Part 3: In a Nutshell

  • The majority of pioneers who settled in North Dakota arrived by train.
  • Immigrant trains transported immigrants west from the ocean port at Ellis Island, New York.
  • Immigrant families could rent boxcars for themselves and their belongings on immigrant trains.
  • Speculators bought land cheaply and sold it at higher prices to make a profit.
  • Townsites mapped out on paper that did not develop into real towns were called “paper towns.”
  • Railroad companies made the final decisions on townsite locations.
  • Livery stables rented horses. They were also places where horses could stay temporarily.
  • The first homes of homesteaders included dug-outs, log cabins, sod houses, and frame (wooden) houses.
  • A breaking plow, pulled by horses or oxen, had a heavy curved blade that dug into the sod and turned it over.
  • Sod houses, or soddies, were cool in the summer, warm in the winter, and fireproof.
  • Tar paper was used as a waterproofing material for houses.
  • Many German-Russians made sun-dried bricks out of clay, manure, and straw.
  • The interior walls of many homes were whitewashed to brighten the rooms.
  • Claim shanties were one-room frame houses built for the purpose of proving up the claim.
  • The most important item in every home was the stove, which burned wood, buffalo or cow chips, fuel bricks made of manure and straw, lignite, corncobs, or twisted hay.
  • Cellars were used to store vegetables and other food products.
  • Horses were used by most North Dakota farmers for doing field work because they were faster than oxen and not as stubborn.
  • Horse-drawn farm implements included the breaking plow, harrow, drill, binder, mower, rake, and stoneboat.
  • After grain was cut with a binder, the bundles were shocked in order to dry before threshing.
  • A threshing machine, run by a steam engine, separated the kernels of grain from the straw.
  • Women were generally in charge of cooking for the threshing crews.
  • A corn crib was a structure used for drying and storing corn.
  • A large number of homesteaders left the area because of challenges with weather, isolation, illness, grasshoppers, dust storms, and prairie fires.
  • A January 1888 blizzard was called “The Children’s Blizzard” because so many children perished in it.
  • A prairie fire was one of the greatest dangers faced by the pioneers.
  • About half of the cities of Grand Forks, Devils Lake, and Fargo were destroyed by fires.
  • The roles of men, women, and children all contributed to the success of the homestead.
  • Women usually provided food and income by milking cows and raising poultry.
  • Every fall, the women canned vegetables and meat for the winter.
  • Thousands of women led homestead claims in North Dakota on their own.
  • Children took on responsibilities at a very young age; chores were based on age and strength.
  • By the time a child reached the age of 10, he or she was usually considered capable of taking on many adult responsibilities.
  • Public schools were created by the Dakota territorial legislature in 1883.
  • When North Dakota became a state in 1889, it had about 1,400 schools; most were ungraded.
  • Teachers had the responsibility of teaching classes, doing the janitorial work, and keeping the schoolhouse warm.
  • Many teachers boarded with families of the students.
  • Bicycles were a popular means of transportation for many teachers.
  • Children attending school in town usually got a better education than those attending country schools. The terms were usually longer, teachers generally had more college training, and many towns had high schools.
  • Highlights of the school year included the Christmas program and the picnic.
  • Churches were a way for the immigrants to preserve the language and culture of their homelands.
  • Ladies’ Aid societies helped churches become organized and raise money for church projects.
  • Immigrants from the different ethnic groups each constructed their own church buildings, and services were conducted in the language of their homeland.
  • Homes were the social centers of the early North Dakota pioneers.
  • Schoolhouses became gathering places for community functions.
  • Basket socials were popular fund-raising events.
  • The first auto race in the state, consisting of three cars, took place at the Fourth of July celebration in Fargo in 1900.
  • Within a span of less than 50 years, North Dakota became settled with Euro-Americans, railroads criss-crossed the prairie, and farms and towns dotted the countryside.