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Fargo History, North Dakota

Fargo, North Dakota, like its neighboring cities of Bismarck and Grand Forks, was established in the 1870s. Originally named ‘Centralia’, it was re-named Fargo after the Northern Pacific Railway director and founder of the Wells-Fargo Express Company, William G. Fargo.

Fargo History – The Beginning

The first period of Fargo history was quite dramatic; the winter of 1871 saw two distinct settlements growing up in the region that is part of present-day Fargo (in those days, all of this land was part of the Native American territory.) One of these settlements was set up by the Northern Pacific Railway and was occupied by their engineers (and their families) who were stationed here for the Lake Superior-Pacific Ocean Railroad project. The other colony was settled by squatters, who engaged in several illegal activities and even clashed with the occupants of the Northern Pacific Railway colony residents for no good reason. This forced the government to swing into action and by February 1872 federal troops were deployed. Soon the situation was under control and following a pact with the Native Americans, the land was opened for settlement.

Fargo History – The Rest of the 19th Century

This rather interesting beginning of Fargo history was followed by a period of growth and prosperity under the auspices of the Northern Pacific Railway. The first Northern Pacific train to cross the Red River in June 1872 brought in new settlers as did the subsequent trains during the rest of the 19th century.

Fargo’s rich, fertile soil proved a boon for the new settlers and agriculture/farming became the mainstay of the town’s economy. The town’s prosperity continued through the 1870s and 1880s. Things went a little haywire in the 1890s – first, the town was struck by a devastating fire in 1893 (a large part of downtown Fargo was consumed in this fire) and then, the flooding of the Red River in 1897 again caused much damage to the burgeoning town.

Fargo History – The 20th Century

Fargo’s population continued to grow throughout the first three decades of the 20th century as hordes of Norwegian immigrants made the fast-growing town their permanent address. Although Fargo continued to be an agriculture hub, industries like automobile industry also boosted the economy further.

The post-WWII era saw the city reaching new heights of prosperity; however, this growth was stalled temporarily by what has so far been the worst happening in Fargo history, the 1957 ‘F5’ Tornado. Things took a positive turn with the arrival of the two Interstates (I-29 and I-94) the next year and the city soon became a retail and transportation hub.

The arrivals of big businesses like Microsoft and Navteq in recent times have furthered the city’s all-round development. Present-day Fargo is one of the most livable US-cities because of its low unemployment and crime rates, affordable housing and high standards of living.

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