In the 1880's Grand Forks had one brewery, at least two land offices (one E.J. Lander & Co.), two railroad lines, three brick yards, three flour mills, four sawmills, seven grocery stores (one, the Ontario, founded by R. B. Griffith), an unknown number of livery stables, fifteen hotels, and twenty-six saloons. The water system grew so rapidly and with so little care for sanitation that there were many cases of typhoid.
Mrs. John Engstad described her first impression of Grand Forks when she arrived by train in October, 1887, to join Dr. Engstad: "My first view of DeMers Avenue was not inviting. No paving, only plank sidewalks and crossings, the street deeply rutted from recent rains...At the end of DeMers Avenue we could see the approaches to the pontoon bridge to East Grand Forks. There were several boats still running in 1887...On Third Street most of the buildings were of frame construction, one or two stories...Third Street south of the tracks was the most flourishing business section."
Grover Cleveland, a Democrat, was President of The United States. North Dakota was not to achieve statehood for three more years. But the University of North Dakota, in its one small building, was already three years old, with most of its students not prepared to do college work.