settlers came to North Dakota for free or inexpensive land and the
chance to farm. Between 1879 and 1886 over 100,000 immigrants entered
northern Dakota territory. The second massive movement into the state
was between 1898 and 1915 when more than 250,000 persons came into
the state. While some of the earliest settlers came by ox-drawn wagons,
stagecoaches, or steamboats, the vast majority came on the railroad.
Both the Northern Pacific and Great Northern railroads advertised
Dakota in Europe, promoting people to take the railroad to North Dakota
and farm the rich land there.
Most new settlers grew wheat, but did not have large farms. They
either bought their land from the railroad or they homesteaded federal
land. Homesteading involved living on and improving 160 acres of land
for a number of years, after which the settlers got the land for free.
They could receive an additional 160 acres of land by planting and
maintaining trees on the prairie.
Large-scale farming occurred in eastern North Dakota from about 1875
to 1890, when investors from the eastern United States purchased huge
tracts of rich Red River Valley land. Much of it was acquired from
the Northern Pacific Railway and operated as large farms growing "No.
1 Hard" wheat. These farms ranged in size from 3,000 to 65,000 acres.
The farms earned such tremendous profits that they became known across
the United States as bonanza farms. On September 6, 1878, even President
Rutherford B. Hayes visited the bonanza farm of Oliver Dalrymple near
Casselton, North Dakota.