Dakota Datebook

Division and Dualism

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

 

On this date in 1888, Congress was dealing with the Springer Omnibus Bill, which would admit a single state of Dakota. For most people, especially in Dakota Territory, statehood was not acceptable without division. However, the precedent in dividing the territory along the 46th parallel went back more than three decades, even before the creation of the State of Minnesota. In 1857, Minnesota Territory was struggling with statehood problems. While a majority favored division along the Red River, there was also was a strong party in favor of a division just north of Minneapolis, cutting the territory in two, making the State of Minnesota out of the southern portion leaving the north as a territory.

 

Also, on May 23, 1857, the Dakota Land Company was incorporated to establish a territory west of the proposed state of Minnesota, based in Sioux Falls and Flandrau. With Sioux Falls designated the capital, improvements were made, and a delegate was sent to Washington. Because the land company was comprised of mostly Democrats, the Republican controlled Congress refused to seat the delegate and the creation of the territory of Dahkotah, south of the forty-sixth parallel, failed.

 

As the frontier developed, a sense of dualism developed with it. Even prior to territorial times, there were two settlements, one in the northeast at Pembina and the other in the southeast along the Missouri River at Sioux Falls, which left a vast and open plain between. Even the territorial legislature operated as if there were two Dakotas. The capital was first placed in the southeast, and then in 1883 it was moved to Bismarck. Dual institutions evolved. Dakota University was established at Vermillion and the University of North Dakota at Grand Forks; a penitentiary was built at Sioux Falls and at Bismarck; and a Hospital for the Insane was established in Yankton and in Jamestown. Numerous Normal Schools were established north and south at an equal rate.

 

There was even dualism in transportation. Passenger travel between Yankton and Bismarck by rail required a trip to St. Paul as the railroad systems ran east and west, with few lines running north and south. Seasonal steamboat travel linked Bismarck with the southern part of the territory, but there was little north and south transit once the ice set in. Through this dual railroad system, the merchants of St. Paul and Minneapolis controlled the interstate commerce for all of Dakota Territory. The lack of north and south routes created two separate and virtually equal political, economic and social systems, but in reality, all roads led to St. Paul.

 

Dakota Datebook written by Jim Davis

 

Sources:

Bismarck Daily Tribune December 10, 1888

The Bismarck Tribune December 14, 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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