John Dinnie


John Dinnie. Brick Contractor and Manufacturer. In visiting the Metropolitan opera house one cannot fail to observe that the strength and beauty of the building is due chiefly to the brick work. The uniformity of color certainly is the attraction of the exterior view. The committee examined samples of all the bricks to be obtained in this section and after careful consideration came to the conclusion that to produce the desired color and effect the best bricks manufactured were by Mr. John Dinnie. After this decision, an examination was made of the various buildings and Mr. Dinnie was chosen as builder. A view of the completed building certainly commends the decision of the committee. The contractor familiarly called Jack, was born in Dundas county, Ont., nine years ago he came to Dakota an ‘tis claimed $15 was his worldly possession at that time. This, however, gave him no uneasiness, being endowed with wonderful ambition and an indomitable will, he applied himself closely to business. A thorough understanding coupled with an ever increasing popularity served to not only give him plenty of work but wealth. Three years ago he established a brick yard here, which is now being filled with a new plant of the latest improved machinery and next spring our city can well boast of the finest brick yard in Dakota. During the nine years Mr. Dinnie has been with us, it is claimed he has realized fortune. He is one of the large stockholders of the opera house, and recognized as one of Grand Forks leading citizens – worthy of esteem and respected by all citizens. (Grand Forks Daily Herald, Tuesday Evening, November 11, 1890, Volume XX, Number 9, Page 1)

Mayor (John) Dinnie in attempting to rescue a lady on DeMers avenue fell in the drink himself (during the record Red River Flood of 1897), yesterday, and Officer Sullivan fished them both out. (Grand Forks Daily Herald, Saturday, April 10, 1897, Page 4)

Page 237. JOHN DINNIE, widely known as a worthy citizen of Grand Forks, North Dakota, is the present mayor of that city, and is identified with its advancement in social and financial affairs. He is one of the leading business men of the place and has won his way to the front steadily and now stands as a man of public spirit and commendable character. Our subject was born near the St. Lawrence river in Dundas county, Ontario, Canada, August 24, 1853. His parents, John and Mary (Gow) Dinnie, were born in Scotland and emigrated to Canada in 1849 and settled in Dundas county and engaged in farming. They still reside on the old home place. Three sons and six daughters were born to them, and the sons now reside in North Dakota. Mr. Dinnie received his early training in Canada and then learned the trade of a brick and stone mason, and in 1881 went to Grand Forks county, North Dakota and followed his trade there for some years. He engaged in the manufacture of brick in 1889 and the following year his brother, James A. Dinnie, became a partner in the business, and the firm took the name of Dinnie Brothers and still exists and follows brick manufacturing. The Grand Forks Brick Company was organized in 1894, and our subject is the director of the same. They also conduct an extensive business in contracting and building, and also farming. Mr. Dinnie was married in 1876 to Miss Ellen Schwerdfegar, a native of Canada. Eight children, two sons and six daughters, have been born to Mr. and Mrs. Dinnie. Mr. Dinnie served as alderman from the fifth ward in Grand Forks four years, and in 1896 he was elected mayor of the city. His popularity is evidenced by the fact that he was returned to the office in 1898, and had no opposition to meet

Page 238. in his election. He is a member of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows, Knights of Pythias, and Elks. He is loyal and determined in his adherence to the right and to his friends, and occupies a prominent place among the leaders of affairs of Grand Forks, North Dakota. (Compendium of History and Biography of North Dakota, Geo. A. Ogle & Co., Chicago, 1900)

Page 1003. Dinnie Brothers. – The Dinnie Brothers are probably the largest contractors in the state of North Dakota. More cities and towns in the valley of the Red river are creations of that firm to a larger extent in the brick and stone building line than can be attributed to any other firm in this part of the Northwest. To particularize would be to require mention of almost hundreds of buildings, and in point of time cover a period extending over a quarter of a century.

Page 1004. John and James Dinnie came to Grand Forks, March 20, 1881. They began as common brick-layers and, in a small way, began a career which subsequently led to its present large proportions, and until now, by their skilled work and successful management against all competition, the Red River valley throughout its entire length has been dotted by buildings of their own construction. Their work has also extended west of the Minnesota line as far as Rugby, and for many years they have been giving employment to one and two hundred men constantly, requiring an expenditure annually of one or two hundred thousand dollars. Such buildings as the Young Men’s Christian Association, the Carnegie library, the Clifford building, the Norman Glass block, the Hotel Dacotah, the New Hampshire block and the Corliss block are a few of the many structures that have been erected by this firm in Grand Forks. Fargo was largely rebuilt by them since the fire in 1894. Creditable mention also for much work done in Hillsboro, Grafton, Mayville, Northwood, Larimore, Langdon, Michigan City, Devils Lake and other places should be given to them. At the present time the firm have some very extensive undertakings on hand: the St. Michael’s Hospital for the Sisters of St. Joseph, a branch of the Sisters in St. Paul; St. Bernard’s Academy; a large three-story building on Third street; the large roller skating rink for W. R. Jack; the school of mines for the State University, and a large building for Mr. Deidlick at East Grand Forks. The brothers own a brick yard on a three quarter section of land near the State University and manufacture three and four million brick annually. They obtain their building stone from St. Paul and Minneapolis. The firm consists of John Dinnie, for eight years mayor of Grand Forks; of James Dinnie, a member of the school board, and A. S. Dinnie, son of John, who is at the head of the sidewalk department. (History of The Red River Valley Past and Present, Volume II, C. F. Cooper & Company, Chicago, 1909)

