Created By: North Dakota State University
Solomon Comstock came to Moorhead in 1871. He came from a modest background, born in May 9, 1842, in Maine. His father was in the lumber business and from a young age Comstock knew that was not what he not what he wanted to do with his life. Comstock attended the Maine Wesleyen Academy in Readfield, Maine in his early twenties. It was known for its law degrees.
Comstock received practical training in a law office of Judge Humphrey in Bangor. This was his first practical experience in the legal profession that he received. Two years later Comstock went to the University of Michigan to strengthen his education to prepare him for admittance to the bar. This term at the university and in 1869 he was admitted to the bar in Omaha, Nebraska, and he received the official total of attorney and counselor at law. Omaha was facing a depression at the time during the post war years and the town was not prospering and yet the amount of lawyers was still growing, Comstock was unable to find a job.
Railroads offered a great advantage for employment for Comstock, long with an adventure. The South Pacific was laying track in Texas and needed a bookkeeper for its construction crew. The Southern Pacific eventually went bankrupt as well and Comstock found himself in Minnesota. In 1870 he worked in St. Paul as a licensed attorney for awhile, then again was out of work, all was looking bleak for Comstock, until he moved to Moorhead.
Comstock found another job on the Northern Pacific as a laborer in Moorhead in 1871. Moorhead was only a tent town in 1871. A tent town with a lot of crime and violence going around. In 1872, Moorhead began pointing officials and selected Comstock as the first Clay County Attorney on April 26, 1872. There was a huge gun fight and the city demanded law and order, Comstock was the only one qualified and with a law degree. There were gambling houses and gun fights and almost every night there was a shooting. Comstock sought to build Moorhead into a respectable town.
Comstock served as the Clay County Attorney from 1871 to 1877, Moorhead had transitioned from a shanty tent town, to a railway town, to an agricultural trading post. In 1875 Comstock was elected to the State House of Representatives, that is where he met James J. Hill. Hill sought to control the bankrupt railways. -St. Paul and the Pacific Railroad, and he needed legislators on his side. Comstock felt for Hill and sided with his ways, seeing that Moorhead needed the railroad and aided Hill in return for a profitable townsite business.
Comstock helped to open the Bishop Whipple School, he donated the land that was needed for the school. Eventually the school closed, and later it would be the site for Concordia College. In 1885, Moorhead was in need of another school to serve its increasing population, under the 1858 Normal School Act of Governor Henry Sibley. The only condition was that the community had to donate the land for the site. The condition was easily done when Comstock donated six acres of land for the school.
Comstock had great pride in Moorhead. He valued education as he made it important to build schools in his town. Moorhead was once just a town filled with violence and crime, he sought to clean it up and make it a safe and respectable place to live. He built Moorhead up with railroads, and businesses there. Solomon Comstock died on June 3 of 1933.
For more information on the civic efforts of Solomon's wife, Sarah, please visit site 13.
This point of interest is part of the tour: Moorhead Historic Preservation Walking Tour