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Full text of "History of Grand Forks County. With special reference to the first ten years of Grand Forks City, including an historical outline of the Red River Valley"

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BY h: vfARNOLD. 
Larimore: Pioneer Office. 


A? A7 







rpHE history of the Red River Valley, so far as it has been published in 
_L this state, appears to have been confined to newspaper, magazine and 
other sketches. The next step is special pamphlets, and finally will come the 
bound books of the future. No really good history of the valley which will in- 
clude the era of the settlements, can be written until some progress has been 
made in collecting facts of that character concerning each of the counties of 
the Red River tier. The history of that part of the valley south of the inter- 
national boundary is chiefly confined to its North Dakota side, which, in- 
deed, is the best portion of it in United States territory. The current of its 
history, however, also includes a strip of territory along the Minnesota side 
of Red River and which extends from Georgetown to Breckenridge. But the 
North Dakota side of the valley is specially historic ground, particularly its 
northern boundary around Pembina and Walhalla. 

Any work, even in pamphlet form, purporting to be a history of any one of 
the counties of the Red River tier of North Dakota, must necessarily sift 
over the accumulating records that belong to the history of the yalley in its 
entirety, for unless this be done, its old phase of life, the sequence of events 
and their bearing on the commencement of the modern epoch cannot be duly 
appreciated. The present is the outgrowth of past conditions; no hiatus, no 
abrupt transition separated the old phase of life in the valley from the com- 
mencement of the present civilization. Yet with the beginning of the latter 
account has to be taken of the great migration which has rendered this civil- 
ization a possibility. For a century past we have before us a rather contin- 
uous historic stream in the Northwest with which white men have been 

At present the literature bearing upon this subject, is in a rather discord- 
ant state, unsifted, and more or less filled with erroneous statements of fact, 
including discrepant and wrong dates. These sketches merely supply a tem- 
porary want. It would, perhaps, be a mistake to imagine that any permanent 
harm has been done in the matter of these errors; on the contrary, the dis- 
crepancies being apparent to anyone of critical intelligence, the outcome will 
be to stimulate others to investigate the facts they handle more carefully, so 
as to eliminate and correct the mistakes of their predecessors in the same 
field, also bringing to light other and new facts. 

A valuable series of articles on "Old Times in the Red River Valley," writ- 
ten by M. H. Morrill, were published in the Richland County Gazette in 1897 
and '98; during the first half of 1898 another valuable series entitled "The 
Long Ago" collected by Chas. H. Lee, editor of the Walhalla Mountaineer, 
appeared in his paper and were subsequently issued in pamphlet form. More 
recently, the Grand Forks Herald in a notable illustrated 40-page edition of 
June 27, 1899, commemorating its twentieth anniversary, was rich in respect 
to its historical contributions and which were remarkable for their accuracy. 
The Record Magazine, of Fargo, formerly edited by C. A. I^ounsberry, and 
more recently by W. F. Gushing, begun in May, 1895, has also since that date 
gathered a large fund of valuable historical and descriptive matter concern- 
ing the Red River Valley and state of North Dakota. Doubtless the files of the 
Northwest Magazine of St. Paul, contain many articles of similar character. 

Numerous brief historical sketches concerning the city of Grand Forks 
were formerly included in special editions of the city papers and were also 
used in a few other Avorks. The earlier history of Grand Forks has never 
been more than merely skimmed over, no atteinpt ever having been made in 
these publications to treat the subject in detail. The original nucleus of these 
sketches appears to have been an historical article that appeared in a large 
illustrated edition of the Plaindealer for Christmas week. 1890, if, indeed, it 
was not older. It is observable that the style and subject matter of that 
sketch has tinctured all subsequent writings upon the subject. There was 
an historical sketch covering much the same ground and which appeared in 
the first number of the weekly Herald In June, 1879, but that of the Plain- 
dealer appears to have been an independent production. The later sketches, 
although more or less amplified, as manipulated by different hands, all bear 
the stamp of the original exemplar. 


Portions of the present work have been clipped from articles by the writer 
that have appeared in the Larimore Pioneer during the last several years, 
the parts here retained having undergone more or less revision. In treating 
of the historical outline of the Red River Valley the earlier numbers ot the 
Record Magazine have occasionally been drawn upon for the basis of some 
of the facts narrated. As in the case of some other writers dealing with valley 
history, fragments from other sources have been now and then interwoven 
with the basis to round out paragraphs in respect to additional details, where 
these are not of the nature of extracts. In respect to the county history, much 
of it has been based upon the direct testimony of the Old Settlers, although 
contemporary records, always the best historical evidence, have been used 
so far as these have been obtainable. - 

Although great care has been exercised by the author in eliminating errors 
of statement and particularly erroneous dates from the materials used, it 
would be too much to claim that this work can be faultless in these respects. 
But whatever accuracy that portion of it may possess which bears upon the 
early history of the county and the city of Grand Forks, is due to the kindly 
help of the Old Settlers of the Red River Valley whose contributiou of facts 
are acknowledged either in footnotes or by name in the text, though innumer- 
able other points derived from them and others are inwrought into the various 
paragraphs of the last three parts of this work. In making these acknow- 
ledgments of assistance from others, we should also mention John Nelson, 
Register of Deeds of this county, in assisting us in an examination of the old- 
est records of his office: also W. P. Davies, city editor of the Grand Forks 
Herald, through whose courtesy we were enabled to look through the oldest 
bound file of that paper. 

The author himself has been a resident of the county since May, 1880, and 
considerable matter has been incorporated in this work derived from his 
own personal knowledge and observations. Moreover, for many years past, 
much information covering innumerable points of local history, "has also been 
derived from persons resident in and around Larimore. The inferences 
that have been drawn from any special fact, or group of facts, or comments 
on the same, are generally the thoughts of the writer. 


Page 1.— The figures for the 96th and 97th meridians should read 97th and 
98th meridians. The error resulted from a slip of memory. 

Page 2.— The breadth of the fiat valley plain on the main line of the Great 
NortLern Railway is at least thirteen miles wide. While the ten mile limit 
may be taken as a geological boundary, it is none the less certain that the 
district between the Elk Valley and Red River flats constitutes a distinct 
topographical land-belt of the county, although this may merge impercept- 
ably with the valley plain. This correction also correspondingly modifies 
the stated breadth of this central land belt. See Note A, p. 127. 

Page 11.— Altitude of Kempton, 1126 feet, should read 1127 feet. 

Page 13.— "Comparative few Indians." The first of these words should read 

Page 103.— E. O. Steelman, now a resident of Elm Grove township, states 
that he was of the party who emigrated from Minnesota to Turtle river in 
June, 1878, but arrived at Grrand Forks about ten days later than the others. 
H. A. Morgan came through with a team of horses the next fall. Edward 
Wheeler, it seems, was not an original settler, but bought out the claim or 
right of a colored man named James Hawarden. 

Pages 106 and 107.— The names of certain settlers of Inkster and Strabane 
townships given as Casey, Congrave and McEwen should have been spelled 
Corey, Congram and McElwain. Mr. Inkster states that he removed to the 
Mouse River country in August, 1882, and not in 1885. See Note H. 

P^^K,T I. 




HE NORTH jind south row of counties, six in 
number, tlmt border the enstern side of the ut.'ife 
of North Djikotii, constitute wiiat is called its 
"Ked Kiver tier." (irjind Forks county occu- 
pies nearly a midway position in this row, being: 
fourth in order from tlie south. The county is bounded north by 
Wsilsh, east by Red river which alwo forms the dividing line be- 
tween INiinnesota and North J^akota, south by 'I'raill and Steele, 
and west by Nelson county. The 48th pariillel of latitude crosses 
the county about four miles to the north of its medial line, and 
its area is almost wholly included between the 96th and 97th 


'I'he county has an average length of -10 miles from east to west, 
yet there is a difference of about twelve miles between the length 
of its southern and northern boundary lines, whicli is chiefly due to 
the westerly trend of Ked river where this stream flows abreast 
of the county. The south line toucliing Traill and Steele counties 
has a westward extension of about 47 miles from ttie river; an<i 
the north line touching W^alsh county extends 85 miles west from 
the river. As there are six rows of townships between these two 
boundary lines, ('I'owns 149 to 154 inclusive) they give the coun- 
ty from south to north a. brea<lth of o(> miles. The county is 
divided into 42 townships, thirty-six of which correspond with 
the surveyor's or government townships, the remaining ones be- 
ing those that border on lied river, or ihe parts of the congres- 
sional townships accruing to tho county by being bisected by this 
stream. The county contains 921,000 acres, or 1,440 square miles. 
This is a little more than (he total land area of the little state 
of l{hod(» Island. 

Tf I ^< T () R ^■ () F G R AND FORKS CO F N T Y 


The Imiidreds of counties in the Union dider widely in respect 
to ilieir topoj^rnphy or surface features. Their surfaces vary 
from those that lie broadly level to those that are mountainous 
in their physical aspect. The presence of lakes, river valleys, 
outcropping ledges of rock, forests and wooded hills, creates 
variety in the scenery and beautifies the landscape. In this 
county the differences in altitude are such as to have caused very 
marked changes in the form of the surface were these elevations 
converged nearer together so as to have given rise to steep hill 
sides or abrupt declivities; but this is not the case here. 

The surface of Grand Forks county is partially level and par- 
tially rolling, but, on the whole, has a graduiif ascent from the riv- 
er to the height of the upland country, the surface being more 
prominent in tracts of successively higher elev;ition than any 
otiier form. A line drawn from the city of Grand Forks across 
the center of the county to its western verge would cross four 
separate land belts, or districts in which somewhat different top- 
ographical coiiditions exist. First and- lowest comes the Red 
r.ver flats, a level prairie plain next to the river, and which ex- 
tends outward about ten miles on this line. Second in order, 
there occurs the midway slope of the main valley, a gradually 
ascending and gently rolling tract of about sixteen miles in width. 
'I'he third land belt is the "Elk Valley," a level prairie district 
that is four miles wide on the line now under consideration. 
J.MStly there comes the upland country, a district more rolling 
than hilly, which, within ihe county limits, is eight miles across 
on its medial line. 

Toward the southern border of tlie county the form of the sur- 
face is nearly similar to that just described .''or its incdial line, 
but with these viiriations: A narrower width to the fiat valley 
plain, a greater breadth to both the midway slope and the Elk 
Valley, and the inclusion of a wider portion of the upland coun- 
try within the county limits. 

In the northern part of the county, along its north tier of town- 
ships, the lay of the land varies a little from that already de- 
scribed. Here the flats extend somewhat farther west than in 
the southern half of the county; then a long, but slight ascent of 
the surface toward the west occurs, with an occasional slight 
ridge, until west of Inkster the latid further rises in a consider- 
able ridge; between this elevation and the uplands there is a 
shallow valley (the northern extension of the Elk Valley) and 
west of this the uolands rise to their usual height, their aftitude 
being nearly uniform through the west part of the county, but 
the breadth of this hill distri-^^t in this part of the county is less 
than the distance across a township. 

C; E N E R A L D E y f II I P T I () N ,'J 

On the whole, the surfnce of the county is mainly of the nature 
of a gradual or very <>entle rise westward from Red river, attain- 
ing a height of over 600 feet in forty miles. It is not exact to state 
that the county is a vast level plain. lUit such ascent as exists, 
is Dot an uniformly smooth rise; were it so, this would only av- 
erage fifteen or sixteen feet to the mile. Some of the slopes are 
several times greater than this, hut no very rough features exist 
in the county. 'I'he lowest land is presumably in 'I'urtle Kiver 
township; the highest in the county is some one of the elevated 
swells of the uplands, the extreme variation in altitude not be- 
ing from 050 feet. 

i'he topogrnphy of any countycliiefly determines its drainage 
directions. The drainage of Grand Forks county is chiefly fruin 
the uplands to Red river east by north, but with vaiiations from 
this direction in some parts of it. The central part is drained by 
Turtle river, a small stream with several smaller afttuents. To 
the north of the Turtle the slope of the land is more directly to- 
ward the east than the course of the stream itself,, but in the 
northern part of the county, within a limited area, the drain- 
age slope is northward to Forest river. Tliis stieam is mainlv 
confined within the limits of Walsh county, but its upper reaches 
intersect Inkster and Strabane townships of this county. li\ the 
eastern part the drainage is b')th northerly to the 'I'urtle and 
east to lied river. In its southwestern part, the drain;ige is Irom 
the uplands toward the southeast or by way of (Joose river, the 
principal stream of 'J'raill county. 

On the eastern slope ot the uplands, the drainnge lines are in 
the form of coulees, or narrow, winding ravines, some of which 
ai-e several miles in length, fifteen or twenty rods wide, and forty 
or fifty feet det^p, but dry through most of the year, though they 
sometimes contain through the summer pool-* and little trickling 
streams. Tfiere are a few small streams in the county, mere rills 
or brooks, which, after flowing several miles, disappear in the 
ground by absorption of the water, or in other cases, enter small 
ponds or marshes without permanent outlets. 

The flowage of streams jn this part of tlie Northwest is consid- 
erably less tiiitn would otherwise be the case, were the country 
largely covereii with lorests and underlaid by stiata, of bedrock 
atamodeiate depth from the surface, neither of which factors are 
present here. But these facts have their bearing on the cultiv- 
able area ol the county, there beirjg lio great amount of waste 
latid in it, resulting either from thickets, miirshes or hilly tracts. 


The valley plain forms a very extensive belt of level prairie 
land lying next to tJie river, and, in this county, it extends out- 
ward eight to twelve miles distant fronj the stream. The "Pied 

4 II I S T O 1? Y O F O E A N D F O R K S C O r; X T Y 

Kiver flats," as tliese lands are sometimes cilled, correspond to 
tlie alluvial bottom lands of niany bluff hemmed western rivers, 
which usually have much less width thnn the IJed Iiiver V^alley. 
The land has a slight rise toward the west, iwo to ihree or more 
feet to the mile, or sufficient to insure drainnge and prevent the 
flat hind becoming a morass. 'IMie streams crossing it flow mere- 
ly in chajinels sunk fifteen to twenty feet below the common 
prairie level. The altitude of Grjind Forks is 8oO leet above 
sea-level, and taking into consideration the slight westward as- 
cent of this land and the northward descent of the valley of .'lbou^ 
one foot to the mile, the average elevation of thnt j);irtofthe 
valley plain comprised in this county would range about ten feet 
higher than the site of Grand Forks. 'i'his hind has a deep and 
rich alluvial soil entirely free from stone. 

"Th'^ lied river has cut a channel twenty to fifty feet deep. It 
is bordered by only few and narrow areas of bottom land, instead 
«)f which its banks usually rise steeply on one side and by mod- 
erate slopes on the other to the lacustrine plain, which thence 
reaches nearly level ten to thirty miles from the river."* 

A very nmrked feature of the northwestern country is the tim- 
ber belts that fringe the banks of the larger ctrGams and to a 
considerable extent those of their tributaries. Helts of timber 
line both banks of Red river, following in a sort of zisr-zag or 
sinuous course, the windings of the stream, but as seen across 
country from a distance of several miles, it appears to form in- 
stead a dark band against the horizon that trends away to the 
north and south in nearly a straight course. This is all the more 
distinct in winter by contrast with the snow clad valley jilain. 
There are points in the county, where, from the higher land, the 
timl)er belt along Red river can be discerned at a distance of 
twenty to thirty miles, 


There is a broad belt of bowlder clay land running north and 
south, or bearing a little northwest and s ..utheast, Through the 
middle part of the county. It comprises the gentle slope of the 
Red River valley between the Klk Valley and uplands on the 
west, Jind the valley plain on the east. 'I'his land belt also ex- 
tends through Traill and W'alsh counties, and where it is trans- 
versely crossed by any of the tributaries of Red river, they flow 
in consideiable sized valleys containing timbered bottom Ian Is 
of limited extent, and as the streams have no very small amount 
of fall while crossing this belt, they have many rapids in bowl- 
der strewn channels, with occasional reaches of slack water. I'o 
the south of Turtle river, this district is gently undulating, or 

*The (ilacial Lake .\gassiz, by Warren I'pham, ]\Innoarapli of the rnite^l 
States (Jeoloaioal Smvey. Washington, isa=s. ii. I'O. 

G E X E U A L D i: S (Mi I P T I O X 5 

characterized by low, broad ridges. Between Larimore and 
Ojata and on the line of the Great Xorthern Railway, the descent 
of this slopii anionnts to abont 275 feet. The western 1,000 feet 
coiitonr line of the lied Kiver Valley passes throngh this county 
along this slope between Emerado and Arvilla, sind within one 
niile^of the latter place. It approaches nearer to the river in the 
southern part of the county, and recedes nioie awny from it to 
the north of its central part. This land belt has a sandy, but 
fertile surface loam and bowlder clay subsoil. Its western por- 
tion is 1,100 feet above sea-level. 


Persons living at a distance, and who are unfamiliar with this 
part of the county, are apt to suppose from its designation that 
the Elk N'^alley i^ the basin of some stream. h'rom McCanna 
south to CJoose river this land belt is more of the nature of a 
bench, or second prairie level of the main valley slope thiin an 
actual valley, since between the points named, it is bordere<i 
only on one'side of it by any prominent rise of the land. On its 
western border, the uplands constitute a prominent terrene, suf- 
ficiently marked to characterize one of the slopes of a broad 
and dee[) v lUey. Beyond McCanna the continuation of the liillc 
Valley is bordered on the east by a considerable ridge, hciii-e 
this p'jirt of it may properly be called a valley. 

The Elk Valley, taken in its entirety as a physical unity, is 
confined within the limits of three counties, hence it will be con- 
venient to describe it as a whole, notwithstanding its extension 
and projection into Walsh and 'I'raill counties, and division un- 
der two different local names. But mere local names do not im- 
ply any change of physical condition;s while geological bound- 
aries are very apt to disregard civil boundaries. 

'I'o the west of the center of Walsh county there occurs a broad 
ridge, which is quite distinct from the upbinds, and has nearly a 
north and south trend. Its location relative to the uplands is 
a few miles inward from the basi^ of the latter. The ridge has 
sotne extension into the northern part of Grand Forks county or 
through the townships of Jnkster and Agnes, reaching about to 
Turtle river. It is not continuous, since it is imerrupted at 
several point- by sags and depressions, including the passage 
through it of the Forest and the south branch of Park river. 
The ridge varies from abo:it one half mile to 2^ miles in breadth, 
its broader portions having an undulating contour of the surface. 
It widens toward the north and becomes more narrow and less 
prominently marked toward the south. Its western slope rises 
from 2') to 30 feet above tlie enclosed valley, with a larger amount 
(.f descent upon its eastern slope. Where the south Dranch of 
Bark rivei cuts through this ridge, it forms a gorge a quarter uf 


a mile wide and from 75 to 100 feet deep, along a distance of 1| 

In Walsh county the long", shallow depressi.)n between this 
ridge and the uplands is called the Golden Valley. As confined 
to Walsh county, it varies (rom 4^ to one mile in breadth, being 
contracted to this lesser distance at one point toward its north- 
ern termination. From the north branch of Forest river it has 
a northern extension of eighteen miles, and from the same point 
southward, so far as anything of the nature of a valley exists, it 
has a farther length of about sixteen miles. This sixteen mile 
stretch may properly be called the Elk Vallev. 

Its southerly continuation through Grand* Forks county and 
overlap into 'i'raill county, covers a distance of S5 miles, and as 
stated, this portion of the tract is of the nature of a second prairie 
level, not being enclosed on the east bv any prominent rise cf 
ground. As mapped out, this portion of the land belt is in the 
form of an elongated key-stone, or of an estuary to a river, and 
varies from four or five to ten or twelve miles in Jjreadth. This 
part IS called by Warren Upham, "The Delta of ihe Flk Valley." 
This IS in relation to its geological formation. The most of this 
tract forms a level prairie belt along the base of the uplands 
which, at l.arimore, is four miles wide. Tiiere is but litile rise 
of the level part of this land belt toward the uplands and what 
ascent exists is confined to a fringe of territorv a mile in breadth 
along their base. 

As a geological unity the whole tract, valley and prairie, has 
a total length of about 70 miles, with a very sliirht ascending 
slope from south to north, which is the reverse of that of the 
main valley. This is shown by the fact that iMayville and Port- 
land m the neighborhood of the southern ternnnation of this 
delta deposit have an altitude of 978 and 983 feet respectively 
while the northern end of the Golden Valley is about 1 200 feet 
above the sea, and intermediate points have a gradually in- 
creasing elevation northward. Around Larimore the land' has 
an average altitude of 1,130 feet, with variations of a iew feet 
above and below this level. 

The soil of the Flk Valley is a fertile, sandy clay loam the 
percentage of sand contained in it being of a fine sort rather 
than coarse grained. The subsoil is a sandy bed of clay but 
this IS not everywhere present. J.ike the soil of the valley plain, 
that of the Flk \ alley is free from bowlders, and more ponms. 


The western side Of the Red River Vallev in North Dakota 
and the Canadian provinces is bordered by a notable escarp- 
ment, much more conspicuous than the correspondiuir one on the 
eastern side of the valley. That on the west forms^ a second 


and for some portions of the v.illey, a third prairie level, wliicli 
is the Ciise in tliis county. This escarpment is separated at 
intervals by the entrnnce into the Red liiver Valley of streams 
from the west, vvhich in turn have wide valleys. These separat- 
ed portions of the common escarpment bear specific names, as 
Pembina, Riding and Duck mountains. Along the upper por- 
tion of the valley from Lake Traverse northward for about one 
Jjundred miles, this escarpment is low, possessing only a niod- 
erntely Jiscending slope, but farther north, and also in the Can- 
adian Dominion, its height increases, both above Red river and 
sea-level. Toward Lake Traverse the altitude above sea-level is 
about 1,200 feet, gradually increasing to 1,500 feet in the Pem- 
bina mountains, and towering to an elevation of 2,700 feet to 
the west of l^ake Winnipeg. From the head of the Coteau des 
Prairies north to Pembina county, this escarpment bears no 
specific name, being called sometimes the 'uplands," but more 
commonly the "hills." 

This escarpment forms the western verge of the ifJed River 
Valley. Its height forms a gently rolling upland country of a 
wid«^ area, extending westward toward J)evils lake. Belv/een 
Jiarimore and Devils Lake city, the surface nowhere exceeds 
an altitude of 1,585 feet on the railroad line. The hill country, 
within the limits of Grand Forks county, is commonly stated to 
have an elevation of oOO feet above the l^^lk Valley, and has 
about the same altitude within the limit just specified, as that of 
the village ot Niagara, which is 1,440 feet above sea-level. Some 
of the swells of the surface are likely to be more elevated. 

The comparatively small portion of the upland country wllliin 
the limits of this county, constitutes about one-sixth of the area 
of said county. There are practically five of its townships thstt 
are included in its hill district, and alsf) parts of several others. 
The soil is a gravelly clay loam of decomposed glacial drift, well 
mixed with organic matter, and makes fairly fertile land. 

(ie<jlogical formation. 

'I'he Red liiver Valley is underlaid at a considerable depth be- 
low the surface by strata of limestone, sandstone and shales of 
Cambrian age. At or below the base of the Cambrian there is 
also a thick rock stratum of a doubtful kind but generally class- 
ed as archean, called Laurentian granite. Above the Uambrian 
are strata of upper and lower Hilurian age but these rocks do not 
appear to extend up the valley as far as the center of this county. 
Still nearer the surface, but more particularly beneath the high- 
er land in the county, there exists a great body of marine clays 
and shales of middle and upper Cretaceous age. These latter 
series are overspread by the glacial and modified drift beds, 
which, with the topsoil, forms the surface deposits of the valley. 


In the western part of the county the uplands consist almost 
bodily of alternating beds of blue clay and soft shales. Collect- 
ively, these Cielaceoiis strata are about one thousand feet in 
ihiclcness. The depth of the overlying drift varies from merely 
nothing on the tops of the higher eminences to twenty or more 
leet in j)laces on lower ground, but usually in ihe uplands the 
glacial drift amounts to only a few feet of bowlder clay, with 
many scattered bowlders at or near the surface. On the valley 
slope the drift has a greater thickness Ihan in the hill district 
of the county. The bowlders are of all sizes up to thos,; oflhiee 
to five feet in diameter, but in more rare cases a few are report- 
ed as being ten or twelve feet in diameter. They are usually of 
granite and associated rocks, with occasionally one of limestone. 
Some of sandstone occur here, but they are very rare. The 
"hardheads" came from the Laurentian axis of the continent 
around Hudson bay, and the liruestone bowlders are from the 
region around Lake Winnipeg. 

The Cretaceous formation of the upland country was not only 
once continuous across the entire valley, but also was orijiinally 
500 or more feet higher, as much as that amount having been 
denuded fioni the surface prior to the (Jlacial period. The hol- 
lowing out of the valley itself dates from about the close of Pli- 
ocene times and was completed essentially the same as it is now, 
some minor rough surface features and a deeper basin excepted, 
when the Ice age began. The great width of the va.ley is due 
to the easily erosihle nature of the strata in which it was ex- 
cavated by rain and stream erosion. 

Two of the land belts running through the county consist of 
i-edirftentary deposits more recent than the bowlder clay. The 
oldest of the two in relative age is the tract called the ElU V^illey. 
This is a delta deposit of sand and clay silt, formed l)y a tenj- 
porary glacial river that came down from the Ciolden valley of 
Walsh county. This ice-born torrent flowed within a great rift 
ot the icesheet, the part of the rift new represented by the delta 
then forming an estuary-like inlet to the elacial Lake Agassiz. 
The lake then filled the lied Jiiver Valley as far north as Gram! 
Forks county, and was in process of lengthening northward to 
the country around Lake Winnipeg. 'J'he icesheet was probably 
about a half mile in thickness in tlie valley and during the epoch 
of the lake the ice margin was receding. The sediments of the 
delta extend from aronuil McCanna to the vicinity of Mayville 
and Portland and also include some of the ridgy land along its 
eastern border. The average thickness of this sedimentary belt 
is about, forty feet and Upham estimates its bulk at from H to 2 
cubic miles. Its lower part is so saturated with water as to form 
a quicksand, which is reached in wells from 12 to 24 feet in 
depth, and fnrnidies an abundant supply of very pure water. 

G 10 N E Pv A I, D E 8 C R I P T I O \ 9 

Tlie more recent land belt covering the glacial till of the val- 
ley, is the great bed of lacustrine and alluvial silt, that has filled 
its lower depression and extends from Wahpeton to Winnipeg. 
This forms tlie flat valley plain. In this county the formation 
extends from eight to twelve miles west from the river. Above 
the bedrock, according to Upham's view, most of the formation 
of the valley plain consists of glacial beds, with lacustrine clay 
above them that was brought into the lake by the streams while 
this ancient body of water was falling to low levels, and the re- 
mainder of the soil to the surface is alluvial, having been deposit- 
ed by Red river duri.ig its flood stages. 

But little of the sediments of the lake were deposited upon the 
midway slope, as this tract was much exposed to the erosion of 
the waves. Some of the soil was doubtless eroded from the eastern 
border of the KIk Valley delta. This land belt is marked by 
Mian}' successively lower beach ridges formed by the waves dur- 
ing as many periods of pause made by the receding waters while 
the lake was being drained away. 

While the lake stood at its highest stage about five-sixths of 
the area of the county was submerged beneath the water. The 
western shore-line lay along the foot of the hills, about 35 
miles west of the river. Only the upland district and parts of 
the ridge in Agnes and Inkster townships, which formed a chain 
of islands that was continued nearly through Walsh county, 
alone remained above water. 

'I'he physical oiuse of this great glacial lake was wholly de- 
pendent upon the closing stages of the Ice age. When the ice- 
sheet was melting away, year by year, its southern margin 
stretched across the valley of Red river, thus forming a barrier 
to the pent up waters that prevented them from flowing away in 
the direction that the natural slope of the land would have led 
them. The lake finally drained away by successive stages, 
marking either side of the valley with many recurring beach 
lines, or gravel ridges, at lower and lower levels. 


Grand Forks county does not seem to lie within the limits of 
any of the artesian basins of the Dakotas. Its flowing wells are 
small ones and none of them go to bedrock. They are, perhaps, 
nearly all confined to the valley plain and obtain their supply 
from the drift. There are a few with small flow in and around 
Ojata, several around Afanvel and many in the Forest river 
drai!iHge area in tiie northern part of the county. Two inch 
pipe is generally used, and <he wells vary, approximately, in 
depth, from 60 to 279 feet. Efforts to obtain flowing water on 
the higher land have not been successful. The water of these 
wells is sometimes good but apt to be more or less saline. 


The following record of a boring niade at the Diamond Mill, 
Grand Forks, shows the charncter of the beds in this part of the 
vnlley down to bedrock. It was obtained through Trof. F. S. 
15erg, of Lariinore, from Prof. Babcock, of the University. 

Alternating clay and sand :ind gravel to 200 feet. 

Alternating clay and coarse sand to 240 feet. 

Alternating clay and sand to 305 feet. 

Fine gravel at 305 feet. 

Blue clay mostly to... 370 feet. 

Coarse sand and graVel trom 375 to 380 feet. 

(irnnite at 380 feet and penetrated for 15 feet. 
Depth of this boring, 395 feet. 

Section of the Elk Valley delta at Larimore: Soil, 2 feet,; 
sandy clay, 5 feet; yellowish sand, 13 feet; dark sand, particles 
two-thirds cretaceous shale, containing much water, 40 feet. 
Total, 60 feet. Hard blue till at the bottom of the delta. 


FIftt regions like the lower depression of the Red River Valley 
are subject to mirages, and these aerial phenomena are also 
occasionally noticeable on the higher land of the valley* The 
followi»)g account of the mirage, as commonly witnessed in the 
valley, is given here as described by Warren Upham: 

"In crossing the vast plain of the lied River Valley on clear 
days, the higher land at its sides and the groves along its rivers 
are first seen in the distance as if their upper edges were raised 
a little above the horizon, with. a very narrow strip of sky below. 
The first appearance of the tree-tops thus resembling that of 
dense flocks of birds flying very low several miles away. By 
rising a few feet, as from the ground to a wagon, or by nearer 
approach, the outlines become clearly defined as a grove, with a 
mere line of sky beneath it. This mirage is more or less observ- 
ed on the valley plain every sunshiny day of the spring, summer 
and autumn months, especially during the forenoon, when the 
lowest stratum of the air, touching the surface of the ground, 
becomes heated sooner than the strata above it. 

"A more complex and astonishing effect of mirage is often 
seen from the somewhat higher land that forms the slopes on 
either side of the plain. Thus, in lookinir across the flat valley 
a half hour or two hours after sunrise of a hot day following a 
cool night, the groves and houses, villages and grain elevators, 
loom up twice or thrice their true height, and places ordinarily 
hidden from sight by the earth's curvature are brought into view. 
Occasionally too, these objects, as trees and houses, are seen 
double, being repeated in an inverted position close above their 
real places, from which they are separated by a very narrow fog- 
like belt. In its most perfect development the mirage shows 

('. F. S K n A L D E s r n I P T T O X 11 

the upper and lopsy-tui vey portion of the view quite as distinct 
MS the lower and true portion, and the two are separated, when 
seen from land about a iiundred feet above the plain, by an ap- 
parent vertical distanc<^ of 75 or 100 feet for objects at a distance 
of six or eight miles, and 300 to 500 feet if the view is fifteen to 
twenty miles away. Immediately above the inverted images 
there runs a level false horizon, which rises slightly as the view 
grows less distinct, until, as it fades and vanishes, the inverted 
groves, lone trees, church spires, elevators and houses at last re- 
semble rags and tatters hung along a taut line. 

"The traveler in the Red River Valley is reminded the same 
as at sea, that the earth is round. The surface of the plain is 
seen for a distance of only three or four iwiles; houses and grain 
stacks have their tops visible first, after which, in approaching, 
they gradually come into full view, and the highlands ten or fif- 
teen miles away, forming the side of the valley apparently lie 
beyond a wide depression, like a distant coast."* 


'i'l>e following table gives the elevation in feet above sea-level 
of each station on the railroad lines within the county limits. 
That for Merrifield has had to be estimated, but cannot be much 
if anything, out of the way. 

Arvilla 1017 McCanna 1140 

Bean 89o Mekinock.. 861 

Kmeiado 898 Merrifield 850 

Gilbv 879 Niagara 1440 

Grand Foiks 830 Northwood 1119 

Grand l*orks Junction... 836 Ojata 858 

Inkster 1036 Orr 1098 

Johnstown 871 Park River Junction.. 1133 

Kelley 842 Reynolds 910 

Kempton 1126 Schurmeier 826 

Jvarimore... 1134 ^Shawnee 1232 

Tevant 822 Thompson 865 

Manvel 819 University 834 

The Glacial Lake Agassiz, pp. 21, 22. 

F-A.R,T II. 




|T WILL now be proper to give a general outline 
of the old plinse of life and the sequence of 
events in the Red l^iver Valley from the earliest 
~\y/xj)) time of wliich we have any authentic date down 
to the period when the present generation first 
began toes^tablish permanent settlements in this portion of the 
valley. In these affairs of the long ago, Grand Forks county was, 
to some extent at least, tlie scene. Hut from amidst the shifting 
scenes of this historic panorama there emerges one spot in the 
valley that becomes prominent as its historical focus, and that 
place is Pembina, 

Without reckoning anything on the visits to the valley of 
Verendrye and DuLuth prior to the middle of the last century, 
it may be said that the past hundred years of its history presents 
two very distinctly marked epochs. The first of these is that 
characterized b}- the domination of the fur trading interests, 
politically represented by the government of the country as ex- 
ercised by the Hudson Bay company; the seconti epoch is that 
marked by the settlement of the valley by the present popul:«- 
tion, its development, and founding of the state of North Dakota 
and the prijvince of Manitoba, with the organization of their re- 
spective governments; including also tlie occupation and develop- 
ment of that part of the valley that lies in Minnesota. This epoch 
lias not yet been succeeded by any other, though an industrial 
and manufactoring era, to some extent, with a greater |)opula- 
tion, will be apt to constitute the characteristic features of the 
next epoch, while agriculture and its associated commercial 
operations will doubtless remain the chief sources of the wealth 
of the valley. 

p t; e - s e 1' t l 1-: m e n t a x x a l s 13 

It must not be supposed that when the settlement of the valley 
by an agricullural population had its beginning, its old epoch 
abruptly terminated and its new one began. Generally speak- 
ing, there is no abrupt termination of any one epoch and begin- 
ning of another. A transition period will likely ensue. The old 
epoch insensibly shades into, and is absorbed by the new one, 
each having its characteristic phase of life. Radical changes 
may ensue so as to bring about jinother and different state of 
things, but these are the growth of time. There is a gradual, a 
slow change to new conditions, and no one can say just when a 
previous era has ended and a new one has been ushered in. 


In early times the plains of North Dakota formed a great 
range for the buffalo. The bison was a migratory animal, and 
in winter ranged southward to northern Texas. The increasing 
wartnth of spring:, which in that latitude ensues early, urged 
these animals to take to their northwardly leading trails, and 
they migrated in vast herds. By the month of June or earlier, 
they reached the Ifed River Valley. 

The Dakotas, and much of the state of INIinnesota, was former- 
ly the domain of the allied tribes called the Sioux. The eastern 
part of this state was occupied by the Yankton sept of the Sioux 
nation, although the Wahpetons and Sissetons were located 
at Lake Traverse later tlian the middle of the century. In north- 
ern INIinnesotji were the Chippeways, and to the north of our 
boundary dwelt the Crees. Saulteaus and Assiniboines. These 
latler tribts were often at war with the Sioux and made the 
northern part of this state their battle ground. 'I'he Wahpetons 
and Sissetons were accustomed to make journe3's to the north 
along Red river and as far as the Pembina river, to hunt the 
buffalo and to wage their predalory warfare against the north- 
ern tribes, including the Chippeways, During these journeys 
back and forth, the site of Grand Forks was one of their con- 
venient camping places and an advantageous point to lay in wait 
for the scalps of members of the last named tribe. 

The Indian tribes between tlie Mississippi and Rocky mount- 
ains largely derived their subsistenc*; by huntiuii: the buffalo. 
'I'hese animals furnished them with robes and, in a measure, a 
living. But people in the savage state who depend on hunting 
and fishing for subsistence can never form communities com- 
prising a numerous, much less a dense population. Their mode 
of life, exposure and liability to famine and tiieir almost constant 
warfare with other tribes, has a tendency to thin their numbers. 

•'Comparative few Indians" says Warren IJpham "were able 
to derive their subsistence by hunting and fishing upon the area 
of J^ake Agassiz or in any other regio?i. Trobably their number 


living: {it any one time upon the portion of the lake area within 
the T^iiitec] ^States did not exceed 5,000." 


At a period that was long anterior to the occupation of this 
region b}- the hunting tribes that were known to the whites, 
there lived other tribes here of whom Upham remarks thnt they 
"probably lived more by agriculture and less by the chase," and 
who built the mounds found in the country, to some extent, by 
ihe first settlers. The builders of these mounds appear to have 
been offshoots of the ancient race known by their works as the 
Moutid Builders. Where they were the most numerous, as in the 
Ohio and Mississippi valleys, they were sufficiently advanced to 
make rude pottery, build fortifications on a large scale, also tem- 
ple mounds and other earthworks. They also fashioned native 
copper obtained in the Lake Superior region, or picked up more 
sparingly from the glacial drift, into various utensils, but they 
do not appear to have been able to smelt it. They must also have 
possessed considerable skill in other arts, but at their best the 
.superiority of the IMound Buihlers that occupied the Red River 
Valley over the later Indian tribes was but slight, and even in 
the Mississippi Valley their handicraft was not at all compar- 
able to that of the aboriginal races of Mexico and Peru. 

It seems to be pretty well established that the Mound Builders 
were not racially distinct from the Indians and were probably 
the ancestors of tribes that were still existing within the present 
century, as the Mandans, for example. This early progress of 
the red race was probably due to intercourse with Mexico and 
Yucatan, also to early migrations of the race from those coun- 
tries. Such advancement as they were making appears to have 
been interrupted several hundred years before the discovery of 
America by reason of the appearance east of the Mississippi of 
the bisoD, an event in the animal world that changed the pop- 
ulation from semi-agriculturists into bands of nomadic hunters, 
thus terminating any farther progress toward civilization, 

Relics of the occupation of this part of the state by the later 
Indian tribes, notwithstanding their recent possession of the coun- 
try, have not been so abundantly found here as in some of the 
middle western states where the red men evidently were more 
numerous. Still, since the settlement of this state, arrow-heads, 
tomahawks, mortars and pestles and other stone implements have 
been picked up on the prairies in consi(Jerable numbers. It 
should be remembered that the states in which these relics of 
aboriginal life liave been most abundantly found were original- 
ly more or less forested, and in wooded districts the ituplements 
were more easily lost than in the open prairie regions. More- 

•^^ The Glacial Lake Agassiz. p. filfi. 


over, the prairies were nnmuilly burned over by the Indians, and 
until the grass grew again, things lost upon the surface were 
easily seen and recovered. 


In 1670, the Hudson l^ay Fur company was granted a charter 
by (/harles II, of England, giving to Prince Rupert and fourteen 
other members, their heirs and assigns, the right to the sole 
trade of tbe region around Hudson and James bays. The com- 
pany began to establish themselves on these bays toward the 
close ot" tlie same century. Nearly a century more, however, 
parsed beTore we read of the lied River Valley being occupied 
either by this company or by any other of which the members 
were British subjects. In tlie meantime exploring and trading 
expeditions of the French, coming from Canada by way of the 
Great Lakes, penetrated the Northwest as far as the Ilea River 
Valley and even much farther west. 

About the year 1679, Sieur DuLuth. who was conducting 
trading operations in the country around the head of Lake Su pe- 
rior. made a brief and |>robabIy hasty expedition across northern 
iMinnesota, reaching some point inland about Lake VVinnipeg. 

