Barnes County North Dakota


This county was created January 4, 1873- Originally the county was called Burbank, so named for John A. Burbank, governor of the territory from 1869 to 1874, but by an act of the Legislature, July 14, 1874, the name was changed to Barnes in honor of Alphonso H. Barnes, who was an associate justice of the territory at that time.

The first survey of lands in Barnes County was made by Charles Scott and Richard D. Chancy in 1872. Their work was approved by the surveyor general in January, 1873, and filed in the land office at Pembina in September, 1873. The lands were made subject to preemption and homesteading May 19, 1873.- The first settlers were at Valley City in 1872. County Commissioners Christian Anderson, Otto Becker and A. J. Goodwin, appointed by Governor William A. Howard, organized the county, August 5, 1878. There is no record of their doings. The new board, elected in 1878 were, Christian Anderson, F. P. Wright and Chris Paetow. L. D. Marsh qualified as register of deeds, Joel S. Weiser as county treasurer, D. D. McFadden as sheriff, E. W. Wylie as assessor, Joel S. Weiser as justice of the peace, Otto Becker as superintendent of schools, James Le Due as coroner, B. W. Benson as judge of probate, at the meeting of the board of county commissioners, January 6, 1879. George Worthington and L. D. Marsh were the promoters of county organization and dealers in real estate. Valley City, at first known as Wahpeton, became Worthington and later Valley City. Marsh and Worthington contracted with the railroad company that all of the railroad lands in townships 139 and 140, range 58, should be reserved for them at $3 per acre, payable in the bonds of the company, then worth about nine cents on.the dollar, but the contract carried a provision for improvements and reserved section 21, in town 140, on which it was proposed to build a town. It was agreed, however, that any settler on this reserved land should have the privilege of purchasing a town lot at $5, or an acre outlot for $5, but to persons other than settlers on the Marsh-Worthington contract the price of lots was to be $10, and for acre property $25. Five-acre lots were to be sold at $75, and ten-acre at $100. This contract was for the year 1874, but there was provision for its extension.

D. D. McFadden, the oldest settler in Barnes County, filed the first pre-emption entry in October, 1873, but had previously raised a crop, 150 bushels of potatoes on six acres, also some wheat, specimens of which were sent to the St. Paul fair and received a premium. W. N. Gates made an entry on public land November 25, 1874, on section 24, township 140, range 58.

Other early settlers, with the year of their arrival, were:

F. P. Wright, 1874; Otto Becker, '77; Arne Olson, '77; J. S. Weiser, '77; James Daly, "76; Christian Anderson, '76; Con. Schweinler, Herman Starkey, '78; Andrew Widen, '78; P. P. Persons. '78; Wm. Schultz. '79; Wm. Kerncamp, '79; D. N. Green, '79; K. P. Rasmussen, '79; Wylie Nielson, '79; Hugh McDonald, '79; John Holmes, '80; M. E. Mason, '78; Sim Mason, '79; Louis Humble, '79; A. M. Carlson, '78; George Larsman, '77; A. A. Booth, '79; M. O. Walker, '77; Aaron and Jacob Faust, '80; George Stiles, '79; Thomas Olson, '78; Jens Jenson, '78; Robert Bailie, *8o; Samuel Fletcher, '80; M. B. Hanson, '78; John Lawry, '79; Ben Smith, '79; Ed Fox, '80; George W. Critchfield, '78; P. O. King, '78; O. P. Hjelde, '80; J. F. Walker, '80; Andrew Andeberg, '79; James Rogers, '78; John Marsh, '79; Jacob Baumetz, '78; C L. Etzell, '79; H. H. Randolph, '80; George C. Getchell, '78; John Simons, '79.

Source: "Early History of North Dakota"
by Clement A. Lounsberry; Liberty Press, 1919;
Submitted by K. Torp

Barnes County

IN 1878 Governor Howard, then territorial governor, issued the proclamation which constituted Barnes county a separate organized subdivision of the territory. Chris Anderson, Otto Becker and Chris Pado were appointed commissioners for the purposes of completing the organization, L. D. Marsh being appointed county clerk and register of deeds, J. S. Weiser treasurer and John Morrison sheriff.

From the first day of its separate existence the county has made consistent and steady progress. Its location on the main line of the Northern Pacific which was then engaged in pushing its first survey across the continent, and its excellent agricultural opportunities appealed irresistibly to the early home-seekers who were seeking new locations in the new country being opened up by the railroad. From a few scattered settlers in the early years its population had grown to 13,159 in 1900, and to 18,066 in 1910. The actual settlement of the county may be said to have commenced in 1877, about a year before its formal organization. The total acreage cropped in that year only amounted to 1,000 acres, the harvest therefrom being easily cared for by the single harvester then in the county. Today its grain products run into the millions of bushels; in wheat production it stands fifth among the counties of the state and only three counties exceed it in number of acres under cultivation, while its average yields of all grains per acre can always be relied upon to surpass the general state averages by a handsome percentage.

The Northern Pacific railway traverses the county from east to west with its main line, and this company has also a branch line running from Sanborn in Barnes county to McHenry in Foster county. The main line of the "Soo" system also runs through the county from southeast to northwest, passing through Valley City, the county seat. Another branch of the Northern Pacific traverses the southern townships of the county from Casselton in Cass county to Marion in La Moure county. There is no part of the county more than nine miles from a railway and most of its territory has competing railway service within a much shorter distance. As a consequence of this desirable condition the population is very evenly distributed and the agricultural districts present an appearance of civilization and cultivation not possessed by many older counties. Even to the most remote country districts the county is well supplied with rural telephones and free deliveries, and the farmer of Barnes county generally is as well provided with the modern adjuncts of civilization as the average town dweller in many states.

