Recognizing history in 1914

A special visitor to Fort Seward suggested a picnic for the old settlers on the grounds.

JSSP Keith Norman Column Sig

Jamestown and Stutsman County may have the oldest local historical society in the state of North Dakota.

That was the claim of Professor O.G. Libby, president of the North Dakota Historical Society in 1914.

Libby came to Jamestown to tour the old Fort Seward site for possible dedication as a historical site by the state society.

Fort Seward was abandoned by the U.S. Army in 1877 or about 37 years prior to this tour. A Jamestown Alert report on the visit said none of the buildings remained but the locations were “easily discernible.”

The article also noted that part of the fort grounds was utilized as a public highway as it is today.


“Near the site of the old buildings at the fort are to be seen the evidences of two rows of graves wherein were buried a number of soldiers and others residing at the fort,” said the Alert reporter. “It is stated, however, that all of the bodies that were originally buried there have since been removed.”

I believe this is the McGinnis Cemetery just north of the old fort grounds.

Libby pointed out the excellent view of the James River and Pipestem Creek valleys and said the location could become a popular place for folks to gather.

He even suggested the local historical group arrange a picnic for the old settlers on the grounds that summer.

“During that time and at any other time, reminiscences of early settlers be secured and taken down in writing,” the article said.

But the most important aspect of any historic site is to preserve the past for what Libby called the “rising generations.”

“By preserving the site of the old fort and making its history, as part of the history of the great state, a common knowledge of the children of the county as well as many older people (can be preserved),” Libby said.

North Dakota’s largest American flag has been added to site in the past years making the location a place of history and national pride to be enjoyed by all.


Author Keith Norman can be reached at

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