Token Talk: Albert Roper, Sherman House, Fargo, North Dakota

  Albert Roper 12 and a half cent token“The Sherman is rapidly acquiring the larger share of that energetic and particular class who are “known and read of men” as experts in the hotel line. The water supply is ample, extending to every apartment, and its system of sewerage the best of any hotel in the city. Appointments in the way of bathrooms with Turkish and all other lavatory processes as provided are most admirable. With respect to day boarders the custom of the house is exclusively transient. Under the management of Mr. Albert Roper, who has lately succeeded to the ownership of the property, the “Sherman” has been refitted and refurnished, and has acquired a reputation superior to any house making the same charges in Dakota. This is but simple justice to its record, and is deserved. It is always crowded. Its cuisine is most substantial and abounding in all the market affords, and the cleanly spacious guest chambers with elegant furnishings and the public apartments, all impart satisfaction to numerous guests, and evidence the popularity which has awarded the efforts of mind host. Terms $2 per day; day board $6.00 per week. Electric lights make brilliant the corridor and public rooms of the hotel, and ready means of egress are provided in case of fire. In fact nothing has been left undone to make the hotel popular with stranger and citizen, and to conserve its good name and record. Mr. Roper will be found a pleasant and agreeable gentleman, the office force obliging, and the servants of the hotel at all time courteous and attentive.”

“Fargo, the Gateway to the Northeast” 1888

It was thus that I could sort of surmise that this 12 ½ cent token was related to this hotel, or at least to an enterprise that this not so “Three’s Company” landlord was involved with. It does look like the token was a well struck piece which he might have been proud to use in the hotel, if still somewhat primitive, being incuse and struck only on one side. Mind only the Americans would seem to brag about sewerage. He is listed in the 1883 Fargo, North Dakota directory, as being the Proprietor of Sherman House.

The Sherman House was built in 1877 by a Terrence Martin and sold to a Mr. G. J. Kissner in 1879. It was a fairly imposing place in Fargo, but its’ fame was fleeting. The Waldorf Hotel was built on the site of the Sherman House in 1899. The middle  view may have been taken from the top of a grain tower or balloon.

Although the 1883 mention gives a “North Dakota” location, the fact is that Fargo was still in the Dakota Territory (which, prior to 1861 consisted of Montana and parts of Idaho) then. North Dakota became a state in 1889. Fargo was only founded in 1871. Fire was always a threat in the west. On June 7th, 1893 when the proprietor of a grocery store accidentally started a blaze after emptying ashes behind her store on a windy day, 31 blocks of the city were burned down. 246 new buildings were built in the following year.

When I bought the item, I did see that it was a nice token but I had no way of knowing where it was from except for the fact that I could tell it was western, by way of the 12 ½ cent denomination.

~ Duff Malkin

Additional Notes:

Sherman House Fargo Bismarck Tribune T. Martin prop. One block west of post office and U.S. Land Office. Opposite Railroad Depot. Feb 25 1879  Feb 22, 1879

The Sherman House is first listed as according to North Dakota archived papers in the Library of Congress Newspaper Archive in the Bismarck Tribune on August 27th, 1873 in an advertisement stating that Martin & Pinkham were the proprietors and that it was “a first class house convenient to the railroad depot and steamboat landing”. Charges were “reasonable”. On May 5th, 1875 this same newspaper noted that the “Sherman House is undergoing complete repairs.”  The Jamestown Weekly Alert of April 21st, 1882, noted a frog invasion of Fargo and  that “the Sherman House guests will be feasted in true Parisian style this morning.  Landlord Kissher and his whole force spent all night skinning frog legs.”

The North Dakota archives state that the Sherman House was built by Terrence Martin in 1877 and sold to a Mr. Kissner in 1879 and that he was still listed as the proprietor of a Sherman Hotel in 1888. The Sherman House was destroyed by a fire on October 2nd, 1885. However, the website shows a letterhead dated April 10th, 1885 which states “Albert Roper, Proprietor” and they list Sherman House with Albert Roper as proprietor in 1883. The letterhead states that the “House” has “the Finest Commercial Sample Rooms in Dakota. Telegraph Office in Sherman House Block. Telephone Connections with any part of the city. Heated by Steam.” “Opposite N.P. Depot. Terms $2 per Day.”

In addition to the above extract the 1888 dated book “Fargo, the Gateway of the Northeast” states;

Sherman House

Sherman House, Fargo

     This elegant hotel was erected in the year 1878 by Terrence Martin, Esq.; becoming the property of J.G. Kissner in 1880, by whom it was enlarged to its present size. The building is 90×100 feet and four stories in height. Its location is most desirable being on one of the principal thoroughfares of the city, within easy access of the railroad depots, post-office and business houses. The W.U. telegraph office adjoins, and street cars pass its doors every few minutes. The house has fifty apartments for guests, and accommodates 100, and shows a daily register of from one and a half to two pages. Steam heat has been introduced throughout, and sample rooms are on the first floor for accommodation of commercial travellers.

All sources give slightly varying histories and the latter, from an 1888 printed book, makes no mention of a fire. Indeed it seems to go rather heavily into the waterworks of the house. Indeed the mention of “sewerage” does sound quite American.     The 1881 Minnesota, North and South Dakota and Montana Gazetteer and Business Directory states;

“Barron House, Albert Roper, Proprietor” in Faribault, Minnesota. Albert Roper was initiated in the Faribault Mason’s lodge  on March 19, 1881 and was a member until December 27th, 1886, therein. The Barron House in Faribault, Minnesota dated back to 1855 and Albert Roper was the proprietor at least as early as 1879 ( a Horace Barron is listed as such in 1878)where the Tourists’ Guide to the Health and Pleasure Resorts of the Golden Northwest has him listed as Albert Raper ($2.00 a day). It burned down in 1882.

Sherman House letterhead

The 1880 US Census has two Albert Ropers in Faribault and the earlier one of the two was born in 1847 and the latter in 1873, likely being the son of the former. The elder was born in Connecticut. In the 1850 census the town name is given (Bristol, Hartford, Conn.). In 1860 he is still in Hartford. The 1870 census appears to list him in Ramsey, Minnesota.

Again it appears someone struck some blanks with just a circle of dots on the outside and the rest of the design was left up to someone who nicely punched it into one side of the blank. Since he was in the hotel industry maybe he carried around “Albert Roper” tokens from one place to the next and he probably would have felt obligated to redeem them in one place even though they had been issued in another and he may have used them in such as card games. One may have to look at whether similar types of tokens were circulating in one of these places or the other or in another place entirely.

Thank you NDSU Archive for pictures and information


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