Dakota Datebook

HR Bill No. 2593
written by Christina Campbell
February 11, 2019 — In 1861, Dakota Territory included portions of present-day Montana, Idaho and Wyoming. As each region became separate territories, it appeared that the borders of the three future states failed to join, leaving a triangular section between Montana, Wyoming, and Idaho that still belonged to the Territory of Dakota. Land office maps from the 1860’s marked this area as almost 100 miles wide and 35 miles deep. On this day, Feb 11, 1873, the US Senate approved HR Bill No. 2593 adjoining this triangular remnant of Dakota Territory to Montana. President Grant signed the bill six days later.
Soon after, a partial survey of the area revealed that such an extensive area could not have existed. In the end, Montana acquired an area a mere four miles long and two miles deep where it touches Wyoming’s northwest corner. Most of the area lies within the boundaries of Yellowstone National Park.
Honorary State Equine
written by Merry Helm
February 12, 2019 — On this date in 1991, the Senate approved a bill to name the Nokota horse North Dakota’s honorary state equine.
Back when he was living here, Teddy Roosevelt wrote, “In a great many…localities there are wild horses to be found, which (are) as wild as the antelope on whose range they have intruded.”
That changed after the Great Depression, when officials decided to eradicate the horses, which were descended from Sitting Bull’s war and buffalo ponies. After being rounded up or shot for the next 20 years, a small number found safe haven when they were accidentally trapped inside Theodore Roosevelt National Park. That was during the ‘40s. Since then, those, too, were removed and were replaced by domestic breeds. Thankfully, the Nokota Horse Conservancy, a non-profit organization at Linton, works to protect the breed from extinction.
Three Men in a Blizzard
written by Merry Helm
February 13, 2019 — In “A History of Foster County,” there’s a story of how three friends survived the big blizzard of 1886. Their wagon was only 12 feet from their tarpaper shack, but the next morning a blizzard completely blocked it from sight. Toward evening, they headed for the stable to feed the animals.
“The storm came from the northwest,” one of them said, “and going with the wind we made the stable all right, but coming back was a different thing…we walked until we struck a bare spot and discovered it was the fire break north of the house. We had completely missed the house… I happened to stand facing in a straight line toward the house and all at once I noticed a small black spot, then it disappeared. I did not dare turn my head. I started to run and yelled at Olaus and John to follow me. We all bumped up against the house before we saw it.”
Enos Stutsman
written by Merry Helm
February 14, 2019 — Today’s story is about Enos Stutsman, the namesake of Stutsman County, where he never actually lived. He was born near the home of Abraham Lincoln’s father in Indiana on this date, Valentines Day, in 1826.
Starting when he was just 17, Stutsman taught school for four years, and then began a life in politics, first as a county recorder and then as clerk of court. In his spare time, he studied law. He passed the bar in 1851 and within a few years migrated to Yankton, where he was the only resident lawyer. When Dakota Territory organized, Stutsman was elected to represent Yankton, and it was he who was largely responsible for the town becoming the territorial capital.
During the second session of the council, he was elected its president, but he resigned in 1866 to become a customs agent at Pembina. It was there that he became friends with Charles Cavileer.
Stutsman’s friends thought he’d soon come back to Yankton, and he did – but now as Pembina’s representative. He had grown fond of the scrappy trappers and traders who thrived up north. Stutsman, himself, was no stranger to overcoming great challenges; he was born with no legs.
In the book, Jamestown, Century of Stories, researcher James Smorada writes, “Stutsman was reputed to be the best shot in a territory where nearly everyone carried a revolver or a rifle. Stutsman was able to draw a bead on a moving target at 50 paces and hit it with certainty, according to peers of the day. His cool aim was countered by a quick temper, however, (and he) was not above brawling when the occasion called for it.”
Smorada recounts one example that made the news. “For some reason,” he writes, “a main street Yankton merchant and Stutsman began quarreling at breakfast. They were the best of friends; they were in the territorial legislature together. And they always had breakfast together at the International Hotel.
