Buying drinks on the frontier

Sunday, May 3, 2020 8:16 PM

Francis Jameson Rowbotham wasn’t cut out to be a homesteader. Still he made a claim on a quarter section south of Windsor, in what is now North Dakota, in the spring of 1884.

Rowbotham was a writer from England, in his later career he wrote biographies of musicians and scientists from the early 20th Century.

As a homesteader, he was probably a good writer. His adventures in the Dakota Territory were published in 1885 as “A Trip to Prairie-Land.”

His adventures included shooting, at close range, a critter they thought was a badger but turned out to be a skunk.

That is the kind of mistake you don’t make twice.

He had another adventure when he and a companion traveled the five miles or so to Windsor for mail and supplies.

A stop at the saloon, the center of the social scene in the little town, was an education.

“It is considered ill-manners in these parts to decline a drink,” Rowbotham wrote. 

And it seemed that everybody in saloon was expected to buy a round of drinks one after another.

“Then I believe it begins again at the first,” Rowbotham wrote in the book. “I never waited for the second round.”

Rowbotham speculated that “teetotal folk would run a poor chance of making converts in these parts.”