Bismarck Bachelors Club
Friday, August 17, 2012
As the frontier pushed westward, the majority of those who participated were young men or married men with families. Few single women took up the challenge, so there was an extremely high ratio of single men to single women. On this date in 1883, John T. Steen of Bismarck, himself a married man who had enjoyed the blessings of a fine home and family, announced his plan to aid those lonely, less fortunate brothers in the city. He proposed the formation of the Bismarck Bachelors Club to promote their mutual happiness.
Mr. Steen believed that by forming a supportive fraternal organization many an hour could be consumed with fun and good natured discussion instead of “a gloomy reflection on the mistakes of the past” whereby the bewitching smile of some rosy-cheeked maiden was forever gone. He invited all of the marriageable young men between the ages of twenty-one and thirty-five, who were of good moral character, to form a club. Mr. Steen’s plan was to give an encouraging word or a helping hand to, quote: “the many unfortunates who have drugged along for years in the lonely vale of celibacy.”
The club was fairly unstructured. Nothing stronger than alcohol was allowed as a beverage, and a tax would be levied to cover the necessary expenses including refreshments. No more than six members could hold the floor at one time, and the individual elected as chaplain was not allowed to pray more than three minutes. While all of this was tongue-in-cheek, Steen was serious about establishing the organization. As he put it, “nothing was so conductive to happiness as social gatherings and the nourishment of true friendships.”
Although it was listed as a bachelor’s club, the underlying tone was to encourage matrimony while providing comradeship until the event occurred. If such a club was to evolve, one of the commendable and elevating rules was that the first among their number to be married would be granted a handsome endowment, and the first child born would receive a stipulated sum from each of the members.
Although the Bismarck Bachelors’ Club did nothing to reduce the ratio of men to women in the territory it did fill the hours as they waited for some lovely damsel to fill the void in their hearts.
Dakota Datebook written by Jim Davis
The Bismarck Tribune August 17, 1883