Almont North Dakota

1906     Centennial     2006

Almont and Jack Dempsey
by Roger Becklund

     In Jan of 1960 I was a third year student at the University of Chicago Medical School. As part of a medical exam we performed on patients admitted to the hospital, we were to get a complete medical history which included employment questions.
     One day In Jan 1960 I was seeing an 80 year old gentleman. I asked him what kind of work he did and he answered he was a ‘porter on the Northern Pacific Railroad’. Since I was always very proud of my Almont heritage I then asked him if he ever heard of Almont. I never mentioned a state or any other information. He immediately replied,”Why yes, that was that little town west of Mandan on that sharp curve. Let me tell you a funny story about Almont!”

     He then proceeded to tell me about the night of July 4, 1923 when #2 passed through Almont about 11:00 pm. That assured me that he knew what he was talking about. That was about the time that the crack Northern Pacific passenger train passed through town heading east as fast as it could go with the approaching turn. The train NEVER stopped in Almont to my knowledge. Not even New Salem or Judson, but stopped only in Dickinson, Mandan, Bismarck, Jamestown, Valley City and Fargo in North Dakota.

He then told me late that afternoon Jack Dempsey had a Championship Fight with Tommy Gibbons in Shelby Montana. Shelby was a town not much larger than Almont with less than a thousand people. Somehow they managed to have this fight held in their little town. They built stands to hold 40,000 people and filled them with people from all over the United States coming to see the fight. That is even a few more people than come to Almont for the famous Labor Day Celebrations!!   Of course the fighters and promoters left town immediately after the fight with most of the money. The town lost thousands of dollars which took them a long time to pay off.
    He said that there was heavy betting on the fight by most of the passengers on the train. When they stopped at Dickinson no one at the depot knew the outcome of the fight. By the time they reached Almont there was a lot of tension between the passengers and they didn’t want to wait until they got to Mandan to find out the results. The crew decided to stop the train in Almont and see if anyone knew who won the fight. He told me they went to four or five houses that had lights on and maybe one or two that didn’t, knocked on the doors and asked the residents if they knew the fight results. He then said, “You know, there wasn’t a house in Almont that had their radio on that night and we had to wait until we got to Mandan to find out the results of the fight”!