Environmental History of Grand Forks

The altitude of Grand Forks is a key component of the Red River of the North’s environment and history. The Red is the only single-headwater, dual-flow river east of the Rockies. The actual split is at Grand Marais Creek, just north of Grand Forks (thus the name Grand Forks). From the dual-flow headwater, spring floods go crashing northwards to Winnipeg and then Hudson Bay. Historically furs brought to Grand Forks by southern traders were loaded on rafts which were arranged on the ice.  When the spring melt and flood came, the rafts were caught by the pulse and then floated to the headquarters and shipping center of the Hudson Bay Company at Hudson Bay. South of Grand Forks, however, the Red spring surge flows to Fargo. In the 1800s this pulse fed the Red River rice fields, but with the abolition of slavery those fields were abandoned, and with urbanization in Fargo it just means unwanted flooding.

Quantrill and Tennyson

Little known fact: Quantrill’s Raiders would recite Tennyson’s “Ring out the Old” at hangings. When they reached “Ring in the True”, one of them would give a hardy slap to the flank of the horse of the doomed man, who was left swinging as the pendulum sounds of Tennyson faded away. In the movie Dark Command, John Wayne refused to participate in the Tennyson hanging scene because he did not think having PJ Harvey (who played one of the Raiders) sing the verses was appropriate. The Duke’s concern was that her voice would reveal her to be either a woman, or effeminate, and Wayne thought neither appropriate. This scene was deleted, but you can find it as an extra on the 2006 Criterion Collection DVD.