Remembering Jerome “Jerry” Tweton

Jerry Tweton
Jerry Tweton

D. Jerome (Jerry) Tweton, Chester Fritz Distinguished Professor Emeritus of History, died unexpectedly of a heart attack at his home in Fessenden, N.D., on Nov. 20, 2019. A tribute to Jerry will be held in Grand Forks later in the spring.

The 86-year old noted educator and author taught and headed the history department at the University of North Dakota for more than 20 years beginning in 1965. He was raised and educated in Grand Forks prior to graduating from Gustavus Adolphus, UND, and receiving a Ph.D. in history from the University of Oklahoma.

Tweton married Phyllis Meier and returned to UND in 1965 where in addition to serving as chair of the history department he brought a love of history to thousands of students in the classroom until his retirement.

Tweton was the recipient of numerous awards and honors and in addition to being named Professor Emeritus at UND he was named a Chester Fritz Distinguished Professor and served as the chairman of the Grand Forks school board.

UND History Professors D. Jerome Tweton (standing) and Richard Berlinger, Feb. 1988

Tweton was passionate about history and education. He organized and was the first chair of the Northern Great Plains History Conference and a member of the founding committee and first chair of the North Dakota Committee on the Humanities. He also served on the boards of several publications including the North Dakota Quarterly and North Dakota History.

Tweton also wrote numerous books including The Marquis De Mores: Dakota Capitalist, French Nationalist; The Years of Despair: North Dakota in the Depression (with Dan Rylance). He also authored numerous articles for historical publications and spent summers traveling with his revived and beloved Great Plains Chautauqua portraying characters such as Theodore Roosevelt, Alexander “Boss” McKenzie and John Jacob Astor.

Tweton believed that history was found not only in books but also in discussions with people who shared his interest with learning about and preserving the past.

Jerry married Paula Torrance in 1985 in Grand Forks and upon his retirement the two purchased the Beiseker Mansion in Fessenden which they operated as a bed and breakfast.

Jerry continued his love of North Dakota, writing, and research and enjoyed life in a small town. The highlight of his year was giving out Widman’s caramel apples at Halloween and spending time with his beloved dog, Bean, and cats Stripey and Peachy.

He is survived by his loving wife, Paula; children, Karin Tweton, Eric Tweton (Joneen Iverson) and Karla Tweton, and grandson Richard Ralston all of Grand Forks; sister-in-law Patty Tweton of Portland, OR; parents-in-law Robert and Helen Torrance of Milton; brothers-in-law, John (Maxine), West Fargo; Jim, Jamestown; and several nieces and nephews. He was preceded in death by his parents, brother, Dennis, and pets Bean, Stripey, and Peachy. Jerry was deeply loved and respected. He will be missed by thousands who enjoyed his classes, sense of history, and humor.

“Oh, I have slipped the surly bonds of earth…”

Online condolences may be left at

Tweton was also memorialized in the Grand Forks Herald here.