Skip to content
2013 Centennial

Erik Ramstad

Erik Ramstad and his brother, Peder, arrived in the United States from their homeland of Norway in 1880. Their dream was to acquire land and farm, something that would have been impossible for them had they remained in Norway. Once in the United States, the young men slowly moved across the country until they reached the Norwegian community in Albert Lea, Minnesota. However, most of the good land had already been spoken for. So, once again, Ramstad looked west, this time, to the small town of Grafton, west of the Red River, in the Dakota Territory. It was here that he met and married his first wife, Oline Gullson. But Ramstad was again dissatisfied with the land and opportunities. Before the spring of 1883, the Ramstadís heard rumors of open land along the Mouse River some 300 miles further west on central plains of the Dakota Territory. Erik, his wife Oline, and his brother Peder acquired an ox, wagon, and supplies and headed west.

The journey took approximately three weeks and on June 15, 1883 the small group reached the southern edge of the Mouse River Valley at present day Minot. Descending into the valley, they found no other settlers or squatters in the area. They cleared land and built their first cabin in the vicinity of the present day BNSF work station. Erik eventually filled claims for 160 acres on both the south and north sides of the Mouse River. His brother Peder, settled further east in the vicinity of present day Roosevelt Park.

In 1886, when approached by land agents of Jim Hillís Great Northern railroad, Ramstad sold 40 acres of his land on the south side of the river for the railroadís right way across his property. In 1887, the Great Northern Railroad crossed the Mouse River onto the site. Being late in the season, the railroad made the location its winter site, and began building an immense storage yard for the 1888 construction season which would cross over into the Montana Territory. A bustling, rowdy community with a population of nearly 5,000 soon resulted. Overlooking his map, Jim Hill contemplated the name for the new town and settled on Minot, after a vice president of one his railroad companies.

Over the next forty years, Ramstad became recognized as the founder of the city. He was involved in community realty and banking and became a wealthy businessman. As a philanthropist, he donated land to various causes including the site of Minot First Lutheran Church, the First Lutheran Church Cemetery, and McKinley School in northeast Minot. In 1912, he became involved in the battle over the future site for the recently funded State Normal School in Minot. A total of four other competitors wanted the school located on their properties and the debate on the location, nearly resulted in the cancellation of construction. Ramstad intervened and offered 60 acres free to the state. After a city vote, recognized by the State Board, the Ramstad site won as the preferred location. Construction started in 1912 and was completed in the early months of 1914.

Ramstad continued as an active member of the Minot community until his death in 1951. He is buried in the First Lutheran Church Cemetery, located on the northeast corner of the campus, on land he donated.