To be clear, the Bergquist Cabin is described by the Historical and Cultural Society of Clay County as the oldest home in Moorhead still on its original site. (There is another cabin, built in 1860, which has been moved a number of times, even disassembled and put in storage at one time, which now stands in Memorial Park at the Hjemkomst Center) At any rate, it’s fascinating to stand before this little, one-room log shack and imagine what it must have been like to live here.
Swedish immigrant John Bergquist was a man with perfect timing. He emigrated to America and began construction on this cabin in February of 1871. Minnesota had only been a state for 13 years at that time, and the Red River boundary with the still-wild Dakota Territory was just a quarter mile to the west, but the region was about to boom. Just a few months after Bergquist completed this cabin, the Northern Pacific Railroad arrived and began construction on the first railroad bridge to span the Red River, just a few miles to the south.
Fargo and Moorhead boomed after the construction of the bridge, and John Bergquist saw an opportunity. He started a brickyard using clay gathered from a site nearby, and many of John Bergquist’s bricks were used to build the early structures in Moorhead.
Bergquist lived in this cabin until 1884, when he sold the site. Over the decades, three more families lived in this cabin — the Houcks, the Petersons, and the Shambergers. With each successive family, this cabin was expanded until it was quite literally a log room inside a house which had been built around it. The Shamberger family moved out in 1967 and the house sat abandoned until the Bergquist family launched an effort to restore it in the late-70s.
The additions to the cabin were torn down, the logs were numbered, then the cabin was disassembled, restored, and reassembled on its original site. Judging by the information I’ve seen on the HCSCC website, the Bergquist Cabin is open once or twice a year for visitors to see the inside, but anyone can go see this cabin from the outside at any time. It’s in a little park, not far from the river, at 1008 7th Street North.
This is one of those places where you stumble across it by accident, then you feel dumb not knowing about it for so long. I was on my way to pick up dinner with my son when I took a wrong turn in north Moorhead and just happened to drive right by this place. It’s just down the street from the home where I’ve lived for over a decade, and I never knew about it.
Are these original John Bergquist bricks?
There are several information panels on site.
Photos by Troy Larson, copyright © 2017 Sonic Tremor Media