This story was originally published in the Bismarck Tribune on June 29, 1981. By STAN STELTER, Bismarck Tribune
Mandan grew rapidly after the trains crossed the Missouri River, extending the Northern Pacific's reach westward.
In 1879, the city's population was reported at 300; by 1882 it was 1,500, and a year later, between 2,000 and 2,500.
The city's early development was influenced by Eastern capitalists, including a group called the Boston Syndicate.
The Syndicate and the railroad played important roles in shaping Mandan's early economic development.
Many of the NP workers lived in the Mandan House, a boarding house on the east end of town. At the west end was the Endicott Building, the work of Henry Endicott, a member of the Syndicate.
Records from that time aren't clear, but it seems the Syndicate was organized by Henry Endicott, one of three well-known Endicotts from Massachusetts.
He was a manufacturer and capitalist, and, therefore, he was the most likely of the three Endicotts to invest in Mandan, a Western boom town.
Other Syndicate members included Edward Clopp, William B. Crosby and Edward C. Turner.
They bought two quarters of land in southwest Mandan. The land had been homesteaded by Judson P. Lansing in 1881, but the group acquired it through a series of transactions and platted it into the Southside Addition.
According to local historians, the Boston men planned to build new homes on every block and allow residents to purchase them on monthly installments. Those buying a lot had to improve it, and the company itself would use its proceeds for additional improvements.
But that part of the Syndicate's scheme didn't work; the land eventually was sold back to the two men it had been purchased from.
Growth continued in the village, which now stretched for a mile along the NP tracks.
By 1883, Mandan had some 350 buildings, including large businesses, several churches, schools, a public hall for concerts and other entertainment and a depot.
The value of city improvements, according to a "Guide to the Northern Pacific Railroad and its Allied Lines" of 1883, was $240,000 in 1882. The city's taxable valuation had risen from $160,000 in 1881 to $1 million in 1883.
Several major businesses were under way early in the town's life.
The first newspaper in Mandan, The Mandan Criterion, came out May 24, 1879. The publisher was Harry Robinson, who moved to the settlement from Wisconsin. It's not known how long the paper was published.
F.H. Ertel began publishing the weekly Mandan Pioneer in November 1881, and it later became a daily. The town later gained another weekly newspaper, the Mandan Times, but it lasted only a short time.
Also starting in 1881 were the First National Bank, which operated out of a "fine building" on Main Street; Cary Real Estate Co., originated by George and Ferd Bingenheimer.
The impressive Inter-Ocean Hotel, which was to become a landmark in the city, was built at the corner of Dilworth Avenue and Main Street, the present site of the Lewis and Clark Hotel. The three-story, brick structure was called the "finest hotel in the Northwest" when it was finished in 1882.
Mandan was the site for other ventures also. Because the area had abundant deposits of clay suitable for bricks, the Syndicate in 1884 set up a brick-making plant in south Mandan. It employed 30 persons, and its daily quota was 30,000 bricks.
The Boston group also built a spur railroad track from the main line south through the platted section of the town to the Heart River. That was to serve as an incentive for another group planning a flour mill.
The mill, completed on the banks of the Heart in 1885, was equipped with some of the most advanced machinery of the time.
It had a 200-barrel daily production capacity. It was operated by a miller brought from Minneapolis who, according to Mandan historian Sarah Tostevin, planned to make the flour of the Mandan Roller Mill "equal to 'Pillsbury's Best.'"
Wheat for the mill came from the immediate area and was said to be some of the best anywhere. The grounds of the mill were developed, with some 500 trees planted and walks laid.
The mill was razed in the 1960s.
The first horse-drawn street car in Dakota Territory reportedly operated in Mandan, and it was the work of the Syndicate. Tracks were laid on the sout side of Main Street to the corner of Sixth Avenue Northwest, where they crossed the NP tracks to the Syndicate's southside residential area.
It isn't known exactly when the service started, but the last run of the street car was on February 18, 1882.
At that time, Sixth Avenue Northwest, which became one of the city's main thoroughfares, was described as a big ditch, gouged out by rains and crossed at intervals by planking.
With the opening of the NP's bridge across the Missouri in 1882, Mandan took on a special significance — it had the only bridge across the Missouri in Dakota Territory.
"Mandan's commanding position gives it an absolute certainty of a growth commensurate with the growth of the extensive farming and stock-raising region...," wrote The Northwest Magazine, in 1888.
"Of this region, it is now the trade capital and as such it will never have a rival." The magazine noted that the city's trade area stretched 100 miles west, 50 miles northand 40 miles south.
The magazine suggested Mandan could be compared to Omaha, Nebraska, in terms of its location and potential.
Mandan's early growth coincided with what has been described as the Great Dakota Boom, when North Dakota's population jumped from 16,000 in 1878 to 191,000 by 1890.
Population trends changed, however. Mandan's population, which reached 2,500 by 1883, had dropped back to 1,328 by 1890. Part of that may be attributed to the departure of railroad crews and early speculators.
As a new century opened, the city, in the eyes of a railroad official returning to the city, had lost its "frontier" appearance.
In the 1880's, Mandan's streets were dusty and ungraded. Its only street lights were lamps in front of the Inter-Ocean. Wagonloads of buffalo bones could be seen sitting on Main Street, waiting to be shipped out for use as fertilizer.
But by 1909, Mandan had become a "city of homes," according to the railroad man.
An indication of its initiation into the modern era was the adoption of the new city commission form of government in 1908.