Dakota Datebook

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On this date in 1917, the people of North Dakota were planning for the first major holiday with many loved ones away, awaiting transportation to the battlefields of Europe. Although it was a more subdued and solemn occasion than past Thanksgivings, with most of North Dakota’s servicemen still stateside, it was not a grim occasion.

Most families planned to celebrate with a Thanksgiving dinner, but what kind of dinner? Many were tempted to dine on the traditional turkey, depending upon their ability to obtain, or afford, the necessary ingredients, but most turkeys were destined for the military. For the patriotic, there was the Hooverized dinner, recommended by Herbert Hoover, the US Food Commissioner. The Hooverized dinner called for a wheatless, meatless, fatless and sugarless meal, but for this occasion, most avoided the meatless option. One menu proposed chicken, potatoes, carrots, a green salad, cornbread and honey, with fruit for dessert. Beets and turnips were suggested as substitutes for potatoes. Oysters and fish were other popular items. Better yet, a variety of meals could be found at local hotels, including Hooverized versions, with the added benefit of on-site entertainment.

Beavers As Pests, 1916

Dr. Steve Hoffbeck

MSU Moorhead History Department

The most important animal in North America in the 1700s was not the mighty grizzly bear, nor was it the stampeding buffalo. Instead, the most-important animal in colonial America was the lowly beaver.

Beaver pelts were profitably used to make felt hats in Europe. The pursuit of beaver furs led to a decimation of the beaver population in Dakota and elsewhere, bringing an end to the fur-trading era by the mid-1800s.

Laws of Dakota Territory in 1887 prohibited killing or trapping beavers because cattle ranchers wanted beavers to make dams on streams as convenient watering places for cattle, saving stockmen the expense of building dams. The protection continued after North Dakota became a state two years later. Violators of the state game laws were subject to a one-hundred-dollar fine and imprisonment.

Some trappers defied the law, but the beaver population along the state’s streams and rivers eventually recovered, with the busy beavers making dams.

Unfortunately, protection of beavers worked too well and beavers proliferated, becoming a serious “pest in the Missouri Valley.” It became a choice … having beavers or having trees along waterways. Farmers became furious when beavers chewed-down groves of trees and beaver-dams flooded fields in the bottomlands. They demanded that lawmakers change beaver protection laws. And stockmen found windmill pumps to be more reliable than beaver-ponds, especially considering that cattle would sometimes drown amid beaver-dam debris.

Accordingly, on this date in 1916, the Bismarck Tribune reported on efforts to control the beaver population. The state Game and Fish Commission hired professional trappers to eradicate these so-called “evil … varmints” along the Missouri Slope and allowed additional trappers to buy licenses to harvest beaver pelts.

And so, the story of beavers went full circle, from abundance to near-extinction, followed by a revival that threatened farming and ranching. Today, beaver remain fair game in North Dakota for properly licensed hunters and trappers.

Turkey Talk

Sarah Walker

November 25, 2020 — Thanksgiving is coming! And while few decorate for this particular holiday with the same vigor they do for other holidays, there is one important item that almost everyone agrees makes for a necessity for this holiday: Whether it’s turkey or tofurkey, that special entrée is the reason for this season!

The Fargo Forum devoted a great deal of ink to the matter of turkeys on this day in 1928. Like us today, they were very concerned about the costs of the holidays. Luckily for them, turkeys were supposed to be sold for a discount—8-10 cents cheaper than they had been the year before. Of course, the year before, turkeys had sold for 45 cents ahead of time, and “a few days before Thanksgiving they were as high as 50 cents a pound—not quite comparable to today’s prices.

Of course, one couple from near Watford City wouldn’t mind the price turkeys sold for, no matter how high—Mr. and Mrs. Schettle were especially qualified for “talkin’ turkey,” since they held a turkey production record. The couple was originally from Germany and had moved to Chicago before settling in North Dakota. They had been farming in McKenzie County for the last 13 years, raising turkeys for the last eight, and over the last four-year period, they had made a record 100 dollars per turkey hen, which topped any previous record of money made by over 25 dollars.

In 1928, Mr. and Mrs. Schettle were preparing to send more than a thousand turkeys to market over the next month, in addition to the approximately 50 “head of breeding stock” they had sold recently. The turkeys were in excellent condition for the upcoming holidays, and it was predicted that they would each earn at least five dollars apiece.

To raise their record turkeys, the Schettles protected them, keeping them well-incubated in the spring and herding them around together under watchful care. Right before the holidays, the Schettles kept their turkeys well-fed on all the home-grown ground barley, wheat and corn the birds could handle.

The couple and a hired man also dressed and packed the turkeys for sale themselves. In one day’s time, they packed between 50 and 80 turkeys.

It was all worth it, to get the biggest, best gobblers possible.

Turkey Talk

by Sarah Walker

Thanksgiving is coming! And while few decorate for this particular holiday with the same vigor they do for other holidays, there is one important item that almost everyone agrees makes for a necessity for this holiday: Whether it’s turkey or tofurkey, that special entrée is the reason for this season!

