Dakota Datebook

DAKOTA DATEBOOK: George Defender

Dakota Datebook written by Merry Helm

January 14, 2019 — The annual Cowboy’s Reunion started out somewhat accidentally at the first Mercer County Fair in 1915. Among the exhibits was a shorthorn bull, and Frank Chase of Fort Berthold decided he wanted to ride it – which he did. The crowd was impressed and passed a hat, and Chase walked away with $30.

It was the first rodeo event in Beulah, and in the following three years, rodeos became an annual event there. Ed Boland described how it all began: “One day during the month of August, I was mowing along the creek when A. D. Brown (newspaper editor) and George Slowey came driving across the flat in a shiny new contraption. They stated their mission flatly – ‘Could we stage a rodeo at Beulah the following month?’ We sat in the shade of the shiny monster and endeavored to separate the possible from the impossible. When they left some two hours later, the foundation had been laid for the now famous Cowboy’s Reunion.

“…on the following Sunday, (we) chartered a Model T and journeyed up to the old HS horse ranch… for a string of bucking horses. A deal was also made for corral lumber, with the Beulah lumber yards, on a rental basis… Transporting stock by truck was yet to be heard about in those days, so all stock was trailed in…

“Among the famous bucking horses of that yesteryear were Rattlesnake, Blizzard, Jail-Bird, Screw-Driver, White Sox, Whirligig, Tailspin, Warbonnet and Raggin’ Peggy. All had an undying hatred for cowboys, and could be relied upon to kick up plenty of dust when their turn came to swing into action.”

One of the riders on that first day was George Defender. He was born in South Dakota in 1891 and started working as a “rough string” rider for the DZ Cattle Company at Standing Rock when he was 16.

Most of George’s spectacular rides never got into the record books; one of these was a first-place win in Montana at the 1914 Miles City Roundup. The Roundup was one of the biggest rodeos on the circuit at that time, and Defender quickly earned a reputation as a top bronc rider. He held onto it by competing all over the continent, including wins at Madison Square Garden and the Calgary Stampede. At one point, he was a final contender for the world championship as all-around cowboy.

A bronc rider is not alone out there, and George rode some outstanding broncs: Spinning Boy, Sky Rocket, Grand River Blue, Heart River Croppy, Z Horse, Black Diamond, Leave Me with a Smile, Golden Rule and Tipperary.

He also competed in wild horse races, bulldogging, wild cow milking, bareback riding, calf roping, relay races and buffalo riding.

George Defender’s ranch was on the Standing Rock Reservation, but he later worked in Arizona after contracting tuberculosis. In 1932, he was injured during a cowboy roundup in New England, North Dakota, and it was on this date in 1933 that he died at Fort Yates. He was inducted into the North Dakota Rodeo Hall of Fame in 2001.

“Dakota Datebook” is a radio series from Prairie Public in partnership with the State Historical Society of North Dakota and with funding from the North Dakota Humanities Council. See all the Dakota Datebooks at prairiepublic.org, or subscribe to the “Dakota Datebook” podcast.


DAKOTA DATEBOOK: Hired Hand’s Contract Case

Dakota Datebook written by Jayme L. Job

January 15, 2019 — A strange court case was reported from Fargo on this day in 1904. J. H. Hanson, a hired farm hand, filed a lawsuit against his employer, Mrs. Eliza A. Francis. Hanson claimed that Francis had cheated him out of a contract, and five months worth of pay; Francis contended that the man was a lazy scoundrel that had refused to leave her farm after she had fired him for unsatisfactory work. The presiding judge, Justice Ryan, grew even more perplexed as the entire story unraveled before the court.

It seems that sometime around November 20, Hanson had secured employment under Mrs. Francis working on her small farm about ten miles south of Fargo. Additionally, Hanson’s wife was to work in Mrs. Francis’s house during the week, and Francis was to provide the couple’s son with room and board. For these services, a winter contract was made outlining the various terms of the agreement. For his work on the farm and his wife’s household duties, the Hanson’s were to receive $25 per month, and Mrs. Francis was to receive $2 per week for the boy’s room and board. The duration of the contract was set at five months.

