Randolph Probstfield Papers (S869)


Biographical Sketch

Randolph M. Probstfield was born in Prussia in 1832. He emigrated to the United States in 1852, living in Wisconsin and Michigan prior to coming to Minnesota. It is known that he worked in the lumbering business out of St. Paul and traveled through much of the country and to Latin America during the mid 1850s. In 1859, Probstfield moved to the Red River Valley area, becoming so far as to be known, as the first white settler in Clay County. He acted as an agent for the Hudson Bay Company for several years, marrying in 1861 and living in the company settlement of Georgetown. He was also living there when the "Sioux Uprising" of 1862 occurred, and lost much of his property as a result.

In 1869, Probstfield began farming on land just north of the future site of Moorhead. He built this into a very successful vegetable farm, establishing through trial and error which varieties would grow well in the Valley.

Always involved in politics, Probstfield had much influence in the Farmer’s Alliance Movement of the late 19th Century. He was elected to the Minnesota State Senate in 1891 and served one term, during which time he helped expand the Moorhead Normal School campus, worked for drainage laws, and opposed the construction of a new capitol building.

Probstfield died in 1911. 

Collection Description

The Probstfield collection consists of several files of correspondence, papers of the Farmer’s Alliance Movement, legislative files, research papers, and 21 volumes of diaries kept by Probstfield between 1867 and 1911. Most materials are in good condition.


Box 1

  • Astronomy Journal kept by Emily Probstfield while a student at Moorhead State Normal School. 1894
  • Biographical Information
    • "Life of Randolph Probstfield" by Gretchen Harvey. 2003
    • "Randolph M. Probstfield, Moorhead and Clay County's First Pioneer" by Dianne Larson
    • "R.M. Probstfield: The Red River Valley's First Pioneer" by Danielle Cossette. 1998
    • "Senator R.M. Probstfield" by granddaughter
    • "Triumph Over Hardship: Randolf Michael and Catherine Probstfield in Clay County, Minnesota" by Melissa Evensen. 2009
  • Correspondence. 1858-1941
  • Hay Claim Letter. 1900
  • Legislative Bills, Minnesota Legislature. 1893
  • Minnesota State Farmer's Alliance Records. 1890-95
  • Miscellaneous. 1895-96
  • Moorhead State Normal School. 1893, 1948
  • Petitions, Clay County. 1892-93
  • Photographs. Undated
  • Probstfield Living History Farm
    • Miscellaneous
  • Voter List, Moorhead and Wilkin County. ca. 1893-94 

 Box 1A

  • Dille Research Materials
    • Correspondence
    • Family Information
    • Miscellaneous
    • Newspaper Items
    • Publications
  • Dille Manuscript - Randolph Probstfield: Frontier Farmer. 1998


 Box 2

  • Family Notes. Undated
  • Microfilm of 2 journals
  • Journal 1:
    • Receipt Book/Journal, 1867-77. The first few pages and pages 219-221, 353-354, and 356-357 of this volume contain receipts relating to Probstfield's work as the Hudson's Bay agent. The entries are dated December 10, 1867-October 22, 1868, and include information on goods received by Probstfield from various merchants Type of goods received includes food, gun powder, fruits, animal skins (buffalo robes), hardware and similar items. The last page of this section contains Probstfield's inventory of goods at the Georgetown post. The rest of the volume contains journal entries dated January 1, 1875-December 31, 1877. The entries are brief, giving data on the weather, routine matters, and some financial data. An entry dated July 19, 1876, describes damage done by grasshoppers.
  • Journal 2:
    • Journal, January 1, 1873-December 3, 1874; 1943; 1949. This volume is similar in content to the journal entries in volume 1. Entries in July, 1873, describe the grasshopper plague. At the end of the volume are pages containing expenses and receipts for 1874 and a cattle register for 1872. Pasted in the front cover of the volume are two newspaper clippings (1943; 1949) relating to the Probstfield family.
  • Probstfield Diaries. 21 volumes. 1867-1911 

Box 3

  • Petitions sent to Probstfield against the building of a new capitol. 1893 

Box 4

  • Agriculture
  • Copies of Letters from Bowman
  • Correspondence. 1859-1911
  • Czizek
  • Family Letters, Retyped
  • Hay Claim
  • Hoffman, Nick
  • Horticulture, Experimental Work
  • Hudson Bay (letter Kittson)
  • Lulsdorff
  • Lyceum
  • Miscellaneous
  • Minnesota House of Representatives Bills
  • Mortgage Deeds (Land Transactions)
  • Old Settlers Association
  • Peoples Party
  • Petitions
  • Pricing
  • Probstfield's Letters to Senate
  • Red River Valley Farmers Mutual Hail Insurance Company
  • Richards, J.H., Lease
  • School District #23
  • Sergers, Captain
  • Tuchelts, F.W.
  • Work Contracts on Farm