The Florance Era

by

Bill Johnson

 

The Florance family did much to develop the Humboldt areaof the Red River Valley.

They first identified with the Valley when E. G. Florancemoved to St. Vincent from Ontario, Canada. He stayed for three years inthe shoe business and Grand Forks for 11 years, only to return to this areaand open a general store at Northcote in 1897.

In 1904, most of the Florances moved to Washington State.Edward Florance stayed behind and operated a bank in Humboldt until 1932.This banking business was moved to Hallock and was the only bank to survivethe depression in Kittson county.

About this same time, James Florance ran a general storeand was a long time post master in Humboldt.

Edward's two sons proved that they too, were good businessmen.R. G. Florance, the youngest, was cashier at the Hallock bank. Morris J.Florance seemed to have gone farther than his brother. He was the secretaryand manager of the Humboldt farming company.

The Humboldt farming company was Florance operation, theowners being Edward Florance, Morris Florance and F. A. Florance. The Humboldtfarming company was formed when the great James J. Hill farm was sold offin small plots. Many people became owners of this land. The Florances decidedto buy out most of this holders and consolidate the land holdings into thecompany.

The farming practices carried on the Florance farm weresome of the most modern in the Valley. During the depression, the companykept right on earning money. The manager stated that the secret to thissuccess was through direct wholesale purchase of supplies and equipmentand direct sale of products. He went further to say that even if their operatingcost as much as the average farm per bushel, the difference would be madeup in wholesale purchase and sale of products. In other words, their systemeliminated the middle man which saved money in the mark up in prices undersuch a system. The Florances were certainly good businessmen.

The Florances used 15 tractors and nine combines in operatingthe farm. The farming operations on the farm were of such a scale that anentire section could be seeded in a single day and three quarters of a sectionharvested and threshed in a day. This is still a very large operation bytodays standards and this was in 1935.

When Walter Hill, James' son, was in control of the farmbefore the Florances became owners, he launched a large scale building program.He turned the farm into a veritable village. There was a large barn, a powerplant, silo, water, a foreman's house, a boarding house and numerous cottagesfor some of the 250 workers employed on the farm. The silos were the largestin the world when first built. Walter Hill then built his own house, a hugemansion three stories high and 50 by 60 feet in length and width. It cost$49,000 and was completed in 1913. It was said that Walter Hill spent $500,000in these buildings. The barns are now owned by the Bergh brothers. Theystill store grain in the barns and have a big cattle lot near where somewalls still stand from the workers houses.

The house and grounds are now rented and occupied by ByronHanson. Many area farmers now own parcels of the once great Hill farm. Theend of a great era.

Bibliography

Article: Kittson County Enterprise 50th Anniversary edition.cle: Kittson County Enterprise 50th Anniversary edition.