This column ran in the April 20 edition of the Prairie Post
Medical care in the pioneer era could be a bit of a challenge. According to the book “The Challenge of the Prairie” by Hiram Drache, the medical professional in any pioneer community could be a “dentist, a medical doctor, a veterinarian or a fake, but if he carried the title of doctor he was welcomed.”
These doctors had a lot to deal with. They tended to child births although in this area they usually had help from midwives in the region.
And we should point out the mother was usually allowed a “laying in” period after the birth. This was a time after the child was born when the mother was entitled to bed rest.
It came to an end when the cookies and bread she had baked and all the meals she had prepared and set aside before the birth ran out and her husband and other children became hungry.
One of the most interesting “birth stories” from the Dakotas comes from 1808 in the area of Pembina. A colony of French traders and farmers had taken up residence along the Red River in that area and were among the first white residents of what is now North Dakota. This child may be the second white baby born in the state.
According to the legend a very pregnant Marie Anne Lagimoniere was riding with her husband on a hunting trip near Pembina. Hanging on one side of her saddle were some supplies and provisions. On the other side was her oldest child, a three-year old daughter, on a cradle board.
As she rode across the prairie at the side of her husband they spotted a herd of buffalo, a common occurrence at the time. Marie Anne was riding a buffalo hunting horse trained by the Indians of the area. The horse was trained to put the rider in the best position to fire a shot into a running buffalo and charged after the hairy beasts. The animal was so caught up in the chase he could not be reined in.
Marie Anne’s husband charged after them in hot pursuit spurring his horse in an attempt to reach the mount of his wife. Fortunately his horse was as fast as his wife’s horse. He managed to catch up and grab the reins. He brought the horses under control just as they reached the herd of buffalo.
As soon as the horses were pulled to a stop Marie Anne slid from her mount and in moments gave birth to a son.
We don’t know if this story is true. Obviously there is no proof one way or the other.
But it appears a fast horse is pretty effective at inducing labor, but probably wouldn’t be covered by insurance.