Dakota Datebook


Monday, September 2, 2013


On July 18, 1875, fifteen men left Bismarck, Dakota Territory, bound for the Black Hills. The men, led by H. N. Ross, were intent on proving the existence of large gold deposits in the hills, which Custer’s expedition had reported the previous year.

Even though the Black Hills were granted to the Lakota tribes by the Treaty of Fort Laramie in 1868, the U.S. Government had commissioned General George Custer to launch an expedition into the hills in 1874 to investigate rumors of gold deposits. Custer and his men did indeed find gold, but they also came under attack by the Indians, who considered the area sacred.

When Ross’s party of miners returned from the Black Hills in late August of 1875 with additional reports of gold, it set off a gold rush that put the small town of Bismarck on the map. On September 1st, The Bismarck Tribune published an interview with Ross who claimed that each man in the party had discovered “paying dirt.” Ross and the miners felt the U.S. Government would protect prospectors, despite the fact that they were breaking the 1868 treaty. The story was picked up nationally and run in papers across the country on this date in 1875. Within months, Bismarck was filled with prospectors hoping to reach the newly-formed town of Deadwood. A stagecoach service was set up to take the hopefuls all the way to the Black Hills.

In 1877, just as the miners had predicted, the U.S. Government seized the Black Hills from the Native Americans, opening the way for an even larger gold rush. Located at the end of the Northern Pacific line, Bismarck became a boom town. By 1877, the Northwest Express and Transportation Company was running daily stagecoaches from Bismarck along a 240-mile trail to Deadwood, with 175 men operating as many as twenty-six coaches and wagons at a time.

Bismarck merchants and traders made huge profits supplying miners, and the city’s hotels were booked up for months. In 1879, however, the railroad reached Pierre, and by 1880, the business of the gold rush had moved south.


Dakota Datebook written by Jayme L. Job



The Bismarck Tribune. Wednesday, September 1, 1875: p. 1.






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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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