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Emmons County record. [volume] : (Williamsport, D.T. [i.e. N.D.]) 1884-current
Place of publication:
Williamsport, D.T. [i.e. N.D.]
Geographic coverage:
  • Linton, Emmons, North Dakota  |  View more titles from this: City County, State
  • Williamsport, Emmons, North Dakota  |  View more titles from this: City County, State
D.R. Streeter
Dates of publication:
  • Vol. 1, no. 1 (June 10, 1884)-
  • English
  • North Dakota--Williamsport.--fast--(OCoLC)fst01283074
  • Williamsport (N.D.)--Newspaper.
  • "Official newspaper of Emmons County and the City of Linton."
  • Archived issues are available in digital format from the Library of Congress Chronicling America online collection.
  • Available on microfilm from the State Historical Society of North Dakota.
  • Place of publication varies: Williamsport, N.D., June 10, 1884-Feb. 17, 1899; Linton, N.D., Feb. 24, 1899-
  • Special "Emmons County Centennial" issue published: Sept. 14, 1903.
sn 87096040
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Emmons County record. [volume] June 10, 1884 , Image 1


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Emmons County Record

Emmons County sits at the south-central edge of North Dakota. The Missouri River, to which the county's early history is firmly tied, creates its western border. The river's abundant wildlife, natural resources, and provision of transportation made it essential to Native American settlement for hundreds of years. It was an artery of commerce and remained so with the onset of European settlement. From Fort Benton, Montana, to the Gulf of Mexico, the Missouri brought goods and people to the northern prairie.

The steamboat was the predominant form of transport in the late 1800s, and many of Emmons County's earliest townships were steamboat landings, such as Glencoe, Livona, Gayton, Emmonsburg, and Winona. Eventually, the steamboat was surpassed by another form of transport, the railroad. With it came rapid settlement. The population in Emmons County jumped from 38 in 1880 to 1,971 in 1890 to 4,349 in 1900. A town's proximity to the rail line determined its prosperity or demise. Hazelton, Braddock, Strausburg, Hague, and Linton are all still populated today, and all were stops along the Northern Pacific and Soo rail lines, while many other towns are now mere names, memories, and historical footnotes.

With each young prairie town, there usually also came a newspaper. The Emmons County Record is the county's oldest and longest-running press. Its early history exemplifies the fight for the lifeline of the railroad.

When Emmons County was created in November of 1883, its original county seat was Williamsport, a plot sitting in the central-northern half of the county. The town was little more than a few wooden shacks and an idea. In 1885, however, for the un-paltry sum of $3,300, a substantial courthouse was built from native stone, signifying an investment in the town's future. Its ground floor was used for county offices and a jail, while the second floor housed the Emmons County Record; the paper's editor, Darwin Streeter; and his family.

In a childhood fairytale, the house made of brick is the choice of the wise and forward-thinking. In this case, however, it showed a brash and foolhardy confidence. Williamsport's authority as the county seat was in contention from its inception. Its northern location created tensions with the incoming settlers who chose to make their homes in the southern half of the county, as traveling 40 miles by horse and cart on a windswept winter's day was no small task. Many citizens desired a more central location for the county seat and put the matter to a vote in 1884 and 1888, but to no avail. In 1888, Streeter, still the editor of the Emmons County Record, published the paper in red ink in victory against the county's southern contenders, signifying the visceral and battle-like stakes.

Williamsport's victory was, however, fleeting. On November 8, 1898, the two-thirds majority vote needed to change the county seat was reached. Soon after, official surveying began in a newly designated, centrally located township. The town would be Linton, named curiously after prominent county resident George W. Lynn, who did not want the honor. After he blocked the proposed name of Lynntown, the compromise of Linton was reached. It was no coincidence that 1898 also marked the arrival of trains in Emmons County, when the Soo Railroad reached Braddock in October. Anticipating the connection to the all-important markets in Chicago, farmers and ranchers knew a centrally located hub city was best for their business.

It was another newspaperman, in a different city, who jumped at the opportunity of the newly plotted Linton. Charles A. Patterson was the editor of the Winona Times in the small steamboat-landing town of Winona, a stereotypical wild West town, created mostly to serve bored soldiers from nearby Fort Yates. The town, nicknamed "the Devil's Colony," was known for its violence and vice. Like Williamsport, Winona was losing its prominence to progress and change. Consequently, the business-savvy Patterson left Winona for Linton and entered a contract with the county to construct its new courthouse. The small, two-story building housed the county offices, a hotel, and Patterson's newspaper, newly dubbed the Emmons County Republican. It was Williamsport vs. Linton: two towns, two courthouses, two newspapers, vying for prominence, economic prosperity, and longevity.

The prominent businessmen of Williamsport contested the results of the 1898 election, claiming that the two-thirds majority was fraudulent, since many of the voters had lived in the county less than the required one year for a legal vote. The matter was brought to the state capital in Bismarck, to be reviewed by district judge W. H. Winchester. Patterson was unwilling to wait for the court’s verdict, however, and decided to take the matter into his own hands. On a foggy January night, atop a horse and holding the American flag, Patterson led a party from Linton to Williamsport to physically move the county seat. Accounts vary on the size of the party; some say two dozen, while others report that up to 100 men marched into Williamsport.

While the Emmons County Record's editor, Streeter, was above in his family's living quarters, Patterson began chipping a hole in a wall and forcibly removed the county's records. He and his conspirators also took all the furniture and office supplies, leaving the courthouse room empty of everything but a steel punch. Victorious, Patterson and his cohort rode the 15 miles back to Linton, reaching their destination as the sun was rising in the wee hours of January 25,1899.

The matter of the official county seat was not legally decided until February 9th, when Judge Winchester formally ruled in Linton's favor. On that day Patterson's Republican printed an image of a rooster fight, with the Linton rooster standing as champion over that of Williamsport.

Patterson's sights were no longer set on the newspaper business, however. With a newly built hotel to attend to, he allowed his newspaper to be absorbed into the Emmons County Record in March of the same year of his great triumph. Streeter had recently moved his family to Linton and took over as editor. He kept the name Record and remained editor until 1913, when his son Frank took over and stayed until 1927.

Provided by: State Historical Society of North Dakota