Jamestown is Indignant

This column ran in the June 18, 2013, edition of the Prairie Post.

Jamestown was indignant in 1889.

The community was so indignant that on Aug, 14, 1889, the city leaders organized an “Indignation Meeting.” This type of gathering is defined as a public meeting to express, well, indignation.

 At issue was the location of the capital for the planned state of North Dakota. The discussions were taking place during the Constitutional Convention, being held in Bismarck. The convention was going badly for Jamestown, which was leading to what can only be described as “indignation.”

Bismarck was confident it would retain the capital and spent a lot of time poking fun at the Jamestown efforts through articles in the Bismarck Tribune.

One piece said that Johnson Nickeus, formerly of Jamestown and attorney general for the Dakota Territory, was actively lobbying for Jamestown to be the capital.

“Nickeus was standing on a street corner discussing politics when the back of his collar burst forth in a blaze and the fore arm of a stranger who shook hands with him later is so badly burned  it is feared amputation will be necessary,” wrote the Tribune.

The Bismarck paper also included a satiric telegraph supposedly signed by Sitting Bull where he supports Jamestown.

“It makes me glad to hear that one hundred of my friends, the kickers, also go from Jimtown to Bismarck to pound the tom-toms and raise – oh, what you call him – raise him h—l,” they wrote.

The Tribune wrapped up its efforts to poke fun at Jamestown by calling the whole incident entertaining.

“Yea, it will be circusian, and a circus is always welcome. Let them come with all their attractions and accomplishments. They are not to blame for they are human, man is selfish and they have corner lots for sale,” it wrote.

I don’t think “circusian” is a real word but I guess the Tribune thought it worked in this article.

The effort to place the capital of the anticipated state of North Dakota at Jamestown never really came close to fruition. The committee votes seemed to be about 19 to 50 — more than a little short of a majority.

The Constitutional Convention organized the framework for North Dakota government that went into effect in November 1889 when statehood was granted.

The constitution kept many of the existing territorial facilities in place. Bismarck had been the Dakota Territory capital and retained that title with the existing building used as the seat of government.

Jamestown retained the government facility that had been the territorial hospital, which became the State Hospital with the passage of statehood.

Utilizing existing territorial facilities for the new state made economic sense. It was far less costly than building a new capitol in Jamestown.

It probably was the right thing to do even if Jamestown was indignant about it.

Keith Norman also blogs at www.PetTidbytes.com.

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