Dakota Datebook

Strange Stories


It’s the fantastic that sells. In 1907 and 1908, Ward County newspapers reported on a mess of such tales—some tall, some so strange they must have happened.

In one story, as the Kenmare news reported on this day in 1908, a buffalo that had wandered down from Canada apparently had an identity crisis. The buffalo joined Kenmare man J. A. Englund’s cattle herd, and managed to go home with the herd. Once there, after he was discovered, the buffalo picked a fight with Englund’s Red Poland bull. Englund and his foreman, Sanders, used pitchforks to try and separate the two animals, and finally they succeeded, after the buffalo almost gored the bull to death. The buffalo then began to attack one of Englund’s mares, and ripped up his barn. He was forced to shoot the buffalo. Under normal circumstances, this would incur a penalty. This was not normal.

This wasn’t the only odd happening in that region. The Bismarck Tribune proclaimed its curiosity: “Strange things are coming out of the northern part of the state,” the paper stated, citing the case of the buffalo, as well as a “lad” who was attacked by “catamounts or mountain lions, or wild cats or roaring hippopotami or some other unusual animals.” This had been gruesomely reported earlier; young Walter Johnson, of McKinney, had gone to shoot a lynx. Instead, the lynx attacked the boy, disfigured him, and killed him.

The funeral was set…unbeknownst to Walter, the grieving family, and even the city of McKinney. The report wasn’t true.

The Tribune also reported that Ole Olson, from Blaisdell, walked into a pack of wolves, after mistaking them at first for dogs. He escaped not by brandishing a penknife at them and yelling for help as he did at first, but, as the report went, by playing his horn, which he apparently just happened to have with him. The Tribune stated of the instrument, “We forget whether a trumpet or a trombone.” Whichever the case, the music did the trick—the wolves apparently had a taste for the finer arts. Finally, some people living nearby came and rescued Olson. He had been playing for a long time—so long, in fact, that he was exhausted and out of breath, and he needed help just climbing into the wagon. This story appeared under the headline, “Weird.” It certainly was.

As the Tribune said, “The typewriters of the veracious correspondents are clicking overtime with horrifying recitals.”


Dakota Datebook written by Sarah Walker



Bismarck Daily Tribune, Wednesday, Jan. 15, 1908

Grand Forks Daily Herald, morning, Dec. 3, 1907, Tuesday

Bismarck Weekly Tribune, Friday, Nov. 29, 1907, Friday p. 4

Park River Gazette-News, Jan. 31, 1908

Minot Daily Optic, January 16, 1908, p.2

The Kenmare News, Thursday, Jan. 9, 1908, p.1, p.6

The Kenmare News, Nov. 21, 1907, p.1

The Bismarck Weekly Tribune, January 17, 1908, Friday

The Kenmare Journal, Thursday, January 9, 1908, p.1


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