Cow's remains spark debate on NDSU campus
Some North Dakota State University researchers believe it's time to excavate one of the most revered figures in school history.
Noble's Golden Marguerite was a champion Jersey dairy cow that produced nearly 1,000 pounds of butter fat in 1921, a state record that stood for nearly 50 years. The president at the time and others at a school affectionately known as "Cow College" and "Moo U" honored her with a monument that was originally placed in front of the school's dairy building.
Some think the monument -- a granite boulder with a bronze plaque hailing her as a "gold medal cow" -- marked the spot where she was buried in 1932. Others say there's no proof. The boulder has since been moved to a more obscure location on campus.
"Should we dig a hole to see if she's still there?" asked NDSU professor Don Schwert, a geologist by trade. "It would be kind of nutty to do."
Schwert and others recently looked into borrowing remote sensor equipment used by archeologists, in an attempt to confirm the gravesite. They were told the instruments would not work because of the electrical field associated with all the buildings in the area.
With excavation as the only option, the bovine banter has begun.
Tom Isern, an NDSU history professor, said he's agnostic about Noble's Golden Marguerite's reported resting place.
"It doesn't matter if there's a cow there or not, we're still in the realm of folklore," Isern said.
One of Isern's former students, Matthew Boe, researched the cow for his senior seminar in history. Boe, 25, who has since graduated and is helping on the family farm near Perth, said he could not draw any conclusions from the semester-long project.
"The references say she had a grand burial, but they never say specifically where she was buried," Boe said. "I would like to think she's buried right there in front of the dairy building. I hope she is. But I honestly don't know."
The issue gained steam while Schwert and Mike Robinson, NDSU's archivist, were researching a book on the history of the university's geography program. They would like to see the school's one-time dairy building restored to its original facade, which for years was adorned by a 2-foot concrete cow's head. Robinson has the head in storage.
Their plan would return the monument -- moved to a different site on campus about 20 years ago -- to its original spot in front of the building, which is now home to engineering technology.
Robinson's research recently led him to a photograph in the NDSU archives that shows a hole in the ground with a caption that reads, "Noble's Golden Marguerite -- Grave." The problem, Isern said, is that neither Robinson nor Boe have been able to find any published reports of the grave until 1948.
"That gives us 16 years to develop a legend," Isern said. "You've got that picture of a hole in the ground, but all that proves is that there was a hole in the ground. Perhaps the owner of the cow changed his mind. Or the owner of the cow didn't get the memo and had already disposed of the carcass. Or a health official said you can't bury a cow on campus. That picture raises more questions than it answers."
Documents show that Noble's Golden Marguerite was born on Sept. 22, 1914, and died on Aug. 12, 1932, at the age of 18. Her owner, Samuel F. Crabbe, had a dairy farm in what is now south Fargo. The idea to bury her on campus reportedly was the brainchild of Crabbe, school president John H. Shepperd and dairy professor J.R. Dice.