Born in 1832 as the eldest son of a Catholic family, Randolph Michael Probstfield left his native Germany for the United States at the age of 22. By 1868 he and his wife, Catherine Sidonia Goodman Probstfield had established a family homestead in what was to eventually become Oakport Township, Minnesota. This homestead preceded the development of Fargo-Moorhead and became an important stopping point for land as well as river travelers of the period.
Probstfield, his wife, and their eleven children (two children did not survive infancy) were deeply involved, not only in the daily activities of their own homestead, but also the development of educational and social activities for the other settlers that followed them into the area. Probstfield not only built the first school house, but also served as teacher for the “community organized” school and was also instrumental in formally organizing both the school district and the township.
Probstfield’s contributions to the agriculture of the area were equally significant. Avid in agricultural experimentation, he tested and proved for the United States Bureau of Agriculture that the Red River Valley was a fertile and viable locale, not only for the traditional crops of the area, but also for the cultivation of tobacco, sugar beets and tomatoes.
A man who derived much happiness from his wife, children and love of the land, Randolph Michael Probstfield face many challenges, public as well as personal, financial as well as emotional, during his lifetime. Yet, through it all he maintained ownership of an indomitable spirit which has fortunately been passed down to his many descendants.
MN State University, Moorhead, has many of Randolph and Catherine’s papers, detailed here: