County History

History of Divide County and it's Communities

The earliest settlers came to Divide County around 1902. Prior to that time, the land had been used for grazing by cattle ranchers near the Missouri River. Prior to settlement, the Assiniboin Indians crossed the area when moving between their summer and winter homes.

In 1873 Wallette County was created out of the territory of the present Divide and Williams County by the territorial legislature. Wallette County then became Williams County in 1891.In 1910, after the territory of Divide County reached a population of 6,000, an election was held to divide Williams County. The election results approved the division and Divide County was born. According to the North Dakota Yearbook published in 1911, a contest was held and George A. Gillmore, a Williston attorney, chose the winning name "Divide" for the county. Crosby was designated the temporary county seat, and in a highly contested election between Ambrose, Crosby, and Noonan,held November 6, 1912,Crosby became the permanent county seat.

Divide County peaked in 1920 with a population of 9,637 residents. The county has seen a major decline in population until most recently. Currently the county has 2,432 residents, up from 2071 in the 2010 census. The recent growth is in part due to oil and gas exploration and production in"Bakken" and "Three Forks" shale formations and an unemployment rate of 2.2%.

Divide County's primary economic engine has historically been small grain farm and ranching operations. However, Baukol-Noonan Lignite, Inc operated a surface mine for Lignite coal from 1929 to 1962 when mining operations moved into neighboring Burke County near Larson, North Dakota. Baukol-Noonan's main office remained in Noonan until all mining operations shifted to Center, North Dakota in 1970.The federal government also played a role in development when the US Air Force chose a site west of Fortuna for a Cold War radar station in 1952. This site was closed in 1979, and was a Long-Range Radar facility until 1984. Many Divide County residents have ties to the men and women who served at "the base".
The official newspaper of the county is "The Journal", which is published on a weekly basis.


Alkabo is located in the western part of the county in Westby Township; it is no longer an incorporated community. The Alkabo School is on the National Register of Historic Places. The school was built in 1934 by by the William Nordman Company of Noonan and operated until 1963.

Ambrose is approximately 11 miles Northwest of Crosby. The 2010 Census reported that there were 26 people living in Ambrose. The first sessions of school began in 1906 in a small sod shack. By 1912, at a cost of approximately $16,000 a new modern brick school with 2 stories and a basement were constructed. In 1927, a fire broke out in the office destroying school records. In 1962, Ambrose school district became part of the Divide County School District.

Colgan is now a ghost town located in Gooseneck Township on the railroad line between Ambrose and Fortuna.


Crosby was founded in 1904 at the end of the Great Northern Railroad branch line; it takes its name from a Portal, North Dakota business man, S. A. Crosby, who was involved in establishing Crosby. Crosby had a peak population of 1,759 in 1960.

Fortuna remains an incorporated city in northwest Divide County.

Kermit was established on the Soo railroad line in Mentor Township and was once a major competitor of Noonan which was located on the Great Northern railroad line. Today, Kermit is a ghost town with only an old grain elevator and Quonset building remaining.

Noonan was founded in 1906 by the Great Northern Railroad in the northeast corner of Divide County and is located at the intersection ND Highways 5 and 40.It was named after a family with farming and mining interests in the area. Noonan had a peak population of roughly 625 people in 1960 when coal mining activity was near its peak. Contrary to the information in the State Historical Society of North Dakota, Noonan maintained it's high school until 1981 as part of the Divide County School District.

Stady was founded in 1907 as astopalong old ND Highway 85 and reached a peak population of 60. After the highway was relocated the population rapidly decreased and Stady today is a completely abandoned ghost town.,

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