After DuLuth, Sieur Veiendrye, his sons and nephew Jer- 
emaye, next penetrated the country to the valleys of the Red, 
Assiniboine, Missouri and Yellowstone rivers for the purposes of 
trade and exploration, and they built a post or two on the Assin- 
iboine. These operations were continued between the years 1731 
and 1748. 4'he conquest of Canada by the English in 1759 ter- 
minated l^'rench exploration, but the work of the missions and 
operations of individual traders still continued. 

The first settler on North Dakota soil is claimed to have been 
a Canadian French trader who located at Rembina in 1780. 
While his name has n<)t been preserved, the fact is nevertheless 
nientioned by Prof. Keating, the chronicler of Major Long's ex- 
pedition This party found tlie trader still living at Pembina 
^3 years subsequent to the period of his location at that place. 

In 1784 David Thompson, a person of sonie scientific attain- 
ments, entered the service of the Hudson Bay company and was 
appointed clerk. Later he was employed by the Northwest com- 
pany as explorer and geographer. He was also an accomplished 
astronomer. In 1797 he visited the valleys ot the Bed, Assini- 
boine, Mouse and Missouri rivers. He was also sent by the 
Northwest company to visit the Missouri and the sources of the 
Mississippi for the purpose of making geographical and astron- 
omical observations. In 1798 he was at Cass lake, in Minnesota, 
and fixed the latitude of the cotnpany's post at that point. He 
also fixed and recorded the latitude and longitude of many points 
thron<>hout the Northwest. 


The Northwest Fur company whs orgiinized nt INfontreal in 
1783. Their ciiief stiongholfl in the Northwest was Fort William 
«»n Ivrike Superior, now Port Arthur. Here, every antumn, the 
coiireurs <les bois, or men of the woods, and other employees of 
the comp.tny were accustomed to gather, spend their earnings 
for liquor and luxuries, and hold high carnival. 'I'he Northwest 
company controlled most of the fur trade ot the Red River Val- 
ley. Capt. Alexander Henry, an officer of this company, came 
to the valley in 1799 and was engaged in establishing trading 
posts. In the winter of 1797-8 a Oana<lian French trader named 
Ohabollier built a post at Pembina, but when Capt. Henry visit- 
ed that point in 1800, he found the post unoccupied, and pro- 
ceeded to establish his headquarters there, 

About this time C;ipt. Henry had a post built on the Pembina 
river about nine miles below the point wherf^ the stream issues 
from the Pembina mountains, which in those times were called 
fhe Hair hills. This post was soon afterward removed farther 
np the river to the vicinity of the site ot St. Joseph, now the vil- 
lage of Walhalla, where, as ('aptain Henry says, "the waters of 
the Paubian leave the steep hills." 

On September 8, 1800. Capt. Henry selected the site for a trad- 
ing post on the plain between the lied and Park rivers, and not 
far from the mouth of the latter stream. One year later, to wit. 
in September, 1801, he sent a party of men to build another on 
the site of Grand Forks. This post, however, was not long main- 
tained.* At this time Capt. Henry's party consisted of eighteen 
men, four women, and four children. Of the men, one was his 
clerk, and another acted as interpreter in dealing with the Indians. 
'J'he same month and year, Thomas Miller, of the Hudson Bay 
company, with eight Orkney men arrived at Pembina and estab- 
lished a post on the east side of the river where Emerson now is. 
Agents of another organization called the X. Y. company also 
appeared in that part of the valley at this time, and for awhile 
maintained a post on the Pembina river. In 1801 also, the lied 
iliver cart was devised. 

The canoe, the travial and the dog-sledge seen) to have been 
the only means of communication prior to the introduction 
of the lied River cart. At first Captain Henry considered 

* It is a question in the mind of the writer Avhether Captain Henry ever es- 
tablished a trading post on the site of Grand Forks at all. He was one of the 
few men of that period who thought it worth the effort, while in the country, 
to keep a record of their movements and observations. His journal is care- 
fully preserved in the Government Historical Library at Ottawa, Canada, 
and only extracts from it seem to have been published.' His references to the 
"forks of the river" appear to have meant the confluence of thf Red and As- 
siniboine, that is, the site of Winnipeg, It is therefore doubtful, whether or 
not, there has been some misunderstanding as to the location meant by him. 
unless he specially designates the forks of Red and Red Lake rivers as tho 
site of this post. 

r R E - > E T T L K -M E N T A N X A L S 17 

tliem to be a great improvement on the means of transportation 
previously in use, but two years later he says in his journal that 
the introduction of horses and carts into the country had the ten- 
dency of making the employees of the company more lazy and 
shiftless than before. 

In 18U6 Captain Henry visited the country about the ^Fouse 
and upper Missouri rivers. He speaks of Pembina affairs again 
in 1808, when, besides the annual shipment of peltries, there was 
exported from the country 3,159 pounds of maple sugar. That 
year the Rocky mountain locust made one of their periodical 
visits and swarmed over the country. Captain Henry came to an 
untimely end. Having gone west of the Rocky mountains, to 
which region the Northwest company had extended their oper- 
ations, he was drowned in the Columbia river, May 28, 1814. 


From the beginning of the century the Red River Valley be- 
gan to be occupied and traversed i»y the trappers and voyageurs 
of the fur companies, and soon afterward by a few independent 
traders. Rut a different class of people now came to the valley. 
These were the Selkirk colonists and their coming is the next 
important matter in valley history after the operations of Capt. 
Henry. This colony was composed of Higli landers who had been 
evicted from the estate of the Duchess o! Sutherland, in the north 
of Scotland. Says Warren Upham: 

"The first immigration of white men to colonize the fertile 
basin of the Ked Iviver of the Xorth, bringing the civilize<l arts 
and agriculture of Europe, was in the years 1812 to 1816, when, 
under Lord Selkirk's farsishted and patriotic supervision, the 
early pioneers of the Selkirk settlements, coming by wMiy of Hud- 
son bay and York Factory, reached Manitoba and estal>lished 
their homes along the river from the vicinity of Winnipeg to 
Pembina. In its beginning this colony experienced many hard- 
ships, but, in the words of one of these immigrants, whose nar- 
rative was written down in his old age, in 3881, 'by and by our 
troubles ended, war and famine and flood and poverty all passed 
away, and now we think there is no such place to be found as 
the valley of lied river.' "^ 

In 1811, Thomas Douglas, earl of Selkirk, having gained con- 
trol of the Hudson Ray Fur Company interests so frtr as to en- 
able him to do so, secured a tract of il>3J3(Xl acres of land in the 
Red River Valley on which he designed to plant his prospective 
colony. Its first ctnitingent arrived in 1812. The lands on which 
they settled included the site of the city of Winnipeg which was 
founded about sixty years later. About the year 1814 the locusts 

* Tho Glacial f.ako Aszassiz. ).. tW2. 

18 H [ S T (> K \ O F c; R A X I) F R K S C O F X T Y 

destroyed their crops and \v;mt drove tlif^m to the post of Pembina 
for food Mild shelter. But the Northwest Vur company were 
opposed to the settlement of an agricultural population in the 
country. 'They instigated their employees to annoy and harass 
the C(donists in many ways. About 150 of them they induced to 
desert, and the remainder they tried to frighten away by setting 
their halfbreed employees upon ihem disguised as Indians. In 
1815 another contingent of the colonists arrived from Scotland. 
The Northwest C(»mpany now endeavored to expel them from the 
country. An affray ensued at Seven Oaks near the site of Win- 
nipesT, in 1816, in which about twenty persons lost their lives, 
among whom was the Hudson Bay governor Semple. Lord Sel- 
kirk now interfered, protecting his colony Dy force of arms, and 
re-imbursed them for the losses of property they had sustained. 
The hostile criticism evoked by these troubles finally led to the 
coalition of tlie.^e antagonistic fur companies, which was effected 
in 1821. In that year the first l^'ort Garry was built. 

The success of an agricultural colony such as this was, mainly 
depends upon favorable climatic and physical conditions, also a 
fair degree of competency to obtain subsistence from the region 
colonized, upon accessions in number, both to counterbalance 
losses and to increase the population, and largely, besides, upon 
the adaptability of the colonists themselves to adjust their mode 
of life to the usual changed conditions of new settlements. The 
Selkirk colonists found a fertile soil in the valley that was in 
strong contrast with that of the partially sterile and mountainous 
region of the north of Scotland, well adapted to agricultural 
pursuits, and a country posses.sing a healthy and tolerable cli- 
mate. Coming from a high northern latitude in their former 
homes, the long days of summer and short ones of winter in I heir 
new abode presented no marked contrasts; but the physical as- 
pect of the country they found to be far different, and Climatic 
conditions considerably so. .Already inured to hard conditions of 
life in their old homes, they were the kind of people to succeed 
and were deserving of the fair measure of success to which they 
ultimately attained. 

Gradually the colony began to see some measure of prosperity. 
Other additions came from time to time, and they began to 
enlarge and extend their settlements. In 1821 two hundred Swiss 
emigrants arrived, who had been induced to leave their native 
country by an agent of Lord Selkirk. The colonists built church- 
es and established .schools. They maintained amicable relations 
with the Indians from whom they purchased more land, extend-, 
ing tfieir settlements up the Assinil)oine and up Red river as far 
as Fembina. Their settlements were conipact, the individnnl 
holdings beiiiij six chains in width, and extending back from the 
river two miles on each side. They had mills for grinding grain, 

r 11 E - 8 E T T L ]■: ^r E N T A N X A L S 19 

spini their own wool, wove their own cloth, and made their own 
clothinj^. lo guard against losses by locusts and drought, they 
were accustomed to keep three years supply of food and forage 
on hand. Thouuh liquor wsis to be had at the posts, intoxication 
among them was almost unknown. Presbyterians in Scotland, 
they niiiintained their religeous integrity in this country. Not- 
withstanding their privations and hardships and the dangers 
they were called upon to face, they succeeded in establishing in 
this remote part of the continetit a sturdy civilization. 

There was but little communication between the colony and 
the old world. A vessel or two arrived about August of each 
year bringing ilie goods ordered before by dog-sledge packet to 
Montreal. They h;iil mail from (ireat Britain but once a year. 
It is related of Alexiinder Murray, a colonist of 1812. that he 
was a subscriber to the London Times, which had been issued 
under tliat name daily since .latiuary 1, 1788, and that he receiv- 
ed a full yearly volume when the ship came. He was accustomed 
to read one copy a d;iy, that of the corresponding day of the pre- 
vious year, and thus he kept up to within one year of the daily 
record of current events occurring in the old world. 


While these events were in pr(»gress, that is to say throughout 
the first two decades of the century and, of course, earlier, the 
Red liiver Valley was so isolated from the United States that 
even the geographers of the eastern states seem to have known 
little or nothing of it. The school geographie.s of those days 
were like sciiool readers, mainly descriptive, having no map 
questions, and containing a crudely engraved map or two, uncolor- 
ed, and folded into the book. Jedadiah Morse, the father of one 
of the inventors of the telegraph, published the first American 
geography for the schools of this country, in 1789. An exam- 
ination of the editions of 1807 and ISll, in possession of the 
writer, shows no knowledge rf Red river as a stream of the Unit- 
ed States, nor can this be expected, since the region west of the 
Mississippi river is spoken of as comprising '•unknown coun- 
tries." Jonathan Carver, an Americiin traveler of the last cent- 
ury heard of the Ked river Irom the Indians while wintering 
among them at the mouth of tiie Cottonwood, and calls it a cap- 
ital branch of the IJiver Bourbon, tliat is, of Nelson river. But 
during the tvvo decades under consideration, certain official and 
commercial classes in Canada and England »vere in possession of 
a larger amount of infornuition concerning this then far ofFnortii- 
we.'dern country than was, at that time, known to the govern- 
ment of the United States. 

"The war of the Revolution," says N. H. Winchell, "which 
left the east bank of the Mississippi \n possession of the United 

20 II I s r o R V () F (; n a n d f o n k s c u u n t y 

States and the west hank in the possession of the French, operat- 
ed not only to tertnitjute English and French exploration, but to 
retard that of llie United States. It was not till after the cession 
of Louisiana by France that the trovernment of the United States 
instituted measures for tiie exploration of the unknown coun- 
tries west of the Mississippi, when in 1804 Captains J^ewis and 
Clarke were despatched to explore the Missouri river and l^ient- 
enant Z. M. Pike to asceini the Mississippi to its source. J^ieut. 
FiUe found the upper Missisd[)pi country occupied by trading 
posts of the Northwest b^ir company over which was still flying 
the l*]nglish flag, a fact which attests the isolation of thjit region 
since the peace concIude<l in 1783."* 

MAJOR long's expedition. 

Betwt^en the years 1818 and 1823, Major Stephen H. Long, of 
the United Stales Army, had charge of the exploration of the 
country between the Mississippi and the Rocky mountains. In 
the latter year lie was directed by the Secretary of War to pro- 
ceed to I'embina and establish the international boundary at 
that point. Several scientific gentlemen of Philadelphia, among 
whom was Prof. William Keating, of the University of Pennsyl- 
vania, accompanied the expedition. 'I'he Italian traveler, Bel- 
trami, a political exile from his own country, also joined the 
party at Fort Snelling, 

]\[ajor Long's party arrived at Fort Snelling July 2, 1823; on 
the 6th Prof. Keating, Beltrami and other gentlemen of the par- 
ty, visited the Falls of St. Anthony, which then existed in their 
primeval condition; and on the 9th ihe expedition set out for the 
Ked River Valley. Proceeding in canoes up the Minnesota river, 
they abandoned this mode of conveyance at old Traverse des 
Sioux, and the remainder of the journey to Pembina was made 
by marching. After crossing Nicollet county, Minn., to \ied- 
stone, so as to cut off the great bend of the Minnesota river, the 
route pursued was up the course of the strean>, the march being 
more upon the prairie above the south line of bluffs than along 
its valley bottoms. 'I'hey reached Big Scone lake on July 22. 
Here Major Long met and held a conference with Wanata, the 
chief of the Yanktons. After passing Lake Traverse, the line of 
march was next down the west side of Hed river along which 
route the old Red River trail was struck out some years after- 
ward. This took the expedition through Grand Forks county 
and in the vicinity of the river. The [)arty reached I'enibina 
on the 5th of August. This was the upper settlement of the Sel- 
kirk colony, and a number of families were located arouinl this 
place. The tradijig post of the Northwest coujpany, estalilislied 

=*' Cioolnoical and Natural History Suryoy of Minnosfita. vol. i. ]>. L'o. 


there in 1800 by Captain Henry, hsid been maintained down to 
within a few months of the arrival of Major Long's party. He 
found about three hundred halfbreeds there living in sixty log 
huts, and the traders located there possessed about two hundred 
horses. The day after his arrival, the buffalo liunters cume in 
from the chase, forming a procession consisting of 116 carts each 
loaded with about 800 pounds of buff'iilo meat. After several 
days observ;iti.)n the boundary was located and marked by set- 
ting up a few oak posts. On Augusc 8th, the American flag was 
officially displayed at Pembina for the first time, and proclama- 
tion made that all land on the river south of the established 
boundary was United States territory. 

Hitherto, the colonists at Peml)in;i had supposed themselves 
to be in British territory, but finding themselves really between 
one and two miles south of the boundary line, they, being in- 
tensely loyal to the Britsh crown, abandoned their holdings and 
removing farther north, they settled at Kildonan, a few miles 
from the modern city of Winnipeg. The Italian traveler, Bel- 
tr.wni, considering himself discourteously treated by INIajor Long, 
separated from his party at Pembina. Procuring a halfbreed 
and two Chippeway Indians as attendants and guides, lie traveled 
southeast to Red Lake riyer, thence up to ited lake, from whence 
he sought the sources of the Mississippi river, by no means an 
easy task to accomplish in those times single handed. He next 
passed down the "Father of Waters" to New Orleans, and having 
returned to Europe, he published in l.oudon a book of his trav- 
els in 1828. 

After leaving Pembina, ALajor Long's party descended the river 
to Lake Winnipeg, thence ascended the Winnipeg river to the 
Lake of the Woods, and returned to the United States by way of 
the llainy Lake region and I^ake Superior. Major Long was 
born in 1784, lived to an advanced age, and died at Washington 
in 1864. Beltrami died in 1855. 

Prof. Keating was the historian of this expedition. He em- 
bodied the notes and manuscripts ot different membei^ of the 
party in a work of two volumes, which was published in London 
in 1825. Accompanying Keaiing's work was a map compiled 
from the observations made during the progress of the expedition 
and from various other sources of information. On this map the 
names and location of the streams tributary to Red river appear 
for the first time. On the whole. Prof. Keating's work "may be 
correctly pronounced the first attempt to apply the accurate meth- 
ods of modern science to the exploration of any portion of the 
Northwest."* Major Long's official report was not publi<*hed 
until some time after the appearance of Keating's work, lieap- 

* Zoological and Natural History Survey of Minnesota, vol. i. p. HI. 


pears to have been the first person who ever made any authentic 
report concerning- the Red Jiiver country to the government. 

In 1824 a family of the name ufTilly goin^ from Pembina to 
Fort Snelling, was murdered near the site of Cirand Forks by a 
band of Sioux Indians, who carried two children of this family, 
both boys, into captivity. The facts being made known to the 
C( mmandant at Fort Snelling by a trader, a scouting party was 
sent from the fort to the vsilley in 1826 and iescued the children. 
In the early part of the present decade, one of the rescued boys, 
having lived to become a man of advanced age, died in New 

The earl of Selkirk had died in the year 1820. Six years later, 
to wit, in 1826, a great flood occurred in the lower valley that 
effected his colony and which appears to have been the 
earliest one of which we have any record. , On INFa}' 2d the 
waters rose nine feet, and on the 5th the plains were submerged. 
'I'he waters continued to rise until the 21st, doing considerable 
damage to the property of the colonists. Houses, barns, bodies of 
drowned cattle, household furniture, amidst logs and uprooted 
trees moved down strejim on the surface of the raging waters, 
and one night the house of a colonist floated by in flames, fo-m- 
ing an impressive spectacle to the awe struck beholders. 'J'he 
Swiss contingent of the Selkirk colony, becoming discouraged 
and dissatisfied with the country by reason of the losses they li:id 
sustained from the flood, left the valley that year and removed 
to Minnesota, journeying to their destination by way of the lakes 
and streams of tiiat state. They numbered 243 persons and be- 
came the first settlers upon and around the site of St. Paul. 


For the next dozen or more years following the flood of 1826, 
there seems to occur a sort of Liatus in the history of the valley. 
At least, we have been able to find but little that has been re- 
corded which pertains to those years. Probably no expeditions 
visited the country during thnt interval. 

During each recurriuir summer tliere ensued the annual buf- 
falo hunt, the chief event of the year. The hunting parties of 
the Northwest assembled at some appointed place between June 
8th and 18th. Sometimes as many as a thousand or more per- 
sons took part in these hunts, their caravans at times consisting^ 
of as many as 600 carts. The hunters were accompanied by their 
women and children. I'hey were mainly hal (breeds, with some 
Indians and occasionally a few whites. Bands from some of the 
posts in Manitoba also joined them. Scouts w^ere first sent out 
to locate the herds, and on their return, the leaders having heard 
their reports, they determined from them the direction of the 
march to the prairies. The bnffa.lo ranges of the Northwest 


were along tlie Sheyenne, the Mouse, the neighborhood of the 
'rnrile mountains, and tlie upper portion of the Red .liiver Val- 
ley. Reacliing any one of these ranges, the hunters attacked the 
herds on horseback, using long stocked guns with flint-lock fire, 
and slew the animals in large numbers. The remainder of the 
lierd stampeded away with a loud noise, raising a great cloud of 
dust. The men skinned the slain animals for their hides, and 
the women assisted m cutting up the meat and loading it into the 
carts for transportation to camp where it was cut into strips and 
dried for winter's use, and for making pemmican. The tongues 
of the buffalo were considered a choice part of these animals, 
'i'hough not as choice as beef, buffalo meat nevertheless formed 
the chief article of food on the plains. The hides were brought 
to the posts for shipment with other peltries. 

The pemmican. the only kind of bread known to the Indians, 
was made by cutting up the meat in long thin strips, drying and 
smoking it over a slow fire as it hung on racks made of small 
poles, and it was next placed upon tlie flesh side of a buffalo hide, 
whipped to fine shreds with flails, and then mixed with hot tal- 
low in large kettles. The thick, pliable mass was then pcuired 
into sacks made of buffalo hide, liolding from 50 to 150 pounds 
according to the size of the skin, and would keep many years 
when hung up so as to allow the air to circulate around them. 
When used, the pemmican needed no further preparation, or it 
could be cooked with vegetables in several different ways. 

The aristocracy of the plains consisted of the officers, traders 
and clerks at the posts, and the buffalo hunters. While the Sel- 
kirk colonists generally dressed in homespun clothino: and lived 
plainly, the men at the posts had every luxury that they could 
procure, including a stock of the finest liquors The importsition 
of some 01 the finer products of civilized life gradually became 
more common, even to silk dresses for the women of the posts. In 
dress the trappers and voyageurs, or caiuje men, and some other 
of the employees of the fur companies used a common sort of 
cloth that was imported, gray sui\s being much worn by them. 
With these classes, including the haifbrceds. there was also some 
admixture of vestments made ot the skins (»f animals, especially 

The buffalo whs the harvest of those days — running the buf- 
falo, making pemmican and shipping furs. Trapping was the 
business of the spring, bnfl'alo hunting in the summer and fall, 
and in the winter the trappers, hunters and voyageurs devoted 
their principal attention to living and they lived right royally 
on the fruits of the summer's chase. * Those with many succeed- 
ing years constituted the "good old buffalo days." 

* This and the three preceding paragraphs are mainly based upon various 
sketches in the earlier numbers of The Record Magazine. 


The guns used in the Northwest were niiide in England spec- 
ially for puvposes connected with the fur trading business. They 
were imported by way of York l^^actory and exchanged at the 
posts for peltries at certain values. They continued to have 
flint fire locks long after the percussion cap had came into gen- 
eral use, on account of the great distances to the points at which 
the caps might be obtained. If an Indian or other liunter hap- 
pened to get out of his supply of percussion caps, on the suppos- 
ition that lie used a percussion fire gun, it might be a hundred or 
more n>iles from the nearest |)()st, in which case his piece would 
be (t? no use to him, while a flint-lock gun was generally service- 
able at any time. 

'I'here were some salt springs in the valley that were utilized 
to some extent by the Selkirk colonists and the fur companies, 
on account of the expense of importing salt. "Considerable 
quantities" says Warren Upham "were yearly made by the evap- 
oration of the water of salt springs. One of these springs from 
which much salt was made for the Hudson Bay compan}' is sit- 
uated in the channel of the south branch of Two Rivers, about 
li^ mile above its junction with the north branch, and some 
six miles west of Hallock. It is exposed only when the river 
runs low, and in such part of the summer the work of salt-mak- 
ing was done."* 

During the period mentioned above life in and around the 
trading posts continued the same as it had been. The country, 
the surroundings, the mode of life of the people, and its object, 
wa^ of that character which admitted ol but little change from 
one generation to another. The Selkirk colonists also continued 
their simple and isolated mode of life, having at last attained a 
fair measure of prosperity and happiness, and but little mindful 
of the continual progress and irresistible advancement of that 
westward tide of eniigration, which, both in Canada and in the 
United States, was destined in future yciirs to close in upon them 
and merge their descendants amidst the present population of 
the Northwest. 


Jean N. Nicollet was a Frenchman in the service of the bu- 
reau of topographical engineers. After exploring the basin of 
the Mississippi in the south with its vvestern affluents for geo- 
graphical and natural history purposes, he was next assigned to 
the region of the upper Mississippi. These latter explorations 
covered the period between the years 1836 and 1843. Lieut. .1, C. 
Fremont was Nicollet's principal aid and assistant. Fremont 
was born in Savannah, Ga., in 1813, consequently he was merely 
a young man while in the service of government under Nicollet. 

* The Glacial Lake Agassiz, r- <>"-''^- 

r R E - S E T T L E ]\r E N T A N N A L P 25 

his fame a« aii explorer of western wilds being still in the future. 
But he was thus early gathering a profitable experience as an 
aid to Nicollet. * 

The interior of Minnesota was now more thoroughly explored 
than it ever had been since the visits of the French explorers of 
the two preceding centuries, or of that of the y\merican traveler, 
.Jonathan Carver. The chief object of Nicollet's expeditions was 
for geographical purposes, as he and his party mapped out the 
streams, lakes and land heights, locating these physical features 
of the country in respect to their latitude and longitude as accu- 
rately as their imperfect appliances would admit of being done. 
Nicollet's party was again in the field during the warm season 
of 1839. Passing up the Missouri river, they left its banks in the 
vicinity of Pierre, S. J^., early in July, and struck out for the 
Devils Lake country. At first the party traveled northeast to 
the James river, which was then called the "Riviere a Jacques." 
On reaching this stream, its valley was followed* north to Bone 
hill in LaMoure county, N. I)., whence the expedition crossed 
over to the Sheyenne. This stream was followed up toward Dev- 
ils Lake wlieie the party arrived in the latter part of July. 

Several days were spent in exploring and mapping' out the 
shores of the lake and all prominent physical objects in its vicin- 
ity. Its western end, however, was not visited, but the party 
traversed both its north and south shores to considerable dis- 
tances toward the west. The lake lay in the country of the 
Yankton Sioux. The salinity of its waters was noted and Nicol- 
let designated the country around the lake on his published map 
as a '"'salt water region." 

On August G. 1839, the party were at Stump lake, which Nic- 
ollet calls Wamdushka, its prevalentlndian name. Thence the 
party with its military escort marched eastward as far as the 
western part of Grand Forks county, probably camping on the 
night of August 8th near the center of Moraine township. Al- 
though headed toward lied river, the expedition next day wheel- 
ed about at nearly r\ii,ht angles to the line of march since leav- 
ing Stump lake and passed southward to explore and map th« 
physical features of the Coteau des Prairies. This took the ex- 

* >Jicoilet was born in the village of Cluses, department ot Haute Savoie, 
France, in 1786, He studied astronomy under La Place, and in 1817 he was 
appointed secretary and librarian of the Paris observatory. With a good 
equipment of the physical knowledge of his time, he came to the United 
States in 1882, and entered the service of the Bureau of Topographical En- 
gineers. So far as the historical sketches relative to North Dakota have come 
under the writer's notice, Nicollet has never received that recognition which 
his services entitle him to, or to sneak more truly, almosf no recognition at 
all. The allusions to his expedition are coupled with Fremont's name and 
that of Nicollet ignored, thus creating in the mind of the reader a false im- 
pression as to the officer in charge. Nicollet died at Washington in 184 <„ 
while his report on his explorations was undergoing revision for the press. 


peditioii through what is now Steele county, some distance to the 
west of where May ville and Portland now stand. It was more 
to Nicollet's purpose to penetrate and explore a region hitherto 
but little visited, than to traverse the level plains of the valley 
already mapped and described by Major Long and Prof. Keating. 

Nicollet's map was published by government in 1812. It was 
called the "Map of the Hydrographical Basin of the Upper Miss- 
issippi River." It covered the entire states of ]\linnesota and 
Iowa and portions of the other states that adjoin them. In re- 
spect to the physical features of the country, it was rather min- 
ute for one of that period, and in later years Gen. G. K. Warren 
pronounced it "one of the greatest contributions ever made to 
American geography." 

N. H. Winchell, in his historical sketch prefixed to the "Geo- 
lo<:ical and Natural History Survey of Minnesota," makes the 
following remarks on Nicollet's methods and work: "He aims to 
locate correctly^ by astronomical observations, the numerous 
streams and lakes, and the main geographical features of the 
country, filling in by eye-sketching, and by pacing, the inter- 
mediate objects. His methods, allowing for the imperfection of 
his applilinces, and the meagerness of his outfit and supplies, 
were established on the same principles as the most approved 
geodetic surveys of the present day. It would, perhaps, liave 
been well if the methods of Nicollet could have been adhered to 
in the further surveying and mapping of the territories. Their 
geography would have been less rapidly developed, but it would 
have been done more correctly. Nicollet's map embraces & mult- 
itude of names, including many new ones, which he gave to the 
lakes and streams." 


As has been stated, white men sometimes accompanied the 
halfbreeds to the buffalo ranges, either to participate in or to 
witness the slaughter of these animals. Alexander Ross de- 
scribes a hunt which he witnessed near the Sheyenne, and in the 
vicinity of the site of Fargo, in 1840. He writes: "At eight 
o'clock the cavalcade made for the buffalo; first at a slow trot, 
then at a gallop, and lastly at full speed. Their advance was on 
a dead level, the plain having no hollow or shelter of any kind 
to conceal their approach. Within four or five hundred yards, 
the buffalo began to curve their tails and paw the ground, and 
in a moment more to take flight and the hunters burst in among 
them and fired. Those who have seen a squadron of horse dash 
into battle may imagine the scene. The earth seemed to tremble 
when the horses started; but when the animals fled it was like 
the shock of an earthquake. 1 he air was darkened, and the 
rapid firing at last became more faint as the hunters became 

r R E - S E T T I. E M E N T ANNALS 27 

more distant. During the day at least two thousand buffalo must 
have been killed for there were brouglit into camp 1,375 tongues. 
The hunters were followed by the carts whicli brought in tb& 
carcasses. Much of the meat was useless because of the heat of 
the season, but the tongues were cured, the skins saved and the 
pemmicaii prepared." 


As time in its course neared the middle of the century, com- 
munication between the valley and the outside world became all 
the more frequent. Cart routes leading to the head of navigation 
on the Mississippi began to be established by the traders, who, in- 
dependent of the American and the Hudson Bay fur companies, 
had begun to locate at Pembina, St. Joseph and a few other 
points in the Northwest. At first, the objective point of these 
cart trails was Mendota, near Fort Snelling, but St. Paul having 
gotten its first start about the year 1846, the cart trains with 
their great packs of buffalo robes and bales of mink and other 
.skins thereafter went to that place. Here the steamboats took 
the peltries foi shipment to St. Louis. In these enterprises the 
famous Joe Rolette first appears. 

Joe was a noted trader of those times. He was born at Prairie 
du Chien, October 23, 1820, his father, who was a native of Que- 
bec, liaving been an Indian trader of note in the early days of 
Wisconsin. In early life Joe was sent to New York to be educated 
under the supervisionof Ramsey Crooks, president of the Amer- 
ican Fur company. On his return to the west, he entered the 
service of his father in the fur trade. General Sibley was then 
residing in a stone built house at Mendota, which was his head- 
quarters, and he had charge of the company's fur trading busi- 
ness in the Northwest. The elder Rolette died in 1842, and 
about that time the general sent Joe to Pembina in connection 
with the company's interests there, and he came in company with 
liis mother's brother, a Mr. Fisher, who had spent the most of his 
life trading with the Indians. Thenceforth Joe made Pembina 
his future home. 

In 1843 Norman \V. Kittson, who was a relative of Captain 
Henry, and in modern times a wealthy railroad ofl!icial of St. Paul, 
also came to Pembina and began laying the foundation of his 
subsequent large fortune. In connection with Rolette, he es- 
tablished a trading post at Pembina, and removed in 1852 to St. 
Joseph, being associated there for awhile with a trader named 
Forbes, and a little later with Charles Cavileer. 

Only six carts went from Pembina to the Mississippi in 1844, 
but with the passing years this small number increased to some 
hundreds as t!ie trade developed. The establishment in the Red 
River Valley of distinctively American traders, whatever their 

i'S I r I 8 T o R V ( ) r ( ; r a n J) forks c o u x t y 

ancestry tnay h;ive been, led to the diversion of a part of the fur 
trade of this region to the hend of navigation on the Missis-^ippi. 
This trade had ari important influence on the founding and early 
growth (>• St. Paul. Some say that it was the making of that city, 
hut a large metropolis would have risen upon that site had there 
heen no fur trade, since conditions pertaining to physical geog- 
raphy and other factors had already determined tliat question. 

The American traders at the Red Iliver posts suffered great 
losses from time to time from the agsfressions of the Hudson Hay 
company's men. They also furnished the Indians, in the way of 
traffic, with large quantities of whiskey, which the American 
traders were forbidden to do under severe penalties. In vain did 
Kittson protest and remonstrate and ask for protection and re- 
dress. General Sibley could not help him and the government 
would not. At last, in 1847, some Canjidian traders came near 
Pembina and set up a post two miles from Rolette's, and serjt 
out runners to the Indians that they wanted their furs for money 
and whiskey, liefore they had fairly beguci operations, Rolette 
took a dozen or so of his plucky retainers, half breeds for the most 
part, marched against the intruders, tumbled their goods out of 
their buildings, and burned them to the ground and drove the 
traders and their retainers back into Canada.* 

The streams of the Northwest were everywhere traversed by 
the voyageurs in the employment of the fur companies, and their 
banks were familiar to the trappers and hunters of those limes. 
Probably most of the tributaries of Red river bear the names 
that these adventurous men applied to them. rhe Hudson Bay 
company engaged men from Canada, Scotland and England as 
employees in the varied services of the fur trading business, and 
many of the/n spent the remainder of their lives in the company's 
service. I'he Canadian French element predominated. All of 
them were men of vigorous, hardy constitutions, and their lives 
and labors were full ot hardship and often of excitement and 
peril. Out ()f every hundred, at least forty, it has been com- 
puted, perished through the perils that beset their dangerous 
mode of life. i3ut the men liked the business and the places 
of those who lost their lives by untimely deaths were soon filled 
by others. In the absence of white women many of these men 
took Indian wives, and there grew up around the trading posts a 
numerous progeny of half breeds. At one period this element in 
the population of North Dakota and Manitoba must have num- 
bered about 3,000. 

The voyageurs, trappers and hunters led a gay, joyous, but, on 
the whole, rather hard and dangerous sort of life, remote from 
most of the conversiences, comforts and luxuries of civilization. 

* From a sketch written for the Minnesota Historical Society by Jii^l^e 
Flandrean.— The Record Magazine. .Tnly 1895, 

r R E - S E T T T> E ^r E N T A N N A L S 29 

Hut little concernina; their adventures and perils was ever left 
upon record. During the warm season of nnost every year the 
buffalo ranged over parts of the Northwest in immense herds and 
elk, deer, antelope, coyote, fox, beaver and many varieties of 
smaller animals were more or less common denizens of this re- 
gion, and it was occasionally frequented by the hear. The hides 
and skins of these animals were eagerly sought afler, as collected 
by the trappers, hunters, Indians and halfbreeds, by tlie agents 
of the fur companies and by the independent traders. Some of 
the skins were rated more valuable than others on account of 
rarity. The great bulk of the packs and bales of furs annually 
shipped from the country consisted of buffalo hides notwithstand- 
ing the fact that there wa^5 a vast amount of other peltries also 
collected besides. 

The cart brigades started for St. Paul in the latter part of 
June and were a month, niore or less, in making the down trip, 
according to the weather and the condition of the trails. "F'or 
shipment" says Charles Cavileer in one of his sketches "the robes 
were packed, ten robes to the pack, u^ing the wedge-press, mak- 
ing as compact a bale as the screw-press, but requiring more 
labor. Of furs, there were 500 skins to the pack, of mink, musk- 
rats, martin, fishers, skunlf and all small animals. Of bear, fox- 
es, wolverines, lynx, there were twenty to the pack. When not 
having' enough for the regulation bale we niade mixed packages, 
endeavoring to make all bales as nearly as possible of the same 
size and weight, in order that we might correctly estimate the 
weight of the load of the cart. From eight to ten packs were 
carried on each cart." 

The Red River cait consisted of two strongly constructed wheels 
with large cylindrical hubs each bored through with a large hole 
for the axle, heavy oak rims or felloes four or five inches thick, 
an axle with straight phills, a bottom of boards or poles and a 
frame around and above the bottom about two feet high. 'I'hey 
resembled, at least in form, the two wheeled cart of the whites. 
They were made mostly of oak, the wheels were not banded with 
tires of any kind, and no iron whatever was used in their con- 
struction. In place of nails and bolts, wooden pins were used 
for the fastenings. The carts were used, eighty or a hundred in 
long strung trains which was called a brigade. 


In 1848 Prof. David Dale Owen, a distinguished geologist of a 
past generation, visited the Red River Valley. He had been 
appointed the previous year by government to make a geological 
survey of Wisconsin, Iowa and jAlinnesota. Its primary object 
was to derive information for the removal of such lands as were 
valuable for their mineral resources from sale in the land office 
at Washington. Owen had a large number of assistants and hi.s 


report was published in 1852. In coming to the valley, he made 
a canoe voyage down Red river as far as J^ake Winnipeg, and 
also passed up the Pembina river as far as the vicinity of Wal- 
halla. In what is now the western part of Pembina county, he 
examined the great delta of the Pembina river, called the First 
Pembina mountain, formed there during the highest stages of 
the ancient J.ake Agassiz. Owen surmised from the appearance 
of the Red River Valley that in some past epoch this great basin 
had been the bed of a fresh water lake of large proportions, but 
neither its physical cause nor the extent of the country it had 
covered were then known nor lor many years afterward.'.. 


In the summer of 1849 Major Woods was despatched by the 
Secretary of War to the Pembina settlement for the purpose of 
selecting the site for a military post. He was accompanied by 
Captain John Pope, of the Engineering Corps, who made a val- 
uable report on the country that was traversed by the ex- 
pedition. This left Fort Snelling on June 6th, proceeded up the 
Mississippi valley, thence across IMinnesota by way of the Sauk 
valley and J^ake Osakis, reaching the Ked river at a point about 
fifteen miles below the site of Wahpeton, having followed through 
Minnesota a cart route already well traveled by trains of Red 
River carts that went from Pembina to St. Paul. Crossing to 
the west side of the stream the remainder of their journey was 
down the valley in the footsteps of IMajor Long. On account of 
the near approach of the seventh decennial census of the United 
States, Major Woods had been (>rdered by Gov. llamsey, of the 
territory of Minnesota, to take it for the Pembina settlement. 
He found in and around this place 295 males and 342 females, 
the most of this population presumably being halfbreeds. In 
1840 the traders had 1,210 carts and at the time of the takiug of 
Woods' census the number must have been many more. 

Major Woods with the most of his party returned up the valley 
by the trail that they had followed down the same, but Captain 
Pope organized a secondary expedition at Pembina and returned 
up stream in canoes for the purpose of examining the river. He 
notes the streams that enter Red river Irom either side. Those 
between Pembina and ihe mouth of Ked Jiake river are stated by 
him to be as follows: 'I'wo Rivers, Park, Marais No. 1. (from 
the east) Big Salt, Marais No. 2, (from the Turtle, Ma- 
.rais No. 3, (from the east) and a small stream called Coulee de V 
Anglais. The Park, Big Salt and Turtle he states to be about 
eighteen yards wide, and the Red Lake river as being fifty yards 
in width near its mouth, fourteen feet deep, and as having a more 
rapid current than Red river. He placed the head of navitration 
on Red river at the month of the Bois des Sioux. 


In speaking of the country Captain Pope says: "The valley 
of Red liiver is entirely alluvial in its formation, no rocks iu 
place being found in its entire length within the territory of the 
United States. It abounds with bowlders or erratic blocks of 
granite, which in all cases are very much rounded by the action 
of water. They are most abundant upon the highest ridges of 
the prairies, and cause all the rapids in the small streams trib- 
utary to Red river. About seventy miles to the north of our 
frontier a secondary limestone appears at the falls of Red river, 
which is unquestionably the basis of the whole valley, but at what 
depth below the surface it is impossible to say." 

