Dakota Datebook

George F. Will

Thursday, November 8, 2007

George Francis Will, of Bismarck and a well-known anthropologist, was born on this date in 1884, the son of Oscar H. Will, pioneer nurseryman and seed man of Bismarck, and Elvira (Bird) Will.
A lifelong resident of North Dakota, he became one of the state’s well-known citizens. George was educated in the Bismarck public schools and at Harvard University, graduating in 1906 and specializing in botany and anthropology.
He worked at and eventually managed Oscar’s seed house, greenhouse, nursery and seed catalog business, which is father established in 1881. George became president of Oscar H. Will & Company in 1917, heading it for 38 years.
George married Katharine H. Sterrett on July 4, 1909 and later to Elvira S. Kangas on June 15, 1924. He had three children—Margaret, George Jr. and Sue.
He was very active in business and community affairs, serving as president of the State Historical Society of North Dakota and the Bismarck Public Library Board, a member of the Bismarck Board of Education and various seed development societies, including the Dakota Horticultural Society. He chaired the state corn show for many years.
George served as a member of the Committee for Recovery of Archaeological Remains and treasurer of the Society for American Archaeology from 1951-1953. He was awarded a doctor of science degree from the North Dakota Agricultural College in 1940.
He was particularly interested in the great wealth of archaeological remains near Bismarck. While a Harvard student, George brought an expedition to the Double Ditch site north of Bismarck in 1906, later publishing the excavation findings. He played an important role in the state’s acquisition and development of various Indian villages and quarry sites.
George established strong relationships with the Three Affiliated Tribes, allowing him to gather ethnographical information for these groups and develop a respect for their way of life.
He authored many books and articles on ethnological, anthropological, agricultural and horticultural subjects and was an avid student of the history, anthropology and natural history of the northern Great Plains.
George loved camping, mountain hiking and the outdoor life, often taking long walks to the north and west of Bismarck. He died suddenly on October 2, 1955.

by Cathy A. Langemo, WritePlus Inc.

This text and audio may not be copied without securing prior permission from Prairie Public.

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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