Wednesday, August 3, 2011


Although the railroad was built from Crookston to St. Vincent in 1878, white men had been in the area years before. As early as 1750 there was a white trader at Pembina -- across the river from St. Vincent. Alexander Henry Jr. was stationed at Pembina from 1800 to 1808, and he and his men made many trips to fur posts on the Red Lake River, Thief River, and elsewhere in the area. In the early 1840's, Norman W. Kittson and Joseph Rolette, agents of the American Fur Company at Pembina, launched their ox-cart trains from that point to St. Paul carrying fur. The main route followed the high land some distance east of the river through central Marshall County.
In 1872, the St. Paul and Pacific became insolvent. When the panic halted railroad building, James J. Hill began to look into the possibilities of railroad promotion. He interested three Canadian financiers. Donald Smith, George Stephen, and Norman Kittson. They acquired the defaulted bonds of the company in 1878 and in May of 1879 organized the St. Paul, Minneapolis, and Manitoba Railway Company to take over St. Paul and Pacific holdings. This system became the Great Northern and eventually the Burlington Northern.

Construction work began again in 1878, and the Canadian border was reached that year. Many settlers who had come into the country found employment on the railroad and news that it was built built spurred settlement.

About this time, Hill and his associates began to circularize Europe with literature telling of opportunities in northwestern Minnesota. The result was that thousands of settlers flocked to the area. One such group settled east of Argyle. and the Marshall County Banner for May 19, 1910, reports "Twenty-four Belgian families along with a priest and a Belgian count arrived in Foldahl Township. The party was in charge of the D.S.B. Johnson Land Company. They will make Argyle their trading point so as to affiliate with the Catholic Church here."

The railroad had obtained large land grants along the right-of-way, and this land was sold to settlers at $5 per acre, with a rebate of $2.50 per acre if 3/4 of the land was broken and another rebate of fifty cents for every acre cropped. This was a great incentive for settlers. Argyle was one of the many towns that sprang up as a direct result of the coming of the railroad.

 (The above information was taken from the pamphlet, written in 1938,  "After Sixty Years -- When the Railroad Came", commemorating the projection of the line from Crookston to the Canadian boundary in 1878, bringing into existence the towns along the route.)

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