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Gateway to the Northern Plains

Gateway to the Northern Plains: Railroads and the Birth of Fargo and Moorhead

Carroll Engelhardt
Copyright Date: 2007
Edition: NED - New edition
Pages: 384
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  • Book Info
    Gateway to the Northern Plains
    Book Description:

    Historian Carroll Engelhardt chronicles the story of Fargo and Moorhead's birth and growth when settlers from far and wide poured in, creating a diverse population and vital culture. There are many histories of major U.S. cities, but in Gateway to the Northern Plains Engelhardt reveals how the small cities of the plains have made their mark on the country.

    eISBN: 978-0-8166-5430-7
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Abbreviations
    (pp. xi-xii)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. xiii-xx)

    J. A. johnson died quietly at his fargo home on the morning of June 14, 1907. His passing marked the end of an era and cast a pall over the city he had helped transform from a small town. His grieving widow, five children, and three grandchildren received sympathy resolutions from the Old Settlers Association, the Commercial Club, the North Dakota Municipal League, and several fraternal bodies. Many workers paid their respects, testifying to the popularity of the deceased with the “tin-pail brigade.” The Reverend R. A. Beard of the First Congregational Church presided at the Christian funeral service; after...

  6. Part I. Railroads at Red River

    • 1 At the Crossing: The Incorporation of Fargo and Moorhead
      (pp. 3-36)

      Many nineteenth-century Americans believed that where railroads crossed rivers, great cities might arise. As the Northern Pacific built west to the Red River Valley in the summer of 1871, speculators gathered at Georgetown, Oakport, and elsewhere to claim land at the crossing. Others patrolled the river’s edge, watching for activity. To prevent their success, Thomas Hawley Canfield—president of the Lake Superior and Puget Sound (LS&PS) Company charged with creating railroad town sites—utilized secrecy and duplicity. In addition to the original route surveyed to where the Elm River entered the Red north of Georgetown, surveyors ran one fake line...

    • 2 Booster Dreams: Henry Bruns and Moorhead’s Collapse
      (pp. 37-70)

      Entrepreneur henry a. bruns staked his considerable personal fortune on Moorhead becoming a railroad center and the “Key City” of the Red River Valley. Settled first, the town captured the booming steamboat trade with southern Manitoba. Although Fargo had grown larger by the end of the decade, Bruns and other residents hoped the SPMM railroad might yet make their city the dominant distribution point at the crossing. Unfortunately for Bruns, Moorhead attained only a fraction of its projected population and Fargo became the gateway city. To a large extent, Moorhead’s failed growth dictated the bankruptcy of its foremost champion. Many...

    • 3 Boomtown on the Prairie: Fargo Becomes a Gateway City
      (pp. 71-106)

      From the beginning, fargo promoters dreamed of making their city the gateway to the northern plains and the Northwest. They were not alone in imagining such a future. Many places adopted the metaphor as the transcontinentals stimulated aspirations for capturing regional trade by connecting western producers and products with eastern industries. Like several other localities, Fargo assumed a central place in an urban hierarchy bound by rails that Chicago, “the gateway to the Great West,” initially dominated. As wheat cultivation spread northward and westward onto the Minnesota and Dakota prairies, Minneapolis transformed itself into a flour-milling center and captured part...

  7. Part II. In Pursuit of Vice and Moral Order

    • 4 Old and New Americans: The People of Fargo and Moorhead
      (pp. 109-154)

      Many nationalities peopled fargo and moorhead. these did not live by business alone. Old Americans and European immigrants quickly founded churches and schools for transplanting religious and moral traditions from the East and Western Europe to the frontier. This civilizing process depended on women. They joined churches in larger numbers than men. The cult of domesticity affirmed their moral superiority, which made them guardians of the home and desirable teachers in the public schools. Women thus actively shaped a Christian social order based on Victorian family values. Many families’ lives centered on churches. Members worshipped; attended Sunday schools, prayer meetings,...

    • 5 Domestic Virtues: Middle-Class Moral Order
      (pp. 155-188)

      Transcontinental railroad construction accelerated extensive change throughout the nation in the late nineteenth century. Industry expanded. Cities grew. Social and geographic mobility increased. Corporations and individuals intensified their pursuit of wealth, widening the gulf between rich and poor and elevating industrial violence between capital and labor. Poverty, alcohol consumption, prostitution, and crime all seemed on the rise, arousing middle-class fears throughout the country. How could individual virtue and social cohesion be attained in such a fluid and chaotic society? The Northern Pacific initially, and the SPM&M later, connected Moorhead and Fargo to this troubled national scene and brought some of...

    • 6 Vagabonds, Workers, and Purveyors of Vice
      (pp. 189-232)

      Industrial and westward expansion created moorhead and Fargo. Railroad corporations defined them as real estate to be purchased. Mobility and avarice fragmented community, leading historian Rowland Berthoff to ask, “Could so atomized a society ensure the stability and security . . . of its self-reliant members?” As we have seen in chapters 4 and 5, residents responded to instability by establishing institutions of middle-class moral order: churches, schools, fraternal lodges, women’s clubs, and a plethora of other voluntary associations. The cult of domesticity held women responsible for communal moral health. Accordingly, historian Julie Roy Jeffrey has argued, westward migrating women...

    • 7 Building a Better Community: The Politics of Good Government
      (pp. 233-278)

      Newcomers to the twin cities in 1880 encountered a bleak reality. Slightly more than four thousand people resided in a few hundred wooden structures built on a prairie bog. Neither town had sewers, water, or gas mains, telephones or electric lights, recalled former journalist Frank Pearson a half century later. Boosters nevertheless shared a metropolitan dream. They optimistically projected twenty-five thousand or more residents for each municipality within the decade. They avoided the appearance of country towns by putting on “city airs.” They conformed to the “booster model” of municipal government defined by Robin L. Einhorn. Businessmen governed the dual...

  8. Conclusion
    (pp. 279-290)

    The twin cities of the northern plains achieved an institutional maturity by 1900 that provides an appropriate ending for this study. Transcontinental railroad, telegraph, and telephone networks integrated Fargo and Moorhead into the national economy, culture, and political system. An ideology of progressivism, drawn from the evangelical Christian tradition as well as the modern ideals of rationality and science, influenced the dual city commercial and civic elite. Borrowing ideas from progressives elsewhere, officials fostered honest, efficient, and orderly municipal government. They built a middle-class moral order and an infrastructure of modern services that enhanced the safety, convenience, and comfort of...

  9. Notes
    (pp. 291-350)
  10. Index
    (pp. 351-366)
  11. Back Matter
    (pp. 367-367)