Cowboys and Dickinson
Thursday, September 12, 2013
In 1871, the spot that would someday become Dickinson started off as a Northern Pacific Railroad survey site. Nine years later, the railroad finally arrived and the site was named Pleasant Valley Siding. The next year, it was renamed for Wells Stoughton Dickinson, a land agent and politician from New York. Dickinson’s brother, Horace, lived in the area and watched over the town as his brother’s namesake developed and flourished. A post office was established, and Dickinson next became the county seat, and then in 1900 officially became a city.
On this date in 1932, Dickinson was in preparations for its Jubilee celebration. As they prepared for parades, plays depicting the old days, and throngs of visitors, the Dickinson Daily Press printed biographies and memories of pioneers connected with the area. One such man was Guy Dickinson, the son of Horace Dickinson.
Although Guy was born in New York, he grew up in North Dakota, and for the sake of the jubilee, he willingly reminisced over the good old days of a true wild west.
For example, Guy remembered that every fall, when the cowboys in the area came in “off the range,” they went to the McNair’s barber shop, but not for a haircut. They would shoot up the place! After first getting into the proper holiday spirit, they would shoot “the mirrors and the bottles of hair tonic and other tonsorial preparations … leaving the shop completely demolished, [they would] take the barber on a spree of four or five days, and when properly sobered, they would return and inquire the amount of damage and what would be required to replace the broken equipment.” This went on until the sheriff insisted that guns must be “hung up upon visits to the city,” cutting down a bit on the recurring new decorations.
Guy Dickinson wasn’t the only one who remembered bullets flying. Mrs. Catherine Ray moved to the area with her husband in 1883. “According to Mrs. Ray, life in Dickinson in the early days contained plenty of thrills to relieve the monotony for the women of that period. [She remembered] one experience when she and another lady were walking down the street and a band of cowboys rode by punctuating the atmosphere with their pistols. One of them wheeled his horse around and rode shooting into the door of a nearby saloon, returning after he had properly ventilated the building.”
Dakota Datebook written by Sarah Walker
Douglas Wick’s North Dakota Place Names
Dickinson Daily Press, September 13, 1932