Subscribe for 33¢ / day

Marched today 32 miles and camped on Powder River, journalist Mark Kellogg wrote on June 7, 1876, while traveling with Lt. Col. George Custer’s 7th Cavalry.

The weather was misty that day with the threat of rain.

“Terribly rough country,” Kellogg wrote. “Gen C- with Col. Weirs troops, used as videttes, scouted ahead & succeeded finding a passable trav route over a country would seem impractical, up, up, down, down, zig zag, twisting turning.”

They would make camp along the Powder River in the coming days. Eighteen days later Kellogg would be killed, along with Custer and his men at the Battle of the Little Bighorn. But Kellogg’s diary, which he started on May 17, 1876, as he left to join the troops, stands as a testament to the historic journey,

The diary is just one of thousands of records in the State Historical Society of North Dakota’s Archives that isn’t on display, though the diary has been digitized and can be read in full at

The “diary” is really nothing more than a pile of papers, 3 3/4 inches wide by 9 inches in length and half an inch thick, said Deputy State Archivist Shane Molander. But the journey it took to get to the archives is nearly as storied as the battle.

Kellogg had stayed at the home of John P. Dunn III, who ran a general store located on Main Avenue between Fourth and Fifth streets and would later open the first pharmacy. His daughter would become the town’s first medical doctor.

The Dunns were essentially “Bismarck’s first family,” said Ted Quanrud, a Bismarck resident and former Bismarck Tribune employee familiar with Kellogg’s diary. Kellogg stayed with them in their home on the corner of North Sixth Street and what was then Meigs.

“Meigs is Broadway today. I don’t believe the house is there anymore,” Molander said.

After Kellogg was killed in battle his belongings went back to the Dunn house. The diary would stay with the family until 1940, when it was turned over to the Bismarck Tribune.

Kellogg wasn’t even supposed to have gone with the troops. Bismarck Tribune founder Clement Lounsberry was scheduled to go but a family member fell ill, Molander said.

The diary stayed with family until 1940 when they turned it over to the Tribune. In 1983, then Publisher Glenn Sorlie donated it to the historical society.

Molander said the diary covers troop movements but Kellogg also talks about the weather - they encountered an early summer snow somewhere along the way - the wildlife and the men’s daily activities.

“Most attractive scenery yet,” Kellogg wrote June 7. “Spruce & Cedar on Buttes, marched on "hogs back" highest Buttes in country for mile or two, if teams went either side roll down hundreds feet … Saw, what seemed like Ancient ruins. Buffalo seen today, none taken, order no firing. This camp excellent, wood, water, grass plenty. Timber all Cottonwood of smallish or medium size.”

The last entry was on June 9.

Unconfirmed about the diary’s history is where it was found, Molander said. Some say it was on Kellogg’s person when he was killed. Others say it was left back at the Powder River base camp.

The pages are stained and for a long time it was rumored to be blood, Molander said. But in 1995, the state crime lab tested it and was 95 percent certain it was not blood. The stains more likely came from coffee or whiskey or dirty water.

In the early 2000s, a reunion of Custer enthusiasts came to the state Archives wanting to see the diary, Molander said. The person handling brought it out wearing white gloves on and the group was in awe.

Fannie Dunn Quain, John P. Dunn’s daughter, was about 2 years old when Kellogg was at their home and had some memories of the man from her family talking about him later. She would go on to marry another doctor and Swedish immigrant, Dr. Eric P. Quain.

Because of her interest in children, Fannie Dunn Quain opened the first baby clinic in the state. Later, as tuberculosis ran rampant, she lobbied for the construction of the sanitarium at San Haven. Her husband, along with a partner, would open a clinic and would lobby to have the 60-bed Bismarck Evangelical Hospital built. In World War I, he would organize a Red Cross hospital unit in France with doctors and nurses from Bismarck.

The couple had two children, Marion Margaret and Buell. Their son, Buell, would become a famed anthropologist. He would die in 1939 in Brazil.

Subscribe to Daily Headlines

* I understand and agree that registration on or use of this site constitutes agreement to its user agreement and privacy policy.

Reach Jessica Holdman at 701-250-8261 or


Business Reporter