The city seal of Wahpeton, N.D., is rather busy. It has a lot to say.
The black and white circular seal, designed in 1979, features several images depicting the history of the city, population 7,766.
According to the city’s website, www.wahpeton.com, Wahpeton’s heritage is represented by the teepee, oxcart and steamboat. The city’s unique location, at the head of the Red River, is described by the three rivers theme. Wahpeton’s economy, agriculture, is detailed by the grain (wheat and corn) images.
Emphasis on higher education is represented by the seal’s reference to North Dakota State College of Science. At the time it was called North Dakota State School of Science; hence the S symbols on Old Main.
“The horizon suggests the southern Red River Valley, the ‘Gateway to Prairie Gold,’ and the name Wahpeton, meaning ‘leaf dwellers,’ is articulated by the seal’s inside trees and perimeter leaves.”
Wahpeton, the county seat of Richland County, is located near the southeastern corner of North Dakota, on the Minnesota border and at the confluence of the Bois de Sioux and Otter Trail rivers, which form the Red River of the North.
Jonathan Carver, the area’s first European explorer, arrived in 1767 under the authority of Major Robert Rogers, commander of Fort Michilimackinac in Mackinaw City, Mich. Carver was commissioned to find the Northwest Passage, an alleged waterway to the Orient. Carver, of course, found no such passage, but his exploration accounts attracted fur traders and other explorers to the territory.
A century later, Wisconsinite J. W. Blanding, a member of a post-Civil War governmental surveying party, was so enamored of the fertile river valley he moved his family to the area, enticing other Wisconsin settlers to join him.
Among that group was Morgan T. Rich, who was the first to farm the rich black bottomland in 1869. He was joined by several other settlers, and that year they founded the community of Richville.
A post office was established in 1871 and the town was redubbed Chahinkapa, a Sioux word meaning “the end of the woods.” Two years later the name was changed to Wahpeton.
Construction of a nearby railroad line in 1872 burgeoned the town’s population and the county’s first retail store opened in Wahpeton in 1874. Two years later a bridge was built over the Bois de Sioux River to connect Wahpeton and its neighboring town, Breckenridge, Minn. The local electric company was organized in 1888.
The area today attracts outdoorsmen and hunters, and the local golf course is the nation’s only course spanning two states. Wahpeton is also home to “The Wahpper,” the world’s largest catfish, a 40-foot sculpture located at Kidder Dam.