Story by Keith Norman
Sometimes doing research on a story with the assistance of the Alfred Dickey Library, turns into research about the library.
Recently, during a project gathering information on the Battle of Big Mound, fought in Kidder County in 1863, the books the library supplied gave me an unexpected look at the town of Jamestown and the people who made the Alfred Dickey Library possible.
The book was “Yet She Follows” written by Edna LaMoore* Waldo, sister of western writer Louis L’Amour, about their grandmother Betty Freeman Dearborn. Betty’s father, Ambrose Freeman, was killed at the Battle of Big Mound near Tappen, N.D.
Ambrose’s death and scalping was noted in the author’s notes of a couple hundred million Louis L’Amour westerns over the decades as proof of his western roots.
Edna’s story, actually the recollections of her grandmother about the incident, point out going hunting for antelope in the vicinity of hostiles and a battle can lead to disaster.
The story did not end with young Betty losing her father but continued with her marriage to Abraham Truman Dearborn and their life in Jamestown in the 1880s. It was a glimpse of a Jamestown that was only a decade old.
The Dearborn home, just down the hill from the former site of Fort Seward, was on the wrong end of Jamestown. Even living amidst the seedier side of the frontier town, the family had friends of importance.
According to Edna’s story in “Yet She Follows” the Dearborn family, especially daughter Emily the mother of Edna and Louis, had a friendship with Jamestown businessman Alfred Dickey.
In the fall of 1890, Emily wrote a letter to Dickey asking if he thought she could work as a clerk at the upcoming session of the North Dakota Legislature.
Dickey was a good man to ask, he was the Lieutenant Governor for that initial session after statehood had been granted.
“I would not advise you to do it,” wrote Dickey in response. “The work is light and the pay is good, but unless you have some very good friends to board with, you had better not.”
*LaMoore is the traditional spelling of L’Amour. Louis changed it to a French version.