The Burgum family history society is a member of the Guild of one name studies and researches the names

Incredible, But True!

"So you're a genealogist. How far back have you got? Have you found any skeletons in your closet? OK, what interesting stories have you found out?" In response to the last question, sooner or later, I talk about Linda Slaughter. Linda was the mother of Jessamine Slaughter Burgum. She, in turn, was great-grandmother to Joe Peltier (FF036), Rick Burgum (FF043), Jan Samuelson (FF050), Doug Burgum (FF061), Brad Burgum (FF062), Barbara Burgum (FF064), Joyce Dunn (FF096) and others. I have told the following story dozens of times, but recently felt a pang of conscience. Was I exaggerating? Did I have my facts right? Just to be sure, here is the story in black and white. My source? The writings of Linda Slaughter....

Camp Hancock lay on the east bank of the Missouri River in the Dakota Territories. This later grew into the town of Edwinton and in 1874 was renamed Bismarck. On the west bank of the Missouri River stood the newly named Fort Abraham Lincoln. Linda Slaughter was the first post mistress of Bismarck, only made offical in 1874 when the law was changed to permit married women to occupy the post. A military carrier brought the mail westward for both the army and the civilians. The custom had been for the mail-bags to be delivered to Mrs Slaughter, in Bismarck. There she would unlock the bags and remove the mail for Bismarck and the other military river posts. The mail for Fort Abraham Lincoln was then taken across the river in the unlocked bags.

In the spring of 1873, a new commanding officer took charge at Fort Lincoln. The first mail, brought by the military carrier, was immediately taken to his headquarters. The mailbags were locked and the commanding officer sent his orderly to Linda Slaughter's house for the key. The key was handed over with a request that the key and the rest of the mail be returned as soon as possible. The mail was returned the next day, but hopelessly muddled. Bundles for Bismarck, for Fort Rice, Fort Stevenson, Fort Berthold and Fort Buford had been untied and totally mixed up. Linda was not pleased!
The mail for the other Forts was heavy and plentiful and it took Linda some time to sort out the mess. News that the mail was in had reached the citizens of Bismarck and their patience was sorely tested. Linda requested her key be returned, but the fort commander refused. In a letter, Linda pointed out that postal regulations required the key to remain with her. She had "lent" him the key out of respect for his position and "trusted to his honor (sic) as an officer to return it."

The key was returned. However, during the next mail delivery a sergeant called for the key on the orders of his commanding officer. Linda refused, asking first for a written guarantee that it would be returned. The commanding officer was not impressed with this request and angrily tore open the mail-sack with a knife. The next day the mutilated sack was returned to her, together with the rest of the jumbled mail.
Linda Slaughter was a pioneering woman of strong character and was not to be trifled with. She sent the mail-bag to Washington D.C. with an explanation of its damage. The postal authorities complained to Sheridan himself, who only laughed. After that, each time the sergeant called, Mrs Slaughter was compelled to unlock the mail-bags, which were then taken on to Fort Lincoln intact. The mail for Bismarck and the other river forts was delyed and returned in a disorderly state.

Linda Slaughter almost certainly encouraged the dissatisfaction expressed by the commanding officers of the other army forts for the delay to their mail. The citizens of Bismarck were equally unhappy. Linda wrote to General Hazen and asked for his help. She also wrote to the postmaster general.
(Picture left- The Church of the Bread of Life, built at Camp Handcock in 1881).
Linda asked that the mail for Fort Lincoln be sent separately from the mail for Bismarck and the other forts in the area. This request was granted. The next mail delivery saw the sergeant arrive with two separate mail-bags. The smaller bag was addressed to Fort Lincoln, while the larger bag, containing the mail for Bismarck and Forts Rice, Berthold and Stevenson was addressed to the Bismarck Post Office. The sergeant handed both bags to Linda Slaughter through the post office window to be unlocked. He was most upset when Linda only returned one of the bags. The concerned sergeant asked Mrs Slaughter to write a note confirming her intention to keep the mail-bag, absolving him from responsibility.

I feel quite sure Linda Slaughter enjoyed writing that letter to the commanding officer of Fort Abraham Lincoln. In it she stated that from now on she had made arrangements for the mail to his post to be carried separately.

The officer was absolutely furious and declared that his miliary carriers would no longer carry mail for the citizens of Bismarck. However, this had been anticipated and General Hazen and others had sent complaints to army headquarters. The military carriers were directed that the mail for Bismarck and the other forts should be directed to the Bismarck Post Office.

Linda Slaughter must have felt quiet satisfaction at her victory. Indeed, not so quiet, as she wrote and published her experience later on. Incidently, for those of you who don't already know - the commanding officer at Fort Abraham Lincoln was General Lieutentant-Colonel George Armstrong Custer!