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John Eldridge Haggart


John Eldridge Haggart, Fargo’s first Town Marshal, was born on this date in 1846. Haggart was born in St. Lawrence County, New York. He fought as a Union soldier in the Civil War and lived in Kansas, Colorado, New Mexico, and Wyoming before arriving in Fargo in 1871. He settled a few miles southwest of town Fargo on an early land claim, and the area area became known as the Haggart stop on the railway, but would later become West Fargo.

Haggart farmed extensively, and became one of the largest landowners in the state. He was elected as Cass County’s first sheriff in 1874, a position he held for the next twelve years. When Fargo became a city in 1875, Haggart was elected Town Marshal. In 1881, this title was changed to “Chief of Police.”

When Haggart was elected, the city had a population of 600, but no jail, officers, or equipment for a police department. A makeshift jail was rented until a wooden plank jail was erected in 1876. The city spent $197 on its first jail, and an extra $8 on its first ball and chain. In the early days, the city’s officers were also responsible for lighting the street lamps, and the Chief of Police was in charge of opening and closing the Red River bridges. In 1882, the department was issued their first uniforms. Bicycles were issued to the officers in 1898, and the first squad cars appeared in 1915.

Haggart’s exploits, however, were not restricted to the Police Department: he was also elected as chief of the city’s fire companies in 1880, and when North Dakota became a state in 1889, he was elected to the first state senate. Senator Haggart’s Bill #1 was the first bill introduced into the state legislature and the first to become a law. The bill secured state funds for the creation of the North Dakota Agricultural College, which would grow to become NDSU. This was not the end of Haggart’s support for the school. He later obtained the land on which the college stands.

Haggart even served as the United States Deputy Marshal for North Dakota from 1890 to 1898, then resigned from the state senate to take the head job, as U.S. Marshal. It was a busy life that ended in 1906 when Haggart died at age 59.

Dakota Datebook by Jayme Job

Crawford, Lewis Ferandus. History of North Dakota, Vol. II. 1931, The American Historical Society, Chicago.

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