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Manuscripts by Subject - Agriculture - #10498

Title: Williams County Farmers Union Records

Dates: 1930-1977

Collection number: 10498

Quantity: 6.25 ft.

Provenance:  The State Historical Society of North Dakota acquired the Williams County Farmers Union Records from the Williams County Farmers Union on August 19, 1987.  This manuscript collection was processed and the inventory prepared by Kari Rombs Kohlhoff, Karen Mund, and Lotte Bailey in July 1988.

Property Rights:  The State Historical Society of North Dakota owns the property rights to this collection.

Copyrights:  The Williams County Farmers Union has dedicated such copyrights as it possesses in this collection to the public.  Consideration of all other copyrights is the responsibility of the researcher.

Access:  This collection is open under the rules and regulations of the State Historical Society of North Dakota.

Citation:  Researchers are requested to cite the collection title, collection number, and the State Historical Society of North Dakota in all footnote and bibliographic references.

Transfer:  Two and one-half feet of material were removed and transferred to the appropriate collection management area of the State Archives.  Two feet of publications such as books, booklets, newsletters, and pamphlets were transferred to the library.

One-half foot of black and white photos and negatives was transferred to the Photo Archives.  Included were photos of conventions; trips to Washington, D.C.; youth camp; and various Williams County Farmers Union cooperatives.

Three samples of arts and craft ideas were transferred to the ephemera collection.

One map of North Dakota was removed and transferred to the map collection.


Since the late 1800's farmers have been aware of the need to join together.  Significant organizations came into being such as the Grange movement, National Farmers Alliance, and the Alliance from which the Farmers Union is a descendent.  The Farmers Educational and Cooperative Union of America was founded at Point, Texas, in 1902, for the purpose of securing equity, establishing justice, and applying the golden rule concerning the plight of the farmer.  Today, the National Farmers Union, located in Denver, Colorado, assists state and local unions in various ways.

During the 1920's farmers were seeking an organization that would unify them as they fought foreclosure and other rural problems.  Active planners of the Northwest Organizing Committee, Charles Clyde Talbott, A. C. Thatcher, and A. W. Ricker, were determined that North Dakota farmers should have a strong voice.  They chose to build an organization primarily to educate farmers in economics and legislation and to safeguard farm laws within the state and nation.  Of secondary importance were cooperative efforts in marketing agricultural commodities and purchase of supplies through cooperative corporations.

Recognition of strong local and county participation resulted in grassroots meetings throughout North Dakota in 1927.  The first state convention, held in Jamestown in 1927, was attended by 13,000 members.  The state headquarters was established in Jamestown.

As stated in its articles of incorporation, the organization's official name was Farmers Educational and Cooperative Union of North Dakota, better known as the North Dakota Farmers Union.  Its purpose was to carry out a program of education, engage in any activity involving marketing and selling of agricultural products to union members, and distribute and disseminate information to farm families.  Members had to be at least 18 years old, involved in farming or ranching, and active participants within the organization and cooperatives.  Regular attendance at meetings and a youth program added strength to the union.

The Williams County Farmers Union was organized in 1926 with Alex Lind as the first county president.  Farmers Union members canvassed each township in order to form strong local organizations within the county.  The locals of Williams County organized during 1927 and that year the county convention was held.  The strength of the Williams County Farmers Union locals enabled them to collectively voice the needs and desires of the members.  Williams County Farmers Union coordinated the efforts of locals at the state and national level.

The Williams County Farmers Union gave particular attention to the efforts of cooperatives.  Farmers Union members patronize cooperatives, are stockholders, and direct the policies of the local cooperatives.  In 1928, the first cooperative creamery in the state was established in Williams County and the first state credit union in 1939.  The impact of the Farmers Union Oil cooperatives offered support in building other cooperatives, such as grain elevators, cooperative markets, and lumber yards.  Despite strong Farmers Union support the endeavors of the medical clinic and funeral association met with disappointing opposition.
North Dakota was one of four states to organize a youth program in 1929.  Its purpose was to build better citizens, by being better citizens, and to understand the problems of agricultural organizations.  The youth program brought continuity to the Farmers Union organization.  Educational programs for juniors emphasized the need for the cooperative movement, peace and patriotism, speech and writers projects, summer camps, and visits to Washington, D.C.  These efforts helped prepare youth for the future.

Williams County Farmers Union was a driving force behind rural electrification and the extension of rural telephone services.  WCFU helped the establishment of UND-Williston in an effort to provide further education for county youth by supporting a memorial fund and a loan program.  The Farmers Union has continued over the years to prepare for the future.


