Building demolition stirs up legend of cow rumored to be buried at NDSU

Noble's Golden Marguerite stands in this 1922 photo with an unknown handler. The Jersey cow once held the record for most butterfat produced in a year in North Dakota and is believed to be buried at North Dakota State University. NDSU Archives / Special to The Forum

FARGO — For years, many who roamed the campus of North Dakota State University wondered if a dairy cow was buried in front of the geosciences building, and now the legend connected to “Moo U” may be uncovered, literally.

The geosciences building was demolished last week in preparation for construction of a $51 million science facility meant to replace the nearby Dunbar Hall, which also will be demolished after construction is completed in 2 ½ to 3 years.

Cleanup on the geosciences building should wrap up this week, and foundation work could start at the end of the month, said NDSU Facilities Management Director Michael Ellingson.

But before razing began, crews dug in the northwest corner in front of the geosciences building, where it was believed Noble’s Golden Marguerite, a record-setting Jersey cow from the early 20th century, was laid to rest in 1932.


To reach some utilities that needed to be shut off, workers were digging in the area where they thought the cow may be, based on archival evidence, but Ellingson said, “we didn’t find anything.”

Legend has it that record-setting dairy cow Noble's Golden Marguerite was buried in 1932 in this grave near the dairy building, later known as the geosciences building, at North Dakota State University. NDSU Archives / Special to The Forum

The geosciences building has roots in agriculture. It was built in 1913 as the dairy building after the North Dakota Legislature approved $50,000 for its construction.

Former Fargo city engineer and dairy rancher Samuel Crabbe secured those funds for the building, as well as dairy barns for what was then called North Dakota Agricultural College, according to university archives. Originally from Wisconsin, Crabbe came to Fargo in 1891, oversaw the Broadway paving project and was responsible for installing drainage ditches across Cass County, archival documents said.

Crabbe also was at one point the president of the American Jersey Cattle Club. His crowning achievement was raising Noble’s Golden Marguerite , who famously produced 977.69 pounds of butterfat at age 7. She held the record for the most butterfat produced by a North Dakota cow until 1969, archives said. Her name came from her father, Noble Duke of Oaklands, and her mother, Goldie’s Marguerite.

After Noble’s Golden Marguerite died in 1932, a boulder with a plaque telling of her accomplishments was placed on the northwest lawn of the dairy building. A concrete bust of her head also was mounted on the front of the building, according to archives.


A statue of Noble’s Golden Marguerite, a Jersey cow who was a state champion butterfat producer, sits inside the North Dakota State University Archives building on Tuesday, May 5, in Fargo. Alyssa Goelzer / The Forum

Was she buried there?

Archival photos show a supposed grave that was dug for the cow, with the boulder reportedly marking Noble’s Golden Marguerite’s resting place. David Buchanan, associated dean for academic programs at the college of agriculture, food systems and natural resources, was told her body was placed into a box before being buried, but it’s unknown if she was given a casket.

The grave likely wasn’t very deep, he said, and "it is possible that soil microbes would have consumed her pretty completely after nearly 100 years.”

Some have debated whether the cow was buried in the northwest corner of the building’s lawn, or if she was buried anywhere at all on campus, Cass County Extension Agent Don Kinzler said. The NDSU alumnus had classes in the building during the 1970s and an office there when he worked for extension horticulture.

Fargo's Milk Day Exhibit in August 1923 featured butterfat from Noble's Golden Marguerite, a Jersey dairy cow who, in 1921, set the North Dakota record for most butterfat produced in one year. NDSU Archives / Special to The Forum

Kinzler would walk past the boulder and plaque almost daily. He said he and others talked about whether the cow was buried there, but those who would have had firsthand knowledge have likely all died, he said.

“It was always a fun rumor, even when the building was a horticulture building,” Kinzler said.


Buchanan also was a student in the 1970s. His father was the head of the animal science department from 1945 to 1976.

This photo from the 1950s shows the boulder and plaque commemorating Noble's Golden Marguerite at the northwest corner of the dairy building, later known as the geosciences building, at North Dakota State University. Also visible is the concrete bust of the Jersey cow's head attached to the building. NDSU Archives / Special to The Forum

“I was an animal science major,” Buchanan said. “I had classes in that building. … The idea that there was a dairy cow buried in front of the building there didn’t necessarily seem unusual to me.”

There was talk in the early 2010s of borrowing remote sensor equipment used by archeologists to find the rumored grave, but news clippings say the equipment wouldn’t work because of an electrical field connected to the buildings.

The boulder was eventually moved to Shepperd Arena after horticulture took over the dairy barn in 1976. The concrete bust also was removed and sits in NDSU’s archive storage building.

Buchanan said it would be fun to find Noble’s Golden Marguerite. But, he said, “I’m not going to hold my breath until that happens."


A plaque that tells the story of Noble's Golden Marguerite, a record-setting dairy cow, sits in front of Sheppard Arena at North Dakota State University. April Baumgarten / The Forum

April Baumgarten joined The Forum in February 2019 as an investigative reporter. She grew up on a ranch 10 miles southeast of Belfield, N.D., where her family raises Hereford cattle. She double majored in communications and history/political science at the University of Jamestown, N.D.
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