Harry Basford Papers (S245)


Historical Sketch

Harry Basford was born at Deer River, Minnesota on May 21, 1908. He married Emma Miler on June 19, 1937. His education included grade and high school and two years of University training. He attended night school for over four years. He moved to the Wolf Lake, Minnesota area in 1941 where he operated a dairy farm.

Harry Basford was elected to his first term in the legislature in 1949 and was defeated by Frank DeGroat of Lake Park in 1962. While in the legislature he served as chairman of the House Game and Fish Committee and had an early concern for lake pollution. He also served on committees for Indian Affairs. At the time of his death, June 18, 1974, he was the director for Mahube and president of the Becker County Farmers Union. He was also active in area organizations concerned with sports, wildlife, and was a member of the Wolf Lake town board. He was survived by his wife and was buried in the Spruce Grove Apostolic Church cemetery on June 21, 1974.

Papers from the Grass Root Funds for Farmers are also included in this collection (see below).

Collection Description

The collection is arranged chronologically from 1948-1973. The collection is a political collection, composed of the legislation papers of Harry Basford. The bulk of the material covers the years from 1971-1973. The collection generally consists of proposals and legislation endorsed by Harry Basford, newspaper clippings, journal reports, agendas, letters, correspondence, speech materials and other related material.

Historical Sketch

The National Farmers Organization (NFO) was organized on September 21, 1955 at Corning, Iowa. The general philosophy of the organization is collective bargaining for agriculture. According to Oren Lee Staley, president of the NFO, “If farmers want higher prices, they will have to do it themselves by organizing to bargain collectively. A hard battle will have to be waged to do this, but it is the only way of saving the family farm. The very future of the family type farm hangs on the success of the NFO.”

There are four general levels of organization in the NFO. The highest is that of the national officers and the national board of directors. Under the national organization are the state, congressional district and county units. State organizations have the duty and responsibility to work for the enactment of laws which may be responsive to the needs of the members and to repeal laws which may be reactionary in nature and do not represent the viewpoint of the majority of the members. The purpose of the congressional district organizations is nearly all political, as outlined in the bylaws of the NFO. The county organizations hold monthly meetings and provide the bulk of the membership an opportunity to participate actively. Each member is assessed $25 annually to cover the cost of membership.

Oren Lee Staley became the president of the NFO on December 15, 1955. He was born May 6, 1923 in Missouri. He made an outstanding record in 4-H club work, being especially interested in purebred cattle. After graduating from high school as the salutatorian of his class, he attended Northwest Missouri State College for two years. When the NFO was organized, he was farming a 400 acre operation adjoining his father’s farm. He had a herd of about sixty purebred Shorthorn cattle and raised about 600 hogs a year. Married to a farm girl, he was the father of three children. He was also a member of the Farm Bureau at the time.*

The Grass Roots Fund for Farmers (GRFFF), a dissident group of the NFO, was organized to oppose the president of the NFO, charging that “he did not abide by the articles of the NFO, the NFO master contracts and the NFO agreements.”

Harry Basford, the donor of this collection, served as the secretary-treasurer of the GRFFF. He also served as president of the Becker County Chapter of the NFO; Director of Publicity and Public Relations for the Minnesota Chapter of the NFO; and Director of Public Relations for the Seventh Congressional District of the Minnesota NFO.

*The above information was found in George Brandsberg, The Two Sides in NFOs Battle (Iowa State University Press, 1964).

Collection Description

The collection, which is arranged chronologically, consists of the correspondence and miscellaneous papers of the Grass Roots Fund for Farmers and the Becker County Chapter of the National Farmers Organization.

Included in the collection are copies of letters (1964-1967) written by Oren Lee Staley to the membership of the NFO; minutes of the monthly meetings of the Becker County Chapter of the NFO (1963-1967); minutes of the first meeting of the GRFFF at Grove City, Minnesota (July 30, 1966); three letters written by Senator Robert Kennedy to Basford (May 2, June 9, 21, 1967) and copies of two letters sent by Basford to the Senator (June 20, 27, 1967); and a proposed preamble to the “new” NFO constitution, written by Basford (July 19, 1967).


Box 1

  • Correspondence - American Indians in Minnesota. 1957-59
  • Civil Defense Blood Bank
  • Conservation, Game and Fish. 1957, 1959, 1961
  • Engineering/Veterans Affairs. 1954
  • Firearm Safety/Indian Affairs. 1955-56, 1961
  • Hunting. 1953
  • Insurance. 1952
  • Miscellaneous. 1941-51, 1957-61
  • Veterans Affairs. 1958
  • Milk Production. 1960

Box 2

  • Correspondence
  • Miscellaneous. 1962-1967
  • Indian Affairs/Conservation. 1962, 1967
  • Federal Land Bank. 1963
  • Miscellaneous. 1962-66
  • National Farm Organization
  • Lawsuit. 1966, 1967
  • Miscellaneous. 1963, 1965
  • Grass Root Funds for Farmers (GRFFF)
  • Correspondence. 1966-67
  • Finance. 1966-67
  • Newsletters/Minutes. 1966
  • Community Development. 1967

Box 3

  • Correspondence
  • Mahube Community Council. 1968-71
  • Miscellaneous. 1968-1971
  • National Farm Organization/GRAFF - Newsletter/Minutes. 1968-71
  • Minnesota CEP. 1968-71
  • Indian Affairs. 1969
  • CAC/OEO. 1970
  • Conservation Corps. 1970

Box 4

  • Correspondence
    • Becker County Welfare. 1973
    • Farmers Union. 1973
    • Indian Affairs. 1972
    • Mahube Community Action Programs. 1972
    • Minnesota CEP. 1972
    • Miscellaneous. 1972-1973
    • National Farm Organization. 1972- 73
    • OEO. 1973
  • Miscellaneous. 1972
  • Bills
    • Aid to Dependent Children. 1961
    • Game and Fish. 1955, 1957, 1961
    • Miscellaneous
    • Water/Wetlands. 1959
    • Wild Rice. 1949

Box 5(all files undated)

  • Conservation and Wildlife
  • GRFFF/Minnesota Dairyman’s Union
  • Indian Affairs
  • Mahube
  • Minnesota CEP
  • Miscellaneous
  • Names/Address
  • National Farmers Organization
  • Politics
  • Taxes

Box 6

  • Booklets and Other Material
    • Building Commission Reports. 1961-62
    • California Fish and Game. 1958
    • Fiscal Facts for Minnesota. 1959
    • Game and Fish Commission Report
    • Indians of Minnesota Improving Economic Well-Being
    • Interim Committee on Indian Affairs. 1958
    • Legislative Building Commission Report. 1961-1962
    • Mahube Community Council Executive Board.
    • Notebooks (Personal)/Scrapbook
    • Red Lake Indian Reservation Plan

Box 7

  • Grass Roots Fund for Farmers (GRFFF) - 1960, 1962-67, undated
  • Oral Interviews