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Humboldt Blasts Into Existence


Keith Finney

Boom, crash, yelp, the Indians are on the war path! AndHumboldt has been begun.

For many years, the northern parts of North Dakota andMinnesota were just a vast unsettled portion of prairie, forests, and rivers. The Dakotas and Minnesota had one great thing in common. This was theRed River. The Red River flowed as a boundary between the two territories. The Red River has yet a greater significance. This significancy is thefact that the Red River is one of the two rivers in the world to flow northward. This is something for every one of us to be very proud of.

In earlier years the area of the Red River Valley was inhabitedentirely by Indians and wild animals. However, later, when the HomesteadAct was passed in 1862, immigrants from Germany, Sweden, and Ireland spreadinto northern Minnesota and North Dakota. They made their way up the St.Lawrence River and the Red River from Canada. This was in 1862-1890 whendevelopment was very slow.

With the help of James J. Hill in 1900 to 1907, Humboldtcame into existence as a prosperous boom town. Hill established a railroadthrough this area and bought a great number of land plots. He sold thisland to many people who came to this area by way of train and of steam boat. Many people of the south heard of this land and grabbed at the chance tolive a good life.

As soon as Humboldt had been established, the inhabitantswished for a name to fit the achievements of their little town. After alittle negotiation the people decided to name the town after a famous germanscientest. Baron Alexander von Humboldt was his niame. Humboldt did nothave anything to do with the growth of the little village in any directway, but because of the fact that most of them were of German descent, thesettlers wanted to commemorate him and his name.

After Humboldt had settled into a homestead region, therailroad started to make its way toward Humboldt. The McCabe brothers,two of James J. Hill's interests, made their way to Humboldt by way of rail. The railroad influenced the people to a great extent. It brought forthsettlers, travel, a means of communication, and an opportunity for the farmersto ship their grain and furs to market. It also influenced the buildingof grain elevators. The farmers needed a place to store their grain duringthe harvest. The first grain elevator was built by St. Anthony and DakotaCo.. This elevator burned to the ground in 1931. The McCabe Brothers werealso influenced, for they too built an elevator in the booming village ofHumboldt.

Humboldt was a booming town at this time. By 1917 therewas along list of business establishments. There was a bank, a barber shop,a blacksmith, a lumberyard, a hotel, and two stores. "Humboldt hadall of the essentials and more, for they also had a pool hall for amusement."The largest of the two stores was established by Florence and Nelson. Thisstore was said to be the finest in Kittson County at this time.

The Kittson County Enterprise, a paper in the county hadthis to say about the privately owned store:

"They constantly have on hand here, a complete line of dry goods, furnishings, hats, shoes, fancy and staple groceries, fruits, candy, cigars, tobacco, hardware, furniture, and also deal in the standard makes of machinery, and parts."

The First Bank of Humboldt was opened on April 18, 1904for the benefit of the farmers and business men in the Humboldt area. Itwas on this date that Humboldt became an official village. The first townboard consisted of T.R. Brown, President: P.N. Tri, W. Sylvester, J.S.Easter,and G. Clow, Clerks: and J. Easter, Treasurer.

In 1910, Nelson Finney moved from the homestead north ofHumboldt into town to start a new profession. He started the managementof a general store. It was stated that his store had "everything fromsledge hammers to soda crackers."

Nelson also took part in chartering the First Fank of Humboldt,which started with a capital of $10,000. This bank has the distinctionof being the only bank in Kittson County to survive the depression of thethirties.

With the growing of Humboldt, the need of a school wasevident. On July 24, 1882, the first school house was completed. Thisbuilding cost the Humboldt School District a total amount of $140.

The old part of the present school house was erected in1906. P. N. Tri, Prof, as he was called by his students, was said to beone of the greatest assets to the school. A former student of Mr. Tri's,had this to say about him. "Anything Prof did or taught, became a success."

Just as evidence of the number of people that have livedin Humboldt. The lot on which I live has changed hands 37 times. Mostof these people were part of Jim Hill's life.

Although the Indians have quieted and most of the wildanimals have diminished, many of Humboldt's inhabitants will never forgetthe building times of this historic settlement. Even though Humboldt isdiminishing in size and population, it will always play a big part in thehistory of Kittson County and Northern Minnesota.


Kittson County Enterprise, 50th Anniversary edition; Hallock,Minnesota; September 11, 1935.

Interview--Ernest Turner; December 15, 1969 Humboldt,Minnesota.

Interview--Walt Clow; December 21, 1969 Humboldt, Minnesota.


21, 1969 Humboldt, Minnesota.