Date of Award

Winter 12-1-1987

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)




The Northern Dakota Railway Company 's (NDRC) story began in 1891. In that year a young professor from the University of North Dakota, E . J. Babcock, started searching the Pembina Hills of northeastern North Dakota for minerals. Along the Tongue River he discovered cement clays that he believed had enough of the natural ingredients to make Portland cement. Babcock enlisted the aid of the president of the University of North Dakota, Webster Merrifield, to help him develop a cement industry. The two, along with John Macnie and J. Montgomery Sears, put up capital to buy the land and build the facilities at the cement mines for making Portland cement. Their organization , the Pembina Portland Cement Company (PPCCl, was incorporated in October 1899. The company was in business only a short while when it experienced difficulties locating enough of the proper ingredients to make Portland cement . Tunneling into the hillside failed to work. By July 1900 PPCC no longer produced Portland cement but did make an inferior hydraulic cement. With less demand for this product, it became more unsalable. The PPCC believed, however, the building of a railroad from Edinburg to the cement mines (about 22 miles) would save the PPCC. In 1908 the PPCC's new owners,

Thomas Campbell and Daniel Bull, succeeded in getting the railroad built. But within ten months of the railroad's completion, its main projected source of revenue, the cement mines, shut down for good. At this time Bu~l resigned his positions with the NDRC and associated cement enterprises and left for Seattle, Washington. Thomas Campbell stayed on until 1910. Left to save itself and now dependent on local produce (mostly farm related), the NDRC struggled on for another ten years until it made its last run in November 1919. Although the demise of the cement operation sealed the doom of the NDRC , other factors contributed to the railroad's failure: inadequate equipment, rough terrain, high property taxes, poor service, undercapitalization, marginal farm land, and severe weather. In 1908 the NDRC signed a promi ssory note with the Great Northern Railway Company (GN) for construction. The NDRC failed to make any payments in the time allotted to it (ten years). In 1919 the Minneapolis Trust Company, the owner of a deed of trust for GN against the NDRC , initiated foreclosure act ions against the NDRC. After much wrangling, the NDRC's property was sold to the A. Guthrie and Company which tore up the NDRC's tracks in 1922. The NDRC passed into history.