The Fargo Forum devoted a great deal of ink to the matter of turkeys on this day in 1928. Like us today, they were very concerned about the costs of the holidays. Luckily for them, turkeys were supposed to be sold for a discount—8-10 cents cheaper than they had been the year before. Of course, the year before, turkeys had sold for 45 cents ahead of time, and “a few days before Thanksgiving they were as high as 50 cents a pound—not quite comparable to today’s prices.

Of course, one couple from near Watford City wouldn’t mind the price turkeys sold for, no matter how high—Mr. and Mrs. Schettle were especially qualified for “talkin’ turkey,” since they held a turkey production record. The couple was originally from Germany and had moved to Chicago before settling in North Dakota. They had been farming in McKenzie County for the last 13 years, raising turkeys for the last eight, and over the last four-year period, they had made a record 100 dollars per turkey hen, which topped any previous record of money made by over 25 dollars.

In 1928, Mr. and Mrs. Schettle were preparing to send more than a thousand turkeys to market over the next month, in addition to the approximately 50 “head of breeding stock” they had sold recently. The turkeys were in excellent condition for the upcoming holidays, and it was predicted that they would each earn at least five dollars apiece.

To raise their record turkeys, the Schettles protected them, keeping them well-incubated in the spring and herding them around together under watchful care. Right before the holidays, the Schettles kept their turkeys well-fed on all the home-grown ground barley, wheat and corn the birds could handle.

The couple and a hired man also dressed and packed the turkeys for sale themselves. In one day’s time, they packed between 50 and 80 turkeys.

It was all worth it, to get the biggest, best gobblers possible.

Calmer Times

by Jim Davis

Early in September of 1917, as the units of the North Dakota National Guard awaited orders, the Fargo Forum published an editorial cautioning the citizens of North Dakota that now was the time to address the feelings toward friends and neighbors who were German immigrants. It stated that, “… they were now enjoying a moment when the blood courses calmly, but it would not remain so long. When the news of wounds and death among the loved ones at the front fills the cables, then there will no longer be apathy in the American homes.”

The Forum blamed the German language press for a rise in anti-German sentiment. Attributing this to selfish motives, the paper claimed the German language press had become a dying institution in the United States, and it was profit that motivated the papers more than patriotism to the mother country. Pro-German sources were spending large sums to influence feelings towards the war, and with the Germans in North Dakota anxious for word from home, subscriptions soared. Unfortunately, with insidious propaganda and seditious remarks, the trend had clouded the issues both for the German immigrants and in the minds of the general public.

The Forum concluded that it remained for the Germans who were resolved to continue in this country as to how to approach their future. It warned, “They will have to face their neighbors through many tomorrows. And the sentiments of those neighbors … evolved from the bloody events that will soon be upon us, will be the sentiments of the children of those neighbors towards their children.”

There was a lot to consider.

Only two months after the Forum editorial, American troops were occupying the trenches in France. Although no North Dakota troops had yet reached Europe, the absence of these men from their homes was felt by those left behind. Remarks perceived as seditious or anti-war were less and less tolerated. News came from Granville, in McHenry County, that a local cobbler had been administered a “dose of patriotic punishment.” It was rumored that Bernt Folstad had been for some time, making disloyal statements bordering on treason. On the night of November 21, over a hundred citizens decided to take action. Commandeering the fire truck, they trained the hose on the building, breaking the windows and soaking the shop and contents, as well as the owner. Following this, Folstad was marched to city hall where he was forced to kneel and kiss the American Flag. As the Fargo Forum editorial predicted, the time for calmer minds had passed.

The Passing of a Pioneer

by Carole Butcher

On this date in 1908, the Bottineau Courant announced that Ole Vinje had died. Ole was one of the interesting early immigrants from Europe who came to Dakota Territory. He was born in Norway in 1858. He grew up in Snaasen where he lived with his parents and four brothers. After his father died in 1885, Ole’s mother and brothers immigrated to the United States, but Ole stayed behind. He joined his family in 1892, and in 1900 was issued a certificate on a piece of land southeast of Bottineau.

But Ole sold his homestead in 1902 to return to Norway with his brother Lorentz. He bought a farm near Snaasen. It may have been romance that brought Ole back to Norway. The 44-year-old married 21 year old Anna Johansdatter the same day his brother Lorentz got married. The weddings were performed at the Domkirken Cathedral in Trondheim.

Ole and Anna’s family began with the birth of twin boys, Olaf and Theodore, in 1903. Ole was prosperous as a farmer, but his thoughts kept turning to the United States. In 1905, Ole said good-bye to his brother and returned to Bottineau

with his family. He gave up farming and worked as a carpenter for the Bottineau County Bank and the School of Forestry. He built a home on Bennet Street in Bottineau. A daughter, Selma, was born to Ole and Anna in 1907.

Ole Vinje was only fifty years old when he got sick and succumbed to Bright’s disease, a form of kidney failure. Ole wasn’t famous and doesn’t hold a place in any history book. But his life was one of a solid citizen who helped to build a young state. He was representative of the many pioneers who left old lives behind and ventured to the frontier. Ole’s obituary, which appeared on page one of the newspaper, was perhaps as good as anyone can hope for. It noted that Ole “was a good citizen and neighbor and had many friends in the community.

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