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Wahpeton, North Dakota

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Wahpeton /ˈwɑːpɪtən/ WAH-pit-ən is a city in Richland County, in southeastern North Dakota, United States It is located along the Bois de Sioux River at its confluence with the Otter Tail River, forming the Red River of the North Wahpeton is the county seat of Richland County5 The US Census Bureau estimated the city's 2015 population was 7,899

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, located to the east on the other side of the river The Bois de Sioux River and the Otter Tail River join at Wahpeton and Breckenridge to form the Red River of the North

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


  • 1 History
  • 2 Geography
    • 21 Climate
  • 3 Demographics
    • 31 2010 census
    • 32 2000 census
  • 4 Economy
  • 5 Recreation and culture
  • 6 Education
    • 61 Colleges
    • 62 K–12
  • 7 Transportation
  • 8 Notable people
  • 9 References
  • 10 External links


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 This British fort at Mackinaw City, Michigan, protected the passage between Lake Michigan and Lake Huron of the Great Lakes In 1763 the British had extended their reach in Canada after defeating the French in the Seven Years' War

Carver's mission was to find the Northwest Passage, the imagined waterway to the Orient which Rogers and many other explorers of the time believed existed Carver could not find what does not exist His record of exploration helped attract fur traders and other explorers to this territory

More than one hundred years after the Carver expedition, a United States Government surveying party passed through the Wahpeton area With the Civil War over, the government wanted to encourage development in the West 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 had arrived and homesteaded in the Wahpeton area before Blanding arranged his 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 US post office was opened At the same time, the town's name was changed to Chahinkapa, a Lakota Sioux word meaning "the end of the woods" Two years later, the county was organized and named Chahinkapa County

Later that year the county was renamed as Richland County and the town of Chahinkapa renamed as Wahpeton, an adaptation of the Dakota name of the local band of Dakota Indians, the Wakhpetonwan The name in Dakota means "leaf dwellers" They adopted this name at an earlier time when they lived in the vicinity of Lake Mille Lacs, before they were displaced by the Ojibwa and pushed to the west6

Growth of the village of Wahpeton was quite slow during the first few years, but it increased rapidly in 1872 with the completion of a railroad line into Breckenridge, Minnesota, a tiny community just across the Bois de Sioux River The St Paul and Pacific Railway now the Great Northern had entered the region The railroad generated a booming business in flatboat building in both communities Flat boats could carry freight directly from the railroad downriver via the Red River of the North which flowed North to northern parts of the state and all the way to Winnipeg, Canada

The railroad line attracted many more settlers to the area - both migrants from the Eastern United States and new immigrants Germans, Bohemians, Scandinavians, and Native Americans moved to Richland County to file for homesteads In 1874, Jacob Morvin and Joseph Sittarich opened the first retail store in the county in Wahpeton By 1876 the traffic between Wahpeton and Breckenridge had grown past the capacity of the ferry 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 northwest 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 here It made 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, naming it 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 was renamed as 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 reservations and tribes in northern Minnesota, North Dakota, and northern South Dakota It was an Indian boarding school established to assimilate the children to mainstream language, culture and religion In most of such schools, children were required to use English rather than their native languages which were many among these groups, dress in Euro-American style, and practice Christianity


Wahpeton is located at 46°16′12″N 96°36′38″W / 4627000°N 9661056°W / 4627000; -9661056 46269931, −966104637 According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 529 square miles 1370 km2, all of it land1

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 Wahpeton is located near the river's head-waters at the confluence of the Bois de Sioux and


This climatic region is typified by large seasonal temperature differences, with warm to hot and often humid summers and cold sometimes severely cold winters According to the Köppen Climate Classification system, Wahpeton has a humid continental climate, abbreviated "Dfb" on climate maps8


Historical population
1880 400
1890 1,510 2775%
1900 2,228 475%
1910 2,467 107%
1920 3,069 244%
1930 3,176 35%
1940 3,747 180%
1950 5,125 368%
1960 5,876 147%
1970 7,076 204%
1980 9,064 281%
1990 8,751 −35%
2000 8,586 −19%
2010 7,766 −96%
Est 2016 7,830 08%
US Decennial Census9
2015 Estimate10
Dakota Avenue in downtown Wahpeton in 2007

2010 censusedit

As of the census2 of 2010, there were 7,766 people, 3,151 households, and 1,717 families residing in the city The population density was 1,4681 inhabitants per square mile 5668/km2 There were 3,482 housing units at an average density of 6582 per square mile 2541/km2 The racial makeup of the city was 926% White, 13% African American, 31% Native American, 08% Asian, 01% Pacific Islander, 03% from other races, and 18% from two or more races Hispanic or Latino of any race were 20% of the population

