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Wahpeton, North Dakota

Wahpeton, North Dakota
—  City  —
Dakota Avenue in downtown Wahpeton in 2007
Location of Wahpeton, North Dakota
Coordinates: 46°16′12″N 96°36′38″W / 46.27°N 96.61056°W / 46.27; -96.61056Coordinates: 46°16′12″N 96°36′38″W / 46.27°N 96.61056°W / 46.27; -96.61056
Country United States
State North Dakota
County Richland
 • Mayor Jim Sturdevant
 • Finance Director Darcie Huwe
 • Total 5.29 sq mi (13.71 km2)
 • Land 5.29 sq mi (13.71 km2)
 • Water 0 sq mi (0 km2)
Elevation 965 ft (294 m)
Population (2010)[1]
 • Total 7,766
 • Density 1,467.5/sq mi (566.6/km2)
Time zone Central (CST) (UTC-6)
 • Summer (DST) CDT (UTC-5)
ZIP codes 58074-58076
Area code(s) 701
FIPS code 38-82660[2]
GNIS feature ID 1033621[3]
Highways ND 13, ND 210
Website http://www.wahpeton.com

Wahpeton (pronunciation: /ˈwɑːpɨtən/ WAH-pə-tən) is a city in Richland County, North Dakota in the United States. It is the county seat of Richland County[4] and had a population of 7,766 at the 2010 census.[1] Wahpeton was founded in 1869 and is the principal city of the Wahpeton Micropolitan Statistical Area, which includes all of Richland County, North Dakota and Wilkin County, Minnesota.

Wahpeton's twin city is Breckenridge, Minnesota. The Bois de Sioux River and the Otter Tail River join at Wahpeton and Breckenridge to form the Red River of the North.

Wahpeton has two railroads, a bus line, five truck lines, and an airport with runways of just over 3,000 and 5,000 feet (1,500 m) in length.

The North Dakota State College of Science is located in Wahpeton. The local newspaper is the Wahpeton Daily News.



  The Richland County Courthouse in Wahpeton, 2007

The first European explorer in the area was Jonathan Carver in 1767. He explored and mapped the Northwest at the request of Major Robert Rogers, commander of Fort Michilimackinac, the British fort at Mackinaw City, Michigan, which protected the passage between Lake Michigan and Lake Huron. Carver's mission was to find the Northwest passage, the imagined waterway to the Orient which Rogers was convinced existed. While Carver failed in his search, the passing years saw many fur traders and explorers pass through the area.

More than one hundred years after the Carver expedition, a United States Government surveying party passed through the Wahpeton area. J. W. Blanding, a member of the expedition, was so impressed by the fertile river valley that he returned to his Wisconsin home determined to move his family and belongings to the Dakota Territory. Blanding so influenced other Wisconsin settlers that many of them arrived and homesteaded in the Wahpeton area before Blanding could return.

The first settler was Morgan T. Rich. His plow turned the first furrow of rich black bottomland in 1869. When other settlers arrived, they formed a tiny community and named it Richville, commemorating both its founder and the fertile quality of the soil.

In 1871, a Post Office was opened. At the same time, the town's name was changed to Chahinkapa, an Indian name meaning "the end of the woods." Two years later, the county was organized and called Chahinkapa County. Later that year the county was renamed Richland County and the town of Chahinkapa renamed Wahpeton, an adaptation of the Dakota name of the local population of Dakota Indians, the Wakhpetonwan. The name meant "leaf dwellers," and was adopted when they lived in the vicinity of Lake Mille Lacs before they were displaced by the Ojibwa.[5]

Growth of the village of Wahpeton was quite slow during the first few years, but growth was spurred in 1872 when the St. Paul and Pacific Railway (now the Great Northern) extended a line into Breckenridge, Minnesota, a tiny community just across the Bois de Sioux River from Wahpeton. This created a booming business in flatboat building in both communities. Flat boats could carry freight directly from the railroad down river to northern North Dakota and all the way to Winnipeg, Canada, via the Red River of the North.

