STRENGTH FROM THE SOIL
The City of Walhalla is one of the earliest settlements in North Dakota and the Upper Midwest. LaVerendrye, an early French explorer, traveled in the Pembina Hills area a full century before other North Dakota areas were settled and explored. As the pressure to move toward western frontiers gained momentum, development of new areas occurred first along the best transportation routes, the rivers in this area. The Red and Pembina Rivers provided the needed transportation for the fur traders and explorers in the early 19th century. It was not until 1845 that Walhalla was established. French and English fur traders, Catholic Missionaries and settlers came in increasing numbers in the 1850s and 1860s to gather the furs, farm land and to convert the Indians to the Catholic religion.
Father Belcourt is credited with establishing the City of Walhalla in 1845, which is about 40 years earlier than the settlement period of most other North Dakota communities. Father Belcourt moved his church school from Pembina to Walhalla due to severe flooding in Pembina. He named the site St. Joseph, which was later changed (in 1871) to Walhalla "Valley of the Gods". St. Joseph served as a temporary county seat of Kittson County, Walsh, Pembina and parts of Cavalier County, when the first divisions of counties was made by the first Dakota Territory legislative session in Yankton, South Dakota, in 1862. Also, in 1862 the Walhalla post office was established.
Norman Kittson, an American Fur Company agent, built a trading post in Walhalla in 1843 to gather the abundant furs from the Indians who trapped in the Pembina Hills. This trading post, the oldest building in North Dakota, is preserved by the State Historical society in Walhalla. Another trading post, located northeast of Walhalla, was established by Antoine Gingras as early as 1844. Gingras worked with Kittson in establishing Walhalla as a major trading area at that early period of North Dakota's history. Another early settler was Charles Cavalier. Cavalier, the first permanent settler in the Dakota Territory, took charge of the trading post in Walhalla in 1854.
In the 1850's and the 1860's the different Indian tribes (Sioux, Chippewa, Cree and Assiniboin) fought amongst themselves and later massacred several groups of early settlers and missionaries. Alsonzo Barnard and D.B. Spenser, who brought the first printing press to Walhalla, along with some other settlers, were killed by Indians in 1852. The mixing of the early French traders and the Indians created a new ethnic group called the Metis. The Metis have a colorful history in their struggles for homeland in Canada and in their lifestyles.
Development of Walhalla continued with the arrival of farmers and railroad in the 1880's. As Walhalla is one of the earliest communities in the area, it developed the services and trade necessary to support the agricultural activities in the surrounding trade area. Today the city still functions as a trade center and is one of the most viable communities in northeastern North Dakota.