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Williston, along with the rest of western North Dakota, has been big in the news, lately, with the oil boom “Rockin’ the Bakkan.” News items every day show the toll it has taken on the city—the lack of housing, the need for more workers, and the anxious undercurrent that today’s oil rush will mirror the boom and bust of the 1950s.

Williston started off as a Great Northern Railroad station, founded in 1887 and named for Daniel Willis James, a Great Northern Railroad stockholder. In 1887, the Little Muddy post office joined the station. In 1894, it was incorporated as a village, and in 1904, it became a city.

Residents often have great hopes for their town, and Williston was no exception—on this date, a mere six years after it became a city, an article in the Ambrose Tribune described the city’s plans to increase its population, writing that “Williston wants a population of 10,000 people and hopes to secure it through the operation of its commercial club. That institution, which has just elected officers for the coming year, is now engaged in a campaign for additional members and when the 200 mark is reached, plans will be laid for the furtherance of a scheme whereby the city will be made greater and be able to boast a larger population.”

The article listed Williston’s latest accomplishments in this goal, with the construction of a new Great Northern depot, the establishment of the Williston Milling Company, and the institution of a free mail delivery service, all through the commercial club’s work. “The last year was a very good one for Williston,” the Ambrose Tribune boasted. And there was more in the works already—with even more rail lines coming.

It wasn’t until the 1960 census that Williston surpassed the population goal of 10,000, and today, with the boom, the population is again on the rise, with estimates of as high as 17,000.

Dakota Datebook written by Sarah Walker


Ambrose Tribune, January 28, 1910