In 1881, brothers David and Simon McCanna established the McCanna Farming Company in Elm Grove Township, Grand Forks County, North Dakota. The following year, David moved to Towner County near the future site of Cando. Simon, however, remained in Grand Forks County and, in 1883, founded the town of McCanna, 37 miles northwest of Grand Forks city. In 1885, Simon married Katherine O'Gorman. Eight children were born of the couple, three of whom died in infancy. The remaining children, were Charles D. (1884-1957), Edwin T. (1886-1963), Ralph (died in 1927), George M. (died in 1938), and Reuben (1892-1947).
Within a few years, the McCanna Farming Company grew into a diverse business. The farm raised pure-bred Aberdeen Angus cattle as well as spring wheat, durum, barley, and oats. Over one hundred horses and mules were required to operate the farm's machinery. In a letter written at the turn of the century, Simon boasted of owning 2,400 acres in Grand Forks County; several large barns; 90 horses, including Percherons and Clydesdales; 75 head of cattle, most of which were registered Polled Angus, Holstein and, Durham; and the "best of machinery to operate my farms." He claimed to have made over $60,000 since settling in Grand Forks County.
When Simon died in 1906, control of the farm passed to his oldest son, Charles. Charles directed the farm operation throughout the remainder of his life. In 1911, under the direction of Charles' brother, Edwin, the McCanna family established the Bank of McCanna, a state-chartered institution. Five years later, Edwin and George were listed as founding directors of the Bank of Garske, in Ramsey County. Sometime prior to 1922, the McCanna family also bought controlling interest in a third bank, the First State Bank of Backoo, in Pembina County. By 1922, Edwin was president of all three banks.
In July 1925, the Backoo bank was moved to Cavalier and renamed the Pembina County Bank. That December, Edwin appointed his youngest brother, Reuben, assistant cashier of the Cavalier institution. The McCannas sold the Pembina County Bank in August 1929. In June 1930, the Bank of McCanna collapsed. As a result, the McCanna Farming Company, already deeply in debt, was in jeopardy of financial failure. The McCannas moved quickly to protect the farm by selling the Bank of Garske in July 1930. Only the McCanna Farming Company's solid reputation and Edwin's financial contacts prevented foreclosure. In March 1934, the McCanna Farming Company refinanced its debt through a Federal Land Bank loan.
The McCanna Farming Company survived the Great Depression and accompanying drought. During World War II, the farm raised a variety of small grain crops, pork, and beef. Twenty men worked there in the busy season. Following the war, the farm was worked increasingly by tenants and farm production was limited generally to small grains and potatoes. After Charles' death in 1957, the McCanna Farming Company was reorganized as a partnership, and a manager, C. H. Erbele, was employed to oversee farm operations. In addition to directing farm tenants, Erbele corresponded with McCanna Farming Company partners, calculated their individual and corporate taxes, and distributed their dividend checks.
The McCanna Farming Company Records date from 1883 to 1982 and have been divided into four series as follows:
Series 1: Farming
Series 2: Banking
Series 3: Family
Series 4: Photographs