County History

Adams
Created by official proclamation of Gov. John Burke on April 17, 1907, from the southern portion of Hettinger County. Named for John Quincy Adams (1848-1919). General Land and Townsite Agent for Chicago, Milwaukee and St. Paul Ry., whose main line to the Pacific Coast was built through southwestern North Dakota during 1906-1907. Government organized: April 24, 1907. County Seat: Hettinger, 1907-present.
Barnes
Created by the 1872-1873 territorial legislature as Burbank County, being named for John A. Burbank (1827-1905), governor of Dakota Territory from 1869 to 1873. It was renamed at the 1874-1875 session for Judge Alanson H. Barnes (1818-1890), associate justice assigned to the northern half of the territory. Government organized: January 6, 1879. County Seat: Valley City, 1879-present.
Benson
Created by the 1879 territorial legislature named for Bertil W. Benson, a Valley City merchant and land dealer who served in the House of Representatives. Government organized: June 4, 1884. County Seat: Minnewaukan, 1884-present.
Billings
Created by the 1879 territorial legislature and named for Frederick H. Billings (1823-1890), an attorney, financier and railroad operator from Vermont, president of the Northern Pacific Railroad, 1879-1881. Government organized: May 4, 1886. County Seat: Medora, 1886-present.
Bottineau
Created by the 1872-1873 territorial legislature and named for Pierre Bottineau (ca. 1814-1895), a respected Metis guide, hunter, land speculator, and frontiersman. Government organized: July 17, 1884. County Seat: Bottineau, 1884-present.
Bowman
Created by the 1883 territorial legislature but eliminated by the 1903 session due to a lack of settlement. Re-established on June 10, 1907, by proclamation of Gov. John Burke. It was named for Edward M. Bowman, member of the House of Representatives from the southern half of the territory at the 1883 session. Government organized: July 5, 1907. County Seat: Bowman, 1907-present.
Burke
Created by the proclamation of Gov. John Burke, for whom it is named, on July 12, 1910, after a contested election and extensive litigation resulted in its separation from Ward County. Burke (1859-1937) was a politically successful Democrat in an essential Republican state who served three terms as Governor, 1907-1913, was Treasurer of the United States in the Woodrow Wilson administration and ended his career as justice of the state supreme court, 1924-37. Government organized: July 15, 1910. County Seat: Bowbells, 1910-present.
Burleigh
Created by the 1872-73 territorial legislature and named for Walter Atwood Burleigh (1820-1896), a physician attorney and railroad contractor who served as an Indian agent, delegate to Congress from the Dakota Territory, 1865-1869, and legislator. Government organized: July 16, 1873. County Seat: Bismarck, 1873-present.
Cass
Created by the 1872-73 territorial legislature and named for George Washington Cass (1810-1888), president of the Northern Pacific Railroad at the time it was established. Government organized: October 27, 1873. County Seat: Fargo, 1873-present.
Cavalier
Created by the 1879 territorial legislature and named for Charles Cavalier of Pembina (1818-1902), one of the state's earliest white settlers. The variation in the name is unaccountable. Government organized: July 8, 1884. County Seat: Langdon, 1884-present.
Dickey
Created by the 1881 territorial legislature and named for George H. Dickey (1858-1923), a Valley City attorney and leader in the House of Representatives. Government organized: August 18, 1882. County Seat: Ellendale, 1882-present.
Divide
Came into existence as a result of the vote at the November 10 general election which divided Williams County, hence the name. Gov. John Burke officially proclaimed the county's existence on December 6, 1910. Government organized: December 9, 1910. County Seat: Crosby, 1910-present.
Dunn
Created by the 1883 territorial legislature and named for John Piatt Dunn of Bismarck (1839-1917), an 1872 arrival who opened the first drug store in North Dakota and was a civic and commercial leader during the city's early years. Government organized: February 10, 1908 County Seat: Manning, 1908-present.
Eddy
Created by the 1885 territorial legislature from the northern half of Foster County and named for Ezra B. Eddy (1830-1855), a Fargo banker who died a few weeks earlier Government organized: April 27, 1885. County Seat: New Rockford, 1885-present.
Emmons
Created by the 1879 territorial legislature and named for James Emmons (1845-1919), a steamboat operator and early Bismarck merchant and entrepreneur Government organized: November 9, 1883. County Seat: Williamport 1883-1899, Linton, 1899-present.
