‘Cattle Capital of North Dakota’

Eloise Ogden/MDN This is one of the signs saying Towner is “Cattle Capital of North Dakota.”

TOWNER – For many years the city of Towner has been called the “Cattle Capital of North Dakota.”

How did the city get that name? Certainly many cattle are raised in the Towner area but cattle are raised in many other areas in North Dakota as well.

A Minot Daily News story published in the 1960s said cattle capitals are a local controversy in North Dakota. It went on to say that Fern Lee, former editor of the Mouse River Farmers Press in Towner, and Howard Doherty, publisher of the Killdeer Herald, had been carrying on a friendly debate for some time. The debate was common knowledge among subscribers of the two weekly newspapers, and Lee and Doherty discussed the debate in their weekly columns quite often.

According to a Minot Daily News story, Towner publicized itself as “the cattle capital” of North Dakota, not without some dispute, possibly referring to the two newspaper leaders’ friendly dispute.

Towner came into being with the arrival of the railroad. It was named for Oscar M. Towner, an early day rancher and promoter who brought many homesteaders into the area. Born in Missouri, he came to Dakota Territory around 1880. Towner operated a ranch in McHenry County on the Mouse River during the 1880s. He served in the Dakota Territorial Legislature and was chairman for the organizing committee for McHenry County. He died in 1897.

The Mouse River Farmers Press in Towner for the city’s diamond jubilee reprinted excerpts from a booklet distributed in the late 1800s about McHenry County and “the famous Mouse River Valley.” One of the excerpts said: “In this valley large herds of cattle and flocks of sheep are raised. Large quantities are fattened here for market which are raised as equal if not superior to grain fed animals. The rich grasses keep the animals in a sleek, fat and healthy condition.”

Towner has promoted its beef industry over the years so it’s very likely Towner, the “Cattle Capital of North Dakota,” came up as a fitting way to expand on the area’s heritage and industry.

If anyone knows the official origination of Towner as the “Cattle Capital of North Dakota,” please let us know.