Joseph McMurray Devine was born on March 15, 1861 in Wheeling, West Virginia son of Hugh E. and Jane (McMurray) Devine and grandson of John Devine and William and Isabelle McMurray. As a 12 year old, Devine began gaining business experience delivering the Wheeling Daily Register and helping his father at the landscape and florist business. After being educated in the schools of Wheeling, Devine graduated from University of West Virginia in 1881. A strong supporter of the Republican Party even at a very early age, at age 22 he traveled the state for the presidential campaign.
He moved to Dakota Territory in 1884. He filed on land in what is now LaMoure County, but farmed for only a short time.
Devine was one of the state's earliest educators and promoted a strong education system for its citizens. In 1886, he was elected LaMoure County Superintendent of Schools, serving for a 2 year term. He became president of the North Dakota State Education Association in 1889, and his work on behalf of education in North Dakota was credited as “potent and far reaching. Much of the state’s general system of education is due to his untiring efforts . . .”
Joseph Devine served as a delegate to the Republican National Convention in St. Louis in 1896 and as one of the vice-presidents of the convention. Later that year, he ran for the office of lieutenant governor on the Republian ticket led by former Mandan resident Frank Briggs. While lieutenant governor in 1897, Devine became vice-president of the National Sound Money League, a position through which he wrote several articles on finance that were carried extensively in Eastern papers. Upon Governor Briggs' death on August 9, 1898, he became North Dakota's sixth governor. But Devine served as governor for less than one year since he opted to run again in November 1898 again as the lieutenant governor candidate, now with Frederick Fancher leading the ticket. Although owner of the second shortest tenure as governor in the state’s history, Devine was instrumental in passing several educational reforms during the 1899 legislature.
In November 1900 he was elected North Dakota’s State Superintendent of Public Instruction and served a two year term.From 1905-1911, he was chairman of the Progressive-Republican Party in North Dakota and temorarily relocated to Minot.But in 1914, he was appointed Superintendant of the State Training School at Mandan in 1914 (today known as the Youth Correctional Center). He also served for a term as chairman of the State Normal School Board of Trustees (today known as the State Board of Higher Education).
ND State Reform School c. 1906
Devine served at the State Training School until appointed the state's Commissioner of Immigration in 1923.Devine was reappointed to that office by two more governors and served until his retirement in 1933.
Devine untiringly promoted his adopted state. In addressing the North Dakota Annual Banquet in Washington, D.C., in February 1928, he said, “We have everything that a prospective home settler seeks or can desire . . . North Dakota leads all states in the production of No. 1 hard wheat, flax, barley, winter rye and fourth in oats . . . North Dakota’s citizenry is as sound as her No. 1 hard wheat and as clean as the air they breathe . . . .” Former Governor Devine was among the dignitaries who dedicated the Peace Monument at Cannonball, September 3, 1932.
In 1891, Devine married Ida Frances Holloway at Lake Crystal, Minnesota. However his wife died and left a daughter. In 1900, Devine married Mary Bernadine Hanscom from Michigan, and they had three additional children (Douglas-b.1902; Helen-b.1903; and Bernadin-b.1905).He and his wife Mary raised their family at the home at 708 Second St NW.The couple eventually relocated to a smaller residence at 117˝ 4th Ave NE and finished out their retirement years there.They were members of Mandan’s First Presbyterian Church. Joseph was also a thirty-second-degree Mason, was a member of the fraternal organization known as the Independant Order of Odd Fellows as well as the Knights of Pythias.
Joseph Devine died of a heart attack on August 31, 1938 in Mandan. His widow Mary remained in Mandan until her death December 14, 1951. They are buried beside each other in UnionCemetery, Mandan, ND.
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