From "Dakota", Compiled by O. H. Holt, 1885

Transcribed by Karen Seeman



The Northern Pacific Railroad.


The main line of this great transcontinental thoroughfare extends across the entire width of Dakota from east to west, a distance of 375gmiles. The road enters the Territory at Fargo and leaves it twenty-five miles west of the Little Missouri river. At Fargo, the Fargo & Southwestern branch diverges and runs to the town of La Moure on the James river, a distance of eighty-eight miles. At Sanborn, the Sanborn, Cooperstown & Turtle Mountain Branch runs northward to Cooperstown, 36 miles. From Jamestown, the Jamestown & Northern Branch extends to Minnewaukan, at the west end of Devil's Lake, ninety-one miles. At Wahpeton, the Northern Pacific, Fergus Falls & Black Hills Branch, which leaves the main line at Wadena, Minn., enters the Territory and runs to Milnor, forty-two miles. All these branches are to be extended as soon as the development of the country, in advance of their present termini, warrants further construction. The total mileage of road now belonging to the Northern Pacific system in Dakota is 637, although the whole road, comprising 2,547 miles, is tributary to the Territory, affording markets both at the East and the West for the products of this region.

The Northern Pacific Company received from Congress a grant of the alternate sections of land on each side of its track through Dakota for a distance of forty miles, and this was extended to fifty miles as an indemnity limit within which lands have been taken in lieu of those occupied by settlers on the railroad sections within the grant before the construction of the road. A considerable portion of the railroad lands have been sold, especially those lying east of the Missouri river. About eight million acres still remain in the hands of the company, however, and are offered for sale at low prices and on the liberal terms of five and ten annual payments, with interest at seven per cent. On the main line west of Jamestown, and also on the branches, excellent land may still be obtained by settlers within short distances of the railroad and in the near vicinity of postoffices, stores, schools and churches. These lands are adapted not only in a special degree to the production of North Dakota's great staple of hard spring wheat, but also to the raising of oats, barley, flax, Indian corn and vegetables, and to the rearing of cattle, sheep, mules and horses.

The principal towns on the Northern Pacific lines in Dakota are as follows: On the main line, Fargo, Casselton, Tower City, Valley City, Sanborn, Jamestown, Dawson, Steele, Bismarck, Mandan, Dickinson and Medora. On the branches: Wahpeton, Milnor, Lisbon, La Moure, Cooperstown, Carrington, New Rockford and Minnewaukan. All of these towns are steadily growing, and together with many smaller ones, offer good openings for the employment of business enterprise and capital. In the rich agricultural country tributary to the Northern Pacific lines there is room for many thousands of farmers to make homes for themselves on the virgin prairie soil.

The Northern Pacific Railroad Company issues a sectional map of North Dakota, showing the railroad lands for sale and the unoccupied government lands, and describing the country, giving the prices and the terms on which railroad lands are sold, and a synopsis of the homestead, preemption and timber culture laws under which land may be obtained of the government free. This, and other publications are sent free of charge, by addressing Charles B. Lamborn. Land Commissioner Northern Pacific Railroad, St. Paul, Minn.


St. Paul, Minneapolis & Manitoba Railway.


The railway system of the St. Paul. Minneapolis & Manitoba Company, starting from St. Paul, Minneapolis and Duluth, has, within the boundaries of Dakota, 509 miles of completed road, entering the Territory at Wahpeton, Fargo and Grand Forks, the three most important towns in Northeastern Dakota.

From Wahpeton. the line bears to the westward, crossing the Northern Pacific road at Casselton, the Devil's Lake line at Larimore, thence north to .its present terminus at Park river, in Walsh county, having diverging lines at Everest (two miles south of Casselton), for Hope and Portland.

From Fargo, the line runs nearly due north, near and parallel to the Red river, to the international boundary at Neche.

From Grand Forks, the line is westward, with its present terminus at Devil's Lake. All of these lines, running as they do the entire length of the Red River valley and into the heart of the Devil's Lake district, with its adjoining Turtle Mountain and Mouse River countries, have made accessible and opened up to settlement the richest and most productive part of Northern Dakota.

The Red River valley and all of the country tributary to this road has become recognized as the spring wheat garden of the world, and is today the only known wheat growing section, where, with the present exceptional low prices of that cereal, it can still be grown at a profit for the producer. The greater part of the railway system of this road in Dakota is outside of all land grant limits, and all of the lands through which it runs are open for settlement under the pre-emption and homestead

This fact, as well as the recognized richness of the soil and its other many advantages, have attracted to the country an immense immigration and an absorption of government lands unprecedented in the history of the settlement of any part of the United States. The United States Land Office, at Grand Forks, was opened in the spring of 1880, at Devil's Lake in the fall of 1888, from those dates up to the 30th of June, 1884, there were made by actual settlers 21,125 entries, covering 3,839,253 acres,
equal to a solid tract of SIX THOUSAND SQUARE MILES.