Foster
Created by the 1872-73 territorial legislature and named for either James S. Foster of Mitchell, SD (1828-1890) or his brother George I Foster of Fargo, ND (1837-1912). Both were prominent in territorial affairs at the time. Government organized: October 11, 1883. County Seat: Carrington, 1883-present.
Golden Valley
Created from the western portion of Billings County by a favorable vote at the November 10 general election, although litigation delayed its official designation as a county until November 11, 1912. The name was probably chosen for the favorable image it projected although a Golden Valley Land and Cattle Co is known to have been a major land owner here in the early 1900's. Government organized: November 13, 1912. County Seat: Beach, 1912-present.
Grand Forks
Created by the 1872-73 territorial legislature and named for the then-village of Grand Forks, which itself was named for its location at the junction of the Red Lake River with the Red River of the North. Government organized: Commissioners were designated in July 1873 but organization was not completed until March 2, 1875. County Seat: Grand Forks, 1875-present.
Grant
Created by the southern portion of Morton County at the November 1916 general election, being officially proclaimed by Gov. Louis B. Hanna on November 24. Named for Ulysses Simpson Grant (1822-1885) President of the United States, 1869-1877. Government organized: November 28, 1916. County Seat: Carson, 1916-present.
Griggs
Created by the 1881 territorial legislature and named for Alexander Griggs of Grand Forks (1838-1903), Red River steamboat man and local entrepreneur. Government organized: June 16, 1882. County Seat: Hope, 1882; Cooperstown, 1882-present.
Hettinger
Created by the 1883 territorial legislature and named for Mathias K. Hettinger (1810-1890), a citizen of Freeport, Illinois, and father-in-law of Erastus A. Williams, Speaker of the House during that session. Government organized: April 19, 1907. County Seat: Mott, 1881-present.
Kidder
Created by the 1872-73 territorial legislature and named for Jefferson Parrish Kidder (1816-1883), an 1858 settler in what became southeastern Dakota and who served as a delegate to Congress from Dakota, 1875-79, and as an associate justice of the territorial supreme court, 1865-75 and 1879-83. Government organized: March 22, 1881. County Seat: Steele, 1881-present.
LaMoure
Created by the 1872-73 territorial legislature and named for Judson LaMoure of Pembina (1839-1918) who served the first of many terms in the Dakota and North Dakota legislature at that session. Government organized: October 17, 1881. County Seat: Grand Rapids, 1881-1886; LaMoure 1886-present.
Logan
Created by the 1872-73 territorial legislature and named for John A. Logan (1826-1886), a Civil War general and U. S. Senator from Illinois at the time of its establishment. Government organized: September 1, 1884. County Seat: unnamed site, 1884; Napoleon, 1884-1899; King, 1899; Napoleon, 1899-present.
McHenry
Created by the 1872-73 territorial legislature and named for James McHenry, an early settler of Vermillion, South Dakota. Government organized: October 15, 1884. County Seat: Villard, 1884-1885; Scriptown, 1885-1886; Towner 1886-present.
McIntosh
Created by the 1883 territorial legislature from the southern half of Logan County. Named for Edward H. McIntosh (1822-1901) of Plankinton, SD; a member of the territorial Council during that session. County Seat: Hoskins, 1884-1888; Ashley, 1888-present.
McKenzie
Original McKenzie County was created by the 1883 territorial legislature but eliminated in 1891 due to lack of settlement. Named for Alexander McKenzie of Bismarck (1851-1922), credited with helping to engineer the removal of the capitol of Dakota Territory from Yankton to Bismarck that year and who later became one the North Dakota's most powerful political leaders. The present county was created by the 1905 state legislature. Government organized: April 20, 1905. County Seat: Alexander, 1905-1907; Schafer, 1907-1941; Watford City, 1941-present.
McLean
Created by the 1883 territorial legislature and named for John A. McLean of Bismarck (1849-1916), a prominent merchant and the city's first mayor. Government organized: November 1, 1883. County Seat: Washburn, 1883-present.
Mercer
Created by the 1874-75 territorial legislature and named for William Henry Harrison Mercer (1884-1901), an early rancher who settled north of Bismarck in 1869. Government organized: August 4, 1884. County Seat: Stanton, 1884-present.
Morton
Created by the 1872-73 territorial legislature and named for Oliver Hazard Perry Throck Morton (1823-1877), governor of Indiana during the Civil War and a U. S. Senator from that state when the county was established. Government organized: March 23, 1878, but the action of the 1879 legislature in attaching the eastern portion of Morton County to Burleigh effectively nullified this action; re-organized February 18, 1881, after the detached portion had been returned to Morton County by that year's legislature. County Seat: Lincoln, 1878-1879; Mandan, 1881-present.
