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Wahpeton’s First Settler


Morgan T. Rich established the first settlement at Wahpeton on this date in 1869. This was not Mr. Rich’s first visit to the area however. Earlier, in 1864, he had passed through the area on a trek from Ft. Ridgeley, in Minnesota, to what is now Helena, Montana. General Sully and 4,000 cavalry and mounted infantry were the escorts on this earlier visit.

Mr. Rich remained in Montana until 1868. After a brief return to his home in Red Wing, Minnesota, he again headed for the Red River Valley in 1869. The St. Paul & Pacific Railroad was by now reaching as far as Wright County in Minnesota, and looked to push further west toward the Red River Valley.

It was a lonely first few years for Mr. Rich at his new location in Wahpeton. In fact, he remained relatively alone. On those occasions when an immigrant would be passing through, he was more than happy to entertain. Word had it, that Mr. Rich’s garden was a model, and that in a very small way, he was a successful farmer.

Eventually, Mr. Rich’s enterprises expanded. With a Charter from the commissioners way up in Pembina County, he was instrumental in providing wanderers a safe passage across the Boise des Sioux River. This early crossing area became known as Richville. Early records also called the area Chahinkapa, meaning “end of the woods”. This name however never came into general use.

Mr. Rich’s original plat of land became what is now Wahpeton. By then, other settlers had joined in to make improvements and start farming operations.

Interestingly, Valley City, in Barnes County, was originally called Wahpeton. However, before a post office could be established there, Richville changed its name to Wahpeton after the name of the Indian tribe from the area.

Richland County was eventually organized in 1878 as part of the Dakota Territory.

And you guessed it folks, the county was named after its original settler, Morgan T. Rich.

Lounsberry, Colonel Clement A., “Early History of North Dakota; Outlines of American History”, Washington, D.C., Liberty Press, 76 New York Avenue, N.E. 1919, pg.530-531.

Written by Merry Helm