Mary Dodge Woodward is a woman who lived and worked on a bonanza farm in Cass County from 1884-1888. Bonanza farms cropped up largely in the Dakota territory after the Northern Pacific Railroad sold huge acreages of land to their investors for extremely low prices to cover their debts. These farms covered thousands of acres and produced a large number of wheat crops. The land owners hired managers to run the farms, as was the case of the Woodwards. The farms were highly profitable until around 1890 when the land became exhausted from overuse. Mary moved from Kingston, Wisconsin, to the farm with her three youngest children, Walter, Fred, and Katie, in 1882. Walter was asked by Mary’s cousin to manage the relatively small fifteen hundred-acre farm. With her husband gone, Mary relied on her children, her dog Roxy, and her diary for company. Mary and her family eventually moved back home to Wisconsin in the spring of 1889 where she died on December 25th, 1890. Her diary, “The Checkered Years” was later published and gives a great insight into the lives of women on the prairie in the late 1800s.
– Brenna Adams, Digital History, 2012
See Minnesota Historical Society website for more information.