Moorhead's Fourth Courthouse

Moorhead Historic Preservation Walking Tour

Moorhead's Fourth Courthouse

Moorhead, Minnesota 56560, United States

Created By: North Dakota State University

Point of Interest Details

Moorhead, Minnesota has the distinction of being the county seat of Clay County, and therefore has a county courthouse as well. The current courthouse was built in 1954 for $704,000. It was built on the same site of the third incarnation of the courthouse, which was torn down to make room for the new building.

Moorhead was not always the county seat of Clay County and the story of its designation is full of shady dealings and fraud. The nearby town of Glyndon, about 10 miles east of Moorhead, tried to become the county seat numerous times, but each time failed. Compared to the wild town of Moorhead, Glyndon was initially set up to be a temperance colony, purchased from the Northern Pacific Railway. While both towns were built because of the railroad, Glyndon was attractive to the surrounding famers who saw no need to support the shipping town of Moorhead. The rivalry between the two cities was established. The first attempt to move the county seat from Moorhead to Glyndon came in 1872, followed by another in 1874. Land was offered to the NPR by both Glyndon and Moorhead, with Moorhead again coming out victorious. The land in Glyndon would later have a two story jail built on it. The Glyndonites were angered in 1878 when the Clay County Advocate failed to mention the opportunity to place bids for the new courthouse. They saw it as an underhanded even to keep the county seat in Moorhead, leading them to act. The following years saw petitions raised on both sides, with some confusion in the actual numbers of signatures, before the Moorheadites eventually won out, keeping the county seat in Moorhead, once and for all.

For more information on Moorhead's courthouses, visit sites nine, 30, and 34.


  1. “History of Clay County.” 2010. Accessed October 15, 2016.
  2. Peihl, Mark. “County Seat Fight a Bitter Battle.” Clay County Historical Society Newsletter, 2001.

This point of interest is part of the tour: Moorhead Historic Preservation Walking Tour


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