Dakota Datebook

William Skjerven Sr.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014


William Skjerven Sr., also called Bill, was a locally celebrated inventor in Walsh County. He

was born on a farm in Fertile Township, Walsh County, and moved into Park River in 1916. He repaired cars and motorcycles in various garages until he opened his own garage in 1927. During World War II, he converted his garage into a war plant where he manufactured M105 and M115 bomb caps, machine gun cleaning rods, and other items. An estimated 800 per day of the bomb caps were turned out for the Minneapolis Ordinance Center.


Skjerven later converted the facility back into a garage, where he continued to work on machinery. He was known to tinker and invent, as evidenced by a sign on the wall that stated, “Bill will fix it.”


On this date in 1959, the Walsh County Press proudly reported that Skjerven had again invented something new and very handy – a little valve mechanism for aerial spraying pumps. Previous valves leaked chemicals out of the boom even after they were turned off. However, with this new valve, one could twist the handle and turn the whole core, so that the opening from the housing into the boom was closed off, creating “a sort of negative pressure or vacuum that serve(d) to suck the chemicals back into the boom. The result: no dripping.”


One of Bill’s children, William Skjerven Jr., who operated an aerial spraying service at Park River, surely was happy with his father’s invention. Before, he used five or six pumps in a summer. After the invention, he was able to use one pump for the entire summer. There was some excitement that the valve could be used in chemical plants and in the petroleum industry.


Walsh County was proud of its very own inventor…but it must be noted that most of the news article was first revealed and written by Richard Youngblood, a reporter from the Grand Forks Herald. The Walsh County Press noted this:


“We haven’t been keeping very close tabs on Bill lately, however, and consequently he sneaked (the) invention past us. A young news hound from the Grand Forks Herald was on the ball though, and we’re sorry to say ‘scooped’ us. We are of the opinion, however, if you can’t lick ‘em, join ‘em.”


Dakota Datebook written by Sarah Walker



Walsh County Press, January 29, 1959

Park River…100 Years



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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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