Dakota Datebook

Legends of Fargo’s First House, 1939

 

Telling the story of a house is like peeling an onion, with layers of legends and significance.  This concept, of peeling away layers, surfaced in 1939 when, on this date, a newspaper article about “Fargo’s First House,” told about the Pioneer Daughters organization making a historical marker to memorialize this legendary home.

The bronze-marker perpetuated the folktale of an early homesteader, Mr. A.H. (“Harry”) Moore, who built a house made of logs cut from oak trees along the Red River, around 1869.  Moore built this “oak-log structure” on the edge of a wetland in the area of Island Park, likely helped by George Mann, a carpenter.

A.H. Moore’s full name was probably “Andrew Harry Moore,” born in Wisconsin about 1837.  If he came to Dakota in 1869, he was a very early settler in the Valley.  Historian C.A. Lounsberry listed A.H. Moore as the 13th man to claim land in Fargo, in 1871.  Moore later owned Fargo’s first newspaper, The Express.

The log-cabin, Moore’s family home, somehow became a part-time hotel.  And in 1875, Moore rented it out as Fargo’s temporary city jail.

Because of frequent river flooding, Moore moved the building to higher ground, to 119 4th St. South; and then sold it to attorney Charles Joslin in 1879, who installed new exterior wooden-siding over the logs.

Harry Moore seemingly disappeared, but it turned out he had moved to Lisbon, where he became Ransom County’s sheriff.

In 1892 businessman Henry Hector bought the old Fargo house.  Eventually, Mr. Hector decided to dig a new basement, exposing old logs. Workmen detached wooden lap-siding off one wall, and photographs captured images of the large, strong, squared-off oak logs of the original construction.  The house’s importance was properly noted with the 1939 historical marker, and the logs were covered back up.

Henry Hector died in 1940, and in the 1950s, the neglected house was moved to 205 23rd St. S., to make way for a YMCA building.

In 1974, the deteriorating house was saved from demolition when Fargo realtors led by Max Moore, grandson of Harry Moore, bought the building and donated it to the Bonanzaville Museum.

By 1980, Palmer Forness had removed the modern siding, restoring its original appearance.  Like an onion, the story of A.H. Moore’s legendary log cabin was unpeeled, layer by layer, to uncover the sturdy oak logs of Fargo’s first house, still visible today at West Fargo’s Bonanzaville.

 

Dakota Datebook written by Dr. Steve Hoffbeck, MSU Moorhead History Department.

 

Sources:  “Representing Pioneer Daughters,” Fargo Forum, May 24, 1939, p. 10.

“First House in Fargo Was Oak Log Structure,” Fargo Forum, April 11, 1935, sect. 2, p. 5.

“Henry Hector, Pioneer, Dies,” Fargo Forum, September 13, 1940; “Fargo Pioneer Succumbs There,” Bismarck Tribune, September 13, 1940, p. 3.

“Henry Hector House,” photograph/captions, NDSU Institute for Regional Studies, Fargo, ND, ND Masonic Grand Lodge Photograph Collection, Digital Horizons Online.

C.A. Lounsberry, Early History Of North Dakota (Washington, D.C.: Liberty Press, 1919), p. 485, 544.

C.A. Lounsberry, “Early Development of North Dakota,” Collections of the State Historical Society of N.D., vol. I, 1906, p. 308.

Fargo-Moorhead Centennial Committee, A Century Together: A History of Fargo, ND, and Moorhead, Minnesota (Fargo: Centennial Corporation, 1975), p. 10, 12, 13.

“The History of Fargo,” Bismarck Tribune, September 28, 1913, p. 9.

“A.H. Moore Proposition City Jail,” Fargo City Council Minutes, June 9, 1875, Digital Horizons Online.

“First House In Fargo,” Fargo Forum, March 17, 1923, p. 13.

“Lisbon,” Fargo Daily Argus, March 16, 1881, p. 4; “Travel . . . A.H. Moore, sheriff Ransom County,” Devils Lake Inter-Ocean, December 27, 1884, p. 1.

“Sheriff A.H. Moore,” Lisbon And Her Industries (Lisbon: Clipper Steam Printing, 1883), p. 72-73.

“Fargo’s First Building, Early Fargo, Fargo Firsts,” “First Settlers/Fargo History,” “Fargo Express,” library.ndsu.edu/fargo-history, accessed April 18, 2017.

“Fargo’s First House,” Bonanzaville, Cass County Historical Society, bonanzaville.org/collections . . . fargos-first, accessed April 18, 2017.

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