Trails, Roads and Highways

Before Griggs County was settled there were two well-known trails through the area.  The Fort Totten trail came southward from Ft. Totten, near Devils Lake, along the west side of the Sheyenne to Fort Ransom, passing west of Valley City.  Edward H. Lohnes, a soldier, helped erect temporary buildings at Fort Totten about 1868.  After his discharge from the service in 1870, he returned to Fort Totten and carried mail between the Fort and Sibley's Crossing on the Sheyenne.  He used ponies in the summer time and a dog sleigh in the winter.

The Sibley trail had been formed in 1863 when General Sibley€™s expedition came from Ft.  Abercrombie and built a temporary camp, known as Camp Atchison, about two miles south of the present town of Binford.  It crossed the Sheyenne at Ashtabula and passed east of Valley City.

After the surveyors came in the early eighties the roads followed the Section lines and ran east and west or north and south wherever possible.  Low areas were filled in with horses and scrapers and large bodies of water were bypassed.  Snow removal was no problem the first years as the snow-road became packed and built up by the horses and sleighs and the wind blew the snow across these high roads.

There were no bridges the first three years of the county's existence.  Not until the fall of 1883 was the first public bridge built over the Sheyenne River.  It was known as the Fluto Bridge as Amund Fluto had homesteaded nearby.  The present bridge on Highway 200 is close to the location of the original bridge.  T.T. Fuglestad and Emil Krogsgaard were among the local men working on the fill east of the bridge.  They were paid 15 cents per yard using their wheelbarrows and spades.

Prior to the building of the bridge the farmers along the river had located the most suitable places to ford the river, these usually had graveled bottoms and gentle sloping banks on both sides.  One crossing in Sverdrup Township, on the road between Cooperstown and Hope, was called Peddler's crossing because Arne Luckason, who used to peddle goods among the settlers, lived near the crossing.  Another good crossing was near Mardell in Washburn Township.  The town of Mardell had its best business before the Fluto Bridge was built.

A few years after the turn of the century, automobiles came upon the scene.  The first ones were not used in the winter to any extent.  These were touring cars, which came with side-curtains to be snapped in place when the passengers were caught in a rainstorm, and also helped a little in cold weather.  Glass enclosed sedans were not in common use until the 1920's.  The first ones had trouble with broken glass as the tires carried more air pressure and the spring system did not provide for the smoothest ride.

A great improvement in transportation came when the state highways were built through the county.  Highway Number One provided a good north and south route while Number Seven, now known as Two Hundred, provided a good east and west route.

Three different roads leading up the east side of the Sheyenne river valley are still visible on the south side of the present blacktopped road on Highway 200.  The first one on the south side was used by horses, the second one about World War I days and the road farthest south was used until World War 11 days when the present road was built.  This last one shortened the road going east by about two miles, as the previous one had been built two miles farther southeast of the river, before it turned north to continue east in Steele County.

For a number of years prior to World War 11, and after the war, Cooperstown had good bus service to Fargo on a daily basis.  Fred Oakley, a competent driver, drove this bus for a long time and later served as rural mail carrier out of Cooperstown.  Mr. and Mrs. Oakley continue to make their home in Cooperstown.

With the increased year-around use by motor vehicles the graveled highways were blacktopped to withstand the heavy traffic.  Snow removal equipment has been greatly improved since World War 11 days and the roads also built with the winter travel in mind.  When highway seven was first built through the valley horsepower was used.  Mr. Hans Skramstad had the contract and with horses and smaller equipment the present large fills were not attempted.

The last few years one of the great changes has been the large trucks, especially those hauling grain to the terminals, Farm trucks have more than doubled in capacity with doubled-axle trucks carrying 600 bushels quite common.  Most bridges off the highway are not built for these loads and have a load limit placed on them.

Since the 1930's most livestock has been transported by trucks.  First it was farm trucks, but soon commercial haulers with bigger and better trucks, loading equipment and insured coverage, took over most of the business.  The last few years there has been a large increase in the use of cattle trailers drawn by farm pickups, especially to the local veterinarians, for treatment of farm livestock.  Merchandise, of all kinds, is delivered by motor vehicles, which rely heavily on well-maintained highways.  Many of these use the highways on a daily schedule, such as the bread trucks and postal service.

With the reorganized school districts, buses haul the elementary and high school pupils a long distance.  It is the responsibility of the Township officers to see that the township roads are plowed open as soon as possible after a snowstorm for the safety of the children.  Consolidation has also taken place on many rural mail routes and the carriers have seen their routes doubled in some instances.  With bus roads and mail routes kept open nearly all farm families are able to get to their town whenever they wish.  Only a few days in a winter does the weather prevent mail delivery and school attendance.

Source: Cooperstown, North Dakota 1882-1982 Centennial Page 244

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