Dakota Datebook

Dunn Center Relocation

Tuesday, June 12, 2012


Where the railroad went, people followed. The Homestead Law of 1863 was the main ingredient in the settling of the West, but it was the railroads that supplied the means to do so. Railroads were the lifeblood of a community, bringing in the materials and supplies to build and sustain the towns and farms. They also transported the agricultural products to Eastern markets. Immigrant trains were loaded with wagons, animals and household goods, depositing their precious cargo hundreds of miles down the line. From stations scattered across northern Dakota Territory, long caravans of eager homesteaders stretched out across the prairie in search of a dream.


Among the farmers and ranchers were the townsite developers. These were the land speculators, the craftsmen, the merchants, the barbers, the butchers and the preachers. Newspapermen, eager to capitalize on the publishing of claim proofs, followed the flow of immigrants and chronicled the birth of each town.


The townsite speculators studied the plans of the railroads. They attempted to select prime locations in the paths of the rail lines extending out like spider-webs to connect all points of the developing territory. From the 1870s to the first few decades of the Twentieth Century, the railroad spread out across North Dakota, and the towns and cities sprang up along the lines. If the townsite speculators were correct in their choice of locations, they could make a small fortune by platting the town and selling the lots. However, sometimes they erred and the railroad never materialized or they were just a little bit off.


On this date in 1914, it was announced that the entire town of Dunn Center would be moved, buildings and all. The town had been platted in 1913 in anticipation of the rail line’s location. But in doing its survey, the railroad had determined that a better route could be found one and a half miles further west, bypassing the emerging town. Thomas Figenskau was granted a contract for the move as he had just purchased a new set of trucks, and according to a newspaper article, “can move most anything that is moveable.” Among a dozen or so buildings relocated was a grocery store, hardware store, livery stables, barber shop and a school. Born again in October of 1914, Dunn Center continues to survive at the center of Dunn County.


However, with the passing of the giant, smoke belching locomotives, and the end of the railroad era, many towns spawned by the railroads have faded back into the landscape.


Dakota Datebook written by Jim Davis




Dauntless Dunn 1970

The German American (Krem) June 12, 1914.


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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