Edgeley and Wind Farms
Richard Sykes was not a humble man…and this English gentleman was proud of his roots. As a partner in a group of investors, in the early 1880s Sykes purchased 41,000 acres of Northern Pacific Railway land for a dollar an acre. During that time he founded and named five North Dakota towns: Bowdon, after his home at the time in England; Chasely, after the English home of a good friend; Alfred, because it was a good English name; Sykeston…after himself!; and Edgeley, after his birthplace, Edgeley Park, Stockport, Chesire, England. Sykes must’ve particularly liked the name, “Edgeley”, because that’s what he also named a town he founded in Saskatchewan Canada.
Well the townsite of the Edgeley in this story, the one in Lamoure County in the southeastern part of the state was founded in 1886, and it officially incorporated as a city on this date, April 10th, 1911.
The latter part of the 19th century was the era of the Bonanza farms…huge “wheat ranches”, owned by people like Richard Sykes, operated by a manager, and farmed at times, by over one hundred men at a time. Sykes established the first farm development in Wells County when 125 men driving oxen teams broke 3000 acres and seeded it to wheat. He later developed a similar bonanza farm in Edgeley. These “wheat ranches” added much new information regarding the soil and climate in the area and the possibilities and advantages of using Northern Dakota Territory as a farming section in the United States.
If Richard Sykes were to return to Edgeley today, the terrain might look familiar, but there a lot more crops than just wheat grown in the area these days. And the skyline near Edgeley would look radically different, because of a new type of farming operation that was recently established near town in 2003. The structures towering high above nearby buildings and trees are windmills, and the farm?…it’s a wind farm. The wind farm is a cooperative effort between FPL Energy of Florida, Basin Electric Company, Bismarck and Otter Tail Power Company, Fergus Falls. The wind farm as it exists today features 41 wind turbines producing approximately 60 megawatts of electricity each year. To put that in perspective, one megawatt will meet the energy needs of 250 typical families for a year. It took about 100 workers and over $60 million dollars to build the wind farm near Edgeley, but the shrewd businessman, Richard Sykes would appreciate the efficiency of the operation once it is up and running. It takes just a half a dozen people, working out of the FPL Energy office in Edgeley to run the wind farm. Renewable and sustainable energy is a popular topic at the state legislature these days, and this energy sector undoubtedly will be growing. You can’t help but think that founder, Richard Sykes would be proud of the fact that his town is home to the largest wind farm in the state.
By Merrill Piepkorn
Sources: Edgeley Centennial Book