Northcote, Minnesota

The Birth Of Northcote, Minnesota


Vanessa R. Reese


About 13 miles south of the United States and CanadianBorder is a wide place in Highway 75 known as Northcote, Minnesota. At onetime this was a thriving business settlement that met the needs of the surroundingfarming area. There are no records that the settlement was ever incorporatedinto a village. The settlement was in the heart of a great farming area.

The Hill farm, a widely known enterprise organized by CaptainHugh Donalson and comprised mostly of land awarded by the government tothe builder of the Great Northern Railroad, Mr. James J. Hill - thus thename, was the largest of these farms.

Northcote was named after Sir Henry Stafford Northcotewho was born in 1818 and died in 1887. Mr. Northcote was an eminent Englishstatesman and financier. He was commissioner at the Treaty of Washingtonin 1871, which referred the Alabama claims of the United States againstEngland to an international tribunal. There is no record of any direct associationbetween the British statesman and the settlement

Mr. Northcote was interested in the Hill farm project.

Many people came to Northcote because of the great jobopportunities at the Hill farm and other farms in the area. Many familiescame on the St. Paul, Minneapolis and Manitoba Railroad. The populationincreased to about two hundred people. Most of these people were of Dutch,Swedish and Scottish descent.

In order to live here, these people built homes and manybusiness places sprang up. Such as a Lumber yard owned by Mr. Kelso; A Blacksmithshop owned by Mr. John McCollum and Mr.Maurice Bosworth later sold to Mr.Joseph E. Dillon.

A Farm machinery and Implement was started by Mr. M.E.Murrayand Mr.J.A.McKenzie. They sold Grain Binders - These machines were usedto cut the standing grain. The machine had an attachment which gatheredthe cut grain and tied them into bundles or sheaves. These bundles weredropped on the field and later had to be set into shocks and the men didthis by hand. Threshing machines - a large machine used by farmers, in thedays before the present day combines, used to separate the grain from thestraw and chaff. The bundles made by the binders were hauled to a givenspot and put into the threshing machines. They also sold plows - a machinefarmers used to turn the top four to eight inches of their stubble fieldsover after taking the crop off. It did the same as the plows do today, butit was horse drawn and had only one or two bottoms. They also sold otherimplements and vehicles.

A General store was started by Mr. Walter Kelso which solddry goods such as: hats, shoes, clothing, etc. The shoes were made and fittedby Mr. Edward Florance. There was a big store and pool hall combined ownedby Mr. Kenneth Murray. A store and post office was owned by Mr.Fred Westcotte.There was also a big store with apartments upstairs owned by Mr. Carey.Some of the prices at this time were as follows: Men's overalls - 70 cents;Leather gloves - 45 cents; Cotton gloves - 10 cents; Men's shirts - 50 cents;Ladies hats-$1.75; Shoes-$l.15 a pair; Eggs 5 cents a dozen; Coffee - 50cents a pound; Tea - 20 cents a pound; Meat - 3 cents a pound; Sugar $2.25for 100 pounds; and Flour - $2.00 for 100 pounds.

There was a town hall and two saloons. A bank was builtin 1918 and burned down in 1920 with about ten thousand dollars in it. Thevault, a cement structure, still stands. Another business place was a Hoteland Restaurant owned by Mr.D.D.Murray.

The first post master in the first post office, locatedin Mr. Westcotte's store was Mr. Daly. There were two mail routes carryingmail to the farmers in the area.

Because of the grain crop raised in the area, four, somesay five, grain elevators were built next to the Railroad. The first onebuilt was known as the St.Anthony and Dakota. It was operated by James K.Grayand burned down in 1932. The second one was called the Duluth Elevator andthe third one was known as the Amenia Elevator. These were later razed ormoved. The records show that in 1906 Mr.Thomas Cannon and a Junior partner,Mr. E. Peterson, had a thriving business at their Elevator. Grain pricesat this time were as follows: Wheat 80 cents to $l.00, per bushel, Barleyand Oats - 50 cents a bushel, Flax - $2.50 per bushel and Corn - 75 centsa bushel.

The people in the area realized that their children neededan education. So, school District No.4 was organized on October 8, 1880.There were about seventy children that attended school at this time. Someof the early teachers were: Pearl Locken, Mr. and Mrs. Ben Wooly, Miss JessieMacLane, Mrs. Dorthy MacManly and Miss Eliza Moore. The teachers wages werevery low at this time. They amounted to approximately one dollar per day.

In 1883, the first service was held by Pastor Hugh McMillanin the Presbyterian Church that was built in the 1880's.

This was the thriving settlement of Northcote. It servedmany people in its day.

But because a different railroad was built from Minneapolisto Winnipeg going through Lancaster, Minnesota a lot of trade from the Eastfound its way to Lancaster. Hallock, Minnesota, a town about six milessouth of Northcote became the County Seat and much of the business fromthe south went to Hallock.

Humboldt, Minnesota became a thriving village seven milesnorth of Northcote and much of the business went to Humboldt from the north.

With the progress of the automobile and better roads theusefulness and need of Northcote diminished.

Another factor in the downward trend of Northcote was thecoming in of better farm machinery for farming in the surrounding area.The need for farm help decreased. So, the need for the business places inNorthcote also decreased.

Year by year the settlement got smaller and smaller. Now,all that remains of the once busy settlement is the post office, a smallfilling station, a few homes and the church building, which is still inuse by the Northcote people. In the minds of those who remember Northcotein its hey-day are memories--Some good and some not so good.

As one old settler said,"Hospitality was the law ofthe land. There was no class distinction among the people. Everybody treatedeveryone else the same. And to quote Longfellow, 'The richest were poorand the poor lived in abundance.'"


Jury, Miss Mayme, Humboldt, Minnesota January 1971 Mr.Florance J.

Mathews, Mr. and Mrs. Silas, Humboldt, Minnesota January1971

McFarlane; Mr.and Mrs. E.E., Northcote, Minnesota December1970

Murray, Mrs. Angus, Northcote, Minnesota December 1970

Reese, Mr. and Mrs., Humboldt, Minnesota December 1970- January 1971

Turner, Mr. and Mrs.Eldon, Humboldt, Minnesota December1970 - January 1971

Turner, Mr. and Mrs. Ernest, Humboldt, Minnesota December1970 - January 1971