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Gateway to the Northern Plains

Railroads and the Birth of Fargo and Moorhead

2007
Author:

Carroll Engelhardt

Gateway to the Northern Plains

The life story of the other twin cities on the Northern Great Plains

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.

Gateway to the Northern Plains is a model local history that tells the story of two towns created by the Northern Pacific Railroad and the love–hate relationship they developed with their creator. It is, in short, a tour de force.

David Danbom, author of Born in the Country: A History of Rural America

In the 1860s, land speculators in Minnesota and the Dakota Territory expected that a great city would rise where the railroad crossed the Red River of the North. In 1872, after the Northern Pacific Railroad laid its first tracks across the river, it brought settlers, capital, and access to Eastern markets and gave birth to the twin cities of Moorhead and Fargo.

Historian Carroll Engelhardt’s Gateway to the Northern Plains chronicles the story of Fargo and Moorhead’s birth and growth. Once just specks on the vast landscape of the Northern Plains, these twin cities prospered, teeming with their own dynamic culture, economy, and politics. Moorhead was the first, boosted by railroad manager Thomas Hawley Canfield, who touted it as superior to Fargo. Amid disputes and deals with entrepreneurs, the railroad company provided land for public schools and churches to speed the refinement of the settlement. Despite Moorhead’s earlier start, Northern Pacific Railway chose Fargo as its headquarters, and it became the “Gateway City” to North Dakota.

Development in the cities was not always harmonious. As the population increased, so did the pressure to conform to middle-class values. Residents joined together to create community churches and schools, clashing with migratory harvest workers, usually single men, who patronized saloons, brothels, and gambling dens. Outraged citizens worked to eliminate such antisocial behavior and establish moral order.

Though the dominant Twin Cities to the south limited Fargo and Moorhead’s size and success, 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 as well as on the reality—and the myth—of the American West.

Gateway to the Northern Plains

Carroll Engelhardt is professor emeritus of history at Concordia College, Moorhead. He is the author of On Firm Foundation Grounded: The First Century of Concordia College (1891–1991).

Gateway to the Northern Plains

Gateway to the Northern Plains is a model local history that tells the story of two towns created by the Northern Pacific Railroad and the love–hate relationship they developed with their creator. It is, in short, a tour de force.

David Danbom, author of Born in the Country: A History of Rural America

Carroll Engelhardt’s study of Fargo and Moorhead in their formative years is urban history—but it also is local, regional, cultural, social, business, and political history. In sum, it is history properly and expertly presented.

Don Hofsommer, author of Minneapolis and the Age of Railways

It’s a warts-and-all treatment that digs into the land disputes and class clashes that shaped the development of a fledgling metropolis.

Fargo Forum

Engelhardt’s book illustrates the importance of small cities such as Fargo-Moorhead that sprouted up on the plains.

Concordia Magazine

The author illuminates an important chapter of plains history in this close look at how ‘the other twin cities’ beat the odds and made their mark.

Minneapolis Star Tribune

A fascinating story in which the reader becomes intimately acquainted with the people who made Fargo and Moorhead the communities they are today. Engelhardt’s book is so thorough and appealing that I found it hard to put down. Wove the past of Fargo and Moorhead into whole cloth for me.

Grand Forks Herald

Gateway to the Northern Plains constitutes a thoroughly readable history of Fargo, North Dakota and Moorhead, Minnesota in the first thirty years of so of their existence. This study of Fargo and Moorhead has been meticulously researched. A large selection of well-chose pictures adds much to the attractiveness of the volume.

Lexington Quarterly

A thoroughly researched and panoramic book. Engelhardt has much to offer professional scholars, genealogists, and general readers. Gateway to the Northern Plains is exhaustively researched, crisply written, and packed with arresting maps and photographs that help cement his dual urban saga in a distinct time and place. It should appeal to anyone who cares about railroads and the growth of cities on the Great Plains and elsewhere in the nineteenth-century West.

The Annals of Iowa

Gateway to the Northern Plains is a treasure of information about Moorhead and Fargo and a model of local and regional history writing.

Minnesota History

Gateway to the Northern Plains is superb local history. It is thoroughly researched, carefully written and a pleasure to read.

North Dakota History

[Engelhardt] clearly devoted years of research and writing to the preparation of this worthy book. . . . That said any reader interested in any plethora of subjects will find something of value in Gateway to the Northern Plains.

Great Plains Quarterly