The soil of the county is black, alluvial loam with a sufficient admixture of sand to provide a warm and responsive seed bed; it has a depth of about two feet and is underlaid by a subsoil of retentive yellow clay. The topography of the surface is such as to obviate the necessity of employing artificial means for carrying off superfluous water, this condition constituting a great advantage over the heavier and lower-lying lands of the Red River valley. The average precipitation during the growing season has always been ample for the supply of the crops, agricultural conditions generally being ideal for the husbandman.

Besides the usual grain staples all kinds of fruit can be successfully grown in this latitude. Currants, raspberries, strawberries, plums and crab apples all are grown in abundance and reach a high quality of excellence when ripe. Enough of the smaller fruits are raised to supply all local needs and of late years the larger varieties of apples have been cultivated advantageously and in increasing quantities.

Barnes county is one of the medium-sized counties of the state. It is rectangular in shape and has a land area of 959,165 acres and a water area of 5,798 acres, and is forty-two miles from north to south and thirty-six miles in width. Lake Eckelson is the largest body of water in the county, being about seven miles long and of an average width of more than half a mile; it lies about the center of the county north and south, near its western border, and its lower reaches are crossed by the main line of the Northern Pacific railway.

The population of the county is well proportioned between urban and agricultural residents, its numerous thrifty towns and villages in no way overshadowing the rural districts whence they derive their support.   Valley City, the county seat, is the largest city in the county and is an energetic and progressive business center. It has been the county seat ever since the organization of the county and has now a population of 4,606 in 1910, being a gain from 2,466 in 1900. In population it stands sixth among the cities of the state. It is located a little to the east of the center of the county, and is on the main line of both the Northern Pacific and "Soo" railway systems. It is distant 300 miles from St. Paul and 57 miles from Fargo, the largest city in North Dakota. Valley City enjoys an extensive tributary trade and is in the midst of one of the richest agricultural regions in the state, inhabited by an intelligent and industrious population of mixed nationality with native American predominating. The financial affairs of the city are looked after by three banks with total deposits well over two millions, all of which is local money, in itself a faithful indication of the city's prosperity and independence. The electric light and waterworks systems are owned by the city and their economical management and low price charged the public for these necessities furnish a strong argument in favor of public ownership of these utilities. The telephone system is privately owned and enjoys a wide patronage. An electric street car line is in operation between the "Soo" depot and the business part of the city, and further extensions are contemplated. The state normal school at Valley City is the largest in the state and represents an investment of more than $400,000. The corps of teachers now numbers over fifty and it is expected that fully 1,500 students will avail themselves of the advantages offered in securing a normal education during 1911. The work is carried on in seven large buildings and another is in course of construction. The city schools hold a high rank among similar institutions in the state. Many handsome buildings are to be found in the city, among them being a $20,000 Library, donated by Andrew Carnegie and containing over 5,000 volumes. The largest armory in the state is located here, being the headquarters of Company G., N. D. N. G. and having a seating capacity of 1,400. The beautiful Sheyenne river runs through the city and the groves of elm, ash, box elder and other shade trees which line its banks greatly enhance the city's beauty. Farm lands in the vicinity of Valley City are now valued at from $30 to $50 per acre, according to location and extent of improvements.

Fingal is a prosperous village with a population of some 500. It is situated on the Soo railway, about seventeen miles south-east from Valley City. It is the trading point for an extensive and wealthy farming region, inhabited by different nationalities, Norwegian predominating. Its fine graded school has four departments, and two churches—Lutheran and Congregational— minister to the spiritual needs of the people. Fingal has also a public hall, public park, two banks, national and state, three large general stores, a drug store, hardware store, meat market, harness shop, blacksmith shops, hotels, livery barns, lumber yards, five grain elevators, and other commercial establishments.

Litchville, on the Marion branch of the Northern Pacific railway, was organized in 1901, and at once enjoyed a phenomenal growth. It is now a thrifty town of nearly 500 inhabitants, and is continuing to increase rapidly. All kinds of commercial lines are represented in its wholesale and retail establishments and its four elevators ship the largest amount of grain of any town on the Marion branch. It is situated in the center of one of the richest agricultural districts in the state, which is fast settling up with a well-to-do class of Germans and Hollanders, who, from the first have been very successful in their farming operations. Among its many fine buildings the Lutheran, Catholic and Holland churches are especially worthy of note. The strongest flowing artesian well in the state is to be found at Litchville, the natural pressure being sufficient to throw water over the highest building in the town.

Kathryn is located on the N. P. Casselton branch, about one mile west of the Sheyenne river, and is a thriving town. It has elevators, general merchandise stores, hardware stores, a furniture store, bank, livery barn, two hotels, a creamery, blacksmith shops and implement houses. The creamery business is in a very flourishing condition, drawing its dairy supplies from a rich tributary territory.

. . Other villages and towns in the county, all enjoying a satisfactory and healthy growth, are Eckelson, Sanborn, Alta, Oriska, and Brackett, on the main line of the N. P.; Nome and Lucca on the N. P. Casselton branch; Wimbledon on the Soo and Dazy on the N. P. McHenry branch.

The following agricultural products were raised in Barnes county in 1909 and will convey to the reader some idea of the scale on which farming operations are conducted; wheat, 3,553,910 bushels; oats, 1,845,719 bushels; barley, 755,612 bushels; flax, 275,139 bushels; rye, 6,239; potatoes, 126,155 bushels; prairie hay, 47,566 tons; there were also 4,976 cows used in dairying; 14,061 horses; 90 mules; 13,192 cattle; 1,962 sheep and 7,105 hogs.   In 1910 555,929 acres were under cultivation.

North Dakota Magazine Published by W.C. Gilbreath 1911


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