Dakota Datebook

German Immigrants 1929

Thursday, April 10, 2014


From the 1870s to the second decade of the 20th Century, North Dakota saw a huge immigration of settlers to occupy the free land available under the Homestead Act.  That changed after World War I when the post-war prosperity peaked and farm prices fell, leading to an-out migration of families.  Bank failures in North Dakota and farm mortgage foreclosures were on the rise.  To offset this decline, the Northern Investment Company, under the direction of Col. Joseph Kelly in Benson and Ramsey Counties, once again encouraged  Northern Europeans to settle in North Dakota.


On this date in 1928, a group of German settlers arrived to take up residence on a farm two miles south of the community of Knox.  George Hofrichter, his wife Margaret and their five children, along with Margaret’s sister, had come from Bavaria, Germany, landing at the Port of New York, on April 3rd.   They were to be the first of ten to twelve families recruited for the Knox area of Benson County.  These families were granted preferred immigration status since they had an allotted amount of money and were going into farming.


The earlier immigrants had come in search of the free land, but these recent arrivals were well educated, prominent, prosperous individuals who purchased the land for farming purposes. They were seeking a better living for themselves and came to escape the high taxes and worsening political and social situation in post-war Germany.   Hofrichter’s land in Germany amounted to only 100 acres, but with the sale of that farm he was able to purchase 320 acres, a house with several farm buildings, livestock and the necessary farming equipment to get started in North Dakota.


But the Land of Opportunity was to prove difficult for the new arrivals.  The crop in 1929 was good, but due to the national depression, the price of wheat dropped to  27¢ per bushel.  This was followed by several years of poor crops and by 1934 the clouds of dust choked off all hope of prosperity.  Like thousands of other drought stricken farmers, most of these families made their way to the West Coast to the begin again.  Hitler’s rise to power had made it impossible for them to stay in Germany, but economic conditions and the drought had made their dreams, like the prairie winds, difficult to capture.


Dakota Datebook written by Jim Davis




Devils Lake Daily Journal April 10, 1928

Know Area History by Thomas Newgard, 1977

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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