Prairie Public NewsRoom
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

December 21: Dr. William Wolverton and Real Estate

Ways To Subscribe

We don’t know everything about the life of Dr. William D. Wolverton (1834-1922), yet we do know that Dr. Wolverton made several lasting contributions to regional history.

It was on this date, in 1834, that William Dilts Wolverton was born in New Jersey. He grew up to become a medical doctor, and served as a surgeon in the Union Army during the Civil War, first in a Washington, D.C., hospital, then in several field hospitals. He treated many wounded soldiers.

After the war, Wolverton went to Fort Snelling, Minnesota; then he and his family moved to Fort Abercrombie where, off and on, he served as post surgeon 1876. After that, the Army assigned Dr. Wolverton to the Standing Rock Agency and then Fort Abraham Lincoln.

In addition to his career as a surgeon, Wolverton wisely invested in real-estate near the developing city of Bismarck. In 1877, he purchased twenty acres of land at $25.00 an acre in what he called “Boulder Heights,” located a mile from downtown Bismarck.

The following year he bought twenty acres of the former “Lounsberry homestead” for $30.00 per acre. Wolverton named it “Mars Hill.” From its highest point, a person could see “for twenty miles.”

In 1878, Dr. Wolverton, in partnership with two other Ft. Lincoln officers, purchased 80 acres of land, on Bismarck’s east side. The men divided the property into 600 lots that became the Sturgis’ Addition to Bismarck.

These were savvy deals. It was said that these officers had “seen their money double, treble and quadruple,” as newcomers bought the real-estate.

William Wolverton’s most-long-lasting real estate is perhaps from his years at Fort Abercrombie, when he bought three town-lots in Wahpeton and a huge acreage of Red River Valley farmland on the Minnesota side of the Red River. He hired others to farm his “Wolverton Farm.”

In 1898, Wolverton retired, with he and his wife Annie moving to New Jersey, his home state. He sold his Minnesota and Wahpeton properties quite profitably, for $70,000.

Dr. Wolverton died in N.J. in 1922, but his name lived on. A township in the Red River Valley, where his farm was situated, became “Wolverton” Township, and in Wilkin County, there’s the small town of Wolverton.

Dakota Datebook by Dr. Steve Hoffbeck, Retired MSUM History Professor


  • Birthdate, War Department, Official Army Register For 1912 (Washington, D.C.: Adjutant General’s Office, 1911), p. 498; “William Dilts Wolverton,” Find A Grave Index, Ancestry.Com.
  • William H. Powell, Powell’s Records of Living Officers of U.S. Army (Philadelphia: L.R. Hamersly & Co., 1890), p. 656; “The War Department,” Chicago Tribune, May 6, 1869, p. 4.
  • “Soldiers Buying Real Estate,” Bismarck Tribune, October 22, 1877, p. 4.
  • “Dr. Wolverton Purchased Twenty Acres on Boulder Heights,” Bismarck Tribune, July 12, 1878, p. 4.
  • “Mars Hill,” Bismarck Weekly Tribune, May 17, 1878, p. 4.
  • “Gen. Sturgis, Capt. Baker, and Dr. Wolverton,” Bismarck Weekly Tribune, October 2, 1878, p. 4.
  • “Dr. Wolverton,” Bismarck Tribune, January 30, 1880, p. 8.
  • “Auction, Personal Property,” Wahpeton Times, March 6, 1890, p. 8; “Big Real Estate Deal,” St. Paul Globe, February 27, 1899, p. 7.
  • “Willsons Had Farm Over 200 Years,” Bridgewater [NJ] Courier-News, October 27, 1995, p. D1.
  • “Wolverton Will Filed,” Vancouver [WA] Columbian, January 25, 1917, p. 6.
  • “Military Men’s Foresight,” Bismarck Tribune, June 16, 1882, p. 3.
  • “Dr. Wolverton Retired,” Los Angeles Herald, December 25, 1898, p 4.
  • “Wolverton,” in Warren Upham, Minnesota Geographic Names (St. Paul: Minnesota Historical Society, 1920), p. 529.

Dakota Datebook is made in partnership with the State Historical Society of North Dakota, and funded by Humanities North Dakota, a nonprofit, independent state partner of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in the program do not necessarily reflect those of Humanities North Dakota or the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Related Content