Monday, December 17, 2012
Mrs. Lydia Richards was a widowed schoolmarm teaching at the Longfellow School in St. Paul, Minnesota in 1901. Born in Waseca County she earned her education there and graduated from the State Normal School at Mankato in 1884. From there she moved to Lincoln, Nebraska, to begin her teaching career. She married Burt Richards on October 18, 1890, but she became a widow with an infant son when her husband died ten months later. She continued in her educational career becoming supervisor of schools for the City of Lincoln by 1897. From there Mrs. Richards moved to Iowa and then returned to Minnesota to teach in St. Paul.
With a growing son to care for, she wanted more security in her life, but to do so would require a major gamble. The lure of free land near Sentinel Butte attracted her, and boarding the train, she set out for the land of her dreams. On this date in 1901, she filed on a quarter section of land. It was a remote location for a city girl without farming experience, but she supplemented her income by teaching in the Dickinson schools. In 1904 she was elected Superintendent of Schools for Billings County.
When the railroad was surveyed through that portion of Billings County, a townsite had been platted but never developed. H. A. Hunter of Minneapolis owned the townsite, which adjoined the quarter section owned by Mrs. Richards, and she convinced him to put the lots up for sale. She agreed to act as the land agent in selling the lots, and in January of 1905 the first sale took place. The first lots ran between fifty to one hundred and fifty dollars each for business lots and thirty-five dollars for residential lots. The town grew rapidly, and on October 30, 1907, the village of Beach was incorporated. With the success of her first real estate venture, Lydia Richards abandoned her teaching career, expanding her real estate business to include lands in Montana, and eventually parcels in Texas and Florida.
Like Lydia Richards, many women, especially widows, filed for homesteads believing a farm offered the financial security they could not find elsewhere. Lydia Richards, the founder of Beach, proved that with a little determination, the advantages of homesteading could be equally beneficial to women.
Dakota Datebook written by Jim Davis
Golden Valley Chronicle December 12, 1913
History of North Dakota by Lewis F. Crawford 1931
Women of the Northern Plains by Barbara Handy-Marchello 2005