There were 3,151 households of which 268% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 407% were married couples living together, 92% had a female householder with no husband present, 46% had a male householder with no wife present, and 455% were non-families 363% of all households were made up of individuals and 117% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older The average household size was 217 and the average family size was 289

The median age in the city was 311 years 203% of residents were under the age of 18; 222% were between the ages of 18 and 24; 205% were from 25 to 44; 245% were from 45 to 64; and 126% were 65 years of age or older The gender makeup of the city was 516% male and 484% female

2000 censusedit

As of the census of 2000, there were 8,586 people, 3,254 households, and 1,867 families residing in the city The population density was 1,7181 per square mile 6630/km² There were 3,492 housing units at an average density of 6988 per square mile 2697/km² The racial makeup of the city was 9547% White, 062% African American, 241% Native American, 043% Asian, 003% Pacific Islander, 012% from other races, and 092% from two or more races Hispanic or Latino of any race were 076% of the population

The top 6 ancestry groups in the city are German 474%, Norwegian 284%, Irish 71%, Swedish 58%, French 40%, English 40%

There were 3,254 households out of which 304% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 453% were married couples living together, 85% had a female householder with no husband present, and 426% were non-families 327% of all households were made up of individuals and 100% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older The average household size was 228 and the average family size was 297

In the city, the population was spread out with 212% under the age of 18, 241% from 18 to 24, 242% from 25 to 44, 175% from 45 to 64, and 130% who were 65 years of age or older The median age was 29 years For every 100 females there were 1098 males For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 1123 males

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 73% of families and 134% of the population were below the poverty line, including 89% of those under age 18 and 104% 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, Cargill, and Wil-Rich

Imation Corporation had operated a production facility in Wahpeton but it was closed in 200911

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, 202612

Recreation and cultureedit

The area attracts outdoorsmen 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 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 Library13

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



  • North Dakota State College of Science


The city of Wahpeton is served by an 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
  • State Class 'A' football: 1930, 1971
  • State Class 'A' boys basketball: 1941, 1944, 1954, 1979
  • State Class 'A' girls basketball: 1986
  • State Class 'A' volleyball: 1985, 1986
  • State Class 'A' girls golf: 1991
  • State Class 'A' wrestling: 2007
  • State Class 'A' girls indoor track and field: 1999


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

Notable peopleedit

  • Art Anderson, former NFL football player
  • Sam Anderson, actor
  • Anna Astvatsaturian Turcotte, Armenian-American writer
  • Louise Erdrich, Native American author
  • Rose Thompson Hovick, inspired "Rose" character of musical Gypsy
  • Woodrow W Keeble, World War II and Korean War era Medal of Honor recipient
  • Porter J McCumber, former senator
  • Jerome G Miller, correctional institution reformer
  • Steve Myhra, former placekicker for the Baltimore Colts
  • William E Purcell, former senator
  • David Richman, North Dakota State men's basketball head coach
  • Mary Shaw Shorb, research scientist
  • Ryan Smith, wide receiver, Winnipeg Blue Bombers
  • Russell T Thane, long-time state senator
  • John Wall, North Dakota educator and politician
  • Clark Williams, state legislator


  1. ^ a b "US Gazetteer files 2010" United States Census Bureau Retrieved June 14, 2012 
  2. ^ a b "American FactFinder" United States Census Bureau Retrieved June 14, 2012 
  3. ^ a b "Population and Housing Unit Estimates" Retrieved June 9, 2017 
  4. ^ "US Board on Geographic Names" United States Geological Survey October 25, 2007 Retrieved January 31, 2008 
  5. ^ "Find a County" National Association of Counties Retrieved June 7, 2011 
  6. ^ Upham, Warren 2001 Minnesota Place Names, A Geographical Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition Saint Paul, Minnesota: Minnesota Historical Society p 75 ISBN 0-87351-396-7 
  7. ^ "US Gazetteer files: 2010, 2000, and 1990" United States Census Bureau February 12, 2011 Retrieved April 23, 2011 
  8. ^ Climate Summary for Wahpeton, North Dakota
  9. ^ United States Census Bureau "Census of Population and Housing" Retrieved July 13, 2013 
  10. ^ "Population Estimates" United States Census Bureau Retrieved June 1, 2016 
  11. ^ Nulph, Scott May 8, 2007 "Imation closing its doors" wahpetondailynewscom Wahpeton Retrieved October 15, 2010 
  12. ^ "Economic Development in Wahpeton" City of Wahpeton 
  13. ^ Summers, Brandon L August 30, 2010 "Gardeners' Market celebrates success" Wahpeton Daily News Wahpeton, ND Retrieved October 15, 2010 

External linksedit

Media related to Wahpeton, North Dakota at Wikimedia Commons

  • City of Wahpeton
  • Wahpeton Public Schools
  • Wahpeton Events Calendar
  • A history of Richland County and the city of Wahpeton, North Dakota 1938 from the Digital Horizons website

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