The railroad line opened up the area to many more settlers. Germans, Bohemians, Scandinavians, and Native Americans moved to Richland County to file homesteads. In 1874, Jacob Morvin and Joseph Sittarich opened the first retail store in the county. By 1876 the traffic between Wahpeton and Breckenridge had grown to where the local ferry could not handle it and a bridge was built across the Bois de Sioux River connecting the two towns.

Another flurry of growth occurred in 1880 when the St. Paul, Minneapolis, and Manitoba Railroad crossed the river and pushed its tracks on toward the north-west. By 1883 the population of Wahpeton was estimated to be as high as 1,400 people.

In 1888, the Northern Light Electric Company (NLEC) was organized, making Wahpeton among the first cities in North Dakota to be electrified. In 1909, NLEC became the first customer of the newly founded Otter Tail Power Company. In 1913, the owner of NLEC, C. B. Kidder, sold his company to Otter Tail Power and became its first general manager. In 1927, Otter Tail Power built what was then its largest power plant at Wahpeton and it was named Kidder Station. The plant was removed in 1977; the site is now a park.

In 1889, the Red River Valley University was established in Wahpeton; it later became the North Dakota State College of Science.

In 1904, the United States Government established the Wahpeton Indian School (now called Circle of Nations School) for the education of Native American children from northern Minnesota, North Dakota and northern South Dakota.


Wahpeton is located at 46°16′12″N 96°36′38″W / 46.27°N 96.61056°W / 46.27; -96.61056 (46.269931, -96.610463)[6]. According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 5.29 square miles (13.71 km²), all of it land.

The Red River of the North forms one of the most fertile river valleys in the world. As it flows north to Canada it forms the state boundary between North Dakota and Minnesota. Near the river's head-waters on the bank of the Bois de Sioux is Wahpeton, North Dakota.


Historical populations
Census Pop.
1880 400
1890 1,510 277.5%
1900 2,228 47.5%
1910 2,467 10.7%
1920 3,069 24.4%
1930 3,176 3.5%
1940 3,747 18.0%
1950 5,125 36.8%
1960 5,876 14.7%
1970 7,076 20.4%
1980 9,064 28.1%
1990 8,751 −3.5%
2000 8,586 −1.9%
2010 7,766 −9.6%
U.S. Decennial Census
  Dakota Avenue in downtown Wahpeton in 2007

As of the census[7] of 2010, there were 7,766 people, 3,151 households, and 1,717 families residing in the town. The population density was 1467.5 people per square mile (566.6/km²). There were 3,482 housing units at an average density of 658 per square mile (254/km²). The racial makeup of the town was 92.6% White, 1.3% African American, 3.1% Native American, 0.8% Asian, 0.1Pacific Islander, 0.3% from other races, and 1.8% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 2.0% of the population.

There were 3,151 households out of which 25.5% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 40.7% were married couples living together, 9.2% had a female householder with no husband present, 4.6% had a male householder with no wife present, and 45.5% were non-families. 36.3% of all households were made up of individuals and 11.7% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.17 and the average family size was 2.89.

In the city the population was spread out with 20.3% under the age of 18, 22.2% from 18 to 24, 20.5% from 25 to 44, 24.5% from 45 to 64, and 12.6% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 31.1 years. The gender makeup of the city was 51.6% male and 48.4% female.

The median income for a household in the city was $33,471, and the median income for a family was $44,645. Males had a median income of $30,199 versus $20,089 for females. The per capita income for the city was $15,293. About 7.3% of families and 13.4% of the population were below the poverty line, including 8.9% of those under age 18 and 10.4% of those age 65 or over.


Wahpeton is the home of several large manufacturing plants, including Woodcraft Industries, Inc., WCCO Belting, Minn-Dak Farmers Cooperative, and Cargill.

