Fairmount's Early Years
Fairmount Main Street Pictures 1910


(Short Version)
Ode To Fairmount
A recently discovered document written in 1907 during the early boom years
of Fairmount, North Dakota, a thriving agricultural community.

Historic photos and descriptions of the businesses and persons
active in Fairmount during its early years.

Photos of Early Fairmount, Delmer Steffens; video link 1
Fairmount, Delmer Steffens, host; video tour, link 2
Fairmount, Steffens video tour, link 3


Historic Pictures from 1910 of Main Street
Early History of Fairmount, Complete Version
Early History Of Soo Line Operating in Fairmount
(Images contributed by Mr. Anton Chermak, St. Cloud, Minnesota)

Early Churches in Fairmount Images from A. Colberg's postcard series of Fairmount.

A Pioneer Settlement in 1878

North Dakota became a state in 1889. The official birth date of the Village  of Fairmount is recorded as May 9, 1887. It was at this time that the present name of Fairmount was adapted. Prior to this the town site had been occupied since  1878 by earlier settlers known as the Michigan settlement. These hearty souls were referred to as the "pioneers" by the first historian to write on Fairmount's history, Mrs. Elmer Wetherbee in 1897.  According to this local historian easy times came into being and the pioneer days concluded with coming of the Milwaukee Rail Road in 1884.

     According to Mrs. Wetherbee's account, the early years were arduous and required tremendous strength and determination by those pioneers. The settlement of Campbell, Minnesota was the nearest Machine / Blacksmith Shop. Farmers needing such services had to ford the Bois de Sioux and continue on foot or horseback to Campbell. Likewise, settlers who had medical emergencies depended on the help of their neighbors and doctors like Fairmount's first, Dr. D. C. Steele. The doctors braved storms, floods and blizzards, to tend to the sick and needy of the day. They often received gifts of produce or meat as their payment for such services. North Dakota even today can be a challenge and only the heartiest of the breed endure her challenges from year to year. But imagine the pioneers dealing with the storms or emergencies in their time!  How different from  from today's present infrastructure of electric service, motorized vehicles and excellent roads to travel.

Before Fairmount was Sewall, the Michigan Settlement in 1878

     The first settlers came from Michigan led by Mr. E. W. Spaulding a successful Michigan farmer who scouted the entire country from coast to  coast and proclaimed that the region west of the Bois de Sioux river was the "best farmland in the country." These first pioneers referred to their settlement as Sewall Station. The name "Fairmount" was proposed by a Mr. Henvis  in 1887. Henvis hailed from Philadelphia, where the  National Centennial Exposition had recently been held at Fairmount Park.

Four Rail Roads Spur Early Growth

    The first 20-25  years of the city of Fairmount saw its growth and prosperity reach its zenith. The period from 1910 to 1915 were called the boom years.  Fairmount was uniquely favored in its infrastructure owing to its excellent location at the juncture of  4 major rail roads. The Milwaukee, The Great Northern, The Soo Line, The F &V (Fairmount and Veblin) which began in 1913.

    At this time the first merchants became established. Their names remain familiar to old timers of this community. Some of the names have continued their associations with the community to the present time. Mr. Bart Schouweiler built a new retail store, the first in the community in 1884.  This was followed by another built by N. Davis in 1886. The Davis store was sold to and ran for a long time by Mr. Charles Leathart. Other stores included Frank Zilgitt, grocery, Zilgitt and Johnson dry goods and Ready and Zilgitt Restaurant. The firm of Sawyer and Arnold built a lumber yard near the Soo Line. Dougherty and A. J. Thiesen  built at the west end of Main Street the West Hotel and an adjoining two story enterprise dealing with hardware and farm machinery and livery. A fine hotel was established a little after 1887 by two entrepreneurs, Frank Elliot and R. W. Dougherty which had livery and "bus " line in connection. This hotel changed management several times, later known as the Richland Hotel and saw expansion and excellent patronage and was noted for its fine cuisine.

    Early in Fairmount's growth years banks were established. The First National Bank followed a short time after the Bank of Fairmount. Founded by Dr. D. C. Steele, C. P. Watson, Frank Whittaker and Wm. Cross. The original bank came into being  in association with B. Schouweiler, W. H. Cox, John Leathart,  N. Powell, Wm. Houston and Edward Ballard. This first wooden frame bank building was replaced by a brick one in 1901 on the exact site where the present Peoples State Bank now stands. Mr. Earl Schouweiler Jr. is the third generation in this family of Fairmount Bankers spanning a hundred years.

Click to read the lengthier original history.

edited by C. Pinkney, June 2004