Hints of History: The Man and the Town – Part 2

Editor’s note: This is Part 2 of “The Man and the Town.” Part 1 was published in the May 21-22 Weekend Edition of The Minot Daily News.

On Dec. 26, 1901, with the help of Andrew Tiller, his foreman, M.O. Hall of Renville County printed his first newspaper, The Hall News. The newspaper’s growth was remarkable with 300 paid customers in three months. This building was later moved from the original on the first town site to the corner just north of what became Page Brothers in later years.

This structure, in addition to a printing office was a bank, store, school, community hall, land sale office and a post office – the headquarters of the man planning and directing the activities of what is now known as Mohall.

In early 1902 Martin submitted an application to the U.S. Postal Department for a post office under the name of “Hall.” It was rejected because North Dakota already had a “Hull” and claimed it would be too confusing. The matter of a new name was quickly solved by Martin as he usually signed his name with his initials instead of his first name. The resubmitted application was approved and the town became Mohall.

Families were coming in by the hundreds and Martin knew a school would soon need to be established. In 1902 the school district including Mohall was organized.

Early in 1902 Mohall’s founder began making plans for having what is known as Renville County separated from Ward County. Hall had hopes of making Mohall the county seat.

About 1892 the N.D. Legislature created Renville County, comprised of 15 townships in Bottineau County and 20 townships in Ward County. This made the original Renville County 42 miles wide and 30 miles north and south.

Five years later the N.D. Supreme Court ruled that this was an illegal act on the part of the legislature and declared it void.

The original site for Mohall was arranged by Hall through the U.S. Land Office in Minot. It consisted of eight acres in the south half of the southwest quarter of Section 13, Township 161, 84, in what is known as Brandon Township.

Along comes the millionaire investor from Minneapolis, Fred H. Stoltze, arriving in Mohall as the Great Northern Railroad designated town site manager. He informed the local residents that he intended to establish a new town south of Lorraine unless M.O. Hall sold out to him. Hall fought with Stoltze for several months before finally, after much persuasion from the Haugen group, caving in. The sale included a stipulation that the name of the town continue to be Mohall.

After the deal was closed Stoltze presented Mrs. Hall with five acres as a gesture of kindness.

Louis Haugen drove Stoltze around the area to Lansford and Glenburn where he bought more land. In addition to the Hall town site and acreage Stoltze bought some 400 acres. He set aside part of it for a park and dedicated a spot for a county building.

Nothing much happened to this dedicated land until Stoltze applied a little pressure. Louis Haugen hooked up his team and broke the land for the park and church area.

On Nov. 11, 1903, M.O. Hall celebrated the greatest moment of his life as his wife drove the golden spike held by Nell Thoreson Sheridan that marked the arrival of train service for Mohall.

Approximately 500 people attended and the cornet band presented suitable tunes.

It was said that Martin was in the crowd crying softly in his happiness. Francis Davidson was the master of ceremonies and told the crowd that train service would start the following Monday.

Martin continued the business of banking at First National Bank and in real estate.

The town of Mohall was named as the temporary county seat in 1910. The first town to declare its candidacy for county seat was a new town – Greene, which was started by Martin Hall in August 1909. It was located on the Soo Line halfway between Grano and Tolley.

Being on the Mouse River, Martin’s dream was to build up a summer resort town complete with the county seat.

On Jan. 25, 1908, Martin severed all his ties with the Mohall News and L.M. Rockne was his successor.

A few years earlier it was announced that Hall was suffering from diabetes and would be required to stay on a special diet. His health must have improved

materially for after getting out of the newspaper business he decided he wanted to be sent to Washington, D.C., as one of North Dakota’s congressmen.

He was unable to gain any support on Mohall’s Main Street for the post. At one of his open air announcement speeches in Mohall two boys were paid 25 cents each to throw rotten eggs at him. That is how Greene came into being.

Though he was a Republican, Hall was appointed by a Democratic governor to a place on the N.D. Grain Commission in recognition of his interest in and for the state when the American Society of Equity was organized and was active in the organization until it was wrecked by Townley and his non-partisan league.

Involved Before ND

In 1887 he entered the banking business in Duluth, remaining there for 13 years during which time he served as treasurer of the English Lutheran Church and organized the Seaman’s Aid Society of which he was made a life member.

Hall eventually went to Washington, D.C., and obtained the position in the Pension Bureau, his ability recognized by his appointment to the Special Board of Examiners, on which he served for two years.

The couple moved to San Diego, California, in 1913. While he spent winters for next 14 years there, he retained his interest and citizenship in North Dakota.

In 1921 he performed the most noteworthy public service of his long career. Finding that there were nearly 9,000 farmers in the state (of North Dakota) who had neither seed or grain for the funds in which to purchase it, and that there was no money in the state to be loaned for the purchase of seed, he went to Washington, D.C. He succeeded in getting enough interest in Congress to obtain an appropriation of $2,000,000 to be loaned to the farmers for the purchase of seed.

The accomplishment was hailed as one of the finest things any single man had ever done of the state.

Martin died on Jan. 19, 1920. He is buried in the Greenwood Memorial Park Cemetery in San Diego.


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