1875–1876; George Egbert

1876–1877; Evan S. Tyler

1877–1880; George Egbert

1880–1882; Jasper B. Chapin

1882–1883; William A. Kindred

1883–1885; Woodford A. Yerxa

1885–1886; John A. Johnson

1886–1887; Charles Scott

1887–1888; Alanson W. Edwards

1888–1890; Seth Newman

1890–1892; Wilbur F. Ball

1892–1894; Emerson H. Smith

1894–1896; Wilbur F. Ball

1896–1902; John A. Johnson

1902–1904; William D. Sweet

The NDSU Archives has been compiling information about the life of these men.

-Mathias Zastrow, Digital History 2012


Fargo: Gateway for Presidents and Political Dignitaries

During the early years of Fargo, many political notables made their way through the town, including Presidents Rutherford B. Hayes and Chester A. Arthur, and former president, Gen. Ulysses S. Grant. In 1883, Grant made a stop in Fargo en route to Montana, where he was to be one of the dignitaries present for the driving of the golden spike to mark the completion of the NP mainline to the West Coast.  He offered these words to Fargo’s citizens:

“I came out here to be impressed but I see greater evidence of enterprise in your city and prosperity in your country than I anticipated, and all promise great things for the future. Although I have crossed the United States much and visited nearly every territory as well as state, this is the first time I have ever set foot on Dakota soil. I am glad to be on so solid and substantial foundation.”[1]

The visits of Hayes, Arthur and Grant were only the beginning of the many that would follow made by politicians and other dignitaries.  Events such as these helped further boost Fargo’s development and progressive attitudes.

[divider scroll_text=]

[1]Byers, Clara. 1937. Scrapbook.

Alanson W. Edwards

Large man in center is Alanson W. Edwards, owner of the Daily Argus. [North Dakota State University Archives, Digital ID: rs005368]

Alanson William Edwards  moved from Illinois to Fargo in 1878 to establish The Republican, a new newspaper. During his early years in Fargo, he managed The Republican, but then sold it and used the proceeds to launch The Argus.  In 1891, after losing The Argus to James J Hill, Edwards launched The Forum.[1]   Although Edwards was not necessarily a reformer, the opinions expressed in both the Argus and The Forum promoted the common conceptions of good moral and social conduct.  In his promotion of these values, he was able to help shape the moral and social progression of Fargo.

[1] Edwards, Alanson W., and Marie Edwards Belknap. 1900. Family collection.  NDSU Institute for Regional Studies.



Commercial sidewalks on Front Street (Main st.), 1880

Commercial Sidewalks on Front Street (Main), 1880
North Dakota University Archives, Digital ID: rs000975

Sidewalks were one of the important issues at the top of the “to-do” list that the Fargo City Council had to stay on top of. Wet weather and sticky North Dakota clay played an important role in the urgency of addressing this issue. Most sidewalks were six feet wide, but streets like Broadway, Northern Pacific Avenue, as well as other streets with heavy foot traffic were equipped with ten-foot sidewalks.[1] In 1875 the first sidewalk was built of two-foot wide planks along Front Street from blocks one to six. It was not until 1883 that Fargo saw a boom in sidewalk construction.[2] The council dealt with many complaints concerning sidewalks over the years

Residential sidewalk

Residential sidewalk at 221 13th Street South (University Drive South) during 1897 flood. North Dakota State University, Digital ID: fpl00036

ranging from unfinished sections and poorly constructed walks, to the takeover of weeds. After the 1893 fire, the city council had been somewhat empowered to find a permanent solution to their sidewalk troubles. Even though the first contract was awarded for noncombustible sidewalks in the same year of the fire, most sidewalks were still constructed of wood. It would not be until the start of the twentieth-century when the citizens of Fargo would have cement under their feet. [3]

[1] Carroll Engelhardt, Gateway to the Northern Plains: Railroads and the Birth of Fargo and Moorhead ( Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2007), 261
[2] “Sidewalks,” Finding Aid, Fargo, N.D. Council Meeting Minutes, 1875-1910, IRS-NDSU.
[3] Carroll Engelhardt, 261.

The Divorce Capital of America

divorce photo

The Dakota Territory was the divorce capitol of the west up until 1899.  This was due to the fact that this area was believed to be a place where people could go to start a new life and the legislation echoed this belief.  The first legislation gave immediate access to divorces in 1866, but was later lengthened to three months in 1877.[1]  With the railroad running through Fargo it was easy for couples to establish residency by staying in hotels or at least registering at a hotel and paying for three months.  The train would stop at noon in Fargo for ten minutes and people could check into a hotel and then leave.  This became known as the “Ten Minute Divorce”.  When North and South Dakota became states in 1889 they inherited the divorce laws.  In 1893 South Dakota increased its residency requirements.  In 1899, Bishop John Shanley headed the reform on this legislation making the residency requirements one year.[2]

Heather Brinkman, Digital History 2012

[1] Insern, Tom. ” Plains Folk: Divorce” North Dakota State University — NDSU Agriculture Communication. Dec. 19, 2003. Web, November 20, 2012.

[2] Caron, John. “Fargo, N.D., History Exhibition, Institute for Regional Studies, NDSU.” Fargo, N.D., History Exhibition, Institute for Regional Studies, NDSU. North Dakota State University, 2004. Web 20 Nov. 2012.   <>

Alexander Stern and the Rebuilding of Fargo

Stern ad November 9, 1892

Advertisement for one of Stern’s businesses.

In 2007, the Fargo Forum asked a five person panel of local historians to name the five most influential individuals in the history of Fargo-Moorhead. At the top of the list was Alexander Stern.[1]Originally from Germany, Stern moved to Fargo in 1881, and started his career in Fargo as a local retailer by opening a clothing store. In 1885, he moved this clothing store to the corner of Broadway and N. P. Avenue. He was noted as one of the foremost builders and boosters for the city in its early years.

Fargo Fire - Sterns Block

Image of the Stern Block following the Fargo fire.

His actions following the 1893 fire were instrumental in the rebuilding of the city. He assisted in the rebuilding of the Fargo opera house, and rebuilt the Stern Building. He operated his clothing retail business from its new brick location, and continued to involve himself in the real estate side of the city. He constructed the Edwards building, the Stern building, the Donaldson Hotel building, the Pioneer building, and the Kaufman building. He later established the Dakota Trust Company with his brother, Max Stern, and served as mayor of Fargo. Upon his death, Martin Hector noted of Alexander Stern, “Nothing ever jarred that confidence. Hard times and distressful conditions came to the community and to the nation, even the great disaster of the Fargo fire, but nothing could change his belief that there was a great future for the city.”[2]Upon his death, the governor of the state declared a 2-hour period of mourning for the entire state. In many ways, he grew with the city of Fargo and exemplified the city’s growing spirit.-Chad Halvorson, Digital History 2012

[1] Fargo Forum (Fargo, ND), August 12, 2007.

[2] Fargo Forum (Fargo, ND), June 5, 1934.

George Nichols

George Nichols George Nichols was born in Brattleboro, Vermont in 1856. He moved to Marshal, Minnesota to work in a hotel, where he stayed until he moved to Fargo in 1878 and became a clerk at the Headquarters Hotel. Working behind the desk, he became popular with the people of Fargo and did his best to talk to every man who wandered into the hotel. After many years of working at the hotel, in 1885 he took the County Deputy Treasurer position. Nichols held the position for two terms, the maximum that a person can hold the position. This was proof of how very popular he was among the people of the city. This led him to be nominated for State Treasurer and the Fargo community was extremely excited and highly supportive of his election.

– Mathias Zastrow, Digital History, 2012