Dakota Datebook

Jamestown Convention

Tuesday, December 3, 2013


Benjamin Harrison was heading for the White House, and it was an almost a certainty that North Dakota was heading for Statehood. Harrison himself had introduced legislation to allow a single state of Dakota but now recognized that the citizens of both the northern and southern portions of the Territory desired division. But there were a lot of options initiated on the floors of Congress. A bill was introduced to admit a single state of Dakota; another bill to admit Dakota, Washington and Montana, and a still another bill allowing for five new states – adding New Mexico and Utah to the list. There were also bills for a division of Dakota Territory, and even a bill to divide the State of California.


Meanwhile, back in northern Dakota Territory, a call had gone out for a convention in Jamestown to be held this week in 1888. Each county was asked to send representatives to a meeting “where the machinery for the creation of the State of North Dakota will be set in motion.” The original intent of the convention was to force the issue of statehood. They soon realized that the north was ill prepared for such a step, unlike South Dakota, which had already adopted a constitution. This was the first convention organized for North Dakota, while South Dakota had spent almost two decades in the process.


Initiating a less vigorous plan, the delegates set up committees to establish a path to statehood. A committee on resolutions prepared six points: 1) divide the territory on the 7th Standard Parallel, 2) adopt the name North Dakota, 3) request immediate admission by the 50th Congress, if not, 4) request the President to call a special session, 5) arrange for a constitutional convention, and 6) organize four proposed states to work together to effect admission. Other committees were set up to prepare bills for the 1889 Territorial Session and to set up a constitutional convention in the summer of 1889.


The committee stood firm on the name North Dakota. This was prompted by a recent newspaper editorial stating that southern Dakota, being stronger, should retain the name Dakota, and northern Dakota should adopt the name Lincoln. Other suggestions included Pembina, Grant and Jefferson for the north, but an Iowa man decided that the Native American word Dakota somehow always seems to bring to mind Longfellow’s poem, so an appropriate pairing of names would be Dakota for the south, and for the north, the name … Hiawatha.


Dakota Datebook written by Jim Davis



The Bismarck Tribune December 10, 1888

The Bismarck Tribune December 14, 1888

The Jamestown Weekly Alert December 6, 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.

« Go Back

Award-winning radio, television, and public media services that educate, involve, and inspire the people of the prairie region.

Donate Now

Breaking News

Follow Us On Social Media