Frank Jay Haynes and Early Photography

Frank Jay Haynes was one of the first professional photographers working in the Fargo-Moorhead area.  With a creative eye and a flair for unique business architecture, Haynes maintained a prolific body of work from across the Northern Plains and early western settlement.

Please enjoy a brief pictorial biography of his life and nineteenth-century photographic pieces.

[youtube height=”HEIGHT” width=”WIDTH”]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RfaqcSGAeKM[/youtube]

Images courtesy of the Montana Historical Society and the North Dakota State University Archives

Soundtrack provided by Kevin MacLeod of Incompetech

Narrated by V. Diane Reikowsky

-Stacy M. Reikowsky, Digital History 2012

The First Lutheran Church

The First Norwegian Evangelical Lutheran Church

The building was first built as the First Norwegian Evangelical Lutheran Church, cornerstone being having been built in May 26, 1895. It was designed by the Hancock brothers, George nd Walter, and served as a church until about 1919, when it was removed and replaced by a funeral home [Courtesy of the North Dakota State University Archives].

Like other religious groups, Lutherans populated the landscape in large numbers, which brought about the need for a communal place of worship.  Members established a church in which they aptly named First Lutheran Church, located in the area of 400 Roberts Street.  The church was built with an open porch and there were several wooden homes built next to this church.

As with most of the other early religious structures, the main and most noticeable consistency was the very large and high steeple; it is as if the churches were made to be seen stretching into the heavens.

This church is different from others in that that it was built with an outer decor consisting of wood frame.  This picture also shows that the surrounding residences were made of both wood and brick, thereby indicating that the skills and trades of many populations were getting supplies from both river and rail.

Most likely, the wood came from mills in Minnesota.  Judging by the original land plot and other historical records,  R.L. Frazee in Frazee, Minnesota, was dedicated to producing lumber and turned out building supplies  that was eventually loaded to rail for the west.  Some of the wood later would be committed to the United States Government to build the First Pony Express as the rails pushed West.

In summary, the first people to form the new community of Fargo were rich in both tradition and a history that they brought from many points of origin all over the world.  With immigration to Fargo also came the traditional beliefs that resonate within each culture and also made a permanent mark on the surrounding community.  Rich with tradition and deep in history, the community of Fargo grew into a stable and robust community greatly influenced by the cultural diversity of immigration and migration.

With diversity came the freedom of religion. The early settlers held the ideals of western movement and ultimately established a similar base of faith and beliefs that  grew quickly and expanded the country from coast to coast; faith and religion were very important in each and every landscape that marked progression from the Fargo area to the Puget Sound.

As testaments to the faiths that motivated early settlers, their beliefs never faltered and many of the early churches still carry on the traditions of their interpretation of religious and today’s skyline still holds their steeples in our prayers and in the community’s sites.

Rusty Ouart, Digital History 2012

The First Methodist Church, 1874

The First Methodist Church, 1909

The First Methodist Church, pictured here in 1909, was preceded by the congregation’s original building constructed in 1874 [Courtesy of the State Historical Society of North Dakota]

First, this picture of the First Methodist Church indicates that it was built in a dense growth of older trees.  This would indicate that it was taken close to water and not deep into the prairie.  Therefore, there was no retreat for the early settlers of Fargo if faced with outside threats.

Next, the windows are exposed and remarkably made of stained glass.  Not only were the new settlers resilient, but they showed that they had less common resources like stained glass.

This picture also indicates that many church builders chose structures with wood frames and concrete footings and were not primitive; they even used mortar and expensive brick. For example, the First Methodist Church (pictured above) located on Broadway represents a religious building with a steeple and the entrance is on the right front side of the exterior.

Also, the attention to detail at this time in history shows how fast the growth escalated and progressed.  According to the photograph, communication lines are running, thereby demonstrating a significant measure of growth within a relatively short period of time.

Knowing that from 1871 to the date of this 1909 picture, the  38 years from rail and working treaties, it is obvious that the progress of making the small prairie tent city to one that now holds such infrastructure such as concrete and brick facades and a diversity of churches is quite a remarkable feat.  The city of Fargo by 1909 was full of bustling populations and advanced architecture of brick churches highlighted congregations’ dedication to their individual heritage and the diverse backgrounds in the growing city.First United Methodist scott_01

Rusty Ouart, Digital History 2012

Introduction to Religion and Architecture in the Community, 1880-1910

The Red River Valley boom began in the 1880s. Heavy immigration, mostly of Scandinavians, Poles, Bohemians, and German-Russians, helped first populate the area. The migration demographics of the West were shaped by the Red River tributary that ran through the Minnesota and North Dakota valley and railroad lines to the newly formed area that we know as Fargo. With the migration of people came the expansion of religion and customs; many practices and backgrounds came to the communities that were taking permanent form.

Quickly, the railroad crossed into the Fargo area and two small communities surfaced on the landscape west of the river. Each community soon acquired the local names of “Fargo in the Timber,” located on the banks of the river, and “Fargo on the Prairie,” which was nothing more then a tent city built upon the present-day Main Avenue locale. Ironically, it was the tent city where United States Army officers accompanied railroad surveyors and their families. Many historic calculations estimated that this tent city consisted of about 100 people who lived in approximately 50 tents total.

