Preserving Hillsboro's history: Traill County Historical Society, Ludwigs lead charge to digitize Banner archives

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Posted: Thursday, November 8, 2018 7:29 pm

More than 16,000 pages from the earliest editions of the Hillsboro Banner – dating back to the days before North Dakota became a state – have been published online.

Traill County Historical Society volunteers Jack and Rosalind Ludwig of Hillsboro spearheaded local efforts to digitize 40 years of newspapers from the Banner’s archives.

Partnering with the State Historical Society of North Dakota and Advantage Preservation, a firm based in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, the Ludwigs helped place issues of the Banner from 1882 to 1922 online in a digital, keyword-searchable format.

“We’ve always been really interested in our family histories,” Jack Ludwig said Tuesday inside the Plummer House Museum in Hillsboro.

“We know how important it is from our own research to have local newspapers digitized so you can search through them.”

The Ludwigs became interested in digitizing the Banner’s archives after a meeting earlier this year with Shane Molander, the deputy state archivist for the State Historical Society.

Molander directed the the Ludwigs to Advantage Preservation, which had worked with the Divide County Public Library to digitize its local papers, including the Crosby Journal.

“It makes research so much easier,” Molander said Wednesday. “A lot of older newspapers contained news, whether it was from their town or township, that included gossip and what people were up to and who was visiting who in town.

“There’s no way you would be able to find that information unless you were scrolling through” the whole newspaper, he said.

The State Historical Society keeps copies of every daily and weekly newspaper in the state to preserve the history of those communities.

Molander said his office had high-quality microfilm of the Banner’s archives dating back to 1882, three years after the state’s oldest weekly newspaper began publication.

The deputy state archivist stopped in Hillsboro this fall to pick up bound editions of the newspaper from 1931 to 1959 so those issues could be digitized in the future.

Jack Ludwig said he’s hoping money can be raised to cover the costs of putting more editions of the Banner online.

The cost to digitize the 1882 to 1922 issues totaled more than $2,000, a fee that was covered by private donations, he said.

The Ludwigs spend half their year in Hillsboro and travel to Australia, where Rosalind grew up and where the couple met at a conference, during the winter months.

Jack Ludwig said he’s looking forward to returning to Australia and being able to scroll through century-old editions of the paper looking for information about his ancestors.

He’s already stumbled across stories about his great-great-grandfather, who was apparently jailed for trying to sell mortgaged land back in 1885.

“He actually owed a debt to Amos Plummer, the man who owned this house,” said Jack Ludwig, pointing his finger to the ceiling of the Plummer House Museum.

“He was forced to sell the land in a sheriff’s sale where they’d haul you to the steps of the courthouse and auction off the land.”

Rosalind Ludwig said it’s those kinds of stories that make their research worthwhile.

“You don’t want to know just when people were born and died and where they were buried,” she said.

Cory Erickson, one of the Banner’s publishers, said the newspaper plans to make a donation to the ongoing digitization effort.

Having the Banner’s archives online can help reporters with their research and gives genealogy buffs a better alternative to find stories about their families rather than flipping through stacks of newspapers, he said.

Molander said he’s in talks with people in Flasher, N.D., about 45 miles southwest of Bismarck, about digitizing a paper that published there in the 1910s and 1920s.

He’s also had preliminary talks about a similar project in Bottineau, N.D.

“Digitization makes sense. If you’re a public library in Hillsboro, and you have all those newspapers on microfilm, you have to go to the library to look at them,” Molander said.

“Whereas if you digitize them, now you can look at them from the comfort of your own home. But getting the word out is important. People need to be aware it’s available.”

Readers interested in reading the Banner’s archived editions from 1882 to 1922 can visit http://hillsboro.advantage-preservation.com.

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