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A Year of Amazing Progress For The Northwest

The Figures on Immigration Up to Date Are Little Short of Startling

Davis, W. E.. "A Year of Amazing Progress For The Northwest." Minneapolis Journal, 31 May 1902, 8.


Some Applied Statistics of Immigration

Sixty thousand people have been added to the population of the central northwest January. To transport all of these people at one time would require a train of passenger coaches 9 1-2 miles long.

Cars of homeseekers' household and farming effects to the number of 7,000 have been unloaded at railway stations In Minnesota, the Dakotas and Northern Wisconsin in four months. These would make a solid freight train 48 miles in length.

Minnesota and North Dakota have received 5,000 cars of homeseekers' effects, or a single freight train 35 miles long.

North Dakota's population is now 380,000 as compared with 320,000 two years ago. South Dakota has increased from 401,000 to 425,000. Minnesota has gained 30,000 people through immigration in two years.

Outposts of settlement in North Dakota have been advanced beyond the Missouri river. In South Dakota the settler is threatening an early invasion of the land beyond the "Big Muddy."

Distribution of the homeseekers in South Dakota favored no particular section. Five thousand have gone in to the forest lands of Northern Wisconsin.

The Northwest leads the Southwest in immigration results this year by a big margin.


Sixty thousand people have been added to the population of the central northwest since the first of the year. This is equal to the immigration into Minnesota, the Dakotas, and northern Wisconsin for the entire twelve months of 1901. For the first year since immigration to the northwest took such a positive turn, there will be a steady moderate movement throughout the summer with increased travel in the fall months. Industrial agents in close touch with the situation place the total immigration for the central northwest in 1902 at 100,000. Most of the new comers have passed through the Minneapolis gateway. The larger percentage of the immigration into South Dakota has gone by routes south and southwest of the twin cities, principally over the Milwaukee and North-Western roads. Some of the immigration into Wisconsin has taken routes east of Minneapolis. The northern coast lines have contributed the big percentage of the immigration to the north coast and that has gone through this gateway. There has been a big movement to Canadian points through the twin cities. It is believed that the estimate on immigration into the "greater northwest" will reach the figure predicted the first of the year, 200,000.

In the central northwest, North Dakota has taken the big piece of the persimmon. Since January 1, 30,000 have been added to its population. North Dakota was credited by the census of 1900 with 320,000 inhabitants. The immigration of last year, together with that of the past four months will bring the flickertail state's total population to 380,000 which demonstrates the wonderful possibilities in North Dakota between now and the taking of the next census. Minnesota's gain through this year's immigration is about 15,000’ South Dakota's, 10,000, and northern Wisconsin 5,000. South Dakota can now lay claim to a population of 425,000 an increase of 25,000 people in two years. Immigration has furnished Minnesota with a net gain of 30,000 people in the past two years.

Seven Thousand Cars of ''Effects."

Returns from the hundreds of railway stations on the various lines show that 7,000 full carloads of homeseekers' household and farming effects have gone into the central northwest since January 1. This number includes only full carloads and does not take into consideration the several thousand less than car lot shipments. North Dakota and Minnesota received 5,000 of these, by far the greater portion of which went to North Dakota. South Dakota took between 1,300 and 1,500 and northern Wisconsin about 600. While railroad statistics on immigration are entirely lacking in completeness enough is known to show that at the railway stations in the northwest more carloads of homeseekers' effects have been received since January 1 than during all of 1901, which was considered remarkable for its immigration record.

Homeseeker travel has been steady since the first of the year. The moderate winter weather of January and February gave it an early start. March and April as usual were the big months. May is making a reasonably good and rather surprising record. The fall months up to November 1 are expected to furnish a magnificent close.

North Dakota's Big Cards.

Homestead land in, North Dakota has been the attraction which has given that state the major portion of the homeseeker movement this year. This assisted by the excellent crop record of 1901 and the advertising done by the land companies and railroads has sent thousands of people of small means looking for a farm to the flickertail state. Other sections of the northwest have homesteads to offer but the free farms in North Dakota have been more advantageously situated and in country adapted to the small farmer as well as to stock raising. At the beginning of the year, there was more opportunity of this kind for the renter of Iowa in western North Dakota than in any other section of the northwest. Consequently the big movement headed that way. Landseekers by thousands have come to Minnesota. Thousands have gone to South Dakota. There has been a good settlement on the forest lands of Wisconsin but the industrial agents say that the big advertising of free farms in North Dakota was a big factor in taking the best of the homeseeker travel to that state.

This year's immigration has pushed the outposts of settlement in North Dakota beyond the Missouri river. In South Dakota the homeseeker has taken many of the lands close up to the banks of the "Big Muddy" and now threatens the trans-Missouri domain with invasion. Cut over timber lands of Minnesota and Wisconsin have been peopled. The investor has spread his buying all over the northwest and the well-to-do farmers seeking homes in Minnesota and the Dakotas are included, in this class. Settlement in North Dakota has been characterized by big increases in population in the western part of the state. In South Dakota the homeseeker has been partial to no particular section. In Minnesota the Red River valley has been favored and a large number of settlers have invaded the central counties. The wealthy Iowa farmer looking for opportunity "in the north" has crossed the line and settled in the southern counties.

