Norwegian immigrant was North Dakota’s biggest landowner

The person reported to be “the largest single landowner in North Dakota,” with 20,000 acres, arrived in northern Dakota Territory penniless and lived in a hole dug into the bank of a river.

By: Curtis Eriksmoen, INFORUM

The person reported to be “the largest single landowner in North Dakota,” with 20,000 acres, arrived in northern Dakota Territory penniless and lived in a hole dug into the bank of a river.

Fingal Enger – through hard work, dedication, thrift and shrewd business dealings – acquired land at a steady rate until his death in 1913. The Winnipeg Free Press reported that he was “the wealthiest Norwegian farmer in North Dakota.”

He arrived from Norway in 1869, barely able to speak English, yet later served as board executive for a college, private school, hospital and bank. He also owned major interests in three grain elevators and was elected to serve four sessions in the North Dakota Senate.

Fingal Gudbrandsen Enger was born Feb. 22, 1846, in Aadalen, in the central interior region of Norway. His father died when he was 3 years old.

As a young man, Enger worked at a nearby combination farm and law office that was run by Mathias Rye, the district chief magistrate. Much of the legal work at the office involved land deeds and title disputes.

By spring 1869, Enger had saved enough money to secure passage on a vessel bound for America. He and his friend Iver Elsrud sailed from Kristiansand to Quebec, Canada. From there, they took a steamboat by way of Lake Huron to the U.S.

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