North Dakota Place Names | Prairie Public Broadcasting

North Dakota Place Names

Oct 3, 2019

On this date in 1912, the Jamestown Weekly Alert announced two more towns would spring up near Jamestown. C.S. Buck filed a plat for the town of Sydney, and Jamestown Junction would be situated between Jamestown and Sydney, on the Midland Railway line.

As new towns arose across North Dakota, the responsibility for naming them generally fell to the person or organization that established them. Many early settlements were named for the town founder, while other towns were named for important people. Many were named for people associated with the railroads.

Originally called Centralia, Fargo was renamed in honor of William Fargo, founder of the Wells Fargo Company, who had merged his company with the Pacific Express Company, which held the contract to build the transcontinental railroad.

The town of Blunt was named for railroad official John E. Blunt.

Bonesteel has a somewhat ominous sound, but it was named for a railroad worker.

There is no beach in Beach, North Dakota. It was named for Captain Warren C. Beach of the 11th US Infantry.

Hoople was named for settler Alan Hoople.

Settlers sometimes named towns for places they left behind. You might think that Lisbon was named for the city in Portugal, and in a way it was. The founder’s wife was from Lisbon, New York, a town that was indeed named for the city in Portugal.

Dr. Vaughn Morris named Watford City after his hometown of Watford, Ontario.

Originally called Campbell, Kintyre was named for a peninsula in Scotland.

Some towns got their names from geographical features. Center is not the center of North Dakota, but it is considered the center of Oliver County, which by the way, is named for politician Harry S. Oliver, who just happened to be from Lisbon.

Zap was most likely named because of a coal mine. A railroad official in charge of naming towns knew of a mining town in Scotland named Zapp.

And the town of Concrete? Named for a concrete plant.

Some place names have connections to Native Americans. Wahpeton was derived from name of the local band of Dakota Indians. Killdeer was named because Native Americans used the area to hunt deer.

Many of the old towns have faded away, but a good many are still on the map. The place names of North Dakota help tell the story of the early settlers and what they thought was important.

Dakota Datebook written by Carole Butcher

Sources: “How did Fargo, North Dakota get its name.”   Accessed 8/31/2019. “William George Fargo.”  Accessed 8/31/2019.

Only in Your State. “North Dakota Town Names.”  Accessed 8/31/2019.

Zap ND. “City History.”  Accessed 8/31/2019.

Ghosts of North Dakota. “Kintyre ND.”  Accessed 8/31/2019.