Work Done by Railroads.

The railroads have always been a big factor in promoting settlement of the northwest. This is to be one of the most successful years in the history of the Great Northern, Northern Pacific and the Soo immigration departments. Settlement has been general along the main line of the Northern Pacific in North Dakota and heavy on all of its North Dakota lines. The Great Northern has carried thousands into northwestern North Dakota. The Soo has promoted settlement along all of its lines in North Dakota and especially in the northern portion of the state. In Wisconsin the Soo has done most of its work in a few counties. The Northwestern has directed its homeseekers to northwestern Wisconsin. The Milwaukee road is responsible for most of the movement into western South Dakota. The Washburn road has aided in the development of new sections of the Missouri slope.

The valleys of the Mouse and Des Lacs rivers in northwestern North Dakota have received more of the homeseeker movement than any other section of the northwest. So many people have gone to that region that the lines of settlement have been pushed beyond the valley proper into the higher lands west of the main line of the Soo and along the main line of the Great Northern. The territory into which all of these people have gone extends from Rugby to a short distance beyond Minot on the main line of the Great Northern and north to the International boundary. The Soo and Great Northern have given this district special attention. The Great Northern has been gradually covering that portion of the state with settlers since '94 when it brought the first train loads of Dunkards from Pennsylvania and Indiana and settled them along the St. John and Bottineau branches of the Great Northern to the east. Last year this settlement could have been traced in its journey west by the immense number of filings in the Devils Lake land office. This year the big business was transferred to the land office at Minot. Since Oct. 1 last the Minot office has registered over 8,000 homestead filings. Most of these have been on land north of the Great Northern main line. The "cattle country" has been invaded by the small farmer and the Mouse river valley has been turned over to the producers of grain.

The Outposts Advanced.

This brings within the area of cultivation and production the entire territory north of the main line of the Great Northern in North Dakota from the Red river west to twenty-five miles beyond the Soo road. Each year has seen the invasion of the virgin prairie completed to a new outpost. When the Great Northern planted the Dunkard colonies at Devils Lake and other points on its main line and on the St. John branch they spread out in all directions in search of farms. Gradually the broad stretch of country between the Langdon and St. John branches was settled, and the invasion continued west to the Bottineau line. This year the intervening area was overrun and the Soo and Great Northern met on a common ground in their efforts to people northwestern North Dakota.

In central North Dakota another new area has been opened to cultivation by the Soo and Northern Pacific. This district saw the earliest successes of the Northern Pacific in immigration. A portion of the Dunkard movement settled near Carrington and New Rockford seven years ago. Near Harvey some Russians have settled. The building of a branch line west from Carrington by the Northern Pacific opened a new country towards the Missouri river. Both railroads have succeeded in placing several thousand homeseekers' in this locality which embraces portions of several large counties.

On the Missouri slope some of the best land in that part of North Dakota has been purchased by land companies all of whom have aided in advertising that section. The Missouri has been crossed and homeseekers have taken land in a region which a year ago was but sparsely settled. All of these settlements north of the main line of the Northern Pacific are close to the river. On the east slope of the Missouri the Washburn road has done its principal work.

South Dakota’s Busy District.

The principal Russian settlements are in southern North Dakota and in northern South Dakota near the Missouri. Eureka, South Dakota has been the principal point of destination for Russian immigrants coming to the Dakotas. Ticketed straight through to Eureka from the old country they have immediately settled on land in that region and attracted more of their countrymen by news of their success. The Russian Immigration is usually over before the spring homeseeker travel to the northwest begins. There were not as many arrivals in the past six months as a year ago. The Yankee homeseeker is invading this domain which is developing fast as a mixed farming country.

Settlement along the main line of the Northern Pacific in North Dakota was carried as far west this year as Sentinel Butte in the extreme western part of the state. Many of the big ranchers have been buying ranges many miles south of the main line and the small farmer and stockman has purchased land nearer the rails. In the southeastern section of the state immigration into territory tributary to Northern Pacific branch lines has been heavy. Soo territory in this section has seen a steady tide of immigration.

The Milwaukee and North-Western roads own a large percentage of the mileage in South Dakota. Their mileage in Iowa is large. This has facilitated the movement of homeseekers from Iowa to South Dakota. Each road taps all portions of the state and there has consequently been no special effort by either for any one section. Homeseekers have purchased land and settled in large numbers in many of the eastern counties. The invasion has gradually covered most of the newer land along the Missouri making the building of more branch lines in that part of the state probable. Large numbers of homeseekers settling in South Dakota will devote their energies to dairy farming where in most instances the homeseeker going to North Dakota will take up the cultivation of flax and wheat.

