This month in 1883, Erik and Oline Ramstad set out from Grafton in Dakota Territory to become the first settlers of present day Minot ND. Three years later Erik Ramstad’s land sale to the railroad companies would set into motion the creation of the city of Minot. Ramstad would profit handsomely from these sales, and he became not only a bank and lumber company president, but one of Minot’s most celebrated forefathers.
Erik Ramstad did not begin life with expectations for such success on the Dakota frontier. He was born in Sigdal Norway to the family of a poor landless farmer. Erik’s father, Reier Pedersen, had the infamous reputation of being both the town brawler and drunkard. Due to his father’s poor reputation Erik forsook the family name of “Reier” for that of his employer Stener N. Ramstad. Seeking to further distance himself from his family connections, and for a chance at inexpensive land, Erik Ramstad immigrated first to a large Scandinavian community in southern Minnesota in 1880. He was too late to claim the cheap land of a frontier community in Minnesota, so he spent two years earning money felling trees and wrestling men for money. The money Erik Ramstad earned forcing trees and men to the ground was not enough to start a farm in Minnesota. It was however enough to start one in Dakota Territory. Hearing of the inexpensive land on the Dakota frontier, Ramstad moved to Grafton Dakota Territory in 1882. At year’s end Erik Ramstad was unable to find any land that suited him. However, he did manage to find a wife, Ingeborg Oline Gullson, and by the beginning of 1883 they were wed.
That May of 1883 the Ramstad’s packed up their belongings into a single covered wagon and made their way 200 west miles to the Mouse River Valley. After a month of traveling, Mr. Ramstad and his wife found a quiet wooded valley, and began to build their home. Three years later, Ramstad agreed to sell sections of his homestead to James Hill’s railroad company that was building through the area. The railroad company founded the present day city Minot on the 40 acres of land that it originally had bought from Eric Ramstad for $1000. In later years, Ramstad continued to sell and give away acres of land. Today elementary schools, cemeteries, churches, and Minot State University are all located on land originally donated by Eric Ramstad, a man who left Grafton this month in 1883 a poor Norwegian immigrant, and became one of Minot’s most celebrated forefathers.
Dakota Datebook written by Lane Sunwall
Keillor, Steven. Erik Ramstad and the Empire Builder. Minot ND: North American Heritage Press, 2002.