Captain Pope's error m supposing that the partially rounded 
form of bowlders, really chiefly due to glacial agency, was the 
result of decomposition aided by running water or any form of 
fluvatile action, was but that of his time. His speculation re- 
specting the bedrock of the whole valley being the same 
Silurian limestone that outcrops below Winnipeg, is but little 
borne out by the records of artesian wells that have been bored 
at many different points in the valley within the last dozen years. 
The limestone beds beneath the valley are of different epochs, 
and wherever present at all beneath the flat land of its lower 
depression, are apt to be overlain by successive beds of shale, 
though this is not invariably the case. The depth down to bed- 
rock on the valley plain and through soil, clay, sand and gravel, 
varies, approximately, from 100 to 400 feet. And the first rock 
struck may be either shale, limestone, sandstone or Laurentian 
granite, according to locality. . (For this county see pages 7-10.) 

Captain Pope also states that there were then three diflferent 
cart routes leading from the Red River Valley to St. Paul that 
were used by the traders and trappers of those times. These 
constituted a southern, middle and northern route. The first 
was by way of the Minnesota river to Big Stone lake, often tak- 
ing to the prairies instead of following the valley bottom; the 
other two led as one up the Mississippi valley and then diverged, 
the middle route following the course of the Sauk river and across 
country to the site or vicinity of Fort Abercrombie. this being 
the route of the expedition; the more northern route was by way 
of Crow W;ng valley, passing around the north end of Otter Tail 
lake and reaching Red river at the mouth of the Buffalo river. 
These divergent trails passed down to Pembina on either side 
of Red river. In crossing Mitmesota, where the country was 
partially wooded, they followed the prairie as much as possible. 


The first post-office in this state was established at Pembina 
about the year 1849. Previously, the Hudson Bay company had 
been forwarding their mail destined for Canada and England, 


twice a year, spring and fall, by special messengers or carriers 
to St. F;iiil, from whence it was forwarded to its destination. 
Each half year the mail as gathered from the company's numer- 
ous outposts consisted of a thousand or more packages. From 
England mail still came by ship through Hudson Bay. 

Kittson interested himself in the etablishment of a monthly 
mail between Pembina and St. Paul. The mail was to leave 
Pembina the first of each month for Crow Wing village, but there 
was no specified time as to its arrival at that place or at Pem- 
bina on the return trip. The route was by way of Thief ri'er, 
Ked, Cass and Leech lakes. The carriers were halfbreeds, and 
the mail was forwarded either way by cart trains in summer, a 
part of the way by canoe, and by dog-sledges in winter. Joseph 
k. Brown was contractor for the route between Pembina and 
Crow Wing, another route already being in use from the latter 
place down to St. Paul. 

Norman W. Kittson was appointed postmaster sometime in 
1849. In 1851 Charles Cavileer came to Pembina and a few days 
after his arrival there was appointed assistant postmaster by 
Kittson and did all the business of the office. By that time the 
transportation business of the country had increased to such an 
extent that the government established a custom-house at Pem- 
bina and Charles Cavileer was appointed collector. 'I'he custom- 
house was one of the log buildings of the place, as was also the 
post-office. Arrangements were also made with the Hudson Bay 
company to deliver their mail at Pembina and have it forwarded 
from that point. 


From 1849 to 1858 this portion of the Red lliver Valley was a 
part of Minnesota territory. Originally a part of the JA)uisiana 
purchase, the changes of name and of boundaries of the north- 
western country down to the time Minnesota territory was creat- 
ed, were many, as this region became attached to one or another 
of the successive territories that from time to time were being 
formed. When the territory was organized on June 1, 1849, St. 
Paul, which became its capital, was nothing more than a village 
and at that time mainly dependent on the northwestern fur trade, 
while Minneapolis was not, as yet, founded, the site on the west 
side of the river then being a part of the Fort Snelling military 
reserve. Northwestern 31innesota and the Ked River country 
constituted the Pembina leo;islative district, and although the 
white population was scant, it was presumed that it was entitled 
to be represented in ihe territorial legislature. 'J'he district does 
not appear to have been represented in the first and second ses- 
sions of the legislature, nor to have voted in the first and second 
elections for delegate to Congress. But in 1852, at the third 


session of the territorial legislature, Norman VV. Kittson was 
elected to the council (Renate)and Anton Gingras to the house. 

In the election of 1853 there were 128 votes cast at Pembina. 
In this election liolette, Gingras and Kittson were sent to the 
legislature, the two former to the house and the latter to the 
council. For several years thereafter, Rolette was sent to the 
legislature, in 1855 as a member of the council. "Joe was a trad- 
er without method and with but little idea of the value of money, 
and if the whole truth were to be told it would appear that the 
opposition traders sent him to the legislature in order to take 
him away from his business and leave the trade open to them, 
without his competitiim, which was entirely too sharp," 

It was during the session of the winter of 1856-7 that Kolette 
saved the cnpital of Minnesota to St. Paul. A bill providing for 
its removal to St. Peter had been introduced by VV. I). Lowry, 
member of the council from St. Cloud, and had passed the coun- 
cil February 12, and the house February 18, 1857. Itonly need- 
ed tiie signature of Gov. Gorman, who had been appointed by 
President Pierce to succeed (Jov. Ramsey, to become a law. 
Rolette was chairman of the committee that had the matter in 
charge, and the session being within five days of its close when 
he received the bill on the 27th, he made away with it by ab- 
senting himself from the session, and, with the connivance of 
friends who were hostile to the project, hesecluded himself in his 
room at a hotel called the Fuller house. Tradition states that 
these friends of .loe got him intoxicated, and detained him at the 
hotel in that way. These interested in having the bill become a 
law made strenuous effoit^-i to have Joe found, but without avail. 
Unable to report a true bill fur the governor's sigtiature, the leg- 
islature adjourned and the project of removing the capital fell by 
the wayside. 


The vast region now comprised in the Canadian provinces to 
the north of onr boundary was controlled by the Hudson Bay 
Fur company. As the charter granted to the original company 
had never been annulled, the region in question could be opened 
up to general settlement only by an act of Parliament that would 
terminate their control over this region. On the other hand, 
the portion of the valley within the United States could be oc- 
cupied by settlers at any time, subject only to the extinguish- 
ment of Indian titles, which, in this case, was effected about as 
early as any need of actual settlement required it. Both the 
agents of the fur company and the independent traders were 
doubtless opposed to the opening up of the country on either side 
of the boundary line so long as they could by any means prevent 
or hinder its inevitable occupation. 


The colonization of a reajion in wliich the larger game, and 
the smaller fur bearing animnis abound, leads to the gradual 
extinction of the fur trade. When such a region begins to be 
settled, the larger animals quickly retire before this first wave 
of advancing civilization; then, a little later, as the settlements 
spread and agriculture and its associated commercial operations 
are introduced into the newly occupied country, the smaller ones 
lessen in number, or, as in the case of the beaver, entirely dis- 
appear. Hence the reason of the hostility that the Northwest 
Fur company exercised toward Lord Selkirk's colonists in 1815 
and 1816. They saw in the planting of this colony in the wild- 
erness a menace to their business and its profitable gains. Had 
not L<>rd Selkirk possessed the requisite influence, the province 
of Manitoba would never have contained an agricultural pop- 
ulation for nearly sixty years later, than, in this instance, hap- 
pened to be the case. 

The fur traders of later times are believed to have circulated 
exaggerated reports respecting the rigors of the climate so as to 
deter emigration to the valley. In the nature of the case, con- 
sidering the steady and continuous west-by-north movement of 
the surplus population of the northern states, ever on the in- 
crease by the yearly arrival of thousands from Europe, the pos- 
session of the Northwest by the fur traders necessarily became 
limited in time, being one of those conditions of life, which, both 
in the Canadian Dominion and in United States territory, must 
sooner or later reach its destined end, and be terminated, either 
by peaceable or violent measures. The former method happily 
prevailed, but, in the meantime those engnged in the fur trade 
held a close grip upon the country. It is npparant that they 
preferred, that things should remain much as they had been and 
continue so as long as it was possible to maintain this phase of life. 
This long period of seventy or more years duration, devoted to the 
fur trade in the Red River Valley, has very aptly been called the 
"halfbreed epoch." Its duration was too long for it to be classed 
as an incident in the history of the Northwest. 

In 1857, the English House of Commons took the initial step 
toward opening the British possessions in North America. in the 
control of the Hudson Bay company to civilization and un- 
resticted commerce. The committee having the matter in charge 
reported in favor of terminating the control of the Hudson Bay 
company at the end of their then 21 year ternri expiring in 1869. 

In 1857 the Hudson Bay company completed arrangements 
with the Secretary of the Treasury of the United States whereby 
goods for that company could be carried in bond through the 
United States, thus practically doing away with the Hudson bay 
post known as York Factory, to which goods were then being 
shipped, vessels arriving and departing once a year. In the sum- 


mer of 1858 two or three shipments of goods were so made, leav- 
u\(r the Mississippi river at St. Paul and conveyed thence by Red 
Kiver carts under the direction of James McKey.* 

As soon as boat navigation on the northern lai^es and streams 
opened in the spring, the company's fleet of Mackinaw boats 
was put into active service. These boats had a capacity of about 
five tons each. There were distant posts on the Saskatchawan, 
Athabasca and Mackenzie rivers to which supplies had to be 
forwarded that had come by vessel from England the previous 
year, and was brought by the boats up as far as Norway House 
near the foot of Lake Winnipeg. Leaving Fort Glarry, the boats 
took down to Norway House the collected stores of furs, which, 
for the time being, were left at this post, then reloading with the 
supplies mentioned, the boats passed up the Saskatchawaii, some 
of them going as far as Edmonton. On their return to Norway 
House they brought back the winter's catch of furs forwarded 
from the distant posts, and taking on the boats again the peltries 
that had been left there, they proceeded down Nelson river to 
York Factory where a vessel was ready to ship these collected 
stores to England. Reloading with the cargo that the vessel had 
brought over, the boats returned up to Norway House where the 
goods were stored as first mentioned, and then returned to Fort 
Garry, by which time September had come. Boats merely going 
from Fort Garry to York Factory and back, could make two 
round trips a year. Meanwhile, such stock of furs as had been 
collected at Fort Garry after the departure of the fleet in the 
spring, was forwarded through the United States. The freight 
taken through this country in bond, was merely for the supply- 
ing of Fort Garry and its outlying posts, f 


In 1858 a military post called Fort Abercrombie was founded 
on the west bank of Red river fifteen miles below the site of 
Wahpeton. The fort was laid out in August, and was occupied but 
one year, when Secretary of War Floyd, as a part of his plan to 
despoil the North of government property and supplies and pre- 
pare the south for rebellion, dismantled the fort, sold the build- 
ings at a great sacrifice, and withdrew the troops. In 1860 the 
post was again occupied and rebuilt under charge of INLijor Day, 
and maintained until the building of the Northern Pacific rail- 
road rendered its farther occupation unnecessary. 

* Sketch by Capt. Russell Blakeley —We do not know in what publication 
this valuable historical article on the opening up of the Red River Valley 
first appeared; bxit it is contained in The Record Magazine for April, 1897: 
also "The Long Ago," pp. 36-40. The sketch is also nearly all used in this 
work, but owing to our plan of following Red River Valley history in as strict 
Chronological order as conveniently possible, it has been necessary to use it 
in detached paragraphs. 

t From information furnished by John Cromarty, of Larimore. 


About the time the fort was established, speciihitive parties 
endeavored to create a number of townsites in western Minnesota, 
some of them being located on Red river. There bein^ then so 
few white inhabitants in this regjion and the country undeveh)p- 
ed, these ventures, even if attempted in ^ood faith, could not be 
otherwise than unsuccessful. 


It was to the interest of the fur traders to keep the separate 
tribes of Indians at peace with one another as much as possible, 
but in this undertaking they were not always successful. In the 
fur trading days the allied tribes of the Sioux were the deadly 
enemies of the Chippeways (also spelled Ojibways) and the more 
northern tribes. About the year 1858, members of these tribes, 
or of most of them, met on the plains of Nelson county, near 
Stump lake and agreed at this council to bury the hatchet. The 
pipe of peace was smoked, and they mutually agreed, one tribe 
with another, to cease from their murderous forays against each 
other. William H. INfoorhead, one of the old timers of the lied 
River Valley who came in 1857, happened to be in the Devils 
lake region and was present at this peace council. 


About this time interest began to be taken by those engaged 
in commercial pursuits in the navigation of Red river by steam- 
boats, since it was known that it had long been used to transport 
goods by the use of canoes. In October, 1858, Captain Russell 
Blakely, of St. Paul, accompanied by John R. Irvine, visited the 
]led River Valley for the purpose of examining into the practic- 
ability of navigating this stream by steamboats. Resulting from 
the report of Capt. Blakely the St. Paul Chamber of Commerce 
offered to pay a bonus of $2,000 to whoever would place a steam- 
boat upon Red river. 

The Red River of the North is neither a wide nor deep stream, 
and is, or formerly was, practically navigable from J.ake Winni- 
peg up stream as far as Breckenridge and Wahpeton. This, at 
least, in respect to the latter points, was practicable when the 
river was above its ordinary stage. After the founding of Moor- 
head and Fargo the bridges stopped the boats from going above 
those places. The river is very crooked in respect to its minor 
bends, increasing to a long stretch the distances that the boats 
had to travel over and above a nearly straight course such as the 
railroads in the valley now have. Thus, the distance from the 
mouth of the Boh des Sioux at Wahpeton to the international 
boundary is 186 miles by a straight course, and 397 miles by the 
numerous twists and turns of the river channel, yet in all this 
part of its course the river does not deviate from one side to the 
other of a meridian line more than five or six miles. At Wah- 

r R E - S E T T L E M E N T A N N A L S 37 

peton the river at its ordinary stage is 943 feet above sea-level; 
the altitude of Lake Winnipeg is 710 feet, hence the fall of what 
has here been alluded to as the navigable part of the river 
amounts to 233 feet. For nbout 24 miles as the river runs, or 
twelve in a straight course next below the mouth of the Goose, 
the stream crosses a morainic belt of bowlder clay that extends 
across the valley here at this point, and its bed is obstructed with 
bowlders, forming the Goose rapids. The fall in this part of the 
river is twenty-four feet in its low water stage and fourteen feet 
during high water. These slight rapids were often a hindrance 
to the passage of the boats during any season of low water in the 
days of steamboat navigation. 

The range between extreme low and high water at the differ- 
ent points named is as follows: Wah peton, 15 feet; Fargo, 32 
feet; Belmont, 50 feet; Grand Forks, 44 feet; Pembina, 40 feet, 
and at Winnipeg 39 feet. The maximum point of extreme high 
water, occuring only during occasional spring floods, is Belmont, 
in Traill county, where the river channel is narrowed betweeu 
high batiks of bowlder clay; the next point of extreme high wa- 
ter level at (}rand Forks is connected with the entrance into the 
Red at that place of the Red Lake river. The years in which 
extraordinary floods have occurred on lied river, and been re- 
corded, are those of 1826, 1852, 1860, 1861. 1882 and 1897. 

The steamboat era on Red river may be considered as having 
had its beginning in 1859 and as practically terminating in 1886, 
in consequence of most of the boats having been driven out by 
the railroads by that time. There are two rather distinct periods 
to this era. The first came within the epoch of the fur trading 
business and was not helped by any settling or agricultural de- 
velopment of the country; the second period was coeval with tlie 
settling and earlier stages of the development of the valley. Of 
the earlier Red River steamboats, four of them have now become 
historic. 'I'hese are the FVeighter, the A.nson Northup, the In- 
ternatiorial and the Selkirk. For the present, we are only con- 
cerned with the first three of these boats. 


The dates of many of the facts relative to Red River Valley 
history, as usually published in various pamphlets, sketches, etc., 
are very discrepant, though generally they vary but one year 
forward or backward of that which should be the correct one. 
But in respect to the last trip ever made by the steamer Freiii;ht- 
er, they reach a perfect climax of confusion. While the general 
facts of the matter need not be called in question, the date of the 
attempt that was made to transfer this boat into Red river seems 
to be involved in almost hopeless entanglement. Manifestly, 
only one date to the incident here following can be the correct 
one, yet every year from 1857 to 1862 inclusive has been assigned 


by different sketch writers as the one that terminated the career 
of this boat. In this respect, nearly every writer mentioning 
the circumstance, and assigning a date, is at variance with nearly 
every other. Moreover, some have confounded the Freighter 
with the Anson Northup, rendering a bad matter in respect to 
chronology still worse. 

In the spring of 1859 or '60* an attempt was made to transfer 
a steamboat from the Minnesota into the Red river of the North 
by passing it through the long trough connecting the valleys of 
these rivers and in which nestle lakes Traverse and Big Stone. 
The heads of these lakes are about five miles apart, but the low 
bottom land between them called Browns Valley, is occasionally 
sufficiently flooded in the spring so that they are connected to- 
gether, although draining in opposite directions. It was known 
that on a few occasions laden canoes had made this passage from 
Pembina to St. Paul. A small steamer called the Freighter was 
then plying on the Mississippi and Minnesota rivers, with Capt. 
C. B. Thiemmens, master. J'he boat was owned by Capt. John 
B. Davis, of St. Paul, and is stated to have been a flat bottomed, 
square bowed aff"air, about 125 feet in length, of 200 tons burden, 
and was presumably of the stern wheeled style of build. Its 
owner seems to have conceived the idea of taking the boa.t into 
Red river in the manner above mentioned. Those directly in- 
terested in the enterprise were .1. C. Burbank, Russell lilakely 
and associates, parties who about that time organized a company 
to operate a stage line from St. (Uoud to the lied River Valley. 

The Freighter was accordingly run up the Minnesota river 
during the spring rise, but the water subsiding, the boat ground- 
in the river ciiannel and was left stranded about nine miles be- 
low the outlet of Big Stone lake, f It was then deserted by its 
crew, and one account says it was pillaged and nearly destroyed 
by the Indians. Capt. Davis afterwards stated that if he had 
started the boat off from St. Paul some three or more weeks ear- 
lier he could have gotten her through Browns Valley and into 
Red river with lictle trouble. 'J'he boat was afterwards sold for 

* N. H. Winchell, a good authority, in the Geological and Natural HIstorv 
Survey of Minnesota, vol. i. p. 134, gives the date as 18.59. Russell Blakely 
states that it was in 1860. This attempt to take the boat into Red river is said 
to have been an incident of a gold excitement that had broken out on the 
Saskatchawan. If this statement is correct, then the episode of the Freighter 
would have fallen in the spring following this gold craze. 

t The distance to the place below Big t^tone lake at which the Freighter 
was abandoned has been misstated nearly as often as the date. Warren Up- 
ham. who saw the remains of the hull of the boat in 1879, and states that the 
boat was burned after being abandoned, adds that the locality where she 
grounded is near the east line of Section 33, Odessa township. Big Stone 
county, Minn. (Geological and Natural History Survey of Minnesota, vol. i. 
p. G24.) If the hull of the boat was ever burned it was not until sometime 
after the cabin, machinery and other tixtures had been removed. In that 
case it could have been set on tire with equal facilitv bv white men as bv the 


its machinery to Burbank & Co., at sheriff's sale, and finally its 
heavier equipments were removed as presently to be stated. In 
after years no repetition of this experiment was practicable on 
account of mill dams on the upper Minnesota, and ultimately 
numerous bridges over the upper portions of both streams. 


The first steamboat to navigate Red river was called the An- 
son Northup and this boat was placed on the river in 1859. 
Some years before the civil war, a, steamboat called the North 
Star was in use on the Mississippi above the Fallsof St. Anthony. 
'I'his boat was bought at INFinneapolis in the fall of 1858 by Capt. 
Anson Northup, who took it up the river to Crow Wiug where it 
was dismantled. Here lumber was sawed for a prospective boat 
to navigate lied river. Early the next spring an expedition left 
Crow Wing consisting of 34 ox teams and 44 men enroute for the 
Red River Valley with the boilers, engine and furnishings of the 
North Star and the sawed lumber. The expedition followed one 
of the cart trails to Detroit lake, the remainder of the journey 
being across a stretch of country without trails, bridges or in- 
habitants and i ather difficult to pass through in March.. A town- 
site named Lafayette had been laid out a year or two before this 
time opposite the mouth of the Sheyenne, and this place contain- 
ed a log cabin or two. Tlie party arrived here on the evening of 
the first of April. Here the hull of the boat was built. This 
being completed and the boilers and machinery having been 
placed in position, it was launched and next run up to Fort 
Abercrombie where the cabin was constructed. 

This first boat to navigate Red river had a capacity of from 50 
to 75 tons. Its machinery had previously been used in other boats 
and is said to have been brought to the west from the state of 
Maine about the year 1851. The steamer started for Fort Garry 
on IMay 17, and arrived there on June 5, 1859. She returned up 
to Fort Abercrombie bringing on the trip twenty passengers. 
Here she was tied up and when Capt. Blakely and others desired 
her further services they were informed that they would have to 
buy tiie Anson Northup if they wanted to run her. Capt. North- 
up had agreed to place a steamer on Red river for the bonus that 
had been offered, but had not agreed to run the the boat on any 
regular trips. Later on the boat was bought by J. C. J^urbank. 


The Hudson Bay company maintained a few posts this side of 
the boundary line in the capacity of a commercial organization. 
One of these, called Cileergetown, located on the Minnesota side 
of Red river, 16 miles north of the site of Moorhead, was estab- 
lished August 12, 1859. The post was located by James McKey. 
During the same year an association called the Minnesota Stage 


company wms organized by J. C. Burbank, Russell Blalcely and 
their associates, to put on a line of stage coaches between St. 
Cloud and F'ort Abercrombie, the route being by way of ^auk Cen- 
ter, Osakis, Alexandria and Breckenridge. This stage line result- 
ed from mail contracts of 1858, whereby mail was to be carried by 
way of the places named to Fort Abercrombie and other worth- 
western points. An expedition was sent out in June to bridge 
streams and open the road. This being done and stations es- 
tablished, the stages began running in the fall of 1859. The next 
spring the stage line was extended down to the Georgetown post. 

There accompanied the road-making expedition a party of 
ladies and gentlemen from Great Britain bound for the Hudson 
Bay posts in British America. Of the party were the Misses 
Ellenora aud Christina Sterling, of Scotland. The party, it 
seems, expected to travel by boat to Fort Garry, but Captain 
Northup havinir refused to run the steamer, a flatboat was built 
at Fort Abercrombie and the party proceeded down the river, 
the flatboat being in charge of Geo. VV. Northup. On the trip 
down one morning a small band of Chippeway Indians fired 
several shots at the party. George asked why and what reason 
they had for shooting at them. Their answer was: "You must 
not talk our enemies' language if yon don't want to be shot at." 
It took twent3'-two days to reach Fort Garry, and the ladies went 
on to liake Athabasca where they arrived just as winter set in. 

While on his return to St. Paul, Capt. Blakely learned of the 
purchase of the Anson Northup by his associate, ]\Ir. Burbank. 
He appears to have returned at once to the valley. Under her 
new ownership the boat made another trip to Fort Garry. The 
water now being low the boat could not get through the Goose 
rapids. Her cargo was unloaded, the intention being to have it 
taken to its destination by McKey's carts, when the timely ar- 
rival of Capt. Blakely resulted in the construction of wing dams, 
and the goods being reloaded, the boat proceeded safely to Fort 
Garry, but the crew returned to St. Paul by a cart train. 

In the spring of 1860, Capt. Blakely and associates completed 
a contract with Sir George Simpson for the transportation of 
500 tons of freight annually from St. Paul to Fort Garry for a 
period of five years. 1'he steamer was refitted the same spring, 
was renamed the Pioneer, and was con)manded that summer by 
Capt. Sam Painter, with Alden Bryant, clerk. 

Nick Huffman said in the sketch written by him: ''Stations 
had been built along the [stage] road, and teams by the hundred 
were hauling freight for Fort Garry and Georgetown. The old 
steamer Ans Northup was then making regular trips from George- 
town to Fort Garry. There was life and good pay everywhere. 
John Campbell and Bill Kerr were batching at Campbell station. 
J got work and good pay haying. Captain Munn sent for me to 


work Oil the steamboat, which they then called the Pioneer. 
There was no pleasure in this as the water was low and the men 
had to haul on the lines all day and chop wood all night by lan- 
tern, and we had a hard time to get the boat to Georgetown. " 

The mail was now extended from Fort Abercrombie to Pem- 
bina, and William Tarbell and Geo. W. Northup were employed 
as carriers, using carts in summer and dog-trains in winter. 
Ultimately the Pioneer passed into the hands of the Hudson Bay 
company, was dismantled, and her engines used to run a saw-mill. 


The next boat to be placed upon Red river was called the Inter- 
national. She was built at Georgetown in 1861.* This boat 
contained the machinery and other belongings of the stranded 
Freighter which had been hauled by ox-teams across the prairies 
late the previous fall and in charge of C. P. V. JiUll.f The timber 
for the hull was cut along Red river, and sawed by the old fash- 
ioned pit method, one man working the lower end of the saw 
below in a pit, and another the upper end upon the log above. 
The International measured 137 feet in length, 26 feet beam, and 
was rated at 133 tons. She was owned by Burbank & Company. 

Nick Huffman, evidently referring to the year 1862, wrote: 
"In the spring we all went on the boat, with Capt. Barrett, Pilot 
John K. Swan, and the usual crowd of rousters. We run by day, 
and chopped wood by night, as the Indians did not allow any 
woodchoppers to stay on the river, and so the boat had to get its 
own wood. The Indians owned the whole country then. It was 
steamboating under difficulties as the Indians were inclined to 
be hostile and took everything from the settlers. The whole 
crew soon gave out and had to quit." 

* According to the sketches the date of the International runs from 1859 to 
1863 inclusive. A. W. Kelly, of Jamestown, N. D., came to St. Paul in 1861, 
arriving there on the day of the battle of Bull Run. He then went to George- 
town where he helped to build the International. This fixes the building of 
the boat in the latter half of the year 1861. The boat was probably not 
launched imtil the spring of 1862. 

t "There was an old steamboat lying in the Minnesota river six miles be-" 
low Big Stone lake which was intended to come over into Red river in 1857. 
There was a big flood in the Miiinesota river and Captain Davis thought he 
could run the old Freighter, for that was the name of the boat, into the Red 
river, but the water went down and the boat was left stranded. The boat was 
sold at sheriff's sale, and was bought by Burbank of the stage company. 
There was a Welshman left in charge of the boat and here he stayed nearly 
four years away from wife and children with nothing to eat, only what he 
could hunt and fish. 

"In the fall of 1860 we took a lot of teams, wagons and tools, under orders 
from Burbank and took the boat to pieces and brought it to Georgetown, 
We found the boat and the little Welshman all right. 

"A second trip was necessary for the machinery. There were two big boil- 
ers, but we brought them safely to Georgetown where the boat was rebuilt. 
We did not reach Georgetown till after Christmas with the last load and the 
weather was very cold."— Nick Huffman's Story. 


Russell Blakely says: ''The Indians had protested against the 
use of the river for steamboats complaining that the boats drove 
away the game and killed the fish, while the whistle made such 
an unearthly noise that it disturbed the spirits of their dead and 
their fathers could not rest in their graves. I'hey demanded 
four kegs of yellow money to quiet the spirits of their fathers or 
that the boats be stopped. At this time Clark VV. Thompson, 
superintendent of Indian affairs and Indian Commissioner Dole, 
were on their way to the mouth of Ked Lake river, opposite 
Grand Forks, to hold a treaty with the Indiajis. They were 
turned back by the opening of Indian hostilities in August, 1862," 

The Sioux Indian outbreak was confined more to central and 
western Minnesota than to the Red River Valley, though in the 
upper part of it they killed a few settlers, plundered teams load- 
ed with supplies, burned what there then was of Breckenridge 
and besieged Fort Abercrombie for six weeks. ■ Most of the set- 
tlers then located along the Minnesota side of the river, in that 
part of the valley were warned in time and fled for shelter both 
to the fort and the fur trading post at Georgetown. 

Duriijg these troubles the International was taken to Fort 
Garry. A cart train from 8t. Paul loaded with Hudson Bay 
goods had just arrived at Georgetown in charge of Norman W. 
Kittson; the teamsters and others were organized into a defensive 
force consisting of 44 men, but as they were indifferently armed 
and the post unable to stand a siege, it was decided after keeping 
guard for two weeks, to abandon it and seek safety at Fort Garry. 
Pierre Bottineau was sent to Pembina for a relief guard, and 
the people, carts and goods were ferried across the river at night. 
Elm river was crossed the first day and the Goose river on the 
second when the relief party was niet. Among these men were 
Joe Rolette, \Vm. Moorhead, Hugh J)onaldson and other old 
time frontiersmen. I'he third night out, the party camped three 
miles south of the site of Grand Forks. At the forks of the river 
they found several hundred Chippeways who had gathered to 
meet the Indian commission. This band took whatever food they 
could lay their hands upon and allowed the party to proceed to 
Fort Garry without further molestation. The Georgetown post 
remained vacant until 1864 when it was again occupied. 

The International was brought to Fort Abercrombie in 1863 
by Capt. Barrett, and in 1864 was sold to the Hudson Bay com- 
pany, it having bocome apparant that the country could not be 
opened up against the interest of that powerful organization. 
They did not want immigration and trade, nor mails or other ap- 
pliances of civilization. The boat made but one trip that year. 
The cart brigades again put in an appearance and the country 
became devastated by grasshoppers.* 
* Sketch by Capt. Russell Blakely. 



On aeooQDt of the Sioux outbreak of 18^2 and continuation of 
Indian troobles into the jear following, it was thought to be ad- 
▼isable to occupr the valley with troops. The Seeretarj of War 
eomisBioned Major E. A. C, Hatch, of St. Pan], to recruit a bat- 
talion of four companiei: of cavalry. It was late in the fail be- 
before the expedition with it« aocompanin^ wa^n trains »ot 
started. They marched by way of St. Cloud, Sauk Center and 
Alexandria, tmt they divided the line of marcJi at Pomme de 
Terre. Major Katch with one division, proceeded to Georgetovn 
direct, but Lieut. Charles Mix, with the other division, went by 
way of Fort Abercrombie. Major Hatch arrived at Geor^town 
Oct<»ber oO. and Lieut. Mix came in several days later. The 
expedition reached Pembina November 13, 1863. The march 
down the valley was an arduous one on aeeoont of scarcity of 
forage for the teams and cold weather. Upward of ^0 animals, 
horses, mules and oxen, were lost. That winter the troops built 
Fort Pembina. Gov. Alexander Ramsey, of Minnesota, made a 
"treaty" with the Indians in Octot)er, 1863, and this, with the 
patrolling of the river, endcl the trouble with them in the valley. 
In the spring of IS^ Hatch's battalion left the valley and 
returr-i - "-t. Paul. 


CoDDiGgnam's was also a military expedition made in 1^5. 
It eonsisted of a regiment of cavalry, and upward of two hundred 
ciTilians, employed in various capacities, such as teamsters, 
cooks, etc The expedition left Fort Sneliing with >fajor Cun- 
ningham in eommand, and crossing the state oi Minnesota, they 
marched to Devils lake by way of the Sheyenne river. The ob- 
ject of entering l>akota with United States troops at that time 
appears to have been to mxke a reconnalaBance or to aemit thtoogh 
the ooantry and impress the Indians with a show of military 
strength, for their depredations in other parts of the territory 
had n/jt wholly ceased. From Devils lake the expedition pro- 
ceeded eastward toward Sed river. This was in August, and 
the line of march wa<« probably through the «<LUth western pitut of 
this county, for the expedition headed for the i^eorgetown post 
on their way back to Fort Snelling. This expedition had some 
influence on the settlement of the eastern part of North Dakota, 
for it oiade the country better known to men of Cunningham^s 
command. who,'some years later, emigrated hither. 


About the year 1S67 or dS, the last of the buffalo that roamed 
over the ea-tern part of >orth Dakota disappeared from the Red 
Kiver Valley. The bi-^jn instinctively avoided all localities 
frequented by man, and on that account the herds did not ap- 


proach very near to the old Red River trail during the later years 
of their visits to the valley, but rather ranged somewhat back 
from the river, 'i'hat they were extensively hunted in this part 
of the state, the abundance of their bones that the settlers found 
scattered over the prairies bore convincing testimony. The last 
roving herd left in the west was wiped out in eastern Montana 
in 1883. A few were saved from total destruction by being pro- 
tected in the Mational Park, also some in corrals by a few ranch- 
ers. While the last of the herds were being killed off, their hides 
by the car-load were shipped over the Northern Pacific railroad, 
to be followed a few years later by car-loads of their bones over 
the same and other lines, destined to eastern sugar refineries and 
bone mills. The immense bone piles at some of the railroad 
stations in North Dakota, as collected by the settlers and sold to 
shippers during the later 'eighties, presented surprising objects. 


In Afarch, 1869, the Earl of Granville succeeded in terminating 
the Hudson Bay contracts and that company surrendered posses- 
sion of the country, thus ending a twenty-one year contest on the 
part of the Imperial government for the opening of the country. 
The organization of the Manitoba government was provided for 
in 1870, and on August 23 of that year, Colonel Wolsey at the 
head of the GOth Canadian Rifles entered Fort Garry, and on 
September 2, Lieutenrnt Governor Archibald arrived and the 
colony was duly organized. James W. Taylor, the American 
consul, arrived in November. 

At the time of the surrender of their privileges to the crown, 
the Hudson Bay company occupied twenty districts and possessed 
120 posts in Manitoba and the Northwest territory, and employ- 
ed 3,000 men. Fore Garry was their principal stronghold. The 
first Fort Garry was established in 1821, at the time of the coal- 
ition of the Northwest and Hudson Bay compunies. A second 
fort, that so often mentioned in Red River Valley history, was 
built in the vicinity of the first in 1835, the old one heing 
disnjantled. Both of these forts stood upon the site of the city 
of Winnipeg which was founded in 1870. The political power 
of the Hudson Bay company now being gone, they dwindled to a 
mere commercial organization, and in that capacity they con- 
tinued to maintain a few posts this side of the boundary line so 
long as it was of any profit to them to do so. The British North- 
west now being open to settlement, a large immigration soon fol- 
lowed from Ontario and other eastern provinces of Canada. 


The railroads have wielded a vast influence on the later devel- 
opment of the Red River Valley. As we shall have to take up 
again this subject, as these neared an<l were next built through 

P R E - S E T T L E M E N T A N N A L S 45 

this county, it will be proper at this point to give some account 
of the time and manner of their approacli to the valley itself. 
Two great railroad lines, more than any others, finally exercised a 
potent influence on the settlement and development of the valley. 
These were the Great Northern and Northern Pacific railroads. 
While the latter road has always borne its present name, it 
should be stated of the former named system that its lines were 
at first called the St. Paul & Pacific Railroad. This name was 
retained until 1879; in that year there was a reorganization of the 
company and the road then took the name of the St. Paul, Minne- 
apolis & Manitoba JIailway. In 1890 the Great Northern system 
took its present name. The original road was chartered in 1856. 

On June 25, 1862, in the midst of the civil war, a short ten 
mile stretch of track was put in operation between St. Paul and 
the village of St. Anthony, now comprised in the east side of 
]\linneapolis. This short line was the first railroad to be built 
in Minnesota and it was the beginning of the present Great 
Northern system. An isolated railroad system, coniprising a 
few short lines of track and owned by different companies, next 
began to radiate outward in various directions from St Paul and 
Minnen polls. These lines were confined to eastern Minnesota 
and were isolated in the sense that, while interconnected, none 
of them for about a half dozen years had any connection with 
any of the lines then radiating from ^lilwaukeeor Chicago. To 
equip them, the rails, cars, locomotives, etc., all had to be brought 
up the .Alississippi river from the nearest points below St. Paul 
at which they could be delivered to the boats by railroad. 

By the year 1866 the northern line of the St. Paul & Pacific 
had been extended up to Sauk Rapids, near St. Cloud, 76 miles 
above St. Paul. In 1872 this line was built through St. Cloud to 
Melrose, 34 miles west of the former place, and here the track 
halted for several years. In the meantime, the southern route of 
this system was begun at Minneapolis in 1867, was pushed year 
by year toward the Red Pviver Valley and reached Brecken ridge, 
according to some old settler's recollections. October 21, 1871. . 

The conception of a railroad from the head of Lake Superior 
to Puget Sound originated during the early years of railroad con- 
struction in this country. After the beginning of the first trans- 
continenral line, the original conception took definite form and 
shape and a company was organized to build it. The road was 
chartered by Congress July 2, 1864. Preliminary work on the 
Northern Pacific was begun near Thompson, Minn., February 15, 
1870, and by the close of that year 50 miles of track had been laid 
west of the point of its divergence from the St. Paul & Duluth 
railroad. The next j^ear 179 miles more of track were added to 
that first laid, thus completing the road as far west as the Red 
river at Moorhead by December 1, 1871. 



There had been a few frontiersmen located along the Minne- 
sota side of Hed river above Georgetown since about 1858, but 
the Dakota side of the upper part of the valley practically remain- 
ed unoccupied until about the year 1870. John Lindstrom, 
now a resident of Lind township in this county, came from Doug- 
las county, Minn., and settled on the Dakota side of the river 
May 18, 1870. He writes to author as follows: 

"When I came to Dakota in 1870, I settled on the Red river in 
what is now Cass county, fifteen miles north of where Fargo now 
stands. At that time there were very few white people anywhere 
on the ])akota side of Red river. At Fort Abercrombie there 
was the garrison, but below that place there were no settlers for 
fifty miles. At the point right opposite the Hudson Bay post of 
Georgetown there lived a Frenchman called Jjick — I never heard 
any other name applied to him — who traded with the halfbreeds 
and Indians that came along the river. I used to trade with him 
too, sometimes. He charged fifteen dollars a barrel for flour, 
thirty cents a pound for pork, two dollars a gallon for kerosene, 
two dollars a gallon for black strap molasses, four dollars a gal- 
lon for vinegar, three pounds of sugar for a dollar, and 2| pounds 
of coffee for a dollar. He sold gunpowder, shot and gun-caps, 
always charging three times as much as at the general stores. 

"Jack also sold whiskey, but the sale of that article came to a 
sudden stop when the soldiers who were to garrison Fort Pem- 
bina went by his place. Tliey camped for the night south of his 
place, but they found out that he sold whiskey. So two of them 
walked down there so as to 'get the lay of the thing' as they gen- 
erally expressed it. They took a few candles along which they 
traded off for whiskey so as to find out where it was kept. The 
next morning, as they were about to pass by, the whole gang turn- 
ed into his place, crowded into the house, coralled Jack at the table 
where he was eating his brejikfast, and some of them commenced 
to help themselves to what was on the table so as to draw his 
attention while the others helped themselves to the whiskey. 
The keg was nearly full, and as this held ten gallons, they could 
not afford to leave what their canteens would not hold, so they 
shouldered the keg and walked off. Their officers took them 
about three miles down the river; there they had a rest which 
lasted until the next morning and they had a glorious time, sing- 
ing and shouting. This wound up Jack's saloon business, for he 
was afraid of having more customers of that kind. 

"One day a contractor that hauled goods to Pembina came 
along the river with about twenty-five yoke of oxen and as many 
wagons. His teamsters were all white men, or would have been 
such if washed. Each man drove two or three teams, according 
to his ability, but his cook was considered one of the smartest of 


them, though he only drove two teams. But in addition to his 
driving the teams he was furnished with an old smooth-bore mus- 
ket and ammunition so as to do a little hunting along the road. 
When they had gotten between Georgetown and Elm river, a 
bear came along on the outer side of the road so as to cross it 
behind the line of teams. Some one, as a joke, shouted to the 
cook to take his gun, run out, and kill the bear. 'J'he man took 
his gun, loaded with duck-shot, and the rest of his ammunition, 
and ran out to meet the bear. All thought that they would lose 
their cook, but none of them had sense enough to warn the fellow 
back. But fools generally have good luck and so had this one. 
When he had gotten within five rods of Bruin, the latter parly 
thought he had better get ready for a fight. Rising on his hind 
legs he waited for ah attack. The cook fired his charge of shot 
square into the bear's forehead, but the gun being dirty, the shot 
scattered and blew out the bear's eyes. That was the only thing 
that saved the man's life. Now there was time to reload and a 
man was hastily sent out by the train boss to shout to the cook 
that he should go close up to the animal, take aim behind the 
shoulder, and fire forward. He did so, and put an end to the 
roaring and distracted animal. 

