Methodist Newspaper from Dakota Territory Found at Drew University


Image of Methodist Pioneer newspaper from Methodist Library at Drew University

Methodist Pioneer, April 15, 1887, volume 2, number 8, page 1. Methodist Library, Drew University, Madison, New Jersey.

Stephen Perry, project historian for a new history of the Dakotas Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church, has found a partial run of the Methodist Pioneer newspaper at Drew University’s Methodist Library in Madison, New Jersey.

The Methodist Pioneer is the only newspaper known to have been published within the bounds of Dakota Territory by any of the conferences that preceded today’s Dakotas Annual Conference.

Cassie Brand, Methodist Library Associate, and Patrick Mahoney, a Drew graduate student, pulled the newspapers from the shelves and digitally scanned them for Stephen.  Because of the high acid content of 19th century newsprint, many individual issues have begun to fall apart.  The Methodist Library is developing a digital repository of its holdings and may be able to make the Methodist Pioneer generally available in the future.

In the course of earlier research for the conference history, Stephen found a number of obscure references to a newspaper of the Methodist Episcopal Church that had appeared in Fargo, Grand Forks, or Devils Lake.  He checked online catalogs from North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota, and Illinois and consulted with archivists but did not find any library or church in those states that still held copies of the newspaper.

A search of WorldCat, the largest online union library catalog in the world, led him to the Methodist Library at Drew University where a partial run of the newspaper had been sitting on the shelves for over 125 years.  The Methodist Library holds 50,000 books and many other printed materials.  It cooperates with the General Commission on Archives and History of The United Methodist Church, also located in Madison, New Jersey.

Highlights of the Methodist Pioneer from 1887 to 1889 include:

  • Identification of individual North Dakota Methodists by name
  • Million for Missions fundraising campaign run by Charles C. McCabe
  • Haddock murder trial in Iowa about the killing of a minister who opposed saloons
  • Local option campaigns to allow local governments to prohibit the sale of alcohol
  • Woman suffrage and the General Conference of 1888
  • Cooperation between the Prohibition Party and the Farmers’ Alliance
  • North Dakota statehood politics
  • North Dakota Fair news
  • Railroad news and advertisements
  • Christmas celebrations
  • Oyster suppers
  • Poundings of newly appointed pastors
  • Revival and protracted meeting news from the winter months
  • Easter celebrations emphasizing children’s participation in mission fundraising
  • Children’s Day celebrations
  • Strawberry and ice cream festival at Hillsboro
  • Camp meeting news from the summer months
  • Quarterly meetings in congregations
  • Official reports of district and conference sessions
  • New congregation development
  • Sermons by members of the North Dakota Annual Conference and others
  • International Sunday School Lessons
  • The story of Trotty and Spotty
  • Advertisement for Dr. Scott’s electric plaster cure using electromagnetism

Stephen would like to be in contact with anyone who has any information about where more issues of the Methodist Pioneer could be found.  He can be reached by e-mail at

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