Devil's Lake, from which the town takes its name (now the terminus of the St. Paul, Minneapolis & Manitoba Railway), is a remarkable and attractive body of salt water—in fact, an inland salt sea. It is fifty-five miles in length and from three to fifteen miles wide, with over 800 miles of coast line, so indented and broken by bays, coves and capes is the contour of the shore line.

The shores are very picturesque, combining many attractive varieties of landscape, wooded points and bays, smooth, verdant meadows, rocky promontories and enticing beach. The sand resembles that of the sea, and the huge rocks found in many parts are whitened by the chemical ingredients of the water.

This water is found to contain chloride of sodium, sulphate and carbonate of soda combined with lime and magnesium, and a trace of iron. Its specific gravity is 1006, while that of the ocean is 1025. Sulphur springs are also found on the banks a short distance from the lake.


Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul Railway.


The present Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul Railway is what geologists would term a "conglomerate," the oldest ingredient of which, the Milwaukee & Waukesha Railroad, was chartered in 1847 by the territorial legislature of Wisconsin. In 1851-'52-'53-'55 and '56 were chartered by the Wisconsin legislature various roads between different points.

February 11th, 1874, the legislature of Wisconsin changed the corporate name of the system of roads which had been built and acquired by the Milwaukee & St. Paul Railway, to that given at the head of this compendium, which, at that time, consisted of lines of road in Illinois, Wisconsin, Iowa and Minnesota, aggregating about 1,400 miles of railway, since which time, the work of construction and purchase has been continued, until, at this writing, December, 1884, the aggregate mileage is 4,805, distributed as follows: In Illinois, 810 miles; in Wisconsin, 1,220 miles; in Iowa, 1,060 miles; in Minnesota, 1,419 miles ; in Dakota, 796 miles.

In the spring of 1879 the first extension of this company into Dakota was made, via Canton, to Marion and Running Water.

The Dakota lines of the road are divided as follows:

The Sioux City & Dakota Division, between Sioux City, Elk Point, Yankton, Scotland, Rock Valley, Eden and Sioux Falls, 120 miles.

The Iowa & Dakota Division, between Canton and Chamberlain, Marion Junction and Running Water, 212 miles.

The Southern Minnesota Division extends into Dakota, from Flandreau to Woonsocket, and from Egan to Sioux Falls, 130 miles.

The Hastings & Dakota Division, between Ortonville, Aberdeen, Ipswich, Ellendale, Mitchell, Milbank and Wilmot, 334 miles. This Division of the road traverses and intersects the James river and Sioux valleys, giving the Territory two outlets into and through Minnesota, and one through Iowa, all three leading to Milwaukee and Chicago, through the richest portions of Minnesota. Iowa. Wisconsin and Northern Illinois.

A glance at the map of the "Great Northwest" shows the Importance to Dakota of this great "system "—all of which are continuations of or ramifications from the "trunk lines" of this vast railway, thus bringing the people of Dakota and their products into direct relation with the trade of the great business centres, and agricultural, timber and mineral regions of the great States named; by which means, also, the whole country, from the Lakes to the Missouri, is converted into a neighborhood" of magnificent proportions and immense resources, and its diverse elements constantly becoming more congruous in sentiment, through the community of interest thus created.


Fargo Southern Railway.


The Fargo Southern is the only completed line in the Territory chartered by Dakota. It has a solid road bed, steel rails and a thoroughly equipped passenger and freight department, running solid trains south, from Fargo to Ortonville, at the foot of Big Stone Lake, in Minnesota, where it connects with the Hastings & Dakota Division of the Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul system, whose road it uses to Minneapolis and St. Paul, making three trunk lines from the metropolis of the Red River Valley, to the supply depots at the head of navigation on the Mississippi. The Fargo Southern was originated and built by the energy of Fargo business men and capital, assisted by H. E. Sargent, late General Manager of the Northern Pacific, who is president of the new road.

From Ortonville it is eighty-five miles to Flandreau, and this portion of the road is to be completed during the coming year. This will enable citizens from all sections of South Dakota to reach the capital, and all points in North Dakota, from twenty-four to forty-eight hours earlier than heretofore, via St. Paul, and at much less expense.


Chicago & North Western Railway.


