“Snakebite” was a common term in Frontier times for someone who encountered more than their fair share of bad luck. This term certainly applied to journalist Mark Kellogg.
In 1865 he opened a grocery store in La Crosse, Wisconsin, and less than a year later it burned down. In 1867 his young wife died, leaving Kellogg with two young daughters to raise. In 1872 he was elected to the Minnesota Legislature, but his victory was overturned and the position was awarded to his opponent. After helping Clement Lounsberry establish the Bismarck Tribune in 1873, he was removed from his job at the newspaper.
Finally, in 1876, it appeared that Kellogg’s good fortune was about to materialize when Lounsberry rehired him at the Tribune. Lounsberry had received permission to accompany Colonel George Custer on his mission to the Little Bighorn area of Montana Territory to subdue Sioux Indians who refused to settle on established reservations. Lounsberry needed a reliable publisher to publish the Tribune while he was away, and Kellogg was his logical choice.
Shortly before the expedition’s departure, Lounsberry’s wife fell ill, and he felt compelled to send Kellogg in her place. Kellogg saw this as his great opportunity because he would be able to report on something that would be of national concern – the expected defeat of the remaining unreserved Dakota Indians by the 7th Cavalry, under the command of Colonel Custer. Kellogg was unaware that the Dakota and Cheyenne Indians were writing a final act based on an entirely different script.
En route to Little Bighorn, Kellogg’s horse became lame and the reporter was given a mule to ride. After being attacked, Kellogg’s mule was unable to run to a place of cover and, it seems, Kellogg was one of the first white men killed in battle.
Marcus “Mark” Henry Kellogg was born March 31, 1833 in Brighton, Ontario, the third of 10 children born to Simeon and Lorenda (Whepley) Kellogg. Siméon was a merchant and hotel manager. In the mid-1830s the Kelloggs moved 90 miles east to Toronto, then in the early 1840s they moved to New York State, first to Watertown, then to Syracuse before returning to Canada.
In the late 1840s and early 1850s, the Kelloggs lived in northern Illinois, then moved to La Crosse, which at the time was a small town along the Mississippi River in Illinois. western Wisconsin. When the Kelloggs arrived in La Crosse in 1851, the village had just been razed to the ground and Simeon found employment as manager of the Western Enterprise Hotel and soon after was elected president of the first school board in La Crosse and appointed master. village post office.
Initially, Mark did not move to La Crosse with his family because he was in Kenosha, Wisconsin, learning to be a telegrapher. In 1853 Simeon bought the hotel, renamed it Kellogg House and hired Mark as a hotel clerk.
In 1859 Kellogg was hired as a telegraph operator at the Wisconsin State Telegraph Co. in La Crosse. Now that he had a full-time job, he married Martha J. Robinson on May 19, 1861, and they became parents to daughters in 1862 and again in 1863.
One of Kellogg’s good friends was Marcus “Brick” Pomeroy who, in 1860, had founded the La Crosse Democrat, a weekly newspaper. Pomeroy was a Democrat who initially supported Abraham Lincoln, a Republican. This is interesting, because the motto of his article was: “Democratic at all times and in all circumstances”.
Pomeroy was adamantly opposed to the war, and when the Civil War began on April 12, 1861, he became one of the leaders of a new political group called the Copperheads who pushed to end the war. Kellogg also joined the group, and in 1862 Pomeroy hired him as a reporter for the La Crosse Democrat.
As this job was part-time, Kellogg continued his work as a telegraph operator. Also in 1862, Kellogg opened a “flour and seed store” in La Crosse, which burned down a few months later.
Although Kellogg was opposed to the Civil War, he served in La Crosse’s light guard for the duration of the war. With the end of the Civil War in 1865, Kellogg was able to focus on his job and his growing family. This became very important early in 1867, when his young wife, Martha Kellogg, fell seriously ill. She died on May 17, two days before the couple celebrated their sixth wedding anniversary. At that time, her daughter Cora Sue was 4 years old and her other daughter Mattie was 3 years old.
Kellogg had been very active in politics and, hoping to find a better paying job with regular hours to care for his young daughters, he threw his hat in the ring to run for the position of city clerk of The Crosse. Kellogg was beaten in a close race and, in an attempt to help him financially, Pomeroy informed him that he was starting another newspaper, the Council-Bluffs Democrat in Iowa, and that he would appoint Kellogg as Associate Editor.
Kellogg made arrangements with Martha’s sister, Lillie Robinson, to care for his two daughters until he could financially support them. Kellogg moved to Council Bluffs to work on the newspaper, but the newspaper failed to gain enough subscribers to sustain its existence, and the Council Bluffs newspaper closed in late 1868.
He returned to La Crosse and worked first as a printer before being hired as a telegrapher for the Atlantic and Pacific Telegraph Company. As a telegraph operator, he learned that a new transcontinental railroad had been formed that would stretch from the Great Lakes to the Pacific Ocean.
Knowing that this company, the Northern Pacific Railway, would need a telegrapher, he applied and was hired. It also meant that he once again had to leave his two young children at La Crosse.
We will continue Mark Kellogg’s story next week.
Update: One of the rewarding aspects of writing my columns is that readers have the opportunity to correct errors or provide additional information that makes the articles more complete. In last week’s column, I wrote that Jesse Langdon was “North Dakota’s only known Rough Rider.” He was the only one I knew, but Diana Skroch of Valley City knew another Rough Rider. His great-uncle Frank Kania was born in Poland in 1877 and his father moved to Stutsman County in 1881. According to his research, they were the only two Rough Riders in North Dakota. Langdon was the only one born in this condition.
“Did You Know That” is written by Curt Eriksmoen and edited by Fargo’s Jan Eriksmoen. Send your comments, corrections or column suggestions to Eriksmoens at [email protected]