The North Dakota winter of 1906-1907

The winter was so harsh, homesteaders were granted special rules.

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The winter of 1906 and 1907 was downright ugly. Sort of like this winter started out.

Snowstorms and blizzards caused drifts that closed railroad tracks and halted commerce.

The Jamestown Alert reported the Northern Pacific had 500 men working on clearing tracks. Most would have been equipped with nothing more than a snow shovel.

This was cold and dangerous work. Two shovelers near Larimore were killed when struck by a train. In Stutsman County, a team of horses was killed and a wagon destroyed when a farmer was traveling on the tracks when a train approached. Fortunately, the people were able to leap off the wagon and into the snowbank before impact.

Reporters for The Jamestown Alert noted the extra money brought in by the snow crews was good for the community although there wasn’t much for them to spend it on.


Coal was the predominant method of heating homes and businesses and was running short in many locations. Jamestown was reported to be just a day or two from being out of coal when three rail cars of lignite got through. Two went to the State Hospital to keep it heated and one provided fuel to the Jamestown electrical plant.

The winter was so harsh, homesteaders were granted special rules to help cope with the winter.

Sen. Henry Hansbrough, R-N.D., sponsored a law that allowed homesteaders in North Dakota to leave their claims for three months beginning Jan. 18, 1907, without it affecting the status of the claim.

The bill passed with emergency provisions and went into effect immediately.

Homesteaders weren’t required to apply for the leave of absence from their claim so there is no record of how many took advantage of the break from the claim shanty. I’m guessing some ended up wielding a snow shovel for the railroads as the state dug out from the drifts.

North Dakota weather has never been kind to its residents. We just learn to deal with it.

Author Keith Norman can be reached at

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