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Aristocrat of the West: The Story of Harold Schafer: Larry Woiwode

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Excerpt from Aristocrat of the West

On February 8, 1919, on a farm five miles west of Stanton, North Dakota, hardly a stone's throw from the Knife River, a seven-year-old named Harold Schafer burned down his parents' house. Everybody present said the fire wasn't his fault, but years later Harold suspected that something in his character was the cause.

About the Author

Larry Woiwode is North Dakota's best known contemporary writer. His highly regarded fiction has appeared in The Atlantic, Harpers, The New Yorker, and many other publications, and has been translated into a dozen languages. His first novel, What I'm Going to Do, I Think, received the William Faulkner Foundation Award. His next, Beyond the Bedroom Wall, was a finalist for both the National Book Award and the Book Critics Circle Award.

He is a Guggenheim Fellow and, in 1995, was the recipient of the Award of Merit Medal from the American Academy of Arts & Letters. This prestigious honor is presented once every six years, for distinction in the art of the short story. He is presently the poet laureate of North Dakota.

Beacon Across the Prairie: William C. Hunter

Price: $5.50 * Electronic Order Form

On March 2, 1861, Dakota Territory was admitted to the Union as a new member. At this date, the area included the present states of North Dakota and South Dakota as well as most of Montana and part of Wyoming. However, this large territory in the Great Plains was too unwieldy, from a political and economic viewpoint, to become a strong, integrated and progressive state among other states which had advanced and developed during the previous decades. So the Territory was partitioned and on November 2, 1889, North Dakota, which had been a part of it, was admitted to statehood in the United States. Already, in the following year-1890-an Agricultural College was opened at Fargo, adding one more educational institution to the list of land-grant colleges which had been established for the nation by Federal Legislation through the First Morrill Act of 1862.

Since those years in which a new state and a new college were founded, North Dakota and the "A.C." have grown together through good times as well as bad. For 70 years, the North Dakota Agricultural College has shown a vital concern for a large part of the population of the State and has contributed immensely, especially to the welfare of its homemakers and farmers. The rather young history of our State would be incomplete without the recognition of the services, the training and the enlightenment which the "A.C." has given to the life, the development and the strength of North Dakota and its citizens.

Thus it is only natural that after 70 years of life and growth, the College, its administration and staff felt it appropriate to look back at its past and to record for coming generations the history of seven decades. The task of doing this was given to Dr. William C. Hunter who, after many years of service, retired in 1952 as head of the department of social science. In his historical account, the author hopes to interpret, most of all,, the relationship of the College "to the history of the State of North Dakota and its varying economic and political changes" and, in addition, "to relate the story of the College closely to the general development of public education on the basis of the educational philosophy of land-grant colleges."

In fifteen chapters we learn many interesting and significant factors about he founding of the College itself, about its early years of growth and rapid expansion, about scientific research and professional services, about student life and the activities of its staff. We also read about the dangers which depression and drought brought to the College, about wars and strifes, purges and politics which threatened the life of the "A.C." and enforced from time to time retrenchment and reorganization. But in both good and bad years there was solid support of the College among the citizens of the State so that there was consistent progress and remarkable scientific achievement among the many schools of this invaluable institution. Its bright future was significantly documented by the change of name, in 1960, when, by the will of the people of the State, its Agricultural College became a University in order to serve even better many more segments of the population of North Dakota.

    Old Main in the early 1900s

About the Author
William C. Hunter was born on a farm in Edgar County, Illinois and was graduated from the high school in Paris, Illinois, in 1900. After graduation, he attended the University of Illinois and Princeton University where, in 1905, he received his A.B. with special honors in history and jurisprudence. In 1911 he earned an M.A. degree from Harvard University where he studied especially with Professor F. J. Turner. In 1922 he received a Ph.D. from Princeton University where he did historical research under Prof. T. J. Wertenbaker. In 1923 he came to Fargo as professor and head of the department of social science at North Dakota Agricultural College. He retired from this position in 1952 as emeritus professor of history. He was one of the founders of the North Dakota Institute for Regional Studies and served as its archivist.

Bitter Harvest: Gordon Kahl and the Posse Comitatus; Murder in the Heartland: James Corcoran New Foreword by Mike Jacobs

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North Dakota looked like a Norman Rockwell canvas. Its people, largely untroubled by such big-city problems as pollution and crime, prided themselves on their church going values and small-town friendliness. Their grain elevators groaned with bumper crops. On Sunday, February 13, 1983, blue skies and bright sunlight bathed a peaceful land. The Heartland, however, was not as it seemed. "Something terrible, and terribly important, was taking place," writes Pulitzer Prize Nominee journalist James Corcoran. There was fear and hatred in the land, and it was about to erupt in violence.

It happened on a country road near Medina, North Dakota, when Gordon Kahl, federal tax protester and Posse Comitatus member, shot it out with federal marshals attempting to arrest him for violating terms of his probation. Kahl and his son killed two marshals on the road, after which Kahl became a notorious and elusive fugitive. Like a bandit hero, the income tax evader and cold blooded murderer was celebrated in legend and ballad. Even after federal authorities tracked him to a farmhouse in Arkansas and killed him, many of Kahl's admirers refused to admit he was dead; some still do not.