"But the greatest novelty we had to look at in those days was 
when the Hudson Bay company's freighters passed by us, going 
between Fort Garry and St. Cloud. Sometimes they had trains 
consisting of one hundred and six Ked River carts drawn by 
ponies or oxen, both kinds of animals beins: used in the same 
train. The drivers rode alongside on horseback. They were 
generally halfbreeds, as could be seen by their long hair hanging 
down on their shoulders and mocassins on their feet; otherwise 
they were clothed like white men. From eight to ten carts were 
managed by each driver. The equipment of each man was a 
short whip, generally hung by a string around the wrist of the 
right hand, a muzzle-loading shot gun, a powder-horn and a 
shot-bag. The boss was always a white man, and he generally 
had one or more white men with him as a kind of bodyguard. 

"The last buffalo seen in this region was in 1867 when one was 
seen and shot on the Dakota side six miles below Georgetown. 
Jn 1871 there were some wild Texas steers roaming across the 
country, one being shot at Rush river, one at the mouth of the 
Sheyenne and another near the mouth of Elm river." 





E HAVE now arrived at the period when settlers 
be^an to occupy the west side of Red river with 
• the intention of establishing permanent settle- 
ments. With the spreading of the incoming 
population over the North Dakota side of the 
ey, this work is not specially concerned, excepting in so far 
as this immigration was confined to the limits of Grand Forks 
county with its present boundaries. That subject will presently 
be given considerable attention, since county histories, at least 
in the western states, are mainly concerned with settlements, 
phases of life and the progress in different decades of their ma- 
terial development. 

As viewed from the historic standpoint. Grand Forks county, 
relative to its progress for the last thirty years, may be said to 
present the following points as characteristic of this comparative- 
ly brief period: Here was made the second settlement, so far as 
the occupation of a townsite is concerned, of white families in 
the state; the first was made at Pembina by a part of the Selkirk 
colony about 1813. During the first seven or eight years of the 
period referred to, the settlement of the county progressed in a 
slow and fitful manner, not much advancement being made within 
that time to any particular distance west of Ked river excepting 
up the course of Goose river. In the meantime, conditions were 
such that the agricultur<il development of the county was being 
held in abeyance. During most of this interval the history of 
the county is chiefly bound up in that of the settlement at Grand 
Forks. When, finally, its interior portion began to be occupied 
by the incoming settlers, it was along the timbered streams and 
not upon the open prairie that these earlier locations were made. 

C I V I L O Tl( ; A N I Z A T I O N 49 

Then, from one to two years Inter, a movement west from Grand 
Forks began by which the prairie lands were rapidly taken, this 
westward advancement of population being throua:h the central 
part of the county, but with considerable deflection in some 
localities north and south of the course of the main movement. 
In 1880, the year that the railroad development of the county 
began, immigration into it commenced in earnest, the floodtide 
reaching high-water mark in 1882, so that by the year following 
the county had been quite generally overran and the most of its 
vacant lands filed upon. Toward the end its settlement progress- 
ed with accelerated rapidity. 

Within about ten years after the initial settlement had been 
made, the railroad development of the county was begun and 
was completed to its present mileage in a little more than seven 
years. Within this second interval the existent towns and vil- 
lages of the county, built upon these lines, had their beginning 
and have been gradually building up since that time. The city 
of Grand Forks, especially, has made phenomenal progress since 
becoming a railroad center. Since 1882, yet more particularly 
within the last dozen years, the farms, generally, have been un- 
dergoing improvement, increasing in respect to what is really 
substantial valuation, and the aggregate wealth of the county 
has also increased until it is now rated as one of the wealthy 
ones of the state. Though considerable was brought in, the most 
of this wealth has been created here. 

Since the county was overrun by settlers, or what is more to 
the point, since the last decennial census, its gain in population 
has resulted more from what is called natural increase, and from 
the building up of the towns and peopling of the same by later 
comers than from any farther occupation of land or division of 
farms into smaller holdings. Since 1883, speculation has sub- 
sided, society chrystalized, education advanced and existing con- 
ditions along all lines have had time to become long aud firmly 

Before -speaking of the creation and organization of the county, 
it will be in order at this point to take a glance at the conditions 
existent here about the time that the first settlement was made 
within its present boundaries. We have only to go back about 
thirty years. In the case of counties originally well forested, 
and which contained swamps and small marshes capable of be- 
ing drained, the changes that have been wrought in their phys- 
ical aspect within thirty or forty years after settlement have often 
been of a very marked character, but with counties like Grand 
Forks, the changes, though considerable, are more of a superficial 
nature, the result of town and other building, railroad con- 
struction, cultivation of land, planting of artificial groves and 
hedge-rows on the farms and shade trees in the towns. 



There being no great amount of timber land in the county in 
comparison with its area, the greater portion of it lay in 1870 as 
wild prairie land exists in its primitive state. The natural prai- 
rie grass was short, only attaining a height suitable for use as 
hay in moist or wet places where there had been some gathering 
of the waters when the snow melted. Of wet, sedgy places, oc- 
cupying shallow depressions of the prairie, there were then a far 
greater number of them than there are now. Interspersed with 
the prairie grass there grew quite a variety of botanical plants, 
many of them of the flowering kind. The buffalo had but recently 
disappeared and had not been gone long enough for their wal- 
lows to have become grassed over or their trails obliterated, but 
the elk, antelope, coyote, fox, etc., still remained as denizens of 
the country. The gopher was not abundant, for the coyote and 
fox thinned their number. Thus these prairie lands lay vacant, 
awaiting the coming of the settler and the touch of the plow. 

There were then no claimants to the limited tracts of timber 
that border the interior streams of the county. The timber was 
more or less clogged in places, with the floatwood and flotage of 
these watercourses, the fallen and dead timber, vines and under- 
brush, and occasionally there were to be found a few fire-scarred 
and blackened trunks of trees still standing where they had 
grown. There were then to be seen in places along the streams 
the worn trails of the buffalo, where they had wended their way 
down the slopes to drink or to cross from the prairie on one side 
to that on the other. Where the banks were steep the herds 
made iise of the coulees that occasionally occur in such places, 
in their movements in and out of the stream valleys. Follovved 
upward, the trails were soon lost on the prairies, and upon any 
of the slopes they were deepened somewhat by winds and rains 
at the time that the buffuloes used them, and not wholly so by 
the treading ot the animals themselves. 

In the spring and fall, wild fowl of all kinds that were birds of 
passage to this region, paused for awhile iti and around the ponds 
and marshy plRces of the valley plain and higher back country, 
in large numbers, and with little probability of being disturbed 
by man, though it should be said that Indians and halfbreeds 
occasionally visited the county during their hunting expeditions, 
but at that time there were but few even of these. In the same 
yejir also, there were a couple of cabins of white men at the forks 
of the river, the only habitations in the present county, and 
a well worn cart route passed the same point, the timbered 
banks of the stream each summer being made resonant with the 
noise of trains of the creaking Ked Uiver carts of famous memory, 
mingled with the oaths and shouts of the drivers. 


There was plying on the river in those days a single steamboat 
— the Internjitional — owned by and operated in the interest of 
the Hudson Bay company. During the spring, when there was 
a good stage of water, the boat sometimes went up stream as far 
as Fort Abercrombie in running between Fort Garry and any of 
the up river points, and later in the season only as far as George- 
town. In the fall, when the water ran low in the Goose rapids, 
she only ran up as far as Frog Point. The boat was then making 
as many as three trips each season and the cart brigades but one. 


There were three cart routes or "half breed trails," as the early 
settlers called them, that crossed through different parts of the 
present county. Tiie river route has already been referred to. 
It was one of the cart routes from Pembina and Fort Garry to 
St. Paul and later to St. Cloud after that place became a railroad 
point. It followed the general trend of the river, of course, cut- 
ting off the bends. It was already old when Griggs and Vaughn 
first saw it in the fall of 1870, and it probably dated from the 
early 'forties if it was first struck out by the independent traders 
of Rolette's time. At all events, it was no recently marked way 
when Major Woods and Capt. Pope followed its course in 1849, 
and the mail appears to have been carried over it ten years later 
than that date. In 1870 it was a well worn trail. ''Hundreds of 
carts in summer and dog-sleds in winter traveled over it," writes 
Vaughn, and at the close of the preceding part of this work an- 
otlier old timer has mentioned what impressed himself concern- 
ing it during the same year. 

Next in age was the old Georgetown trail that passed through 
the western part of the county. This had been abandoned for 
several years when first observed by the settlers who had located 
in that section, and it was then already grass-grown. It follow- 
ed the lower slope of the uplands through this county, at least to 
a considerable extent, if not wholly so, and on account of avoid- 
ing such wet or sedgy places as existed toward the western side 
of the Elk Valley, then occurring more frequently than now. 
This trail led from Fort Garry to Fort Abercrombie, thence to 
St. Paul by orie of the Minnesota routes that have been mention- 
ed. A branch trail, or cross-cut, from Georgetown ran northwest 
through parts of Cass and Traill counties intersecting the inland 
trail, and together these formed a continuous route between the 
Georgetown and St. Joseph posts, thence to Fort Garry. Hence 
it came to be called by the early settlers of Traill county who 
found it still plainly marked upon the surface the "old George- 
town trail." 

Chas. H. Lee, of VValhalla, the compiler of the "Long Ago" 
sketches, writes to the author: "This trail, I think, was opened 


up about 1859. Mr. J. F. Mager, now a resident here, came in 
over that trail that year with his father, and he states that it was 
not a trail at that time in the proper sense of the word, as it was 
hardly discernable and, at points, would have been lost entirely 
but tor the knowledge of their Indian guide." 

The reason why this route was opened so far west of Red river 
was probably due to the fact that in spring and early summer 
the route near the river, in some places, became well nigh im- 
passable. On that account a more dry route upon higher land 
was desirable. In 1870, men with teams, materials and supplies 
were sent from Fort Abercrombie to re-establish Fort Pembina. 
Some were sent down the river by flatboat, but one party, which 
included about twenty-five carpenters, were obliged to proceed 
by the back country route. At first they traveled by way of the 
trail along the river, but this being found impassable for the 
many loaded teams accompanying the party, a detour was made 
Mild the more western route was struck at Maple river. 

The third one of these cart routes that crossed the area of 
country now comprised in Grand Forks county appears to have 
l>een a cross-cut between the river and inland trails and which 
formed a route from the Hudson Bay post of Goose River (now 
Calerlonia) to St. Joseph and Fort Garry. This trail led in a 
northwestern direction and passing the "lone tree," it crossed 
Turtle river at the Newell C. Morgan place, thence bearing west- 
by-north it recrossed the stream near the line between Elm Grove 
and Hegton township, and intersected the other trail some dis- 
tance north of Elm grove. The "lone tree" is a large Cottonwood 
in Section 21, Blooming township, and is now surrounded by 
smaller ones of the same kind. In the old days it stood as a land- 
mark to travelers coming down the trail and going to Turtle 
river and the section around Gilby, 

Now the halfbreed trails were unlike those worn upon the 
prairies by the settlers in using the common farm wagon. They 
consisted of three separate and closely parallel paths, each about 
sixteen inches in width, the outer ones being worn by the thick 
rimmed, heavy wheels of the carts, and the center one by the 
treading of the animals drawing them, both ponies and oxen 
being used and harnessed single between the phills of each cart. 
Thus peculiar roadways were worn upon the prairie surface by 
the passage (»f the cart trains that annually traversed these routes 
and the worn trails remained visible for many years after they 
had ceased to be used. 


The territory of Dakota, which, as originally formed, extended 
from the state of Minnesota, as at present bounded, westward to 
the Rocky mountain divide, was created by act of Congress 


shortly before the opening of the civil war, the bill having been 
signed by President Buchanan on March 2, 1861, which was two 
days prior to his being succeeded by President Lincoln. The 
bill had passed the Senate February 26, and the House March 1. 
The newly inaugurated president appointed William Jaynes, of 
Illinois, governor of the territory. He arrived at Yankton on 
May 27, 1861. 

The first territorial legislature, consisting of thirteen members 
of the house and nine of the council, convened at Yankton 
March 17, 1862, and held its session until I\lay 15, following. 
This body created four counties in what is now North Dakota, 
and which bordered on Red river. These were named from north 
to south as follows: Kittson, Chippeway, * Stevens and Shey- 
enne. Not a single county in either North or South Dakota now 
bears any one of these four names. There were no white inhab- 
itants in any of these counties when they were created, except- 
ing a few at Pembina and St. Joseph, (now Walhalla) and the 
officers, soldiers and employees at Fort Abercrombie. They 
were never organized, and although they found a place on maps 
and in some of the school geographies of the next few years, 
nothing appears to have been done toward permanently maintain- 
ing them either under their prescribed boundaries or names. 

In 1867, a large county was erected out of the present eastern 
portion of North Dakota. It was named Pembina county, and 
the territorial governor appointed Charles Cavileer, Joseph Ko- 
lette and Charles Grant county commissioners, who met and 
organized the county, August 12, 1867. The following county offi- 
cers were appointed: John E. Harrison, register of deeds; Wm. 
H. Moorhead, sheriff; James McFetridge, judge of probate; and 
John Dease, superintendent of public instruction. Pembina was 
made the county seat. 

The tenth session of the territorial legislature convened at 
Yankton December 2, 1872, and continued its session until Jan- 
uary 10, 1873. Among other acts this assembly passed a bill 
creating a number of counties in that portion of the territory now 
included in the eastern part of North Dakota; 'i'hese were Pem- 
bina, (of less area than that of 1867) Grand Forks, Cass, Rich- 
land, Cavalier, Foster, Ransom, LalMoure, Renville, and Stuts- 
man, with boundaries more or less different from their present 
ones. 'J'his act was signed by the governor January 4, 1873. 

Probably Judson LaMoure who was elected the previous fall 
to the house and Enos Stutsman to the council, both from Pem- 
bina, were more instrumental in fathering the creation of these 

* Chippeway county took in all of Tra?ll and Steele excepting their south- 
ern tier of townships, and all but the southern and western tier of townships 
in Griggs, likewise ail of Nelson excepting its western range of townships, 
and Grand Forks county in its entirety. 


counties than any other members of that assembly, and the latter 
named gentleman arranged for the naming of them while stop- 
ping at the house of Morgan T. Rich, the first settler of Rich- 
land county, on his way to Yankton.* 


In the act creating these counties commissioners were appoint- 
ed to organize them. Geo. B. VVinship, John W. Stewart and Ole 
Thompson were named as the board of county commissioners to 
organize Grand Korks county. No attempt to accomplish this end 
was made until July, 1873, when Messrs. VVinship and Stewart 
met at the tavern or stage station kept by the latter gentleman 
at Grand Forks. As Mr. Thompson had refused to qualify as a 
commissioner, the other two designated O. S. Freeman as a third 
commissioner in place of that gentleman. Alter four days' ses- 
sion the work of completing this first organization of the county 
was accomplished and with the following result: Register of 
deeds and county clerk, J. J. Mulligan; judge of probate, Thomas 
Walsh; county attorney and superintendent of schools, O. S. Free- 
man. The other oHicers cannot now be so positively named, no 
record of their proceedings having been preserved, but probably 
Alex. Griggs was appointed treasurer and Nicholas Huffman 
sheriff. Alex. Griggs, M. L. McCormack and O. S. Freeman 
were appointed a commission to locate the county-seat, and they, 
of course, selected Grand Forks.f 

Thus the county was fully organized according to law in 1873. 
Rut owing to the apathy of the county officers and what, perhaps, 
was a more potent cause, the sparse settlement of the county at 
that time, the orgatn'zation was suffered to lapse, which made 
necessary its re-organization the following year. Mr. Winship 
has stated that he does not believe that there were then 75 white 
men in the whole county. 

In the fall of 1874, the county was re-organized by the territorial 
governor, John A. JJurbank, who appointed a new board of county 
commissioners, to wit, David P. Reeves, Alexander Griggs and 
George A. Wheeler. Messrs. Wheeler and Reeves met at the res- 
idence of the latter commissioner (Griggs being absent) and com- 
pleted the organization of the county March 2, 1875. The first 
officers of the county were: James Elton, register of deeds; 
Nicholas Huffman, sheriff; Thomas Walsh, treasurer and judge 
of probate; Geo. A. Wheeler, superintendent of schools; Thos. 
Walsh and D. P. Reeves, justices of the peace. Thomas Camp- 
bell and James Mulligan were appointed constables and O. S. 
Freeman, district attorney, but failed to qualify. The appoint- 
ment of a coroner was deferred. 

* The Record Magazine, September, 1896. 
i From data furnished by Geo. B. Winship. 


Thus by the spring of 1875 Grand Forks county finally entered 
upon the period of its civil history as a distinct and organized 
division of Dakota territory. As first created, the county covered a 
very large area of the Red River Valley, with a considerable ex- 
tension into the higher country that lies to the west of the proper 
limits of the valley. It comprised all of the present county, to- 
gether with parts of Traill, Steele. Nelson and Walsh counties. 
As to the time when the confluence of Red and Red Lake rivers 
was first called Urand Forks, we find no mention; but while the 
locality was likely designated as "the forks" by the voyageurs of 
the fur companies, we suspect that the prefixed word did not long 
ante-date the settlement of the place, if at all. But it was ap- 
lied to the settlement made there and afterward was also adopted 
HS the name of the county. 

Traill county, formed from parts of Grand Forks and Cass, was 
organized February 23, 1875. The commissioners met at Goose 
River (now Caledonia) and proceeded to organize the county. 
Steele county was of later origin; it was formed from parts of 
Traill and Griggs and was organized June 14, 1883. In the year 
1880, Grand Forks county was still one of the largest, if not the 
largest county in the territory of Dakota. It still included 
the southern half of Walsh county, and its western border ex- 
tended to the vicinity of Lakota. In 1881 two tiers of townships 
were separated from its northern border and added to Walsh 
county which was created that year by being formed from parts 
of Grand Forks and Fembina counties. The county was organ- 
ized August 30th of the same year. In 1883, townships in three 
ranges weie also taken from its western part and given to the 
newly created county of Nelson, which was organized May 15th 
of that year. This reduced the area of Grand Forks county to its 
present dimensions. 


During the earlier years of Dakota territory, when the pop- 
ulation to be represented was sparse, the legislative and judicial 
districts were apportioned on a large scale. As the population 
increased and the counties were reduced in area by the creation 
of others, the districts became more circumscribed, but like the 
counties, they increased^in number. In the case of the legislative 
districts, this resulted in a gradual increase of the members of 
the territorial council and house of representatives, but the dis- 
trict judges hardly increased in like proportion. At every ses- 
sion of the legislature changes were made either with the legis- 
lative or judicial districts, or both, effecting their boundaries, 
designated numbers, etc., as new ones were created. We are 
only interested in those in which this county was concerned and 
can only indicate the general trend of matters. 


At first the eastern part of the territory constituted one legis- 
lative district, the Fourth, called the Big Sioux and Red River dis- 
trict, rhe members of the first legislature were elected Sept. 16, 
1861, and Hugh Donaldson was a member of the house from 
Pembina that session. In the second session, which convened 
Dec. 1, 1862 and held to Jan. 9, 1863, James McFetridge was n 
member of the council and James Y. Buckman and Hugh Don- 
aldson were members of the house. At this session the Red 
River district was created. For one or two sessions thereafter 
this district was not represented in the legislature. 

Enos Stutsman came to the territory from Des Moines, Iowa, 
as private secretary to Gov. Jaynes. After representing the 
Yankton district for several sessions during which p6riod he was 
three times chosen president of the council, he took up his res- 
idence at Pembina and was sent to the house in the legislature 
of 1867-8 and was chosen speaker of the house. It was this leg- 
islature that created the big county of Pembina. 

In 1877 the counties of Grand Forks and Pembina conitituted 
the Eighth council district which was entitled to one member of 
the council. In ] 879, the counties of Traill, Grand Forks and 
Pembina formed the Tenth district and was entitled to one 
member of the council and two members of the house. In 1881, 
Grand Forks, Traill and Walsh were made to constitute the 
Twelth district, the member of the council to be elected from 
Grand Forks county. In 1885, Grand Forks county was des- 
ignated as the Nineteenth legislative district. 

Under statehood Grand Forks county is divided into three dis- 
tricts, the Fifth, Sixth and Seventh, and each is entitled to one 
senator and two representatives. For the townships and city 
wards that comprise each of these districts the reader is referred 
to the state constitution or to the Revised Codes of 1895. 

The territorial judges were appointed by the President of the 
United States, but the legislature created the judicial districts 
and made the frequent changes of subdivisions, boundaries, etc., 
that became necessary. The judges were also associate justices 
of the supreme court of the territory. It was then divided only 
into three districts. The counties comprising these districts. 
Avere often grouped together in subdivisions and the terms of 
court held at some oHe designated place /or each subdivision of 
a district. In other cases single counties constituted a sub- 
division, if siilficiently populous. 

A North Dakota judicial district was created by the territorial 
legislature of 1870-1 and Pembina was designated as the. place 
where the court was to sit. The first session was held there in 
June, 1871, Judge George W. French presiding. George I. Fos- 
ter was clerk; li. H. J.ichfield United States Marshal; Judson 
LaMoure Deputy, and Warren Cowles United States Attorney. 

C 1 V 1 J. O R G A N I Z A T I O N 57 

This was the first coiirl held in North Daicota. Judge Peier CI 
Shannon succeeded French and held two terms of court at Pem- 
bina in 1872. Judge A. H. Barnes wms appointed associate jus- 
tice by President Grant in 1873 and held office until succeeded 
by Judge Hudson. 

In 1877, the counties of Cass, Stutsman, llichland. Hansom, 
LaMoure, Traill, Grand Forks, Peinbina. Barnes, Foster, Ram- 
sey, Cavalier, Gingras (now Wells). French (now Benson and 
Peirce), and Itolette constituted a large subdivision of the Third 
judicial district, the whole district then comprising nearly all of 
the area of North Dakota. The court for this subdivision was to 
be held at Fariro twice each year. In 1879 the district was made 
to comprise six subdivisions with as many designated county- 
seats at which terms of the district court were to be held. The 
county of Grand Forks singly was made one of these subdivisions. 
It was while Judge Barnes was in office that the first term of dis- 
trict court was held at Grand Forks. 

In 1881 Judge S. A. Hudson became the incumbent of the Third 
judicial district, and held the office four years. He was succeed- 
ed by Judge VVm. B. McConnell, appointed by President Cleve- 
land, May 8, 1885. The 'I'hird district was still quite extensive. 
In 1888 there were six districts; the northeastern counties, in- 
cluding Grand Forks, were now formed into a new district called 
the Fourth, Charles F. Templeton being appointed judge. 

Under state government the the counties ofPembina, Cavalier, 
Walsh, Nelson and Grand Forks were designated as the First 
judicial district. In 1895 the three northern counties of the five 
just named v^ere formed into a separate district, called the 
Seventh, Grand Forks and Nelson counties remaining as the First 
judicial district. Judge Templeton was elected to fill the office of 
district judge when the present state government was organized, 
was re-elected in 1892, and he was succeeded by Judge Charles 
J. Fisk, who entered upon the duties of his office January 4, 1897. 


The first United States Land Office in Dakota territory was 
opened at Vermillion in 1862. The first one established in North 
Dakota was opened at Pembina, December 19, 1870, with (ileo. F. 
Potter, Register and B. F. Brooks, Receiver. Its location being 
at the northeast corner of the territory and not conveniently 
situated, it was removed to Fargo and opened there Aug. 1, 1874. 
Six years later a new land district was creatied in the northeast- 
ern part of what is now North Dakota, and the U. S. J^and Office 
at Grand Forks was accordingly opened April 20, 1880, B. C. 
Tiffany being its first Register and W. J. Anderson, Receiver. 

Sections 16 and 36 of each surveyor's township are reserved as 
school lands. In this county these lands amount to 51,520 acres. 


In 1893, the legislature made provision for the sale or rental of 
the school lands of the state for benefit of the school fund. 


When the United States census for 1860 was taken, there 
were no white inhabitants in the area now comprised in Grand 
Forks county. In 1871 there were about fifty at the settlement 
made that year at Grand Forks. The population in 1875 was 
something over 2,000. The census of 1880 gave Grand Forks 
county a population of 6,248 inhabitants, but probably about 
one thousand of these were located in the southern half of Walsh 
county, then a part of this county. There was a territorial 
census taken in 1885; this gave the county with present bound- 
aries, 20,454 inhabitants. The census of 1890 showed that the 
population was then 18,321. This indicates a considerable de- 
crease since 1885, probably chiefly due to re-emigration. The 
present population is reckoned at 25,000, which is apt to be an 



The Red river at Grand Forks averages about two hundred 
feet in width, flowing between sloping banks, and, at its ordinary 
stage, is about forty feet below the common prairie level. There 
is but little show of bottom land along the river at this point. 
'I'he Med Lake river, debouching into the larger stream here, so 
enters it that the timber belt along its south bank and that along 
the east bank of the Red, merges together so as to terminate in 
a triangular shaped point. 

The city is built upon the valley plain that stretches outward 
from the west bank of the river, the site being mainly below the 
confluence of the two streams. The original townsite was mostly 
platted in the S. Ei of Section 3, which is partly fractional, but 
the city now covers eight or nine different quarter-sections and 
portions of others. The most of them are in the north part of 
Grand Forks township, but the many additions to the original 
townsite that have successively been platted, has caused the city 
to overlap into the south part of Falconer township. The site of 
the city is essentially level and was a good location upon which 
to found a town. In building it upon this site there was no heavy 
forest to clear away, no hills to be leveled down, and practically 
no hollows to be filled. 


It was not Captain Griggs' choice of a location, but far more 
potent factors that determined the site of Grand Forks. These 
were geographical location and physical conditions combined 


with favorable surroundings. These basic factors being what 
they are, agricultural development of the surroundinjjr country, 
converging railroads, invested capital and business energy in 
conjunction with the laws of commerce, have made the city what 
it is in present times. 

The distance by railroad from Fargo to Winnipeg is 229 miles, 
the latter city being located about 55 miles beyond the inter- 
national boundary. With the rise of these places as distributing 
points, each in its respective part of the valley, a large trade 
and manufacturing center oil Red river was bound to arise some- 
where between them, because of a commercial necessity, and be- 
cause the stretch of country between the others is so wide. A 
physical fact — the forks of Red river — determined where this 
intermediate trade center should arise. The geographical location 
of Grand Forks chances to be an excellent one, being nearly at 
the midway point between Fargo and the boundary line; near 
the center of the broad portion of the valley that lies within 
United States territory and in the line of the route taken by the 
Great Northern Railway from the head of Lake Superior to Mon- 
tana and the Pacific coast. Necessarily the city has grown up on 
the west side of the river. The movement of the products of the 
country being chiefly from west to east the places on the side 
of lakes and streaiws that is in the direction from whence the 
bulk of the produce comes are the ones that are apt to attain 
the largest growth. Given a townsite equally good on the other 
si<le, and even granting its prior settlement, the result tor the 
west bank would not have been much different from what it is 
now. Nor does it make any essential difference as to who chose 
the townsite or founded the place; results today would have been 
essentially the same if other persons had been concerned and even 
three or four years of either earlier or later beginning would now 
have made but little difference. The primary acts of a few in- 
dividuals do not alter very much ultimate results which are 
themselves the outgrowth of conditions based upon natural and 
commercial laws. 


Nicholas Huffman first came to the Red River Valley in the 
spring of 1860. He was probably a native of Germany, but had 
likely resided in one of the middle western states before coming 
to the valley. While living, he furnished the Red lliver Valley 
Old Settlers' association with a record of his life and experiences 
from the time he ca»ne here down to the termination of the siege 
of Fort Abercrombie at which he was present in August and 
September, 1862.* Unfortunately he never finished his narrative 
so as to cover ihe period of the fiist occupation of the Dakota 
* "Nick Huffman's Storj'," published in The Record Magazine, Oct. 1896. 


side of the river at Grand ForJjs. He finally died by his own 
hand, in East Grand Forks, on or about August 19, 1896. 

In the fall of 1868, Huifman and August Loon built a log shack 
in tlie timber on the river bank a half mile above the point 
where Red Lake river enters Red river. They were the first 
white men to reside in the present county. They were joined in 
August, 1869, by Sanford C. Cady, who also put up a cabin dur- 
ing the following year and on the land now covered by Viets' 
addition to Grand Forks. These parties wereengaged in carry- 
ing the mail by sub-contract with Blakely & Carpenter from 
Breckenridge to Pembina and were found there with one Antoine 
Gerard or Geroux, a Canadian Frenchman, in the fall of 1870. 

These men had their residence and followed their vocation 
here, but they came not as do bands of pioneers going from an 
old to a new section of the country wMth the intention ot establish- 
ing a new settlement or founding a town; they were here in the 
interest ot the mail service, not knowing whether their stay was 
likely to be long or merely transient. They howeyer, consider- 
ed themselves as squatters, Huffman and Cady virtually being 
such by reason of building their respective abodes, but they had 
no conception of the future value of the land that lay around 
them unoccupied.* Coming earlier than prospectively permanent 
settlers, these four persons seem like men of another epoch, atui 
in fact, did belong to another era of the valley in which a differ- 
ent phase of life was existent than that which followed. 


It is in connection with these heralds of permanent settlement 
that we have now to speak of the first postmaster of Grand Forks 
whose name was entered on the books of the Post Office depart- 
ment, who was duly appointed, qualified and comnussioned be- 
fore any settlement had been made on the original townsite and 
before Capt. Griggs ever saw the Red Hiver Valley. . 

Sanford C. Cady is a native of Ohio. Like many other of the 
old time frontiersmen, he came to Dakota ir) the employment of 
the government, and was engaged between 1866 and 1869 as 
C'hief Wagon-master in hauling supplies from Fort Abercrombie 
to the frontier posts. Ke quit the government service in the 
spring of 1869 and engaged to haul goods to Fort Garry, taking 
through three ox-teams, the wagons being loaded with. a stock of 
boots and shoes, and he received $350 for hauling this freight. 

Enos Stutsman, of Pembina, was interested in whatever con- 
cerned the welfare of the Red River Valley. He was an astute 
politician, and probably more, (or having seen in his lifetime 
the rise of several states on either side of the Mississippi, he 
muse have realized, with prophetic foresight, the then future 

* Statements of Sanford C. Cady. He is still a resident of this county. 


importance of the great valley plain of the Red river. It whs 
through his efforts, in sending a petition to the Postmaster Gen- 
eral at Washington that the mail station at the forks of Red 
river was designated as a post-oflSce in 1870, and a postmaster 
appointed for the place. 

Mr. Cad}' was the first postmaster of Grand Forks. Some cor- 
respondence passed between Cady and Stutsman relative to the 
matter, and, among other things, the question of naming the of- 
fice was broached. I\Ir. Cady suggested Grand Forks, a name, 
he states, already used by the Canadian French employees of the 
Hudson Bay company and others. Stutsman wrote him a jocose 
letter about the application of the word ''grand" to the tame 
scenery around the forks of the river, varied only by a couple of 
log shacks, nevertheless the name was adopted, was likewise giv- 
en by Stutsman himself to the county some two and a half years 
later, and was first officially used by the Postoffice J)epartmerit 
at Washington. 

Mr. Cady's commission, which is still in his possession, bears 
the signature of John A J. Creswell, Postmaster General under 
President Grant, and shows that the appointment was made 
June 15, that Mr. Cady qualified July 18, while the commission 
is dated August 2, 1870. In procuring the appointment of a 
postmaster for the mail station at the forks of Red river at that 
early day when there were no otiier inhabitants there than those 
mentioned, at a time too when the mail was only being carried 
up Jind down the river road once a week at most, and sometimes 
in a haphazard fashion, Stutsman evidently presumed that a set- 
tlement would be made there, and at no distant day. 


James J. Hill, now president of the Great Northern Railway 
system, was, in those early years, a warehouseman of »St. Paul. 
History will accord to the master mind of this man that meed of 
credit which is his due for his conception of making the fertile 
lands of the Red River Valley directly tributary to the twin 
cities by connecting lines of railroad, and for the rapid develop- 
ment of the Northwest which he was instrumental in hastening 
forward to its present stage of growth. With the Canadian 
Pacific north and the Northern Pacific south, both in process of 
construction during the 'seventies, it is evident that the settle- 
ment and development of the intervening portion of the Red 
River Valley would soon inevitably have begun to occur. Some 
railroad company would, therefore, have seized the opportunity if 
President Hill had not; but it is, perhaps, safe to say that no 
other man of present times would or could have accomplished with 
such characteristic energy and persistency of purpose what he 
has done, at the time it was done, and so quickly and so well. 


Much of the goods then being transported to Manitoba passed 
through the house of the firm of Hill & Griggs, and thus his at- 
tention was attracted to the future possibilities of the Red River 
Valley. In 1869 he made a trip from St. Paul to Fort Garry, 
passing down the valley by dog-sledge. He appears to have 
decided at this time to build a steamboat for the river trafl!ic 
so as to facilitate the transportation business of the firm. Later, 
we find him purchasing ground at Pembina for a warehouse. 

Captain Alexander Griggs is a native of Ohio, and was born at 
Marietta, the first town that was founded in his native state. 
He is next found in early life living at St. Paul. For sometime 
prior to July, 1870, he was captain of a steamboat called the "St. 
Anthony Falls" that ran on the Mississippi and Minnesota rivers. 
Howard R. Vaughn, now residing at Walhalla, was clerk on this 
boat. Captain Griggs' home was at Henderson, Minn., a town 
on the Minnesota river about sixty miles above St. Paul. As a 
river captain, we take it for granted that he was familiar with 
the character of the diff'erent townsites on both the Mississippi 
and Minnesota rivers, observing how the towns that are located 
at or near the mouths of the valleys of the intersecting streams 
were the ones that were apt to have attained the largest growth. 
At all events, his experience and observations seem to have had 
something more than a remote connection with his choice of the 
Grand Forks townsite. 

Griggs and Vaughn spent July 4. 1870 at Henderson; on the 
5th they went to St. Paul and turned the St. Anthony Falls 
steamer over to headquarters; on the 6th they returned to Hen- 
derson to bid goodbye to friends and on the following morning 
they started for the Otter Tail Lake country. 


About July 1, 1870, Capt. Griggs took the contract to build for 
the Hill Transportation company a steamer to run on Red river. 
This was the boat afterwards known as the Selkirk. On July 7th 
Howard R. Vaughn and the captain left Henderson for the Red 
River Valley, not, however, going there directly. They went by 
rail as far as St. Cloud, taking a couple of boat carpenters along 
who had been picked up on the way. Their next move was by 
stage across country by the old time route to a point a« near to 
Otter 'fail lake as they could make by this mode of conveyance, 
which was within some miles of Old Crossing, a point on Otter 
Tail river, sixteen miles east of JJreckenridge. Alighting from 
the stage, the party next proceeded up to the Otter Tail Lake 

* The paragraphs under this heading are' largely based upon "The Long 
Ago," a i)amphlet of 76 pages, issued by the Walhalla Mountaineer, in 1898. 
Compiled bv Chas. H. Lee. Pp. 65, 66 and 67. Also upon data kindly furnish- 
ed the author of this work by Howard R. Vaughn of Walhalla. 


region to procure oak and pine lumber for the prospective steam- 
er, and some lumbermen were engaged in that part of the state. 
Pine trees were felled and the logs sawed at Krazee's mills; the 
oak lumber was otherwise procured. Lumber was also purchas- 
ed to build seven flatboats, each about forty feet in length, and 
the sawed stock was loaded into them lengthwise, then they were 
worked down through Otter Tail lake, and with some difficulty 
incidental to the navigation of small streams, down past the site 
of Fergus Falls and around to McCauleyville, opposite Fort Ab- 
ercrombie, where Uriggs and Vaughn and the boat crews arrived 
about the first of September. For the first time Oapt. Griggs 
now v^aw the lied River Valley. This journey and the lumbering 
operations connected with it were the first acts, productive of 
material results, that in any way led directly to the settlement of 
Grand Forks county. 

During the fall of 1870 there was a great deal of freighting 
done, Hill, Griggs & Co., being the leaders in this line, and 
much of the goods were in bond bound for Winnipeg. In order 
to facilitate the trade, flatboats were built without waiting for 
the completion of the Selkirk, the merchandise loaded into them, 
crews picked and all floated down the river. About forty loads 
of goods were sent down the river that fall in that way. At 
Winnipeg the boats were knocked to pieces and sold for lumber. 
J)uring the season Mr. Vaughn had charge of the construction of 
these boats and the steamer, under Griggs, while the captain 
himself spent nearly all of his time on the river selling lumber 
and delivering the goods at Winnipeg. 

It was late before the river froze up that year and November 
came before the last fleet of boats, seven in number, started for 
Winnipeg. Mr. Vaughn a-ccompanied the boats on this trip. 
At Frog Point (now Belmont) the river froze up and the boats 
were laid up for a week. Here ]Mr. Vaughn met Capt. Griggs 
on his way up the river from Winnipeg. The sun came out 
warm and the ice melted so that the boats were again gotten 
under way and taken to Grand Forks, then a mail station and 
post-office only. Here the goods were unloaded and the boats 
[)roken up, the lumber being used to construct a temporary stor- 
age building both to store the goods and protect them from the 
spring rains in case they were left there that long. 

Capt. Griggs had accompanied Vaughn and his men back as 
far as the forks of the river, or rather had driven down in a 
buckboard. He was now acquainted with the river from Fort 
Abercrombie to Winnipeg and had had an opportunity to look 
for the best townsites along its banks. He also knew of the ap- 
proaching lines of railroad and must have inferred that the per- 
manent occupation of the country would not much longer be 
delayed. Being a man of sagacity and practical business habits, 


he realized his opportunity, and the sites of Moorhead and Fargo 
being either claimed or of doubtful utility just at that interval, 
he accordingly made choice of the next best site to be found 
between those points and Winnipeg, liking the looks of this lo- 
cality the best and himself and Vaughn decided to take claims 
here, or rather locate squatter's claims and settle upon them 
afterward. The township lines had been run by the government 
surveyors in that part of the valley that year, hence it was not 
a very difficult matter to locate corners of quarter-sections, at 
least approximately, by measuring and ranging from these lines. 
Capt. Griggs selected a claim, upon which, over three years after- 
ward, he filed a homestead entry and later still had platted upon 
a part of it the original townsite of Grand Forks; that chosen by 
Vaughn was below this, lie thinks the land now comprising River- 
side or in that vicinity. 

Griggs and Vaughn now set a part of their flatboatmen at 
work getting out logs for two small cabins to be erected, one upon 
each claim, but the work was abandoned without attempting to 
construct them that year, or at the most only a few logs were 
thrown together to indicate foundations to shacks and show some 
signs of a purpose to pre-empt the claims, for the cabins were not 
actually put up until the next spring. Whatever was done, ap- 
pears to have been done hastily, for cold weather was at hand 
and Griggs and Vaughn and their men soon departed for the 
winter. In fact, little was really done that year beyond locating 
the claims. * 

Leaving a man to look after the stored goods, the captain and 
Vaughn next went up to McCauleyville in the buckboard, fol- 
lowing the cart road. Vaughn refers to it as a tiresonie journey. 
He remained at McCauleyville during a part of the winter, 
but Capt. Griggs returned at once to Henderson, leaving for 
home before the end of November. Vaughn having received an 
appointment about the first of January in the Customs depart- 
ment at Pen»bina, he resigned his position with Griggs and re- 
moved to that pbice early in February, 1871. 

