Welcome to the Bagg Bonanza Farm, North Dakota's only restored bonanza farm. The Bagg Farm is located in Richland County, North Dakota. We invite guests to come visit and take a tour, learning about bonanza farm life and the past generations that changed the Red River Valley from the country's furthest outpost to a settled, prosperous farming community.
The Bagg Farm was named to the National Register of Historic Places in 1985. In 1986 the farm was added to the State Historic Sites Registry. In the same year the Bagg Bonanza Farm Historic Preservation Society, a non-profit organization, was officially founded. In 2005, the farm was designated as a National Historic Landmark.
Today, the Society has over 400 members and derives its funding through the generosity of individuals, businesses, and corporations. The ultimate goal of the Society is to restore all buildings on the site as well as begin agricultural production plots adjacent to the farm site.
History of Bonanza Farms
As with the history of westward expansion in America, the history of the bonanza farm begins with the coming of the railroad. In the mid-1860's, a group of entrepreneurs aspired to build a railroad across the northern territory to the Pacific Ocean. With millions of acres in government land grants and financing from Jay Cooke and his banking institution, the newly-formed Northern Pacific Railroad began construction. By 1872, the NP had crossed the Red River, entering present-day North Dakota.
Unfortunately, Jay Cooke went bankrupt a year later sending the NP, and the entire country, into a financial panic. To raise the money needed to continue the railroad, the NP allowed stockholders who held deflated stock to buy large tracks of land at a rate competitive with land sold by the government.
One man who took NP's offer was J. F. Downing, an attorney and businessman from Eric, Pennsylvania. Although no acreage figure has been determined in establishing the farm size necessary to constitute a bonanza farm, Downing's landholdings in North Dakota exceeded 9,000 acres, which certainly qualified his farm for bonanza status.
Bagg Bonanza Farm
Bonanza farming was established in the Mooreton, North Dakota area when F. A. Bagg joined his uncle's (J. F. Downing) enterprise in 1886. Mr. Bagg spent his first year on the Downing Farm working as a carpenter and field hand for $20 per month plus room and board. The superintendent of the farm left in 1887, and Mr. Bagg was offered, and accepted, the position.
Upon the death of Mr. Downing in 1913, Mr. Bagg inherited a quarter interest of the farm's holdings. In 1915, he moved his inheritance, which included land, buildings and machinery, one mile from the Downing farmstead and began his own bonanza farm.
Bonanza Farms of Richland County
Bonanza farms in the Mooreton community were commonplace in the late 1800s. The town was named in honor of Hugh Moore, who owned the Antelope Farm containing 13,200 acres in the Mooreton area. The Adam's, or Fairview Farm, located south of Mooreton, had over 9,000 acres under cultivation.
One of the largest bonanzas in the area was the Dwight farm, owned by the Dwight Farm and Land Company and headed by Congressman John W. Dwight of Dryden, New York. One of the major stockholders in his company was John Miller, North Dakota's first governor. Miller became president of the company in 1896, the same year he founded the John Miller Company, a grain commission firm in Duluth, Minnesota. Eventually, the company owned 27,000 acres in Richland County and 32,000 acres in Steele County.