Dakota Territory Growth

Farm Growth

In 1870, there were 1,720 farms in all of Dakota Territory, with an average size of 176 acres. This grew tenfold in one decade to 17,435 farms by 1880, the average size growing modestly to 218 acres. The number continued to grow until 1910, by which time there were 74,360 farms in North Dakota, averaging 382 acres each. The number of farms in North Dakota has never grown substantially above this figure and has been declining since 1950.

Population Growth

The growth in population naturally followed the growth in farms. In 1870 before the railroad crossed in Dakota Territory, the population of what is now North Dakota was 2,405. Over half of this tiny population was in Pembina and was involved with the fur trade in Canada. By 1880, after the arrival of the railroad, the population had grown to 36,909. Over half of growth in what is now North Dakota was in Cass and Grand Forks counties around the two major cities: Fargo and Grand Forks. In the next ten years, the population exploded, rising to 190,983 by 1880. This growth was spread throughout the state reflecting the explosive growth in land settlement and farming. These figures nearly doubled again in 1900 (to 319,146) and once again in 1910 (to 577,056). After 1910, population growth growth in North Dakota has been at a standstill, growing only 11% in the next 80 years (the population in 1990 was 638,800).

Ethnic variety characterized the new settlements. Many were immigrants of Scandinavian or Germanic origin. Norwegians were the largest single ethnic group, and after 1885 many Germans immigrated from enclaves in the Russian Ukraine. Many other groups, including Asians, African Americans and Arabs, settled throughout North Dakota. So significant was this foreign immigration that in 1915 over 79 percent of all North Dakotans were either immigrant or the children of immigrants.