Dakota Datebook

Horse Manure Problems in Grand Forks

Tuesday, April 8, 2014


Modern people think of spring as the season of fresh air and flowers blooming and lovely breezes wafting through budding trees after the snows of winter have fully melted away.  But those who lived in cities prior to 1910 had to consider other aromas of spring.

Although numerous citizens walked or used bicycles or electric streetcars,  horses still provided the bulk of the transportation, pulling wagons, carriages and carrying people around town.

Grand Forks County had a population of 18,357 in 1890 with a total of 14,833 horses, and the city of Grand Forks had 4,979 people, so plenty of families in town had horses, which required a carriage house with storage space for hay, straw and carriage, along with box stalls for the horses.

Horses produced large amounts of manure.  A horse weighing one-thousand pounds excreted about fifty pounds of manure daily, thus yielding over EIGHT TONS OF MANURE PER YEAR.

The straw used for bedding soaked up waste products at a rate of about ten pounds per day, but when horses moved around the city, they deposited manure on street pavements, so that a pedestrian had to watch his step on city avenues.  The city hired sanitation workers to sweep the streets of manure and other garbage.

During a long winter, manure piles from stables arose in backyards and alleys.  When frozen, the piles were not terribly odiferous. When spring arrived, however, the stench of thawing stable waste colored the air.

On this date in 1893, the City Health Officer, a man by the name of J.R. Logan, issued a public notice for the annual spring cleanup.  Logan informed all citizens that they had to “thoroughly clean their alleys and out-premises of all ashes, manure and other garbage,” and remove all waste to the “city dumping ground,” located on Skidmore Avenue on the north side. Those who failed to comply within five days would have to pay a fine to cover the cost of “a corps of scavengers” employed by the city to cart away “all offensive deposits.”


Dakota Datebook written by Dr. Steve Hoffbeck, History Department, MSU Moorhead.


Sources:  “Notice; April 6, 1893,” Grand Forks Herald, April 8, 1893, p. 5.

“Notice to Clean Up,” Grand Forks Herald, April 8, 1900, p. 7.

“Dr. Taylor,” Grand Forks Herald, April 15, 1899, p. 7.

“Dumping Grounds,” Grand Forks Herald, March 18, 1887, p. 4.

“Will Be Arrested,” Grand Forks Herald, March 12, 1887, p. 1.

Population in “North Dakota,” in Indexed Atlas of the World (Chicago: Rand, McNally & Co., 1895), p. 424.

Crystal Smith, “Horse Manure Management,” Virginia Cooperative Extension, Virginia Tech, http://pubs.ext.vt.edu/406/406-208/406-208.html, accessed on March 8, 2014.


This text and audio may not be copied without securing prior permission from Prairie Public.

Dakota Datebook is a project of Prairie Public, in partnership with the State Historical Society of North Dakota, with funding from the North Dakota Humanities Council.

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