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January 9: Buying up the Land

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European settlers arriving in what today is North Dakota faced many challenges as they homesteaded or otherwise tried to obtain land. Some difficulties included working this unknown land, living in areas that could be isolated, and trying to persevere through difficult weather. On top of this, some also dealt with legal issues relating to the land.

In 1915, the Dickinson Press reported on a lawsuit involving a man from the Belfield area. According to the article, Frank Dick had made an agreement with a Mr. Seidenberg, a businessman from out east. Seidenberg was to furnish money to purchase land, and Dick was to work the land and produce a profit that they agreed to split. According to the article, a conflict arose after the harvest when Seidenberg decided to sell the land at $21 an acre – much higher than the original $2 purchase price – and cut Dick out of the profit! The article noted that the case had been delayed because Dick, down on his luck, got kicked by a horse and was confined to a room with a fractured knee.

We don’t know how that lawsuit came out, but Frank Dick was heard from again, 25 years later, after being interviewed as part of the Federal Writers' Project, a government project providing jobs for out-of-work writers under the Works Progress Administration.

Dick told of being born on a homestead in Wisconsin, recounting memories of his childhood and his migration to North Dakota. He was quoted as saying: “In North Dakota, it wasn’t long before the settlers came in faster and either took homesteads or bought up railroad land. I did not notice that any class thought they were better than any other. I got along fine with everyone no matter what nationality they were.” Dick also said that he owes his success to the fine people of the state and to its many opportunities.

He went on to say: “If I had my life to live over, I would still come west. We can at least raise a good crop with the least rainfall of any state in the nation, and with rain we are able to raise anything here that they can anywhere else. We are able to get on our feet quicker, after reverses, than anywhere.”

No mention of his initial conflict with Seidenberg. Maybe that lawsuit came out just fine.

Dakota Datebook by Ethan Olson


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.

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