Part 1: In a Nutshell

  • President James Buchanan signed the bill creating Dakota Territory out of the present-day states of North Dakota, South Dakota, most of Montana, and most of Wyoming.
  • President Abraham Lincoln appointed his physician, Dr. William Jayne, as the first governor of Dakota Territory.
  • Yankton, in the southeast corner of present-day South Dakota, was the first capital of Dakota Territory.
  • By 1868, Dakota Territory consisted of only North Dakota and South Dakota.
  • A bill to make northern Dakota “Pembina Territory” was brought before the U.S. Congress about a dozen times but was never passed into law.
  • Alexander McKenzie, Burleigh County sheriff, was an agent for the Northern Pacific Railroad Company.
  • The town of McKenzie and McKenzie County were named after Alexander McKenzie, who was nicknamed the “Boss of North Dakota.”
  • The nine-member commission, which was appointed to choose a new location for the territorial capital, had a secret meeting aboard a moving train in Yankton.
  • Bismarck became the capital of Dakota Territory in 1883.
  • On November 2, 1889, President Benjamin Harrison signed the bill granting statehood to North Dakota and South Dakota.
  • The north-flowing Red River and the south-flowing Missouri River were the two major transportation routes for goods traded into and out of North Dakota in the early 1800s.
  • The Métis invented the Red River cart, which became the primary means of transportation for the fur trading companies between Fort Garry (Winnipeg), Pembina, and St. Paul.
  • The Yellowstone was the first steamboat on the Missouri River in North Dakota.
  • The Upper Missouri is the northern part of the Missouri River.
  • The Far West, piloted by Grant Marsh, carried the news to Bismarck of Custer’s defeat at the Battle of the Little Bighorn in Montana.
  • The Anson Northrup was the first steamboat on the Red River in North Dakota.
  • North Dakota’s last steamboat on the Missouri River was in 1890. The last steamboat on the Red River was in 1912.
  • The Minnie H steamboat operated on Devils Lake every summer for 25 years.
  • Stagecoaches carried passengers to Deadwood, South Dakota, during the gold rush in the Black Hills.
  • The railroad put both steamboats and stagecoaches out of business.
  • President Abraham Lincoln signed a bill to build a transcontinental railroad through present-day North Dakota.
  • The Jay Cooke & Company banking business was in charge of raising money for building the transcontinental railroad.
  • The first train locomotive entered northern Dakota on June 6, 1872.
  • The Northern Pacific Railroad was the first railroad to enter North Dakota.
  • When the Northern Pacific rails reached the Missouri River, Jay Cooke & Company went broke and halted construction.
  • Northern Pacific Railroad renamed Edwinton “Bismarck” after Otto von Bismarck, the German leader.
  • The railroad bridge at Bismarck was completed in 1883, 10 years after the railroad had reached the Missouri River.
  • Jim Hill was in charge of building the Great Northern Railway, the second transcontinental railroad to cross North Dakota.
  • Jim Hill was nicknamed the “Empire Builder.”
  • The Soo Line, running diagonally across the state from southeast to northwest, was the third major railroad built in North Dakota.
  • Depot agents used Morse code to send telegraph messages for the railroads.
  • Train locomotives were turned around on giant turntables in buildings called roundhouses.