Bonanzaville – Back Home in Fargo

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West Fargo, North Dakota

Ah, Fargo. We are home again. The last four years, we spent at least part of the winter in the warmth of the Arizona sunshine. My blog features much of the natural beauty of that state. Like a man with a new love affair, it seems Arizona is all I have to write about and photograph.

For the most part, I’ve ignored the state of my birth and our home for the past 37 years. It’s about time that I focus my blog on North Dakota. I can’t promise that every Travel Tuesday post will be about North Dakota. We do have some travel plans to nearby states this summer, but I want to focus on North Dakota this summer and show my readers why I chose North Dakota as my home state… even though I’m not much for winters and run south with the first snow fall.

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One of the stock jokes about the state is that the “Indian Wars” are still an issue and that the Wells Fargo stage stops daily to pick up its load of mail and passengers headed west. Obviously those days are gone, but if you come to the growing community of West Fargo, you can relive some of those days of yesteryear courtesy of the Cass County Historical Society. This week, Travel Tuesday visits Bonanzaville, a 12-acre (48562 sq. meter) pioneer village containing over 40 historic buildings and thousands of historical artifacts.

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Bonanzaville takes its name from the bonanza farms that, between 1875 and 1890, were created from the sale of Northern Pacific Railroad land. The farms, located in eastern North Dakota and western Minnesota mostly along the Red River Valley, grew vast amounts of wheat. Investor run farms operated with local managers, cheap farm laborers and the latest in mechanized farming. By the 1920s, the over-taxed land all but lost production capacity and the bonanza farms faded into history.

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Bonanzaville’s 12 acres are laid out into streets along which visitors can stroll and view the collection of buildings brought in from around the region. Many of the buildings are open and furnished with period museum pieces. In fact, the day we visited, a cool October afternoon, the buildings were closed. However the historical society held an auction. They sold excess antiques. In the gallery accompanying this post, I have photos of a few items being offered for sale that day. Small crowds called out bids enthusiastically on the available items offered in multiple locations by a small group of auctioneers..

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The Cass County Historical Society has created several museums within the pioneer village. Inside some of the buildings a visitor can find the Eugene Dahl Car Museum, the Law Enforcement Museum, the Eagles Air Museum and several others. The Pioneer Village is open from May to October and the Cass County Museum building features displays of Native American and bonanza farm artifacts among its collection. Located just off I-94 in West Fargo, and a short detour off I-29, travelers through the state would find Bonanzaville a worthwhile stop on their travel. Plan to spend much of a day exploring the artifacts and visiting the pioneer village. You can read more about Bonanzaville and the Cass County Historical Society here.

 

John Steiner

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