Timeline of Bismarck’s past revealed; 2 year effort produces print and online versions

More than two years of research into the history of North Dakota’s capital by dozens of volunteers will culminate Wednesday with the official unveiling of a timeline of Bismarck’s diverse and historic past.

The road to completing a Timeline of Bismarck History was not easy, but fulfilling, according to attorney Tory Jackson, a history buff and one of the project’s spearheads.

“Hundreds of volunteer hours have gone into the project; it was a tremendous amount of work,” he said. “Sometimes it seemed like we’d never reach the finish line, so we’re all pretty excited about the result.”

The result is both a printed and online version of highlights from Bismarck’s past, broken down into chunks and nuggets and placed on a timeline stretching from 12,000 years ago to modern times. The project began and ended with the celebrations of the capital’s 150th anniversary in 2022.

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“This group of volunteers have researched, written, rewritten, argued about organization and issues, designed, drafted, edited, rewritten, rewrote, argued and devoted many months of their time to a project useful for people interested in understanding of Of immense value is the uniqueness of the area’s past,” said Amy Sakariassen, chair of the Bismarck Historic Preservation Commission, which led the effort.

Origins of the project

Bismarck’s biography grew out of the formation of the Historic Preservation Commission in May 2019. Members of the group wanted a historical preservation plan to guide their goals and activities, and decided that a schedule would be the best format.

Jackson said it started out as a “small endeavor” of a few pages as part of a larger planning document, but “it took on a life of its own.”

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There was no money to rent the work, so three commissioners – Jackson, businesswoman Beth Nodland and Blake Dinkins, who works for an architecture firm – formed a subcommittee to start the project. They added five others in the community who are interested in or knowledgeable about local history – Jim Christianson, Jack Dura, Emily Sakariassen, Kate Waldera and Sarah Walker.

The group first met in January 2021 and decided to break the timeline into epochs and explore history back to the Paleo-Indian period, rather than just focusing on Bismarck’s relatively shorter history as an organized city. Epochs are:

Original landscape (12,000 BC to 1738 AD) Before the founding (1738-1872) Bismarck’s early years (1872-1898) Growing capital (1898-1930) Stormy years (1930-1945) Growth after the Second World War and mid-century (1945-1965)ripening city (1965-1999)Bismarck today (1999-2022)

The group enlisted the help of volunteers who researched various topics and wrote short stories ranging from well-known people and events like the state capitol fire in 1930 to the more obscure ones like steamship cook and gold digger Sarah “Sally”. Campbell.

According to Jackson, the list of contributors is long.

“City officials – particularly Will Hutchings (former Senior City Planner) – lots of people in the city, various groups and people along the way, the State Historical Society, the Northern Plains National Heritage Area, the Bismarck Tribune, local colleges – it was quite a big one effort,” he said.

The cover of the Timeline of Bismarck History.


final product

The final product is a 90-page, 8.5 x 11 inch hardcover paperback, including an eight-page bibliography. It has about 160 written narratives and about 200 images ranging from maps to photos.

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“It’s quite an enormous amount of information,” Jackson said.

According to City Planning Manager Kim Lee, it cost just over $11,000 to have United Printing of Bismarck produce 2,500 copies. The cost was covered by a grant under a National Park Service program, under which communities are eligible for funding and other assistance by committing to local conservation efforts so future generations can be aware of their cultural heritage. The grant was administered by the State Historical Society.

Copies are available for free at the release party – with a limit of one per person – and then available at the City/County Building. The group hopes to have some of these in the Bismarck Veterans Memorial Public Library as well and make copies available to schools. It is not yet known whether further copies will be printed.

“We’ll see how fast the 2,500 goes,” Jackson said. “I think people will be very interested, will be impressed when they see it, and will want a copy.”

The online version is already available on the city’s website at bit.ly/3ZzOi1G.

“The beauty of the online version is that it can be expanded over time – members of the public can suggest things to add,” Jackson said. “The online version will be a living document, so to speak.”

release party

The release party begins Wednesday at 5 p.m. at the Juniper Workantile, 122 N. Fourth St. The building is at the intersection of Fourth Street and Broadway Avenue.

The event is free and open to the public. There will be light refreshments.

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“We thought it would be nice to have a public event to unveil the schedule and thank the people who worked on it,” Jackson said. “A chance for people to come together and celebrate what we’ve accomplished.”

The Historic Preservation Commission meets on the third Wednesday of each month at 3:30 p.m. in the Tom Baker Room in the City/County Building. For more information on commission, see bit.ly/3ZylE0M.