THAT REMINDS ME: 1889: Events both ethereal, earthly affected Grand Forks
February 1889 was a notable month in the history of Grand Forks and North Dakota. This was the month 125 years ago when President Grover Cleveland signed the bill by which Congress authorized admission of the Dakotas, Montana and Washington as st...
February 1889 was a notable month in the history of Grand Forks and North Dakota. This was the month 125 years ago when President Grover Cleveland signed the bill by which Congress authorized admission of the Dakotas, Montana and Washington as states.
It was a time when lights were going on in Grand Forks.
On Feb. 9, 1889, the Herald reported the incandescent light failed to connect for a brief period the previous evening. But in the Opera House, strict decorum was preserved throughout the Egyptian darkness.
By Feb. 15, 1889, nearly 500 incandescents were in use, according to the newspaper.
And what appeared to be a new policy of the Herald in news coverage during February brought to light some things that had been going on after dark.
On Feb. 11, 1889, a brief item in the newspaper directed the attention of Chief Hennessey to a notorious resort on DeMers Avenue. The item said if “maisons de joie” were to be tolerated, they should be kept outside city limits.
The power of the press was such that the following day, the bagnios were raided by police. In each case, the madame was fined $28, and four “inmates” were fined $15.
Nine of the 10 went to jail temporarily; but on Feb. 13, 1889, “the soiled doves who were jerked yesterday have all managed to pay their fines and are once more at liberty,” the Herald reported.
Only two days later, the DeMers Avenue establishment again was raided, and the madame and “her lambs” were sentenced to 30 days in jail or “banishment from the city for a year.
“They accepted the exile and left for Siberia,” the Herald reported.
For one, Siberia apparently meant the other side of “the Ruby,” as the Red River often was termed in the newspapers. She committed suicide in East Grand Forks on Feb. 28, 1889, by taking two ounces of laudanum (equal to 75 grams of opium), supposedly because she was refused the right to return to Grand Forks.
Travel between the two cities was easy that February, at least if police were not hindering. Anyone could cross the river ice. But summer crossings also were on the mind of everyone.
On Feb. 11, 1889, the Grand Forks City Council opened bids for construction of two bridges -- to replace the pontoon crossings at DeMers and at the Minnesota Point.
Contracts were let on Feb. 14 for a total of some $63,000 for the new bridges, and work was started the next day by the contractor. He promised to be done by May 1.
On Feb. 18, 1889, traffic was suspended by two cities over the barge-supported DeMers Bridge and the following day, the pontoon bridge at the Point was removed.
“Manager Tom White tells us the pile driver will be in position tonight and a hoop-la all around is now in order,” the Herald said.
Across the river, the East Grand Forks Courier reported nearly 100 men engaged in the new bridge, while some 350 were standing around with their hands in their pockets looking on.
There were other signs of progress in February 1889.
On Feb. 3, 1889, the first vestibule train ever run between St. Paul and Winnipeg passed through Grand Forks on the Northern Pacific Railway. “The outfit was magnificent,” the Herald reported.
On the same day, the City Council took action toward free mail delivery by providing for the numbering of houses.
In what may have been one of the first warnings against the hazards of smoking cigarettes locally, the Herald editorialized on Feb. 22, 1889, “The cigarette habit while a dangerous one in itself also leads to worse habits and should be checked in some manner.”