About a month after Mr. Vaughn's arrival at Pembina, word 
was received by the Customs department that some pilfering 
had been done among the bonded goods stored at the forks. 

* In answer to inquiries made by the author of this work, H. R. Vaughn, 
S. C. Cady and Thos. Walsh all substantially agree that no log cabin whatever, 
in the proper sense of the word, was put up on the original townsite of Grand 
Forks in the year 1870. According to The Record Magazine, July, 1895, Capt. 
Griggs' "improvement" merely consisted of the foundation to a cabin, twelve 
feet square and five logs high. A few logs thrown together in the form of a 
pen did not constitute a squatter's cabin. Nor was Capt Griggs a squatter at 
the forks of the river that fall; in all probability he, himself, never claimed to 
have been such. The familiar narrative concerning his flatboat trip down 
the river, his landing at its forks, building a log cabin and taking possession 
of the land as a squatter f apparantly all by himself) is legendary, and hardly 
warranted bv the real facts of the matter. 


Accompanied by Judson I.aMoure, who was Deputy U. S. Marshal, 
Mr. Vaughn proceeded by pony and sled to the forks in March to 
look into matters and to arrest suspected parties, but the latter 
object was not accomplished. The snow that winter lay deep upon 
the ground and only the beaten track could be traveled without 
using snowshoes. Besides being rendered snowblind by the glare 
of the sun on the snowy plain, two or three days of discomfort 
were spent by them at the forks in the mail carrier's small cabin 
amidst stored supples, men, dogs and fleas. These canines that 
bred the fleas were train dogs used in carrying the mail in winter 
and were fed on half frozen raw fish, taken from the river. Fish, 
too, of the kind called "gold eyes," is said to have constituted the 
piincipiil living of the drivers. Sometime after the return of 
Vaughn and LaMoure the stored goods were sledded to a bonded 
warehouse at Pembina and afterwards taken to Winnipeg. 

We have now to speak of an early settler at Grand Forks who 
came there in the mid-winter season of 1870-71. George W. 
Aker left Afilwaukee, Wis., for the Red River Valley in August, 
was at Alexandria, Minn., September 26, 1870, and thereafter 
was engaged for some time in hauling supplies from McCauleyville 
to other points, rwaking one trip to Fort Totten that fall. After 
this he made two trips down to the mail station at the forks of 
Red river, the first being mad^i in November of that year, and 
the second a little later. When Mr. Vaughn removed to Pem- 
bina in February, 1871, Mr. Aker accompanied him as far as the 
forks, and on the journey down there Vaughn arranged with him 
to occupy and hohi down the claim he had selected until he had 
leisure to settle upon it himself. This land is now contained in 
Riverside Park and Skidmore's addition to Grand Forks. Aker 
cut and liauled out logs for a cabin on this claim which he put 
up with the help of one, Jacob Whay, in April, 1871. * 

Mr. Vaughn having decided to remain at Pembina, and the 
country not developing as soon as had been expected, nor the 
townships being as yet, surveyed (i. e., subdivided), he finally 
tired of holding his squatter's right by proxy and transferred it 
to Aker in part payment for his services.! Mr. Aker states 
that the letter of Vaughn first making this intention known to 
him is dated January 24, 1872. 


The history of the city of Grand Forks, relative to the actual 
settlement of the townsite, properly begins with its first occupa- 
tion by persons who came to stay, to establish permanent homes, 
to found a town and to acquire in it whatever property in- 
terests might be open to honest endeavor. This event took place 
in the spring of ]871. 

* From statements made by Geo. W. Aker. t Statement of H. R. Vaughn. 


Thomas Walsh was born in Ireland, from whence he came to 
the province of Quebec, Canada, presumably with his parents, 
for this was during his boyhood. In after years he joined in the 
emigration movement of the 'fifties, then flowing like a springtide 
toward Minnesota territory, and located at Henderson in 1856. 

When Capt. Griggs returned to Henderson late in the fall of 

1870, he arranged with Thomas Walsh to come to Dakota in the 
spring and settle upon the site he had chosen at the forks of Red 
river. This understanding was had in December and Mr. Walsh 
was to have a half interest in the townsite. Griggs interested 
others at Henderson in the proposed settlement on or about the 
same time. The captain with Walsh and Hurd, were to erect a 
steam snw-mill at the settlement and Walsh was also to assist in 
establishing a general store there. Accordingly, in the spring of 

1871, Thomas Walsh, Burton Haney, James Jenks, and Alexan- 
der Blair left Henderson for the Red River Valley. They pro- 
ceeded by railroad to Benson, Minn., to which place the line from 
Minneapolis to Breckenridge had recently been extended, thence 
journeyed afoot to Old Crossing, staging the remainder of the 
distance to McCauleyville, where the Selkirk was then approach- 
ing completion. The outfit for the saw-mill and their supplies 
was sent along as freight, and was brought to McCauleyville 
over the same route. 

The Selkirk not being ready, the party came down the river 
by flatboat and were about six days in making the trip down to 
the forks. The saw-mill machinery and their supplies was taken 
along at the same time on the flatboat. They arrived at the site 
of the future city on or about April 15, 1871. 

We further learn from Geo. W. Aker these facts relative to 
Capt. Grigscs' preparation for a cabin and the condition in which 
the Walsh party found it. The captain had his flatboatmen cut 
and haul together the logs for one upon his prospective claim. 
A single round of logs only was laid down that fail for a 
foundation; then, during the early part of the following month 
of April, the man that Griggs left there to look after the stored 
goods, with the help of others, put up a few more logs upon the 
four first laid down. The shack had neither floor nor roof, and 
thus the Walsh party, arriving shortly afterwards, found it. Mr. 
Walsh also states that all else they found upon the original 
townsite was an Indian tepee and a halfbreed cart, and that the 
only persons then around the forks that he remembers were 
Nicholas Huffman, August Loon and a few woodchoppers. Such 
were the conditions found existing now over twenty-eis;ht years 
ago where a populous and important city has since grown up. 
"We set to work" says Mr. Walsh "to clean the snow out of a 
small shanty, put in a floor and roof on the shanty, also putting 
in a door and a window. That was the first start of Grand Forks 


city, about April 15-18, 1871." Thus Thos. Walsh and those 
who came with him became the first actual settlers upon the 
original townsite of Grand Forks. 

The beginning of the place, was with a few log cabins and 
shucks. The saw-mill was gotten in operation by the first of 
August, but could only turn out lumber from such trees as grow 
along the river, the pine being absent. 

Besides those who came directly with Thos. Walsh, there also 
came that spring or summer, Capt. Alex, (iriggs, John W. Stewart, 
.loim Fadden, Sr., David Blair, M. E. Hurd, O. E. Nash, James 
Elton, D.M.Holmes, M. L. McCormack, Joseph Greenwood, 
O. S. Freeman, D. P. Reeves, Asa Sargeant, and some others. 
Of Thos. Walsh and those who came with him or afterward and 
who held to the country during those early years, it may be said 
of them as of Griggs, Vaughn, Cady, Aker and other early 
comers, they were of the class of men that founded this state. 


The later stage of steamboat building for the navigation of 
Red river was inaugurated by the construction of the Selkirk. 
This later era, as has been remarked, was coeval with the oc- 
cupation of the country by settlers, hence, until practically ter- 
minated in so far as the navigable portionof the whole river is 
concerned by the building of the present lines of railroad in the 
valley, it assumed far larger proportions and importance while it 
did last than the earlier period of the fur trading days that had 
produced only two boats. 

The Selkirk was built at McCauleyville under the firm name 
of Hill, Griggs & Co., being owned by James J. Hill, Alex. Griggs 
and C. W. Griggs. Hill was interested in the placing oi a steamer 
on lie! river as a business venture in connection with the 
transportation interests of the firm, which he, personally, had 
exerted himself to develop. The conception of the project was 
likely his own. 

As stated, Howard R. Vaughn, wlio seems to have been Griggs' 
right hand man for business enterprises, had general charge of 
matters, particularly after Griggs left for Henderson, but the 
actual construction of the boat was carried on under the super- 
vision of David P. Reeves, a practical boat builder. David 
McCauley had built a saw-mill at McCauleyville in 1867, cutting 
considerable lumber for the government posts from logs floated 
down Otter Tail river. The greater portion of such pine lumber 
as was used in the construction of the Selkirk was obta;ined at 
this mill, notwithstanding the fact that a large amount of pine 
had been brought down the river by Capt. Griggs and his men as 
already narrated; but the mill at McCauley ville could not fur- 
nish alt the material that was needed at that time. Mr. Vaughn 


States that a large number of men worked on the Selkirk, off 
and on, including some of the fiatboat crews when these men were 
not otherwise employed, and thinks that fifteen to twenty-five 
hands were engaged at odd times in its construction. Work on 
the boat began in the fall and progressed through the winter fol- 
lowing, so that by springtime it was ready for launching. The 
beginning of the construction of the Selkirk was over a year be- 
fore either the Northern Pacific or St. Paul & Pacific railroads 
had reached the valley, consequently her boilers, machinery and 
furnishings had to be teamed from the end of the last named line, 
then at Willmar, Minn., 112 miles southeast of Breckenridge. 

In building steamboats along Red river, a favorable place was 
selected for the boat yard and the bank of the stream was graded 
down if necessary. The hull rested level, raised up a little upon 
blocking. When completed, timbers slanting down to the water 
were placed beneath the boat and secured in position. Then the 
blocking was gradually removed by the aid of jack-screws, so as 
to lower the boat upon the timbers, and the process of launching 
was merely the sliding of the steamer bodily into the river 

The Selkirk was launched on or about April 12, 1871, and very 
soon afterward was steaming down the river on her first trip. 
Capt. Griggs' inclinations naturally ran toward river navigation, 
so he was master of the Selkirk. The steamer reached the Grand 
Forks settlement about the 18th, and here several persons landed 
who thereafter became identified with its earlier affairs. ("on- 
tinuitig her trip, the Selkirk put into the mouth of the Pembina 
river amidst a hard wind storm on the 20th, reporting at the cus- 
tom house as having arrived at Pembina that day. About two 
days later the steamer reached Winnipeg. Quite different was 
this first trip of the Selkirk from steamboating on the Ohio or 
the upper Mississippi where every few miles landings have to be 
made at either small villages or thriving towns and cities; here, 
from Fort Abercromhie to Pembina, along a distance of over 350 
miles as the river runs, the narrow forest belt following the 
sinuous windings of the stream was then mainly a solitude, brok- 
en only by a few embryo settlements, and, at long intervals, by 
the log buildings of the Hudson Bay company trading posts, 
'i'o the passengers, the Selkirk must have seemed as a herald of 

The International, as has been stated, was owned and operated 
by the Hudson Bay company, but the Selkirk was built for gen- 
eral traffic, which, it was foreseen, increasing immigration into 
the country would develop in considerable volume. This steamer 
became one of the most noted boats on the river, and it played 
an important part in the settlement arid development of the 




The settlement at Grand Forks was made in what was then 
Pembina county of Dakota territory. Sometime after that county 
had been organized, its commissioners, in the absence of town- 
ships, subdivided it into several large voting precincts, some of 
which are not known to h^ve contained any white inhabitants 
when they were established. 'I'hese precincts were not all created 
at any one time. On .luly 3, 1871, the commissioners created the 
(irand Forks precinct, which comprised the territory within the 
following boundaries: Commencing at the mouth of Turtle river 
the line drawn ran up that stream fifteen miles, thence due south 
to Groose river, ihence down that stream to its mouth, and thence 
down Red river to the place of beginning. On September 4th 
the Park river was made the north boundary of this precinct, 
the crest of the uplands its western boundary, while its southern 
boundary was made to commence at a point on Red river five 
miles north <»f the mouth of (Joose river, thence running due west 
to the crest of the uplands. At the first election held in this 
precinct, Thos. Walsh, John Fadden andS. C. Cady were appoint- 
ed judges of election. 

Another act of the county commissioners of the same year was 
to grant to John Fadden a charter for a ferry across Red river 
at Grand Forks at $21 per annum (or five years. Fadden's house 
was located nearly opposite the point of land formed by the con- 
fluence of the Red and Red Lake river*-, and here the ferry was 
established so that those who crossed the main stream could be 
landed or taken on just below the mouth of Red Lake river. 
The road on tiie Minnesota side that led from the landing up 
throiigh the timber is still to be seen there, for it is occasionally 
used by persons who drive down to the river for sand. This lo- 
cality is now spanned by two bridges, one over either stream. 

The location of the first buildings at Grand Forks had an in- 
timate association with the rather broad slope of the river bank. 
The slope of the land from whftt was the edge of the valley plain 
along the present river front of the city, thence down to the mar- 
gin of the stream, mainly consists of moderately descending 
ground, though there is some tendency toward a variable surface 
in respect to the minor features of the slope. The river bank, 
within the Hunts specified, has a breadth varying from about 10 to 
20 or 25 rods, and with but little of what may properly be called 
bottom land. The amount of descent is between 40 and 45 feet, 
the S'lnall angle of pitch being a little more or less, according to 
the breadth of the slope. Now the timber along the river is 


mainly confined to its sloping banks and limited areas of bottom 
land, generally terminating at the prairie margin on the top of 
the slope. During the early years of which we are speaking, the 
broad hill slope here was more or less thickly wooded, as is still 
the case to a considerable extent along the river bank both above 
and below the city. 

Capt. Griggs and family came in the spring and during the 
year he built a substantial frame house near the log cabin that 
had been put up that spring on his claim. The house stood upon 
the siie now covered by the rear portion of the Syndicate block, 
is still in existence upon another site, and is the low winged 
dwt'lling neiir the foot of Kittson avenue, close by the gas-works. 
While in its original location, the house was the home of Capt. 
Griggs for many years. 

In the summer of 1871 a telegraph line was constructed between 
the point selected by the Northern L'acific engineers for the rail- 
raad crossing of Red river (Moorhead) and Fort Pembina, the 
line following the stage road. It was put up by the Northwestern 
Telegraph company, ot Kenosha, Wis., and was owned and op- 
erated by them. Sanford C. Cady contracted to furnish and set 
the poles, which were cut along the river. Geo. B. Winship 
and AVm. Bndge took a sub-contract for twenty miles of this line 
betweenTurlle river and Kelly's Point, now called Acton. After 
the line was completed to Pembina, Cady was assigned the 
position of line repairer. This was the first telegraph line that 
was constructed in North Dakota.* It was extended that lall 

Mr, Cadj-'s contract with the telegraph company reads as given below. 

' tigle small sheet of foolsca,p paper 
be cohstructed in North Dakota, is 

The original is written on one side of a single small sheet of foolsca,p paper 
and as this was the first telegraph line to 

a document of some historical value. 

'Pembina, July 17, 1871. 
Articleof agreement between Cady of the Grand Forks, Dakota territory, 
of the first part, and the Northwestern Telegraph Co., Kenosha, Wisconsin, 
of the second part, for the constructing [of] a line between Fort Pembina, 
Dakota territory, and a certain point on the Red river where the Northern 
Pacific Railroad may be located, about fifteen miles south of Georgetown, 
Minnesota. The party of the first part agrees to furnish [the poles] set them 
and naii on the brackets for the sum of one dollar per pole: Said poles to be 
foui inches in diameter at the top 6nd, straight and of sound timber, twenty-; 
two feet long, and of oak, ash or elm, and to be trimmed smooth. Poles to be 
set three feet and six inches in the ground and set solid and firm. The same 
to be constructed along and on the west side of the stage track leading from 
Pembina to said Railroad crossing and the brackets to be nailed on the west 
side of the poles. Number of poles set per mile not less than twenty-two, nor 
more than twenty-five, at the option of the party of the second part. The par- 
ty of the second part to furnish the brackets it nails and deliver them in 
quantities along the line of the river as the party of the first part(y) may des- 
ignate. The party of the second part to pay the party of the first part the sum 
above named when the whole line is completed. Said line to be completed 
bv the 30[th] day of September, 1871. 

^ S. C. CADY, 

Witness: M. L. McCormack (^. W. ROBERTSON, 

J / Agt for N. W. T Co 


to Winnipeg, a person named McKusey having; the, contract to 
furnish and set the poles between Pembina and Winnipeg. The 
first operator at Grand Forks was a Mr. Cran who came that fall. 

In the tall, Thomas Walsh and Alex. Griggs established a 
general store at the settlement as had originally been planned. 
This building stood on the east side of Third street, a little lo the 
south of where the track of the Great Northern railroad ap- 
proaches the street crossing from the bridge, while the saw-mill 
was in its vicinity, having st(»()d near the top of the river bank 
about four rods north of the railroad. 

There were now two boats running on the river, to wit, the old 
International, built ten years previously, and the new steamer 
Selkirk. At this time l*^rog Point, a little below the foot of the 
Goose rapids, was made the head of navigation for the boats on 
account of the difficulty experienced in trying to navigate the 
bowlder sirewn channel above during any low stage of water. To 
Frog Point tnerchandise was freighted by ox-teams and Red River 
carts from the nearest railroad points in Minnesota. Bales of 
furs were shipped from Frog Point as brought up by the boats 
from places below, and men connected with the fur trade, river 
men and teamsters-congregated there at times in great array. 

An emigration movement had now set in toward Manitoba. 
Hundreds of emigrants were passing through this country en- 
route for that province, and most of, the passengers on the boats 
were of this class. But officers from Canada and England with 
their families and attendants, and agents connected with the 
Hudson Bay company, also traveled by the same ' mode of con- 
veyance. The character of the times, which, was the beginning 
of the transition period between the old epoch of the valley and 
its coming new one, its mercantile transactio!is and njethods of 
transportation :ind conveyance, naturally produced itscorres- 
pojiding phase of life, destined to be transient only and never 
again to he seen repeated here. ? . 

Besides the boats there was no regular means of accommodat- 
ing travel up and down the valley. But it was just at this time 
that the stage line of Blakely & Carpenter was extended from 
Breckenridge to Winnipeg, both to carry the mails and ac- 
commodate the increasing travel to INFanitoba. Capfr. Blakely 
contracted with the Dominion government to carry the mail on 
the stages from Pembina to Winnipeg. 'I'he first stage arrived 
at Winnipeg September 11, 1871. This extension of the stage 
route down the valley took place some little time before either 
of the railroads had reached Red river. The stages ran daily, 
summer and winter. The trip from Breckenridge to Winnipeg 
could be made in three days, including night traA^el. Staire 
stations were established at convenient points along the route in 
the valley for the care of horses and passengers, as had been done 

72 M I S T O 1{ V OF GRAND F O R K R C O U N T Y 

H dozen yeiirs before in Minnesota when the route was opened 
through that state. One of these stations was at Goose River, 
one at Frog Point, one at Grand Forks and another at the cross- 
insf of Turtle river where Manvel is h)cated. The stage road fol- 
lowed what had formerly been che old Red River trail and later 
mail route. This came into Grand Forks diaLM)nally tlnough 
what is now Viets' addition, coming in upon Third street at 
Kittson avenue and leaving the settlement toward Manvel along 
the down river continuation of Third street or closely approx- 
mating to this public way. 

About the distance of a furlong southeast from tiie residence 
of Judge Corliss, and at the foot of the river slope, is a piece of 
partially cleared bottom land that is specially historic ground 
in so far as (^rand Forks city and county are concerned, for here, 
near by a large broken topped, but spreading elm tree, stood the 
cabin ot the first white men who located in this part of the val- 
ley, that of Huffman and l.oon, while John W. Stewart's shack, 
built sometime in 1871, was located a few rods to the north of it. 
Stewart had a garden here and the cleared space shows some 
signs of former cultivation. 

S. C. Cady reniiiined postmaster of Grand Forks through most 
of the year 1871, and appointed Stewart deputy. The post-office 
was located that year in Stewart's log shanty, and was a primitive 
affair. The amount of mail arriving each week could not have 
been large. Stewart built and kept the stage station at Grand 
Forks. Late in the fall he succeeded Cady as postmaster of the 
settlement and moved the office into the stage station. 'I'his was 
located on the edge of the prairie about six hundred feet south- 
ward from the Corliss mansion, and as the building is still in a. 
fair state of preservation, it is used as a dwelling house and has, 
of course, been altered over some from what it was originally. 
The old horse barn of the station, built of hewn logs and native 
lumber, stood and in part still stands a few rods north of what 
was once the station itself, being located at about the top of the 
sloping bank, or partially upon both forms of the ground there so 
as to provide the building with an under part, 'i'he reason why 
the stage station was built nearly a mile south of the settlement 
was likely owing to the fact that Sievvart chanced to locate there 
several months before the stages began running. This building 
was known as Stewart's hotel and was the humble, but not im- 
mediate, predecessor of Grand Forks' fine hotels of present times. 

The first marriage ceremony that occurred in the community 
was of that sort that takes place before witnesses, wherein Nick 
Huffman was married to a half breed woman in the spring of 
1871, \V. C. Nash officiating. i\Ir. Nash also read the first bur- 
ial service here. The first wedding in this county wherein both 
bride and groom were purely white people was that of S. C. Cady 


Mild Sarah J. Fadden, who were married at Grand Forks Septem- 
ber 29, 1871. by John E. Harrison, a justice of the peace. Miss 
Fadden was a daughter of Jolin Fadden. Sr., who came with his 
family from McLeod county, INlinn. The marriage of I\l. L. 
McCormack to Miss Jennie Strong, a sister of Mrs, Alex. Grigirs. 
was the next ceremony ot the kind to occur in the community. 
There were then no newspapers in all of what is now the state of 
North Dakota to make mention of social happenings of this kind. 

George H. Winship and William Budge are men both of whom 
have become prominently identified with the later history of the 
Red liiver Valley and the state. We first find them together at 
Pembina and in the same year that Grand horks got its first 
start they are also found located up(<n the soil of this county. 

Mr. Winship was born at Saco, Maine, in 1847. In 1851 his 
parents emigrated to the west and located at I^aCrosse, Wis., the 
place then being little more than a settlement. Six years later 
they moved across the river to La Crescent, Minn., which 
place was started about that time. It was here that Winship 
learned something about the printer's trade in the office of the 
local paper, a. fact that determined his future career as a pub- 
lisher. In 1863 he entered the army as a member of the 2d Min- 
nesota Cavalry and served until the end of the war. In 1867 he 
came into the country as a mcmberof D.ivy's overland expeditio?i 
to Idaho which became stranded at Fort Abercrombie. He then 
put in a year at teaming and in the spring of 1868 went to Fort 
Garry where he worked on t.h-. Schultz's paper, the iVorvvester — 
afterward published by Kiel as "The New Nation" — and printed 
$50,000 of Hudson Bay company money used to pay Riel's sol- 
diers. Winship came to Pembina about the first of May, 1870. 
Here, about a month later, he first met Wm. Budge. Both were 
then young men. Winsliipwas stopping at Peter Hayden's, and 
the two camped there about a month, or until the work of build- 
ing Fort Pembina began, Nathan Vlyrick and W. C. Nash having 
the contract for construction. About the first of July, Winship 
was offered a position in A. VV. Stiles' sutler store at the fort 
and accordingly entered his employment as clerk. 

Wm. Budge is a native of the island of South Ronaldsha, the 
southernmost of the Orkneys, Scotland, and came across the 
ocean to this country in the year 1869. He came in by way of 
Hudson bay and states that the method of travel at that time 
between York Factory and Fort Garry was by the Hudson Bay 
company's Mackinaw boats and Indian canoes. He remained 
in iNlanitoba for awhile, traveled west as far as the Rockies, 
which in thos<e days was no railroad journey, and soon afterward 
he came to Pembina. 

About the first week of May, 1871, Budge and Winship left 
Pembina and located claims at Turtle river, building a log cabin 


at the place where the old Red River trail crossed the stream. 
In that section the trail was deflected considerably to the west of 
Red river owing to sloughs and the great body of timber about 
the moutii of 'I'urtle river. Afier putting up the cabin they went 
back to build one for a person named James Hastings where the 
village of Drayton is now situated. During a part of that sum- 
mer, Budge carried the mail between Grand Forks and Pembina 
for Nick Huffman, who held the sub-contract, using a pony and 
Red River cart. In the fall when the stages began running, the 
cabin at the crossing very readily became one of the stations on 
the route. Budge .'ir)d \Vinship had bridged the stream before 
this, but when the stage route was opened the company put in 
a substantial bridge at the crossing. The cart trains had merely 
used fords where the trails crossed the streams in accordance 
with the rude methods of transportation then prevalent. In 1873 
VVinship sold his interest in the stage station to Budge and Eshel- 
man and in the fall of that year he went to St. Paul to work at 
his trade as a printer. At a later day Budge, too, left Turtle 
river, going with a party to the Black Hills in 1876, and after 
his return to Dakota he took up his residence at Grand Forks.* 

The population of Grand Forks in 1871 is said to have t>een 
about fifty persons, which was nearly all the inhabitants there 
were then in the present county. There were a few halfbreeds 
and Canadian Frencli vvoodchoppers about the place that year 
providing fuel for the boats. 

GRAND FORKS IN 1872 AND 1873. 

Grand Forks has ever shown a tendency to extend up and down 
the river rather than outward from the vicinity of its banks. 
Whatever extension has been made toward the west, at least be- 
yond Fifth street, has resulted more from the pressure of expan- 
sion outward from the original townsite than from any natural 
tendency to build up the city in that direction. I'he fact seems 
not to be fortuitous, but rather to be in accordance with some 
definite law governing the growth of aggregations of people un- 
der given conditions. Now while (irand Forks was merely a 
settlement, and in the years now under consideration, the prin- 
ciple governing this factor of future extension already existed in 
an embryo stage, for the buildings then put up were either locat- 
ed along the edge of the prairie or partly upon the slope of the 
river bank, with about a mile stretch between the saw-mill and 
the stage station, thus conforming to the course oi the travel 
and traflEic of the time, both on th^ river and the old trail. 

Kev. O. H. Flmer was a Presbyterian clergyman who came to 
Moorhead soon after that place was started. He first came to 
Grand Forks during the winter following the affairs just related. 

* Mainly from data furnished by William Budge. 


Having driven down, he held the first public relig^ious service in 
the settlement in the house of ('npt. Alex. Grigirs, on Sunday, 
February 11, 1872. A matter of this kind in respect to places 
that grow to importance from small beginnings is alwjiys worthv 
of record as being prophetic of the founding of future churches. 

Ill 1872 the stages were making the trip from Moorhead to 
Winnipeg in about three days. 'Phat'year a fast stage was run 
for awhile, or during the boating season, making the trip between 
the points named in twenty-four hours, the object being to divert 
passenger travel from the river to the stage line. In a good 
stage of water the boats usually made the trip from Grand Forks 
to VVinnipeg in thirty-eisht hours. 

This same year Alex. Griggs broke six acres of the virgin 
prairie on liis claim at Gr:ind Forks. A few settlers had located 
along the river in Grand Forks, VValle and Bentru townships in 
1871, hence a little breaking had been done in the county before 
this, particularly at Eight Mile Point south of Grand Forks. 
But the amount then done in each case was small. 

There are now but few buildings at Grand Forks that belong 
to the period that is marked off by the first half of the 'seventies; 
one such is a log house on Cottonwood street; then, on tlie east 
side of Third street about one hundred feet north of Division ave- 
nue, is a small wooden hotel that was built in the summer of 1872 
by E. B. Andrus. It bore no name on its front in those days, 
but was jocosely called the "Hotel de Grab" owing to an alleged 
scarcity of victuals upon its tables and the consequent necessity 
(){ grabbing in order to get a fair meal. 

As early as the summer of 1872 an effort was made to establish 
a school in the settlement. As has often happened in western 
settlements, two rival factions arose, disputing over the location 
of the proposed schoolhouse. This was carried so far that two 
small schools were gotten under way for the time being. One of 
these was conducted in a small framed shack situated near the 
stage station and was tan2;ht by Miss Blanding; the other school 
was kept in a small shanty located near where the Great North- 
ern prssenger depot now stands and was taught by Geo. Ames. 
As usually occurs in such cases, a feeling was engendered in the 
community that lasted until the principal actors in the matter 
had left the country; then, with the establishment of public 
schools the cojitroversy seems to have been so far forgotten that 
no mention of these early schools occurs in the sketches. 

The Selkirk was usually laid up each winter at Grand Forks. 
This initiated a boat yard here. It was established by Kittson, 
who was then connected with the tranportation business of the 
Hudson l^ay company. About this time the few boats on the 
river passed under his control and so he came to be called Com- 
modore Kittson. I). P. Reeves was placed in charge of the boat 


yard. This was located upon the river bank a short distance 
above the point. During the winter of 1873-4, there was built 
iiere, or rather lengthened, the steamer Dakota, which had j)re- 
vioush^ been built at Breckenridge as a ninety feet boat. 

During these early years there was considerable flatboating 
being done on the river despite the presence of steamboats. The 
business seems to iiave reached its culmination in 1872. Pine 
lumber could now readily be obtained at Moorhead that had been 
shipped in by railroad, and scores of flatboats left that place for 
down river points, many people journeying in this manner with 
their goods and chattels. 'I'here must have been either high 
freight charges on the steamers or lack of adequate transport- 
ation facilities, causing vexatious delaj^s, to account for this flat- 
boating business which seems to have spruns: up as a temporary 
expedient to save costs and time. Before the railroads reached 
different points in the valley pine lumber was apt to have been 
scarce material in any section of it, and it is related that the 
famous Joe Rolette, who died at Pembina, INIaj' 16, 1871, was 
buried in a cotfin made from lumber of a flatboat that opportune- 
ly arrived there just at that time. The boats were always tak- 
en to pieces for the sale or use of the lumber. 

The old policy of the Hudson Bay company was to confine 
their business to the fur trade, but time, vvith its changing con- 
ditions, often causes associations as well as individuals to adapt 
their course so astoconforui to altered or changing circumstances; 
hence, Donald O. Smith having .succeeded Hudson Bay governor 
McTavish, this policy was changed so far as to trade with all of 
the people. The old post at Georgecown, Miini., had a succession 
of "factors" as the agents were called, the last one in charge 
there being Walter J. iS. 'IVaill, for whom Traill county was 
named. The post consisted of a few buildings constructed of 
hewn logs, and, at times, there was stored here peltries of enor- 
mous value. In 1873 the buildings were sold and the business 
moved to Grand Forks where the company acquired property in- 
terests. Mr. Traill also came to Grand Forks to take charge of 
the Company's affairs here. They bought out the store and saw- 
mill already located here and proceeded to establish a general 
store of their own, also a hotel called the Northwestern. Their 
store was located on the corner of Third street and Kittson ave- 
nue where the Union National bank building and Platky's store 
now stand, while the hotel stood on the corner of Third street 
and DeMers avenue, or on the sice now occupied by F. \V. Schla- 
berg's J)rug store. 

Frank Viets is a native of Ohio, born in 1839, and served in the 
civil war. Himself, wife and little daughter came to Georgetown 
in August, 1870, and opened a hotel in one of the old post build- 
ings. He was obliged to team his furniture and supplies from 


St. Cloud and Alexandria. In those times Mr. and Mrs. Viets 
entertained many distinguished persons who chanced to visit the 
upper part of the valley. When the business transactions of the 
post was transferred to Grawd Forks, J\lr. and Mrs. Viets also 
came and took charge of the Northwestern hotel. Thus Mr. Viets 
early became identified with the history of the city of his clioice. 

In 1873 O. S. Freeman was appointed postmaster of Grand 
Forks, succeeding John W. Stewart, and he moved the office to 
the Hudson Bay company's store. The Northwestern hotel being 
completed and opened, the business of the stage station was like- 
wise transferred to the settlement and to that building during 
the same year. 

Fronting the settlement there was a limited opening of the 
timber, no great an-ioutit of it then having been cleared from 
the present city front and through this open space passengers 
enroute from Ontario to Manitoba, or «ny others, saw from the 
upper deck of the Selkirk a .^mall and rather incongruous set- 
tlement. The population was still small, numbering that year 
about 160 persons. At this time the place consisted of the Hud- 
son l^ay company's store and hotel, also another hotel built the 
previous year, Capt. (iriggs' house, the saw-mill, and a small 
number of cabins and shacks. Then there Was the ferry, boat 
yard and stage station buildings above the settlement. The place 
also had a telegraph office. It was merely a frontier settlement, 
none consisting exclusively of white people existing to the west 
of itshortof the Missouri river. I'he times were not yet ripe 
for town building in this part of the Red River Valley. 


Thus far onward the settlement was on the public lands, con- 
sequently there were no transfers of land from party to party 
excepting in the way of squatter's rights, which do not become 
matters of record. Persons holding claims around Grand Forks 
prior to 1874 were squatters, unless such had scripted the land. 
The land in the county around Grand Forks was surveyed in 1873 
and was opened to settlement in January, 1874. The United 
States Land Office was then located at Pembina. The first entries 
of land around Gran(i Forks were made in the early part of 3874 
by Alex. (Griggs. O. S. Freeman, John Fadden,Sr.", J. to. Eshel- 
man and likely by others. 

When the county wasorganized its commissioners remembered 
the cause of education. The siorthern half of the county was 
accordingly designated as school district No. 1, and the southern 
lialf as school district No. 2, This provision was made at their 
meeting o! March 2, 1875. But before this time definite action 
to erect a public school building at Grand Forks had been taken. 
Sometime in the year 1874 .Mrs. Richmond taught a small school 


in a shack 12 by 18 feet. The several small schools thus far at- 
tempted seem to have finally led to public action on the subject 
looking toward the establishment of a school that would have per- 
manency. In the fall, after navigation had closed, some of the 
river men, among them Capt. H. E. Maloney and others, called 
a meeting for the purpose of raising money to erect a public 
schoolhouse. Capt. ^Ialoney whs one of the committee appoint- 
ed for til at purpose, and before the meeting closed $500 was 
secured by subscriptions besides pledges for work. The building 
was erected during the winter of 1874-5 and cost $472. In the 
spring, or perhaps before that season began, a school was open- 
ed in the new building with twelve or fifteen children in attend- 
ance. A young man named William Curie, a Methodist preacher 
who had been sent to Grand Forks by the Northwest Iowa con- 
ference, was j)laced in charge of the school. Its limited number 
of pupils is an index of the scant population of the place in 1875; 
yet' it should be said that with settlements of this kind at that 
period numbers of men were often residents, who, for the time 
being, had left their families elsewhere. 

It was not until about the time we have now reached that the 
settlement made any pretension of being so much as is generally 
implie<l in the word village. On April 26, 3875, Alex. Griggs 
and Etta, his wife, placed on file in the office of the Register of 
J)eeds, a plat of the village of Grand Forks, comprising ninety 
or more acres of their claim. The original tovvnsite of Grand 
Forks was platted by Hector Bruce, a civil engineer, the vvoric 
having been done some time prior to the date of filing the draft- 
ed plat and appended documents. As laid out by the surveyor, 
the streets were made to parallel the river, which, opposite the 
business portion of the present city courses toward the northwest, 
and the avenues were laid out to cross these at right angles. In 
platting some of the various additions to the original townsite, 
the trend of the streets and avenues were made to conform more 
generally to the cardinal points of the compass. 

There were but four newspapers in all of North Dakota in 1876, 
consequently there could have been but few in the whole ter- 
ritory at any time in the previous year and in those years of slow 
development daily papers in the territory were not to be thought 
of. It was in 1875 that Geo. H. Walsh founded the Grand Forks 
Plaindealer, For some time prior to this date he was doing ed- 
itorial work on a paper in West St. Paul. He came to North 
Dakota in the year just named as clerk ior the Red River Trans- 
portation company. He saw that there was an opportunity to 
start a newspaper at Grand Forks. He then had his printing 
materials shipped from St. Paul to Moorhead over the Northern 
Pacific, excepting a Washington hand-press which he purchased 
in Fargo. Thence the outfit for the office was brought down to 


Grand Forks by steamer.* "The first issue of the Plaiiidealer 
was OM or about July 2, 1875. I cannot remember the exact 
date." So states the founder of the paper himself. For nearly 
four years this paper hud the field all to itself in this part of the 
valley. On July 8, 1875, the Plaindealer was chosen as the of- 
ficial paper for Traill county instead of a Fargo paper previously 
used to publish the commissioners' proceedings, for it is presum- 
able either that they had offers of publishing their proceedings 
made to them or that its first number had just attracted their 
attention. Mr. Walsh continued to publish the Plaindealer for 
about two years, after which others in succession took charge of 
the paper, among whom was 1). IMcDonald. 

In 1875 Frank Viets bo\ight of the Hudson bay company their 
hotel and general merchandise store, and this ended their trad- 
ing business in the valley on this side of the boundary line. 
They still retained some real estate property at Grand Forks, 
but what remained of it three or four years later, was purchased 
by E. V. Holcomb and John McKelvey. Another event for the 
village in 1875 was the appointment of Alex. Griggs as postmas- 
ter, succeeding O. S. Freeman. 

Business on the river was now developing in considerable pro- 
portions, and Gra/id Forks became something of a headquarters 
for river men, but their number here, even in the best days of 
steamboating on lied river, was never very large, 'i'he steamer 
Sheyenne was built at the boat yard here about 1874-5, and was 
desisfued to tow barges. This was the first side wheeled boat to 
be placed on the river, the others being of the stern wheeled type. 
The iSheyenne was built under the supervision of Capt. E. V. 
Holcomb and the river men sp(>ke of her as "Holcomb's pet." 
'l\vo more steamers, the Minnesota and Manitoba, were built at 
INIoorhead in 1875 at the instance of the merchants of Wifinipeg. 
This was called the Merchants' line. In the same year Commo- 
dore Kittson and associates organized the Red River Transporta- 
tion company, which absorbed most every boat on the river. 
Before this the firm was Kittson & Hill. That year VV. J. An- 
derson first came to Grand Forks as an agent of the newly 
organized company. The steamer Alpha was also built by this 
conipany at McCauleyville. In September, 1877, a boat called 

* From statements made by Geo. H. Walsh.— If the first number was issued 
on the first Thursday in July of that year the date was July 1, 1875. In 1881 
the office of the Plaindealer was burned down with the loss of all of the old 
files and the later ones down to the date of the fire. Hence the discrepancies 
of the sketches as to the date of the first issue of the Plaindealer. The loss of 
the old files of this paper is probably an irreparable one from the standpoint 
of the county's history. It may be remarked here that the old files of a weekly 
paper published in any settlement in its early days, finally become of con- 
siderable value, provided the place ultimately grows to one of importance, 
for they reflect the life of any past era in a manner that cannot be expected 
of courthouse records. 


the Pluck WHS transported from Brainerd to IMoorheadon flat cars 
which was done by cutting the boat in two lengthwise. The next 
year the Pluck became one of the boats of the Alsip line. 

In what is called the old stage coach days of any section of the 
country where Concord coaches provided the most speedy means 
of transit prior to the arrival of the railrt)ads, the stage drivers 
have always constituted a widely known and long remembered 
class, and indeed, many peculiar characters were developed 
among them. We presume that manv reminiscences might be 
collected concerning those who drove on the old Red river stage 
road, particularly in respect to the run they used to make be- 
tween Grand Forks and Fembina, but we can only mention 
their names, as (amiliarly known to the public in the days of 
their usefulness, including those of a few others connected with 
the Northwestern Stage & Transportation company. 

