Until 1906 Dilworth was a small station with a siding serving two grain elevators and had no depot building or agent. The crowding of the Northern Pacific sites in Fargo necessitated the selection of a new site for divisional terminal facilities and Dilworth was chosen. By July 1906, the Northern Pacific had purchased nearly 500 acres of land around the Dilworth siding for the new headquarters. A main feature of the facility was the roundhouse, a huge building shaped like a doughnut with a bite out of it. In the center of the doughnuts hole was a turntable, like a big Lazy Susan. A locomotive was driven onto the turntable which rotated the engine toward one of 45 stalls. In the stall the locomotive was repaired and refitted. Then the engine backed out onto the turntable and spun about to pull another train back the other direction.
village grew from practically zero population in mid-1907 to nearly 500 by spring 1910. Establishment of a railroad hotel was necessary to house railroad workers until the town could build up and the workers could move into homes of their own or obtain other places of residence.
In 1911, the village was formally incorporated and established its own government and law enforcement. The first Mayor of Dilworth was F. C. Alsop, with Christian Haugsted the Clerk. In 1918, J. M. Manning was elected Mayor, O. Wirud, Clerk, with M. J. Peirsol appointed Street Commissioner and L. G. Hanson as Treasurer.
The Dilworth Fire Department was established in 1911. The evaluation on October 25, 1928 estimated value of equipment was $1,000. It consisted of 2 extensions, two hose carts and an 18 member volunteer group.
Dilworth’s rapid growth challenged its school system as well. The Clay County Commission approved of School District 81 on March 3, 1896. This encompassed the northeastern quarter of Moorhead Township, home to eight school age children. In 1905, District 81 built a new one-room school a half
mile south of today’s Dilworth Community Center. By 1908, the school’s population had ballooned to 93. The District built a new, much larger school just south of the present Dilworth Elementary.
One of the earliest institutions in the new village was the Dilworth Presbyterian Church. Through the efforts of Moorhead Presbyterian minister Dugald McIntyre, the church broke ground May 15, 1907. Their very active ladies aid society raised money through a series of bake sales and socials. When the church was dedicated August 11, the congregation was free of debt. The church still stands. It’s likely the oldest building in Dilworth.
St. Elizabeth’s Catholic Church was slower in coming. According to a typescript history from the church, in 1907, Father Charles Cannon of Moorhead’s St. Joseph’s parish visited the town site to take a survey of Dilworth’s Catholics and “to determine local interest in forming a mission church.” The effort had limited success, but over the next few years Father Gerard Speilman of St. Joseph’s celebrated mass in private homes. In July 1910, new efforts to form a church began. Less than two months later, the community dedicated a new 35 by 51
foot concrete block church. It served the congregation until the present church was built in 1964.
Businesses quickly sprang up during summer 1907. In late July, Moorhead’s Ballord-Trimble Lumber Company opened a yard at the rapidly growing village. A few days later Olaus Anderson opened a general store on the corner of today’s Center Avenue and Main Street. Two weeks after that, Rasmus Haugsted opened another general store half a block north. In mid-August Haugsted became Dilworth’s first Post Master and ran the Post Office from his store. By 1910, Dilworth was also home to a bank, two hotels, a grocery, a dairy, a meat market, a bakery, at least two restaurants and a barbershop. Some 498 people lived in Dilworth and nearly 70% of them worked for the railroad.
Dilworth is now the second biggest city in Clay County. Not bad for a one-time sleepy railroad siding!
A Special Thanks to Mark Peihl, Clay County Historical Society Archivist and the Northwest Minnesota Historical Center, Moorhead, MN for their assistance with pictures and history information.