Friday, March 28, 2008

AD: North Dakota for Homeseekers

German Baptist Brethren were among those targeted by railroad companies promoting cheap land in under-developed territories where the railroads had built rails and owned land to sale. The railroad companies were eager to find settlers to buy this land for two reasons: First, the sale of the land helped offset the cost of building the railroad. Second, the railroads needed steady income from customers who needed the transportation they provided. Settlers who turned bare land into thriving farms were the ideal targets - not only did they need to purchase fares for personal transportation, they also needed a way to get their crops to market, and trains were the best way.

In his book, Planting the Faith in a New Land, Steve Bowers includes an ad in Brethren's Family Almanac in 1897. The ad declares: Farming in North Dakota is no experiment. Its record in 1895 was: Wheat 20 to 50 bushels to the acre; flax 15 to 25 bushels; oats 40 to 80 bushels; potatoes 2002 to 300 bushels; and other crops in proportion. It enjoys an enviable reputation for raising livestock and dairying. Its healthfulness is unquestionable. The summer heat never depresses and the winter cold never chills.

The ad goes on to list fourteen Brethren colonies (two being "Brethren of the Old Order") located in North Dakota and a list of Brethren ministers. The ad concludes: Free Government land can still be taken up within reasonable distance of most of the places named above, except Mayville. It is the wish of the Brethren to strengthen the societies already organized, and a cordial invitation is extended to homeseekers to investigate the country and its advantages....

As late as 1914, an ad urged all Brethren attending Annual Conference in Seattle, Wash., to obtain a ticket on the Northern Pacific Railroad which would travel through these territories and give passengers a view of the farmland and a taste of the climate.

Source: Planting the Faith in a New Land