It was 1889, and the May 14th election was over and the Republicans had elected 56 out of the 75 delegates. A late spring storm, welcomed for the much needed moisture, dumped from three to six inches of snow across most of the northern territory, which resulted in a light turnout of voters. That and the election provision in the Omnibus Bill allowing voters to mark their ballot for only two of the three candidates almost assured the Democrats of one third of the delegates.
Most districts were fairly predictable since Republicans only nominated two delegates to avoid any loses by dividing their supporters. In Cass County’s three districts, only two Democrats were elected. In a surprising turn of events, Col. Plummer, the stalwart leader of the Republican Party from Cass County, garnered a fourth place finish to Addison Leach, R. M. Pollock and H. M. Peterson in the Thirteenth District at Casselton. Fortunately, for the sake of the party, all were Republicans, with Peterson and Pollock being candidates promoted by the Prohibitionists.
Although there was some opposition for the Democrat, Andrew Blewett, who was chosen through the “Peoples Convention” at Jamestown, he managed to hang on and he was elected, along with Republicans E. W. Camp and F. B. Fancher.
In a few districts, Independent Republicans, many aligned with the Farmers Alliance, created a division among the Republicans allowing Democratic victories. This occurred mostly in the Walsh, Pembina and Cavalier County districts in the northeastern part of the Territory where the Democrats faired quite well. In the Grand Forks Districts, the only Democrat elected was Alexander Griggs, one of the earlier settlers of the City of Grand Forks. In the West, the Republicans showed a solid front with only three Democrats elected, William Ray of Dickinson, John Carland of Bismarck and V. B. Noble of Bottineau.
Erastus Williams, who had failed at manipulating the Fifth District at Bismarck to favor himself and former Governor Ordway, was nonetheless ultimately elected. At only forty-nine, Williams was a veteran of Dakota politics dating back to the Territorial Legislative session of 1872. With his political savvy and the support of Alexander McKenzie, he could be highly influential in steering the convention.
In South Dakota the voters heavily endorsed the Huron Constitution. Democrats fared slightly better with twenty-three of seventy-five delegates, while in Montana, under accusations of gerrymandering, Democrats actually won a majority of delegates to the convention. But, as one Bismarck Tribune reporter put it, “Dakota could not be gerrymandered. It is too overwhelmingly Republican.”
Dakota Datebook written by Jim Davis
The Bismarck Tribune May 24, 1889
Jamestown Weekly Alert May 16, 1889