Early Minot Press

Est. 1993

May 1993

Vol I, No 3

Joseph L. Colton Starts Dakota Dynasty

Joseph Lynn Colton was born on March 24, 1839 in Antwerp, New York. His family was an old New England family. The first of the Colton family arrived in the new world and was married in Massachusetts in 1644. One Colton, of Colton, New York, was a capitalist, real estate dealer, farmer and merchant.

Joseph Colton served in the Civil War as an officer in the 147th New York Volunteer Regiment, from September, 1861 to October 30, 1864. He was wounded and during his recovery, he met and married Diana Robinson on February 25, 1863 in Baltimore, Maryland.

He moved to Keeseville, New York in June, 1869 and there was involved with the insurance business. In 1873, he moved to Otter Tail, Minnesota to farm. He was elected to the office of Town Clerk and Justice of the Peace in Otter Tail in 1878. In the fall of 1878, Colton moved from Frazee to Dakota Territory and founded Lisbon. He served Lisbon as County Clerk and Registrar of Deeds.

The Colton's had three children: Ida, Leslie Deforest and Sarah Louisa. Ida married a Dane named James Johnson on Thanksgiving Day, November 27, 1879 in Fargo. It was said that Ida's uncles didn't like the idea of Ida marrying a 'foreigner,' so they chased them from Lisbon to Fargo to try to stop them. They failed however.

On April 5, 1883, Colton, Johnson and a J.J. Rogers from New York started out for the Mouse River Valley. There, they were told, they would find free rich land, wonderful range, free coal and wood, and game in abundance. The trip across two flooded rivers and the plains was relatively uneventful.

On April 30, 1883, the three of them arrived at the fork of the Des Lacs and Souris Rivers. Finding long-burning coal within easy digging, they decided this was the place. The three made their way south to Fort Stevenson. Johnson loaded up supplies and made his way back to the camp. Rogers and Colton made their way to Fargo. There, Colton made arrangements for his family to travel back to the Mouse River Valley. Rogers, who had enough of the wild plains, returned to Troy, New York.

Colton began to build what Carl O. Flagstad called 'the closest thing North Dakota had to a Dynasty.' He knew how to build a town and began to built a record of area firsts.

In the summer of 1883, Colton erected a 36' by 80' two-story frame building as a store and hotel. This was the first store, hotel and frame building in the area north to Regina, south to Bismarck, west to Buford and east to Devil's Lake. He called this building, "the Forks." The merchandise for the store was brought up the Missouri from Bismarck to Fort Stevenson and then by wagon to the Forks.

When applying for a post office, Johnson proposed that the new town be called Colton. However, there was already a Colton in Dakota Territory, somewhere in what is now South Dakota. The town was then renamed Burlington after the hometown of Assistant Postmaster General Frank Hatton. Burlington became the official name on February 28, 1884. It was the first town in Imperial Ward County.

Colton moved his old Washington hand press from Lisbon, where it had printed the Lisbon Republican, and started the first newspaper in the region, the Burlington Republican which, after many moves and name changes, became the Minot Daily News.

Colton hired Miss Jane Miller as the governess for his daughter, Sarah. He invited other pioneer families to bring their children to his home for "book-learnin'." This was the start of the first school in the region.

Colton was involved in the first law enforcement organization in the region, the Burlington Regulators.

Colton, Johnson and a surveyor named Scott did the surveying of Burlington and Harrison townships in 1885, long before any others in Imperial Ward County. The cost was $800.00 per township.

The first meeting of the County Commissioners was held in Colton's store on November 23, 1885.

Colton built a building designed to house a church, school and courthouse which served the area until 1904 when the township was organized.

In May, 1889, Colton was elected as the lone delegate from Imperial Ward County to the Constitutional Convention which met on July 4, 1889 in Bismarck. He was elected chairman of the Committee on Revenue and the Committee of Railroads along with being a member of several other committees.

By the last decade of the 19th Century, Colton found that the area was too crowded. He needed to find a new challenge. He found it in central Florida. He moved to Bartow, Florida, about forty miles from a site where another pioneer developer, Walt Disney, created his own Dynasty. Colton died in Bartow on December 22, 1896. He had donated land in Burlington for the Burlington Cemetery and, ironically, he was the first to be buried there.

Regulators vs. Vigilantes

During the evening of November 4, 1884, a group of horsemen rode down in the valley near Burlington. There were about sixteen horsemen altogether. No one paid much attention to them since hunting parties were frequently seen along the river at that time.

The next morning, the horsemen were found camped with a large herd of horses that nearly reached the city limits. There were about seventy-five horses in the herd.

James Johnson, a prominent citizen of Burlington and, later, Minot, rode out to talk with the horsemen. He met with their leader, a tall, black-whiskered man who was introduced as William "Flopping Bill" Contrell.

