Timeline of North Dakota

1861 – Dakota Territory was officially organized by the Federal government and William Jayne was appointed the first governor by President Abraham Lincoln.

1862 – Dakota Territory is opened for homesteading.

The First Territorial Legislature for Dakota Territory met at Yankton

Fort Abercrombie was besieged by Sioux during the Minnesota Uprising.

Henry Sibley

Henry Sibley

1863 – Campaigns intended to punish Santee Sioux who participated in the Minnesota Uprising pushed through northern Dakota and were led by General Henry H. Sibley and General Alfred H. Sully.

On September 3, Sully’s forces attacked a peaceful hunting camp of Yanktonai Sioux at Whitestone Hill; this was the last major battle of the Indian Wars period to be fought east of the Missouri.

1864 – The first newspaper to be published in northern Dakota, The Frontier Scout, was issued at Fort Union.

An immigrant party led by James Fiske was besieged near present-day Marmarth for two weeks; members of the party constructed sod breastworks now known as Fort Dilts.

A second military expedition led by Sully battled Sioux at Killdeer Mountain and in the Badlands.

Military troops began temporary occupation of Fort Union (1864-65) and Fort Berthold (1864-67) pending the establishment of new forts.

The military post of Fort Rice (1864-78) was established.

1866 – The military post of Fort Buford (1866-95) was established.

1867 – The Fort Totten Indian Reservation was established and Sisseton and Wahpeton Sioux ceded lands to the U.S. government by treaty.

The military posts of Fort Ransom (1867-72), Fort Totten (1867-90), and Fort Stevenson (1867-83) were established.

1868 – A peace treaty grants the Sioux the lands west of the Missouri River in Dakota Territory.

The first homestead entry in northern Dakota was made by Joseph Rolette in the northern Red River Valley.

1869 – Fort Berthold Indian Reservation is established.  The Sioux and Chippewa cede most of eastern North Dakota to the government.

1870 – The Fort Berthold Indian Reservation was established and treaties between the Sioux and Chippewa and the U.S. government ceded most of present-day eastern North Dakota to the Federal government.

The military post of Fort Pembina (1870-95) was established.

1872 – The Northern Pacific Railway is built from the Red River to Jamestown.

The first commercial telegraph line was extended from Fargo to Winnipeg and the military posts of Fort Abraham Lincoln (1872-91), Camp Hancock (1872-77), and Fort Seward (1872-77) were established.

1873 – On July 11, Colonel Clement A. Lounsberry published the first issue of the Bismarck Tribune, now North Dakota’s oldest newspaper.

The first commercial lignite mine opened at Sims but failed.

1874 – A U.S. Weather Bureau station was established at Camp Hancock at Bismarck

The Fargo Express, the first newspaper in the Red River Valley, began publication.

A major reconnaissance from Fort Abraham Lincoln, led by Col. George A. Custer, explored the Black Hills and verified the existence of gold in that region.

The military post of Fort Yates (1874-1903) was established.

1875 – Bonanza farms were established in the Red River Valley.

White settlement was permitted by the U.S. War Department on Indian lands reserved by the Laramie treaty, precipitating a major Indian uprising on the plains.

Little Bighorn River

Little Bighorn River

1876 – The 7th Cavalry, led by General George A. Custer, leaves Fort Abraham Lincoln near Bismarck to join the expedition against the Sioux.  It is defeated at the Little Bighorn River in Montana.

Leaving Fort Abraham Lincoln on May 17, Custer met decisive defeat at the Little Bighorn River in Montana on June 25.

1877 – The first Bismarck to Deadwood stage left Bismarck

First telephones in northern Dakota connected locations on the Grandin bonanza farm near Grandin.

1878 – Ranching was introduced in western Dakota Territory.

1879 – The Great Dakota land boom began

Military post at Cantonment Badlands (1879-83) was established.

