Dakota Datebook

Washburn’s Ag College

Friday, March 1, 2013


The citizens of Washburn reported their desire to procure the North Dakota Agricultural College for their own city on this day in 1916. Community members had held a mass meeting in order to form the Agricultural College Removal Association in the hopes of taking the college from its present location in Fargo. The activities were the direct result of an attack on the school launched by John Alman of Walsh County. Alman, a member of the constitutional convention, called on the state’s Attorney General to “…dig up his crowbar, come to bar and pry the college loose from its present site”. Alman’s insistence was fueled by a small misnomer concerning the land on which the college rested. According to him, the college was granted the land inappropriately from the state common school fund under a federal grant. The land should have been acquired by public institution funds. Since the same board administered the public school fund and the public institution fund, the mistake appeared as a minor technical error made by the members of the board. Alman argued that the state pay the common school fund for the value of the property, or the Agricultural College be removed from its site in Fargo. Several cities jumped at the chance to acquire the school, including the hopeful citizens of Washburn. The city’s Agricultural College Removal Association raised over $10,000 in a campaign to relocate the school. Large contributions came from Washburn’s businessmen and farmers, and the city hoped to raise an additional $15,000 in the coming weeks. The association also began a massive circulation of initiative petitions across the state.

Meanwhile, the citizens of Fargo fought back, calling the accusations “mere piffle”. Fargoans saw the technical error as “…a matter that [could] be readily adjusted–and certainly without the necessity of dumping the Agricultural College off the lot”. The college’s president, E. F. Ladd, “[looked] on the whole affair as being without foundation”. As time has told, the school was never relocated to Washburn, but with the help of a little corrective legislation, was allowed to remain firmly rooted to its original location.



Fargo Forum and Daily Republican. March 1, 1916: p. 1.

Fargo Forum and Daily Republican. March 13, 1916: p. 1, 6.

Fargo Forum and Daily Republican. March 21, 1916: p. 1.


Dakota Datebook written by Jayme L Job



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Dakota Datebook is a project of Prairie Public, in partnership with the State Historical Society of North Dakota, with funding from the North Dakota Humanities Council.

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