Johnson was told that the men represented the Montana Livestock Association. In reality, the men were the Montana Vigilantes set up by Granville Stewart, a citizen of Canada who had a ranch near Glasgow, Montana.

The Vigilantes were nicknamed "Stranglers" because they often hung the men they found, often innocent men. But still, some idea of justice was part of their nature since they usually needed some sort of evidence to 'convict' someone.

One of the Vigilantes, a Frenchman named Gardipe, told one of the Regulators, Stanley Ravenwood, that he wanted to buy some horses. Ravenwood brought several horses to show him. Gardipe didn't like any of those horses and asked Ravenwood if he had any more. When Ravenwood brought another bunch of horses, Gardipe found several horses among them that were stolen from Montana. Ravenwood was immediately taken into custody and bound with irons.

It turned out that the Vigilantes had trailed Ravenwood and John Bates from Montana but had lost them in a snow storm shortly before the pair arrived in the valley. Now that they had captured Ravenwood, they had to find Bates.

Bates had gone to Osbourne Benson's farm for dinner. The Vigilantes were dispatched to the Benson farm. Upon seeing the Vigilantes and knowing that they were there for him, he ran to the barn and attempted to escape on his horse. The Vigilantes surrounded him as he left the barn. Bates was taken to the Vigilantes camp and placed in irons with Ravenwood.

The stolen horses were rounded up and three days after entering the valley, the Vigilantes took Bates and Ravenwood and left. They were never seen in the valley again.

Later the Vigilantes were seen in Cole Harbor. Bates and Ravenwood were not with them. Rumors were that they were shot when trying to escape from the Vigilantes.

In 1889, the skeletons of two men, tied together, were found at the bottom of Strawberry Lake. The boots on the skeletons were of the style that Bates and Ravenwood wore.

By the spring of 1885, the area had settled down. An official civil government was set up with Amos Tracy as Sheriff. The Regulators, no longer needed, were disbanded. They existed only a short time, only about a year, but they left many interesting stories.

False-Arch Bridge is Part of History

Minot has depended on bridges since its beginning because of its river and railroads. Eastwood Park is no exception especially since it is almost an island and depends on bridges to bring people to that beautiful neighborhood.

On September 23, 1926, the city commission hired M.B. Stone of Minneapolis as engineer to make the plans, specifications and cost estimates to construct a bridge across the Mouse River between 6th Street and East Central Avenue.

On February 11, 1927, the commission voted to build the bridge. Special attention was to be placed on the style of the bridge. They hoped to keep with the popular trends and architectural styles of the neighborhood it would link to downtown. The commissioners specified that it be an 'arch' bridge unaware that the design was patented.

Bids were taken and bidders were allowed to submit alternate plans and proposals. On April 29, 1927, the bids were opened. They included a $39,971.00 bid from J.C. Pickus Construction Co. of Sioux City, Iowa; a $31,200.00 bid from J.J. Rue & Sons of Bismarck; a $36,865.00 bid from Kemper Huston of Minot; a $32,980.00 bid from Dakota Concrete Products Co. of Minot with an alternate plan for $25,000.00; and a $34,700.00 bid from Independent Bridge Company of Minneapolis with an alternate plan for $23,450.00. J.W. Speake spoke in detail about the alternate plan submitted by Dakota Concrete.

After viewing all bids, the city commissioners decided to table the bids so they could be seen by the County Board and citizens of Eastwood Park.

On May 5, 1927, the alternate bid by Dakota Concrete was accepted with the understanding that it would be reduced to $24,000.00 All five commissioners, Haldi, Kilbourn, Krantz, Theurer and Toftner, agreed on the plan.

Kenneth Haas, head of Dakota Concrete, had T.W. Sprauge, a highway engineer who later became Chief of the Bridge Design and Construction section, design a 'false-arch' bridge. This would avoid paying patent costs but will give the visual effect desired for the bridge. The bridge, in fact, is a T-beam type, concrete bridge built in three spans supported on two piers. It has sidewalks on both sides of the roadway and a light at each of the four corners of the bridge. The arches that make it look like a true, arch bridge are only decoration.

Soon after the bridge was completed, problems occurred when beam seats began to crack. Temporary repairs were done in 1946 but it was left to withstand years of floods and steady traffic. In 1972, the bridge was further weakened by heavy equipment used during the flood. In that same year, the bridge was ordered to be taken down by the Ward County Commissioners.

On May 15, 1974, a 15-24 inch hole was found on the bridge. This was to become the beginning of a battle over the fate of the bridge which would last nine months. This fight would divide Eastwood Park and pit residents against each other. The battle ended in February, 1975, when it was decided that the bridge would be used as a walking and biking bridge.

The bridge is on the National Register of Historic Places because of its historic contribution to Minot and Eastwood Park. Great pride should be taken in caring for this bridge. Periodically, the bridge needs paint and cleaning. Also, benches could be added to enhance the beauty of the bridge. The Eastwood Park Historic District Neighborhood Association is in the process of raising money to place planters on the bridge.

