In the 1860s, land speculators in Minnesota and the Dakota
Territory expected that a great city would rise where the railroad
crossed the Red River of the North. In 1872, after the Northern
Pacific Railroad laid its first tracks across the river, it brought
settlers, capital, and access to Eastern markets and gave birth to
the twin cities of Moorhead and Fargo. Historian Carroll
Engelhardt's "Gateway to the Northern Plains" chronicles the story
of Fargo and Moorhead's birth and growth. Once just specks on the
vast landscape of the Northern Plains, these twin cities prospered,
teeming with their own dynamic culture, economy, and politics.
Moorhead was the first, boosted by railroad manager Thomas Hawley
Canfield, who touted it as superior to Fargo. Amid disputes and
deals with entrepreneurs, the railroad company provided land for
public schools and churches to speed the refinement of the
settlement. Despite Moorhead's earlier start, Northern Pacific
Railway chose Fargo as its headquarters, and it became the "Gateway
City" to North Dakota. Development in the cities was not always
harmonious. As the population increased, so did the pressure to
conform to middle-class values. Residents joined together to create
community churches and schools, clashing with migratory harvest
workers, usually single men, who patronized saloons, brothels, and
gambling dens. Outraged citizens worked to eliminate such
antisocial behavior and establish moral order. Though the dominant
Twin Cities to the south limited Fargo and Moorhead's size and
success, settlers from far and wide poured in, creating a diverse
population and vital culture. There are many histories of major
U.S. cities, but in "Gateway to the Northern Plains" Engelhardt
reveals how the small cities of the plains have made their mark on
the country as well as on the reality--and the myth--of the
American West. Carroll Engelhardt is professor emeritus of history
at Concordia College, Moorhead. He is the author of "On ""Firm
Foundation Grounded: The First Century of Concordia College
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