Dakota Datebook

LaMoure vs. Grand Rapids

Wednesday, October 17, 2012


For many residents of LaMoure County, Independence Day was the highlight of the year. But in 1883 the day was more than a time of celebration; it became a battle in the war of rivalry between two towns. Two years earlier, on this date, the Dakota Territorial Legislature created LaMoure County and organized the government at the county’s only town, Grand Rapids. But shortly a challenger to the county seat arrived with the newly organized town of LaMoure.

Thus, when it was time to plan Independence Day celebrations, both towns wanted to make it a grand event. LaMoure planned a large “pyrotechnic” display, while Grand Rapids invited a distinguished speaker from Fargo, Dr. Robertson. Then Grand Rapids sent a letter to LaMoure stating that since the celebration in LaMoure was not going to be as good as what was planned in Grand Rapids, they would be happy to move the fireworks celebration to Grand Rapids. Insulted, LaMoure called a council of war and decided to steal their rival’s speaker. Tricking Dr. Robertson into thinking LaMoure was Grand Rapids, he gave his speech at their Fourth of July celebration, while the puzzled and confused populous of Grand Rapids wondered what happened to their speaker.

The war continued for another three years until the county residents voted to move the county seat to LaMoure. The county commissioners directed that all records be moved within ten days. But Grand Rapids, after five years as the seat of government, was not ready to admit defeat. At their request a judge in Jamestown granted an injunction to prevent removal of the records and other public property from Grand Rapids. But the injunction arrived too late to stop the 18 volunteer night “raiders” from LaMoure led by the chairman of the county commissioners. The raiders found the courthouse at Grand Rapids brightly lit and defended by 20 armed men, but that didn’t stop them. Using a battering ram, the raiders managed to break down the courthouse door and take all records, along with everything that was not nailed down. The next morning as the raiders celebrated their victory, they were served the injunction, and all the items were returned to Grand Rapids. Yet Grand Rapids’ victory was short-lived. The court ultimately decided in LaMoure’s favor, and the papers and other items were returned to LaMoure where they remain to this day.

Dakota Datebook written by Richard Campbell


A History of LaMoure, North Dakota, 1882-1982, Associated Printers: Grafton – Grand Forks, ND 1982




This text and audio may not be copied without securing prior permission from Prairie Public.

Dakota Datebook is a project of Prairie Public, in partnership with the State Historical Society of North Dakota, with funding from the North Dakota Humanities Council.

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