In the summer of 1867, a small party of surveyors started in St. Paul, MN and sought to find a more direct path to the gold mines in Montana. The party soon disappeared and their whereabouts were unknown until a chance discovery of skulls revealed their fate. One such skull was prominently on display at the offices of The Dickinson Press in 1884 and remained as such until 1922 before "vanishing" — rumors persist that the skull sits still in the archives of the building.
In this article we flash back to a story from the Dakota Territories, printed in The Press five years before North Dakota became a state. The language of the article is preserved and is a verbatim transcription of the the original. Some readers may find language contained offensive.
In the summer of 1867 a small party of men started from St. Paul, Minn., to find a more direct route to the gold mines of Montana, than that taken by Capt. Fisk. The expeditions under Fisk were obliged to go completely around the northern bend of the Missouri river about Fort Buford. Nine brave, determined men under the leadership of "Jack" Butler started on the 10th of June, and the last heard of them was from steamboat which was making a trip to Fort Benton. The captain, who is still on the river, reported that the party crossed the Missouri very near the present site of Bismarck. They were well armed and provisioned, and sanguine of striking the mines at a great saving of travel by crossing the river at the point they did. Nothing has ever been heard of that bold band. But some ray of light may be thrown upon their fate, by the discovery made by Geo. Rand, of nine human skulls and other bones, together with a piece of a compass and a spoon, about seven miles north of Dickinson. They are pronounced to be the skulls of white men. It will probably ever remain a mystery as to who were the owners of these skulls and also of the fate of the party under Butler, but it requires but a small amount of imagination to connect the two facts, and picture the savage assault of the wild warriors of Sitting Bull, Rain-In-The-Face and Crazy Horse, by which the party lost their lives. One of skulls is hung up in the office of The Press."
While the harrowing tale of Jack Butler and his band of surveyors was eloquently recounted in prose by our predecessors at The Press, we here at The Press in 2020 can neither confirm nor deny that we still have said skull — unless our readers have a nickle and a strong stomach to visit our archives.