Grand Forks Background


A Centre of Commerce and Intellectual and Material Progress.

From a nucleus of a half dozen board and log shanties in 1869, at the confluence of the Red river and Red Lake river which constitute the forks here, the city of Grand Forks has developed into one of the most beautiful, regular, progressive and prosperous cities of the new west, and has today a population of nearly 7,000 souls, while the county of which it is the seat of local government, has a population of nearly 22,000 and as assessed valuation of $4,655,071, an increase since last year of $255,687.  This majestic stride in population and the partial representative of acquired wealth, is significant of the inherent resources of the country and its desirability as a home.  Much just praise might be written of the soil, climate and energy of the people, the history of this progress might be amplified into columns of glowing rhetoric, but, since that ground has been fully covered, heretofore, it is preferable at this time to confine this review more to matter-of-fact narration of present moment and as the basis of future expectations.

From the auditor’s statement for the past year it is learned that the agricultural lands under cultivation were 646,000 acres an increase of 31, 395 over the previous year and the value of these lands as returned by the assessors of the forty-one towns was $2,386,614, the average value being $3.76 per acre which is about one-third actual value.  The total value of city and village lots is placed at $792,768, of which $631,330 belongs to Grand Forks city.  It is perhaps needless to interject here the statement that the assessment is kept at the minimum in order to prevent any undue burthen in the shape of taxation from being put upon us, under the territorial system.  The value of merchandise in the county is $219,089; manufactures $16, 900; number of horses, 6,951, value $439,778; mules 815, value $52,262; cattle, 8,875, value $148,529; sheep, 881, value $1,762; swine, 4,822, value $14,196; carriages, 3,745, value $60,549; money assessed, $80,428; furniture, $8,810; stocks, $96,500; all other property, $329,894; total personalty, $1,472,692.  The tax rate for all purposes in the county is six mills.

From the location, where the lines of the St. P. M. & M. railway cross, one north and south the other east and west, with the early completion of the Duluth & Manitoba branch of the Northern Pacific to this point from Red Lake Falls, in Minnesota, the adjacent counties become an important adjunct in a commercial sense.  This receives added force from the fact that the Red River Navigation company which has its headquarters here brings in to this point in good seasons about 16,000 tons of merchandise, a large proportion of which is wheat drawn from the Red river line of elevators, north to Pembina and south to Belmont in Traill county.  Besides, this is largely a distributing point for lumber, farm machinery and implements, and iron manufactures.  It is also destined to be a milling centre, two roller mills and three or more feed mills having all they can do.  Wholesaling is carried on by a number of our leading merchants and this is a branch of commerce possessing a rich territory.  The adjacent counties thus become of relative importance.  It may be said generally, without going into detail that Walsh and Pembina, north, Traill and Cass, south, and Polk county east, are about equal in material resources and general characteristics.  The counties on the west side of the river have a total valuation of about $40,000,000 and those on the east of about $30,000,000.  The wheat crop in this district the past season may safely be put at about 20,000,000 bushels, nearly all of which graded No. 1 hard.  The population of the counties east of the river was placed at 86,459 by the last census, and that of the counties west is about one-third more.  As another important item tributary to this commercial centre, mention should be made of the pineries adjacent to the Red Lake, about 125 miles east by the river course.  The vast fields of pine on the Clearwater, where Camp and Walker’s lumbering operations are conducted are naturally destined to send their product here for manufacture for many years to come.  Hence the establishment of Mr. Walker’s large saw mill here, whose annual cut of lumber should be 20,000,000 feet, the daily capacity being 150,000.  The planing mill which is completed and in running order can prepare 200,000 feet per day for market.  Already there is sawed and piled enough lumber, which, if loaded on wagons and hauled out in a line, would make a continuous aggregation that would reach from here to Hillsboro, forty miles.  This industry alone gives employment to upwards of two hundred men.  Other important industries contributing to the general prosperity of the place are specially treated under proper heads.

