Watford City (Hidatsa: abaʔaruʔush), founded in 1914, is the seat of McKenzie County, North Dakota in the United States. The population was 1,744 at the 2010 census. Because Watford City is part of the Bakken field, the North Dakota oil boom has significantly increased population and construction since the 2010 census.
In 1913, a few prospective businessmen located on the townsite of the future Watford City in anticipation of the arrival of the first Great Northern Railroad train. The Northern Land and Townsite Company, a division of the Great Northern, platted the town and sold lots in June 1914. Building began immediately, and many businesses and homes were moved from Schafer, which eventually became a ghost town. Watford was incorporated in June 1915, and was named by Dr. Vaughan G. Morris (1879–1940) for his hometown of Watford, Ontario. A year later the town added "City" to its name to differentiate itself from Wolford in Pierce County.
The Great Northern planned to extend its line to New Rockford and in 1914 began building the "Madson Grade," one of the longest dirt filled railroad grades in the country about a mile west of town. Two years later the grade was ninety feet high and nearly a mile long, but the project was abandoned shortly before the United States entered World War I.
Village officers were elected in 1915, and they concerned themselves with such tasks as impounding stray horses and cattle, prohibiting swine and chickens from town, locating hitching posts, and removing hay stacks from Main Street. The town had a band and baseball team from its founding. A school and several churches were also constructed almost immediately. During the Great Depression, a water and sanitary system was completed using labor mostly paid by the Public Works Administration.
In 1940, Watford City won a hotly contested campaign for county seat, defeating Alexander and Arnegard and taking the prize from Schafer. At first there was difficulty finding suitable office space, and a recently constructed hospital was sold to the county for use as a courthouse. A new hospital was dedicated in 1952. Watford City Air Force Station was opened nearby in 1979.