New Rockford Transcript - Official Newspaper of Eddy County since 1883

Dakota Datebook: Coal Mine and New England Picnic


June 17, 2019

Coal Mine

by Jim Davis

June 17, 2019 — By 1932 there were over 360 underground coal mines listed in the coal mine inspection reports, but on this date in 1874, “The Bismarck Tribune” was in receipt of correspondence from the Sweet Briar Coal Mine, one of the first commercial coal mines in the West River country. Located 25 miles west of Bismarck on the proposed line of the Northern Pacific, the party of three miners claimed to have already tunneled 70 feet into the mine, following three veins of coal, with one vein three and a half feet thick. They had sunk several shafts and were very excited about the quality and quantity of coal in the area. In 1874, it was a bold undertaking to settle west of the Missouri.

New England Picnic

by Jayme Job

June 18, 2019 — A group of North Dakota residents celebrated their east-coast origins on this day in 1903. The group met at Fargo in carloads to begin their annual trek to Detroit for the New England Picnic. Everyone in the bunch had traveled to the state from the New England states at some time, and the picnic gave the nostalgic residents a chance to reunite, but also to eat the New England foods that they missed so dearly on the plains.

The North Dakota group stopped in Moorhead along on the way and picked up twenty more former New Englanders. They then drove all day to reach Detroit that evening. Along the way, the merry bunch sang popular colonial songs from New England, including “The Sword of Bunker Hill.” They also used the occasion to catch up with one another, as many of them remembered the same people and places back in New England.

Upon reaching Detroit, the group met up with an additional 30 New Englanders. The following morning was spent boating on the lakes. Captain West conducted tours through the lakes on a small steamer, as well as a gas-powered boat.

The group served lunch at noon, and this consisted of many northeastern dishes. The meal was a potluck of sorts, with each individual bringing their own picnic basket of New England delicacies to share.

Mr. Perley of Moorhead entertained the group by singing several eastern tunes. At one point, “it was declared that no banquet for the New England people could be complete without codfish,” and so a codfish was passed around.

Afterward, many of the New Englanders shared stories from the Civil War, as most of them had been soldiers in the Union Army.

The picnic was considered a complete success by all in attendance. Later, the North Dakotans said good-bye to the New Englanders of Detroit, and then to those from Minnesota, before heading back to their Dakota homes themselves and planning next year’s picnic.

Teddy Roosevelt's Father's Day

by Merry Helm

June 20, 2019 — Teddy Roosevelt was a man who cherished family life, so it was fitting for the State Historical Society of North Dakota to choose Father’s Day 2001 for hosting a family-style barbecue in Roosevelt’s honor at the North Dakota Heritage Center.

The event was part of a state tour of Roosevelt’s Medal of Honor, the Nation’s highest military honor, given to TR posthumously in January 2001. Senator Kent Conrad and Tweed Roosevelt, TR’s great grandson, led a three-year effort to persuade Congress and President Clinton to award the medal.

Tweed, an investment adviser from Boston, co-owned – with Mark Hamilton – North Dakota’s “Wild Things Galleries,” and for the tour, the two men commissioned Towner artist Andy Knudson to create a special full-color portrait of TR with the Medal of Honor. The medal itself is now displayed in the Roosevelt Room of the Whitehouse next to the late President’s 1906 Nobel Peace Prize.

“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, or subscribe to the “Dakota Datebook” podcast.


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