A month later, though, Mrs. Francis found the couple’s work ethic lacking, and she asked the couple to leave her farm. Hanson refused and continued working at the place. Mrs. Francis realized that she would have to find other means of removing the family from her home; she quickly contacted her sons in Fargo and filled them in on her situation.

That day, Hanson loaded up a wagon of wheat and drove into the city. One of his employer’s sons approached him and told him that Mrs. Francis would like to speak to him. While Hanson was in conference with Mrs. Francis, the son unhitched the wagon and drove it back to the farm, leaving Hanson stuck in Fargo without a way of returning to the Francis farm.

Meanwhile, a second son drove out to the farm and told Mrs. Hanson that her husband needed her in Fargo. Mrs. Hanson and her children were taken to Fargo, and also abandoned on the streets. The Hansons secured housing in Fargo and filed suit against the employer for breaking the terms of the contract.

After sorting through the jumbled facts, Justice Ryan awarded Mr. Hanson $38 for two months salary, minus his son’s room and board. The story was reported under the heading, “Apparently, Life is Real.”

“Dakota Datebook” is a radio series from Prairie Public in partnership with the State Historical Society of North Dakota and with funding from the North Dakota Humanities Council. See all the Dakota Datebooks at prairiepublic.org, or subscribe to the “Dakota Datebook” podcast.



Dakota Datebook written by Merry Helm

January 16, 2019 — Today marks the birthday of Edward M. Darrow, who was born in 1855 in Wisconsin. He was one of the earliest and most influential physicians in the Red River Valley.

In 1878, Darrow graduated from Rush Medical College in Chicago and moved to Fargo to begin a medical practice. In his very first year, he started up the first hospital in the region, the Cass County Hospital. Fifteen years later, Edward’s brother, Daniel, built the Darrow Hospital across the river in Moorhead.

In 1904, Edward was on the first medical staff of St. John’s Hospital, which was housed in Bishop Shanley’s former residence. Their first patient was a victim of typhoid fever.

Dr. Darrow became the first superintendent of health in Dakota Territory and was given the task of issuing to physicians their license to practice. A story has been handed down through his family that he had issued five licenses when he suddenly realized that he, himself, didn’t yet have a license. So he became the sixth licensed physician in Dakota Territory. He also served as Surgeon General under Governor Burke and was also a member of the “insanity board.”

Much of Darrow’s practice took place in surrounding towns and rural homes. It wasn’t unusual for him to have to operate on patients who were stretched out on their kitchen tables. Dr. Darrow brought with him sheets, dressings, his instruments and gloves, and all had to be boiled in a wash boiler. Patients were draped with the wet sheets; then a country doctor or family member was given the job of draping – or “dropping” – a piece of gauze, laced with drops of chloroform or ether, over the patient’s face so the operation could begin.

Darrow’s son, Kent, later said, “I was greatly surprised, when I went to Johns Hopkins in 1909, to see ether being poured into a tight cone, which was slapped on a patient’s face, practically choking him, the patient struggling violently and often turning blue. My roommate would not believe me when I told him that our patients seldom struggled when we used the open drop method.”

Besides his hospitals and private practice, E. M. Darrow left another legacy: his children.

His daughter, Mary, received a degree in chemistry at the North Dakota Agricultural College and married Dr. Ralph E. Weible, another long-time Fargo physician. Mary founded the first kindergarten in North Dakota and also organized a women’s suffrage association. Weible Hall, a women’s dormitory at NDSU, was named in her honor.

Two sons, Frank and Kent, as well as Kent’s brother-in-law, and Mary’s husband, Ralph E. Weible, started the Dakota Clinic in 1926. Another son, Dan, graduated from Johns Hopkins as well. He was Professor of Pediatrics at Yale University and became an authority on various pediatric diseases.

E. M. Darrow died in Fargo in December 1919.

“Dakota Datebook” is a radio series from Prairie Public in partnership with the State Historical Society of North Dakota and with funding from the North Dakota Humanities Council. See all the Dakota Datebooks at prairiepublic.org, or subscribe to the “Dakota Datebook” podcast.