September 4, 2019 — The Community Welfare Association was started in Fargo in 1927 to coordinate a community-wide effort to help meet human service needs. Its name was changed to the United Fund of Fargo in 1957, and then in 1964, it became the United Fund of Fargo-Moorhead. In the summer of 1966, employee Jim Backus came up with a jingle idea based on a combination of the towns’ names: FarMoor. The tune started with “Let’s give Far More, More than we ever gave before...”

Renee Holoien was a pretty 17 year-old working for the organization that summer, and Backus decided she should be “Miss FarMoor,” the organization’s beauty queen – or as she puts it, “their mascot.” Holoien was trotted out for parades and also appeared on the local TV show, Party Line, with hostess Verna Newell. The title of Miss FarMoor was retired after Holoien’s reign, because the organization was renamed once again... the United Fund of Fargo-Moorhead-Dilworth.

Capitol Cornerstones

September 5, 2019 — Former President Ulysses S. Grant laid the cornerstone for the Dakota Territory capitol at Bismarck on this date in 1883. Grant was on his way to Montana for the driving of the gold spike that marked the completion of the main line of the Northern Pacific Railroad. Other dignitaries who attended the capitol cornerstone laying included railroad magnates James J. Hill of the Great Northern and President Henry Villard of the Northern Pacific; newspaper publisher Joseph Pulitzer; Generals H. H. Sibley and W. D. Washburn; Chief Sitting Bull; and Chicago merchant Marshall Field.

A cornerstone for the present North Dakota Capitol at Bismarck was laid exactly 50 years later, during the administration of William Langer. The building was replacing the territorial capitol building, which burned to the ground in December 1930.

Crime, Crime and More Crime

September 6, 2019 — Crime was busting out all over on this date in 1939. In the early morning hours, four men in a black ‘36 Chevy with Wisconsin plates pulled off a spectacular series of safe-crackings between Minot and Washburn. The gang of robbers – or yeggs, as they were called back then – hit four different towns, cracking at least eleven different safes.

It started in the town of Makoti shortly after midnight. There, they cracked the safe of a local elevator. Whether by accident or on purpose, they also lit the place on fire with their acetylene torch. Some 20,000 bushels of grain were destroyed, as well as the structure, which (in 1939) was valued at $6,000.

If the fire was set intentionally, it worked. All attention was diverted to Makoti as men from neighboring towns came to help fight the blaze. Moving quickly on to Ryder, the yeggs cracked the safes in the Farmers Elevator, the Independent Elevator, the Osborn-McMillan Elevator, Farmers Union Oil Company and Midwest Lumber.

Their next stop was Douglas, where they broke into the Farmers Elevator. Moving on to Max, they cracked the safes at Midwest Lumber, Equity Farmers Elevator, Max Grain Co. and the Alec Bokovoy Wholesale house.

Officials theorized the thieves were professionals who assumed the safes would be heavy on cash for paying farmers as they brought in their harvest. According to initial reports, however, they got away with less than $400.

During those same wee hours, a high-speed chase was taking place near Mayville. Over the past three weeks, a series of robberies had taken place in the northeastern part of the state, including recent break-ins in Hatton and Hope.

Officials in Walsh, Grand Forks and Traill Counties knew who they were looking for. The suspects left their car behind when they were nearly caught during a break-in in Manvel. Inside it was loot taken in a previous robbery and other clues identifying the suspects. Officials also had information given them by another suspect being held in Grafton.

Soon after the Manvel incident, a car was stolen in Oslo, and some license plates were stolen in Hatton. With a description of the car, Sheriff Oscar Redwing, of Grand Forks County, and Sheriff Earl Ahrlin, of Traill County, started looking for it on the nighttime highways. Shortly after 2:30 a.m. on the 6th, they met in Mayville to compare notes and suddenly spotted the car speeding through the city. Traveling in Ahrlin’s car, the sheriffs began an 80 mile an hour chase down Highway 7 (remember, this was in 1939). When they tried to pull alongside the stolen car, a bullet came through their windshield, narrowly missing Sheriff Redwing.

Redwing fired back, trying to blow out a tire, but he missed and struck the bumper. Several more shots were exchanged, and three and a half miles outside the city, Redwing finally shot through the back of the fleeing car and hit the driver in the back of the neck. The car went out of control and came to rest 300 feet away in a field.

The officers wrestled the passenger, 20 year-old Ronald Buchard, from the car and then realized the driver — 21-year-old Ray Lilliegard — had been instantly killed by Redwing’s bullet. Inside the car were two loaded guns — a .22 caliber revolver and a .22 caliber long barrel pistol, in which a bullet had jammed.

“Dakota Datebook” is a radio series from Prairie Public in partnership with the State Historical Society of North Dakota and with funding from the North Dakota Humanities Council. See all the Dakota Datebooks at prairiepublic.org, or subscribe to the “Dakota Datebook” podcast.

Load comments