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THAT REMINDS ME : No coal: Shortage left N.D. cold, dark

A fuel famine and a blizzard threatened people in North Dakota 100 years ago. It was so bad in the western part of the state that farmers burned straw, hay and even barns and furniture to keep their families warm. At one point, the supply of coal...

A fuel famine and a blizzard threatened people in North Dakota 100 years ago. It was so bad in the western part of the state that farmers burned straw, hay and even barns and furniture to keep their families warm. At one point, the supply of coal in Lakota, N.D., was completely used up. People in Langdon, N.D., were crying for relief.

The problem seemed to be getting the coal to the people, and the Great Northern promised to rush fuel to North Dakota sufferers. It reached a point where the railroads were tried before a government board.

One headline in the Herald said James J. Hill, president of the Great Northern, blamed the fuel famine on a shortage of laborers. The Herald said, "Great Northern magnate was poor witness in fuel probe."

At one point, J. Stinson, Grand Forks fuel dealer in wood and coal, said coal dealers were willing and ready to ship orders promptly on the railroads. And Hill said billions would have to be expended to take care of the railroad car shortage that was caused by rapidly increasing business.

The weather situation was so bad in January that scores of locomotives and hundreds of railroad cars were stalled along sidetracks. They had been frozen and wouldn't start and would have to stay there until spring.

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Farmers were hauling their own grain to nearby elevators, realizing they would get less money. They said they had supplies on the farms, but they needed fuel to keep warm.

Then on Jan. 20, 1907, all of the Northwest was in the grip of a blizzard. All trains were tied up. There was no coal or wood in Hannah, N.D., and the school was closed. Langdon was short of fuel and had no mail for several days. Hard coal was so scarce at Michigan, N.D., that some citizens were forced to help themselves to coal going through town on Great Northern Railway cars. The railroad had been taking cars of extra coal through, and it puzzled the average Michigan resident, who wondered why the railroad couldn't serve them.

By January's end, people of Grand Forks began to worry about spring flooding. Older residents remembered the big flood of 1897, just a decade ago.

-- -- --

Other news of January 1907, a century ago:

-- Jimmie Barrett, aged 14, son of T.J. Barrett, the confectioner, went through the ice while skating on the Red River and struggled for several minutes before he was rescued by a companion. The lad showed rare presence of mind and directed the other boy in getting him out. A hole about 10 feet wide was broken in getting him out. He was badly chilled, but no serious affect is anticipated.

-- St. Bernard's Academy was ruined by fire, but the little ones were taken out safely. There were 32 children in the building. Mother Stanislaus said the cause of the fire was a mystery. It was considered a great loss for northeastern North Dakota since St. Bernard's was a leading institution for educating children.

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