Fargo’s early ethnic migration helped establish “Old World” or traditional religion. Those different practices and places of worship help with the understanding of how each brought together individual religious enclaves into a larger community of devoted settlers.

As one might expect, the area was home to many Native Americans before the arrival of European immigrants and Euro-American migrants.  The early exploration of the Red River Valley also brought in migration from Norway, Sweden, and France. Therefore, a great deal of heritage was concentrated within the confines of Fargo and many religions naturally began as migration of the ethnic groups continued to  grow.

Additionally, the new settlements also included many other sectors of ethnic diversity that many might not expect on the prairie, among them Russian Ukrainians, Asians, African Americans and Arabs. The working railroad greatly facilitated the new and diverse people who came through Fargo.

The significance of so many immigrants brought diversity, but by the year 1885, many of the immigrants were Russian-German. Still, the census and other records of population growth proved that by 1915 over 79 percent of North Dakota’s overall population consisted of immigrants and their offspring.

This composite of the churches that arose in the period of 1890 – 1900 helps to  better understand how the different ethnicity brought a different flavor to the landscape of Fargo.

Churches of Fargo North Dakota and the Diversity of Religion, 1890-1910

Churches of Fargo North Dakota and the Diversity of Religion [Courtesy off the North Dakota State University Archives]

This picture was taken of the churches in the time around 1890-1910. It indicates that during this time, the facades showed there were skilled craftsman in Fargo’s early settlement period. Each of the churches found seems to have a brick facade. The churches appearing in on this photograph are Gethsemane Episcopal Church,   First Congregational Church, First Norwegian Baptist Church, Robert Street German Evangelical Church, and the Broadway Methodist Episcopal Church, all of which represent the religious diversity in the new settlement called Fargo.

The photographs of the churches also bring out many details that often not noticed when first viewing a vintage photograph, but after a little bit of time spent reading and fact finding, it is the unseen that speaks the loudest when you examine a picture and consider its historical context.

Please click here to be linked to a slideshow featuring Fargo’s churches.

Rusty Ouart, Digital History 2012

Charles A. Roberts Home, 611 8th St. S.

Charles A. Roberts Home, 611 8th St. S. Image appears in “Fargo’s Heritage” by Norene A. Roberts.

One of Fargo’s grandest old homes, the Charles Roberts House was built in 1884, anchoring the north end of the historic South Eighth Street district. It is an enormous dwelling: it features over 20 rooms and measures in at well over 7,000 square feet. It has a carriage house and a large, picturesque yard. According to architectural historian Ron Ramsey, the Roberts Home is a “truly exuberant piece of architecture, this house in High Victorian Style exhibits the use of spindles, brackets, spikey ornaments, decorative brickwork, high ceilings, and steep roofs.”[1]  Astonishingly, this home was designed not by an architect, but an untrained pioneer woman who also wore many other hats during her lifetime.  Her name was Matilda Roberts, widely regarded among locals of the time as the “most beloved women in Fargo.” [2]While her husband, Charles, was away on railroad business in 1883, Matilda Roberts decided to build a home that would demonstrate her family’s position on Fargo’s social ladder. She designed the house and superintended its construction. She and her boys installed lathing to all 20 rooms, their handiwork still buried under plaster and decades of paint. The brick of the home was taken from the Roberts family brickyard–in fact, it is the same brick that is used in Old Main at NDSU. On the main floor, Matilda designed four large rooms that could be opened into one large meeting area, the floors covered with thick Axminster carpets. The house was filled with mahogany furniture and featured eight fireplaces. According to the Fargo Forum, “The dining room was in polished golden oak. Willie’s room was in blue with a water lily motif… Lee’s red, Tan’s pink, and Matilda’s gray and rose… When Charlie came home, he was even more amazed than usual at his practical wife.” [3]

The 1890s were an exciting time in the Roberts household, for Matilda seemed determined to open her home to any and all social opportunities.  A large ballroom on the third floor was the scene of many parties. Often, Schirrman’s Orchestra would play from the balcony to gathered guests outdoors. The Roberts were generous to the students of the Agricultural College (now NDSU), for their “basement was fitted out as an amusement room, a clubhouse to the young men of the town. There was an $800 billiards table and everything else was on the same scale.” [4] Lawn parties were also very popular at the time. “Chinese lanterns strung from tree to tree, ices in a tent at a smilax trimmed table, an orchestra playing behind the shrubs. Eucre occupied the place that bridge now does and there was always a prize for high score and for lone hand. At one party, the guests had ten minutes to make a buttonhole; a gold thimble went to the best one, a silver to the worst.”  The Roberts were not involved in many social clubs.  However, Mrs. Roberts was instrumental in founding the Fargo YMCA and a ladies’ club called the Quiva Club, which met in her home. [5]

– Zach Jendro, Digital History, 2012


[1] Richardson, Jerry, and Kevin Carvell. “A Walking, Driving, and Horse and Buggy Tour of Historic Fargo” (brochure). Fargo: Fargo Heritage Society, 2011.

