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Dickinson’s Monster Million Dollar Proposal


Dickinson had been established as Pleasant Valley Siding in 1880, but the name changed by 1881. It became the county seat in 1883, incorporated in 1899, and became a city in 1900.  And on this date in 1909, Dickinson was abuzz with an idea proposed by Mr. James C. Young to the city council, on how to speed up development in the city.


James Young, of Minneapolis, had been an owner of the townsite – one of around 100 townsites he owned at one time. He also worked on railroads, trolley lines, and had interests in electrical systems and power generation. And he had a big plan to push Dickinson forward – a plan called "somewhat overwhelming in its magnitude." 


He proposed that a "monster million dollar company" that might own all the utilities imaginable – "all the electric light, power, gas, water works, and trolley franchises of Dickinson." This included a central heating system that would supply heat for all of the city’s businesses and homes; an electric light and power system; expansion possibilities for the city water works; a telephone company, and more.

Citizens would have a chance to become stockholders, and a percentage of the money raised could be turned over to the city. Young also said he was considering a residential building association. He spoke for about an hour and a half at a public meeting as citizens of Dickinson listened, and it was reported that “There was not a one who was not impressed with the fact that the speaker was sincere in all his ideas and that many of his suggestions could be carried out with a material benefit to the growth of Dickinson.” He needed to get some assistance to make these goals a reality, however, and was hoping that his ideas would garner the support of about 15-20 men who could support and push forward his ideas. 


He had many more ideas, and even worked to offer options for extending the water system, offering to aid in some way if it was done within the year. 


Young believed that the heroes of the country were “those in every day walks of life, the pioneers who …[built] the country’s prosperity.” 


The Dickinson Press noted:


"It has its feasible suggestions and there is but little doubt that with men like Mr. Young and his associates, with the cooperation of Dickinson's keenest business men and citizens, behind the proposition, it would be a material factor in the rapid growth of the city and would hasten what is bound to happen in time, the development of Dickinson as the great metropolis of western North Dakota."


Dakota Datebook by Sarah Walker



Dickinson Pres: May 22, 1909, p8; May 29, Saturday, 1909, p1/4/8; June 5, 1909, p1


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