swept away, and the steamboats at Rock Haven were in danger of being destroyed. Even the high trestle of the N.P. was damaged, causing travel to cease, and making Bismarck the end of the line.

1902: Two Lakota Indians from the Standing Rock reservation were found frozen to death, after a terrible storm swept across the prairie. Additional individuals were feared to have perished as well.

1910: The first train to arrive in Bismarck, from the west since a massive flood, was preparing to leave Mandan. 100 feet of track remained to be completed, but it would soon be done.

Searches had also began after reports of the disappearance of three families, nearly Glencoe, had circulated. It was feared they were victims of the high water.

1911: Plans for a new freight house for the Northern Pacific had been received. The building of the freight house seemed to coincide with the possibility of Mandan becoming a division headquarter. The freight house was slated to be placed on the block opposite of the City Lumber Co.

1914: Citizens of Mandan were anxious for the possible erection of a statue of George Custer. It was believed that such a statue would be placed during the coming season, and for years, it had been discussed. The general consensus was that something should be done to honor the memory of Custer.

1926: The state was busy recruiting all available state and private equipment to battle against the 12-16 foot high drifts that had marooned 1200 farm families, as well as their starving cattle, in the so called “Blizzard Belt.”

1927: Digging was being done at St. Mary’s Catholic Church, but not for the common reasons. Police and Father James Slag, who was pastor at St. Mary’s church, had inaugurated a treasure hunt at the cemetery, after word was received that  Frederick Buhl, Jr., had buried $100,000 in the cemetery after having committed a mail robbery in Alton, Illinois, in 1923.

The cemetery had been rearranged since 1923, and Father Slag that even Buhl would have had difficulty in finding the money. Trying to narrow down the search though, graves that had been made in the late summer of 1923 were searched, as well as near the cemetery entrance slab, where Buhl said he had buried part of the cash.

A previous search had been abandoned when local treasure hunters began to agree with New York police that Buhl was just making up storied. But the search was once again on after the American Express company verified the robbery.

Police were stationed at the cemetery on a nightly basis as the search continued.

1936: Residents along the Missouri river bottoms, north and south of Mandan, were warned to leave their homes as ice gorges had formed, and the river was rising at Sibley island.

1952: The Governor, Norman Brunsdale, was waiting to hear back from President Truman about emergency funds, while county commissioners estimated that it would take seven to 10 days to clear everything. Plans were also being made to air drop hay to aid starving cattle, as had happened in 1949 with “operation haylift.”