F. Leland Watkins

F. Leland Watkins.

F. Leland Watkins, President of the Dakota Business College, picked worms for his first money, reported the Fargo Forum on February 11, 1922. Living in Columbia, Missouri, Watkins was paid 50¢ per day by his uncle to pick worms from tobacco leaves. Watkins recalled that with part of his earnings he purchased a trunk which he brought to Fargo in 1893.

In the same year that he wormed tobacco, Watkins purchased a horse sick with mange for $5, nursed it back to health, and sold it for $110. He used the profit as a down payment to purchase a printing company and went into business in College Mound, Missouri, where he was to live for eight years. The money he earned from his firm helped put him through McGee College.

Watkins sold the printing company and paper (the North Missouri Miner) in the fall of 1892 and arrived in Fargo on February 11, 1893. He borrowed $500 from the First National Bank, bought some furniture, and opened the Northwestern College of Commerce, located on the third floor of what was to become the Dakota Business College building. It is reported that the school had three different names the first year (including Northwestern School of Commerce) but by 1897, the building was painted with the name Dakota Business College (see picture below right taken in April 1897).

The Northwestern College of Commence opened with five students and one teacher, Watkins, who was also janitor, president, secretary, treasurer, and board of directors. Classes were held in two rooms on the second floor (known as the "Advertising Room"). At night, Watkins kept books for the Daily Argus to earn enough money to pay for his room and board.

Watkins and his brother Ashley Rooker Watkins purchased the "Masonic Block" from William H. Lowell for $11,000 on March 2, 1903 with a $9,000 mortgage. The property on which the"North Building" was to be built was purchased by F. Leland Watkins, Earl Callaghan, and Ashley Watkins on August 17, 1905. In 1909 a mortgage was taken for $10,000 and a partywall agreement was signed with Roy Thorne, owner of the land east of the new property. After obtaining a long term lease to Wheelock & Bristol Real Estate, Watkins was able to finance and build the new north building.

By 1922, the College had 750 students and 13 instructors.