Moorhead, first settled in 1871, when the building of the Northern Pacific railroad reached the site. It was named in honor of William Garroway Moorhead
, of Pennsylvania, who was a director of that railroad company. He was a partner of Jay Cooke, the Northern Pacific financial agent, and his first wife was a sister of Cooke. He was president of the Philadelphia and Erie railroad. Moorhead was incorporated as a
city on 24 February 1881.