Dakota Business College
The historic building that was the home to the Dakota Business College was designed by architect Charles Daniels in 1884. The first owner of the building, Andrew McHench, had the building constructed as a meeting site for the Masonic Shiloh Lodge No. 8. The group occupied the third story of the building from 1885 until 1889. From 1887 to 1890 the building was the home to the Fargo College until their first building was completed on their campus just south of Island Park.
In 1890 Mathias F. Knox established the Northwest College of Commerce in Fargo. In 1893, F. Leland Watkins, Sr. arrived in Fargo and worked at the Argus newspaper setting type. The two men became acquainted and formed a partnership that would become the Dakota Business College. In the fall of 1894, after they had collected $500 in tuition from students enrolling for a new term, Mr. Watkins arrived to find Mr. Knox missing along with the money. This set back was disheartening from Mr. Watkins, but it did not end the school. The first few years were difficult, but Mr. Watkins carried on using his business skills. In 1894, the entire third floor of the building was in use by the college. By 1903 Mr. Watkins bought the entire building and expanded into the entire building. In 1906, a north wing was erected, and the third floor of the main building was renovated into a gymnasium. Through the year many prominent business people from the region graduated from the college.
The business remained in the family for three generations. F. Leland, Jr. and his wife Luella started teaching at the college in 1922, and remained at the school until it closed in 1978. And in 1972, F. Leland Watkins, III was brought on to assist in the operations of the school.
At the time they school closed in 1978, they had taught nearly 30,000 students in penmanship, accounting, bookkeeping, shorthand, typing and stenography. The closing was attributed to the profusion of federal programs into the higher education system. With government money, came regulations that stifled many of the teaching methods that the Watkins family had developed successfully for 80 years. Also, new state supported vocational and technical schools made it nearly impossible for the privately run school to compete.
The rare advertising photograph to the right by G.E. Flaten illustrates what must have been the precursor to the College. It advertises the "Dakota Business and Literary College" with M.F. Knox, President and F. Leland Watkins, Principal. It advertises courses in letter writing, penmanship, spelling, typewriting, shorthand, English, science, and mathematics.
"F. Leland Watkins, Jr. His family was devoted to Dakota Business College for nearly 90 years until closing last fall" Howard Binford’s Guide. Moorhead: Howard Binford, Vol. 12, No. 2 (August 1979), p. 25.
The Dakotan Annual, Dakota Business College, Fargo, North Dakota, 1938, pg. 3.