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Reidburn, Savaloja featured in fact-finding conference

Steven Reidburn of Jamestown gave a synopsis of his Buffalo Soldiers research last month to a large gathering at the Phylaxis Conference in Albuquer que, N.M., where he helped judge a fifth-grade art show set up by the Prince Hall Elementary School. His selection won first place.

He and Jim Savaloja of Rolla, N.D., were invited as speakers to explain their research of the black U.S. soldiers in the Dakota Territory and their Masonic connections to Fort Buford, N.D., near Williston, N.D. Reidburn, a 2008 Jamestown College graduate in history and art, is a collector and painter. His work is primarily documentary renderings of historic Dakota landmarks. He uses State Historical Society of North Dakota archival pieces as well as his own when giving his research presentations.

Reidburn spoke about the Buffalo Soldiers at Fort Buford, their connections to the local Masons and who among their numbers were buried in the fort’s cemetery.

He explained one child, “a Sgt. Miller’s unnamed daughter, was buried there,” he said, “but in 1896-97, her remains were moved to the National Cemetery at the Little Big Horn Historic Site.

 “Her headstone,” he said, “was removed … but her vacant burial space remains undisturbed today at Fort Buford.”

The conference of African-American historians brought together researchers from across the U.S. and beyond. Savaloja and Reidburn were among the few non-black researchers invited to present their most recent research to the dignitaries.

Savaloja explained the Prince Hall Freemasonry, how it came from a pub in England, then to North America and George Washington, to Paul Revere, then out to the Dakota Territory and Theodore Roosevelt, then Lewis and Clark and finally Fort Buford.

Reidburn said some of the dignitaries will be at Fort Buford May 17 when the Yellowstone 88 Masonic Lodge will dedicate its new meeting hall on its property located at Fort Buford’s western edge. He will be among the artists documenting the events of that day.

Reidburn’s research, art and writing has focused on the Buffalo Soldiers in the area and Savaloja’s research has been on the Mason connection. Together, they and Phylaxis Society’s researchers are making some important discoveries about the numbers of black settlers, landowners, Buffalo Soldiers and Mason members in the Dakota Territory.

Reidburn said many attending the convention did not know any Buffalo Soldiers had been in this region, much less stayed and became landowners and settled here.

If anyone has an item for this column, please send to Sharon Cox, PO Box 1559, Jamestown, ND 58402-1559.