Dakota Territory was created on March 2, 1861. Idaho Territory was removed from this in 1863, Montana Territory in 1864, and Wyoming Territory in 1868. Even then, a further division was fermenting in the minds of the residents in the southern portion. Almost immediately the citizens of Sioux Falls, Huron and Yankton began plotting statehood for the southern half. On January 12, 1871, the Territorial Legislature adopted a memorial for division at the 46th parallel. It was only the beginning of a seventeen year quest for southern Dakotans to be rid of their less developed, less civilized, northern neighbors. The Countdown to Statehood had begun.
Railroads were beginning to stretch across the Territory. To create the illusion that the land was being quickly settled, numerous, unorganized counties were established. Bills and memorials were submitted to Congress in 1872, 1874 and 1877 to create a state out of the southern half, but failed. To the Eastern politicians, Dakota was still a frontier, and the defeat of the 7th Cavalry under Custer confirmed this. Indian leaders like Sitting Bull, Gaul and Crazy Horse were well known names in the Eastern newspapers. And an attempt in 1879 to admit the State of Dakota without a division was protested by the Territorial Legislature.
On January 7, 1880 G. G. Bennet, senator from Dakota Territory, introduced a bill to create the State of Dakota and the Territory of Pembina. Like most other bills, this too, languished in the Committee on Territories. In 1883 a bill to establish the Territory of North Dakota failed to win support in Congress, and when the City of Bismarck captured the Capitol from the southern faction, that was too much to bear. A convention was held at Huron in 1883 and at Sioux Falls in 1885, resolving to create a constitution and enact the organic law for the southern half. These resolutions were successfully submitted to the voters, but in vain. Among others, Senator Benjamin Harrison of Indiana submitted bills supporting division and statehood in 1884 and 1886, but again they died in Congress. The Democratic controlled Senate reasoned that the two states would add four Republican Senators when admitted.
The deadlock in the Senate needed to be broken, and on this date in 1888, all eyes were on the Presidential race. If Grover Cleveland won reelection, division and statehood could be delayed. If Benjamin Harrison won and carried some Republicans into the Senate, statehood was all but assured. However Dennis Hannifin, a flamboyant, outspoken Democrat from Mandan was giving odds on Cleveland, and Cleveland did indeed win the popular vote – but he lost in the Electoral College. The following year, North and South Dakota were admitted to the union.
Dakota Datebook by Jim Davis
Compendium of History and Biography of North Dakota, Geo A. Ogle & Co. Chicago 1900
The Bismarck Tribune November 8, 1888