The first Mass, in the territory now comprised in the Diocese of Fargo, was celebrated in Pembina, September, 1818, by Rev. Severe Joseph Norbert Dumoulin, one of the two missionaries sent to the Selkirk colony by Bishop Plessis of Quebec. Father Dumoulin war born in Montreal, December 5, 1793, ordained priest in the Nicolet Seminary, February 23, 1817, left Quebec for the Selkirk colony, May 19, 1818, and arrived at Fort Douglas (now St. Boniface, Manitoba), July 16, 1818. In August, 1823, Father Dumoulin returned to Canada, where he died in 1853. The name of the diocese was originally Jamestown, which title was suppressed by the Holy See, April 6, 1897, and changed to Fargo in accordance with the bishop’s request. At its formation the diocese contained a population of 19,000, of whom nearly 8000 were Indians and half-breeds. The population (1908) is about 70,000.
With the creation of the diocese the Rev. John Shanley was named its first bishop. He was born at Albion, New York, January 4, 1852, and ordained priest May 30, 1874, at Rome. His consecration as bishop took place at St. Paul, December 27, 1889. There were then in the diocese 30 priests, 40 churches, an academy for girls, a hospital, and 3 parochial schools. There are now (1909) in the diocese a mitred abbot, 110 priests, 215 churches, 15 parochial schools, 4 Indian schools, 5 hospitals, an orphanage, a college for boys, and 6 academies for girls. In eighteen years the number of priests quadrupled and the number of churches more than quintupled.
The Benedictine Fathers have an abbey at Richardton, and a priory at Devil‘s Lake, from which points they attend several missions. Connected with the Richardton Abbey is a college for boys. The Benedictine Sisters are in charge of several schools, and the Presentation Nuns in charge of schools and orphans. Other communities are: Sisters of Mercy (hospital and schools); Sisters of St. Joseph (hospitals and school); Sisters of Charity, or Grey Nuns (Indian school); Sisters of Mary of the Presentation (schools).