Pictures from then and now

Main Street back in the 1950s or 1960s.

Main Street now.
Another view.

This one is from prior to 1925

And today.
I’ll be presenting a talk on the early photos of Ft. Seward and Jamestown at 7 p.m. Tonight (Wednesday) at Ft. Seward as part of the weekly campfire chat series. If you have an interest in Jamestown history, or just old pictures, stop in.

The Seventh Cavalry in Dakota

Custer’s Seventh Cavalry is one of the most studied units in American military history.

Probably has something to do with the Boy General’s last battle.

Hear a presentation on the unit in the Dakotas including its interaction with Fort Seward in Jamestown. A campfire chat will be held at 7 p.m. Wednesday at Fort Seward. In the event of inclement weather the presentation will be held at the Interpretive Center. The event is free and open to the public.


Posted in Uncategorized

Cavalry vs. Infantry in the Frontier Army

Ever wonder what the difference was between a cavalry trooper and an infantry soldier in the army of the 1870s?

Besides the cavalry trooper gets to ride his horse while the infantry soldier walks everywhere.

I’ll cover the differences at the next campfire chat at Fort Seward at 7 p.m. Wednesday at the Fort Seward grounds. If it is too hot, we’ll meet in the air conditioned comfort of the Interpretive Center.

Discussion will include differences in equipment, requirements and the typical life of the soldier.

The event is free and open to the public.

Posted in Uncategorized

Campfire Chat

Dale Marks will present information on the revolvers and hand guns of the Fort Seward period. This includes several items manufactured by Colt and the other builders of weapons from the 1870s.

The presentation begins at 7 p.m. tonight (Wednesday) at the Fort Seward grounds. Admission is free.


Posted in Uncategorized

Fort Seward Campfire Chat

Learn what life was like at Fort Seward in the 1870s during the Campfire Chat tonight, Wednesday, June 26.

The talk is hosted by Keith Norman and will last about 30 minutes and is free and open to the public. In case of bad weather the talk will be held in the Fort Seward Interpretative Center.





Posted in Uncategorized

Wednesday night at Fort Seward

Want to learn what it was like to be a soldier in the army of the 1870s?


I’ll be presenting a Campfire chat at 7 p.m. Wednesday at Fort Seward. I’ll talk about the uniform, weapons and occasional boredom of being a soldier in the frontier army.


Little hint, your chance of survival is higher if you aren’t under the command of Gen. George Armstrong Custer. About 30 percent of the soldiers who died fighting in the Indian Wars were under the command of the Boy General.


Other info in the presentation will include the physical requirements for an 1870s soldiers, life in the army and the discipline the military issued if you messed up like got drunk on guard duty or some other little thing.


Campfire chats are held every Wednesday evening at Fort Seward. The talks explore the different aspects of life in the army on the western frontier.


Keith Norman also blogs at

Posted in Uncategorized

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

Posted in Uncategorized

Nesting birds

Over the past few weeks I have had the pleasure of watching a mourning dove nest outside my home office window. The old girl was patient enough to allow me to watch her from as close as five or six feet away without becoming flighty.

Last weekend I saw the young bird for the first time although, from its size I guessed it had hatched quite a bit earlier.

For about a week I got to watch the adult and the baby in the nest although I never saw her feed the young. If they saw me watching they would freeze and not even blink.

This weekend, the flew off. The adult took off first followed by the young who was definitely flying on a learners permit but managed to stay airborne  to another tree.

This gave me a chance to look at the nest. It is about 7 feet above ground in a Colorado Blue Spruce.

Total building materials, about two dozen twigs from the spruce and some old grass or hay. The picture doesn’t show much because there really isn’t much of a nest there.

Still, in the past weeks mama dove has managed to ride out a couple of thunderstorms, some very windy weather and heavy rain. The nest was on the south side of the tree so she had some protection from the worst winds.

The instincts to place the next in an evergreen where it was safe from cats and on the south side of the tree protected from wind are remarkable.

The birds perseverance in sitting the nest through all kinds of weather is also notable.

I guess it takes a heck of a lot of effort by Mother Nature to put another mourning dove in the sky. I, for one, am glad it happens,.

Keith Norman also blogs at



Posted in Uncategorized

Potatoes and Newspapers

This column appeared in the May 29, edition of the Prairie Post.

Newspapers can sometimes ruffle the feathers of people they report on. Take, for example, a case from Kensal from back in 1903.

The community seemed to be overrun with people who were involved in the rather illegal activity of dealing in alcohol. It would seem the newspaper editor took a stance against this type of activity.

At the end of each of these articles he added a tagline of “This is a hot town.”

His opposition didn’t write letters to the editor or comment on his articles. Instead, they broke into the office of the Kensal News, damaged the presses and carried cases of type out and destroyed them.

It wasn’t the first brush the staff of the Kensal News had with the criminal element. A few days earlier a transient had thrown potatoes through the front windows of the paper’s office.

Rocks are more traditional for this use but potatoes will work in a pinch.

The attack on the newspaper office was the last straw. After all, the newspaper was just informing people of what was going on.

In the days that followed four people were arrested. The Stutsman County state’s attorney went north to Kensal to preside over the cases.

Officers also investigated the reports of entire train carloads of beer as well as previous shipments of empty kegs leaving Kensal. It is possible that the community had been used as a shipping point for a wider area.

Alcohol smuggling was a bigger problem for North Dakota law enforcement before prohibition became federal law in 1920. Up until that point, alcohol could be produced in most of the United States but not shipped to North Dakota which had made prohibition part of the state constitution in 1889.

That drove up the value of alcohol in North Dakota, making smuggling a profitable enterprise. The attention of law enforcement forced those who tried to make a living illegally out of town.

The records seem to indicate the Kensal News also went under the name of the Kensal Journal. It was the official newspaper of Stutsman County from time to time during its run from 1902 to about 1916 although it seemed to cease operations for about one year around 1908. The paper published articles in both German and English.

It was followed by the Kensal Progress which continued operation until 1929. This paper merged with the Medina paper which operated for a few more years.

The newspaper industry in Stutsman County has a long and colorful history. But I’m guessing that the Kensal News has the honor as the victim of the only potato-throwing critic in the region’s history.

Keith Norman also blogs at

Posted in Uncategorized

The first lawn mowing of the season

I know it has been a while since I’ve blogged. Trying to get back into that habit.

The biggest accomplishment of this weekend was getting the lawn mowed. You see, our lawn mower commonly has temperment issues each spring.

This is a mid-1980s John Deere rider. It is old enough to be entitled to a little spring attitude.

This year it seemed to be the fuel system. I took the fuel line off the carburetor and there was no gas reaching that point. First, I suspected the gas filter. Placed in a very difficult position that took nearly an hour to remove and check.

It was functioning perfectly with gas reaching it from the fuel tank.

That lead me to the fuel pump. This was a bigger job than I could tackle and I was considering calling someone who knew what they were doing.

Instead, I decided to check one more thing. I thought maybe the fuel pump was dry and needed to be primed. I sucked on the gas line at the carburetor until I got a mouthful of gas. After spitting several times I hooked the line to the carburetor and turned the engine over. It started and ran flawlessly allowing me to mow the lawn with the taste of gas in my mouth.

When I finished mowing, it took three margaritas to get the taste of gas out of my mouth.

The fourth and fifth were just to make sure.

Keith Norman is a staff reporter for the Jamestown Sun and writes a weekly column for the Prairie Post. He also bloggs at

Posted in Uncategorized