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Doug Wurtz's blog

Two Forts: 60 Years and 60 Miles Apart

Stone marker for Fort Mandan Overlook State Historic Site

State Historical Society of North Dakota marker at the Fort Mandan Overlook State Historic Site 11.5 miles west of the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center in Washburn, ND. (Photo by Doug Wurtz, 2018)

While investigating archaeological sites and collections managed by the Archaeology & Historic Preservation Division, a question will inevitably arise that requires a trip to the State Archives for more research. For the last three years, I have been researching the little-known story of the “Galvanized Yankees” (1st United States Volunteer Infantry, aka 1st USVI) at Fort Rice, Dakota Territory. Another story I have spent quite a lot of time researching is the 1804–1806 Lewis and Clark Expedition, the “Corps of Discovery.” Only recently, while I was putting some notes together about the Galvanized Yankees, did I notice the similarity between the two stories.

Both are about the westward expeditions of men whose homes were in the eastern United States, far from Dakota Territory. Men from Virginia, Kentucky, North Carolina, and other states would play key roles in both journeys.

Upon arriving in what is now North Dakota, the Corps would spend the winter of 1804–1805 at Fort Mandan, 60 miles (as the crow flies) northwest of the fort the Galvanized Yankees would occupy 60 years later at Fort Rice in 1864–1865.

Both expeditions traveled up the Missouri River to reach their first winter’s destination.
The Corps left St. Louis and traveled by keelboat, by pirogue, and by foot to Fort Mandan.
The 1st USVI traveled by train to St. Louis and then by steamboat and on foot to their winter home at Fort Rice. Both expeditions were under the orders of a U.S. president; the Corps under orders from President Thomas Jefferson, the 1st USVI from President Abraham Lincoln.
They both spent their first winters in crude accommodations built from cottonwood logs cut nearby.

Each expedition included one woman. Sakakawea, a Lemhi Shoshone living with the Hidatsas, accompanied the Corps of Discovery to the West Coast. Elizabeth Cardwell, the wife of Private Patrick Cardwell of the 1st USVI, accompanied her husband to Dakota Territory. Both women had babies who became a prominent character in each story. Sakakawea’s son, “Pomp” (Jean Baptiste Charbonneau), was born just prior to the expedition and traveled to the West Coast and back with his mother. Cardwell’s baby, a daughter, was born at Fort Rice and died seven days after her birth. Cardwell had been pregnant with the baby on the last 250-mile march to Fort Rice.

Both expeditions included at least one well-known encounter with Native Americans. Meriweather Lewis, co-commander of the Corps, killed a Blackfoot warrior in a skirmish in the Marias River country of present-day Montana on July 26, 1806. If not for the superior firepower of Lewis and his men, they could have been killed by the Blackfoot warriors, and the story of the Lewis and Clark Expedition would have ended much differently. The 1st USVI was attacked on July 28, 1865, at Fort Rice by Native American warriors under Hunkpapa Lakota leaders Sitting Bull and Gall. If not for superior firepower on the part of the military, the fort could have been overrun and destroyed that day, changing the story of the Galvanized Yankees and military forts on the Upper Missouri River.

Tree and remnants of corner markers of office at Fort Rice State Hstoric Site

A portion of the parade ground (right) and corner markers of the post adjutant’s office at the Fort Rice State Historic Site, 27 miles south of Mandan, ND. The winter barracks of the 1st United States Volunteer Infantry would have been located behind the two trees at the center of the photograph. (Photo by Doug Wurtz, 2017)

The mission of each expedition also had some parallels. The Lewis and Clark Expedition was instructed to explore unknown territory, establish trade with Native Americans groups, affirm the sovereignty of the United States in the region, and find a waterway to the Pacific Ocean. The mission of the 1st USVI was to explore unknown territory, establish safe trade routes for immigrants to the gold fields of Montana and Idaho, proclaim the sovereignty of the United States (to the Native Americans), and monitor the waterway of the Missouri River.