Proud institutions are those shown in the engravings as the


Both are now fully completed brick structures, thoroughly equipped, heated by the Haxtun steam heating apparatus and supplied with water from the city works.  The Central was built in 1881, and cost complete $25,000, to which have been since added in improvements, apparatus, etc., about $5,000.  It contains the high school with thirty-eight pupils, C. H. Clemmer, principal; Miss Ella Owen, assistant.  The other departments and teachers are as follows:

Grammar,        No. 7, Mollie Aldrich,            38
Intermediate,   No. 6, Clara Robinson,        59
Intermediate,   No. 5, Bessie Connell,          61
Intermediate,   No. 4, Alice Scott,               62
Intermediate,   No. 3, Olive Bird,                 53
Primary,           No. 2, Mattie Burr,              52
Primary,           No. 1, J. L. Coughill,           56
Total                                                         419


The rapid growth of the city necessitated the erection of another good building, which was accordingly done in 1883 at a cost of $15,000, the result being the Belmont, from whose roof the general view of the city given herein was taken by artist Blackburn.  The Belmont is similarly heated and its departments are as follows:

Principal,          Miss Joy          38 pupils
No. 3,              Miss Booth      48 pupils
No. 2,              Miss Davis       37 pupils
No. 1,              Miss Lennon    53 pupils
Total                                      176 pupils

The whole number of pupils in the public schools is 595, and the course and discipline are of the most satisfactory kind.  In fact, our people’s colleges are justly our pride.  The term is nine months.  All the rooms are well supplied with blackboards, charts, maps and apparatus.

Other educational agencies are the University, fully described elsewhere; St. Bernard’s academy under Mdme. Stanislaus and sisters, having about 150 students, some from a great distance; the school of decorative art by Mrs. Rand and Mrs. Addison, and a number of music classes.  Besides, the city has a first class brass band, the leader being W. W. Hall; President, A. W. Clarke; Secretary; Hans Moe, and several orchestras.  The annual outlay of the city for public school and building purposes will reach $20,000.  The University expects an appropriation of an least $100,000 to carry out the plans of the regents.


The court house is a large and complete brick structure, the first part having been built in 1879.  The extension on the west was built in 1884 and fire proof vaults were added to the offices.  It is the most commodious court house in the northwest and cost as it stands, with water and sewerage, nearly $30,000.


The jail is a beautiful and substantial brick structure which was erected in 1882, at a cost of $20,000.  Its residence portion is comfortable and as elegantly finished as any private residence.  The prison part is iron-lined and substantially barred and from it there is no escape, unless the doors be left ajar.


City hall on North Third street, is a substantial two story brick edifice, marshal and other officers, the Light Guards, Relief hose company, and the rear is a lock-up for vagrants.  The second floor is used as council chamber, city clerk, treasurer and engineer’s offices.  It cost $5,000.  The accumulation of records necessitates the building of a large vault at no distant day.  It may be observed incidentally that the city also owns a New Era grader which cost $1,000, and has brought her up high and in such a fashion that her streets are marvels of evenness and solidity all the year around.  The outlay on grading alone is estimated at $30,000.  As a related improvement, it may be mentioned that every leading thoroughfare from Riverside Park to Lindsay & Taylor’s addition on the south, a distance of over a mile, has good sidewalks, the total value of which would be many thousands of dollars.  This feature commends itself especially to all who come to Dakota seeking city homes.


in wheat and merchandise at this point during the past season has been very heavy.  For the months of July, August and September, when scarcely any wheat was shipped, it amounted to:

Forwarded, lbs………..14,553,270
Received, lbs……………7,897,050

The figures for the whole year are not yet obtainable.

Page 4

In Grand Forks county there are 95 organized school districts, and 94 school houses.  There are 3,400 children of school age between seven and twenty.  There were 100 certificates given in the past year.  The average length of term in each district was 105 days.  The average pay of lady teachers was $35 per month and gentlemen about $40.  About $24,000 was paid teachers of the county the past year.  Total school expenditures for the year $58,000.  School property of the county amounts $115,000.      C. A. BURTON, CO SUPT.

