A college in Minot?

Mark Berg, Minot

With the centennial of Minot State coming up, it might be interesting to your readers to know about an even earlier attempt to locate a college here.

In November 1894, a vote was taken for a site for a School of Forestry. Minot put itself forward, as did Bottineau and Willow City and Rolette. The editor of the Minot Journal wrote, in the issue for Sept.14, “Whoever heard of locating a state institution on some branch road, where trains only run semi-weekly.” This alluded to the fact that the other towns in the running lay along branch lines of the Great Northern Railroad, whereas Minot was on the main line.

The editor of the combined Ward County Reporter-Minot Journal added the comment, in the issue for Oct. 12, that “The topography of the country makes it suitable for an experiment station.”

When the preliminary count was taken after the voting on Nov. 6, Minot led with 828 votes, while Bottineau came in second with 782 and Willow City third at 735. The problem for Minot was that women were allowed to vote, and their 151 votes had tipped the scales in favor of Minot. Alas, their votes were tossed out later, with the predictable result that Bottineau won this election.

Was Minot ahead of its time when it came to voting rights for women, or were the city fathers up to some shenanigans to rig the election in Minot’s favor?

When it came to voting rights for African-Americans, Minot was ahead of its time. When a challenge to their voting rights was made early in 1894, City Attorney Charles Gregory affirmed their right to vote in a ruling mentioned in the Minot Journal for Mar. 30, 1894, on page one.

Joseph Kneece, who was African-American, even ran for the office of Superintendent of Schools in 1894. He lost, but he ran.

On Christmas Eve of 1894, he unfortunately had his feet frost-bitten, and he lost two of his toes as a result. His medical woes are mentioned in the Ward County Reporter-Minot Journal issue for Feb. 22, 1895.

It would seem, then, that the matter of a college for Minot in 1894 involved the matter of local and state voting rights in unexpected ways.