[2] “First Citizen of City Passes Early Today”, Fargo Forum, June 27, 1934.

[3] Owen, Ida Mae. “Roberts’ Fortunes at High Tide”, Fargo Forum, February 20, 1930.

[4] Owen, Ida Mae. “Fargo Rivals Reno in Early ’90s”, Fargo Forum, February 21, 1930.

[5] Ibid.

James Holes House, 1230 5th St. N.

James Holes home, circa 1915. Courtesy NDSU Archives, Photo 2093.40.26.

The James Holes House is built in a style that was popular in the 1870’s called Italianate, which drew inspiration from late-16th century Italian architecture. The October 11, 1879 Fargo Times had a detailed write-up about the home, as its grandeur surely was a novelty to the some of the rough-hewn settlers of the prairie.  “One of the handsomest and most conveniently arranged residences in Dakota Territory. The building is of brick, laid in double walls, with a three inch air space in between, making the wall 15 inches thick. A beautiful continued rail platform staircase at the end of the spacious hall connects the upper and lower floors. The cellar is an immense affair… containing over 2,300 square feet of space. A 200 barrel cistern in the bottom of the cellar affords an abundant supply of filtered water for the house. The whole affair was superintended by John Pray, formerly of Ogdensburgh, New York, who has had 28 years’ experience in the building of first class residences.” [1] Someone asked Holes why he built such a big house, and he explained, “to catch lots of rain water.”[2]Following the death of James Holes, Sr., in 1916, his children, James Jr., and Marguerite, took over the family business concerns. Marguerite married Charles Finkle, and the farmhouse became the Holes-Finkle House, as it was known for many years in the community. As Fargo grew, Broadway was rerouted, changing the address to its present designation, the 1200 Block of 5th Street.  The house remained in family hands for over one hundred years.  It now stands oddly recessed from the street, remaining proudly among the newer, more modest single-level dwellings of its residential North Fargo neighborhood.

– Zach Jendro, Digital History, 2012


[1] “A Model Residence.” The Fargo Times, October 11, 1879.

[2] Johnson, Roy P. “Pokin’ Around in Your Home Town”, Fargo Forum, February 4, 1964.

Prairie Progress: An Introduction to the Development of Fargo’s Commercial Center, 1871-1898

View on 500 block, Front Street, Fargo, N.D., Downtown, 1878

Front Street (Main Avenue) showing the City Meat Market, Moore Bros. stationer, Fargo News Depot, George Cooper Harness Shop, and a hardware store in Fargo. Men standing along sidewalk in front of businesses [North Dakota State University Archives, Digital ID: rs000959]

At the heart of nearly any fledgling prairie town of the latter decades of the nineteenth century in the United States lays an arterial business and commercial sector regardless of size or scope.  Without reliable establishments that provide basic services to meet the needs of an early population, growth becomes hamstrung and a town’s future uncertain. Business and commercial enterprises not only dictate the ebb and flow of a town’s economy, but also provide local denizens with access to everyday products and services for sustaining day-to-day activities that contribute to both the sustainability and growth of a prairie town capable of transforming into a city.

As a result, the physical buildings themselves underscore the importance of stable, sustainable, and accessible commercial presence to ensure the long-term viability of a burgeoning city. The architecture, buildings, planning, and development of businesses of early Fargo, North Dakota, therefore played an important role in the city’s original foundation and ascension to becoming the “Gateway to the West” on the Northern Plains with marked success well into present-day.

At the same time, Fargo’s prosperous business-driven economy and expanded growth represents seminal building, commercial, and infrastructural firsts that ultimately reflect the rapid, significant, and visible changes over time and embody the vital elements of a lasting community on often harsh and unforgiving landscape of the Northern Plains.

By following an exhibition of Fargo’s early commercial and infrastructural planning, business development, and construction photographs from 1871 to 1898, a sense of rapid change and significant growth soon emerges as a testament to Fargo’s vitality and successful growth on the Plains.  Despite instances of social, political, economic, and environmental adversity, settlers’ early vision for assertive business and commercial construction helped secure the city’s permanent place on the Northern Plains.

Hector House

Hector House

Hector House Cass County Historical Society, 2007-028-009

Two men, Andrew Henry Moore and George Mann, decided to take a chance in Dakota Territory in 1869. They left from Waupum, Wisconsin, and arrived in the Red River Valley the same year. Upon their arrival, all that stood in what would be known as Fargo was a small city of tents occupied by Northern Pacific Railroad personnel and a few soldiers. Fortunately, Mann had experience in carpentry work and it is assumed that he brought some of his own tools.  Moore and Mann immediately began building what is arguably the settlement’s  first permanent structure, which was located in present day Island Park. During this time the land had not yet been surveyed, so Moore and Mann established “squatter’s rights,” meaning that they had to settle (build, farm, etc.) the land until they could file a claim of ownership.

-Robert Kurtz, Digital History 2012