Great Future for North Dakota
On February 28, 1910, railroad giant James J. Hill was invited to address the people of Williston at a town meeting. Though the busy entrepreneur was unable to attend in person, he sent an inspiring speech to be read on his behalf. On this date in 1910, the White Earth Record printed Hill's glowing speech about North Dakota's promising future.
He wrote to the people of Williston, "There really is no limit to what you may do. Your state is one of the best in the Union. Your people are alert, hardworking and progressive. You are connected with all the great markets of the country and the world. Your future is in your own hands. Do not be afraid of it."
James Hill was a Canadian entrepreneur best known for expanding the Great Northern Railroad in the west and establishing a steamship service between sea ports in Seattle and Asia. Known as the Empire Builder, Hill was responsible for rapidly building entire towns around the western railroads by transporting immigrants to the north at low rates — an offer many people from Norway and Sweden took advantage of.
Hill applauded North Dakota's own rapid expansion at the time writing, "You have a state of great possibilities. You have taken front rank among the states of the Union after but a few years of existence as a state. Less than a generation covers the growth of this great commonwealth whose possibilities are even yet but half understood."
In addition to his railroad and steam business, Hill was interested in soil conservation and progressive farming techniques. He often travelled the Mid and Northwest to promote new scientific farming methods at various speaking engagements, praising the work of the farmer. Hill did the same in his speech to the people of Williston, when he wrote, "Farmers and business men, country and town, capital and labor have to help each other. But the future belongs to the man on the farm." He encouraged North Dakotans to cultivate their land with "jealous care according to the modern ideas taught in your own and other agricultural schools."
Hill had nothing but hope and admiration for the people of North Dakota as he indicated in the conclusion of his speech. "A good state, a good people, a good opportunity; these are your materials to work with...North Dakota is going to give a good account of herself in the near future."
Dakota Datebook written by Carol Wilson
White Earth Record, March 4, 1910.
Encyclopedia of the Great Plains. Ed. David J. Wishart. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2004. Pg. 802-803.