Moorhead was founded in 1871 and is named after William G. Moorhead (1811-1895), a director of the Northern Pacific Railway. The railway provided the stimulus for economic and population growth in the Moorhead area. Individuals moved west to take advantage of the Homestead Act, through which they were given acreage of property in exchange for farming the land and making their home in the area.

The Red River of the North served as a transfer point for goods and passengers between the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul and Winnipeg, Manitoba. Goods were hauled by oxcart from St. Cloud, Minnesota, to Moorhead, then loaded onto riverboats for the journey north on the Red River.

Moorhead was officially incorporated in 1881, and later that same decade added electric, water, sewer, fire and police services. That's also when Moorhead developed a reputation as "Sin City," with more than 100 bars at a time when neighboring Fargo, ND did not allow the sale of alcohol.

Today, Moorhead is still considered a transcontinental crossing. Interstates I-94 and I-29 intersect just west of the city limits. While distribution and transfer industries remain a vital part of our business environment, education and service industries have played an increasingly important role.

Additional History

You can find out more about Moorhead’s history at the Historical & Cultural Society of Clay County.