The Village of Cooperstown

In its first ten years the townsite of Cooperstown was governed by the county and Township.  In 1892 a petition was presented to the county commissioners asking for an election on the question of incorporating as a village.  The election was held, and the Village of Cooperstown, population 433, came into being.  Percy Trubshaw was appointed mayor pro-tem until the second election to elect village officers. 

Electors, all male and 21, or over, selected a board of three trustees, a marshal, clerk, assessor, and justice of the peace.  Three districts were drawn along lines that are not far from the present ward boundaries.

The first board voted not to take any salary for themselves.  The marshal was to be paid a salary, and the justice of the peace was to take what he could in fines,

The new board was made up of:


John Ole   District I
David Bartlett   District II
John Syverson   District III
Will H. Carleton   Clerk
K. Hegge   Marshal
J.D. Johnson   Assessor
E.W. Blackwell   Treasurer
T.E. Warner   Justice of Peace
J.C. Flynn was appointed as town poundmaster.
Bartlett was named president of the council, thus mayor



Fire protection, traffic control, streets and sidewalks, sanitation, crime control, utilities franchises, annexation of property and livestock control were among the needs addressed by the village council.  Members of the present­ day city council might ponder the fact that the first dog ordinance was passed in May of 1897, and sounded not too different from those now in effect.  Every few years a new one was added to the books. 

The details of early laws and council action differ from todays in some respects as in the problem of fire protection.  In 1893 the council paid Andrew Johnson $16 to plow a firebreak.  The 1894 ordinance establishing the fire zone specifies that ashes must be kept in closed fireproof containers and not dumped on the ground, and that loose straw, manure, paper or other combustibles must not be left out in the open; and that stovepipes leading up through the roof must be encased in a chimney.  (The fire zone limits were revised sometimes but in general they have always included the four blocks that comprise the downtown business district.) Shooting of fireworks was prohibited and it was forbidden to run a steam engine within the fire limits. 

A look at the laws of a community gives an insight into the community's habits, needs, and way of life.  Early fire ordinances were designed to protect residents of a town whose buildings were of wood and who may have been a wee bit careless with ashes.  Another early ordinance (1893) established 11 p.m. as closing time for any "pool rooms, billiard room, game room or drinking resort." 

In 1894 the council assessed $500 for roads and passed the first speed law: "any person or persons driving or riding animals at more than a moderate speed shall be guilty of a misdemeanor." 

A later ordinance in 1894 prohibited driving or riding animals or vehicles on the sidewalks.  In 1896 that prohibition was extended to bicycles on the sidewalks of Burrell Avenue between 8th and 10th Streets.  In 1915 that was amended to include children on roller skates, coaster wagons, scooters and like contrivances. 

At the same time that the village was spending $500 on the streets, the council was overseeing the building of a network of board sidewalks over town.  In rain or snow the streets were not in good condition for pedestrians.  Probably they were not safe either, if animals were being driven at more than a moderate speed. 

Sidewalk Ordinance.

It is hereby ordered that a wooden sidewalk be constructed in the village of Cooperstown, on Burrell avenue, on the south end of lots 14, 15, 16 and 17, of block 60, said walk to be built of new two-inch plank not, less than six inches wide and twelve feet long, and laid upon four two by eight stringers, laid lengthwise of said street and on the side next said street to be supported by a stone wall laid in mortar the same as the balance of the walk on said street:  said walk to be laid on uniform incline from the east side of lot thirteen to the west side of lot eighteen.

The owners of said lots are hereby notified to cause said walk to be built within thirty days from the date hereof, or the village will construct the same and cause the costs to be taxed up against said lots.

Cooperstown, N. D, July 13, 1897

By order if the board of trustees,

Will H. Carleton


In October 1894, the village board ordered a sidewalk built in a zigzag course from 10th and Burrell (Syverson Store corner) to the south side of Block 18 (high school).

April 2, 1895, the village contracted with Waterous Fire Engine Works Company of St. Paul for fire equipment:

One #2 steam fire engine

Hose and hose cart

A 450 lb. fire bell with frame for hanging

Two fire hooks for pulling down buildings

Two weeks later a fire department was organized and Maynard Crane was elected chief.

In June bids were called on an engine house, and the council accepted Henry Haugen's bid to have it enclosed and in shape by July 19 for $270.  Contractor Moffatt was low bidder at $85 on the 14' x 12' cistern, guaranteed not to leak.  For the next several years the council bought a lot of hose and other fire-fighting equipment.

But back to controlling the unruly.

A rather broad nuisance ordinance was written early on: "When in the opinion of the board there exists in the town anything that is in their opinion injurious to the health or morals or adds to danger of fire or is unclean or obscene they may by resolution order the same removed or abated."  In the spirit of the original, new ordinances were added prohibiting the picketing of stock on streets and alleys and mandating that residents must keep their outhouses ready for inspection.  A later ordinance required that outhouses be cleaned at night.  At later times, various moves were made to protect community morals. 

And, during the summer months when the transient population was greatest, a night watchman was hired to help the town marshal.  The salary of the night watchman was $50 a month in 1897. 

The bicycle craze in the gay nineties led to a city ordinance regulating bicycle traffic.  In 1897 the council voted to adjust the assessments on 16 bikes. 

In 1897 the village of Cooperstown organized a special school district.  (A special district is one that supports a high school).  Women were permitted to vote in the election, and to hold school offices.  David Bartlett became president of the school board.  He had previously served as the village's first mayor and as a member of the state constitutional convention.  Bartlett also served North Dakota as Lt. Governor.  Mrs. R.M. Cowan was the first woman on the board and the others were F.J. Stone, O.A. Melgaard and Andrew Berg. 

In 1898 the village bought land from Knud Thompson for a dump ground. 

The next year Northwestern Telephone Exchange Company, received approval for telephone service and permission to run poles, wires and facilities in streets, alleys and public ground. 

In 1903 a franchise was issued for an electric power plant. 

The last order for a wooden sidewalk was dated June 1, 1904.  By the next year, the Cooperstown Tile Works was in business and ordinance decreed that all sidewalks thereafter must be of block or stone (concrete). 

The village allocated $6000 for the general fund in 1904, up considerably from the 1901 levy of $3500. 

In November 1906 the residents voted to incorporate as a City. 

Minutes of the early years were written in longhand.  Will Carleton and Basil Edmondson served long years as clerk of the council. 

Source: Cooperstown, North Dakota 1882-1982 Centennial page 27

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