© 2023
Prairie Public NewsRoom
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Town of Tolna


Tolna, North Dakota voted for incorporation on this date in 1907. More than half of the town’s voters approved the measure, making Tolna an official North Dakota township, and allowing for the creation of a city government. Located about twenty miles southeast of Devils Lake, Tolna was founded as a stopover for the railroad between Aneta and Devils Lake.

David Newton Tallman, an employee of the Great Northern, chose the townsite. Tallman came to Minnesota from New York in 1893, and became close friends with railroad baron James J. Hill. Hill hired Tallman to develop town sites along the Great Northern railway lines in North Dakota, which he did under the auspices of the Dakota Development Company. As he developed the town sites, he also developed banks in many of the towns, necessary to assist in granting early farm loans; eventually, Tallman formed the Tallman Investment Company, which founded banks throughout North Dakota, Minnesota, and Montana. Tallman then, was not only a banking president and treasurer, but also a real-estate agent, land surveyor, and town-plotter. Despite his busy and numerous business interests, Tallman took a special interest in Tolna, perhaps because he owned the land on which it was built. After Tallman surveyed the future town-site in 1906, he decided to name it Tolna, thanks to his youngest daughter, still a toddler, who, unable to pronounce Tallman, the family’s last name, instead said “Tolna.”

A second connection between Tallman and Tolna was made when he named the town’s streets after his five daughters: Helen, Esther, Gertrude, Margaret, and Marjorie. Since Tallman owned the quarter section on which the town was surveyed, its founding was his own personal investment rather than that of the Great Northern’s. On May 25th, 1906, sale of the town lots opened, and building began. Tallman decided he would give a free plot of land to the first baby born in the town. On September 26th, 1906, Lillian Tolna Heald was born, winning the free land.

The following year, the town was incorporated and the first city officials were elected. In June of 2006, Senator Kent Conrad asked the President and U.S. Senate to congratulate Tolna and its residents on their first 100 years, saying “it is places such as Tolna that have helped to shape this country into what it is today…”

Dakota Datebook written by Jayme L. Job

2006 Congressional Record, Senate Vol. 152, Pt. 9 (June 20, 2006): 11831. Government Printing Office: Washington, D.C.