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Bachelor rancher's North Dakota land fetches $10 million

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP)--Thousands of acres of property belonging to a bachelor rancher who died a year and a half ago at age 79 has been auctioned off in one of North Dakota's biggest land auctions ever.

The 16,626 acres--or more than 26 square miles--of fertile crop and pasture in central North Dakota formerly belonging to Walter Holzworth fetched more than $10 million, said Noel Johnson, Stutsman County's tax director and chief operating officer.

It was sold in 39 parcels March 3 to about 15 buyers, according to Johnson and Ken Dalsted, an attorney for Holzworth's estate.

More than 500 people from around the country came to Jamestown Civic Center for Stutsman County's biggest land auction ever.

"He was an old cattleman, who ran several thousand head of cattle in his day," Johnson said. "For him to have amassed 106 quarters of land in a lifetime, that's pretty amazing.

"I can't recall anything this large up for auction--26 square miles is a huge chunk of land," Johnson said.

Harvey Holzworth, 91, said his younger brother never talked about how much land he had, but most everyone knew it was substantial. Not even his brother, who also farmed in the area, knew the expanse of Walter Holzworth's land until his death.

"I knew he had quite a bit of ground but he never bragged about it, that's for sure," the older Holzworth said. "He ran a big outfit, scattered throughout the county. A lot of people who retired or quit farming came to him and he bought it."

Dalsted, the attorney for the estate, said he figured Holzworth might have owned land in neighboring counties, but that was not the case.

Harvey Holzworth said that was likely by design. He said his brother was born in northwest Stutsman County and rarely left the area he loved.

Walter Holzworth died without a will. Harvey Holzworth, who said he has two sisters, said money from his brother's estate would be split among the family.

"It will get divided up so many ways between the government, attorneys and the auctioneers, that it will get whittled down quite a bit," he said.

Harvey Holzworth said his brother never had time to raise his own family. After a stint in the military, Walter Holzworth returned to the family farm to care for his mother and a brother who suffered from Lou Gehrig's disease.

Holzworth's commitment to caring for his family "is probably what helped keep him single," his brother said. "And he just loved to work--I heard he had 1,200 cows until his later years and then he had to cut back."

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