James Corcoran has native knowledge of North Dakota and intimate knowledge of the Gordon Kahl case, having covered it for The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead. Since first publication of his book in 1990, no other chronicler has produced such a compelling narrative of the events, or such an insightful analysis of them, as he. Bitter Harvest is an American tragedy treating a time of national discontent. More particularly, its republication by the Institute for Regional Studies reminds us that it is a story of the northern plains, a story upon which we must reflect.

Tom Isern, Professor of History


About the Author 

James Corcoran's reporting on the Gordon Kahl case for The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize. He was also a Bush Foundation Leadership Fellow. Bitter Harvest received the Golden Pen Award (1990) and the Gustav Meyers Center's Award for Outstanding Book on the subject of human rights (1993). The made-for-television movie--In the Line of Duty: Manhunt in the Dakotas--is based on Bitter Harvest. In other writing projects, Corcoran co-authored with Morris Dees, Gathering Storm: America's Militia Threat, and he teamed with Moorhead State University on Casselton: Portrait of a Neighborhood.

James Corcoran grew up in Casselton, North Dakota, and received his B.A. in Journalism and Political Science from the University of North Dakota and his master's degree from Harvard's John F. Kennedy School of Government. Corcoran lives with his partner, Carolyn Shute, in Dedham, Massachusetts. He teaches journalism at, and is chairman of, the Department of Communications at Simmons College in Boston.

Common Waters: A Story of Life Along the Red River of the North

Price: $18.95 * Electronic Order Form

"These photographs, maybe because they are mainly taken at eye-level, from the ground - with a few exceptions such as the cityscapes taken from above - suggest a look by a person on the scene. We're reminded, in photos like the cover image and the frontispiece, of what it means to take a moment off, to look in a relaxed, extended way." Rob Silberman

Sample Photographs and captions


Water main break - Moorhead, MN. The temperature in Fargo-Moorhead reached 39 degrees below zero on February 1, 1996 the coldest recorded temperature since 1880.


Record snowfall amounts totaled 117 inches in Fargo-Moorhead in 1996-97, shattering the previous record of 89.1 inches set in 1993-94. Since 1880, annual snowfalls in Fargo-Moorhead have averaged 40 inches. In the last 20 years, snowfalls have averaged 51 inches, and in the last 5 years, snowfalls have averaged 77 inches.


1518 Riverside Drive, Grand Forks. One of several "float homes" rumored to have been built from wood floated up the Red from Winnipeg, the Queen Anne-style house was actually built by Montreal native John L. Lewis in 1883 from wood cut in Minnesota.


In 1997, the Red crested in Grand Forks at 54.1 feet (24.1 feet above flood stage), filling DeMers Avenue with water.

Conservation of Natural Resources in North Dakota: edited by John Hove and Irvine T. Dietrich

 Price: $3.00 * Electronic Order Form

Tree belts to protect the farmstead, feedlots and fields.

Birds of prey help to control certain species which, if left unchecked,would
overpopulate their environment and soon cause their own destruction.


What is Conservation?

Conservation of our Unrenewable Resources
Part 1 - Geology
Part 2 - Conservation of Oil and Gas in North Dakota

North Dakota Climate

Vegetation of North Dakota

The Soils of North Dakota

Water Conservation

Animal Life

Conservation of Human Resources

Historic, Scenic, and Recreational Resources in North Dakota

North Dakota's Future

Quentin Burdick: The Gentle Warrior: Dan Rylance

 Price: $28.95 * Electronic Order Form

Quentin Burdick: The Gentle Warrior is based on interviews with Burdick, his family, Senate colleagues and many North Dakotans. As the son of Congressman Usher Burdick, Quentin Burdick became the first Democrat in North Dakota to be elected to the U.S. House of Representatives, in 1958. Two years later, he won a surprise victory over Governor John Davis for the U.S. Senate, where he served continually until his death in September 1992. The book reveals many tragedies in Burdick’s life: the pain of his parents’ divorce, the crippling football injuries, the death of his first wife, the mental breakdown of his first son and the tragic loss of his second son in a freak accident in Fargo at age 16. Late Democratic Senate Majority Leader Mike Mansfield of Montana called Burdick “the quiet senator.”

About the Author


Dan Rylance, a Fargo native, is a longtime student of North Dakota history. Trained academically as an archivist and historian, Rylance headed the Elwyn B. Robinson Department of Special Collections and taught American history at the University of North Dakota (UND) from 1967-1989. In 1973, he co-authored The Years of Despair: North Dakota in the Depression, and in 1982, wrote Ever Westward to the Far East: The Story of Chester Fritz, a biography of UND’s most celebrated benefactor. In 1989, Rylance changed careers. He became the editorial page editor for the Grand Forks Herald, serving in that capacity for four years. Since 1993, Rylance has followed the academic career of his wife, Billie Jo, who is an associate professor of special education at the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh. Rylance has taught American history at Idaho State University and worked as a landscaper in the humid Midwest, the desert West, and now lush, green Wisconsin. Rylance returned to education in 2003, first as an ad hoc professor at the New Bulgarian University in Sofia, Bulgaria, and second as special events coordinator at Webster Stanley Elementary School in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. In that capacity, he serves as adviser to the Webster Wave, the first elementary school newspaper in Wisconsin.

Student Focused. Land Grant. Research University.

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College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences
North Dakota State University
Phone: +1 (701) 231-8338 - Fax: (701) 231-1047
Campus address: Minard Hall 204
Mailing address: Dept 2300 PO Box 6050, Fargo, ND  58108-6050
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Last Updated: Thursday, October 15, 2015 2:53:16 PM