The St. Paul, Minneapolis, and Manitoba Railway (later the Great Northern Railway) entered northern Dakota near Grand Forks; The GNRR, led by James J. Hill, completed its main line to the Montana border in 1887.

1880 –  Military reserves in the eastern and central portion of northern Dakota were opened to homesteading.

1882 – The last great Indian buffalo hunt occurs.

The Turtle Mountain Reservation is established.

Fire destroyed a large portion of Grand Forks.

1883 – The territorial capital was moved from Yankton to Bismarck

First capitol was constructed.

A university (UND) at Grand Forks and a Presbyterian College (now Jamestown College) were established.

The Marquis de Mores began a packing plant and other businesses and planned the town of Medora; these enterprises failed in 1886.

Wilmot Dow, Theodore Roosevelt and Bill Sewall at the Elkhorn Ranch in North Dakota.

Wilmot Dow, Theodore Roosevelt and Bill Sewall at the Elkhorn Ranch in North Dakota.

Theodore Roosevelt first visited Medora; he later established two ranches in that vicinity that he utilized periodically until 1888.

1884 – Half the city of Devils Lake was destroyed by fire.

1885 – The first meeting of the Territorial Legislature was held at Bismarck

Marquis de Mores was acquitted of murder in a trial at Bismarck.

The Hospital for the Insane (now North Dakota State Hospital) was opened at Jamestown

Territorial prison (now the State Penitentiary) opened at Bismarck.

The great “Dakota Boom” in settlement increased the territory’s population during this era

Territorial census was taken.

1886 – Severe winter in the western part of Dakota Territory put an end to open range ranching

Bank of Hamilton (oldest state bank in North Dakota ) was opened.

The Soo Line Railway began construction in northern Dakota at Fairmont; the Soo completed its lines to Portal in 1893.

1887 – Standing Rock Indian Reservation is opened to homesteading.

Board of Pharmacy, North Dakota’s first examining board, was founded.

The North Dakota Medical Association was founded at Larimore.

1889 – North Dakota becomes the 39th State on November 2nd.

North Dakota’s first Governor, John Miller of Dwight, took office

State Legislature convened at Bismarck on November 19.

The constitutional prohibition of alcoholic beverages was instigated.

North Dakota Farmers Alliance was formed.

The Catholic Diocese of Jamestown was established (the offices were moved to Fargo in 1891).

Ghost Dance

Ghost Dance

1890 – Ghost Dance activities among the Sioux cause panic among settlers.  Sitting Bull is killed at Standing Rock Indian Reservation.

State Normal Schools at Valley City and Mayville (now State Universities), the State Agricultural College (now North Dakota State University) at Fargo, and the School for the Deaf at Devils Lake were opened. A State Agricultural Experiment Station was opened at Fargo.

1892 – Early Republican Party domination of state politics was overthrown by the fusion of Democrats and Populists; Eli C.D. Shortridge was elected Governor. Laura J. Eisenhuth, the first woman to hold state office, was elected Superintendent of Public Instruction.

1893 – The Industrial School at Ellendale (later known as the State Normal and Industrial School) was opened; this institution existed until 1971 when its Constitutional status was removed by referendum.

The North Dakota Soldiers’ Home was opened at Lisbon

Fire destroyed almost the entire business section of Fargo.

1894 – The Republican Party regained control of state government, a domination that continued until 1907.

Fire destroyed four city blocks in LaMoure.

1895 – The State Historical Society of North Dakota was incorporated with Clement A. Lounsberry as president.

1897 – The first free public library opened at Grafton.

1898 – North Dakota sent troops to assist in the Spanish-American War

Fire almost destroyed the entire Bismarck business section.

Fort Abraham Lincoln, North Dakota 1880

Fort Abraham Lincoln, North Dakota 1880

1903 – Fort Lincoln, located south of Bismark, is completed and garrisoned.

Compiled by Kathy Weiser-Alexander, February 2020.

Also See: 

Destinations Across America

National Parks

North Dakota Photo Galleries

North Dakota – Tough Rider Country