In 1851 a group of settlers sponsored by Charles Cavileer had begun the first permanent farming community at Pembina. The colony grew slowly; as late as 1870 there were no more than 2,500 whites permanently living in the area of present-day North Dakota. The Civil War (1861-1865) and warfare with Native Americans had kept most settlers out, although the Homestead Act of 1862 had offered 65 hectares (160 acres) to settlers who remained on the land for five years, and railroads sold land very cheaply. In 1868 Joseph Rolette, who had been a fur trader at Pembina for 25 years, made the first land claim under the Homestead Act. During the 1870s a few more claims were filed in the Red River valley.
Rapid agricultural development in the eastern area of North Dakota began after the arrival of the railroads in the 1870s and 1880s, which provided access to the markets of Minneapolis and Saint Paul in Minnesota and Chicago in Illinois. As the Red River valley became a supplier of wheat for emerging milling businesses in Minnesota, farmers poured into the northern part of Dakota Territory along with merchants and others who provided services to farmers. The farm and farm-service population gradually spread westward from the Red River valley to the Missouri River valley. The railroad companies, in an effort to attract settlers and their business, conducted nationwide advertising campaigns that portrayed the northern Dakota Territory as a bountiful land.
In the 1870s entrepreneurs began creating farms of thousands of acres, called bonanza farms, in North Dakota. Managers hired hundreds of workers to plant and harvest the wheat in these very profitable operations.
The first bonanza farm was created in 1875 in the Red River valley from land purchased from the Northern Pacific Railroad. Oliver Dalrymple managed its 16,200 hectares (40,000 acres); others had farms as large as 25,500 hectares (63,000 acres). In the 1870s and 1880s most farmers prospered. Settlers, responding to railroad advertisements and letters from relatives, immigrated from the eastern United States and from northern Europe, especially from Norway.
In the 1880s and 1890s large numbers of ethnic Germans from Russia, Ukrainians, Czechs, and others from central and eastern Europe arrived in western Dakota Territory to start their own wheat farms, although much of this land received far too little rain for successful farming. By 1900, after North Dakota had become a state, the population had increased to 320,000 and in the next ten years another 250,000 people arrived. "North Dakota" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia
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