Page 7


Grand Forks is probably the best educational centre in the Territory of Dakota.  The citizens have always shown a deep interest in everything of a worthy nature having for its object the enlightenment and instruction of the ambitious youth of the west.  The public and high schools, under the able management of C. H. Clemmer, are superior to many eastern institutions.  The Ursuline academy is attracting a large number of students from surrounding towns.  But the school that bids fair to outrank all rivals in the northwest and in the near future to bring hundreds of students here is the University of North Dakota, a cut of which is given above.  The University is now in its third year, and, as the accompanying report of the president indicates, has more students than at any previous time in its history.  The regents recently established a medical department and expect to begin work in January.  The members of the faculty are all gentlemen of honor and ability and are thoroughly in earnest with their work.  They are, Henry Montgomery, B. A., M. A., R. Sc., Acting President, and Professor of the Natural Sciences; Webster Merrifield, B. A., Secretary, and Professor of the Latin and Greek languages; John Macnie, M. A., Professor of English, French and German; H. B. Woodworth, B. A., Professor of Mathematics, Physics and Astronomy; Miss Jennie Allen, Matron, and Instructor in Latin and English branches.  H. M. Wheeler, M. D., Dean of the Medical faculty.

It will be necessary to have liberal appropriations from the legislature this year to carry forward the work contemplated.  The winter vacation begins on the 21st inst., and classes will be resumed Tuesday, January 4th, when a large number of new students are expected.  The following is the report of the president:

To the President and Members of the Board of Regents for the University of North Dakota.

Gentlemen! – In compliance with the twenty-fourth section of your by-laws I herewith present for your consideration the reports of the professors in the various departments of ancient languages, modern languages, mathematics and natural sciences, comprising reports of classes organized and work done in both the preparatory school and the University proper in the subjects of the aforesaid departments as well as in history and mental science.  These reports indicate progress.  We have now reached the sophomore studies of the regular university classical and scientific courses, and have twenty-two students engaged in studies above the line of admission to the freshman class.  The entrance examinations were begun on Wednesday, 29th September of this year, and continued during three days, and on Monday, October 4th, classes were organized and the members of the instructional force entered upon their duties.  Altogether since September 29th there have been 32 young men and 26 young women enrolled as students of the University.  They have been examined and classified, with the following results:

Sophomore or second year…   6
Freshmen or first year…          16
Senior preparatory year…       21
Junior preparatory year…       15
Total…                                    58

Of the sophomore students two are taking the arts of classical course, three are taking the science course.

Of the freshman students two are taking the arts course, twelve the science course and two a special course.

Of the senior preparatory students, five take the arts course, eleven take the science course, three take the second year of the normal course and two are special students.

The junior preparatory class comprises normal students in addition to students in preparation for the regular college courses.

If the numbers in the present classes be compared with those in the classes of last year and the year preceding, it will be seen that there has been a steady and well-marked advancement both as regards the grade of studies and the number of students in the classes.  The following shows the numbers in each class during the first and second years in which the University was in operation, and also this term up to the present date:

Academic year, 1884 and 1885:
Junior preparatory…   18
Senior preparatory…   10

Total…                        28

Academic year, 1885 and 1886:
Junior preparatory…   26
Senior preparatory…   14
Freshman year…           8

Total…                        48

Academic year, 1886 and ’87 up to Dec. 1st, 1886:
Junior preparatory…   15
Senior preparatory…   21
Freshman Class…        16
Sophomore Class…       6

Total…                        58

Beside the fifty eight students enrolled, a considerable number have made known their intention to attend the university exercises during the present year.  The students in attendance this term belong to Traill, Pembina, Walsh, Cass, Grand Forks, Miner, Benson and other counties in Dakota, with a few from Minnesota and Iowa.

Attention may here be called to the fact, that, with the same number of instructors (five) as were upon the teaching staff in the session 1884 and ’85, instruction is now given to about twice as many classes and in studies which are much more advanced.

With respect to the building I may state that at no time since the university was first opened has it been in better condition than at present.  The recitation, lecture, museum and other rooms are clean, convenient and healthful.  The university reading room is supplied with the leading daily and weekly newspapers published in Dakota, and with the North American Review, the Century, Atlantic Monthly, Popular Science Monthly, Harper’s Monthly, and other journals.  The library has been somewhat increased during the past summer and this department of the university together with the reading room and museum have already proved exceedingly useful to students and instructors.

Very Respectfully Submitted,

Acting President.

Grand Forks Daily Herald
Sunday Morning, December 19, 1886
Volume 11, Number 42

Share Button