Dakota Datebook


Thursday, July 4, 2013



The city of Mandan celebrated its first Fourth of July on this date in 1879, marking the nation’s 103rd birthday. Often over-shadowed by its larger neighbor, Mandan residents decided to steal some of Bismarck’s thunder, quite literally, by stealing the city’s cannon the night before the celebrations. Bismarck’s Captain Emmons was responsible for guarding the cannon, but fell asleep at his post; and Mandan patriots took advantage of the soldier’s nap to run away with the gun, stealing it away across the river. Beginning at 2 in the morning, Mandan began celebrating the holiday with a patriotic display of shot-guns and cannon fire. As the Bismarck Tribune reported, “That cannon boomed all day at Mandan and Mandan was happy.”


In addition to the cannon shot and gunfire, both cities held a variety of races, games, and amusements to mark the occasion. A reading of the Declaration of Independence opened festivities at Mandan, while Bismarck’s Blue Stockings baseball team squared off against the Fort Lincoln Actives. Next to the baseball field, however, several horse races were being run, and the umpire had to call frequent time outs in order to allow the Bismarck players to place bets on their favorites. This, in addition to a “…painful lack of practice,” perhaps led to the defeat of the Blue Stockings.


Over in Mandan, pony races, foot races, boat races, and even wheelbarrow races were being held that afternoon, while “the cannon’s boom and dancing were kept up all day.” Many residents took to pleasure boats to ply them up and down the river. That evening, the Bismarck Fire Company gave a celebratory ball at Raymond’s Hall, while Whitbey’s Opera House showed the drama Lady Audley’s Secret. J. Sawtelle, a well-known Shakespearean actor from the East Coast, was secured to play “Our Boys” in the local Champion Hall.


As darkness fell, Bismarck had hoped to eclipse its smaller neighbor by hiring the private fireworks firm Raynards to put on an enormous display. However, Mandan was able to drown out the sounds from across the river with the booming requisitioned cannon, which they continued to fire into the night.




Dakota Datebook written by Jayme L. Job






http://www.infomercantile.com/dakota_death_trip/The_Fourth_1341004488.html (Dakota Death Trip blog posted by D. Dahlsad, Bismarck Tribune, July 5, 1879).





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Dakota Datebook is a project of Prairie Public, in partnership with the State Historical Society of North Dakota, with funding from the North Dakota Humanities Council.

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