Adding to city’s history

M.L. Berg, Minot

Apropos of the fine article on Rev. Robert Polk in the issue for June 23, it might be of interest to note that Minot has probably had a certain number of African-American residents throughout its history.

These men were most likely former soldiers or former railroad workers who ended up in Dakota in the course of their employment. It might also be of interest to note that one of the first sheriffs of McHenry County was African-American; he was Benjamin Reed, from Missouri, who served as McHenry County sheriff in 1885 and 1886.

In the 1890s, Minot already had a small community of African-Americans who lived, it seems, west of Main street. Occasionally, they had local ministers hold religious services for them, as Rev. W.J. Sparks, a Baptist minister, did in March 1894. There was no association with a red-light district in this portion of town in the 1890s, since it then lay along the railroad right-of-way west of Main street.

In the census of 1900, there were three men of African-American descent listed: James Vincent of Missouri, a laborer; Edward Boyd of Indiana, a hotel porter; and Joseph Leum of Kentucky, a railroad porter. Chances are that not all African-Americans were present for the census conducted in the summer of 1900, so this count might be too low.

One man counted in the census of 1900, who was the last man hung in Minot, was Hans Thorpe. He had killed his wife and was awaiting trial. The census listed Thorpe as a 34-year-old man, who had been born “at sea.” He was also listed as a “widower,” rather an understatement for someone who had murdered his wife. In 1900, both the city jail and the city hall were located on the east side of Main Street.