Captain Alexander Griggs Statue, Grand Forks
This statue at the courthouse was dedicated in 2001 and honors Alexander Griggs, an early settler who is considered by many to be the founder of Grand Forks. Griggs filed the first land plat for the original townsite of the community in 1875. A steamboat captain and builder, Griggs played an integral part of the growth of the city during the steamboat era of Grand Forks. Griggs learned his navigational skills as a hand working aboard ships that traveled along the Mississippi River and he became an established pilot by the age of nineteen. Partnering with railroad magnate, James J. Hill, Griggs established a steamboat business on the Red River and built the Selkirk in 1871. After establishing the original town plat, Griggs vigorously promoted the early development of Grand Forks. He established the Second National Bank and the the local gas works among other enterprises such as the Grand Forks Roller Mill, the first brick city block of buildings, and the Griggs House hotel. Griggs was the city’s third postmaster and was politically active, serving on the City Council, the Board of County Commissioners, the Railroad Commission, and the first state constitutional convention. He also served as the mayor of Gran Forks from 1888 to 1889. He left Grand Forks shortly after that time and established another steamship line in 1893, the Columbia and Okanogan Steamboat Company. This line was based out of Wenatchee, Washington, and this was the location where Griggs died on January 25, 1903.
Backstory and Context
Alexander Griggs (1838–1903) was an American steamboat captain and is generally acknowledged as the founder of the city of Grand Forks. Griggs first traveled to the confluence of the Red River of the North and the Red Lake River (the site of present-day Grand Forks) in 1870 using flatboats to carry cargo downstream on the Red River of the North. During the fall of 1870, Griggs and his crew embarked on another such trip through the confluence area, but were stranded when their boat froze in the icy waters of the Red River one evening. The crew built a small cabin and lived there during the winter of 1870-1871. They soon decided that the area would be a good spot for a new town. Others soon joined Griggs at the site and the community of Grand Forks was formed. Griggs officially platted the town site of Grand Forks in 1875.
He also became the fifth mayor of Grand Forks, serving from 1888 to 1889. Griggs was also the city’s third postmaster, served on the Grand Forks City Council, as a Grand Forks County Commissioner, and on the North Dakota state constitutional convention. In addition, he founded the Second National Bank, established a gas works, built the Grand Forks Roller Mill, constructed the first brick commercial building in Grand Forks, and opened a hotel (the Grigg House). A statue of Griggs sits on the grounds of the Grand Forks County Courthouse. Nearby Griggs County North Dakota was also named in honor of the entrepreneur and steamboat captain.
- "Grand Forks History". City of Grand Forks, North Dakota.
- "Historic Grand Forks". Grand Forks County Historical Society.
- "Dimensions - March 2005". University of North Dakota.
- Gannett, Henry (1905). The Origin of Certain Place Names in the United States. Govt. Print. Off. p. 145.