Fargo-Moorhead Convention & Visitors Bureau

History and Information About Fargo, ND & Moorhead, MN

About Fargo-Moorhead

Fargo consists of three cities in two states – so it’s no wonder our reputation is a little off-kilter. In North Dakota, there's Fargo (naturally) and West Fargo (which has the added distinction of being north and also "west" of normal). On the Minnesota side of the Red River, Moorhead literally propels our community beyond conventional boundaries. We owe a lot to our northern prairie locale. Our adventurous, pioneering spirit is alive and well. In our people, you'll find a unique mix of Midwestern gregariousness and quiet strength. Ingenuity, vision and down-to-earth practicality define our distinct prairie soul.

History of Fargo-Moorhead

Less than ten thousand years ago, the area that is now Fargo-Moorhead was 200 feet below the surface of Lake Agassiz, a huge inland sea formed at the end of the last iceage. Over centuries the waters receded, leaving six feet of rich, black soil that today make the Red River Valley one of the world's most fertile farmlands, with Fargo and Moorhead as its center.

The Red River of the North separates the two cities and serves as the border between North Dakota and Minnesota. The city of Fargo was named for one of the owners of the Wells-Fargo Express Company, William G. Fargo. In 1885, the existence of many lawyers in Fargo and easy divorce laws prompted thousands of unhappy married people to apply for the "Ten-Minute Divorce." Also in Fargo's history is the Great Fire of 1893, started when Mrs. Rosa Herzman discarded ashes behind her grocery store. They were ignited, and fire spread from what is now Main Avenue to the north. By the end of the day, downtown Fargo was devastated.

The city of Moorhead was named after William G. Moorhead, an executive of the Northern Pacific Railway. In fact, the Northern Pacific Railway had a profound impact on both the economy and population of the area. Originally settled by Scandinavian and European immigrants, Fargo and Moorhead became boomtowns with the arrival of the NP in 1871. When the Northern Pacific Railroad was selecting its crossing site over the Red River, eager land speculators spared no effort to learn of the location. Railroad officials marked a false route a few miles north of Moorhead, Minnesota to throw speculators off the trail. This area, now Oakport Township, was known for years as "Bogusville."

Under the Homestead Act, settlers were given 160 acres in exchange for living on the land and farming part of it for at least five years. Suddenly Fargo-Moorhead became a mecca for hopeful refugees from the overcrowded east. The railroad brought a constant stream of settlers seeking a new life on America's newest frontier.

Today the population of the Fargo-Moorhead metropolitan area is more than 200,000, and there seems to be no end in sight to the persistent prosperity and growth of the twin cities on the Red. While agriculture is still prominent in the local economy, Fargo-Moorhead has also become an important focal point for other professions, including government, education, medicine, retailing and manufacturing.

The spirit of the early pioneers remains a treasured part of our proud heritage. We continue to build on our colorful past as we look forward to the promise of the future.


Inhabitants of this region throughout history have always been attracted to the rich, fertile, black soil deposited by retreating continental glaciers over 12,000 years ago. The Red River Valley, as it is referred to today, remains one of the most fertile regions in the world. Our attractions show off this rich history and heritage well. Explore Bonanzaville USA by stepping into pioneer-era buildings, discovering the heritage of the people by visiting The Historical & Cultural Society of Clay County, or taking a walk through Fargo-Moorhead's historic downtown, which features a fully restored 1920's era theatre and “Mighty Wurlitzer” theatre pipe organ, great shopping and unique dining opportunities.

Fargo-Moorhead is also home to the Red River Zoo, which specializes in rare and endangered species; the Fargo Air Museum which features one-of-a-kind aircraft; and the Plains Art Museum, an accredited art museum. The live music and theatre scene is lively each night as well! There's plenty for you to do during your stay! Be sure to stop in at our unique “grain elevator” Visitor Center located at 2001 44th Street S. in Fargo for your official welcome and bushels of information to help you get the most out of your visit!

Both Fargo, North Dakota, and Moorhead, Minnesota, were established in 1871 by Euro-American settlers influenced by the expansion of the Northern Pacific Railroad westward as it crossed the Red River. Prior to the Euro-American expansion, the region was home to numerous groups of Native Americans including the Dakota or Lakota Nation, Assiniboine, Cheyenne, Mandan, Hidatsa, Arikara and Chippewa.

Industry & Agriculture

FarmingFarmingLocated in the center of North America, the Red River Valley is a 30-40 mile wide strip of land that gently rises westward from the Red River running northward between North Dakota and Minnesota, extending into Canada. Rich, black soil produces an abundance of crops such as potatoes, sunflowers, sugar beets, wheat, corn, soybeans, alfalfa, oats, and lentils. Industry and agriculture are closely related in Fargo-Moorhead. With two meat-packaging plants, sugar and sunflower processing plants, creameries and a malting barley plant, the metro area processes most of its own products. American Crystal Sugar, Case IH Manufacturing Plant, Melroe and many other agriculturally based sites have organized tours. The area's fastest-growing firms are recognized yearly by the area Chambers of Commerce.

Historic Neighborhoods and New Developments

The upscale South 8th Street historic district has long been known as a high status neighborhood of people with political influence and business ties. The neighborhood has preserved its historic character with turn-of-the-century street lights, stately large elm trees, large, neatly landscaped yards, curved sidewalks and distinctive housing styles, including Colonial Revival, English Cottage, Dutch Colonial, Cube, Tudor and Mediterranean. The Northside district focused on Broadway, features large homes designed by architects such as the Hancock Brothers.

Culture and Arts

From dance to theater to music, Fargo-Moorhead is rich with cultural arts. The F-M Convention and Visitors Bureau provide a special Calendar of Events, and a quick check will inform you of all the special musical, dramatic, cultural or sporting events scheduled for the area. The local attractions are mostly reflective of the roots of our original settlers. The Heritage Hjemkomst Interpretive Center and Bonanzaville, USA are two sites filled with pioneer spirit and old-time hospitality. The area park districts maintain more than 3,000 acres of parkland and recreational facilities. Fargo-Moorhead takes pride in its cultural park, Trollwood, as well as its all-year indoor skating and hockey arenas. Several swimming pools, numerous ball diamonds and winter-summer playgrounds and picnic grounds bring the great outdoors to all the people regardless of the weather. Fargo-Moorhead is also home to the F-M RedHawks Northern League baseball team and the USHL's Fargo Force.