FORMER MAYOR JOHN DINNIE PASSES AWAY. Prominent Pioneer Resident of Grand Forks Died Yesterday. Death Came Following Long Illness as Relief from Pain. Shortly after 3 o’clock yesterday afternoon (December 8, 1910), Grand Forks lost another of her prominent citizens and former mayors, when John Dinnie, aged 57 years, passed away at his home, 302 North Fifth street. Death came after an illness of many months from a complication of diseases, and although the end was not unexpected, the news came as a distinct shock to Mr. Dinnie’s many friends in this city. He was a resident of Grand Forks for over 25 years and it is doubtful whether there was a better known man in Grand Forks. The first indication that the end was near came late Wednesday afternoon and evening, when the patient began to suffer from hemorrhages. Yesterday morning he suffered another hemorrhage, and from that time on sank slowly but steadily until the end finally came. Mr. Dinnie first began to suffer from poor health over a year ago, but for a time it seemed as though he had conquered the ailment. Complications, however, set in, and this fall he was taken to Rochester, Minn., for treatment. Here everything that medical aid could do was performed, but all in vain. Stomach trouble of a most critical nature was the immediate cause of death, and the end came as a relief from intense suffering.

Funeral Services Sunday. “John Dinnie is dead.” As this word passed from mouth to mouth yesterday afternoon, expressions of regret and esteem were heard from everyone. By a strange co-incidence Grand Forks has lost in the months two of her former mayors, John Dinnie and General Brown. Funeral arrangements had not been completed last evening, but it has been determined that the funeral services will take place on Sunday afternoon at 3 o’clock, probably from the First Presbyterian church. The deceased was a member of the Odd Fellows, Elks, Yeomen and Knights of Pythias, and it is certain that these lodges will take part in the services. Flags on the public buildings of the city flew at half-mast when the word reached the outside world that Mr. Dinnie had died. The funeral on Sunday will undoubtedly be the most largely attended obsequies ever held in the city.

Story of Life. John Dinnie was born in St. Lawrence county, Ontario, Canada, on Aug. 24, 1853. His parents came to Canada from Scotland as immigrants in 1849, and settled in Dundas county, Ontario, where they engaged in farming. Mr. Dinnie was born on the farm and received his education in the common schools. When but little more than a boy, he learned his trade, that of brick and stone mason, and in 1881 he came to North Dakota, then the little known west, and settled in Grand Forks, taking up his trade. Naturally the young mason at first began to make his way working for contractors, but he was frugal and ambitious, and in 1889 he became a contractor and up until he retired from active life over a year ago, he was senior member of the firm of Dinnie Bros. of this city, one of the largest contracting firms of the kind in the state. As a workman Mr. Dinnie was reliable and thorough, and these characteristics marked his career. He rose rapidly in the esteem of his fellow townsmen, until in 1896 he became mayor of Grand Forks, and in this important office he served for four consecutive terms, a period of 8 years. This was a time when Grand Forks was a rapidly growing city, a time when the man at the head of the city’s activities needed to be a man of unusual aggressiveness, and of excellent business ability. He needed, moreover, to be a man who had the city’s interests at heart at all times. Such a man was John Dinnie. Grand Forks was his home, in Grand Forks he invested his money and his one desire was to see Grand Forks prosper, and to this end he devoted his best energies. He was successfully for during those eight years Grand Forks did prosper and grow. The business judgment of the mayor was excellent, and his administrations were marked with his effort to benefit Grand Forks.

Mr. Dinnie was married in 1876 to Miss Ellen Schwedferer, who survives him, and he also leaves eight children to mourn his loss. These are: Misses Alice, Hazel, Marion, Pearl, Mrs. C. L. Van Alstine and Mrs. Charles Ryan, Arthur Dinnie and John Dinnie, Jr. Arthur Dinnie is now an active member of the firm of Dinnie Bros., and all the children are residents of this city and were at the bedside of their father during his prolonged illness. The deceased was a member of the Odd Fellows, the Elks, the Knights of Pythias and the Yeomen lodges.

Esteemed by Fellows. The best testimony as to the esteem in which any many is held is that which his neighbors and fellow-townsmen give. In the life of John Dinnie several characteristics stand out with special prominence. He was a man who worked hard, who struggled against adversity and against the handicaps with undaunted determination. Few men under the circumstances, educational and otherwise, in which he found himself, could have won the signal success accorded him. He was a man of business integrity and of scrupulous honesty. He remembered his friends and faced his enemies unwaveringly. When sickness took him he had left the active and varied activities to which he devoted the better part of his life and was on the verge of enjoying his remaining years in travel and recreation. He had fought a good fight and was prepared to reap the rewards of honest toil. At this time when financially he was able to really enjoy himself without the harassing business worries, sickness came and the anticipated pleasures of travel and quiet living were denied him. Around the early history of Grand Forks many incidents show the patriotism of John Dinnie to his home city. Grand Forks was his hobby, and in losing him this city lost a man who had what he believed to be the best interests of this city at heart, and to whom with other pioneers who smoothed over the rough places, must be given a large share of credit for advantages, civic, educational and otherwise which present citizens now enjoy. (Grand Forks Daily Herald, Friday Morning, December 9, 1910, Volume XXX, Number 34, Page 10)


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