History of West Fargo

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West Fargo: A Brief History

The story of West Fargo began with a “Whistle Stop” called Haggart. The stop was at the intersection of the Northern Pacific Railway and the Sheyenne River on land owned by John E. Haggart. More settlers began arriving in this area and by 1876 the first school was built and opened as School District No. 6.

In 1916 a group of enterprising farmers founded Equity Cooperative Packing Company. In 1919 the company finished building 24 houses for its workers and began operating Equity Meat Packing Plant. Equity operated for just four years before bankruptcy in 1922. Three years later Armour and Company (a leader in the meat packing industry) purchased the Equity plant and resumed operation. In 1959 Armour and Company moved its operation and shut down the West Fargo plant forcing many residents to seek new employment or relocate. However, meatpacking would continue to be a main industry in West Fargo until 1999.

The Sheyenne River may have been key to the early success of this area, but it also proved to be a hazard with many floods over the years. The worst of the floods was in the summer of 1975. This flood served as a catalyst for the Sheyenne River Flood Control Project which was authorized in 1986 and became operational in 1993.

For much of West Fargo’s history the city was actually two separate communities. In the 1930s, residents on the North side of Main Avenue requested an election to incorporate as the Village of West Fargo. They were incorporated as a village in 1931, however this did not include the residents to the South of Main Avenue, and in 1937 they became the Village of Southwest Fargo. Thirty years later in 1967, due to the rapid growth of Southwest Fargo, it was agreed that Southwest Fargo would take the name City of West Fargo and the village of West Fargo would become City of West Fargo Industrial Park. The residents of West Fargo Industrial Park didn’t feel the name suited their community and in 1974 they chose the name Riverside for their city. West Fargo as you know it today did not develop until 1989 when the cities of Riverside and West Fargo merged. Nearly 100 years of separate entities and shared identities became one unified West Fargo.

Today, West Fargo is one of the fastest growing cities in the state of North Dakota. From a population of 707 in 1940, to over 30,000 in 2016, West Fargo has long been a “City on the Grow.”

To learn more about the history of West Fargo, visit the North Dakota State University (NDSU) Archives. The NDSU Archives is a local, publicly accessible archival repository that preserves and provides expertise and access to important historical materials. The NDSU Archives is also home to the Institute for Regional Studies Archive Collection, which focuses on materials related to the entire eastern region of North Dakota.

The NDSU Archives is open to the public by appointment only 8 a.m.-4 p.m. Monday through Friday. To schedule an appointment, please call (701) 231-8914 or email ndsu.archives@ndsu.edu. 

Read about the history of other West Fargo entities:

West Fargo Chief of Police

West Fargo Fire Department

West Fargo Public Schools