The Fourth of July fell on a Sunday a century ago. In the current era many would look at this as great news. More people would have the day off to enjoy whatever activities were scheduled for the day.
But one hundred years ago there were laws against “Sabbath Breaking.” It was against the law for public events, other than church services, to be scheduled for a Sunday in North Dakota. This even applied to the great American pastime, baseball.
I believe the Jamestown baseball team knew the law when they scheduled a game against Dazey for Sunday afternoon, July 4, 1909.
And we know that Rev. J. W. Ogden knew the law. He filed a complaint about the Sunday game. In what the Jamestown Alert referred to as a test case charges were filed against three players, Bert Nierling, Lloyd DePuy and Joe Blewett, for participating in a public sport on Sunday.
Officials, or at least the Jamestown Alert, hoped the case would determine once and for all if a Sunday afternoon baseball game should be prohibited or allowed.
In the week following the Fourth of July a jury trial was held to determine the case.
The case was heard Justice Carr with States Attorney George Thorp handling the prosecution and John Knauf, brother of pioneer doctor Helena Knauf Wink, handling the defense. The proceedings took less than an afternoon with a jury verdict in favor of the defendants and Sunday baseball rendered in the late afternoon.
But evidently the reading of the verdict was a little unclear.
“I wish you would state for me what the decision means,” Rev. Ogden is quoted as saying in the Alert. “In the minds of the jurors the boys were not guilty of Sabbath breaking in playing baseball on Sunday and that the jurors decided that Sunday baseball is legal?”
The Alert tried to clarify things for the good reverend by quoting the verdict.
“We, the jury, find the defendants not guilty and recommend that the court tax the costs of this action against the complaining witness,” it said.
Evidently the jury was made up entirely of baseball fans.
The Alert reported there was no provision in law to bill the cost of the court proceedings to Rev. Ogden so the state would end up paying the cost.
As far as the questionable Sunday afternoon baseball game goes, Dazey managed to upset the Jamestown squad.
Dazey tallied three runs in the sixth inning while Jamestown managed just two runs in a ninth inning rally.
The two squads split two more games during a Monday doubleheader giving the Dazey crowd a best two out of three over Jamestown for the Fourth of July holiday.
So while the Jamestown nine lost on the ball diamond they did win in the court room, and Sunday baseball games were here to stay.
It has probably been about 70 years since open range laws were in effect in Stutsman County. These cows evidently didn’t get the memo.
Under open range laws a farmer was required to fence in land he didn’t want livestock on and cows and horses pretty much had the run of the land. It was the common way of managing things in the western Dakotas up until the depression era or a little later.
These cattle evidently held a little jail break and instituted their own version of open range out near Chase Lake National Wildlife Refuge.
This column ran in the July 21, 2009 Prairie Post.
The laws of the Dakota Territory were very specific.
For example, if you were going to start a ferry boat operation you couldn’t set up business within two miles of another ferry boat. The law also set the rate for a ferrying a wagon across the Missouri, Sioux, Dakota or Vermillion Rivers as $1, no matter if the wagon was pulled by horses, mules or oxen.
A man on foot could be charged a dime or 25 cents if he was leading a horse.
Another law set a fine of $100 for any person who “shall bring into and leave in any county” a pauper.
The law set the fee a Justice of the Peace could charge for performing a wedding at $3. Jurors on any court case were paid $2 per day and 5 cents for each mile they had to travel.
And there is a long section of the Territorial Laws dealing with stray animals.
First off, you could only claim a stray animal if it wondered onto your place. Going to other people’s property and claiming the animals you find there as strays could you get you arrested, or shot, depending on the situation.
If animals wandered on to your farm you were required to place a written notice of finding on three public places within the county or advertise the finding for three weeks in the official county paper.
If there was no response the person who found the stray animal would then go to the Justice of the Peace who would appoint three disinterested house holders to appraise the animals. The Justice of the Peace then advertises the animals for three more weeks.
If no one claims the animals within one year, and they are valued at less than $50, they become the property of the person who found them and cared for them for the past year.
If the value was more than $50 the animals were sold at auction. The money went to the county school fund after advertising fees would be subtracted along with a fee paid to the person who found the animals for their care.
However, if the person who found the animal made use of it. Maybe used it to pull a plow if it were a horse or milked it if it were a cow, they couldn’t collect the allowance for carrying for the animal.
And using a stray animal on your farm, and forgetting to advertise you had found the beast, could get you a $25 fine.
Which is probably a better deal than getting accused of horse stealing.
Sometime in the next few weeks the N.D. Game and Fish department will release its numbers on duck broods.
They’ve had biologists in the field counting little quackers and averaging it all out to determine the average brood size. This tells us how well the nesting season went and what to expect in the fall hunting season.
I don’t know what the offical findings will be but this Mama shoveler seemed to have had a good spring. I count 9 little ducklings swimming with her.
Photo taken near Chase Lake National Wildlife refuge this past weekend.
I don’t believe there is any historic figure that I admire more than Theodore Roosevelt. From time to time I spend a few minutes reviewing the quotes that are atributed to the great President. This one, which I don’t believe I’ve seen before, caught my eye this time:
In any moment of decision, the best thing you can do is the right thing, the next best thing is the wrong thing, and the worst thing you can do is nothing.
It reminds me of one of my own mottos.
Do something, even if it is wrong.
Maybe I should try Option 1 from the TR quote from time to time.
There are many “old wives tales” regarding the weather on the plains. All the old farmers, and evidently their wives, had a theory for the cause and effect for most of the weather phenomenon’s seen in the Dakotas.
George Kingsbury wrote about one weather indicator he said never failed in his book “History of the Dakota Territory” published in 1915.
But this is one weather myth that we are busting this year.
Kingsbury said any time there was a snowy winter the following summer would have bountiful precipitation. If that were holding true this year we would have received more than normal rain this spring and early summer.
Instead we are running about 3 inches of precipitation behind normal this growing season. The growing season starts on April 1, and runs through the fall.
The theory behind the belief that wet summers follow snowy winters was based on the idea the snow that falls high in the mountains would take all summer to evaporate and thus provide moisture to the clouds moving east across the plains. This moisture would then fall as abundant rain.
North Dakota farmers, back in the days before the Internet and all news channels, probably didn’t get a lot of weather reports from the Rocky Mountains.
Instead they were urged to pay attention to reports from the Missouri River. If Bismarck had flooding farmers all across North Dakota could assume the year would bring plenty of rain and bountiful crops.
I suppose the logic is good, however, it doesn’t take into account all the other variables of weather like the jet stream and the Pacific Ocean currents.
For us, this year at least, we are lucky this weather tale failed. An added 2 or 3 inches of rain this spring would have certainly compounded the problems of flooding we saw this spring.
But in 1887 the rains followed the snow. A harsh winter, one that killed many of the cattle on the plains, was followed by a spring and summer of excellent growing conditions. What is now North Dakota saw excellent yields of wheat even though some of the surrounding area had partial crop failures.
Those early good crops helped drive the Dakota boom of the 1880s. The wet summers and good crops brought farmers by the thousands to the plains. These small farmers, sometimes working only a quarter section, did their business in the many small towns that also saw a boom in population.
So, at least in Kingsbury’s eyes, surviving a snowy winter was rewarded by good crops and a strong local economy the next summer.
I don’t know what Kingsbury would have said about this year where all the snow only brought us a lot of flooding.