Randolph M. Probstfield was born in Prussia in 1832. He emigrated to the United States in 1852, living in Wisconsin and Michigan prior to coming to Minnesota. It is known that he worked in the lumbering business out of St. Paul and traveled through much of the country and to Latin America during the mid 1850s. In 1859, Probstfield moved to the Red River Valley area, becoming so far as to be known, as the first white settler in Clay County. He acted as an agent for the Hudson Bay Company for several years, marrying in 1861 and living in the company settlement of Georgetown. He was also living there when the "Sioux Uprising" of 1862 occurred, and lost much of his property as a result.
In 1869, Probstfield began farming on land just north of the future site of Moorhead. He built this into a very successful vegetable farm, establishing through trial and error which varieties would grow well in the Valley.
Always involved in politics, Probstfield had much influence in the Farmer’s Alliance Movement of the late 19th Century. He was elected to the Minnesota State Senate in 1891 and served one term, during which time he helped expand the Moorhead Normal School campus, worked for drainage laws, and opposed the construction of a new capitol building.
Probstfield died in 1911.
The Probstfield collection consists of several files of correspondence, papers of the Farmer’s Alliance Movement, legislative files, research papers, and 21 volumes of diaries kept by Probstfield between 1867 and 1911. Most materials are in good condition.