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Bismarck 150th anniversary series: early businesses

Published: May. 10, 2022 at 8:37 PM CDT
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BISMARCK, N.D. (KFYR) - We’re looking back at 150 years of history that shaped Bismarck, as the city holds a sesquicentennial birthday celebration this weekend.

The name Bismarck became official in early 1873 — a year after its founding. It was named after a famous German Chancellor, in an effort to attract German settlers and investors.

The town of Bismarck grew quickly. By spring of 1873, sixty to seventy buildings had gone up, many of them saloons and others of what was called “ill fame.”

Bismarck’s reputation left much to be desired until about 1876. Named for its frequent shootings and brawls, “Murder Gulch” was the block along Fourth Street between Broadway and Main Avenues.

It was also sometimes referred to as “Bloody Fourth” and “Wicked Fourth.”

First businesses included Asa Fisher’s Billiard Hall, John Dunn’s General/Drug Store, John Yegen’s Restaurant and Bakery, and the Shaw & Cathcart Dry Goods Store.

Linda Slaughter established the first school at Camp Hancock on August 24, 1872. It hosted about six students. The following year, she was named Bismarck’s first public school superintendent.

The Benedictine Sisters established what would become Saint Alexius Hospital in 1885. It was the first hospital in Dakota Territory. Saint Alexius was housed in the former Lamborn Hotel until 1915.

Doctors Eric Quain & Niles Ramstad founded what is the nation’s second-oldest surviving clinic in 1902.

Bismarck Hospital followed in 1907; renamed Medcenter One in 1984. Both are now part of Sanford Health.

Wednesday, in our series celebrating Bismarck’s 150th anniversary, we’ll take a look at how Bismarck became North Dakota’s capital city.

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