Walsh County, North Dakota
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Medford Township

In June of 1879, when the township was surveyed, Josiah Sanborn was the only squatter in what was to become Medford Township. The first filing was made June 3, 1881, and the township was organized in November of 1882. The organizers were: Augustus Kellogg, Josiah Sanborn, Daniel McKeith, Jr., John Byfield, Bertram Carpenter, Lyman Brandt, Frank Worthing, and Smith Johnson.

The first settlers came from Iowa, Wisconsin and Eastern Canada. When the community was opened for settlement in 1883, all the land claims were filed upon within the year. Some settlers were single, others married with their families and all their belongings in covered wagons and perhaps driving along some cattle. Some settled in the woodland areas near the river, and others chose the wide open prairie.

Distance to market and for provisions proved to be a hardship. Some settlers went to Minto, others to Grand Forks. Some carried on their backs as much as 100 pounds of flour on their return home. Thankfully, building of the Great Northern Railway finally reached Medford Township in 1905. The route was expanded in 1911 when the Soo Line opened a route as far as Devils Lake. This line included a passenger train as well as freight for a time.

The plat map of 1893 shows the first post office of Toma located in section 30 of Medford Township. But by 1905 Toma post office had disappeared and the town of Medford was founded in section 26. The post office was at the home of Sherburn Worthing. As the first postmaster, Mr. Worthing named the post office for his hometown of Medford, Minnesota. Later, a rural post office, Belleville, was created. Medford and Belleville post offices merged in 1907.

Medford changed its name to Fordville officially on July 1, 1910, to end confusion with the station of Medford, MN. The new name was coined from MedFORD and BelleVILLE. The FORDVILLE post office adopted the new name on May 21, 1910 during the term of postmaster William J. Henry.

The village of Fordville incorporated in 1911 with Karl Isackson as mayor. It is the eastern terminus of the Drake-Fordville Line. The Zip Code is 58231, and a peak population of 442 was reported in 1930.

Two local farm boys, William and Daugol (Bill and Dud) sons of James Henry, pioneers of the area, decided to establish a general store on a site which later became Main Street of the town. The first train coming into Medford brought a large amount of merchandise for the newly-planned store.

In the beginning, Josiah Sanborn’s home was used as a community center. The hall in the upper story of his two-story log house was used chiefly for dances and Woodmen Lodge meetings. The polling place was Bertram Carpenter’s general store, established in 1881 and operated for three years. This store was later moved to his brother’s farm in section 15 and used as a barn.

Mr. Alder was the practical nurse in early days in Medford Township. There was a hardware store, livery barn and harness shop. David Robertson was the first blacksmith, and his wife, Edith Jeffry, was one of the first teachers in Medford Township. In 1881, Dr. Madigan came to Medford Township. He lived alone in a dugout in the side of a hill.

The Oak Grove Cemetery of Fordville is located west of Fordville in Section 26. There were three early schools (Districst No. 9, No. 79, and No. 84) in the township.

The only church established in Medford Township in territorial days was Presbyterian. In 1894, the First Presbyterian Church of School District No. 9 was located 3-1/2 miles west of present Fordville. In 1905, as Medford was growing, it was decided to organize a congregation there. The District No. 9 congregation joined with the congregations of Medford and the surrounding community to become the Fordville First Presbyterian Church.

For a time there was a hotel operated by Mr. and Mrs. C.F. Hagness. Robertson Lumber Company had a large yard. This has been discontinued and has become a repair shop known as “The Yard.” The Henry Brothers continued their store until 1920. The post office was located in the store for a time. The store was sold to Mr. and Mrs. George Helgand, who operated it for a time. Now it is the Variety Store.

By 1981, businesses included two local garages, two oil trucks, Village Inn Cafe, two taverns, a fire hall with a modern fire truck, and a very fine ambulance, which served the entire area when called upon. The Order of Odd Fellows and Masonic Lodges had their groups, and there was a Senior Citizen,s Center where the elderly gathered. The Nutrition Program was located in the Citizen’s Center, which prepared noon meals three days a week. There were two active churches (Presyterian and Lutheran). There was also a drug store and a theater for some time.

References:

“Walsh Heritage: A Story of Walsh County and its Pioneers and Their Descendents”. Vol 2, pg 746, and Vol 4, pg 919. Published by Walsh County Historical Society, edited by Mrs. Myrtle Baklee, Grafton, ND, and printed by Associated Printers, Grafton, ND, 58237, Copyright 1976 for volumes 1 and 2, copyright 1981, for volumes 3 and 4.

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