Checkered Years House
This house was built during the late 1870's or early 1880's on a bonanza farm in Mapleton Township southwest of Fargo, North Dakota. Mary Dodge Woodward lived in the home with her children from 1882 to 1889. Her son Walter was hired to manage the 1,500 acre farm owned by their relative Daniel Dodge.
Mary kept a detailed diary of their life in Dakota Territory at this time. She filled five small leather bound books with day to day accounts of the family’s activity and life on the farm.
In 1882, Mary noted that there were only two buildings on the farm, but by 1887 twenty-seven buildings were located there. She wrote that people would think their farm was a town, and that if they built a saloon, it really would be a town. She thought “Dodgetown” would be an appropriate name.
Mary writes a lot about the weather in her diary. She mentions snow banks as high as second story windows in the winter. She also writes about sleeping with her shoes on so mice would not get in them, and using a telescope to see a light in the city of Fargo from her upstairs bedroom window.
Mary never thought her diaries would be published. On May 1, 1885 she wrote, “I’ve nobody to talk to except this diary, and here I can say what I please for nobody but my children could ever read it.”
The Woodward family left the farm in the spring of 1889 and returned to Kingston, Wisconsin where they had originally lived. Mary became ill in 1890 and was diagnosed with lung fever. She died on Christmas Day later that year. After her death, Mary’s granddaughter, Mary Boynton Cowdrey, took the diaries and compiled them, in shortened form, into a book that was first printed in 1937 entitled, "The Checkered Years". The house the Woodward family lived in was given to the Cass County Historical Society and named The Checkered Years House, after the title of Mary’s diaries. The book is available in the museum store.