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James J. Hill


James J. Hill was born in Ontario on this day, September 16, 1838. At the age of eighteen, Hill first arrived in St. Paul, Minnesota by steamboat with ambitions to become an animal trapper or trader. Instead his name would become synonymous with the “Empire-Builder.”

In 1879, at the age of forty-one, Hill and several other investors purchased the nearly bankrupt St. Paul & Pacific Railroad and transformed it into the St. Paul, Minneapolis, and Manitoba Railway. After becoming president of the company, Hill began an ambitious plan to extend the line into present-day North Dakota. By 1882, the railroad reached Fargo with the completion of the St. Paul Railway Bridge over the Red River. The railroad reached Devils Lake by 1885 and Minot the following year. By November 1887, another 650 miles of track had been put down between Minot and Helena, Montana.

Written by Christina Sunwall


American Experience: Streamliners, Americas Lost Trains <http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/amex/streamliners/peopleevents/p_hill.html>

Fargo, North Dakota < http://www.fargo-history.com/transportation/st-paul-depot.htm>

Great Northern Railroad Historical Society <http://www.gnrhs.org/gn_history.htm>