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Grafton, North Dakota


The first two settlers in the Grafton area arrived in 1878. A few more arrived over the course of the year. Thomas Cooper settled there in 1879 and is credited with building the first permanent structure, and being the father of the town.

The nearest post office was quite a distance, making it difficult in the winter to get mail. Cooper went to every settler within twenty-five miles and got their signatures on a petition that enabled him to secure a post office for Grafton.

A post office needed a proper name. People suggested calling it “Cooper,” but Cooper didn’t want the town named after himself. He named it after Grafton County, New Hampshire, which is where his wife was from. The business district grew up on the south bank of the river. It included a hotel, a general store, a blacksmith shop, and a grocery store.

During the legislative session of Dakota Territory in 1881, George Walsh of Grand Forks County introduced a bill to create a new county. He proposed that the northern two tiers of Grand Forks County and the southern two tiers of Pembina County should be split off to form the new county. It would be known as Walsh County. The legislature passed the bill, but it was vetoed. The following day, the legislature passed the bill over the Governor’s veto. A special election was held, and the majority of voters were in favor of forming Walsh County.

On this date in 1882, a meeting of the County Commissioners presented an application for the incorporation of the Town of Grafton. An vote was held on May 22. There were 74 in favor and only four against. The County Commissioners met in June and approved the election results, and Grafton was named the county seat.

As with so many North Dakota towns, the railroad was very important in Grafton’s success. When the first train arrived in 1881, the population of the town was about 400. But thanks to the new rail service, the population grew to 1,000 in just six months. In another six months, it stood at 1,500. As of the 2010 census, Grafton boasted a population of 4,284, making it the thirteenth largest city in North Dakota.

Dakota Datebook written by Carole Butcher


City of Grafton, North Dakota. "" Accessed 14 April, 2015

The City of Grafton. Grand Forks: W.L. Dudley, 1900.

Centennial Committee. A 100 Year Look at Grafton, North Dakota. Grafton: Grafton Centennial Committee, 1982.