Dakota Datebook

Countdown to Statehood – 2

Tuesday, November 12, 2013


With slogans like “Benjamin Harrison! He’s grand beyond comparison!” and “Let’s put it over with Grover!” still rocking in their ears, the citizens of Dakota Territory on this date in 1888 waited anxiously for the presidential election returns. If Cleveland remained in office, it could be four more agonizing years before they could realize self-government through statehood.


Only a few days prior to the election, Illinois Congressman William Springer, chairman of the Committee on Territories and a Cleveland supporter, suggested that Congress would probably push for admittance of Dakota Territory as one state during the winter, thereby adding only two presumably Republican senators instead of four. But he was assured that because the Democratic Congress had so persistently snubbed Dakota, that such an offering would be spurned by the people in the territory, who were now demanding two separate states. In fact, it was suggested that South Dakota, which had already adopted a constitution, should immediately press for statehood, preventing any one-state deal.


As the returns came in showing a Harrison victory, there were demonstrations, parades, and speeches by the leaders of the victorious Republican Party. For the jubilant crowds, it was almost like statehood had already been granted. Even for many Democrats, there was some relief knowing that they could finally plan for the future and begin organizing a state government.


In Bismarck, the jubilant Republicans boarded a train for Mandan and later returned with the Mandan Republicans along with bands and banners, and a torchlight parade ensued. Celebrations erupted in Valley City, Grand Forks and other communities across Dakota Territory.


In Grand Forks a special train from Grafton, and even one carrying Republicans from Crookston, arrived in the city to celebrate with the Harrison supporters gathered there. Once again, torchlight parades and speeches carried on deep into the night. But in Fargo, the Republican party had split over local candidates and the Democrats had carried the day so there was little to celebrate.


Wagering on the election was duly noted in the newspapers across the territory. Among those were three bets in Fargo involving top hats, but only one top hat could be found that fit the successful bettors, so the hat was purchased, with one man wearing it in the morning to church, a second man in the afternoon for a lunch engagement and the third in the evening to take his lady friend to the opera house.


Dakota Datebook by Jim Davis




Mandan Pioneer November 16, 1888

The Fargo Argus November 13, 1888

The Bismarck Tribune November 13, 1888

The Grand Forks Weekly Herald November 16, 1888


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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