Bill & Minnie Christianson

William "Bill" Alfred Christianson is though to be the first person to come to live in Granville, North Dakota. He came to Granville on April 26, 1895 as the first Granville agent for the Great Northern Railroad. Jim Hill, president of the Great Northern Railroad, referred to Christianson as a "farmer-agent".

Christianson was born in Frontenac, Minnesota in 1872, the oldest of six children. His parents were Christian and Dora Henning Christianson. He was baptized in the Episcopal Church in May of 1873 although, in Granville, he would later affiliate with the Hope Congregational Church, serving as its trustee from 1910 to 1923, and as church treasurer from 1926 to 1931.

His father was born in Norway, and his mother was of German heritage, which was a good match for the Granville area, as McHenry County was largely populated by German and Norwegian immigrants.

The Henning family had come to Red Wing, Minnesota by steamboat prior to the American Civil War. Bill's father was a railroader who became a maintenance foreman and roadmaster for the Milwaukee Railway at Red Wing. As a boy, Bill worked as a keeper of the time and material books for extra gangs on the railroad and, in 1890, he found work as operator on the Milwaukee Railway at the old McAlester station between Minneapolis and St. Paul.

The next five years, he worked for the Northern Pacific Railroad, the Great Northern Railroad, and Wisconsin Central Railroad in Ashland, Wisconsin; Bessemer, Michigan; and Chelsea, Wisconsin.

Bill Christianson came to Granville to be an operator for the Great Northern Railway, and enjoyed an unbroken record of employment with that company for forty-five years. Upon his arrival, he initially lived in a rail car, then built a section house, one room of which was used as an office.

The railroad industry was yet new, and it was largely through the railroad that the prairies of North Dakota were settled. Large railroad work crews came with men and horses to lay track, working through all kinds of weather. Tools, machinery and supplies were shipped in by rail.


The Granville, North Dakota railroad depot was a busy place. Bill Christianson worked 12-14 hour days, and was on call twenty-four hours a day. There were always trains in Granville. In the 1910s and 1920s, ten passenger trains and an average of eighteen freight trains passed through Granville every day.

Before he was married, Bill Christianson was feeding large railroad crews who were working in the Granville area. Although the Great Northern provided a cook, Christianson was the planner, and the one who made the arrangements for the food and supplies.

Initially, he was paid $40 a month by the railroad. Not long after his arrival, he was offered the job of postmaster. For that additional job, he earned the amount of stamp cancellation, so Bill encouraged the cowboys and ranchers of the Mouse River Valley to write home.

In the early years of Granville, garden seeds were often sent by campaigning politicians. Bill Christianson began planting vegetables along the railroad right of way on both sides of the track.

Bill was also a dancer. He had attended dancing school in Ashland, Wisconsin, and he enjoyed waltzes, polkas and square dances. He had been a square dance caller at the Calumet Club in Ashland. Whenever possible, he rode horseback to dances in the Mouse River Valley.

Bill's marriage to Miss Minnie Anderson took place in Hastings, Minnesota on June 22, 1898. She was born in Hastings on June 22, 1873 to Aaron and Christina Carlson Anderson, both Swedish immigrants. Prior to her marriage to Bill, she had taught high school in Hastings.


As Mrs. Bill Christianson, she was the first woman to live in Granville. She sometimes prepared as many as two hundred pancakes in one morning for breakfasting railroad workers. Indians also visited the Christianson home, or became acquaintances of the Christiansons as they camped beside Buffalo Lodge Lake. Bill made friends of Chief Rising Sun, from the Turtle Mountain region, and often visited their camp. Once, when a passenger train struck a herd of cattle near Granville, killing thirty-four steers, Bill notified the Indians to come and take the meat.

In 1899, Bill wrote to C.A. Stubbins at Britt, Iowa, telling him of opportunities to be found in Granville. Stubbins came to see for himself, and remained as one of Granville's early businessmen. Other settlers arrived in large numbers, the peak years being 1900, 1901 and 1902. The Great Northern built a spur track for immigrant cars and, in 1901, four hundred and eighty-three cars of immigrants arrived in Granville, many of them staying to help build the town.

The Christiansons gave birth to two children. Their daughter, Vivian Merle, became Mrs. Marilyn R. Young, and their son was Ivan Delwin Christianson. The Christiansons homesteaded three miles south and a mile east of Granville, on the edge of Carvers Lake. Bill Christianson drove by buggy and on horseback to and from his job at the railroad depot until his homestead claim was proven, and then the family moved into the section house on the north side of the main track. Vivian was born on the homestead, while Ivan was born in the section house.

In 1908, they bought a house in town, four blocks east of the bank building, residing there until they moved to Buffalo Creek Ranch in 1922, where they remained until their deaths, after which their son inherited the ranch.

In 1905, Mrs. Christianson became cashier at the railroad depot, replacing James Legg, who left to take an agent position with the Soo Line Railroad. Trained as a bookkeeper and teacher, Mrs. Christianson did well in that position. Her job included the collection of freight charges.

Jim Hill, the president of Great Northern, gave Bill Christianson the title, farmer-agent, as his tasks included encouraging farmers to raise more cows and hay, to supplement the shipments of grain that were being shipped out of Granville.

Christianson also became a cattle rancher, buying his first herd of cattle, Red Polls, in 1898. That fall, Christianson shipped the first carload of stock from his ranch. His brand was W over X.

In 1915, in order to encourage the raising of dual purpose cattle, Jim Hill organized the American Milking Shorthorn Breeders Association, to which Christianson was elected to its first board of directors. An imported Shorthorn bull was placed on Christianson's farm. In 1921, Bill Christianson helped organize a potato growers association in Granville.

Bill Christianson was a past master of Ashlar Lodge No. 69 of the Ancient Free and Accepted Masons (A.F. & A.M), and was the first Mason with that Order in Granville after the Lodge was established in 1903. He also served as its treasurer for fourteen years.

He was a charter member of Granville Chapter No. 47, Order of the Eastern Star, and was active in the formation of the original Granville Commercial Club, and in its reorganization as the Granville Community Club, serving as its president for three years.

Bill Christianson was a director of the Highway No. 2 Association, the McHenry County Director of the Greater North Dakota Association, and a long-time member of the Order of Railroad Telegraphers. When the government weather station was established at Granville in 1908, Bill Christianson was named the cooperative weather man, a position he held for thirty-three years, until his death in 1941.

Politically, he was a Republican.

Mrs. Christianson was known as "Min" to the Granville community. She worked as cashier and clerk of the Granville Railroad Depot from 1905 until her retirement in 1940. She was Sunday School Superintendent for seven years, and church treasurer for twelve years. She also served as worthy matron of the Granville Chapter No. 47 Order of the Eastern Star in 1907, 1908 and 1909. A charter member of the Order, she was awarded a life membership.

The Christiansons' close friends included Clayton Stubbins, Dr. F.K. Kolbs, Albert Simonsons, Dick Richardsons, and Fred Robles, all part of an informal group they referred to as the Pioneers, all being early settlers of the Granville, North Dakota community.

Their son, Ivan, also worked for the Great Northern Railroad, making three generations of railroaders. He married Sarah Love Ehart in 1935. Together, they were the parents of four children, who included Joan Love Christianson, Mary Ehart Carlson, William Ehart Christianson, and Bruce Ivan Christianson.

Their daugher, Vivian, married Marlyn R. Young in 1925, shortly after her graduation from Valley City Teachers College. She taught at the college and in rural schools around Granville, as well as in the Granville Public School. The Youngs had one daughter, Bette Merle, who married Kenneth P. Haugan of Minot, later moving to Tulsa, Oklahoma.

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