Trip to the Red River Valley, North Dakota - 1897

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From Public Documents of Massachussetts, "Report on the Farmer's National Congress at st Paul", pgs 592-594.


Friday, Sept. 3, 1897, the special Great Northern train, consisting of thirteen passenger cars, laden with over five hundred delegates and friends, pulled out of the St. Paul station at 7 o'clock A.M., and started for the Red River valley. The road management had attended to the comfort of its passengers en route by providing for them a substantial lunch, to be eaten on the train.

The train passed through agricultural portions of Minnesota to the towns of St. Cloud, Alexandria, Moorhead City and to Fargo, N. D., where it halted for supper and for the night.

Mayor Johnson of Fargo, with a committee of citizens, had provided carriages, which took the delegates on their arrival for a drive about town, along the Red River Park and to the North Dakota Agricultural College, etc. One of the committee was a former resident of Boston, who had been in Fargo eight years, and owned a wheat farm of 8,000 acres in that vicinity, the different stations of which were connected by telegraph and telephone. The hotels of the town were overtaxed to accommodate so large a number of visitors, but the citizens opened their houses, and all were comfortably lodged.

An enthusiastic meeting was held at Masonic Hall in the evening, where the mayor and others made addresses of welcome, responded to by members of the Farmers' National Congress.

The weather was exceedingly hot, the thermometer at 97°, with a strong, hot wind blowing from over the prairie.

The Red River valley, and, in fact, the greater part of North Dakota, is a prairie as flat as the sea, and on the night spent at Fargo the sun went down behind the western horizon in a flood of glory, as often seen to do on the ocean.

Fargo is a town of 8,000 inhabitants, well laid out in broad streets, and has good buildings; it was settled less than twenty-five years ago, and lies upon the banks of the Red River of the North, the dividing line between Dakota and Minnesota.

Before it was settled by whites, the State was Indian territory. It is a fertile, wheat-raising State, its crop this year in that cereal amounting to 44,000,000 bushels. The whole population of the State is estimated at 182,000; its area is 70,000 square miles.

The Red River rises in Lake Traverse, one mile from Lake Big Stone, the source of the Minnesota River, the latter emptying its waters into the Mississippi and the Gulf of Mexico, the former running north through Lake Winnipeg and finding entrance into the ocean at Hudson's Bay.

In April the ice and snow of Dakota melt, while the river farther north is frozen, causing an inundation along its banks thirty miles in width and to the depth of two to five feet. The flood lies upon the land from two to four weeks, when it subsides, and the farmers begin immediately to plough and sow their seed, claiming that the overflow, like that of the Nile, makes the land more fruitful.

The summer in North Dakota is but little over four months, but very hot; the winter, eight months, with blizzards, heavy falls of snow and extremely cold, with the thermometer far below zero. The soil, however, is rich prairie, and raises the best flouring wheat in the world, the average yield being twelve bushels to the acre.

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