“The merchant, Downer T. Bramble, took the occasion to pitch a bottle of pepper sauce at Stutsman. It connected, (and) Bramble left the room quickly. Stutsman swore, wiped the hot sauce from his head and headed for his room and his revolver…
“Bramble headed down the street,” Smorada writes. “He knew he was in trouble and wanted to meet the occasion with pistol and second secured. Both armed, each marched into the street in a direction that would insure a meeting, but each was on the verge of a rational decision.” Smorada summarizes that Bramble felt that killing Stutsman would be bad for business, and Stutsman decided against killing Bramble, because his pistol was clogged from dragging in the mud.
“It wasn’t the first time Stutsman was involved in a scrap;” Smorada continues, “there was another time when one of Stutsman’s political rivals sailed a ketchup bottle in Enos’ direction and had the misfortune of missing him. Stutsman returned the volley with tumblers, cups and the carcass of the bird the two had been eating. As if that was not enough, Stutsman climbed across the table and pressed the attack…The two were led out separate doors to cool off. And when they were led back into the room they shook hands and were nice to each other…”
Stutsman became ill late in 1873 and soon went back to Pembina. There, he died at the home of his friend, Charles Cavileer, on January 24, 1874 – three weeks short of his 48th birthday.
Governor Pierce Resigns
written by Merry Helm
February 15, 2019 — It was on this date in 1901 that Dakota Territory’s eighth governor died in Chicago. Gilbert Ashville Pierce was born in 1839 in Cattaraugus County, New York, where he attended public school. Later, he moved to Indiana to attend the University of Chicago Law School.
Pierce fought for the Union during the Civil War, rising to Lt. Col. and Chief Quartermaster. After the war, he practiced law in Valparaiso, served in the Indiana legislature and became an assistant financial clerk of the U.S. Senate. In 1871, he left politics to work for a newspaper, the Chicago Inter-Ocean, for the next twelve years.
Meanwhile, Nehemiah Ordway was governing Dakota Territory during an era of unprecedented growth. Ordway and his good friend, Alexander McKenzie, managed to get the capitol moved from Yankton to Bismarck during this time, but Ordway’s corrupt practices caught up with him, and he was indicted by a grand jury in 1884. President Chester Arthur removed Ordway from office and turned ‘Pierce the Editor’ into ‘Pierce the Governor’.
Pierce receives little mention in the history books when compared to other politicians of his time; in fact his story is a bit of a mystery. (Hopefully, someone out there knows the answer.) Pierce didn’t make the news all that much during his first year in office. In September 1885, he attended a grand banquet during a reunion of the Army of the Tennessee; a Bismarck Daily Tribune article said Pierce responded to a toast to the Nation by saying “The toast was too large for him. Away back in the forties a man might hope to deal with the subject, he said, but the time for small things has passed… Let the nation that aspires to greatness be sensible of wrong. It might be taken as a rule that the man who wanted to govern most was likely to govern worst.”
A month later, the Bismarck Tribune stated, “The (Minneapolis) Tribune’s dispatches today show that vigorous and not scrupulous efforts are being made to induce the president to remove Governor Pierce of Dakota. We have on more than one occasion already registered our sincere belief that the removal of her present Governor would be a serious loss to the territory…”
A nearly simultaneous story from Washington read, “There has been considerable talk within the last few days that serious charges of offensive partisanship and malfeasance in office had been filed in the Interior department against Governor Pierce of Dakota…”
On November 17, 1886 – more than a year later – the Bismarck Tribune ran this story: “Governor Pierce, of Dakota, is (in Washington) in the interests of the territory, and is directing his attention more especially to securing $3,000 due Dakota, from the federal government, toward paying the expenses of the census… He is sanguine as ever over the future of Dakota, and lives in strong hope of seeing the territory admitted to the sisterhood of states within a very short time…”


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