Located in Northwestern Minnesota Moorhead is the largest city in Clay County Owing much of its growth to the local railway system and the man who fought to bring it here.
Solomon Comstock was really important to the community he used his political influence to back Moorhead all throughout the period He was a powerful man with his influence of James J. Hill and the Great Northern Railway he is a very very early resident arrived with the railroad basically in the Fall of 1871.
He's working as a track hand He was laying rail basically in order to get a free ride out here to the west where he could develop a law practice and establish himself, and he certainly did so.
Disappointed with his work in the St. Paul district attorney's office Comstock decided to follow the growing railroad out west here he and other travelers found themselves subjected to less than savory conditions Sleeping in run down tents navigating muddy track ridden roads and potentially becoming victims of the city's rowdy nightlife.
during the following decade Moorhead began to develop from a railroad boomtown to a stable trading center The tents were gone and old wooden buildings were replaced with sturdier brick Northern Pacific the railroad company in control at the time settled a dispute with the residents of Moorhead over Mud Creek. A stagnant Open-Air sewer near the railroad.
Mud Creek left many citizens complaining about the eyesore until 1878, when Northern Pacific agreed to fill the area with gravel if the city built a culvert.
But this was only the beginning of the coming changes.
With roads still unpaved and no middle class whatsoever moorhead still had a long way to go.
Fortunately there was a new partnership on the horizon that would help bolster the town's economy.
With his political career taking off, Comstock was elected to the Minnesota house of representatives in 1875.
It was during this time he met one of the most influential men in the state James J. Hill.
Hill was always involved in transportation, and he made money every time he turned around. He was involved in shipping furs and fur trade goods between St.
Paul and the Red River settlements where Winnipeg is located now. They came up on Red River carts, and he handled the St.
Paul end of that business a year or so later the Northern Pacific railway arrived and put the Red River carts out of business.
He was in a position to Ship stuff from Moorhead to Winnipeg on a steamboat. He cost him thousands and thousands of dollars to build that steamboat But he made back his entire expense the first trip and just made money hand over fist after that At the time hill was attempting to gain control of the bankrupt, St.
Paul and Pacific railroad a task that he believed Comstock could help him with. From then on Comstock would help Hill with his growing business especially when it came to Hill's biggest competition the Northern Pacific Railroad.
Keeping an eye on the competition for him Comstock made certain to inform his new business partner of all Northern Pacific's movements as well as Suggesting alternate lines in order to undercut his opponents. As shady as their deals appeared almost everything Comstock did was with Moorhead in mind, including the exaggerations he gave Hill when it came to the area's resources or that the Red River could have 25 steamboats operating constantly.
After the introduction of dredging. A doubtful claim at best, but Comstock would do anything to convince Hill to bring the railroad to Moorhead Well James J. Hill who was in charge of what became the Great Northern Railway that was the second railroad that entered Moorhead in 1880 and that was a huge development it provided a second means of transportation and provided actually a little bit of competition for the Northern Pacific Railway of course the development of the railroads going North and South out of Moorhead also down toward Breckenridge and north up toward Ada in that direction Also brought a lot of wealth into the community. the year was 1882, Moorhead had great economic potential and Solomon Comstock had made his fortune.
This he thought was the perfect time to build a home unlike any other.
The apex of residential Architecture in the area the Comstock House Comstock realized the importance of location when it came to his new home.
It had to be on a high point to protect it against the Red River's annual floods and it also had to be far away from the infamous saloon district known far and wide for its lawlessness.
With those things in mind construction of the house began in July of 1882 on the third block of the expanding Highland Addition.
After the floods of 1881 and 1882 Most of the wealthier people that had lived say for instance where the Hjemkomst Center sits today Like Solomon Comstock had moved to higher, dryer, more fashionable parts of town, so the areas right along the river slowly became Or middle class and lower middle-class and Working-class neighborhoods At the cost of $45,000 Comstock's house was the most expensive and lavish building on the block.
Everything inside, lumber, brick, glass all had to be of the highest quality or it would be removed at the cost of the contractor.
Each room contained a different species, of wood as well as different wallpaper all chosen with an immense amount of care.
The home itself was filled with Asian-themed motifs landscape paintings and several maps.
showcasing comstock's love of cartography. The size of the Comstock House was definitely atypical for the time.
You should remember back in the 1870s. They were still living out of tents so having this home That's an 11-room. 2-story home less than a decade later is definitely a huge feet.
there's a lot [of] unique details in the house such as the the black walnut that is throughout the house the Doorknobs are really intricately set up there's all sorts of carvings in them, a lot of the glass work in the house is definitely beautiful and Was an extra expense you can see then the parquet floors in the dining room were just more eccentric and cost more money and took more time to put in so there was a lot more effort that went into this home than a lot of other homes in the area especially at that time. After the hopeful year of 1882 things began to dim for the growing city But that did not stop Comstock's efforts to aid the economy. He began even more projects to include investing in the First National Bank of Moorhead where he became a director and other less profitable businesses such as, Moorhead foundry, car and agricultural works.
Founded in 1882 it was meant to serve many needs in Moorhead Unfortunately due to the railroad that comstock had worked so hard on cheaper goods could be manufactured elsewhere and the business eventually closed.
Comstock also attempted to build a grand hotel and railway station.
This plan to fell through and was considered one of the biggest business failures of the time.
Still it stemmed from Comstock's desire to make moorhead a better community which garnered him respect.
Also in 1882 lot prices in Moorhead plummeted they went down so they were competitive with Fargo and as a result people thought there was gonna be lots and lots of people will [be] in the community well They didn't moved it in community They stayed away.
It's ironic the thea the county went through one of its its fastest growth periods in terms of population in the county's history But Moorhead between 1885 and 1890 actually lost population.
Education was also important to Comstock.
He donated six acres of land while standing as director for the founding of Bishop Whipple School which eventually became Concordia College.
The city of Moorhead was still growing. So much so that it needed a fourth school. In 1885, Governor Henry Sibley passed the Moorhead normal school Act and Comstock donated another six acres of land to the construction of the new school.
This would turn out to be Comstock's greatest contribution to his town naming him the father of Moorhead Normal School This school eventually transformed into what the community knows as Minnesota State University-Moorhead.
That wasn't completely altruistic on Comstock's part. He was a land developer and a speculator.
He owned a lot of the land between downtown Moorhead and the site for the college is going to be built he thought that If the college was built out there southeast of town the city my girl in that direction and then his property would increase in value be able to sell it for a greater price.
But for the most part he did tremendous things for the community.
Solomon's wife Sarah Comstock, decided Moorhead needed a public library. In 1906 the Library opened with Sarah as the president.
Unfortunately the library was demolished in 1963.
Solomon Comstock passed away on Jun, 3rd 1933, but his legacy continues today reflected by the prosperity of the still growing community of Moorhead Though some of his ventures failed, and many of his constructs have since disappeared from the landscape, his dedication to his beloved city is evident whenever a train passes through, or a new class graduates from one of the many local schools.