Dakota Datebook

The Larimore Family

Friday, November 5, 2010


The lure of rich farm land brought many homesteaders to Dakota Territory. The long, endless waves of prairie grass were evidence of a good growing season. Among those land-seekers were investors who sought to buy up large tracts of land and establish company farms. These farms would operate from one central location and employ a steady work crew. Seasonal laborers would be hired during spring planting and fall harvest.

In the late 1870s and early 1880s, the Great Northern Railroad was winding its way through the Red River Valley and onto the plains. It was along that rail line, in west central Grand Forks County, that the Larimore family and their partners started the Elk Valley Farming Company.

Newell G. Larimore was raised in Kentucky, but he and his brothers operated the Central Elevator System in St. Louis. Along with the Booth Brothers, also of St. Louis, they invested $15,000 to obtain land, buildings and machinery with a plan of purchasing 5,000 acres of farmland.

By 1881 the company owned land up and down the Red River Valley from Fargo to Winnipeg. The town of Larimore was established and named after Newell Larimore with the Post Office opening on October 1st of that year. Clay Larimore, Newell’s son, was sent out to look after the company’s interests and was soon followed by brothers Walter and Jamieson. Over 2,000 acres of land were broken to the plow that first year. A yield of 25 bushels per acre of wheat was realized in the fall of 1882. In 1883 the yield on 3,500 acres was 22 bushels per acre, resulting in 77,000 bushels of wheat shipped to eastern markets. Wheat was King and these large-scale farms were often referred to as Wheat Ranches or bonanza farms.

In 1900 the company owned more than 15,000 acres and the brothers continued to operate the farm as a unit until 1915. At that time they began to break up this vast farming operation. Eventually, the acreage was divide into fifteen separate farms with family members holding some of the units and tenant farmers on others.

The three brothers continued to operate the company until Walter died in 1925. Clay Larimore died on February 14, 1937 in Los Angles, and on this date in 1947, Jamieson Larimore died after a long illness. For sixty-five years the father and three sons had maintained a successful business in central Grand Forks County. The success of enterprises such as the Elk Valley Farming Company was a boom to the settlement of Dakota Territory as it encouraged many young families to come and seek their fortunes.

Dakota Datebook written by Jim Davis


The Bismarck Tribune November 8, 1947

Grand Forks Heritage Book: A History of Rural Grand Forks County, 1976

North Dakota Place Names, by Douglas Wick, Hedemarken Collectibles Bismarck 1988

Andreas’ Historical Atlas of Dakota, Lakeside Press Chicago 1884

This text and audio may not be copied without securing prior permission from Prairie Public.

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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