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Larimore Gets A Railway Connection

Arguably, the greatest U.S. invention in the 1800s was the railroad, because railways tied the nation together, building commerce across the land. If a town had a railway, it had life, conversely, if a town did not get a railway, it died.

One of the towns that sprang forth with railroad life was Larimore, 28 miles west of Grand Forks. The town owed its existence to Oscar M. Towner (1842-1897), who came to Dakota from Missouri in 1878. He had persuaded investors from St. Louis to establish the Elk Valley Bonanza Farm in Grand Forks County. Two of those investors, Newell G. Larimore (1835-1913) and John W. Larimore (1837-1885) were honored in 1881 when the township and town were named after them.

Bright prospects for Larimore were on the horizon, for the Great Northern Railway (or St. Paul, Minneapolis & Manitoba) was building west from Grand Forks in 1881. The track-laying reached the townsite on November 22nd, when there were only thirty people in Larimore.

As in other Dakota locations, the boom began like lightning hitting the earth. The hype for Larimore’s boom was hyperactive, with Larimore called “The Most Booming Town . . . of the Most Booming Valley of the Most Booming Territory, Of the Most Booming Nation of the Most Booming Continent of the Most Booming World of the Universe,” making Larimore the “Frisky Center of all Abstract and Concrete” reality!

The grandiose language continued as the farmland surrounding Larimore was said to make it truly “the poor man’s paradise.” The location was like the “long lost Garden of Eden, minus the apple trees and snakes.”

These words echoed what a father allegedly told his child: “If I told you once, I told you 8 million times – don’t exaggerate!”

Soon after the railroad tracks reached Larimore’s townsite, a locomotive chugged into the boomtown. It was on this date, in 1881, that the Grand Forks Herald reported that the first regular train had arrived in Larimore with ten car loads of lumber for building the railway depot. Trains were scheduled to run every day to Larimore from Grand Forks.

The newspaper stated that Larimore’s first train reached town on November 29th, but Larimore’s history books put the date at December 1. Which was correct? The contemporary reporting has it as the 29th, but whichever was the actual date, Larimore’s building boom zoomed ever-upward and onward, so that, by the spring of 1882, it had become a town of 500 people.

Dakota Datebook written by Dr. Steve Hoffbeck, MSUM History Department.


“First Regular Train to Larimore This Morning, (dateline Nov. 29, 1881), in Grand Forks Herald, December 1, 1881, p. 4; Dec. 1 date in Larimore Building and Business Record: A General History of Larimore, 1881-1910 (Larimore: H.V. Arnold, 1910), p. 10; and Larimore Centennial, 1881-1981 (Larimore: Diamond Jubilee Committee, 1981), p. 8.

“Lightening (sic) Larimore,” Grand Forks Herald, November 10, 1881, p. 4.

“A Vigorous Stripling,” Minneapolis Tribune, March 19, 1881, p. 5.

“Larimore, the Gem of the Elk Valley Prairie,” St. Paul Globe, May 15, 1882, p. 1.

“A Triumvirate of Boomers of the First Magnitude,” Grand Forks Herald, November 10, 1881, p. 1.

“Col. Towner Dead,” Jamestown Weekly Alert, June 17, 1897, p. 1.

“John W. Larimore,” [obit], St. Louis Post-Dispatch, May 11, 1885, p. 4.

“N.G. Larimore Dies in St. Louis, Mo.,” Jamestown Weekly Alert, November 27, 1913, p. 6.

Naming of town in Larimore Building and Business Record: A General History of Larimore, 1881-1910 (Larimore: H.V. Arnold, 1910), p. 5-7, 10, 20; and Larimore Centennial, 1881-1981 (Larimore: Diamond Jubilee Committee, 1981), p. 7-8.

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