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College Wars


A bill was introduced to the Dakota Territorial government on this date in 1889 that sought to create the North Dakota Territorial Agricultural College at Valley City. The North Dakota Agricultural College would later become the North Dakota State University, although most listeners recognize that today the university is located in Fargo, not Valley City.

In truth, North Dakota was not yet a state yet when this bill was introduced. Regardless, cities in the territory realized that statehood was not far off, and began scrambling to acquire important government buildings and facilities. Jamestown was granted the State Hospital in 1885, Grand Forks established its university in 1883, and Bismarck had already secured the Capitol and penitentiary six years before.

In the meantime, Valley City and Fargo were left competing for any remaining institutions. In 1883, a bill passed for the creation of an Agricultural College, with Fargo as the agreed-upon location, but the legislature denied funding for the school year after year, with the justification that the university in Grand Forks was located only eighty miles to the north. Valley City saw this as an opportunity to throw its hat into the ring as a contender for the Agricultural College, and submitted its own bill to house the college in 1889. Fargo, in response, submitted a second bill on January 30th. Both bills were forwarded to legislative committees for consideration, with the majority favoring Valley City, and this motion passed. A group of Fargo businessmen and leaders rushed to the territorial governor, the frugal Louis Church, and persuaded him to veto the bill. Luckily for them, Church was infamous for the number of bills he vetoed while in office, and this case was no different. In truth, Church had no qualms about the location of the Agricultural College, but was against spending any of the territory’s resources on anything other than necessities. Months later, at the State Constitutional Convention, Fargo was granted the Agricultural College. “To smooth over hard feelings with Valley City…” leaders from Fargo and Bismarck proposed that the city receive one of the state’s normal schools.

In 1890, Fargo finally received funding from bonds issued by the Fargo City Council and the newly formed North Dakota state government, providing for the building of the Agricultural College.

Dakota Datebook written by Jayme L. Job