Red River Valley Old Settlers Association
Monday, December 27, 2010
About twenty Red River Valley pioneers gathered in Grand Forks on this date in 1879. The men met at McCormack and Grigg’s Hall and organized the Red River Valley Old Settlers Association. The purpose of the association was to preserve “a full history of the important society [of Dakota pioneers].” Each founding member paid dues of 25¢.
During that first meeting, members elected R. M. Probstfield president and George B. Winship secretary. A representative from each county in the valley was appointed to solicit additional members for the next meeting, at which time the association was permanently organized. Thirty-five settlers joined, each paying a $1.00 membership fee. Although there were two subsequent meetings of the group, a ten year hiatus between 1881 and 1891 required that the group be re-organized. It was during the re-organization in 1891 that members voted to limit membership to those settlers who had arrived in the Red River Valley prior to December 31, 1875. Meetings took place alternately at Pembina, Grand Forks, Moorhead, Fargo, and Breckinridge. In 1894, members elected a committee to gather facts pertaining to the early settlement and history of the valley, and also drafted the association’s first constitution and by-laws. Colonel Lounsberry, later famous as North Dakota’s historian, was appointed to the historical committee, and would later employ much of the information he gathered in his publication titled Early History of North Dakota.
In 1895, membership in the Old Settlers Association was extended to those who settled in the valley prior to 1878, although in 1896 this was once again extended – to those who settled prior to 1879. It was in 1896, seventeen years after the first meeting, that the association was finally incorporated. In the original articles of the group’s by-laws, it is stated that the group shall only exist for forty years time.
Although relatively short-lived, the association played a large role in preserving the early history of North Dakota. Stories were shared and recorded, and later used by historians piecing together the early settlement of the state. It also fulfilled a social function, bringing together members who saw each other only a few times a year. Members used the meetings as an opportunity to update one another on their lives and families, discuss modern changes versus the “good ole’ days,” and mourn members who had passed on.
Dakota Datebook written by Jayme L. Job
Lounsberry, Clement A. 1919. Early History of North Dakota: Essential Outlines of American History. Liberty Press: Washington, D.C.
1909. History of the Red River Valley, Past and Present. C. F. Cooper & Co.: Chicago.