Lockport Union-Sun & Journal Online

Columns

April 19, 2014

NIAGARA DISCOVERIES: Niagara, N.D., got its name from former New Yorkers

Lockport Union-Sun & Journal — We hear so many people today talk of relatives and friends, usually of the younger generation, leaving the area to find new opportunities elsewhere. We seem to think this is a new phenomenon, but in reality this has been going on, at least in America, for hundreds of years.

In fact, people who came from somewhere else, mostly eastern New York and New England, founded Niagara County. Their children and grandchildren branched out to establish new towns further west. Niagara, N.D., is just one example of this migration.

In 1882, North Dakota was still considered a territory and had not yet achieved statehood. The U.S. government was offering land there for homesteaders to farm. Stories had been circulating about the vast wheat fields of the Dakotas and the opportunity to acquire 320 acres of good land at very reasonable conditions. 

Two Lockport men, Artemus Comstock, whose ancestors were some of the first to settle in Lockport in 1820, and Willard Ransom, descendant of another early family, led a group of Niagara County residents to Grand Forks County, N.D., in the winter of 1882. A railroad line connected Chicago with Larimore, N.D., about 15 miles from the land that the group had acquired.

They arrived by rail at Larimore in February 1882 and pressed ahead on foot and in sleighs to their new home. There were no formal roads cut through and they became disoriented in the snow. As night approached, the travelers were weary, cold and becoming anxious. They had just about given up all hope when a cabin light was spotted in the distance. 

Upon arriving they discovered the cabin was occupied by two men, originally from Lockport, who had recently come to North Dakota after having farmed in Michigan for a few years. The men opened their cabin to the newcomers, who remained there until the weather permitted them to continue their journey, thankful not to have perished in the snow.

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