Why immigrants chose to move to North Dakota

  • Immigrants

    There was good farmland and rich soil in North Dakota. The people who came to live here needed land so they bought land from the government. The cost was $2.00 for a filing fee and $1.25-$2.50 per acre for a single person. For homesteaders the cost was $10.00 for an entry fee and $4.00 for land office officials.The Scandinavians came for land, freedom, and opportunity.

    The Germans came for farms and security.

    The Slavics (Czech, Bulgarian, Polish, Russian, and Serbo-Croatian) came to get away from oppresive social and economic conditions.


How immigrants earned a living

  • Most immigrants were farmers or worked in related industries, such as shipping, processing, and storage of farm products. Farmers grew corn, wheat, oats, and soybeans. Other immigrants worked for railroad companies building the railroad tracks.

Why particular ethnic groups seemed to gather in similar areas

  • Immigrants were encouraged by family, friends, and others to settle together. This was good because they would have the same traditions, language, and they might work together. The Norweigens gathered in the east and northwest. The Canadians gathered in the northeast. The Germans from Russia gathered in central North Dakota. The Austrians gathered in southwestern North Dakota. The Germans gathered in a few counties in southeastern North Dakota. Below is a map of the ethnic population of North Dakota.


    church The church was very important. It helped them achieve certain goals and help them keep their religious freedom that they sought in America.

Problems and Experience of Immigrants:

  • Some immigrants thought that North Dakota was either too cold, empty, lonely, or big, and went back. Another problem was that immigrants did not speak English.

    Story of a Swedish Immigrant:

    (This story begins in Tolg, Smaland, Sweden. Anna was 13, her brother 15. They were going to America)

    Anna's little sister Hannah who was five years old at the time remembered the day Anna left. Hannah cried and cried. She never saw her parents again.

    Anna was young so she did not get sea sick. She helped the other people on the boat.

    They arrived at Ellis Island where Anna's name was changed from "Gren" to "Green."

    They took a train to Minneapolis where they had to change trains to get to Barrett, MN. They had no money for lunch, but a nice man gave them a sandwich and a piece of paper with his name on it. He said to write him a letter telling him that she was okay. She lost the piece of paper. That was the one regret of her life.

    In Barrett, MN she was in the care of a mean old aunt. She stayed in a hotel but the hotel burned and all of her belongings were burned except for her passport.

    She walked to church in Elbow Lake,MN, seven miles away.

    Story provided by Anna Marie.

    Letters from Immigrants:

    About housing:
    "Their first home was a hole about 12 feet square, boarded over. When it rained they all crawled into the hole, sharing it with calves and the family dogs.""Our house was a family project. It was built of stone and gumbo built partly in a sidehill. Dad and Mother did the masonry while Marion and Joe hauled rocks from a nearby stone hill on the rented quarter. Wanda carried the water and I did the mixing of the gumbo with my bare feet for the smoothness and right consistency of clay. When the house was completed we had two rooms on the ground floor and two rooms upstairs under the roof. A great convenience was a drilled well in the kitchen. As the years went by a wooden floor was put in, and a screened-in porch across the front of the house."

    "Well, Carrie, if you could step inside our house for a few moments you wouldn't think we were roughing it. You would think it a millionaire's cozy corner. From the outside it looks like a sod house , I must admit. The house is 17x23 built of the best sod three feet thick at the bottom and two feet thick at the top. Inside it has pegs drove in the wall and strips nailed on and a heavy blue cardboard nailed on it. The roof is covered with one layer of thin sod and then a coat of clay one inch thick to shed the water.


    About doctoring:
    "How to cure pneumonia. Put 20 ears of corn into a boiler, boil half an hour, wrap in 5 large towels with four ears in a towel. Put an ear in end of towel, wrap next ear, until you have a pack. Put one pack at feet, two at hips, one under each arm. Cover patient up to neck. Stay by bed and hold covers up if necessary."

    About Schooling:
    "There was no schoolhouse the first year, and as my shack was the better shape for that purpose, 14x8 feet, classes were held there in the daytime and I slept there at night. My bed was a spring fastened on the wall with hinges so it could be let down at night and pressed up against the wall in the daytime to make more room. My furniture had to be moved outside during school hours so there would be room for the homemade desks. The children sat two or three at each desk."

Iron Grave Markers

  • Germans, Russians, Poles, Ukrainians, Bohemians, and Hungarians put up iron grave markers which they used as tombstones. These were made by black smiths.

    iron crosses

Cost of Housing

  • Item: Wooden House  Cost: $75 - $150

    Item: Stable  Cost: $40 - $75

    Item: Yoke (Team) of Oxen  Cost: $100 - $180

    Item: Team of Horses  Cost: $200 - $350

    Item: Plow  Cost: $21 - $24

    Item: Harrow (like a plow)  Cost: $15 - $20

    Item: Chains, Harness, Tools, Etc.  Cost: $35 - $50 

    Item: Good Wagon  Cost:  $70


Statistic regarding ethnic heritage in North Dakota

  • In the North Dakota 1990 census,people,when asked if they thought their ethnic heritage was important to them, 93.5% answered yes. North Dakota had more people answer yes than any other state.

Photo Archive

  • North Dakota Church

    Town Under Construction
    Cow Ride
     cow ride  
    Early North Dakota Farm
    North Dakota Immigrant Family
    Early North Dakota House
    Train car that toured North Dakota
    Train passing a Grain Elevator
    School House
    Sod House or Soddie
     sod house  
    Tar Paper Shack

    tar schack