W^illiam Gidley was general agent for the company; Benjamin 
Lord, James Van Rensselaer and a person named Sheperd were 
express messengers; then of the stage drivers there were: Joe 
Coloskey, John Hayten, Jacob (jrosham (known as Lame Jake), 
James I'hornton ( Scar Faced Jim), lUibe Harding, Dick Cole, 
Old Man Cole, Jack Connolly, Pat Kelly, Joe IMorrison, Charlie 
Locke, Cal Young, Jake Kheinhardt, Frank Windle, Tom Haker, 
Newt Porter, Jud Winchester and a driver named Harm 


In 1876 Grand Forks was about a half dozen years old and 
was still a small place, probably containing at this time between 
two and three hundred inhabitants. A few frame houses had' 
now been built, but the majority of the dwellings were shanties 
of hewn logs with slant roofs and board shacks of the same form. 
Pine lumber, however, was bey-inning to be teamed in from 
Crookston, then the nearest railroad point. Those were years of 
patient waiting for immigration and development, which did not 
immediately cotne. 

Outward from the village the view must have seemed monot- 
onous, tor no visible bluffs hem in this part of the valley to- 
ward the west, and on level plains like the alluvial expanse of 
prairie that spreads outward from either bank of Red river, the 
ground view is restricted to three or four miles by reason of the 
curvature of the earth's surface. To the southwest, however, the 
higher central land beic of the county is just barely visible, lying 
low on the horizon. There were then no objects upon the valley 
plain other than a few low claim shacks to form even artificial 
landmarks, the more prominent ones of this nature, such as are 
formed by elevators, church spires or farm houses with their 
groves of cultivated trees, being absent. The winding timber 
belts along the two streams alone formed natural landmarks. 


In this northern clime the long summer days bring the wild 
vegetation rapidly to maturity, the summer green changing to a 
russet hue ere the fullness of autumn comes; then, in those times, 
after the frosts had come the annual prairie fires swept on their 
courses, burning over a section of the county here and another 
there, filling the air with dense clouds of smoke and leaving in 
their track a waste of inky blackness until this somber hue was 
removed by winds and rains. A prairie fire, driven before the 
wind, spreads out fan shaped from the place of beginning, flam- 
ing fiercely at the front and burning slowly along the sides. 
While single fires might travel forward many miles^, or until stop- 
ped by some watercourse, they were not apt to spread laterally to 
any great distance. A slight shower would soon extinguish one. 
The county as a whole, was annually burned over by matiy such 
fires, at different intervals, some sections either not being swept 
over at nil some seasons or burned the next spring. 

For the most part, tiie coutity at large, still lay in its primeval 
condition, as described for 1870; its western part about the Elk 
Valley and beyond was still frequented by elk and antelope and 
the bleaching bones of the buffalo lay scattered abundantly over 
the prairie lands. A few settlers, however, were already located 
on the headstream of the Goose, but the timbered streams north 
of this and back to any distance from the valley plain, were still 
without settlers. By this time the townships of the valley plain 
had been subdivided, and the lines of all others in the county as 
now bounded, had probably been run by the close of that year. 
For six or eight miles around Grand Forks the land had been 
entered, but probably only a tew of those who had jnade filings 
on claims were occupying and improving them at this time. 


In the summer of 1874, Gen. Custer left Fort Abraham Lin- 
coln with an expedition to explore the Black Hills. The men of 
his command speedily ascertained that there was gold in that 
region, a fact that soon became widely known. Although the 
government prohibited gold seekers from entering the Hills, this 
region then being a part of the Sioux Indian Keservation, the 
mandate proved to be useless, for the seizure of the Hills by the 
miners and others took place the next year and then followed 
the Sioux war of 1876. 

During the two latter years a large immigration into the Hills 
vvas in progress and a small party was organized at Grand Forks 
during the winter of of 1875-6. This party consisted of the fol- 
lowing named persons: VVm. Budge, D. M. Hohnes, J. S. Kshel- 
man, .las. A. Jenks, Geo. Fadden, Jas. Williams, A. L. INlcKinley, 
Wm. Myrick, Peter Gerard, Zeb. Hamner, Komeo Whitney, 
Thomas Hall, Jas. Mulligan and "Farmer Brown." The party 


used Indian ponies and sleds to transport their supplies to Bis- 
inark, and Red River carts, partially taken apart, were also sled- 
ded across the country to use during the remainder of the trip. 
The party left Grand Forks February 14, 1876. Reaching Bis- 
marck thev joined a party that was made up of men from all 
over the country. Thev started for the Hills on March 21st, the 
whole party now numbering about fifty persons. A brush was 
had on the first of April with a band of hostile Sioux in which 
a person named Ward was killed— a brother of Oscar Ward ot 
Bismarck— and two wounded, to wit, a man named Collins from 
Bismarck and Jas. Williams of Grand Forks. The party reached 
the Hills about April 20th. The most of the party returned to 
North iJakota before the close of the year, but Hall, Whitney 
and Mulligan are still residents of the Black Hills.* 

In 1876 Frank Viets purchased the Fadden claim near the 
confluence of the rivers. Next to the original townsite which ic 
adjoins on the south, something of historic interest attaches to 
this piece of land. Originally it was Cady's squatter's claim 
and his cabin stood on the river bank about east of the city filter 
plant; Cady states that he sold his right to Asa 8argeant; one or 
two others then had possession and finally John Fadden, Sr., 
filed on the land. He deeded it to Mr. Viets, June 24, 1876. It 
would, perhaps, be difficult to describe in surveyors' phraseology 
any of these claims that border on the river because they com- 
prised, not so much quarter-sections as aggregations of forties 
and "lots" or fractions of forties. The same year that I\Ir. Viets 
acquired this property he built upon it a hotel called the Viets 
house, known in later years as the Richardson house; next year 
he erected a flour mill and afterward had platted on the land the 
first addition to the original townsite. 

During these six years the village had its phase of social life, 
conditioned by the size of the place, the character of the people, 
their vocations, state of the times and surroundings; in respect 
to the last named factor, we mean, as influenced by the river 
traffic and the daily stage line. The life of the place was like 
other western villages that are not railroad points, but which 
have settled down into stability and waiting. Although a fron- 
tier point, it did not partake of the usual turbulent character of 
such places and this was due to the law abiding nature of the 
majority of the residents and the potent moral influences that 
were wielded by a number of ladies, among whom were Mrs. 
Viets (who established the first Sunday school of the village in 
1873), Mrs. Alex. Griggs, and Mrs. W. C. Nash. The Griggs 
family had brought to their hospitable home a piano which enliv- 
ened many a social gathering held there in those days. 

* Mainly from data furnished by D. M. Holmes. 



Though the future was full of promise tliose were years of lag- 
ging progress for the village of Grand F'orks. It built up but 
slowly and no other place had, as yet, been started in the county. 
In view of this, its founding in 1871 seems to have been almost 
premature. Nevertheless, the old timers, as we call them now, 
then located here seem to have possessed an abiding faith in a 
brighter future for the village, believing that in course of time 
it would rise to be the metropolis of all that part of the valley 
lying between Fargo and Winnipeg. In those half dozen years 
they witnessed the passing for the central part of the valley of 
the transition interval between its old and new epochs — the dy- 
ing out of the old and the birth of the new. 

There was then no railroad nearer than Crookston, consequent- 
ly there could be no agricultural development of the county, 
other tlijin on a limited scale, and its population was compar- 
atively scant at this time. VVithout railroads to transport away 
the grain there was little inducement for settlers to come in large 
numbers; moreover, false impressions concerning the country 
were prevalent in the states that had not been counteracted. A 
part of this interval comprised the few years of business depres- 
sion that followed the financial crisis of 1873, during which time 
there was but little movement of population toward the lied 
Kiver Valley. VVithout immigration to settle and till the broad 
prairies to the west of Red river, the village would not be apt to 
make anythitig more than a fitful and halting progress. The 
timber belt in the county along the river had largely gone into 
the hands of specuhitive parties who had covered many of the 
quarter-sections comprising the best of it witfi halfbreed script, 
thereby snatching it away from bona tide settlers at a time when 
they exhibited a strong propensity to take to the timber. On the 
Minnesota side of the river, half of it within certain limits was 
covered l)y the old land grant of the iSt. Paul & Pacific railroad. 

The business done at this point was then based more upon 
such immigration as came in those years, upon the river trade, 
the stage traffic and the declining fur trade than upon any ac- 
tual development of the surrounding country. With the inclu- 
sion of the covering of the timber by land grant and halfbreed 
script we are impelled to say that it is not by means such as these 
that settlements anywhere in the western country have ever gotten 
any early and vigorous start into existence. We can farther see 
that, as yet, the village had not wholly emerged from the shadow 
of the old epoch of the valley, this departing stage of its existence 
seemingly tincturing with its unprogressiveness the beginning 
of the life of the new epoch. Yet aside from this, looking at ex- 
istent business conditions as then manifested, it should be said. 


that for a place of its size and population, Grand Forks was now 
beginning to be nomething of a mercantile point, prognosticating 
a brighter future. '"Good business was done" says D. iM. Holmes 
"by the Hudson Bay company in 1874 and '75, and by Viets in 
1876 owing to there being no competition nearer than Fargo." 

Hut better times for this section of the valley were appoach- 
ing, forecasting the openijig of a new era. Settlers in yearly 
increasing numbers were now arriving and entering their claims. 
In 1877 the first railroad line, of those now centering at Grand 
Forks, was headed toward this place. 'Ihe same year Frank 
Viets erected a 50-barrel flour mill on liis real estate property to 
which customers came from long distances away. This mill is 
still used, is a wooden structure and stands upon the river slope 
a little to the north of the city water-works. 



Grand Forks is now quite a railroad center, and it is mainly 
owing to this status of things that this city has been able to at- 
tain its present size and population, the bands of steel radiating 
north and south, east and west, having been an incentive toward 
the establishment of manufacturing industries and commercial 
enterprises. J3efore the railroads came the place never attained 
to anything more than the size of an ordinary village; after their 
arrival the county at large began to develop rapidly, and the 
filling ot the back country with a population whose vocation is 
directly or indirectly based upon agriculture, soon wrought a 
magic change. Simultaneously with this immigration, Grand 
Forks forthwith began to grow, but primarily, all that is now 
centered here has been rendered possible by agricultiire and by 
railroad building in the valley, which so rapidly followed. We 
are here concerned only with the initiation of these matters. 

'IMiough a matter already predetermined by geographical sit- 
uation and physical conditions, the development of a railroad 
center in this part of the valley in its initial beginning chanced 
to have an incidental connection with the building of the Can- 
adian Pacific railroad. In the first place, the St. Paul & Pacific 
Railroad company built over a hundred miles of track down the 
eastern side of the Red River Valley in 1872-3, and without con- 
nection with their line then terminating at Breckenridge. The 
material was delivered at Glyndon by the Northern Pacific com- 
pany and from that place, as' a base of operations, the other com- 
pany built south to I3arnesville and north to a considerable dis- 
tance beyond Crookston. This place was started in 1873 at the 
crossing of Red Lake river by this line but for several years it 

T H E I) A W N 1 N ( i O F B 1-: T T E II T I M E S 85 

made but little proirress. Tlie fiimncial crisis of 1873 left this 
"St. Vincent extension" as this long stretch of track down the 
Minnesota side of the valley was called, nnfinished; it was not 
connected with the line terminating at Breckenridge until ]877, 
nor completed to the boimdary line until the close of 1879. 

In the meantime work had begun on the (Canadian Pacific 
railroad. This company proposed, where praclical)le, to con- 
struct the line, to some extent, in detached portions, so it was 
thought thnt it could he built east and west from VVinnipeg, west 
from I^\)rt William on J^ake Superior, and also in Ontario and in 
liritish Columbia.. 1\1 r. Whitehead, contractor for the division 
east from Winnipeg, thought he could have the iron delivered at 
Moor head, loaded into barges and thence towed by the steamers 
down the river. About the year 1875 its shipment be^an in that, 
way and many barge loads were transported down to VVinnipeg. 
J^ut low water in tlie Goose rapids finally began to delay and hin- 
der the boats. It was not an agreeable experience to the crew 
of a boat to be laid up tliere of a night with a thunder storm 
brewing and large quantities of dynamite on the barges in tow- 
as a partol the freight. To obviate the delay in getting the boats 
and barges through the rapids, the Ued Lake river was made 
the next resort.* 

The railroad iron was next delivered at Crootston and a few 
barge loads were gotten off from that point, probably during 
high water, for the river was not easy to navigate that far up 
stream.! Tlie St. Paul & Pacific company Jiaving contracted to 
deliver to tiie Canadian Pacific road a large amount of bonded 
iron, it was decided to build a long spur track from Crookston 
to a point on Red Lake river ten miles west of that place, to 
which steamers with barges in tow could easily ascend. A suf- 
ficient portion of the track of the unfinished St. Vincent line to 
the north of Crookston to cover this distance was taken up and 
the rails, and possibly the ties also, unless others were used, were 
brought down to build this spur. This steamboat point was 
called Fishers Landing and it was made the river base of opera- 
tions. Primiirily, this ten mile branch of the St. Vincent exten- 
sion was merely a mil road contractor's line, but it soon came to 
be used forordinary railroad traffic in connection witli the steam- 
boating business on lied river. In the boating season the steam- 
ers run between Winnipeg and Grand Forks daily, thence up 
lied Lake river to the railway terminus at Fishers Landing. 
A stage was also run from the railroad terminus to Grand Forks. 
During the fall of 1877 the boats were also busy towing railroad 
iron to Winnipeg and flat cars and a couple of locomotives were 
likewise taken down the rivers. At that time a hirge number 

* statement of James f]Uon. t Of John Crdmartv. 


of ties for the Canadian Pacific road were cnt in tlie forest about 
the mouth of Turtle river and sent down to Winnipeg, the duty 
on them beine: merely nominal.* 

In the latter part of October the river suddenly froze up, by 
reason of whicli seven steamers were cauirht in the ice at differ- 
ent points on the stream. Later on, a mild spell of weather re- 
leased the boats and the river was still open in December. The 
winter of 1877-8 was mild and open with but little snow, probably 
like some of those experienced here in recent years, more dry 
than wet, and the gronnd being bare most of the winter, the 
prairie fires were often running and burning over tracts that had 
escaped the usual autumn fires. 


At this time the regular terms of court for this subdivisicm^ of 
the Third judicial district were held at Fargo. The commission- 
ers of a county, could, however, under authority of the territo- 
rial laws, provide for a term of court in their respective counties 
outside the designated county seat of any subdivision of a judi- 
cial district, if they thought it to be expedient to do so. As yet 
(-rrand Forks had not been designated by any law of the territo- 
rial legislature as one of the county seats at which terms of dis- 
trict court were to be held. Hence it happened that the first 
term of court at Grand Forks was held by request of the county 

These gentlemen passed a resolution as follows: "Resolved, 
that the County Clerk be instructed to request the Hon. A. H. 
Barnes, .Judge of the Third Judicial District. Dakota Terruory, 
to hold'a term of court in and for Grand Forks County, D. T., 
some time during the con)ing summer." This was iu the spring 
of 1878, and D. ]\r. Holmes was then the county clerk. He 
accordingly notified Judge Barnes of the resolution passed by 
the county commissioners, and the judge thereupon fixed April 
30, 1878. as the day on which the court would sitatCrand Forks. 
Court was called at six o'clock on the afteriuxm of that day so as 

* D. \V. Luke, of Grand Forks, has related his recollections of the tnking of 
the tirst locomotive to Manitoba. This account was published hrst m tne 
Herald and subsequently in the Record Magazine, l)ec. 189/. 

"At that time [1877] the railroad stopped at Fisher and all the steamboats, 
of which there were several on the river, made the trip regularly up the Kea 
Lake river to Fishers Landing. The boat on which I made the trip from 
Fisher to Wiimipeg towed a barge on which was loaded the hrst locomotu e 
that went to Manitoba. Wm. NVhitehead, who had the contract for building 
considerable of the Canadian Pacific railroad, decided that he could ^\ork to 
advantage by building from Winnipeg east and so took his locomotive aov,n 
from Fisher on a barge. As we neared the international boundary ime, >ir 
Whitehead, who was on board the steamer, went down on the barge and naa 
his engine tired up, and as we went across the line into the queen s domains, 
hegave the whistle of the locomotive a succussionot blasts that must nave 
startled the natives. He said he wanted to hear the first toot of a l9Comoti\ e 
in Manitoba." (Fishers Landing had its name clianged to Fisher since ^m).) 

r 1 1 E D A W N I N ( ; (> F i; E T T E K T I M E S bi 

to fix an adjournment to nine o'clock in the forenoon of May 1st, 
for the judge iiad not arrived. Judge Barnes was present the 
next day and the court convened at the hour set in the adjourn- 
ment. 'J'here was not much business to transact, but the court 
record shows that a person named L. A. Barrie was admitted to 
bail; that A.I). Thomas of Fargo was admitted to the Practice 
of Law in the territory upon presentation of a certificate of ad- 
mission to the bar of the state of Wisconsin; and that Ann Mar- 
tin, John McRae and W'm. Budge were admitted to citizenship. 
Geo, H. Walsli was clerk of court. ■^ Tlie court was lield in anew 
school house tliat had cost $1,500 and which stood about on the 
site of the present county jail. 


Early in the year 1878 tiie village of Grand Forks was organ- 
ized and the following officers were chosen: (^leorge H. Walsh, 
president; ilussell W. Cutts, clerk; W. H, Brown, John iNfcRae, 
Wm. Budge and Frank Viets, trustees. This wjis the bridge 
over which a passage was made toward city organization three 
years later. 

On June 1, 1878, Frank Viets and Nan his wife, as the record 
states, placed on file in the office of the llegister of Deeds a plat 
of the first addition to the original townsite of Grand Forks, to- 
gether with several accompanying documents, which were duly 
copied for record. The land comprised in this addition is de- 
scribed as "being o)i part of Lot 1, the southeast quarter of the 
southeast quarter of Section 3, and part of Lot 1, Section 2, Town 
151, Range 50." On October 16, there was also placed on file by 
Walter J. S. T'raill, the next addition to Grand Forks, adjoining 
that of Mr. Viets on the west and southwest. The platting of 
Mr. Viets' addition was the work of Hector Bruce and that of 
Mr. Traill was done by Alex. Oldham. 

At this period the luiildings of the village were mainly located 
inside of Fourth street, the one which is fronted by the court 
house, and did not extend north below Alpha aveiuio, nor south 
beyond the ferry, if we exclude the few scattered buildings about 
the old stage station a half mile above the ferry. In the main, 
what there then was of the village was located upon and in the 
vicinity of Third street. The place then showed some tendency 
toward compactness, rather than arranged in scattered order. 

There were now a greater number of settlers arriving at Grand 
Forks than had been the case previously, and while many made 
filings on the prairie lands the majority seem to iiave exhibited 
a strong disposition to locate on the timbered streams, and dur- 
ing this and the following year most of these new comers occupied^ 
the line of the watercourses to the west and northwest of 

* From (iata furnished hv Goo. L. Ryerson, rierk of Court. 

88 H I S T IM' O F G R A K D F O K K S C O U N T Y 

Grand Forks, a few of them even pushing tlieir settlements thirty 
to forty miles beyond this, tlieir nearest base of supplies. The 
first interior roads of this county, other than the old CMrt trails, 
were those-tliat tliese settlers struck out with the common farm 
wagon, leading from their settlements by the most easy routes 
across the prairies to Grand Forks. By the year 1878 a few of 
these settlers had began raising a little wheat and this being 
marketed at (irand Forks a number of barge loads were shipped 
to Fishers Landing and some up to INIoorhead. 


We now enter upon a year during which it must have become 
apparent to the, business men of Grand Forks that the then vil- 
lage was on the eve of marked changes for the better. Even the 
transition period of which we have spoken had virtually closed, 
but usually men are not conscious of the birth of a new epoch. 
What the county had most needed hitherto was immigration and 
railroads. The first it was now receiving to a marked degree, 
and the other was now close at hand. The development of its 
capacities would next rapidly ensue, as a matter of course. The 
year 1879 msiy be assigMe<l as the one when the agricultural de- 
velopment of the county fairly began, though wheat and oats in 
small parcels had been raised here for several years previous to 
tiiis date. In this and the previous year new business houses 
were started in Grand Forks and general merchandise and agri- 
cultural machinery was now being unloaded from the steamers 
in constantly increasing bulk. The town now had a developing 
back country to supply. 

George B. VVinship spent the later seventies in southeastern 
INIinnesota. In the spring of 1877 he started a weekly local 
paper called the Courier at Caledonia, the shire town of Houston 
county. This place already had a weekly paper that had been 
established there in the fall of 1865; as times then were some 
thought the starling of another paper in the village a bold ven- 
ture, but Mr. Winship was tiie kind of man to succeed in the long 
run and he continued to issue the Courier for about two years, 
quietly abiding his time. He was of the opinion that, after Fargo 
and \Vinnipeg. the next place on Red river destined to grow to 
importance would be the village located at its forks. In the 
spring of 1879, considering that the time had arrived to carry 
into effect a project already planned, he suspended the publica- 
tion of the Courier and having shipped his printing outfit to 
Grand Forks, himself and compositor, who came with him, went 
to work in a hastily built board shanty, and thus Wiis laid the 
foundation of the present prosperous Herald establishment. The 
Herald began as a weekly paper, the first number being issued 
on Thursday, June 26, 1879. 

T H ]-: J) A AV N I N (i OF BETTER T I M E S 89 

Mo act of the first board of county comiuissoners was needed 
to fix the coutity seat at (irand Forks. For over nine years it 
remained the only viUage, wortiiy of beii)g called snch, within 
the limits of the present county. Always the largest place in 
this part of the valley, business interests naturally gravitated 
to it as to a common center. The short tertn of court held the 
previous year, together with the fact that the territorial legis- 
lature had since then designated Grand Forks county a subdivi- 
sion of the Third judicial district, expedited the building of a 
courthouse in 1879. The county commissioners awarded the con- 
tract for construction to (ileo. H, Walsh on August 16, for $7,800. 
The building was speedily begun and was completed in January 
following. The original building has since been enlarged and 
otherwise improved, fireproof vaults added to insure the safety 
of the records and the present county jail was also erected in 
1883. Judge Barnes held his next term of court in Grand Forks 
beginning iSept. 18, 1879. A grand jury was sworn and the 
court continued in session for two or three days. 

Between 1877 and 1879 the northern line of the St. P. & P. 
railroad was built from its halting place at Melrose, on through 
Sauk Center, Alexandria and Fergus Falls to its connection with 
the iSt. Vincent extension at Barnesville. For much of the way 
it followed the general route taken by one of the old cart trails 
of the long ago. On !\lay 23, 1879, this system took the name of 
the St. Paul, Minneapolis & Manitoba Railroad. The St. Vin- 
cent line, running down the valley 10 to 20 miles east of Red 
river, was completed to the boundary line December 2, 1879, 
being there connected with a branch of the Canadian Pacific. 

About fourteen miles of level prairie just north of lied Lake 
river intervened between what is now East Grand Forks and 
Fishers Jjanding. The grading of the railroad between these 
points was done in August and September, 1879, and the company 
now took the first step toward the extension of the line west of 
Red river, for the parties who had the contract for the grading, 
carried this work in October eleven miles west of Grand Forks, 
or to the site of Ojata. The laying of the track west, or rather 
northwesterly from I^lshers Landing began about the first of 
October, and in about three weeks it was completed to the east 
side of Red river opposite Grand Forks. The first train, prob- 
ably a construction train, came to the new terminus at three 
o'clock, Wednesday afternoon, October 22. A temporary station 
was provided by remodeling over a pre-existing building. A 
mixed train now began running between Crookston and the east 
side? daily, ot which Thos. Stahl was conductor and John B. Bun- 
nell engineer. This train brought in material for bridging the 
river and for use on the west side. 'I'he road now open was then 
merely regarded as a branch of the St. Vincent extension. 


In the meantime, while the river remaioed open that fall, 
preparations were in progress for bnilding the railroad bridge, 
the jippiouches and the center pier, which was to support a draw, 
being constructed at this time, so far as pile driving was concern- 
ed. In December, the construction of the bridge itself, which 
mainly consisted of the draw, was under way, the work being 
l«cilit!iled by throwing a temporary trestle across the river on 
the ice to support the permanent structure, but the bridge was 
not completed so that trains could cross into Grand Forks proper 
during the year 1879. 

There is some significance in I he advent of the locomotive into 
a town or village previously without railroad communication. 
Kight years before tliis time the whistle of the locomotive at 
Hreckenridge and at INIoorhead had sounded the knell of the fur 
trading epoch in the upper valley; across the river here, a like 
arrival announced, both to the village of Grand Forks and the 
county as well, the advent of a new era. 

The extension of the^ railroad to the east bank of the river, to- 
gether with the grading west and the preparations for l3ridging 
the stieam, exerted a marked influence on the business interests 
of the town. There was considerable building done that season 
and like projects were planned. The Herald made a careful es- 
timate at the close of the season of the cost of these improve- 
ments, individually, the total amounting to $78,785. Keal estate 
transfers for Grand Forks amounted that year to $66,436. The 
railroad was a potent factor, but it would be a mistake to attrib- 
ute this increased business activity wholly to its influence alone; 
we should remember the hundreds of new settlers who came that 
year, many of whom became temporary residents of Grand Forks; 
moreover, "the country around town was dotted with grain-stacks 
that fall, the farmers generally stacking their grain until they 
could have it threshed, and the amount of wheat in sight enabl- 
ed Griggs A McCormack to contract with Barnes & Tenney of 
Glyndon, to deliver to them that winter 75,000 bushels. Some 
mail routes from Grand Forks were also opened that fall. Lastly, 
it should be noted here, that within the last two or three years 
the country at large had recovered from the depressing effects of 
the financial crisis of 1873, and an increasing activity was now 
manifesting itself in commercial affairs, the influences of which 
were felt here as elsewhere in the country. 

As we have said, sawed lumber was not very abundant in the 
lower valley before the railroads came. Had there been any 
cause to have built up the town rapidly prior to the construction 
of the branch from Crookston, its people would have been hard 
pressed, for awhile at least, for building material. Even as mat- 
ters stood, there was a prevalent scarcity of building material 
for a few weeks during the fall of 1879. As early as 1872, fin- 

T H E 1) A W N I N G O F B E T T E R T I M E 8 91 

isb lumber, including sash and doors, was teamed down from 
INIoorhead. For several j'ears tliereatter, even the brick used in 
building chimneys was imported. Huffman and Loon burned a 
quantity of brick about the year 1878, but no regular yard was 
started until 1880. 'I'hat year Bartholomew Brothers started a 
yard in what is now Bartholomew's addition to the city. 

Just as the year was about closing, some twenty of the old 
settlers of this part of the valley met in a hall at Grand Forks 
and on December 27, 1879, they organized the "Red River Val- 
ley Old Settlers Association." The permanent form of the asso- 
ciation was completed February 4, 1880, about 35 persons being 
present at this second meeting. 

At the close of the year Grand Forks had a population of at 
least four hundred inhabitants, perhaps over five hundred. 
These are tlie estimates of two prominent citizens well qualified 
to give a fair estimate of the matter, which, of course, in the 
absence of a census, cannot be otherwise than somewhat uncer- 
tain. The first estimate is by D. McDonald who was appointed 
postmaster of the village the preceding spring; the second was 
made by D. INI. Holmes who based his estimate on the tax-list of 
that year and his knowledge of residents. The railroad reached 
the east side of the river too late in the season to materially in- 
fluence the population of Grand Forks in 1879; hence the year 
closed leaving the place with what is usually the population of 
an average village. 


At this point we may as well speak of the first church societies 
that were organized in the county, and of the first houses of 
worship that these societies erected. In the west, itinerants or 
missionaries have generally preceded the regularly appointed 
pastors, holding services in private houses, schoolhouses or any 
suitable building large enough to hold any small assemblage of 
people. We can mention here only such societies as had effected 
something in the way of organization before the close of 1879. 

The Methodists were the first to attempt the forming of a 
society at Grand Forks. Prior to 1878, Dakota was attached to 
the Northwest Iowa conference as regards the polity of this de- 
nomination. North Dakota next became part of the Red River 
district of the Minnesota conference, but was made a mission 
conference in 1884 and became a separate or full conference in 
1886. A building owned by the Hudson Bay company was at 
first used by this society which was gathered in 1873. Rev. John 
Webb, who was presiding elder for the district, came that year 
and began a small church building, but the work lagged for a 
few years owing to the small number of that denomination then 
located here and the scant population of the place. In 1874 


Wm. Curie was sent to this charge. In the fall of 1876, Rev. 
J. H. Starkey became presiding elder of the North Dakota dis- 
trict and was instructed by the bishop of his conference to look 
after the church at (irand Forks. The society was then burden- 
ed with a debt of $400; this, with the assistance of the business 
men. Rev. ritarkey succeeded in clearing up and the church 
building was speedily completed. With the increasing popula- 
tion the Methodist church at Grand Forks was now placed upon 
a substantial basis with a constantly increasing membership. 

8t. Michaels Catholic ciiurch was begun as a mission by Father 
Simonet in 1877. In May. 1878, Father Hubert was sent to take 
his place, but in July, failing health obliged him to resign his 
work to other hands and he went to Montreal where he died. 
At that time Dakota territory was a part of the diocese of Bishop 
Sf^idenbush, who resided at St. Cloud, Minn. Father Simonet 
was of French ('anadian birth", but Father Hubert was a French- 
man from the old country. Both weie elderly men, and merely 
looked after the spiritual wants of the few Catholics and relig- 
ious haltbreeds in this part of the valley. The founding of a 
church they left to other hands when it should be needed. Father 
Hubert, however, gathered the nucleus of a society at Grand 
Forks. The statement often published that they worshiped for 
awJiile in the schoolhouse is disclaimed on (■atholic authority, 
and they, certainly, are best informed concerning the early af- 
fairs of their church here. Father L'hiver next came to Grand 
Forks. He was located at Yankton when assigned to his new 
charge by Bishop Seidenbush, and he arrived on Sept. 5, 1878. 
In October his society built under his charge a small framed 
church and modest parsonage. These were located on the cor- 
ner of Sixth street and DeMers avenue, the ground occupied be- 
ing the generous gift of Ciipt. Griggs. The parish of Father 
].'hiver then included all the country from Crookston and Grand 
Forks north to the boundary line. 

The Presbyterians began their church at Grand Forks as a 
mission. On September 1, 1878, Rev. F. W.Iddings arrived in 
this field as a missionary for the Hoard of Home Missions of this 
denomijiation. At first, services were held in the INI. K. church 
building, but on Sunday, .April 6, 1879, the Presbyterian church 
of Grand Forks was organized, Rev. O. H. Elmer and C. B.Stev- 
ens being present, having came down from Moorhead to assist 
Ifev. Iddings in organizing the church, which began with twenty- 
five members. Rev. Iddings was the first pastor. A church was 
begun that spring but was not used until the spring of 1880. 

Tlie first Episc<tpal service here was held at the steamboat 
landing and on the deck of the steamer International one Sunday 
forenoon in the fall of 1871. Between that time and the organ- 
ization of an Episcopal church at Grand Forks was a long in- 

T 11 E I) A W NM X (i () ¥ V. K T T K R T I M E S 93 

terval. St. Paul's parish was organized in tlie fall of 1879, Rev. 
W. P. Law being minister in charge. Services were lield in the 
lialls and '\u the iMethodist church until 1881 when a fine brick 
structure was erected at the corner of Fifth street and Alpha 


VV'e regard the date on which any place has been connected 
with the outer world by bunds of iron or steel as of more im- 
portance relative to local history, than that on which the first 
regular train arrives after the completed or constructed part of 
the line of road has been opened to traffic, because the arrival of 
the so called first train has usually been preceded a number of 
times by the incoming and departing of the construction trains. 
In track-laying these trains bring to the front the rails, ties and 
bridging muterials, and follow up the workmen rod by rod, some- 
times a furlong or more at at a iwove and thus onward mile after 

Tiie workmen were still busy completing the railroad bridge 
at Grand Forks in December, 1879. For the time being the 
weather had become pretty cold. The day on which the railroad 
working gang laid the rails across the bridge from the Minnesota 
to the J^akota side of Red river and into Grand Forks proper, is an 
important one for a city which owes so much of its later progress 
and prosperity to converging railroads, but the exact date is not 
now known so far as any readily obtainable records testify, nor 
does the memory of many different persons of whom the inquiry 
has been made furnish either this or the date of the first crossing 
by a train or a locomotive. Not even John B. Bunnell, the vet- 
eran engineer of the Great Northern, who held the throttle on 
the occasion of the first crossing of the bridge by a locomotive, 
could give any exact information as to the date of the occurrence 
from memory while living.* 

We shall now proceed to give the trend of events for that win- 
ter as gathered from the files of the weekly Herald for 1879-80, 

* John B. Bunnell, who resided at Crookston, wrote to the author of this 
work in the latter part of April, 1898: "I am rather late in answering your 
letter, but I have been trying to tind out from some the old timers something 
about the date of the first crossing of the bridge by a train at Grand Forks. 
I cannot recall the exact date myself. All that I can remember is that we 
made the first crossing soon after New Year's day." ( Engineer Bunnell died 
at Crookston, Minn., Sunday, July 2, 1899.) 

The track of the Northern Pacific railroad was laid across the bridge at 
Moorhead and Fargo on January 1, 1872, though it is said that no trains cross- 
ed until June The third crossing to the North Dakota side seems to be known 
with exact historical accuracy. M. H. Morrill of Wahpeton, writes: "The 
St. P. M. & M. track crossed the river here into Dakota July 26, 1880; at 11.30 
o'clock of that day engine No. 37 crossed the Bois des Sioux bridge, and was 
thus the first locomotive ever in this [Richland] county." 

Grand Forks was the second place in North Dakota at which a railroad 
crossed over from Minnesota ground. 


and a few other sources of information. That winter is claimed 
by some persons to have been a very severe one, and probably 
was such as to the first half of it. There were two or three storms 
in December which interrupted train service to the east side of 
the river to a considerable extent. On one of those mornings 
the spirit thermometers are said to have indicated a temperature 
of 58 degrees below zero. In the meantime the depot in Grand 
Forks was being built and this was completed about January 25, 
1880. The bridge was ready for the track several days prior to 
the middle of that month. The rails were laid across it to the 
Dakota side on a day between January 8th and 13th, and the track 
was continued out to the depot at this time. On Tuesday, ihe 
13th, the bridge was tested. A train of eight flat cars, loaded 
with rock and iron was pushed across the bridge by a locomotive, 
and although the engine itself did not cross, the foremost car 
reached to Third street. A civil engineer meanwhile was noting 
with his theodolite the small amount of deflection in the bridge 
under the weight of the loaded cars. This done, the train drew 
back to the other side. If any trains came over soon after this, 
there is no record of it in the contemporary issues of the Herald. 
The inference is that the regular train from Crookston, with 
passenger cars attached, did not cross the bridge in January. 

Arrangements were now made by the citizens to celebrate the 
advent of the railroad as soon as regular trains began running in, 
but the outcome of affairs chanced to be such that the matter 
was indefinitely postponed; nor was any such celebration ever 
held as had at first been planned. During January the deep snow 
was being blown about a great deal and it was hard to keep the 
road open between Crookston and Grand Forks. In the week 
following January 15tli all efiort to do so ceased, and thence on- 
ward until past the middle of INIarch the branch lay under a snow 
blockade. J^right weather, however, ensued, and although no 
effort was made to open the road, the workmen did considerable 
work in the yards, using materials that they pushed over from 
the east side upon light truck cars. About the end of January 
they completed putting in a turntable about twenty-five rods 
beyond the depot. Side tracks were probably laid or completed 
about the same time. 

There was considerable disappointment in not having the 
direct train service that had been anticipated, but as the town 
had never, as yet, experienced this convenience, the people gen- 
erally took matters philosophically. Such protests as were rais- 
ed seem to have had reference to the non-delivery of the eastern 
mail and not to give expression to any disappointment felt over 
the lack of an anticipated train service. The inconvenience 
caused by delays in getting the mail was particularly felt. 
Postmaster McDonald finally had the mail and express matter 

THE D A W N I N Ci OF U K T T E R T \ M F. ji Of) 

brought over from Crookston by team; in the meantime Newton 
Porter got out a placard grimly advertising for ox-teams to 
transport freight in opposition to the 8t. P. INI. & INI . railroad.* 
The papers had started to publish for Grand Forks a railroad 
time-table and as they did not discontinue the advertisement, 
the incongruity of the matter must have been the cause of many 
agrimjoke. 'I'he stages were still running between Fargo and 
Grand Forks, sind the attention of the people was engrossed dur- 
ing the blockade by their social affairs, and by severai meetings 
of the Old Settlers. Then came the spring of 1880 with much 
snow on the ground still to be melted away. 

About the middle of Rlarch snowplows were put to work on 
the branch and having cleared the road to the river the trains 
began running into Grand Forks regularly on the 18th of that 
month. t The Herald of March 25th merely says: "Trains are 
now running on time." The only demonstration on the arrival 
of the first regular train seems to have been made by FJngineer 
Bunnell. He had acquired the ability to imitate with the whis- 
tle of his locomotive a cock's crowing, and played it in that man- 
ner when, for the first time, his engine turned wheels upon North 
Dakota ground. J 

James Walker, familiarly known as "Deacon" Walker, had 
been appointed station agent on the other side of the river. 
About the time that the trains began running into Grand Forks, 
the business of the station and "the deacon" himself were trans- 
ferred to this side, and so Walker became the first station agent 
at Grand Forks. 'I'he location of the building that was both the 
original depot and freighthouse was then virtually outside of the 
town. The site was nearly opposite the present depot, but the 
old building was moved some little distance west when the new 
one was erected in 1892, was lengthened out considerably, and, 
in fact, since its first abandonment for station purposes in 1882 
to give place to a second depot that was located a few rods north 
of the roundhouse, it has been used for a freighthouse. 

* Recollection of Thos. F. Eastgate, of Larimore. 

t This date is a recollection of Ole Melland, of Niagara township. 

I Recollection of M. W. Spaulding, of Larimore. Some, however, state that 
a locomotive and cars came over once or twice, probably to deliver road 
materials, between the date of the testing of the bridge and the beginning of 
the snow blockade. This accords with Bunnell's statement, p. 93. 

F^K,T IV. 




\\\ i^F^^ll^^^^ ^^ ^^^^ pioneer period of this county, the 
))/ llll^vi way o'f the innnigrant was down Red river, jit 
lirst from McCauley ville by steamer, stage or 
flatboat, and a little later from Moorhead and 
Fargo by the same means of conveyance. After 
1877, many came in by way of Crookston and Fishers Land- 
ing, or by railroad to the latter point, tliet)ce by stage, steamer 
or other means of conveyance to Grand Forks. Many others 
teamed throngh from distant points. In those days Grand Forks 
was the common gateway into the county. 

As has alrea<ly been reniarked, speculators covered some of the 
timber along lied river with script. INI uch of the timber between 
Grand Forks and the mouth of Turtle river was taken in that 
way. Fortunately for the county these non-resident persons did 
not attempt to extend their operations up the courses of the 
smaller streams, hence it is upon these tributaries of lied river, 
probably without exception, that we find the location of the pio- 
neer settlers of the inland townships of Traill, Grand Forks and 
Walsh counties. 

The timber settlers found the greater portion of the prairie 
land in the county vacant and as open to the mere taking by any 
one class of men as by another, yet, being the first comers into 
the country back from Red river, and having a pretty free choice 
of location, they preferred making their homes on the streams 
and amidst the trees that cover their sloping banks and stretches 
of bottom land. They squatted or filed upon quarter-sections on 
which there was some show of timber, though their claims often 
included a considerable acreage of the adjoining prairie land. 
Claims wholly of prairie land were really more valuable in the 

r H E L o c; C A B T X ^[ K X 97 

long run and in after ^^ears many of these men realized that they 
had made a mistake in their choice of a location; others, per- 
haps, remained satisfied. 