When I began to research these topics, I viewed them as entirely separate stories. But anyone who has worked with archival records knows that it often leads to unexpected discoveries and insights. My archival research showed that though the stories of the Corps of Discovery and the Galvanized Yankees were 60 years and 60 miles apart, history was, in many ways, repeating itself.

Hiddenwood #2: A One-Room Schoolhouse in North Dakota

It was a morning of total frustration. I couldn’t read the caption beneath the photo in a seventh-grade geography book.

In hindsight, the reason is clear. I was six years old, a first grader at Hiddenwood School #2, and l hadn't yet learned to read. The photograph I was puzzling over was of South Dakota’s Mount Rushmore. The “big kids” were reading the geography text; I was stuck with Fun with Dick and Jane.

old photo of teacher ad students

Teacher and students in a one-room country school (SHSND 0032-BK-05-07)

I was reminded of this experience during a recent visit to the Inspiration Gallery: Yesterday and Today in the North Dakota Heritage Center & State Museum. Next to the Nancy Hendrickson house is a photograph of a teacher and her nine students in a one-room country school. A date on the blackboard reads “October 20, 1910.”

One-room country schools were still prevalent in North Dakota in the mid-1950s. It is estimated 3,795 of these school buildings existed in 1955; 2,355 of those were actually in session.1 I attended the one-room Hiddenwood School #2. Hiddenwood #1 was three miles north; #3 was three miles south.

Even though I attended a one-room school decades later, my memories of Hiddenwood #2 are exactly as pictured in the 1910 photograph: the chalkboard (ours was green); the wooden desks; the stern, no-nonsense teacher; the self-conscious students; and the stack of books.

Even the number of students is the same: two of us in first grade, two in seventh grade, and one each in the grades between. The ratio of boys to girls was different, though; we only had one girl, Sylvia, who was in fifth grade. The rest were boys from farms as far as 2.5 miles away.

photo of Washington, Sir Salahad, and Regulator clock

Washington, Sir Galahad, and "Regulator" clock

Nine wooden desks faced the front of the room. On the wall over the chalkboard was the wooden Regulator clock that our teacher wound every morning. On either side of the clock were two pictures: Gilbert Stuart’s George Washington on the right, George Frederick Watts’ Sir Galahad on the left. The meaning of the Stuart picture was evident. We weren’t so sure about the Sir Galahad picture.

Recent research in the State Archives revealed the reason for Sir Galahad’s placement next to the clock:

In any event the teacher should decree that nothing but beautiful things shall be hung upon the walls. Better bare walls than debased or debasing art; better nothing in the way of decoration than decoration which is worse than nothing. The following list may prove useful to the country teacher who wishes to be able to name one desirable work of art…2

The list included Watts’ Sir Galahad.

As I wrote in my last blog post, I grew up in a slower, simpler time. I described my boyhood as one that could have taken place in the mythical community of Andy Griffith’s Mayberry. This simple country school was a big part of the mystique, and there was no “debasing” art in it.

I remember the smell of the green sweeping compound scattered and then swept up before leaving for the weekend, the long walk to school every day (460 feet, door to door), and the house flies we imprisoned in the ink wells on our desks.

My most vivid memory is of the McLean County bookmobile that stopped at our school once a month. We were each limited to borrowing 10 books per visit. We had read and reread the books in our country school library, many of them missing covers and pages. The traveling bookmobile opened up a world that satisfied my curiosity about Mount Rushmore and introduced me to many other wonders.

Hiddenwood #2

Hiddenwood #2

I was frustrated to read the 2014 news story of the burning of the old schoolhouse. The building was beyond repair and was becoming an eyesore. I was content, though, to be able to read the story of its end, an ability I owe to my five formative years at Hiddenwood #2. While we can’t go back in time, I’m delighted to be able to use the State Archives to research information, find photos, and learn more about my childhood school.


1 Warren A. Henke and Everett C. Albers, The Legacy of North Dakota’s Country Schools (North Dakota Humanities Council, 1998), v.
2 O.J. Kern, Among Country Schools (Boston: Ginn & Company, 1906), 102.