© 2024
Prairie Public NewsRoom
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Hudson Townsite


Located a few miles southwest of Oakes, North Dakota, stands a lonely stone monument. Absent a few piles of stones, faint depressions in the ground, and the prairie grasses, little surrounds the marker memorializing the first town site of Dickey County; Hudson, North Dakota.

Through the expansion of the railroads into Dakota Territory, a great influx of settlers migrated into the region, sparking the Great Dakota Boom of the 1870’s and 1880’s. Although short-lived, the Boom years saw not only increased settlement, but the establishment of a great number of new towns. Laid out like pearls on a necklace of rail line, new communities rapidly materialized along the new tracks. Early speculators hoped to take advantage of the opportunities afforded by the new railroads by establishing new towns to serve as rural hubs; shipping in manufactured products from out-of-state, and shipping out agricultural produce from the countryside. Hudson, in Dickey County was such a town, and quickly sprang from the Dakota soil in 1883.

As plans went forth for the creation of the Dakota Midland Railroad to link the towns of Ellendale and Wahpeton by rail, a new town just west of the James River was planned. Lot’s were quickly divided up, streets with names like ‘Broadway,’ ‘Grand’ and ‘State’ were laid out, and a large central square was left opened as a public park, or perhaps later a splendid city hall. Before a single rail tie had reached the community, Hudson had already begun construction. Soon after its establishment, business was thriving in Hudson. The town enjoyed the services of two hotels, three stores, three real estate and loan offices, a printing office, livery stable, pump shop, blacksmith shop, post office, and a town newspaper, the Hudson Herald.

Although Hudson was off to a promising start, the town built by railroad speculators, folded just as quickly as it had begun. The Dakota Midland Railroad, which would have meant success for the small community never materialized. Instead three other railroads pushed through the region, and all bypassed the small settlement, instead passing through the town of Oakes just a few miles away on the east bank of the James River.

Hudson’s loss was Oakes gain. Realizing that their town was doomed without the financial benefits brought by the railroad, the people of Hudson closed up shop. As soon as the James River froze in the winter of 1886-87, the settlers loaded their buildings onto skids and moved virtually the entire town of Hudson to Oakes. In 1936 the North Dakota State Historical Society acquired the Hudson townsite and twenty years later on July 15, 1956, dedicated a stone marker to commemorate the town that, like many others in North Dakota, collapsed as fortune refused to turn its way.

Written by Lane Sunwall

SourcesKibbie, Char, "Localities in Dickey County, North Dakota", NDGenWeb Project http://theusgenweb.org/nd/dickey/dlocals.htm (accessed June 18, 2008).

Lee, Shebby, "The Great Dakota Boom", Shebby Lee Tours http://www.exploretheoldwest.com/the_great_dakota_boom.htm (accessed June 18, 2008).

Remele, Larry, "North Dakota History: Overview and Summary", State Historical Society of North Dakota http://www.nd.gov/hist/ndhist.htm (accessed June 18, 2008).

Snortland, J. Signe, ed. A Traveler's Companion to North Dakota State Historic Sites. Bismarck, ND: State Historical Society of North Dakota, 1996.