Regarded as the founder of Grand Forks, Alexander D. Griggs was born October 27, 1838, to William and Esther (McGibbon) Griggs in Marietta, Ohio. About two years after his birth, the family moved to Grant County, Wisconsin, and then, in 1849, to St. Paul, Minnesota. As a youth, he was employed as a cabin boy on steamboats. By the age of 20, Griggs was a steamboat captain on the Mississippi River. He later became acquainted with James J. Hill, the railroad magnate, and together they formed Hill, Griggs & Company for transporting supplies on the Red River.
Griggs first came to the location of Grand Forks when his steamboat was trapped in the ice during the winter of 1870-71. He constructed a modest cabin and, in 1875, purchased the land that was to become the original townsite of Grand Forks. Captain Griggs held various positions in Grand Forks, including as mayor (1888-1890), and was involved with several business ventures. He also served as one of the first county commissioners when Grand Forks County was organized in 1874. Griggs was a member of the North Dakota constitutional convention of 1889. About 1891, due to health issues and the urging of James J. Hill, Captain Griggs moved west to Washington and established the Columbia and Okanogan Steamboat Company. He and his family eventually settled in the town of Wenatchee. Griggs suffered a stroke and died the following day, January 25, 1903, at his home.
Griggs married Henrietta "Ettie" Ione Strong December 27, 1865, in Le Sueur, Minnesota. Together they had eight children, although one son, Charles, died in infancy. Four of the children became involved in the steamboat business of their father.
To honor Alexander Griggs as the founder of Grand Forks, a statue of him stands on the grounds of the Grand Forks County Courthouse. The statue was dedicated May 23, 2001. Another statue of Griggs (installed 1997) is located in Wenatchee, Washington.