Minot is a city located in north central North Dakota in the United States. It is most widely known for the Air Force base located approximately 15 miles north of the city. With a population of 40,888 at the 2010 census, Minot is the fourth largest city in the state. A housing study completed by the Minot Area Development Corporation in 2011 estimated that 45,508 people live within the city limits. The city is the county seat of Ward County and is a trading center for a large portion of northern North Dakota, southwestern Manitoba, and southeastern Saskatchewan. Founded in 1886 during the construction of the Great Northern Railway, Minot is also known as "Magic City", commemorating its remarkable growth in size over a short time.
Minot is the principal city of the Minot Micropolitan Statistical Area, a micropolitan area that covers McHenry, Renville, and Ward counties and had a combined population of 69,540 at the 2010 census.
Minot came into existence in 1886, when James J. Hill's Great Northern Railway ended its push through the state for the winter, after having difficulty constructing a trestle across Gassman Coulee. It was the end of the railway's line, so whenever a train came into the town and the stop was announced, the conductor would call out "Minot, this is Minot, North Dakota, prepare to meet your doom". A tent town sprung up overnight, as if by "magic", thus the city came to be known as the Magic City, and in the next five months, the population increased to over 5,000 residents, further adding to the nickname's validity.
The town site was chosen by the railroad to be placed on the land of then-homesteader Erik Ramstad. Ramstad was convinced to relinquish his claim, and became one of the city leaders.
The town was named after Henry D. Minot, a railroad investor, an ornithologist and friend of Hill. Its Arikara name is niwaharít sahaáhkat [niWAharít sAhaáhkAt, niWAharít shaáhkAt]; its Hidatsa name is dibiarugareesh, ("Plum Coulee").
The city was incorporated on June 28, 1887.
The Minneapolis, St. Paul and Sault Ste. Marie Railroad (Soo Line) later built a line from Valley City up to Canada. While initially their plan was to cross the Souris River at Burlington, local interests and arguments convinced them otherwise; landholders along the new route donated the right-of-way. They reached Minot in 1893.
Minot and its surrounding area were wide open throughout 1905-20. Population grew rapidly due to railroad construction and availability of unclaimed land. Nearly complete court records of Ward County and Minot document the prevalence and different types of criminal activity, and offer strong support for the dubious title of "crime capitol of North Dakota." State attorney general William Langer helped clean up the town in 1917-1920, but when Prohibition arrived in the 1920s the city was nicknamed "Little Chicago", as it was a supply hub of Al Capone's liquor smuggling operations. Smugglers used a network of underground tunnels (some of which were previously built for heating or deliveries) to transport and conceal the illicit cargo entering from Canada.
The 1950s saw a large influx of federal funding into the region, with the construction of Minot Air Force Base (1956–57) thirteen miles (20 km) north of the city, and Garrison Dam (1947–53) on the Missouri River, about fifty miles (80 km) south of Minot.
On January 18, 2002, a severe train derailment west of the city sent a gigantic cloud of anhydrous ammonia toward Minot, and Burlington. One man died and many of Minot's citizens were sickened and severely injured by the noxious gas, causing one of the worst major chemical accidents of the country. In early 2006, court cases were heard in Minneapolis, Minnesota, against Canadian Pacific Railway, the owner of the derailed train. Several cases have been settled and many others are pending. The anhydrous ammonia spill was the largest such spill in U.S. history. This incident was addressed by Eric Klinenberg in his book Fighting for Air: The Battle to Control America's Media as an example of the failure of mass-Media, specifically local radio stations, to disseminate information to the public in an emergency situation.
The 2011 Mouse (Souris) River flood caused extensive damage throughout the Mouse River Valley. On June 21, 2011, KXMC TV reported that a flood of historic proportions was imminent in the Mouse (Souris) River Valley, largely due to large dam releases upstream. Around 12,000 people were evacuated. On June 26, flooding exceeded previous records when the river crested at 1,561.72 feet above sea level, three feet above the previous record set back in 1881. It is estimated that 20 percent of Minot sustained damage from the flood. This figure includes over 4,100 homes which were someway affected, 2,376 extensively damaged, and 805 damaged beyond repair. The nearby town of Burlington was also severely damaged during this time.