In The Beginning

Griggs County.  What was it like when the first settlers came?  Grass!  Grass everywhere!  Ungrazed since the buffalo left, there grew on the hills the short and hardy "buffalo" grass, in low places taller grass up to two feet in height, and on the level places more buffalo grass and "needle" grass that made good hay in a damp season but was too short for cutting in dry years.  This grass, which cured when ripe into a hay-covered prairie, was not to be found in the wooded, sandy, or rocky soils of the east nor the sage covered states farther west.  Wonderful!  The soil must be rich and have plenty of moisture to produce such grass.  And on this grassy prairie there grew not one tree.

Among the grasses grew a succession of perennial flowering plants - from the woolly first pasque flower of spring, the flaming Lily and the delicate orchid colored prairie clover of midsummer, to the goldenrod and prairie asters of fall.  Look around the edges of the sloughs in June and July and find the largest and most flavorful of wild strawberries.

Overgrown by the grasses are the old trails in the sod.  They had been made by Governor Steven's train, by Fisk's gold seekers' expedition, by Sibley's military wagons, by the Red River hunters, by the Indians, by the Fort Totten to Fort Abercrombie mail carrier, and by the buffaloes.  If a prairie fire had recently passed over the land, the trails appeared in the sod, and the whitened buffalo bones would be seen everywhere on the blackened ground.

Follow any one of these trails, and almost without warning the prairie seems to end, and the Sheyenne Valley lies before the traveler - three hundred to four hundred feet below the level of the prairie, and from one to four miles wide.  Here is sweet running water, timber for homes, fuel and protection, and wild fruits for food.  This was like home, and here the first pioneers settled.

Myrtle Bemis Porterville

Source: Cooperstown, North Dakota 1882-1982 Centennial page 8

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