All through the western country the pioneer settlers have 
usually preferred land comprising both prairie and timber; 
hence, in a region where the amount of timber w;is limited, the 
claims containing any would naturally be the first occupied. In 
the case of the lied River Valley, many of the pioneer class were 
emigrants from the wooded sections of Wisconsin, Iowa and 
Minnesota, consequently they preferred the shelter that is secur- 
ed in the timber from the cold winds, and lumber not then being 
readily obtainable, the log cabins they erected cost but little; 
again, they wished to be sure of having plenty of fuel close at 
hand during the prospectively cold winters of this northern lat- 
itude, and still another reason that influenced some of them was 
that, having heard that the water of the prairie districts was 
apt to be alkaline, tiiey preferred to establish their homes near 
the runnina: streams. 

At this early period there was an abundance of fallen timber, 
well seasoned in every wooded tract, which made good fuel and 
was useful for other purposes. In the western part of the county 
these timber settlements were made in advance of the govern- 
ment survey, and by the close of the year 1880, every quarter- 
section within its present limits on which there was any show of 
timber had its resident claimant occupying a small log cabin, 
whether such townships had then been subdivided or not. Thus 
these earlier settlers of the interior parts of this county followed 
up the Goose, Turtle and Forest rivers, building their log cabins 
ill the shelter of the groves along these streams in preference to 
locating upon the open prairie. 


Before speaking specially of any of the interior settlements of 
the county it will be well to say something concerning the gov- 
ernment survey of its townships. The survey of the public lands 
in the North Dakota side of the valley was begun in 1867. Jn 
that year a few townships were laid out and subdivided in the 
present county of Pembina and range lines for others were run 
in the valley. Between 1870 and 1876 the surveying of the North 
Dakota side of the valley becanie more general. This work was 
an extension of the surveys of Minnesota into this part of Dakota 
territory, though this does not imply that those in the Minnesota 
side of the valley had been fully completed. 

In merely running township lines it was customary in those 
days for surveyors to take contracts in blocks of townships which 
they called "checks." A check comprised 28 townships, or a 
series contained in seven ranges and four towns having correction 


paralles for their north and south boundaries. 'I'he township 
lines as then run were duly marked each half mile by stakes en- 
closed ill pyrainit)ical inouuds about 2h feet hiojh and three or 
four feet square at the base. Similar mounds of earth and turf 
were placed at the corners of sections and quarter-sections when 
the townships were subdivded, the stakes being marked so as to 
indicate the town, range and quarter-sections. Usually it was 
not the custom to lay out and subdivide any series of townships 
in one and the same year, since this work generally involved 
separate contracts, nevertheless it was sometimes done. But sev- 
eral years — one to four — were apt to elapse between the laying 
out of the townships and their subdivision. 

In 1870 and '71 a number of townships were laid out in this 
county by Moses K. .'^rujstrong, comprising those near the river. 
Those in the central and western parts of the county were laid 
out later, G. N. Propper having contracts in 1873. By the fall 
of 1876 it is liUely that all of the townships in the county as now 
bounded, had been laid out. Jud LalMoure and Wm. Ward had 
contracts for the subdivision of six townships in 1873, and these 
included the section around Grand Forks. About the same time 
other surveyors subdivided the townships to the north of Grand 
Forks. Surveyors were at work subdividing the central town- 
ships in 1876. 

The last two ranges of townships in the county (55 and 56) 
comprising most ot the Elk Valley and the part of the hill coun- 
try within its limits, were subdivided during the summer and 
fall of 1880. Major G. G. Heardsley had the contract which also 
included Strabane township in range 54. Major Beardsley's ex- 
pedition was made up of three parties and it left Kargo in June. 
Two of these parties worked outside the limits of this county, 
one, if not both, in the Sheyenne country. The party that came 
to this county was in charge of James E. Dyke, a young man 
who ran the subdivision lines. Tiiis party consisted of ten men, 
well provided with catnp supplies, three tents, two ox-teams, a 
saddle horse, pony and cart. The teatns were used for transport- 
ation in moving camp from one township to another; the saddle 
horse was for a messenger and the pony and cart was in daily 
use delivering the mound stakes. It took from five days to h 
week to subdivide a township. Dyke's party worked from south 
to north in the ranges mentioned, surveying these townships in 
alternate order. The survey of tliis county as now bounded was 
thus completed, having been in progress at different intervals, 
through a period of ten years. 

In the fall the contractors turned their plats over to the dis- 
trict J. and Office: thence they were forwarded to the Interior 
Department at Washington for record and approval, and when 
returned to the Laud OHice, which would likely not occur for 

THE i: o <; (; a p. \ s m i', x 99 

several month*, tlie land was at once thrown open to settlement, 
and squatters and pros|)ective settlers were then enabled to make 
their filings on such claims as they had already selected." 


Early in the 'seventies the pioneers of Traill county, coming; 
up from northern Iowa, from Minnesota and Wisconsin, began 
to push their settlements up the course of Goose river. Between 
1873 and 1875 these settlements were being made in what was 
then a part of Cirand Forks county as originally bounded. Be- 
fore Traill county was created, these settlements on Goose river 
had been extended up the stream and into this county as at pres- 
ent bounded. The timber settlers, coming in from the south, 
took to the line of the streams in the order of their occurrence 
from south to north, thus it happens that we find that North- 
wood township contained settlers several years in advance of any 
ol the interior townships of this county that are bisected either 
by Turtle or Forest rivers. Those who made these upper settle- 
ments on the Goose were Scandinavians, some of whom had 
emigrated to the territory from northern Iowa, or from aroui«d 
Northwood in that state. 

The first of these settlers to locate in Northwood township were 
John and Lars Lindstrom. John came to Dakota in May, 1870, 
and located on Red river, four miles below the mouth of the 
tSheyenne. The Lindstrom brothers made their settlement on 
Goose river November 13, 1873. At that time the settlers on the 
river had taken the timbered quarter-sections up the stream as 
far as the vicinity of Mayville. Between that point and Newberg 
there were only a few settlers scattered along the river, and none 
had settled above the last named point when the Lindstroms 
came and made their .selections of land, .lohn Lindstrom states 
that when he came to Northwood town.ship his nearest neighbor 
was located sixteen miles distant down the stream. But this 
isolation did not continue very long. 

Nels Korsmo, Ole Tragethon, Ha Ivor Solem and Anton Ostmo 
were settlers who canie into the town.«ihip in 1874. Paul C. 
Johnson and Andrew Nelsoti arrived in 1875. Andrew Sjerva, 
Peder Thingelstad, Hans Thingelstad. Guldbran Tandberg and 
J.ars Thoresen were settlers of 1876. All of those here mention- 
ed were the pioneers of Northwood township. The township 
lines in this part of the county had been run by the year 1876; 
the township was subdivided in 1877 and the land was open to 
receive filings by the spring of 1878; consequently the timber 
settlers of Northwood were squatters, and this class of settlers 

* In part from information derived from D. M. Holmes and Major Geo. G. 
Beardsley. Tlie writer saw some of the surveying that was done here in 1880. 
and eonversed with Dyke as to the methods used in subdividing townships. 


are necessarily pioneers. Others canje in later and took what- 
ever timbered claims may have been left, if any, or who began 
occupying the adjacent prairie lands. On still mornings the 
smoke from the log cabins curling upward above the trees in- 
dicated ihat the line of Goose river was now occupied. 

The number of the timber settlers of the county were few in 
comparison with those who, a little Inter, overran the prairie 
lands. The first of the numerous prairie settlers of Northwood 
township are said to have been T. O. Midbo and sons who came 
in 1878. T. E. TufTte was a settler of 1879. Knute Paulson and 
Krick Overson came about that time. Peter N. and Gunder 
Korsmo came with their father in 1874, but not being of age they 
did not acquire land at that time. 

The nearest supplying point for these settlements was Cal- 
edonia on Red river, near the mouth of the Goose. The settlers 
had began raising a little wheat in 1875 and '76, and loads of it 
were teamed to Fargo during the same years, after being threshed 
by horse-power machines, but in the fall of 1877 and afterward, 
the grain was teamed to Grand Forks across a wide stretch of 
unoccupied prairie. About the year 1876, a steam flour mill was 
built at Caledonia, to which the Goose river settlers resorted for 
flour and feed. 

About 1875 a mail route was established between Caledonia 
and Newberg, the latter being a point in Steele county eight 
miles south of Northwood. Here, in the pioneer days, the set- 
tlers along the headstream of the Goose received their mail. 
About 1880 a mail route was established between Pembina and 
Valley City, the Northwood settlement being made one of the 
local offices; but owing to lack of roads or some other cause it 
was soon discontinued. The mail-carrier used a span of mules 
which he sold to John Lindstrom on throwing up his vocation. 
Northwood township was organized in 1879. The original organ- 
ization seems to have included the townships of Northwood, 
Washingtoti, Avon and Pleasant View.* 


In the northeastern part of the county there is a heavy body 
of timber between the Red ami Turile rivers, and around the 
mouth of the latter stream, the whole varying from a hall mile 
to IJ mile in breadih. 'I'his forest extends along the Marais for 
some distance into Walsh county. Several land entries were 
made in this section of Grand Forks county, now called Turtle 
Kiver township, when the J^and Office was at Pembina, by Thos. 
Campbell, William ('ochiane and Angus McDonald, then re- 
siding at Grand Forks. 

* From data furnished bv John Lindstrom, Paul C. Johnson andG. Korsmo. 

T IT K L O G C A R I N iM EN ] 01 

James M. Htoughtoii, an early settler of Turtle River township, 
who came to Grand Korks from Ontario- iji January, 1876, in- 
forms us tliat most of the timber between Cirand Forks and Tur- 
tle river and for quite a distance north, was mainly taken by the 
speculators. Tliere is very little timber on the west side of Tur- 
tle river, only a few groves here and there, but they reach nearly 
to rlanvel. 

The open prairie land in that part of the county began to be 
occupied in 1877, other settlers also coming in the next year. 
In ihe fall of 1878 a steam flour and saw mill was built near the 
sou',h line of the township by August Christiani and a village 
was also platted there in July, 1879, which was called Bellevue. 
This place contained, besides the mill, two stores, two hotels, 
a blacksmith's shop, a post-office and a few dwellings. The mill 
having been burned down within a few years after it had been 
built, and the railroad line from Grand Forks to Neche having 
left the place to one side, it never amounted to much of anything 
afterward. No place in the county has ever attained to any- 
thing more than a country liamlet if located off the line of a 
railroad, since these have been built. 


As a constantly flowing stream, Turtle river does not head 
beyond Agnes township, although several tributary coulees ex- 
tend back into the hill country for several miles. The course of 
the stream is at first southeast to Arvilla township where it at- 
tains its most southerly bend, thence its course is northeast to 
Mekinock, again east adjacent to the township line between 
Blooming and Lakeville, and finally it takes a northerly course 
down the valley plain through Ferry and Turtle River tovvnships 
to its confluence with Red river near the northeastern corner of 
the county. Between Agnes and JNIekinock townships the stream 
is contained within something of a valley cut across the central 
land belt of the county; in Hegton and the north part of Arvilla 
townships this depression varies from a quarter to a half mile in 
breadth and has a depth of from 40 to 90 feet below the common 
prairie level. This valley is partially timbered. 

The stream bisects Mekinock township diagonally. 'I'he first 
settlers of this township came to its valley in the spring of 1877. 
They were Halvor Halvorson and two sons who located near the 
present villnge of Mekinock. The next to come were the Ras- 
mussons and Ole Graft". In the summer of the same year, Rob- 
ert Hlakely arrived and located in Section 21, near the middle of 
the township. The Saridback family also came during the sum- 
mer of 1877. Fred Trepanier and Crawford Blakely came in 
1878. A mone: the settlers of 1879 were Thos. T. Stevens, Capt. 
Battersbv and Dr. Howard Lancaster, all of whom located in the 


isouthwest quarter of the township. Chas. Cooper, Ebenezer 
Smith, John Smith and B, F. Warren were settlers who came to 
the township in 1880. 

Robert F?lal<ely was pretty well known during his residence in 
ihe township since he kept the post-office of the community for 
several years. He teamed through from Stearns county, Minn.; 
from Caledonia he followed the old halfbreed trail down the coun- 
try to where it then crossed the Turtle a little below his place, 
for the crossing four miles above ( mentioned page 52) seems to 
have been later, and to have been made by white men. J)uring 
the earlier part of his resid mce in the county, he burned lime by 
collecting limestone bowlders. Later he was engaged in the 
same occupation on Salt coulee, south of Ojata, from which place 
he once took a load of lime to (Jrand Forks, and having lost off 
the bur from one of the wagon wheels, he walked beside that par- 
ticular wheel so as to push it back on the axle whenever it show- 
ed any signs of working off. This was characteristic of Blakely. 
Ultimately, considering that the county was getting too crowded 
to suit his notions in regard to population, he emigrated to the 
Rocky mountaiiis. 

T. '1\ Stevens teamed through frojn St. Paul. In those times 
tl»e "Barnesville flats" in Minnesota was a notable locality for 
the miring of teams during the spring by reason of the occasion- 
al cutting of the wheels through the thin prairie sod and into a 
sticky, whitish clay subsoil which resembled putty. Mr. Stevens 
states that between Barnesville and Moorhead he had to unload 
his wagon eighteen times in one day. He reached Grand Forks 
about the middle of April, 1879, and while on his journey out to 
Blakely's place his team was mired seven times during the first 
six miles in crossing the Red River flats. 

In June, 1878, a party of seven men from Stearns and Kandi- 
yohi counties in Minnesota, arrived at Grand Forks. They made 
the journey with ox-teams, and brought along with them their 
supplies and about fifty head of young stock. Learning on their 
arrival that the Turtle river valley was not occupied above what 
is now IVIekinock township, and that it contained timber aiid a pure 
running stream, they decided to locate in that part of the county. 
Having chosen their respective claims, and erected Iok cabins, 
they began the usual round of western pioneer life. The land 
being in market in the central part of the county that year, they 
filed on their claims together at Grand Forks. At this time the 
U. S. Land Office was at Fargo, but filings could be made at 
Grand Forks through authorized attorneys acting for the Fargo 
office. Some of this party 'lad fatnilies who came when they did 
or soon afterward. These ;ettlers were Henry A. Morgan, his 
brother, Newell C. Morgan. Oawford Blakely, Edwin Collins, 
Oscar E. Clark, Dennis Kelley and Albert Murrav. 

T 1 1 K I. () G ( " A B I N M E N ] 03 

.All of these men, with the exception of Blakely, who settled 
in Ivlekinock, located in the north part of Arvilla township and 
were the original settlers of that township. Others who formed 
part of the Turtle river contingent came later and at different 
intervals, (tco. Hughes and August Schiebe came in the fall of 
1878, E. O. Steelman in the spring of 1879, and John C. Morgan, 
father of H. A. and N. C. Morgan, in 1880. In INIarch of the 
latter year, Frank Becker came and located near the "point of 
timber" about three quarters of a mile east of the Hersey man- 
sion. Edwin Collins* was the original settler at the Hfersey 
place, and built his log cabin at the foot of the hill or at what is 
now called the Hersey grove. 

Hegton is one of the Turtle riyer townships and is situated 
next north of A rvilla in Range 54, The township is twice bisect- 
ed by the stream with a major and a minor crossing of the same. 
The first crossing of the township by the river is through its 
southwestern part, while the minor crossing of the same is made 
by a diagonal bisection of scjiool section 36 after the stream 
leaves Arvilla township. A small stream called the south branch 
of Turtle river flows for IJ miles through the southwest part of 
the township to its confluence with the main stream in section 32. 

The settlements on both streams in Hegton township were most- 
ly made during the year 1879. George D. Leavitt came up from 
Mitchell county, Iowa, in the fall of 1878 and made his selection 
of land along the south branch. The next spring he settled at 
Roach's grove, which was formerly called Leavitt's ^rove. Joe 
Carter, who was an Englishman by birth, came with Leavitt and 
located farther down the stream. Austin Fisch, a German, who 
was a hotel keeper from Grand Forks, took a claim near Leavitt's 
and built his log cabin down on the bottom land of the stream. 
John Tholin, a Norwegian, and Edward Wheeler, an American, 
settled near the confluence of the south branch with the main 
stream. Above Tholin's place along the main stream were lo- 
cated August Aslngsen, August Molean, Ludvic Berggren, and 
Axel Anderson, the latter haying bought the right of a previous 
settler named Nelson. 

About the first of June, 1879, Thomas Chrsitianson, H. E. 
Hanson and three others arrived from Swift county, Minn., the 
first two locating on the Turtle in the western part of the town- 
ship, while the others passed on to Bachelors grove. Arne An- 
derson and Gilbert Johnson came in the spring of 1880. 

There is some extension of the timber along Turtle river into 
the northeastern part of Elm Grove township. A few Norwe- 
gian settlers came in 1880 and made their locations here, this 

* ( olliiis removed to Nebraska about the year 1S89, and in the fall of 1891 he 
was }:ccidentally killed ii) the railroad yards at Omaha while employed there 
as n r.witchmai). 


being the lar-t of the timber on the stream that had until tliat 
year remained unoccupied These settlers, who were the first to 
locate ill Elm Grove towns lip, wereTollif Chrisliaiison, Christian 
Huset, Mattis Gulickson, < )le Meilaiid and Isaac Christianson. 
The cabin of IMelbind hav-ng bnrne<l down, he took a prairie 
claim the next year in another part of the township, Isaac Chris- 
tianson occnpying liis former claim on the river, "^ 


Bachelors grove is a large wedge shaped body of timber on the 
headstream of Turtle river, comprising about three hundred 
acres. It borders the stream for 1| miles with an average width 
of a quarter of a mile and is mainly contained in Agnes township, 
but it has a considerable extension up a coulee of the hills and 
into Oakwood township. The east half of the grove, in the Elk 
Valley, is dense woods, chiefly of elm and basswood, with much 
bur oak along its upper half. The stream here is frozen up in 
winter and is so inconsequential, that in the summer and fall it is 
either dry or reduced merely to a trickling watercourse. 

The residences of the present occupants of the land are situat- 
ed in and around this body of timber, together with the school- 
house and church of the community. The schoolhonse is located 
in the S. Ej section 30 and the church, which is Scaudinavian 
Lutheran, in the ^. \V} section 29. Agnes township, and north of 
the grove. The townline road between Agnes and Oakwood cuts 
a swath through the midst of the grove about sixty rods in length. 

During the period under consideration, a large body of fine 
timber like Bachelors grove would not have been apt to have 
remained long unoccupied. Indeed, it appears that squatters 
located there over a month before that part of the timber along 
Turtle river in Arvilla township was taken, and perhaps over a 
year before the portion of it in Hegton township was filed upon. 
To the west of Hegton, Arvilla and Avon townships the land was 
not opened to settlement until Ma}', 1881, consequently anyone 
locating upon either tiniber or prairie claims in that part of the 
county prior to that date were of the squatter class ot settlers. 

The earlier settlers of Bachelors grove were chiefly Scandina- 
vians, and they came at intervals from Iowa, Wisconsin and 
Minnesota. First ot all, there came in the month of April, 1878, 
Culick and Thomas Thomson, Peter L. Peterson, .lames Chris- 
tianson and with tiiem a young man from U'isconsin who rcuurn- 
ed there in about three months. At first this bod}' of timber was 
called Thomson's grove, from the Thomson brothers, but in the 
fall of 1879 when \V. N. Eoach opened the mail route between 

* For settlers in Mekinock township, data furnished by T. T. Stevens; for 
Arvilla, Hegton, and Elm Grove the data was given during different years 
by H. A. jNIorgan, H. E. Hanson, Thos. Christianson and others. 

T II E L G C A P> I N >r E X 10-"j 

Grand Forks and Fort Totten, James H, Mathews, wlio accom- 
panied him, spoke of it as "the bachelor's gjrove" for the reason 
that at that time only one man had Iiis family with him, and 
this designation of the locality passed into current use. In the 
spring of 1879, Gulick Thomson sold his squatter's right to James 
Christianson and removed to Forest river. Christianson later 
<lisposed of his acquired right to VVm. Postall. The latter in turn 
disposed of it to John Crawford and John Warnock in the fall of 
187 ^>. Christian Bang also became a settler at the grove that 
year. Others came during the same year or that following. Of 
there, Albert Wright, Cornelius Olson, Hans Olson, and PJver 
Olson occupied that part of the grove that extends into Oakwood 

h) 1880 there came to the grove or to its vicinity, H. S. Han- 
son, Wm. McLaren, IverCiunderson, .lohn Anderson, Bert. Gates, 
Edw. Beardsley, John Pierson, M. 8. Wallace and Geo, G. 
Beardsley, the hitter a contractor for government surveys and 
originally from Ohio. These later settlers were squatters, but 
not all of them timber men, tor here we refer to this locality as a 
community. Those who came to the groye in 1878, passed three 
years here as squatters before they could make their filings on 
their claims. 'I'he nearest market town for all of the grove set- 
tlers during the first two or three years was Grand Forks, which 
is about forty miles distant. A trip to town and back, if made 
with oxen, w;is then a three day's journey. 


Elm irrove, which gave the township in which it is located its 
name, is a small body of timber containing about five acres sit- 
uated in the north part of Section 19. In 1880 a squatter had 
built a log shack in the grove, but before the township was open- 
ed to settlement, his right was purchased by T. O. Edwards, who 
subsequently acquired considerable land in its vicinity. 

The first occupants of Niagara township were a few Hcandina- 
uians who settled in a couple of isolated timber tracts border- 
ing coulees in the eastern part of the township. About two 
miles south of Bachelors grove is IJttle Elm grove, a tract of 
about ten acres, located in the east half of Section 12. Peter 
Hanson located at this grove in 1879 and was probably the first 
settler of the township. Andrew Hanson came there in 1880. 

Up the coulee west of Elm grove there is a limited amount of 
timber, this locality being called Whiskey creek, though there 
is but little water in the coulee, except at the melting away of a 
winter's accumulation of snow. The (-oulee forks about a mile 
above Kirn grove, both branches being crossed by the main line 
of the Great Northern railroad, the larger fill being 52 feet high 
at the center. Along this coulee there settled in 1880, Knute 


Hilstadt, Ole Hanson, Ole Ringstad and Sever Peterson. Three 
other settlers, S. Ness, Ole Moen and and Arne Earness came 
there in 1881. 


Forest river is mainly confined to Walsh county but its upper 
reaches intersect the north part of Strabane and Inkster town- 
ships in this county. It is only with that portion of the stream 
in these townships that this narrative is specially concerned, for 
along its banks we rnay confidently look for the location of the 
first settlers of the northwestern part of the county. It should 
be observed, however, that Forest river was known to the trap- 
pers, voyageurs, explorers and others, and even on our modern 
maps, as the Big Salt, the change in the naiiie occurring in 1878. 
In that year the few settlers in what is now Forest River town- 
ship of Walsh county, provided for mail delivery at a post-ofl5ce 
located in that township and along the stream, by which their 
mail was brought to them from a post-ofiice in Turtle River 
township, distant about 18 miles, and at their own expense. It 
should be understood that these country offices, even to present 
times, are the residences of their respective postmasters, and in 
settlement days the offices were apt to have been log cabins. 
Jesse B. Warren was postmaster for these settlers. The name 
chosen for this oflice was "Forest River," which was soon applied 
both to the township and the stream. This township formerly 
included Johnstown in this county, Walsh county not then having 
been created. 

George T. Inkster, now a resident of McHenry county, is of 
Scotch parentage, horn on Red river at some distance below 
Winnipeg. His mother was a native of the country, having 
some Indian blood, but was nearly white. Prior to 1878 Inkster 
resided for awhile on lied Lake river near the present village of 
jNlallory. Late in the fall of that year he removed to Forest 
river and settled in the township now bearing his name, locating 
in Section 12 of the same. He was the first settler of Inkster 
township and may be regarded as the father of it. His nearest 
neighbors, for that year at least, appear to have been located 
several miles down the stream. AI)out 1885 he removed to Mc- 
Henry county. The next settler was David l^emery who came 
in the spring of 1879 and took a squatter's claim adjoining Ink- 
ster's on the west. Other settlers came during the spring of 1880; 
these were William and Neil Mathie, Luther Dodge, James S. 
Collins, A. Mclntyre and Olark Casey. 

Strabane township is next east of Inkster, and one of those 
which border on the Walsh county line. The first settlers of this 
township were James jNIcDonald, John McDonald and W. H. 
McDonald. James came first and was the first actual settler of 

T II E LO(i (" A HI \ M K N ]07 

the township, liaving made his squatter's location in April, 1879, 
and was soon followed by the other two of the McDonald brothers. 
Other early settlers were Gillison Wager, Leonard Wager, Wni. 
Pitts, Henry Congrave, Wm. Hobbs, N. L. INlcEwen and Jon- 
athan Wager, who came in 1879. Nearly all of these men were 
from Ontario; Pitts and his family emigrated from Wisconsin 
and McEwen came from New York state. 

There was a j)ost-office established at Wm. AFnthie's place in 
Inkster township in the spring of 1880, the mail being brought 
once a week from Walshville. The Strabane settlers also es- 
ffiblished one in the fall of the same year, which was called 
Reno, John McDonald being the postmaster. The mail was 
brought to this office from the one in Inkster township. The 
]leno ol!ice was maintained until 1884, or to the time that the 
railroad came through that part of the county and Inkster vil- 
lage was started, when it was discontinued.* 


The life of the log cabin settlers of Traill, Grand Forks Walsh 
and other counties of eastern North Dakota, differed considerably 
from thnt of the present occupants of the soil who dwell in roomy 
framed houses and who are never out of reach of the sound of 
the whistle of the locomotive. Although this interval was com- 
paratively short, comprising only a few years in each section 
that was thus represented, the significance of the phase of life 
presented by the timber settlements lies in the fact that it was 
the real pioneer period of the eastern portion of this state, ex- 
clusive of the northern boundjiry. While the period lasted, it 
furnished much the same round of life as has been usual in the 
west before the railroads came and ushered in a distinct phase 
of civilization, closely corresponding, in fact, with the earlier, 
but longer continued log cabin days of the older western states. 
In the Red River tier of counties this period approximately com- 
prised the decade of the 'seventies but was far from beginning 
and ending in ench section contemporaneously, as lias already 
been instanced in the case of this county. 

Usually the pioneer settlers of the middle western states have 
been a restless and thriftless class, though there are many not- 
able exceptions; here, the most of them never retained their lands 
but few years longer than the log cabin period itself lasted. There 
is a class of them who have ever preferred the rough and isolated 
life of the frontier to the requirements and vexatious complica- 
tions of populous communities, disliking the prospect of being 
merged with the agricultural population that later overruns the 
country. There were many such located for awhile along the 
timbered tributaries of Red river. As times changed, they one 

* Mainly froii) data furnished l)y John McDonald, of Strabane town.ship. 

108 II 1 ^^ 1' O R Y () F <. R A N D F R K S C O F N T Y 

by one either lost their claims through mortgages or disposed of 
them to new comers and agjain faced toward the setting sun. 
Again, there were otiiers of the original timber settlers who 
drifted to the new and growing towns and changed their occu- 
pation. The present framed houses and barns that have replac- 
ed the original log cabins ;uid stables of logs, poles and straw, 
respectively, have generally been erected by later comers, thougii 
this has not, ol course, invariably been the case. 


The three halfbreed, or cart trails that passed through the 
county have been duly mentioned, but our purpose here will be 
to speak of those that were struck out by the settlers using the 
common farm wagon, in connection with the timber settlements, 
suid which were used during the continuance of that interval. 
The old trails of the county, whether made by cart trains or 
farm wagons, were the predecessors of the present section-line 
roads. In regard to the county roads, four successive stages of 
development may be noted. First of all there came into use the 
old cart trails of the long ago; second in order were the trails 
made and used by the timber sectlers and mail carriers; then 
there next came into use the numerous trails of the prairie set- 
tlers, and finally, the present roads were established which gen- 
erally correspond with the section lines. The trails of the whites 
were at first such 9S would re'sult from the occasional passage in 
the same track of the common farm wagon. After they became 
rutted by the cutting of the sod by the narrow wheel tires and 
treading of the animals used tor draught, a strip of grass about 
2J feet in width remained between the ruts, and increased travel 
gradually wore even this away. At this stage of development 
these routes ceased to be trails and became beaten roads. 

There was a trail leading from the northern outskirts of Grand 
Forks that bore west-by-north across the valley plain to Robert 
Blakeley's place in Mekinock, thence followed the prairie near 
the timber along the south side of the Turtle river valley and it 
terminated at what is now called Roach's grove. This early 
roadway into the central part of the county was struck out in 
the summer of 1878 by the Turtle river settlers. The reason^ of 
their not taking a more direct course to Grand Forks was owing 
to sloughy land in Chester township sind danger of miring their 
teams, while by keeping near the Turtle river valley a more 
suitable and dry route was found. Two years later the direct 
route through Ojata was taken. 

There was another trail of those days that led from Grand 
Forks across the south half of the county in a general southwest- 
ern direction to the Newberg and Northwood settlements. By 
the year 1880 this earlv traveled wmv across the countv had be- 

T H K !.()(; (' A i; J N -M 1'. X 1 ( 19 

come Ji well beiileii rosid, tlioiigli miicli of llie coiiiiiiy tln(Hitih 
wliich it pnssed w:is then iinocciiftied. 

'There wiis also a. wagon trail of the later 'seventies, merely 
rutted rather than worn, tliat passed throiiuh the western p.rt 
ol' the county near the hills. It lollowed the western side ol ilie 
P'lk Valley, farther inward than the ohl halfbreed trail, 'i'o the 
west of Larimore its course lay about a mile inward (roni the base 
of these iiplands but it approached mucti nearer to tiiem f;irlher 
north, and likely followed the lialfbree«l trail in places through 
the northwestern quaiter of the county. It was an early line of 
transient travel between the settlements on the brandies of the 
Goose and those on forest and Park rivers, and was mostly util- 
ized by persons who traveled in canvas covered wagons called 
"prairie schooners," stich as emigrants and oiher roving classes 
commonly use. I?i those days the teams were generally oxen 
for horses were then by no trieans plenty even in proportion to 
the comparatively scant population of the country. 

'i'hese, with the Fort Totten trail and Ked River stage road 
formed the principal of the early traveled routes tiirough the 
county. As the prairie settlements developed, numerous tran- 
sient wagon trails of a local character were used for awhile, or 
until the breaking up of the land for cultivati(>n gradually forced 
the most of them from the lands they crossed to the section lines. 
As might be supposed, any kind of trail disregarded the section 
lines even where. for awhile, as in the case of the prairie settler's 
trails, tiiey were used in surveyed parts of the county. 


The military post at the Indian reservation on the south side 
of Devils lake was established in 1867-8. 'i'he teaming of ma- 
terials and supplies to build Fort Totten was from St, Cloud by 
way of Fort Abercrombie, When the Northern Pacific railroad 
had been built west of Red river, and Jamestown was started, the 
quartermaster's supplies and the goods furnished the Indians by 
government were teamed from that place to the post until the 
fall of 1879, after which the goods were delivered for awhile at 
Grand Forks, and later at Ojata and Larimore. The mail for 
the post came by way of Jamestown, As the railroad advanced 
west from Grand Forks, the distance that the supplies destined 
for Fort Totten and the reservation had to be transported by 
teams, was shortened. 

From Grand Forks out to Blakeley's the route corresponded 
with the Turtle River trail. After crossing the stream by a ford 
at this place, the route passed west to Hanson's in the western 
part of Hegton township where it again crossed the stream by a 
shallow ford; thence bearing across Elm Grove township and 
passing just to the north of Kim grove, it next crossed over the 

110 H I S T O R Y O F G R A N 1) FORKS CO U N T Y 

uplands through the soutli pnrt of Niagara township and then 
passing between Smith's lakes in tiie northwestern part of Mo- 
raine township, it struck westward to Stump and Devils lakes 
across what i.^s now Nelson count}'. 

Something of a survey for a wagon route between Fort 'I'otten 
and Grajid Forks was made l>y the military authorities about the 
year 1877, but the route was not actually utilized until October, 
1879, when the first of the caravans or wagon trains that came 
to Grand Forks, set out for that place. During that fall, W. N, 
Roach, in later years United States senator for this state, was 
residing in Grand Forks, having arrived there in September of 
that year. Viets & McKelvey, of Grand Forks, had a contract 
at that time to deliver certain supplies to the fort, and this cir- 
cumstance, together with tlie starting of the railroad from Fish- 
ers J.anding to Grand Forks, appears to have led to the establish- 
ment of a mail route between Grand Forks and Fort Totten. 
An organization called tiie Overland INIail & Transportation 
company, with headquarters at Washington, were then the or- 
iginal contractors with the government for a large number of 
mail routes in the west, and alter some contest over the sub-con- 
tract, it was awarded to IMr. Roach. He therefore proceeded to 
open a mail and stage route through this county to the lake. 
The mail was to be carried both ways once a week.* 

Mr. Roach started out on his first trip early in October, 1879, 
and was accompanied by James H. Mathews. At Smith's lakes, 
near the west line of the county, they niet the first wagon train 
that came east from Fort Totten and after passing them they saw 
no white men until the fort was reached. In crossing what is 
now Nelson county, they kept their course by using a pocket 
compass, taking a route somewhat north of that which the In- 
dian caravan had just traveled. f Quite early in his mail and 
stage business, Mr. Roach took steps to have three intermediate 
post-offices established on tiie route. These were located at 
Blakeley's in Mekinock, at Hanson's in Hegton and one at 
Stump lake. In respect to the Hegton office, Mr. Roach had a 
conference with the settlers at I3achelors grove and some of those 
on the upper course of the Turtle; at his suggestion a petition to 
the Postmaster General at Washington was drawn up and signed 
by them, requesting that a post-office be established in their 
neighborhood and that Hans E. Hanson be appointed postmas- 
ter. In like manner Robert Blakeley became postmaster of the 
office in Mekinock township. 

Mr. Roach did not always go with the mail stage himself, but 
occasionally employed others to make the weekly trips. During 
the first winter the carriers sometimes had to rely on the dog- 

* In part from statements of Hon. W. N. Roach. f Of J. H. Mathews. 


sledge to get the mail through. A man named Smith kept the 
mail station at Stump laice and a few other settlers were located 
there, among whom was the old frontiersman, Francis de Molin, 
In J)eceml)er, 1879, Warren Smith, a son of the station keeper, 
was carrying tlie »nail and he had with him as passengers a half- 
breed and a white man. They had three dogs in the train, but 
lost the beaten track in a storm. They killed one dog for food 
and one froze to death. They lay in a snowbank for about two 
days but finally managed to reach Molin's place, and staggering 
from exhaustion one or more of them fell at his door. Here they 
were kindly cared for until they could go on to Fort Totten. 
At Grand Forks the men were not heard from for some time and 
were supposed to have perished until a letter arrived from the 
fort that iiad b'een sent around by way of Jamestown and Fargo, 
stating that the men were safe and that tiie route was impassably 
blockaded with snow. 

The Fort Totten trail was also traveled by the Indian car- 
avans that went to Grand Forks for government supplies. The 
government had furnished the Indiiins with good wagons and 
oxen. Sometimes as many as fifty teams, each with an Indian 
driver, composed these supply trains. They traveled mostly in 
warm weather, cam[>ing in canvas covered tepees at suitable 
points on the route, and on these trips they were accompanied 
by an agent who used a horse and buggy. Smaller parties of 
of the reservation Indians occasionally passed back and forth 
over this route in making visits to the Red Lake Chippeways in 
Minnesota. A few of the old Red lliver carls and ponies were 
then still to be seen with these l>auds. 

J\Ir. Roach drove a good team of roadsters with a light two 
seated wagon. Only an ordinary mail-bag was required. As 
the trail developed a few local ones were made to branch off 
from it leading to Forest river and liachelors grove. At the time 
that the main trail began to be forced upon the section lines in 
consequence of the occupation and breaking of the land, that 
portion of it between Grand Forks and the hill country had de- 
veloped into a well beaten road. With the westward advance of 
the railroad, tlie mail was discontinued in 1882 and the Fort 
Totten trail, as a distinctive line of travel between Grand Forks 
and Stump and Devils lakes, ceased to exist. 

The old Red River trail, mail and stage route, though barely 
more than mentioned in the sketches, stands first in importance 
in relation to its historical bearings on the central part of the 
valley; the old Fort Totten trail, though brief in duration, stands 
next in order of all these old traveled wavs. 

F^RT -V". 




IHE BEGINNING of the new epoch in the Red River 
[\ VHlley WHS characterized by the introduction ot 
the present civilization. In its dawn some coun- 
ties had the start of some of the others. JUit 
by spring;time of the year 1880 the new ern of 
progress had so far been ushered into existence already in Urand 
Forks county as to have become a visible reality as reflected in 
the increasinj*; business activity, in the spreading: of the settle- 
ments and in the material chiinges that were then jroing on. 
These effected, in particular, the eastern half of the county at 
that time. 

With the opening of direct railroad communication with east- 
ern points, an era of progress and development began, both for 
Grand F'orks and for the county at large. There was then no 
other railroad point on Red river nearer than Moorhead and 
Fargo, a fact that exerted a centralizing influence upon Grand 
Forks commercially. All kinds of business enterprises common 
to new western towns began to gain a foothold and flourish. 
Throughout that spring the baggage room in the depot was piled 
high with trunks, indicating a large number of arrivals. 'I'he 
business of the hotels consequently became more flourishing than 
ever before. A large transfer business sprang up between the 
new railroad terminus at Grand Forks and the steamboats in 
respect to freight and passenger traflSc bound to points down the 
river, and a spur-track was built over on the east side to connect 
with a steamboat landing. The prairie lands of the county were 
now being rapidly occupied, thus largely increasing that year 
the scope of territory in which the settlers were dependent upon 
Grand Forks as a base for supplies. Thus the place began to 
increase in importance as a distributing point. 


'J'he U. S. Land Office at Grand Forks was opened that spring, 
and on the day of opening several hundred filings were made. 
By the month of June the population of the town had increased 
considerably over ji thousand more than what it was at the close 
of 1879. The census taken that month gave Grand Forks a res- 
ident population of 1,705 inhabitants. There was evidence of 
the rapid and permanent occupation of the back country then in 
progress, in the large amount of settler's supplies, agricultural 
implements (particularly breaking plows) and machinery arriv- 
ing and being sold. Lumber was also being shipped in by rail- 
road, and was then in considerable demand for putting up claim 
shacks, besides what was being used to build up the town. By 
this time boat or pontoon bridges had replaced the old method 
of crossing the river by ferry. 

In February, 1881, Grand Forks was incorporated as a city, 
and under the general laws of the territory of Dakota. The city 
was divided into five wards at this time, the first municipal 
officers being as follows: W. H. Brown, mayor; aldermen, 
Frank Viets and John Fadden, First ward; James Elton and 
A. L. JJnton. Second ward; A. Abrahamsen and Henry Gotzian, 
Third ward; Newton Porter and 'J'homas White, Fourth ward; 
0. E. Teel and M. L. McCormack, Fifth ward. 

By the fall of 1881 the city had largely overstepped the bounds 
it had occupied when the railroad arrived and had become a 
thriving place. After the year 1880 new additions to the city 
were successively platted. All of the common trades and mer- 
cantile establishments were well represented together with a 
number of good hotels. New churches were being built and the 
older ones enlarged. Beginning in 1879, over three years of 
business prosperity followed during which the city made remark- 
able progress. During this time the railroads were being ex- 
tended north, south and west from Grand Forks. 

