Madison Square Garden: Northern Pacific Country

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From St. Paul to Carrington on .005 cents a mile.



St. Paul, Minnesota, September 25, 1930


Mr. F. W. DeGuire:


Referring to your request for some information relative to the early day activities of the Immigration Department of the Northern Pacific.


I am sure that we got up something like this for someone you referred to us some time ago, but I do not recall his name and can find no record of it.


The Immigration activities of the Northern pacific were at first very closely allied with those of the Land Department, in the sale and settlement of railroad lands.


Mr. Peter B. Groat was the first General Immigration Agent, coming to the [Northern Pacific] in the [1870s]. He was a veteran of the Civil War. He retired from this work in 1893.


The Northern Pacific is credited with being the first railroad in the country to run an exhibit car, carrying products of the country which it served, such as grains, grasses, fruits, minerals, etc., etc., to the sections in the [E]ast and [M]iddle [W]est from which it was desired to secure settlers. This car was operated for several years and was visited by hundreds of thousands of farmers and others who were interested in seeing what the Northwest – at that time very largely an unknown territory – could produce. That they were satisfied with what they saw is attested by the fact that so many of them decided to cast their lot in the Northwest, where they have made it what it is today.


The first exhibit car was destroyed by fire, and was followed by another in 1910, which ran for a number o years before it was decided, for various reasons, to abandon this form of advertising.


In addition to the exhibits, both cars carried large supplies of advertising matter which were distributed to visitors, and of course names were secured and follow-up work was done among all those who expressed an interest.


In the early days a force of Traveling Immigration Agents held a large number of “school-house meetings” where talks were delivered to assembled farmers on the advantages to be found in the country along the Northern Pacific, and many settlers were secured in this way.


These Traveling Immigration Agents also followed circuses with supplies of literature, which were distributed in the buggies of farmers attending the circuses.


Exhibits were also made a county fairs and literature distributed – a plan which is still followed to some extent.


Considerable colonization work was also done with churches and religious sects, such as the Dunkards. One of the most outstanding colonies was that of the Dunkards at Carrington, N.D., where the Northern Pacific built a church for these people, which is still in use.


Very low railroad fares were made for the benefit of home-seekers and settlers. At one time there was a $2 rate in effect for settlers from St. Paul to Carrington. There was also a $10 rate from St. Paul to the Pacific Coast; and for a number of years a one-way colonist fare of $25 from St. Paul to the Pacific Coast was put into effect for about [six] weeks each Spring and Fall.


Beginning in 1910 a series of large “Land Shows” was held throughout the country, in which the Northern Pacific took a prominent part. These were held chiefly in the large cities, including Omaha, Chicago, St. Paul, Minneapolis, and New York City. At the last New York Land Show the Northern Pacific had about 5,000 square feet of floor space in the old Madison Square Garden.


Following these shows (in which this railroad was only one of a number of exhibitors) the Northern Pacific put on a number of exhibits or shows on its own. A large baggage car was filled with the best exhibit material obtainable and sent to various cites, in which a vacant store room would be rented for about a month. This room was attractively fitted up and the exhibits installed and in this way thousands of people were given an opportunity to see what the Northern Pacific country could produce. These exhibits were productive of excellent results.



University of Montana, Mike and Maureen Mansfield Library, K. Ross Toole Archives, Northern Pacific Collection 128, Box 218, Folder 12.



Byerly, Harry W.

General Immigration Agent, Northern Pacific Railway.

Office: Fifth and Jackson Streets, St. Paul, Minnesota.

Born: Rockingham, Virginia, November 27, 1884.

Son of: Frank A. and Virginia (Lago) Byerly.

Married: Marie Clement, November 21, 1931.

Children: Woodward and Henry C.

Education: Rockingham Military Institute, Bridgewater College.

Entered railway service: 1902 as stenographer and clerk, General Baggage Office. Kansas City Union Depot, serving in this capacity until 1904. His subsequent career has been as follows: 1904-1908, rate clerk, chief rate clerk, and chief clerk, Kansas City, Mexico and Orient (now Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe), Kansas City, Missouri; 1908-1913, chief clerk, Immigration Department, Northern Pacific, St. Paul, Minnesota; 1913-1920, Assistant General Immigration Agent, Northern Pacific, St. Paul, Minnesota; Secretary-Treasurer (1925-1926); Second Vice-President (1926-1927); First Vice-President (1927-1928); President (1928-1929), American Railway Development Association. Methodist, Republican.

Clubs: Calhoun Beach, Hillcrest, Shriner.

Home address: 1693 Portland Avenue, St. Paul, Minnesota.

pp. 91-92



N.A. Who’s Who In Railroading, Tenth Edition. New York: Simmons-Boardman, 1940.

Author: John A. Phillips, III. Title: Tell Tale Extra: Madison Square Garden: Northern Pacific Country. URL:

© February 22, 2001