The Chicago & North-Western Railway Company, with its characteristic business forethought, has invested millions of dollars in building its lines in Central Dakota. Its various lines now penetrate the richest and best portions of the Territory. Along its road have sprung up such cities as Pierre, Huron, Watertown, Redfield, Aberdeen, Columbia, Brookings, and many others, all of which have attained almost world-wide reputations for their rapid and permanent growth and prosperity. Too much can not be said in praise of the wise policy adopted by this company for the development of this portion of the Territory, whose prosperous condition to-day is due largely to the efforts of this great corporation; and as it has been in the past, so will it continue to be in the future, the exponent of progress and development in Dakota. New lines will be built as circumstances require them, and it will be safe to assume that wherever the North-Western has interests in Dakota there will be chances for safe and profitable investment.

About the first of June, 1880, the Chicago & North-Western Railway Company began to build an extension of its Winona & St. Peter Railroad from Tracy, in Lyon county, Minnesota, 526 miles northwest of Chicago, toward the Missouri river.

Since that day it has built and opened for traffic that line through to Pierre, in Hughes county. Dakota, on the Missouri river; has built and operates a branch from Huron, up the " Jim "river valley to Columbia, the county seat of Brown county; another branch from a point about half way between Brookings and Volga, in Brookings county, to Watertown, via Castlewood; another from Hawarden (Calliope), in Sioux county, Iowa, via Hurley, Parker, Salem and Vilas, to Brookings; and another branch from Watertown, due west to Redfield, in Spink county; thus opening up for settlement. Brookings, Kingsbury, Beadle, Hand, Hyde, Hughes, Spink, Brown, Clark, Union, Clay, McCook, Turner, Miner and Hamlin counties, in Dakota. By these lines of raiload, Grant, Day, Sully, Campbell, Walworth, Faulk, Edmunds and McPherson counties, in Dakota, are brought within "settling distance" of its stations, and the laud is now being rapidly "taken up" by actual settlers.


The Rock Island System in Dakota.


During 1884, the Burlington, Cedar Rapids & Northern Railway extended its line from Lake Park, in Dickinson county, Iowa, to Watertown, Dakota, the road passing through Brookings, Deuel and Codington counties, terminating for the present at Watertown, the young and thriving capital of Codington county, and the seat of the United States Land Office for that district.

This line of railway is built through a most fertile section, now populated by a very intelligent and thrifty class of farmers, mainly from our older States. The farmers of this section of the Territory are testing to a remarkable degree the capabilities of the country for diversified agriculture. This new railway, besides affording direct access to the markets of Central Iowa, Illinois and Chicago, is important to the Territory from the fact that it is the most direct line to the coal fields of Iowa, and thus reduces the price of fuel to our citizens.

In the science of railroad building, the construction of this line is a new departure in the West, especially since it follows the high land, avoiding all cuts, in order that it shall not be subject to overflow from water or closed by snow-drifts in the winter.

Contemporaneously with the building of the above road, the Wisconsin, Minnesota & Pacific Railway constructed a line from Morton, on the Minnesota river, to Watertown. This railroad enters Dakota in Grant county, and, it is understood, will be pushed beyond its present terminus during the season of 1885. This road, like the Burlington, Cedar Rapids & Northern extension, is a high-land road, and passes through a portion of the Territory which is unexcelled for fertility of soil. These roads arc familiarly known to Dakotaians as a part of the Chicago. Rock Island & Pacific Railway system, and add to the Territory another competing line for the carnage of the products of Central, Southern and Eastern Dakota to the great markets of Minneapolis, St. Paul and Chicago.

The construction of these lines must add immensely to the value of the country traversed, besides giving a guarantee to our citizens that fair and equitable freight and passenger rates will be maintained. Coming, as they do, from the south and one from the east, they furnish Dakota what she most needs, viz., fuel and lumber.



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Railroads of Dakota Territory in 1889

from "The Territory of Dakota - The State of North Dakota; The State of South Dakota.  Published by Frank H. Hagerty, Aberdeen, S.D.

Railway Miles of Track
Black Hills & Fort Pierre Railroad 15
Burlington, Cedar Rapids & Northern Railroad 83
Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul Railroad 1214
Chicago, St. Paul, Minneapolis & Omaha Railroad 87
Fremont, Elkhorn & Missouri Valley Railroad 123
Minneapolis, St. Paul & Sault Ste. Marie Railroad 99
St. Paul, Minneapolis & Manitoba Railroad 1191
Northern Pacific Railroad 857
Minneapolis & St. Louis Railroad 40
Illinois Central Railroad 15


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All data on this website is © Copyright 2008 by Genealogy Trails
with full rights reserved for original submitters.