During the earlier 'seventies such accounts as Gen. Hazen's 
adverse report on the country west of Red river together with 
the widely published reports concerning the ravages of the Uocky 
Mountain locusts in western Minnesota in 1874-5, combined with 
the depressed state of the times, furnish sufficient causes by which 
to account for the light emigration to the Red River Valley oc- 
curring in those years. But toward the close of the decade times 
began ripeni'ig for more general movements of this kind. Owing 
to various causes there were thousands of persons in the older 
western states ready to try their fortunes in any new and readily 
accessible region of the west for the purpose of bettering their 
condition in life and so soon as aii}'^ impelling motives to do so 
presented themselves. People already here were writing letters 

114 HISTORY () F a R A N i:> F O H K S C O U N T Y 

to their former homes; articles in the newspapers and later in 
some of the magazines began to attract notice; but most effective 
of all of these reports that were attracting attention to the ag- 
ricultural possibilities of the Red River Valley at that time were 
the widely published accounts of the large yields of fine wheat 
raised on the large farms then receutly opened in Cass county. 
With millions of acres of fertile lands at their choice and railroads 
in process of construction, thousands had now a strong incentive 
to come here. Therefore each succeedins: year began to wit- 
ness its increasing influx of immifirrants. 

All of the partially timbered quarter-sections in the county, 
as we have seen, were taken by settlers before others began to 
occupy the adjacent prairie lands. The settlenient of the prai- 
rie lands virtually came within the period that we have called 
the "new epoch" and for the country back from the river it was 
the beginning of this epoch. Fietween the Goose and Turtle riv- 
ers, and again, between the latter stream and Forest river, are 
two widely spreading prairie sections, tliat south of the Turtle 
extending into Traill coinity and the other section into Walsh 
county. The southern section has a considerable northern pro- 
jection on the valley plain due to the northeast course of Turtle 
river across these flats, hence the area of the northern section 
within the county limits is correspondingly diminished. 'I'hese 
districts comprise the parts of the valley plahi, the central slope 
and the Elk Valley between the streams mentioned and exclusive 
of the hill country. The occupation of the valley plain had been 
in progress prior to 1879, yet a little more than twenty years ago 
these prairie districts were quite generally devoid of trees or 
other conspicuous land marks; now, the land is considerably 
diversified by the numerous farmsteads with their grovesof cul- 
tivated trees, but not so much so in this respect as would now have 
been the case had the farms more generally consisted of smallei- 
lioldings. Nevertheless, the original blank aspect of the open 
prairie country has been modified in no small degree. 

Agriculture in the Northwest is so thoroughly dependent on 
the railroads that it could not be extensively engaged in at dis- 
tances remote from Red river until tliese were built and markets 
created at intervals along these lines (or shipment of the pro- 
ducts of the soil. The settlement of the prairie lands took place 
a little in advance of the building of the railroads, settlers, in 
fact, readily filing upon these lands when they became assured 
that they would not have to wait very long for near markets. 

The occupation of the prairie district south of Turtle river was 
carried forward from Grand Forks as a starting point, and here 
the movement of the incoming population was westw'ard across 
the central part of the county with more deflection toward the 
south at that time than to the north of its medial line. As late 

I' U O G Px, E !H S A N I) I) E V E L O T M E N T lib 

as the suiiuner of 1879, filing^s on the land had largely been re- 
stricted to tiie valley plain, but in the fall of that year the taking 
of the vacant lands was siiddetily extended west to and including 
range 54, beyond which the townships were not subdivided. At 
that period immigrants showed but little disposition to locate on 
any of the open prairie land as squatters until the townships had, 
at least, been subdivided and the corners of quarter-sectionsdnly 
marked. After filing upon his claim the settler was allowed six 
months to get on to it and commence making improvements; the 
breaking season was now several months past, hence those filing 
on lands in Chester, Arvilla, Pleasant View, Avon, Washington 
and Northwood townships did not generally occupy their claims 
until the spring of 1880. Even at that dnte there was consider- 
able vacant land in the southern part of the county and in the 
section between Reynolds and Nortlnvood. This, however, did 
not long remain unclaimed. 

In iMay, 1881, the Elk Valley west of range 54 was opened to 
settlement, also such part of the hill country as is comprised 
within the limits of the cC'Unty. The Elk Valley was overrun 
by settlers that year, but there still remained north of Turtle 
river a district lyiuir between Gilby and Inkster that was not 
generally occupied until the spring of 1882. This land, lying 
upon the main valley slope, is mainly com{)rised in Wheatfield, 
Strabane and north part of Hegton townships. 

'i'he settlers of the prairie districts usually put up claim shacks 
of pine lumber to begin with Some of these were only eight 
feet square, others twelve and some 12 by 16 feet. They were 
merely inteiuied lor use in warm weather, to batch in for awhile, 
and were the veriest makeshilt of an abode that could readily be 
put together with a few scantling, one or two window sash and 
pine boards. They had shed roofs and the better class of tliem 
were covered with tarred paper similar in all respects to the 
same kind of structures still to be seen in the outskirts of the 
towns. Un some claims three stages of dwelling may be noted to 
have been developed, to wit, the original claim shack, the same 
rebuilt larger so as to serve awliile lor winter's use, and lastly, 
after a few years more, the substantial framed house. Turf was 
sometimes piled around a well built shack in which the occupants 
remained a winter or two, but the veritable "sod shanty," it ever 
used in tliis county at all, was something exceptional to common 
usage. I<\)r the prairie larms the j)redecessors of the large red 
barns were cheap, low structures built of scantling and shiplap. 

Prior to 1882 oxen were much used, esi)ecially in doing the 
first year's amount of breaking on the farms, not but that there 
were already some horses in the country, but in starling in witli 
farming oxen were often used at first so as to save tlie larger 
expense of keeping liorses until oats and other feed could be 


raised for them. While being worked the oxen required ground 
feed, Vjut on the whole were less expensive than horses. The ox 
teams were largely brought into the country by the settlers them- 
selves rather than purchased here. They could then be bought 
in the older parts of Minnesota and adjoining parts of \Visconsin 
and Iowa at $80 or $90 per yoke, while in the Ked River Valley 
they were worth from $125 to $150 per yoke. In 1882 horses be- 
gan to be shipped into the country in large numbers and previous 
to that 3'ear and for some time afterwards they were rated at 
high prices. 


Gilby township is situated next north of Mekinock and amidst 
the prairie section lying north of Turtle river. The township is 
more a portion of the vallev plain than of the central valley 
sl(»pe and is a fine Hgricultural township. It was first settled in 
1879. Among the first or earliest settlers were the brothers 
George, John and James Gilby who cnine from Ontario. Thomas 
and James Lewis, George, Jlobert and J. W. Scott were immi- 
grants from St. Croix county, Wi^iconsin. J. W. Scott broke the 
first full quarter-section in the township in 1880. 

The prairie land in Arvilla township was very generally filed 
upon in October, 1879, but the land was not occupied until the 
next spring. There were at Grand Forks in October of the year 
mentioned, James H. Mathews, Prof. Webster IMeirifield, John 
Hawkins, John Forsyth, John E. Cooley and Thos. F. Eastgate. 
Tliese men had already been out and selected claims and they 
made iheir filings on or about October 6th. Other prospective set- 
tlers of that time were Geo. Bull, Geo. Ames, .lames Jenks, Lewis 
Keller, W. 0. Ghering, F, D. Hughes and B. S. Fryar. Some of 
these men were from various counties in the state of New York. 
Most of the township was taken that fall, all of the fairly good 
quarters being filed upon that season. There were many other 
persons who held land in the township besides those specially 
mentioned. Among these were Gunder Anderson and A. B. 
Holte. The first held the quarter in which the First ward of 
the city of Larimore is now located; the other the quarter south 
of this. Their claim shacks stood near together in ths corners 
of their respective claims and near the present railroad crossing; 
consequently these were the first buildings of any kind put up 
where Larimore now stands. 

At first the township was called Orange, but afterward, when 
the Hersey farm was originated in 1882, it was renamed Arvilla 
after the maiden name of Mrs. Hersey. The Hersey farm com- 
prises 2,600 acres, all adjoining and lying on both sides of Turtle 
river. The village of Arvilla was platted on land of this farm 
in May, and the plat placed on file June 23, 1882. 


Another lar^e farm that occupies the ceiitrstl part of Arvilla 
township, is ihat of James H. Mathews, known as the New York 
Farm. This grew from the original claims by the purcliase of 
adjoining quarter-sections and others more or less detached. 
The first crop was grown on the farm in 1881 on land that had 
been broken the previous year, comprising 191 jicres. Of tliis, 
171 acres were sown to wheat and the remaining twenty were 
cropped in oats. In 1898 the area of the New York Farm was 
considerably enlarged by the acquisition of the estate of the late 
(leo. Bull whose land adjoined that of Mr. Mathevvs on the east. 
The buildings of the present hirge farm are located 1^ miles 
southeast of Larimore. 

Avon township is situated next south of Arvilla. The land is 
generally level, with the exception of being just a little ridgy 
in its eastern half. It was occupied simibir to Arvilla and at 
the same time. Among the earlier settlers were Homer I), 
Smith, Samuel and Maurice Swain, Alonzo and Frederick Deitz, 
Maurice Hines, Daniel Corkins and VVm. Hanrahan, all of whom 
were from the state of Michigan. Other settlers from various 
states were Geo. Becker, Thos. Martin, Daniel and [ra Stevens, 
Wm. (^Ihalloner, Frank Challoner, Bernhard Schrump, Albert 
Sclnump, John Shirley. Millard Shirley, Edwin Kerkele, Henry 
LaPorte, Thos. and Addison Bruyere. The two latter came from 
New Jersey; .Addison Bruyere, who was a promising young man, 
died Dec. 29, 1885. W. N. lioach also took a homestead and 
tree-claim in Section 2, which he fi'ed upon in October, 1879. 

The extensive tract called the l^]lk Valley, so far as the land 
lies even moderately level, includes all of Northwood and adjoin- 
ing parts of Washington and liind, most of Avon and the east half 
of Grace, the southwest portion of Arvilla and all but the west 
one-third of Larimore, the mostof Elm Grove and parts of Agnes, 
Oakwood, Inkster and Elkmount townships. This tract is rather 
abruptly bounded on the west by the higher hill country; on the 
east in the central land belt of the county, the surface breaks into 
low, broad ridges, the land falling thence with a gentle descent 
to the valley [>lain. 

In the days of butfal(» hunting the Elk Valley was a range of 
these animals and the elk. The great quantity of buffalo bones 
that lay .scattered over the prairie, as seen by the first settlers, 
was an attestation of the fact that these animals had frt-quently 
been hunted here by the Indians and halfbreeds. The bones of 
single sinimals, as observed here by the writer in 1880, never lay 
together but were always strewn over a space of several rods, as 
dragged about by the coyotes and foxes soon after they had been 
killed. The most prominent of these remains, bleached l>y many 
years of weathering, were the skulls. These varied in size, the 
larger ones evidently having behmged to the bulls. The horns 


were usually gone, their cores remaining and forming two point- 
ed stubs about five inches in length projecting outward and up- 
ward at a small angle from each skull. The latest date at which 
any of the herds could have visited this section was 1868. 

\Ve have no record of the first white men who saw this former 
buffalo range. They were probably employees of some one of 
the various fur companies who followed up the courses of one or 
another of the timbered streams. The route of one of the geo- 
graphical expeditions of Nicollet and Fremont lay close to the 
western border of the Elk Valley during their visit to this part 
of the country sixty years ago, and white men used the old half- 
breed trail long prior to the settlement of the county. Walter 
J. S. Traill, Hector Bruce and Geo. T. Inkster explored Turtle 
and Forest rivers in 1874. Bruce and Inkster made a second 
trip to the headwaters of the Forest and Little Salt in 1876. 

In those days the section about the headst reams of the Turtle 
awd Forest was a notable game country. Black bear were some- 
times seen, while elk, black tailed deer and antelope were more 
plentiful. Otter abounded on the streams, and even the beaver 
appeared about the time that the first settlers came to that sec- 
tion, these shy animals doubtless being then on their retreat 
from the south before the advance of the first wave of civilization 
for some halfbreeds assured Mr. Inkster that the beaver had not 
previously been known on the headwaters ol Forest river. 

The Elic Valley was so named by 1). McDonald, at that time 
postmaster of Grand Forks, and who was one of a hunting party 
that came out to this tract in the fall of 1879. 'i'hey saw a herd 
of elk in the southern part of Elm Grove township near the south 
branch of the Turtle and being favorably impressed with the wild 
aspect of the land, Mr. McDonald designated it by the name it 
has borne ever since the year of the visit of the hunting party. 

To the west of range 54 prospective settlers were generally 
content to await the subdivision of the townships. At the time 
that Larin)ore township was beinij subdivided in August, 1880, 
J)yke, the surveyor, expressed surprise to the writer at not find- 
ing such fine looking land wholly occupied by squatters. The 
first to locate in Larimore township were E. C, H, V., and H. F. 
Arnold. They were of a New England family but had resided 
in Houston county, Minn., from early in the 'sixties. Leaving 
that section April 10, 1880 with two wagons and five yoke of ox- 
en they arrived at the Elk Valley I\ray 27tli and made their set- 
tlement on the 28th. They broke 155 acres that season, back- 
setting the most of it besides doing considerable work outside of 
the township. Mrs. Arnold and two daughters came early in 
September. H. F. Arnold went to Grand Forks in December, 
was offered a position by J. H. Bosard and remained through 
the winter employed in the office of Clerk of Court. 


Several weeks after the township had been surveyed, various 
parties came in and put up claim shacks on huids which they 
selected, but none of these later comers attempted to winter on 
their claims. Tliey returned in March and April, 1881, and be- 
gan breaking when the proper season opened. Among these 
may be mentioned Albert and Ernest Heudrickson, David Dick- 
son, \Vm. Carnathnn, \Vm, Wilson, L. A. Brooks, S. P. Ben- 
jamin, Win. Clone, Greeley Snyder, C. M. Williams, Richard 
Daely and William and Henry Schrump. 

Albert F. Clark was a settler who came from Clayton county, 
Iowa, and rented a place on Turtle river in the spring of 1880. 
He broke twenty acres on the S. Kj section 12 adjoining the 
township line that season. This is the quarter which now con- 
tains, the Second and 'I'hird wards of the city of Larimore. 
Clark built a small house on his claim in March, 1881. 'I'his 
stood about on the sire of the present Swain House. The quar- 
ter south of Clark's, along the north side of which is now located 
the depot, two elevators, sidetracks, etc., was originally the claim 
of a person named Patrick Donnelly, while the one west, con- 
taining most of the roundhouse, the coal-chute and adjoining 
railroad yards was taken by August Schiebe, previously a Turtle 
river settler. Samuel Whittaker came in the fall of 1881, put 
up a shack on a vacant claim near the foot of the hills and went 
east for the winter; returning in the spring he continued his res- 
idence there for over seventeen years. Larimore township was 
named for John W. and N. G. Larimore of the K\k Valley Farm- 
ing company, and was organized in August, 1881. 

Grace township is situated next south of Larimore township 
and iti Range 55. Only the east half of the township is in the 
Elk Valley. 'I'lie first settler was Andrew H. Tigham who set- 
tied on the SWi Section 13 in the fall of 1880 an<l remained on 
his claim through the following winter. During the ensuing 
spring and summer many others located in the township. Some 
of these early comers were J. E. Lavayea and son, Henry Lav- 
a\'ea, (for whose daughter the township was named somewhat 
later on) AlbertSchrump, Iver Anderson, Andrew Kvenshaggen, 
Andrew Johnson, Ole IMine, E. J. Anderson, Thos. Welch. Wm. 
Welch, A. D. Henry, John M. Crerar and N. C. Abbott. 

With the exception of a few squatters on Turtle river, Elm 
(irove township remained vacant through the year 1880. A few 
claim shacks were put up in the township during the fall of that 
year; then, without waiting for the land to come in market, the 
township was quickly occupied in the spring by numbers of set- 
tlers who began breaking as soon as the season opened. Among 
the settlers of the southern part of the township in the vicinity 
of the south branch of Turtle river there were at that time, D. P. 
Mcliain, Amidon Young, Henry (^uinn, A. W. Lee, Noah Goyne, 


Robert Wilson, T. H. Simrns and Geo. Fadden. Jn the central 
and north part of the township there located that spring Simon 
A. McCanna, Thos. S. Edison, T. O. Edwards, Hiram Spade, P. 
McEIligott, David Gorman, A. McLaren, L L. Kyllo, Medley 
Harting, Nels Larson, Joseph Barstow, T. \V. Lane, Levi Carr, 
Joseph Stahl, Henry Olmstead and others. 

Agnes township lies next north of Elm Grove township be- 
tween that and Inkster and in Range 55. A ridge running near- 
ly northwest through the township from Section 26 to 4, divides 
its area between the Elk Valley and the main valley slope, the 
larger part of the township belonging to the former topograph- 
ical division of the county. Besides the earlier settlers in and 
around Bachelors grove there came to other parts of the t»»wn- 
ship not earlier than 1881, J. C. McWilliams, A. P. Hall, Chas. 
Beatty, VVm. Ditton, Frank Kelly, James Callahan, Wm. Smith, 
Horatio Hulick, August J.iodow, John C. Orr and Silas Burgett. 

Elkmount is the most northwestern township of the county 
and lies next west of Inkster. Over half of its western part lies 
in the hill country, the remaining area of the township lying in 
ihe Elk Valley. The township was first occupied in 1880; the 
first land within its limits used for permanent settlement was 
broken in 1881. William Houtwell, however, broke a strip of 
the prairie sod in 1880, but abandoned it without cultivation and 
removed into Oakwood township. Franklin Estabrook, a prom- 
inent citizen of the township and county, settled in the vnlley 
portion of the township in 1881. Some other early settlers of 
Elkmount were James M. Haviland, Neil Bell, Angus Bell, Wm. 
McConnachie, John McOonnachie and H. Katcliffe. 


There are several large farms in Grand Forks county, but that 
known as the Elk Valley Farm stands at the head of the list. 
It was established just prior to the founding of the city of L.Mr- 
imore, the original townsite having been platted on two quarter- 
sections then but recently acquired by the Elk Valley Farming 
company. According to the plat-book of the county, issued in 
1893, the company own between nine and ten thousand acres of 
land contained in Larimore, Arvilla and Hegton townships. 
These lands are mainly comprised within the east half of Lar- 
imore township and the west row of sections of Arvilla township 
where the company have about forty quarter-sections contiguous 
to one another, the remainderconsistingof quarters that are more 
or less remote and detached from the main body of the farm. 

In its beginning, the name of Oscar M. Towner is closely con- 
nected with the opening stages of this enterprise. But little 
seems to be known of the previous life of this man, though he 
has left his name inscribed on the map of the state. He was 


presumably >i native of of one of the southern states and during 
the civil war was a soldier in one of the Confederate armies. 
In the spring of 1880 Towner came to Fargo and spent the early 
summer iti looKing over the country. He siiw the tract of coun- 
try called the Elk Valley and conceived that it whs practicable 
to' open here one of the large farms for which the Ked lliver Val- 
ley was alresidy beconung famous, provided thMt men of ample 
means could be found who were willing to invest the large amount 
of capital necessary to insure the success of so great an enter- 
prise. Going to St. Louis, he interested several gr;tiii comniision 
merchants of that city in the project. Towner returned in the 
fall iind remained here until the approach of winter. At tiie 
close of 1880 all there was to be seen on the site of the present 
headquarters ot the farm, located one mile southwest of J^ar- 
imore, consisted of two claim shacks which Towner had caused to 
be put up in September of the same year. 

'riie VAk Vallev Farming company was incorporated under the 
laws of Missouri"in 1881. The company as originally organized, 
consisted of John N. Booth, Thos. Booth, John \V. Larimore and 
N. G. Larimore. J. W. Jiarimore was president of the company. 
O. I\I. Towner was appointed superintendent of the farm.* 

During the latter half of the winter of 1880-Sl a great body of 
snow accumulated on the ground and lasted until the middle of 
April. While the snow still remai?ied, or in March, 1881, ex- 
tensive teaming operations began in hauling lumber, brick, farm- 
ing implements and machinery, feed, provisions, etc., from the 
terminus of the railroad, then at Ojata. At that time \V. N. 
lioach entered the service of the company as accountant. As 
the spring opened the erection of the present buildings that con- 
stitute the headquarters was begun. Althouirh there was much 
building done that year there has been considerable alteration, 
addition and enlargement in this respect since that time. Mules 
were shipped up frorii Missouri and a large amount of breaking 
was done during the season of 1881. No crop was raised on the 
farm that year other than flax, millet or whatever could be sown 
upon new breaking. From time to time members of the company 
made visits to this section. John N. Booth and .bdni VV. Lar- 
imore came up in the summer of 1881; N. G. Larimore made his 
first visit in June, 1882 and took up his residence here in 1889. 
The farm grew by the accretion of purchased quarter-sections 
until it soon attained nearly its present dimensions. 

The first regular crop fro'/n the farm was harvested in 1882, 
this having been a fairly good year for cereals. Owing to the 
non-residence of any of the members of the company and throuuh 
other causes, it happened that in 1881 and the early part of '82 

* From statemciits of rijiy and N. G. Larimore. 


O. M. Towner or Col. Towner, as he was commoiiiy called, was 
an ever present and overshadowing personality in the section 
around Lariniore. Kis management of affairs not proving wholly 
satisfactory to the company, he was succeeded by Clay Larimore 
who came up in 1882, 


Of tlie 150 miles of railroad, more or less, that are comprised 
within the limits of the county, by far the greater proportion 
belongs to the Great Northern system. The first rails were laid 
in the county, as we have seen, in January. 1880, and all of the 
lines owned and operated by the above named company, so far 
as contained in the county, and not including the trackage of 
yards, sidings and pa.ssing-tracks, were all built before the close 
of 1884 and have been greatly improved as regards the road beds, 
tracks, buildings, etc.. since Ihat year. 

The railroad development of the county fairly began with the 
warm season of 1880. Patrick FJrennan, an experienced track- 
layer, had charge of tlie laying ot the rails of the Great Northern 
system, then the St. P. M. & M., in this part of the state, and on 
the main line he had charge of this work as far ^vest as Miuol. 
During the summer the the track was extended from Grand Forks 
out to the site of Ojata, covering the grading that had been done 
the previous fall. At this temporary halting place of the road 
the village of Ojata was begun. The place was laid out by 
John J. Cavanagh who had it platted in September, 1880, the 
plat being placed on file on the 30th of the same month. This 
was the first place in the county to be begun on a railroad line 
and as a result ot the construction of the same. At first the vil- 
lage was called Suick^iey but this name was changed to Ojata in 
February, 1881. The end of the track remained at this point 
from July, 1880, until the latter part of October, 1881. 

The line from iNfoorhead and Fargo to Neche by way of Grand 
Forks was begun abont the time that the grade out to Ojaia was 
being ironed. The grading on this line, north and south from 
Grand Forks, was carried on in both directions from that point, 
but onl}' a part of the road between that city and Fargo was iron- 
ed in 1880. During the fall of that year the track was laid from 
Grand Forks Junction (which is oj miles west of the city) to a 
point between Grandin and Argusvilie in Cass county. That 
part of the line from Grand Forks to Hillsboro was opened to 
traffic that fall. About the first of IMay, 1881. through connec- 
tion was made with Fargo and the first passenger train from that 
city came into Grand Forks on Sunday afternoon, May 9. In 
the fall of 1881 the track on the line north from Grand Forks 
was laid to Grafton, reachins: that place toward the close of 


Work WHS again begun on the rruiin line in June, 1881. and 
during the fall the track was laid about 18 miles west of Ojata, 
which brought the road to Larimore. This place had began to 
get its first start about the middle of October, though it was not 
till the first half of November that as mnny as a dozen buildings 
were completed or under way. Building operations were in pro- 
gress when the triicklnyers reached this place on the afternoon 
of November 22d. Nine days were next occupied in getting 
things ready for traffic about the tertninus, including the com- 
pletion of a depot and freighthouse when this extension of the 
main line was opened to business by the arrival of the first reg- 
ular train, which also brought the first mail, Sunday morning-, 
i)ecerwber 1. 1881. 

At this time tiie Northern Piicific company were building a 
branch north from C.'isselton which was begun in 1879. The 
track reached iMayville in October, 1881, but the grading was 
carried as far as IMcCanna that season, tliongii not wholly com- 
pleted at all points. It had, however, been completed through 
Larimore and for several miles beyond by the time tliat tliis 
})lace was started. But the N. P. companj^ never ironed the 
grade farther than Mayville. While this work was in progress 
the St. P. M & 1\I. also graded a line northerly from the Lar- 
imore townsite to l*"orest river. J^arimore remained tiie termi- 
nus of the main line until September. 1882, when the track was 
again started westward, but only reached Bartlett that year, 
J)eing completed to Pevils J^ake during the summer of 1883. 

The Casselton branch of the Northern Pacific was acquired by 
the St. P. M & J\l. company in June, 1882. In 1884 the grade 
between Larimore and Mayville was ironed and the ni)rth line 
was also built the same year as far as I'ark iliver. A large 
amount of railroad iron was brought to Ijarimore that year atid 
the laying of both tracks was carried on from this [)oint. 'iVack- 
laying on the south line began Monday, June 23, and one week 
later. Monday, June 30. a separate working gang began track- 
laying north from the Park River Junction, about 2^ miles north- 
west from Larimore, where the track diverges from the main line. 
In July. 1884, work was in progress in this county simultaiieons- 
ly on both the north and south lines from Larimore. 

hi 1887 the Northern Pacific company extended a branch of 
their system through the northeastern quarter of this county. 
'I'his passes through (irand Forks, thence runs riearly northwest 
to Mekinock and Gilby and north thiongh Johnstown ami be- 
yond the county limits. I'he villages named were platted that 
year as a result of the building of this line througii tlie county. 
The portion ot this road that is contained in tliis county amounts 
to about 34 miles. Since its construction there has been no new 
lines of railroaii built in this county. 

124 H 1 S r O H Y OF (i li A N 1 ) FORKS GOV N T Y 


Each passii)^ yeiir since 1877 had witnessed constantly swelling 
waves of emigration toward the Red River Valley. These move- 
ments next took on what for those emigration years was their 
final phase. This, in a large measure, was produced through ex- 
tensive advertising of the country by agents of the railroad com- 
panies, townsite boomers and persons interested in real estate 
transactions. These efforts to attract attention to the country 
just at the time the most of the valley had already been taken, 
though not very far developed as a wliole, and when the country 
was beginning to be ramified by railroad lines, culminated in 
the t»;reat immigration wave of 1882. Hitherto the settlers had 
largely come frt)m Minnesota, Iowa, Wisconsin and even from 
Ontario. Now, New York, Ohio, Micliiiran, Indiana. Illinois 
and northern Missouri became prominently represented. These 
immigrants could now reach the valley directly by railroad and 
many of them shipped here, along with their household goods, 
stock, particularly horses, and fartning implements. 

Conditions were such during the earlier half of the year 1882 
as to produce a stage of development and phase of life entirely 
different from anything that the country had witnessed pevious- 
ly or has experienced since. ^^ore land was being broken and 
building done on the farms than in any previous year; a large 
amount of eastern capital was then being sent into the country 
to be invested in land and other real estate securities; these 
facts, with railroad building, platting of townsites on these new 
lines, town building and increased mercantile transactions com- 
bined with the rapid increase of population, all conspired to in- 
vite and even precipitate the boom of 1882. And so it has came 
to be remembered as an historical year. 

The city of (irand L^'orks built up rapidly that year. Some of 
the more notable buildings theii erected were the Catholic church 
costing $30,000; the Grand Forks HoUer Mills, thecostand equip- 
ment of which amounted to $40,000; a fine and costly residence 
built by Capt. Alex. Uriggs; the Citizen's bank; the White El- 
ephant elevator; the second depot which was a wooden structure 
24 by 80 feet that stood alongside the line to Neche, a few rods 
to the north of the roundhouse; then there were as many as 138 
residences erected that season varying considerably as t(» cost. 
The same year the city was bonded in the sum of $15,000 for 
waterworks. These were located in Viets' addition and upon the 
river bank, the water being drawn from Red Lake river, the 
most pure of the two streams. Real estate transfers for the city 
of Grand Forks amounted that year to $1,502,741. At the close 
of 1882 the population of the city was estimated at 5,000 inhab- 
itants. In three years Grand Forks had gained in population by 


as many thousands as previously there had been hundreds. The 
gain in population for the whole county that year was both sud- 
den and enormous. Real estate transfers for the whole county 
footed up to $2,670,878, the largest aggregate ever reached here. 

The Larimore townsite was platted by Alex. Oldham during 
the fall of 1881; the plat, however, was not dated until March 
13, and it was placed un file by the townsite company March 29, 
1882. For the most of that year Larimore was the terminus of 
the railroad, which was then called the "Devils Lake branch," al- 
though intelligent persons saw, with the advance of the survey- 
ors and graders toward the lake, that this was another continen- 
tal line aiming for the Pacific coast. J^arge numbers of im- 
migrants landed at Larimore that spring, rapidly overran most 
of the hill townships, while numbers of others pushed on toward 
Stump and Devils lakes. A daily stage line was opened to the 
lakes that summer in ndvance of the building of the railroad 
and '"Adler's" and "VVamduska" became well known stations on 
the route. Larimore temporarily became the outfitting point 
for the coutitry lying beyond and business boomed. There was 
also a l.'irge amount of teaming done. During the spring and 
early summer the town built up rapidly in what is now the cen- 
tral part of the city. It was expected that the rails of the Cas- 
selton branch of the Northern Pacific would arrive before fail, 
and the location of some of the buildings was made in accordance 
with that supposition. Late in June the building boom was 
checked by j« report that the Casselton branch had been sold to 
the St. F. M. & M. company, together with a disastrous fire that 
occurred early on the morning of the 29th and destroyed a num- 
ber <»f new buildings on both sides of Towner avenue and mainly 
in two bl( cks. 'i'he burned area was soon rebuilt. 

At that time the public lands in the county, more, perhaps, 
th;«n in any previous year, were in process of being rapidly 
transferred from governnit- nt possessicm to that of individual 
ownership. This also was a (actor of the times, and it involved 
the transaction of a large amount of legal business. Hence, 
"land offices" sprang up in in the new towns to facilitate the 
location of settlers on new lands, in making final proofs, in ex- 
amining coiitest claims, and in assisting in the sale of lands upon 
which settlers had already made their final proofs. In the mat- 
ter of final proofs and contests these offices were intermediary 
between claimants and the U. S. J.and Office of the district. 
Every lawyer from the east entering upon his profession here 
found that he had to familiiirize himself with both thelaws and 
all of the details of land office business, thus entering, so to 
speak, a new legal world. Moreover, the newspapers then be- 
ing started in the new towns did a thriving business in publish- 
ing innumerable final proof and other legal notices. 


Another circumstance that pertained to those times was the 
(acility with which ordinary social conditions reached an organ- 
ized or settled state of affairs. As we have said, the immigrants 
were gathered from different states and from various parts of 
the same. Here they came in contact with people simihirly 
irathered but who had been longer in the country. Each person, 
lo a considerable extent, knew nothing of the previous life of 
his neighbor. But the social reserve of the older states was 
readily thrown off and new acquaintances and friendships were 
us easily formed. Ih the evolution of society in the new towns, 
business relations, but more particularly the newly organized 
church societies, were the principal factors. 
THE HILL Country. 

That part of Grand Forks county which extends to the higher 
plateau west of the proper limit of the Red River V^alley, com- 
prises the townships of Loretta, Logan, Moraine, Niagara, the 
most of Oakwood and larger half of Elkmount, all of which bor- 
der on the Nelson county line; in the next range of townships 
east of these the larger part of Lind, half of Grace, the western 
third of Larimore and the southwestern part of Elm Grove lie 
upon the slope of the uplands, the remaining portions of these 
townships being part of the flat land of the Elk Valley. 

In the fall of 1881 the settlements had advanced westward to 
the base of the uplands and some filings were also made that 
year on these lands. The first settlers in Moraine township 
were Samuel S. Smith and a companion who located at Smiths 
lakes that fall on the Fort Totten trail. In the spring of 1882 
this township was occupied by settlers chiefly from Michigan 
and New York state and at the same time many who were from 
western New York made their locations in Niagara townsiiip. 
The village of Niagara, near the west line of the county, was 
started the next year, the village plat having been placed on file 
May 4, 1883. 

Thus the settlement of the county practically reached its con- 
clusion, progressing during its last year or two with accelerated 
rapidity. The last portions of the county to be occupied were 
itc northwestern and southwestern townships, compsising parts 
of the hill country. If we take the year 1878 for the time when 
the first general advancement west of Red river had its begin- 
ning in this county, we find that the westward progress of civil- 
ization occupied four years in reaching what is now its western 
boundary, having advanced at the average rate of ten miles per 


Note A. 

Page 2.— There is a long gentle slope, or descent of about three hundred feet 
from the Elk Valley to the valley plain. Eight to ten rtiles west from the 
river the surface formation beneath the topsoil gradually changes from 
lacustrine and alluvial deposits to bowlder clay, thus forming a sort of geo- 
logical boundary. Between this boundary and the foot of the actual slope 
is an expanse of till, which differs from the bowlder clay of the higher land 
only in having its surface nearly flat. The change of the surface from the 
flat valley plain to the main valley slope is hardly perceptible, the one form 
of the surface imperceptibly merging into the other. However, Uphani notes 
that the first rise of the surface on the railroad line occurs between Ojata and 
Emerado, about 13^^ miles west of Red river. Altitude, 865 feet, or 35 feet 
higher above sea-level than Grand Forks. No topographical map of the 
county has yet been published, this feature having been neglected in the plat 
books and other maps. 

Note B. 

Page 43.— In all of the extant literature concerning the Red River Valley 
the writer has never met with any statement relative to the time when 
the last buff'alo was seen within its limits, though stories of buffalo hunting 
and stampedes are abundant in print. The point mentioned has some im- 
portance historically. D. M. Holmes who came in 1871, states that no buffalo 
were ever seen in this county since his arrival here. S. C. Cady says that 
he killed buffalo between Fort Abercrombie and Fort Ransom in 1868, but 
is of the opinion that the^ never ranged as far east as the Red river during 
that year. John Lindstrom, speaking of the portion of the valley south of 
Goose river, notes that the last buffalo seen in that section was killed in 1867. 
Geo. B. Winship states that while teaming in the valley in 1868, he occasional- 
ly heard reports of buffalo being seen in the region about the headwaters of 
Turtle, Forest and Park rivers, but that they never ventured as far east as the 
valley plain that year. It is fairly certain that if any of these animals came 
into the western side of the Red River Valley as late as 1868, none were ever 
seen anywhere within its confines later than that year. 

Note C. 

Pages 59, 60.— According to the recollections of R. M. Probstfield, Nicholas 
Huffman was born in a small village of Rhenish Prussia, in either the county 
of Malmedy or of Montjoie. district of Aachen (Aix la Chapelle) about the 
year 1839. The family of which he was a member, came to this country in 
1854 and settled in St. Anthony, Minn. After the siege of Fort Abercrombie. 
in 1862, Huffman went to St. Cloud, where he spent the following winter. 
Returning to the valley in the summer of 1863, he worked for David McCau- 
ley. In the spring of 1864, he came to Georgetown, and worked for a firm who 
had leased the International of the Hudson Bay company so as to transport 
the company merchandise between Georgetown and Fort Garry. The winter 
following 1864 to that of 1865 he was in partnership with Reuben Messer who 
kept a trading station at Georgetown, buying furs of the Indians and trappers. 
The winter of 1865-66 Huffman, Messer arid others were in the region of the 
Coteau des Prairies trading with the Indians, and the party barely escaped 
perishing of starvation and exposure to storms. From that time until he en- 
tered the employment of W. C. Nash, he remained around McCauleyville and 
Fort Abercrombie, working for David McCauley and others. 

R. M. Probstfield came to the Red River valley in the spring of 1359, at the 
same time that Capt. Northup's steamboat expedition did, though he was not 
a member of that party. He settled on the Minnesota side of Red river about 
four miles above Georgetown, and his name is linked with the history of the 
upper part of the valley. During Huffman's residence in the valley, Mr. 
Probstfield knew him intimately as a close friend, and the following brief 
tribute to his memory, from the pen of the latter, is worthy of permanent 
record: "A nobler, more disinterested, tender-hearted, and scrupelously 
honest fellow, I have never known. He was a deep and independent thinker, 
but so unostentatious that most of those who knew him superficially, took 
him for a coarse, illiterate, common-place fellow. He was, in fact, a precious 
diamond in the rough, unground, uncut, and unpolished, as society would 
express it. His memory will ever be dear to me." 

1 28 NOTES 

The spelling of his name in this work has been according to the form used 
in connection with "Nick Huffman's Story." Record Magazfne, Oct. 1896; but 
.Mr. Probstfield informs us that the correct form was Nieolaus HofFman. 
Also that August Loon, the associate of Hoffman, was Gustave Loon, the last 
name being the translation of the French L'huan, "the loon." He was a 
ranadian Frenchman and remained around Grand Folks until about 1880, 
w hen he removed north and located on Red river near Acton. 

Note D. 

I*age 60.— It appears from statements made verbally to the author by W. C. 
Nash of East Grand Forks, that he held the sub-contract of Blakely & Car- 
iventer for carrving the mail between Breckenridge and Pembina in 1868, 
and employed 'Hoffman and Loon at first, but after about two years he turn- 
ud the business over to Hoffman. In the fall of 1871 the stages took the mail. 
.Mr. Nash also stated that he still has the original papers in his possession 
that relate to the matter. The author is aware that there must be many such 
records in the possession of private parties, which, in the coming century, 
are likely to become of considerable historical value. All such documents 
having any historical bearing on the Red River Valley should be carefully 

Note E. 

Page 61.— The letter of Stutsman concerning the naming of the Grand Forks 
post-office in 1870, was given, Mr. Cady states, to the Old Settlers Association. 
R. M. Probstfield thinks the name to have been in use for nearly or quite 100 
years, both himself and S. C. Cady stating that it is from "le grand fourche" 
"the French of the voyageurs and trappers for "the great forks." 

Note F. 

Page 61.— James J. Hill, president of the Great Northern Railway system, 
was born Sept. 16, 1838 on a farm at Rockwood, Wellington County, Ontario, 
of Scotch-Irish parentage. He obtained his early education at a seminary 
at Rockwood kept by a Quaker. His first start in life was the spending of a 
year as clerk in a local store. Some years before the civil war he came to 
.^t. Paul, then a place of about 5,000 inhabitants and started in there as a 
laborer on the levee, but he soon acquired a clerk's position and familiarized 
himself with the transportation business. During the civil war he took an 
active interest in the conflict, forwarding men to the front. Thence onward 
his career has been from warehouseman to railroad magnate. 

Note G. 

Page 79.— Edwin V. Holcomb died suddenly in St. Paul on the evening ol 
Nov. 26, 1899. The purchase of the last of the real estate owned by the Hud- 
son Bay company in Grand Forks was made in December, 1879. 

Note H. 

lage 106.— Geo. T. Inkster was born at Seven Oaks, now just outside the 
limits of the City of Winnipeg. His mother was born near Hudson bay and 
was closely rela'ted to the last earl of Orkney. Among Mr. Inkster's early 
recollectio'ns is that of hearing his father relate that he could trace some de- 
scent from the Vikings who conquered and settled a part of Scotland called 
Orkadia. Mr. Inkster selected his land on Forest river sometime prior to re- 
moving to that section. He located there about Sept. 1. 1878, his idea being 
cattle raising and mixed farming. Speaking of game toward the head of 
Forest river, he writes: "The first winter I was on Forest river I could find 
elk in an hour's ride anytime. Black tailed deer were very plentiful and I 
often killed them in going across country to Grand Forks for supplies." In 
August, 1882, he removed to the Mouse River country, taking through the first 
bunch of cattle that was brought into that part of the state, and going there 
by way of Fort Totten.— The pinnated grouse, or prairie hen, followed civil- 
ization into the Northwest and were found on the borders of the settlements. 
Mr. Inkster states that the first he saw of these birds in this county were some 
near Grand Forks in 1879.