Donald “Don” Stevenson
Thursday, December 28, 2006
On this date in 1908, Donald “Don” Stevenson, one of the state’s best known early ranchers, died.
Don Stevenson was born on April 12, 1833, in Scotland, coming to Ontario in 1842 and to Minnesota in 1856. By 1860, he was on the way to Texas to herd cattle and do some freighting between Kansas and Nebraska.
Stevenson returned to Minnesota in 1861 and purchased a farm on land that became Osakis in Douglas County. He married Lydia Ann Stone in March 1863 in St. Cloud, and they raised cattle, sheep, horses and hogs until 1872. He also served as the town’s postmaster and owned the town’s first grist mill.
While farming, Stevenson was also hauling freight, supplies and people from St. Cloud to the forts and new establishments in northern Dakota Territory, maintaining the business from 1866-1882. As an Army contractor, he delivered supplies to the forts and put up hay and firewood for them. He had as many as 125 mowing machines and the men to run them.
He also ran teams to the Black Hills, bringing out the first nuggets that showed there was gold in the Hills.
He moved to Dakota Territory in May 1872 and established the D.S. Ranch in Emmons County, ranching there until 1886. By then, Stevenson had about 800 head of longhorn and beef cattle and horses. He lost about half of them that winter of 1886-1887.
From 1882-1886, Stevenson operated a butcher shop in Bismarck, supplying it with beef, pork and mutton from his ranch and established the Stevenson Post Office at his ranch.
Along with ranching, Stevenson ran a freight business with up to 300 wagons, operating from the ranch. Using mostly oxen and later some Missouri mules and horses, he ran between Bismarck and Camp Meade in southern Dakota Territory.
In 1887, Stevenson moved his ranch to Morton County, where the old Deadwood Stage Road crossed the Cannonball River, about 50 miles south of Mandan. He gave up the freight business then and ranched full time until retiring in 1906 because of poor health. At one time, Stevenson had as many as 1,600 head of horses and cattle.
In 1896 and 1898, Stevenson was elected to the State Legislature. He was an imposing figure in the House chambers, standing well over six feet tall and weighing more than 300 pounds.
Stevenson was also active in community and county affairs as a Mason; in the Clan of the Caledonian Society of North Dakota, a Scottish organization; as postmaster; church trustee; and the first elected Emmons County treasurer.
After retiring from ranching, Stevenson moved to Shields in western Grant County. He died on December 28, 1908, in Dickinson and is buried in the Mandan Union Cemetery.
By Cathy A. Langemo, WritePlus Inc.