Kenmare ND - Upside Down Under

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Upside Down Under

By Marvin Baker, a new weekly column in The Kenmare News


Prior world fascinating...

Posted 6/12/18 (Tue)

Last week I stumbled upon a Library of Congress website that showed pdf images of a newspaper that was once printed in Fort Yates called the Arrow.

It wasn’t terribly interesting so further digging on this website revealed a long list of newspapers that were printed in North Dakota from 1910 to 1925.

But that’s not all. A link to the North Dakota State Historical Society has a number of issues of the Frontier Scout, published at Fort Union that is believed to be the first newspaper published in “northern Dakota.” It’s first edition was printed July 14, 1864.

That’s the same day as the Civil War Battle of Tupelo, yet no mention of it in the Scout, even though Fort Union was an Army post.

Instead, articles about the ships not docking on the Missouri so the Soldiers weren’t getting their mail,  were prevalent as well as Soldier letter-writing articles.

So three editions were printed at Fort Union, there was a gap of almost a year, then the Frontier Scout found a new home at Fort Rice.

There, at least 15 issues were printed before it ceased publication.

Imagine how incredibly desolate that must have been, to be stationed at an Army post that, at the time, was so far from civilization, some of the Soldiers thought they would go mad.

If you do research about Fort Rice, read some of the diaries of the Soldiers. You’ll find it quite intriguing.

It must have been difficult because the suicide rate, for a time, was killing almost as many Soldiers as disease.

By the time people started settling, it seemed like a newspaper was popping up in every community.

You have to remember, there was no radio before 1920 so the only way to get the news was to get a newspaper, or send a telegraph.

Oddly enough, some of the small towns in North Dakota had more than one, sometimes competing newspapers for readers and advertisers.

Langdon is a prime example of this. From 1891 to 1920, there were as many as four newspapers publishing in the Cavalier County seat, not all at once though.

The Cavalier County Republican has always been there and apparently, was as popular in the 1890s as it is now.

For a short time the Democrat existed and later merged with the Courier and became the Courier-Democrat. It gave the Republican a strong run, but faded as quickly as it sprang up.

Then, in the late 1890s, the Langdon Times came out, but that newspaper didn’t last a long time either and in fact, there is only one issue of the Langdon Times on file with the Historical Society.

A lot of the small towns had newspapers. They probably didn’t have the subscription base that some have today, but each week, or every other week, another edition came rolling off the presses.

What’s really fascinating is when you look at one of these papers, you’ll see “published at Jamestown, DT,” or “originating in Pembina, Dakota.”

It’s the same with the ads. We’re so hard wired to see “North Dakota” that we struggle when we look at something so old it came from Dakota Territory.

The state had German newspapers and Norwegian newspapers. A select few were written in Danish or Ukrainian, but that all changed when World War I rolled around.

In the teens, North Dakota’s newspaper industry was as unique as its politics. The Non Partisan Leader rose up to become one of the most popular papers in the state for a time. Some people might call it propaganda for the farmers, but any historian will tell you that indeed, that’s exactly what it was.

What’s really interesting, is you can go back into time at the Historical Society and look through microfilm of just about any paper in the state, including the Courier-Democrat of Langdon.

These old papers tell the story of each community, each county, and in the case of the Non Partisan Leader, the entire state.

Newspapers have been under a lot of stress lately, but we need our newspapers for that local history. Where else will you find what the price of wheat was in 1919 or how critics responded to the movie “Birth of a Nation,” in 1915.

The Internet is handy and most times very easy, but all too often, something is published, then it’s gone in a puff of smoke.

If you read something interesting on social media, there’s a pretty good chance you won’t find it tomorrow. But last week I was reading the Frontier Scout that was published 154 years ago.