Andrea Hunter Halgrimson, Published January 10 2009
Interesting items from Fargo’s pastWhen Fargo was born in 1871, the town was called Centralia. The following year the name became Fargo to honor William G. Fargo, founder of the Wells-Fargo express and a member of the Northern Pacific board of directors.
On Jan. 5, 1875, Fargo was incorporated. At a meeting in April 12, the city council form of government was chosen and remained so until 1913 when voters approved a city commission form of government.
An index of the Fargo City Council minutes from 1875 to 1910 was compiled by Forum reporter Roy P. Johnson in 1950. It is available on the Institute for Regional Studies’ Web site.
In the early days of the Fargo Fire Department, the main concerns addressed by the City Council were for the diseases, food and feet of the horses used to pull the fire wagons.
In February 1888, the council approved paying a bill from J.C. McKendry for $10.78 for oats. In March the council paid J.L. Otterson $1.25 for shoeing the horses and veterinary services were provided by W.C. Langdon for $3.50.
During Major Alanson Edwards’ tenure as Fargo mayor, one of the two horses bought during his term was named “Major.” It was mentioned in the council minutes when the horse died in 1902. And in 1905, due to the sickness of “Doc,” a Fire Department horse, the council authorized the purchase of a new horse.
In 1906, the council ordered that a fire bell be located in the newly built City Hall tower on the northeast corner of NP Avenue and Roberts Street.
Fargo’s first official paper, the Northern Pacific Mirror, was named in April 1875. In August 1880, C.W. Darling got a permit for a wooden addition to the Fargo Republican office.
E.B. Chambers, editor of Fargo Times, mentioned: “Council was informed he resigned from school board.” This was on July 6, 1880.
In 1885, the council dropped the Fargo Sun as the official paper because it had gone to a smaller-sized page, which the council declared was “useless as advertising medium.” Publisher at the time was W.H. Matteson.
Major Alanson Edwards came to Fargo in 1878 to be editor of the Republican newspaper. In 1879, he started the Daily Argus, lost it in 1890 and started the Daily Forum. He purchased the Republican and combined two newspapers. Edwards served as Fargo mayor from 1887 to 1888.
The residents of early Fargo were entertained in a variety of ways. The Northern Pacific Railroad, which platted the city’s original town site in 1874, deeded 40.59 acres of land to the city for a park in March 1877 after Jacob Lowell Jr. and J.B. Power interceded with the railroad. The land became Island Park, Fargo’s first park.
Permission for a toboggan slide was given by the council in November 1886 to Robinson Brothers.
In November 1895, a Mr. Wylis was granted permission to build a skating rink building at the north end of Island Park. And in July 1906, the first tennis courts to be built by the YMCA were authorized in Island Park.
In 1907, the council ordered that city buildings, except for the water pumping station, be moved from Island Park.
People swam, fished and boated in the Red River. Theaters, both vaudeville and opera, abounded. There were circuses, fairs and festivals, especially the Fargo Fire Festival held to commemorate the Great Fargo Fire of June 7, 1893, which destroyed most of downtown Fargo, including City Hall. The first festival was held in 1895, the last at the beginning of World War I.
And after reading recently of homeowners’ reluctance to put house numbers on the outside of their homes, I was amused to find a 1887 Fargo City Council note about the council threatening to send men with paint pots to paint the numbers on their houses unless the owners did it themselves. Nothing changes. Much.
Sources: Forum files, Institute for Regional Studies wwww.lib.ndsu.nodak.edu/ndirs), www.fargo-history.com
Readers can reach Forum columnist Andrea Hunter Halgrimson at firstname.lastname@example.org