Imation Corporation had operated a production facility in Wahpeton but it was closed in 2009.[8]

On May 14, 1991, Wahpeton voters approved a 1% city sales and use tax, the proceeds of which are to be dedicated solely to economic development of the City of Wahpeton and Richland County, North Dakota by means of business and industrial expansion including job creation, job retention, business and industrial diversification, and the creation, fostering and maintenance of business and trade activities and facilities. The tax would become effective July 1, 1991 and sunset in five years. On June 14, 1994, voters approved to extend the sales tax 10 years to June 30, 2006. And again on October 14, 2003, voters approved broadening the use and extending the 1½% sales tax to June 30, 2026.[9]

  Recreation and culture

The area attracts outdoorsman and hunters, as it is located in the midst of the Central Flyway, thus providing excellent migratory waterfowl hunting.

The Bois de Sioux Golf Course is the only golf course in the United States with half the course is in one state and half in another.

Near the golf course is Chahinkapa Park, which houses playgrounds, baseball, softball, and football fields, miniature golf, and tennis. During the summer the large swimming pool is also open. Chahinkapa Park is also home to Chahinkapa Zoo.

The Richland County Historical Society Museum features Native American artifacts and displays of pioneer life. Near Wahpeton is Fort Abercrombie and the Circus Monument, erected in memory of circus workers killed by lightning there in 1897. Circus performers hold a memorial service at the monument whenever they perform in the area.

The Carmelite Monastery, located in the bend of the Wild Rice River, is a few miles from Wahpeton.

On Thursday afternoons from June through October, the Twin Towns Gardeners' Market is held on the lawn of the Leach Public Library.[10]

Other Wahpeton area attractions include "Wahpper" the World's Largest Catfish, located at Kidder Dam, and the Bagg Bonanza Farm, a 15-acre (61,000 m2) historic bonanza farm with farm buildings and machinery.




The city of Wahpeton is served by Elementary School, Wahpeton Middle School, and Wahpeton Senior High School. A private school, St. John's Elementary School, is also located in Wahpeton.

  High school championships

  Notable people


  1. ^ a b "2010 Census Redistricting Data (Public Law 94-171) Summary File". American FactFinder. United States Census Bureau. http://factfinder2.census.gov/faces/tableservices/jsf/pages/productview.xhtml?pid=DEC_10_PL_GCTPL2.ST13&prodType=table. Retrieved 2 May 2011. 
  2. ^ "American FactFinder". United States Census Bureau. http://factfinder.census.gov. Retrieved 2008-01-31. 
  3. ^ "US Board on Geographic Names". United States Geological Survey. 2007-10-25. http://geonames.usgs.gov. Retrieved 2008-01-31. 
  4. ^ "Find a County". National Association of Counties. http://www.naco.org/Counties/Pages/FindACounty.aspx. Retrieved 2011-06-07. 
  5. ^ Upham, Warren (2001). Minnesota Place Names, A Geographical Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition. Saint Paul, Minnesota: Minnesota Historical Society. pp. 75. ISBN 0-87351-396-7. 
  6. ^ "US Gazetteer files: 2010, 2000, and 1990". United States Census Bureau. 2011-02-12. http://www.census.gov/geo/www/gazetteer/gazette.html. Retrieved 2011-04-23. 
  7. ^ "American FactFinder". United States Census Bureau. http://factfinder2.census.gov/faces/nav/jsf/pages/index.xhtml. Retrieved 2012-6-14. 
  8. ^ Nulph, Scott (May 8, 2007). "Imation closing its doors". Wahperton, ND. Wahpeton, ND. http://www.wahpetondailynews.com/articles/2007/05/08/news/news02.txt. Retrieved October 15, 2010 ComDel Innovations, a contract manufacturer, now utilizing two buildings on the old Imation campus,and Bobcat utilizing the other for valves and cylinders.. 
  9. ^ "Economic Development in Wahpeton". City of Wahpeton. http://www.wahpeton.com/index.asp?Type=B_BASIC&SEC=%7B792046D0-57D2-4AA9-9D91-ED61E6A2B304. 
  10. ^ Summers, Brandon L. (30 August 2010). "Gardeners' Market celebrates success". Wahpeton Daily News. Wahpeton, ND. http://www.wahpetondailynews.com/articles/2010/08/30/news/doc4c76b720abd57659958990.txt. Retrieved October 15, 2010. 

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