First and foremost…
I thought it would be a fun change of pace to provide you with some of the firsts that have occurred in North Dakota since statehood and before. There’s a lot of interesting information out there that is well documented, and yes, there are some surprises.
The first automobile
The first “horseless carriage” appeared on the streets of Fargo in 1897. It was a Noyes Bros. & Cutler, two-person auto with a gasoline engine and “cushioned tires.” A cigar company sent the car to Fargo, Grand Forks, and Moorhead, Minn. to appear in Fourth of July parades as an advertising gimmick. The following year, Samuel Holland of Park River began to build automobiles. Holland’s first car was powered by steam (not gasoline) and rode on wooden carriage wheels. It should also be noted that when Holland started manufacturing cars by 1914, there were 31 people who had built cars including two places in Dunseith and two in Aneta. In 1900, O.A. Breman went into the car business in Valley City. Clarence Cummings started out in Carrington in 1908, W.N. Jones started building cars in New England in 1910 and Hilmer Peterson built his first car in Kenmare in 1914.
It’s interesting to note that by 1911, the state Legislature required car owners to register their vehicle for a $1 license fee. By 1910, there were 7,200 cars on North Dakota roadways, and by 1920, the number had jumped to 92,000.
The first gas station
Those first automobiles before the turn of the century were powered by diesel, electricity or steam, and the owners had to stop by a livery stable or blacksmith shop to get as much as 5 gallons of gas. But the first gas station, as we know them today, was in 1906 in Lakota. By 1910 there were several including Casselton, Fargo and Bismarck.
The first telephone
The first telephone installed in North Dakota was on the Cass County Bonanza farm managed by Oliver Dalrymple. The telephone was purchased in Philadelphia and installed in the headquarters farm in 1876. It was battery operated and was used to facilitate communication between the main farm and its various divisional farms. 1876 was the same year that Alexander Graham Bell received his U.S. patent for the telephone. By 1881, the first Fargo telephone exchange began operation.
The first newspaper
We have to go back all the way to 1864, during the height of the Civil War, to find the first newspaper in the Frontier Scout, the first publication in northern Dakota Territory that was written for the soldiers at Fort Union. Published on July 7, it was just a week before the Battle of Tupelo and two weeks before the Battle of Atlanta. Just 20 years later, there were 160 newspapers operating in Dakota Territory, and by 1910, North Dakota had 344 newspapers. Today, there are 86 newspapers in the state.
The first lights
The first electric lights were turned on April 12, 1883, in Fargo. The Fargo Electric Light and Power Co. was granted a franchise in 1881, built its first power plant in downtown Fargo in 1882, and flipped the switch in April 1883.
The first post office
Nobody seems to know the exact date, but the first post office was established in Pembina sometime in the 1870s by Charles Cavileer. Prior to that, in 1857, Cavileer established a trading post at St. Joseph (now called Walhalla), lived some years there and then St. Boniface, Manitoba, until returning to Pembina in 1863 where he stayed until he died in 1902.
The first baseball teams
Believe it or not, but baseball, or some form of it, has been played on the North Dakota prairie since the early 1870s when soldiers at Fort Abraham Lincoln and Fort Buford were the first players. As the Northern Pacific Railroad pushed west, many of the settlers played baseball in their spare time. By 1900, just about every town in the state had a team. According to the Grand Forks Herald, the Red River Valley league started in the summer of 1887.
The first radio station
WDAY in Fargo was the first to go on the air in 1922 and still broadcasts on 970 AM.
The first TV station
KCJB-TV, now called KXMC, went on the air in Minot in 1953.