A special thank you must go out to Mary Janicki who saved a file full of clippings and documents about the bridge and the fight to save it.

Preservation ND holds Conference

Preservation North Dakota held its 3rd Annual Statewide Preservation Conference on April 16 and 17 in Devil's Lake, North Dakota. The topic of the Conference was Prairie Shelter: Contemporary Living in Historic Settings.

Speakers for the Conference included Betty Anne Beierle, the area representative for the National Trust for Historic Place, North Dakota Lt. Governor Rosemarie Myrdal, Ronald Ramsey, Professor of Architectural History and Design at NDSU, Gary Stenson, President of MetroPlains Development, Inc., and Dr. Thomas D. Isern, Dean of the School of Humanities and Social Sciences at NDSU.

Ron Ramsey entertained and informed the Conference attenders as he spoke about the various types and styles of prairie shelter. He explained how the different architectural styles spread throughout the region and how some styles seemed to appear simultaneously in different areas. One important point he made was that it is the exceptional building that
is saved while the more everyday buildings are allowed to be demolished, losing a sense of what life was really like here on the plains.

Gary Stenson presented an overview of what MetroPlains Development does to restore and renovate an endangered building. Because of the government lending regulations and the present tax incentives, the best use of these endangered buildings, in towns of 20,000 people or less, is to convert them into low-income or elderly housing.

Betty Anne Beierle and Lt. Governor Rosemarie Myrdal spoke briefly at the Conference but had encouraging words for Preservation North Dakota.

Dr. Thomas Isern entertained the Conference guests during the luncheon. His folktales and folk-singing were hits with the crowd and the lunch ran overtime leaving the Conference with little time for the afternoon activities.

The afternoon was spent touring local buildings that were renovated by MetroPlains Development including the Great Northern Hotel, Wineman's Opera House, Devil's Lake Firehouse and St. Mary's Academy. All were converted into low-income or elderly housing. After this there was very little time to see much of the walking tour, so it was spent in a very nice personal tour of the local Masonic Temple, an ornate and interesting building.

Thirty seven people attended the Conference with only four of those from Minot.

The mission of Preservation North Dakota is to encourage the preservation of the cultural resources of the state, establish a network of persons committed to preservation, assist the development of local preservation projects, advocate preservation policies, and promote historic and cultural education and tourism.

Royce Yeater of Fargo serves as Preservation North Dakota's President with Jane Edwards of Jamestown as its Vice-President. Joan Galleger of Devil's Lake was elected Secretary and Shan Cunningham of Minot serves as the Treasurer.

To find out more about Preservation North Dakota, write to Preservation ND, P.O. Box 2635, Bismarck, ND 58502.

Aurland Buys Buffalo Bones

Carl Aurland owned and operated one of the first small grocery stores in Minot.

Carl was born in Norway on March 24, 1864. He came to this country at the age of 3 with his parents. He lived in Minnesota where he went to school. Later, he worked in a grocery store there.

In 1886, he came to Minot. At his grocery store, he bought buffalo bones, a popular business at the time. At night he studied law. Within a few years, he passed the bar.

For many years, he practiced law in Minot, along with managing a farm and other property interests in and around Minot.

Mr. Aurland married Miss Josie Voigt from Wisconsin in 1891. Josie came to Minot to live with her sister, Mrs. W.E. Mansfield. Josie worked at a bank until she married.

They made their first home a cottage on what is now the 100 block of 4th Avenue SE. Later, they built a home where Medical Arts now is located.

Pioneer Letter

Dear Mother and Father,

We spent one week in Jamestown because of the James River being too high for us to cross. During the time in Jamestown, Matthew worked for a farmer outside of town with Joseph Lee, who is also headed for the Mouse River Valley area with his wife, Ellen, and their two-year old son, Franklin. Ellen and I have become very good friends. I've spent the time there resting from the first part of the trip.

After such a long unexpected delay, Matthew and I were very happy when we could finally cross the river. But we were shocked when we reached the Sheyenne River and it was flooded as well. But after a good day of rest, we floated our wagon across like many others were doing. I was never so afraid in my whole life as Matthew took the wagon across the river. But all went well. Matthew came back on a raft for the animals and me. Once the animals were in the water, they crossed the river easily.

We have just arrived at Fort Totten. The journey went well and the weather was hot and dry. I will write again soon.

Your ever loving daughter,
Ina Johanson

Buildings Needed

If you have done research on an old home or building in the Minot area, the Early Minot Press would be glad to share your research with all of our subscribers. Call the Press today!

Future Stories

If you have any stories or information concerning the following topics, please give us a call and let us know so that our stories will be as complete as we can write them.

The Flatiron Building

Summer on the Plains

North Minot, the other side of the tracks

And much, much more.