Dakota Datebook


Friday, April 27, 2012


North Dakota has been in the news frequently as a result of the oil fields, the job opportunities, the state’s current healthy economy in a time of national economic crisis, and all of the resultant behaviors and effects. We’ve seen the good and the bad along with the ebb and flow of oil since it was discovered south of Tioga on the Clarence Iverson farm in 1951.


The discovery of oil meant many good things for many people. However, on this date in 1951, some fellows were just a little unhappy at the onset of the first oil boom. The Independent Order of Odd Fellows, to be exact.


This group was originally founded in 1819 in Maryland. The first members of the fraternity lived in Baltimore, which at the time was suffering both a yellow fever epidemic and mass unemployment, so they dedicated the organization to “Visit the sick, relieve the distress, bury the dead and educate the orphans.”


Back in 1951, Williston was supposed to host the convention for the Odd Fellows and their female counterparts, the Rebekah Assembly. However, they needed a headquarters hotel, plus cabins, motels and private rooms for a large number of delegates. “The Odd Fellows as a group ordinarily aren’t much bothered by oil at their conventions or at any other time,” the Minot Daily News reported; but with the onset of Williston’s first oil well, “Just as quickly and unexpectedly, Williston’s leading hotel, its set of tourist cabins, its motels and many private rooms were taken up by the influx of oil company representatives, leasing agents, and a variety of other people attracted by the prospective oil field.”


So, although the Grand Master of the lodge, Harold C. Helle, was a Williston man, and although Williston had never hosted this event before, there simply weren’t accommodations for that many out-of-towners – a complaint similar to the situation in the oil fields today.


In the end, the Odd Fellows and Rebekahs held their convention in Grand Forks instead.


Dakota Datebook written by Sarah Walker




Minot Daily News, Thursday, April 28, 1951



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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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