Fargo is Founded

Following the announcement of the crossing point, two small communities appeared on the west side of the river. “Fargo in the Timber” was located along the banks of the Red River while "Fargo on the Prairie" was a tent town built approximately at the present intersection of Broadway and Front Street (renamed nearly a hundred years later to Main Avenue). “Fargo on the Prairie” was the headquarters of the Northern Pacific engineers. The railroad engineers and surveyors and their families lived here. Army officers that accompanied the railroad engineers also lived there. The community consisted of approximately 100 persons living in about fifty tents (as seen in the cropped view below).

Tents of the Northern Pacific Crew

On October 6, 1871 a post office was established at the site and the town given the name of Centralia. The first postmaster was Gordon J. Keeney. The name apparently was not satisfactory to the Northern Pacific Railroad officials. Supposedly in a telegram to railroad official J.W. Taylor, dated September 22, 1871 which was even before the establishment of the Centralia post office, Thomas H. Canfield wrote that the settlement on the west bank of the river was to be named Fargo, after William G. Fargo, a director and financial backer of the railroad and a partner in the Wells-Fargo Express Company. On February 14, 1872 the United States Post Office officially changed the post office name to Fargo.

Bridge Builders Office, Fargo's first frame building
General Thomas R. Rosser, Chief Engineer

General Rosser's Staff (courtesy Minnesota Historical Society)