Bismarck Capital Golden Jubilee Edition, Tuesday, August 22, 1939, p. 5.

FU Youth Activities Manual, Dept. of Education, National Farmers Union, 1951, pp. 3-36.

Farmers Union Program, 1952-1953, Golden Jubilee Convention, Farmers Educational and Cooperative Union of America.

50 Years North Dakota Farmers Union, Charles and Joyce Conrad, 1976.

Grass Roots, Harold V. Knight, NDFU, Jamestown, 1947.

Guide Post for Teachers in the Local, Coop Publishing Association, ND.

Williston Daily Herald, July 3, 1952.

Williston Herald, October 12, 1977.


The Williams County Farmers Union Records date from 1930-1977 and measure 6 1/4 ft.  The records consist of minutes and subject files. This collection documents administration, projects, and programs of the local as well as cooperative, county, and state levels of the National Farmers Union organization.

The minutes of the Williams County Farmers Union Board of Directors date from 1930-1970, measure 1/2 ft., and are arranged in chronological order.  The minutes document annual and quarterly meetings and the effort of the county organization to coordinate the activities of locals and cooperatives on the state and national level.

The subject files measure 5 3/4 ft. and date from 1930 to 1977.  The subject files are arranged alphabetically by keyword. The files document the activities of the WCFU cooperatives, county and local activities, and demonstrate the efforts of the county union to coordinate activities on their behalf at the state and national level.  Cooperative files include annual reports and financial statements, articles of incorporation and bylaws, clinic form letters, manager’s files, statements, and a list of cooperative stockholders.  County files consists of assistant secretary forms, correspondence, legislative director files, membership records, receipt and disbursement record, secretary's correspondence, and youth director files.  Local records include bills, dues, headquarter files, officer record sheets, secretary's reports, and secretary-treasurer record books. State files include correspondence, financial statements, policy reports, president's correspondence, secretary's correspondence and statements.  Other miscellaneous subject files consists of audit reports, bulletin board material, charter application forms, clippings, coordination meetings, corporation farming, government subsidy review, "Hello Out There" news column files, historical material, Junior Echo information, library materials, Medicare and Social Security information, program suggestions, reserve camp files, rural telephone records, scrapbooks, skits, vocational rehabilitation, and withholding statements.



Box 1:
1 Minutes            1930-1941           
2 Minutes            1942-1946           
3 Minutes            1947-1951           
4 Minutes            1952-1956           
5 Minutes            1957-1962           
6 Minutes            1963-1966           
7 Minutes            1967-1970           

Subject Files

8 Articles of Incorporation, Bylaws           1946-1970           
9 Audit Reports 1955-1956           
10 Auditor's File                1967-1969           
11 Bulletin Board Material            1977-1978           
12 Charter Application Forms                     
13 Clippings        1956-1964           
14 Congressmen, U.S. Correspondence 1947-1951           
Cooperatives Files

15 Annual Report and Financial Statements         1945-1960           
16 Annual Report and Financial Statements         1945-1960           
17 Appreciation Day, Night          1956-1965           
18 Articles of Incorporation, Bylaws         1928-1941           
19 Articles of Incorporation, Bylaws         1928-1941           
20 Boards and Managers              1959-1965           
21 Clinic, Form Letters                   
22 Clinic                1946-1966           
23 Clinic                1946-1966           

Box 2:
1 Credit Union and Oil Company                1942-1975           
2 Data, Directors, Employees, Manager 1957-1958           
3 Educational Committee, Credit Union 1946      
4 Hospital Information   1944-1945           
5 Managers File                1961-1963           
6 Market              1943-1969           
7 R.E., REA and Credit Union       1964-1965           
8 Statements     1931-1966           
9 Statements     1931-1966           
10 Stockholders of Cooperative                
11 Trips 1959-1960           
12 Coordination Meetings            1971-1973           
13 Conferences                1970     
14 Corporations, Farming             1961      

County Files

15 Assistant Secretary    1949-1977           
16 Assistant Secretary    1949-1977           
17 Assistant Secretary    1949-1977           
18 Assistant Secretary    1949-1977           
19 Assistant Secretary    1949-1977           
20 Assistant Secretary    1949-1977           
21 Assistant Secretary    1949-1977           
22 Assistant Secretary    1949-1977           
23 Contact Work               1966      
24 Correspondence, Check-off  1950      
25 Educational Director  1947-1950           
26 Legislative Director    1955      
27 Membership, Veterans           1946-1947           

