Walhalla, in Pembina County of northeastern North Dakota, was incorporated in August 1918. However, the town, which was first called St. Joseph, had a very colorful and historical background for many years before that.
The area was first inhabited by the Native Americans, like the Sioux, Chippewa, Cree and Assiniboin. The mixing of early French traders and the Indians created a new community called the “Mixed Bloods” or Metis.
One of the most famous of the Metis was Charles Bottineau, who was the first real farmer in what is now North Dakota and who exported the first wheat from the U.S. to Canada by oxcart.
The area was first claimed by England, when Charles II granted the Hudson’s Bay Company a charter in 1670. La Verendrye and his sons came through in 1738. Alexander Henry Jr. wrote in his journal in 1801 about the Northwest Trading posts in the “Hair Hills” of Walhalla.
Early explorers were quick to recognize the charm and beauty of the place, calling it the “Valley of the Gods” or the “Home of the Gods.” The area had already been under the flags of four countries: England, Spain, France and the U.S. when the Louisiana Territory was purchased from Napoleon in 1803.
Set in the beautiful Pembina Hills of northeastern North Dakota, Walhalla was first settled in 1843 by Norman W. Kittson of the American Fur Company. He built a trading post there. Antoine Gingras came along about that time, also, and built a trading post for the Northwest Fur Company.
In 1845, Father G.A. Belcourt built a log church and school. First called St. Joseph, the parish was moved to Leroy in 1873.
Alonzo Barnard and D.B. Spencer brought the first printing press to Walhalla in 1853, and Fr. Belcourt started the first flour mill in 1856, using the dam on the Pembina River to operate the mill.
The coming of the railroad in 1897 brought a chief means of transporting goods into Walhalla and hauling grain, cream and other produce to market. The railroad also opened up the area to settlers taking advantage of the Homestead Act.
By 1900, Walhalla had two hotels, a blacksmith shop, two hardware stores, a post office, two drug stores and a watch repair shop. There were also general stores, banks and a lumber yard. The town sported a hall for dances and a newspaper, The Mountaineer, founded in 1896 by Charles H. Lee.
Farming in the Walhalla area is diversified, with the main crop being spring wheat and other crops including sugar beets, sunflowers, corn and potatoes. Hogs, chickens and beef cattle are raised.
Called the “Moose Capital of North Dakota,” hunters seldom miss bagging their moose each year. Today, the Pembina Hills make Walhalla a year-around tourist attraction, with historical sites, skiing, hunting, hiking, horseback riding, canoeing and other recreational opportunities.
by Cathy A. Langemo, WritePlus Inc.