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First Baby in Wilton

It was 1898 when General W.D. Washburn decided to buy 113,000 acres of land in the northern areas of Burleigh and McLean county. The former senator and wealthy businessman wanted to re-sell the land to incoming settlers. In the meantime, he hired his friend and fellow businessman W.P. Macomber to manage the land and investigate possible coal deposits.

In the spring of 1899, Washburn and Macomber set off from the Twin Cities to see how good the land was. On May 10, they chose the highest hill in the area—a whopping 2,161 feet—to be the epicenter of their settlement. Washburn named it Wilton, after a town in his home state of Maine. On October 18th of the same year he platted four blocks in Burleigh County and eleven in McLean County. However, he had to trade for part of this land with the Killians, a family of homesteaders who had arrived in 1887. He named two of the blocks Louise and Minnie, after their daughters.

Coal was soon confirmed in the area, and Washburn knew he would need a railroad to transport the precious cargo, so he began building a station in 1899. As the town grew, it gained a post office, published the Wilton News, and began construction for a general store and a gigantic 60,000-bushel grain elevator. However, one of the most exciting things to spring out of this new town was a baby boy. Edwin Wilton Aune was born on this date in 1902, making him the first child to born in the town. R.C. Thompson, the town’s young doctor, delivered him in a tarpaper shack near the Northern Pacific depot. Apart from being the first baby in town, the child was also the first baby Dr. Thompson ever delivered.

Aside from a brief time in Chicago, the child grew up on his parent’s farm until buying his own farm a mile to the north where he lived out the rest of his days. But while Edwin Wilton Aune may be gone, his name is not. There are now over 150 “Aunes” living near Wilton, a testament to those earliest settlers.  

Dakota Datebook written by Lucid Thomas








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