Southern Minnesota Settlement.

Southern Minnesota is the nearest step to cheaper land for the farmer of northern and central Iowa. Many Iowa farmers have settled in the southern counties this year and are doing much to make Minnesota more of a corn state. Many of the land companies have directed attention to the cheap lands of the central portion of the state and those counties have shared well in the general results. The Red River valley has been attractive to the well-to-do homeseeker who has money to invest in its productive lands. Iowa has furnished many of these. The Great Northern has been selling many of its lands in the Minnesota Red River valley counties. Immigration since the first of the year has extended the limits of cultivation in the Minnesota Red River valley counties further east. Roseau county in the far north has benefited. So has the southern portion of Beltrami county.

Work in Wisconsin.

Wisconsin is a different proposition in immigration from the other three northwestern states. Its lands are wooded and the work of populating them is slower. To the far east the Milwaukee has done some work along its lines. The North-Western, including the Omaha, has added several thousand people to the badger state's population. Much of this is in territory directly tributary to the twin cities. The Soo has done very thorough work in placing people in Barron, Gates and Price counties, tributary to its main line. The Wisconsin Central's principal opportunity for colonization is in this part of the state. It has distributed many newcomers along its line from Abbotsford north to Butternut. A large percentage of the immigration into Wisconsin came over the Wisconsin routes from the east. The Minneapolis gateway contributed a reasonably large amount through the efforts of the Soo and Omaha roads. It is a peculiar fact that a large element of the homeseeker travel to the woods of Wisconsin comes from the prairies of Illinois, Iowa and Nebraska. The ever shifting Yankee wants a change. Many of them tire of the prairie and go back to the bills and woods. Omaha officials say that Nebraska has contributed a surprisingly large number of homeseekers to Wisconsin. The industrial agents of Wisconsin roads look for a steady movement into that state during the latter part of the year.

Few “Solid Train" Parties.

Iowa has surprised the northwest in the number of homeseekers she has furnished within the past two years. It is the renting element which has swelled the volume of homeseeker travel. The man who has been buying northwestern lands for pure investment has reinforced it and will continue his visits to the end of the year. Eight years ago the northwestern immigration agents were forced to go into the far east for new settlers. This year one of the nearest states to the cheap lands of the northwest supplied the major portion of the homeseeker and land seeker movement. In '94, '95 and '96 the railroads were forced to begin the settlement of the new lands by colonizing. Hundreds of families from thickly settled districts in the east were taken in a body to their destination. This year there were but two instances of that kind. Max Bass of the Great Northern gathered small colonies of homeseekers in Indiana and .points in Illinois at Chicago and sent them through to the Mouse river valley in North Dakota. The Great Western brought a large body of immigrants from the southwest which were distributed among a few sections along the Great Northern and Northern Pacific. The immigration agent's work is comparatively easier than in ‘95. Those who settled in the northwest one, two, three and five years ago have generally been successful. They have induced others to come. The railroads have continued their advertising and furnished attractive rates. The Soo road has developed an especially good system in its work this year. Its cars were early supplied to homeseekers in Iowa and other points in the southwest. The Minneapolis & St. Louis has been a handy highway for the Iowa travel passing through the Minneapolis gateway.

Through the Minneapolis gateway this year have gone thousands of people to Washington, Oregon and to the Canadian northwest, but it is estimated that at least 60 per cent of the total homeseeker travel through the twin cities has remained in the central northwest. Washington has received a large amount of immigration much of which the railroad men attribute to the clever and persistent advertising done by Washington and its business men. Montana has not received the immigration to which her fertile valleys are entitled because little effort has been made to advertise the state in the east or in the southwest.

This big increase in population means increased tonnage for northwestern railroads. The new areas opened to cultivation will materially increase the surplus of farm products which the northwest has to sell. This in turn means a big addition to the volume of Minneapolis wholesaling as the purchasing power of the country tributary is increased. It means bigger cities and more towns. With the exception of that big domain beyond the Missouri in North Dakota the railroads of the northwest now traverse a country producing tonnage and fostering general business and developing more rapidly than any other section of the United States. In the immigration battle of 1902 the northwestern railroads northwestern climate and northwestern soil have scored a big victory over the southwest. North Dakota has beaten the best record of Oklahoma and Texas always pointed to with pride by the immigration boomers of the southwest.

The Lines of Immigration

The heavy diagonal lines in the above map show how this year's immigration has pushed the general limits of settlement farther west. While certain localities along the main lines of railways in the Dakotas have extended far beyond these limits for years, the advance indicated shows the more general movement westward. The circles include territory which has been specially favored in immigration in 1902. In South Dakota the homeseekers distributed themselves generally over the entire section east of the Missouri river. The circle indicating the settlement of Russians shows where the big percentage of these people have located. Large numbers of Americans are also settling in that locality.
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