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Curtis Eriksmoen, Published April 10 2011

Eriksmoen: Civil War veteran one of North Dakota’s richest citizens

Despite being misinformed by the brother of the president of the Northern Pacific about the location where the railroad would cross the Red River, Civil War veteran Newton Hubbard emerged to become one of the wealthiest men of North Dakota in the late 1800s.

In the summer of 1870, Hubbard received a dispatch from Pitt Cooke, brother of Jay Cooke, that the railroad would cross the Red at the mouth of Elm River. Hubbard immediately filed a claim at that location and built a log cabin. He later learned that the NP would cross 27 miles to the south and relocated his holdings to what is now Moorhead.

Hubbard’s companies owned general merchandizing stores in Brainerd, Glyndon, Lake Park and Moorhead in Minnesota and Fargo, Casselton, Blanchard, Mayville and Jamestown in North Dakota.

Hubbard’s company established banks in Mayville and Casselton, and he was named president of a railroad. He also owned considerable Red River Valley farmland and real estate.

Hubbard was born Dec. 17, 1839, near the town of Agawam in southwestern Massachusetts.

On April 22, 1861, Hubbard enlisted as a private for three months with the 7th Ohio Volunteer Infantry. On June 19, he re-enlisted for three years and was promoted to corporal. On Aug. 26, at the Battle of Cross Lanes in Virginia, he was captured by Confederate forces and sent to a prison camp in Richmond, Va. After three weeks, Hubbard was transferred to another prison in New Orleans and then sent to a third prison in Salisbury, N.C. In January 1863, Hubbard was involved in a prisoner exchange and rejoined his old unit to participate in the battles at Chancellorsville, Gettysburg, Lookout Mountain, Missionary Ridge and Ringgold Gap.

Hubbard was mustered out of service on July 6, 1864, and assigned as purveyor for Gen. John S. Casement’s forces at Raleigh, N.C. At the close of the war, Hubbard opened a store in Raleigh that he sold to open another store in Geneva, Ohio. After selling his business in Ohio, Hubbard traveled to Duluth, Minn., where he learned the NP was pushing westward.

He first thought the railroad would cross the Red River at Georgetown in western Minnesota, where he traveled by horseback from St. Cloud. When notified by Cooke that the railroad would be crossing 20 miles north of Georgetown, he went there to take out a claim and built a cabin.

After returning from a two-month trip, Hubbard found his cabin occupied by a man with a gun who demanded $600 in exchange for the cabin. Hubbard told the man to keep the cabin because he had found out that the railroad would be crossing the Red at present-day Moorhead, where Hubbard established his new residence.

In spring 1871, Hubbard opened a tent store in Lake Park, furnishing supplies to the railroad. He formed a partnership with James W. Raymond, and together they followed the railroad to establish stores in Brainerd, Glyndon, Moorhead and Jamestown. After two years, Raymond moved to Bismarck to establish the first bank in what is now North Dakota, and Hubbard concentrated on his store in Moorhead. In 1873, Hubbard purchased the first three business lots in Fargo and named Evan Tyler, his bookkeeper, as his new business partner.

In spring 1874, Hubbard and Tyler purchased furniture for the NP’s Headquarters Hotel. On Sept. 12, they began a weekly newspaper called the Northern Pacific Mirror, which they consolidated with the Fargo Express one year later. On Sept. 22, 1874, the Headquarters Hotel burned down, and the financially strapped NP deeded the lot over to Hubbard and Tyler, who rebuilt the hotel in 60 days. For several years it was the “social center” of Fargo and the surrounding community. In 1878, Hubbard joined other businessmen to establish the First National Bank in Fargo. He was named vice president.

In 1880, Hubbard established a store in Casselton and, with others, organized the Cass County National Bank in that city. In 1881, he became the proprietor of the first stores in Blanchard and Mayville and helped organize the Goose River Bank of Mayville, becoming its first president. In the early 1880s, Hubbard helped organize the Fargo Southern Railroad and served as its first president. In October 1883, he was appointed to a four-year term as trustee for the North Dakota Agricultural College, even though there was no North Dakota and no agricultural college.

When North Dakota became a state in 1889, Hubbard served on the board of directors of the State Asylum for the Insane in Jamestown. In 1894, he “was prominently mentioned in connection with the (Republican) candidacy for governor,” but ill health forced him to turn it down. The Great Northern Railroad servicing facility north of Reynolds was named Hubbard Pit in his honor. In 1905, Hubbard built a large two-story wood frame house at 503 9th Street South that still remains. He died on Dec. 16, 1909, one day short of his 70th birthday.


“Did You Know That” is written by Curt Eriksmoen and edited by Jan Eriksmoen of Fargo. Send your suggestions for columns, comments or corrections to the Eriksmoens at cjeriksmoen@cableone.net.