Box 3:
1 Meeting Reports          1960-1962           
2 Membership Cards      1932-1957           
3 Membership Cards      1932-1957           
4 Membership Participation Record         1954-1965           
5 Membership Participation Record         1954-1965           
6 Membership Participation Record         1954-1965           
7 Membership Participation Record         1954-1965           
8 Membership Participation Record         1954-1965           
9 Membership Participation Record         1954-1965           
10 Membership Participation Record      1954-1965           
11 Membership Summary            1967-1969           
12 Membership Summary            1967-1969           
13 Receipt and Disbursement Record     1935-1941           
14 Secretary's Correspondence 1930-1952           
15 Secretary's Correspondence 1930-1952           
16 Secretary's Correspondence 1930-1952           
17 Youth Booklet              1965-1967           
18 Youth Director             1961-1966           
19 Discussion     1962      
20 Float                1950      
21 Government Subsidy Historical Review            1958-1960           
22 Health Material           1945-1950           
23 Health Workshop       1946-1947           

Box 4:
1 "Hello Out There" News Column           1970-1973          
2 "Hello Out There" News Column           1970-1973          
3 Historical Material, Farmers Union        1930-1973           
4 Historical Material, Farmers Union        1930-1973           
5 History, Bull Butte        1950      
6 History, Bull Butte        1950      
7 History, Farmers Union                             
8 History, Williams County Farmers Union             1974      
9 Income             1955      
10 Junior Echo filler information                1933-1955           
11 Junior Echo filler information                1933-1955           
12 Juniors, Voting Membership                
13 Labor               1959-1960           
14 Library Materials         1941-1952           
15 Library Materials, Rural            1956-1957           

Local Records

16 Annual Meeting          1959      
17 Bills   1954-1955           
18 Bills   1954-1955           
19 Dues                  1951-1953         
20 Dues                  1951-1953         
21 Dues                  1951-1953         
22 Dues, Check Off-Cash Membership   1953      
23 Dues, Remitted           1951-1953           
24 Dues, Remitted           1951-1953           
25 Dues, Remitted           1951-1953           

Box 5:
1 Headquarters Financial File      1949-1976           
2 Headquarters Secretary-Treasurer Record Book            1944-1975           
3 Membership Reports 1948-1957           
4 Officer Record Sheets                1946-1957           
5 Officer Record Sheets                1946-1957           
6 Red Cross         1956      
7 Secretary's File              1955-1957           
8 Secretary's Reports     1957-1973           
9 Secretary's Reports     1957-1973           
10 Secretary's Reports   1957-1973           
11 Secretary's Reports   1957-1973           
12 Secretary's Reports   1957-1973           
13 Secretary-Treasurer Record Book       1938-1958           
14 Secretary-Treasurer Record Book       1938-1958           
15 Secretary-Treasurer Record Book       1938-1958           
16 Secretary-Treasurer Record Book       1938-1958           
17 Secretary-Treasurer Record Book       1938-1958           

Box 6:
1 Secretary-Treasurer Record Book         1938-1958           
2 Secretary-Treasurer Record Book         1938-1958           
3 Voting Members          1960      
4 Medicare and Social Security   1964      
5 Midwest Conference on Food Policy   1974      
6 National Farmers Union             1947-1956           
7 Northwest Trade School            1956      
8 Program Service            1946-1950           
9 Program Suggestions  1964      
10 Readings                       
11 Recreation and Refreshments              1952-1966           
12 Recreation and Refreshments              1952-1966           
13 Reserve Camp             1955-1962           
14 Resolutions   1956-1957           
15 Rural Telephone         1952-1953           
16 Sand S Electric              1974      
17 Schools           1945      
18 Scrapbooks   1942-1962           
19 Scrapbooks   1942-1962           
21 Skits and Plays                            
21 Skits and Plays                            
22 Services Incorporated              1944-1960           
State Files

23 Correspondence        1956-1958           
24 Financial Statements                  1974    
25 Policy Report, Adopted           1956-1960           
26 Policy Reports, Tentative        1955-1974           
27 President, Correspondence  1939-1949           
28 Secretary, Correspondence   1947-1951           
29 Statements   1945-1955           
30 Statements   1945-1955           

Box 7:
1 United Nations              1957-1964           
2 Vocational Rehabilitation          1946      
3 Withholding Statements           1947-1955           
4 Williston, Old Farmers Elevator               1942      
5 Young Adult Program  1971      
6 Youth Leader, First in Williams County 1933-1936

Box 8: photographs
10498-01   Crowd in Williston Armory listening to Senator Gerald Nye speak 1941     
10498-02   Farmers Union grain terminal elevator, Williston, ND ca 1920s
10498-03   Conference of Chief Justices fifth annual meeting portrait, Boston August 1953

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