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Dakota Datebook: Oct. 31-Nov. 4 | News, Sports, Jobs

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Karl Bodmer, Swiss artist


Oct. 31 — German naturalist and scientist Maximilian, Prince of Wied-Neuwied, long dreamed of discovering new species of plants and animals in the New World. His companion was a young Swiss artist, Karl Bodmer, who died on Oct. 30, 1893.

Born on Feb. 6, 1809, in Riesbach, Switzerland, Bodmer studied art in France and established himself as an engraver, lithographer and painter. His earliest exposure to art probably came from his uncle, the landscape painter and engraver Johann Jakob Meyer.

When Bodmer was 22, he met his future boss, Maximilian, who was planning an ambitious scientific expedition to North America. Bodmer was hired by Maximilian to travel with the expedition and provide sketches of the American wilderness and record images of the different tribes they saw along the way.

After touring the East Coast, the party made its way westward on the Ohio and Mississippi rivers to St. Louis, Missouri. The group left St. Louis in 1833 aboard the Yellowstone and traveled up the Missouri River.

Maximilian and his companions visited a number of forts and villages, wintering at Fort Clark near the Mandan/Hidatsa villages. There, Bodmer had the opportunity to paint portraits and experience the communal life of the Indians.

Though Bodmer was trained in landscapes, he picked up portrait skills through daily practice while in the American West. He painted the life, customs, dress and ceremonies of the American Indians the expedition encountered, creating a large number of drawings and paintings of the Indians and the scenery of the Missouri while at Fort Clark.

The party headed back to St. Louis in the spring of 1834, arriving there on May 27 and returned to New York and Europe that same year.

Bodmer had his works from the expedition reproduced as aquatints. A total of 81 of Bodmer’s plates appeared in Maximilian’s Travels in the Interior of North America, 1832-34, published in London in 1839. Some critics believe that Bodmer was the finest artist to work on the American frontier, and his album is an artistic treasure.

In 1962, the Northern Natural Gas Company of Omaha purchased the Maximilian-Bodmer collection of early American paintings and documents, including Maximilian’s American diaries and 427 original water colors and drawings by Bodmer.

The majority of Bodmer’s originals are now located at the Joslyn Art Museum in Omaha, Nebraska. The 81 images he painted of the Indians and the Western territory provide us, today, with source materials for an understanding of that part of our heritage.

After returning to Paris, Bodmer associated himself with a group of Parisian artists that later became known as the Barbizon group. He lived the rest of days in Barbizon, France, became a French citizen and changed his name to Charles Bodmer.

Bodmer died on Oct. 30, 1893.

King John Satterlund


Nov. 1 — Washburn, the oldest city in McLean County, was founded on this date in 1882. The man responsible was John Satterlund, who, by the time he died, was known across the state as “King John.”

Satterlund immigrated with his parents from Carlstadt, Sweden, when he was 18. He was smart, well educated, and a risk-taker. The family settled in Minnesota, but Satterlund headed west, ahead of the railroad, when he was 22. He established his first homestead 15 miles north of Bismarck, at a spot called Dry Point, and then headed north to Canada to help build the railroad between Port Arthur and Fort Williams. When he returned four years later, he bought a large chunk of land in Burleigh County and got serious about farming and ranching. But it didn’t appear to satisfy him.

He soon speculated on property farther north and planned out the city of Washburn. He became one of the first commissioners for Burleigh County and then set his sights on breaking away to form McLean County, with Washburn as the county seat. Satterlund served as the new county’s first sheriff and was also a US Marshal for four years.

Continuing his trail blazing, Satterlund opened a roller mill, in Washburn, and the Merchants Hotel in Bismarck. He established the first Bismarck-Washburn stage line and, with his long-time friend Louis Peterson, brought in the first telephone service between the two towns. Satterlund was also the editor and publisher of his own newspaper, the Washburn Leader, and was the receiver in the Bismarck land office for 12 years. And if that’s not enough, he owned his own coalmine – the well-known Black Diamond.

Not to say Satterlund had no private or social life. The Bismarck Tribune reported, “…one of those astute popular leaders in his heyday, Satterlund was said to know more men by name than any of his contemporaries…” He was popular about town and belonged to the Elks and the Masons. On the home front, he and his wife, Charlotte, raised five children.

It’s no surprise that Satterlund also got into politics. He was twice elected to the state legislature and soon concentrated on getting handpicked men into office. One of his good friends was a US senator from Wisconsin – CC Washburn – for whom his town was named. In fact, it was Washburn who was able to give King John the one thing he didn’t have – a railroad line into town.

But not everyone admired Satterlund. Bismarck’s Alexander McKenzie was also in his heyday during this time, and the two political bosses often locked horns – especially when McKenzie’s powerful machine tried to cross the county line into Satterlund’s turf. The Tribune states, however, “…never did Satterlund quail or recede from McKenzie’s forays into his territory.”

A 1930 obituary gives us a hint that King John was, of course, not perfect. At the time of his death in December 1930, he’d been seriously ill for a year. He had a daughter living nearby, yet he was living alone in the Grand Pacific Hotel in Bismarck. Charlotte was gone – having moved to California to live with another daughter.

“There have been many instances of misused authority in the summing up of Satterlund’s life,” the obituary reads, “but the good that might be said of him far outweighed the balance. He was the product of an era when [bosses were] good for the country… He was of the old school, a real man, and McLean county regrets his passing.”

Dakota Territory splits


Nov. 2 — Dakota Territory officially became two states at 3:40 pm on this date in 1889. Congress had debated, for two years, whether the territory would stay intact or become two separate entities. A northern faction lobbied for a single state, but an equally determined southern faction pushed for division. In fact, southern divisionists wanted to make South Dakota a state and make the northern half into the territory of Lincoln. Finally, a compromise was reached.

President Harrison covered each statehood proclamation with papers, leaving the signature lines exposed. He then mixed them, signed both, mixed them again and exposed them simultaneously. Secretary of State James Blaine wrote, “This is the first instance in the history of the national government of twin states. North and South Dakota entered the Union at the same time.”



Nov. 3 — The first football game between the University of North Dakota and the North Dakota Agricultural College (now NDSU) took place on this date in 1894. UND players called themselves the Flickertails, and NDAC players were called the Farmers.

UND had no coach and, until the NDAC match up, it had only been playing towns close enough to Grand Forks for easy travel. The Bison won that first game by either 16 or 14 points – depending who you ask – but Grand Forks claimed the Ag School cheated, because they had a professor on the team. Thus began a legendary rivalry in which the schools played against each other more than any other two teams in Division II football history.

NDNG in Iraq


Nov. 4 — According to the US Department of Defense, North Dakota had a disproportionate number of men and women serving in Iraq – in fact, it had the highest per capita participation of any state in the nation. On this date in 2004, Spc. Cody Wentz, of Williston, became the state’s ninth casualty. He was 21.

Others include Spc. Philip Brown of Jamestown; Spc. Jon Fettig of Dickinson; Pvt. 1st Class Sheldon Hawk Eagle of Grand Forks; Staff Sgt. Kenneth Hendrickson of Bismarck; Spc. James Holmes of East Grand Forks, Minnesota; Staff Sgt. Lance Koenig of Fargo; Pvt. 1st Class Anthony Monroe of Bismarck; Sgt. Keith Smette of Makoti; and Sgt. Thomas Sweet II of Bismarck. Another casualty was 29-year-old Air Force Capt. John Boria of Oklahoma, who was assigned to Grand Forks Air Force Base.

“Dakota Date Book” is a radio series from Prairie Public in partnership with the State Historical Society of North Dakota and with funding from Humanities North Dakota.

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