Mountrail
Created as Mountraille County by the 1872-73 territorial legislature and named for Joseph Mountraille, a Metis voyageur of some prominence. Mountraille County was eliminated by action of the 1891 state legislature. Its re-establishment as Mountrail County resulted from an effort to partition Ward County during the November 1908 general election which resulted in the county's existence being officially proclaimed on January 25, 1909. Government organized: January 29, 1909. County Seat: Stanley, 1909-present.
Nelson
Created by the 1883 territorial legislature and named for Nelson E. Nelson of Pembina (1830-1913), legislator during that session. Government organized: June 9, 1883. County Seat: Lakota, 1883-present.
Oliver
Created by the 1885 territorial legislature and named for Harry S. Oliver of Lisbon (1855-1909), a Republican politician and member of the House of Representatives during that session. Government organized: May 18, 1885. County Seat: Sanger (Raymond), 1885-1902; Center, 1902-present.
Pembina
Created by the 1866-67 territorial legislature and named for the high bush cranberries which grew wild in the area. Government organized: August 12, 1867. County Seat: Pembina, 1867-1911; Cavalier, 1911-present.
Pierce
Created by the 1887 territorial legislature and named for Gilbert Ashville Pierce (1839-1901), governor of Dakota Territory, 1884-1886, and later one of North Dakota's first U. S. Senators, 1889-1891. Government organized: April 6, 1889. County Seat: Rugby, 1889-present.
Ramsey
Created by the 1872-73 territorial legislature and named for Alexander Ramsey of St. Paul (1815-1903), U. S. Senator from Minnesota at that time. Government organized: January 25, 1883. County Seat: Devils Lake, 1883-present.
Ransom
Created by the 1872-73 territorial legislature and named for the military post of Fort Ransom, 1867-72, which was located within its boundaries. The fort itself named for Brig. Gen Thomas Edward Greenfield Ransom (1834-1864), a Union Army officer from Illinois who died during the Civil War. Government organized: April 4, 1881. County Seat: Lisbon, 1881-present.
Renville
The original Renville County as created by the 1872-73 territorial legislature, but due to a lack of settlement, was dissolved in 1891. The name was revived as part of a proposal to partition Ward County at the November 1908 general election. Though supposedly defeated at the polls, the matter was litigated to a successful conclusion in July 1910, when a new Renville County was officially declared created. Government organized: July 23, 1910. County Seat: Mohall, 1910-present.
Richland
Created by the 1872-73 territorial legislature and named for Morgan T. Rich of Wahpeton (1832-1898), who settled on the site of the future city in 1869. Government organized: November 25, 1873. County Seat: Wahpeton (Chahinkapa), 1873-present.
Rolette
Created by the 1872-73 territorial legislature and named for Joseph Rolette, Jr., of Pembina (1820-1871), fur trader and frontier politician. Government organized: October 14, 1884. County Seat: Dunseith, 1884-1885; St. John, 1885-1889; Rolla, 1889-present.
Sargent
Created by the 1883 territorial legislature and named for Homer E. Sargent, general manager of the Northern Pacific Railroad Co. at the time. Government organized: October 8, 1883. County Seat: Milnor, 1883-1886; Forman, 1886-present.
Sheridan
Created by popular vote at the general election of November 1908 from the eastern portion of McLean County and named for Civil War General Philip Henry Sheridan (1831-1888). Government organized: December 24, 1908. County Seat: McClusky, 1908-present.
Sioux
Created by proclamation of Gov. Louis B. Hanna on September 3, 1914, from the area encompassed by the Standing Rock Indian Reservation in North Dakota. Named for Dakota or Sioux Indians who inhabited the reservation. Government organized: September 12, 1914. County Seat: Ft. Yates, 1914-present.
Slope
Officially declared created on December 31, 1914, by Gov. Louis B. Hanna as a result of the favorable vote to detach the new county from the southern portion of Billings County. The name refers to the Missouri Slope, a popular designation for western North Dakota, particularly the area west of the Missouri River. Government organized: January 14, 1915. County Seat: Amidon, 1915-present.
Stark
Created by the 1879 territorial legislature and named for George Stark, vice president of the Northern Pacific Railroad, 1875-1879. Government organized: May 30, 1883. County Seat: Dickinson, 1883-present.
Steele
Created by the 1883 territorial legislature from portions of Griggs and Traill counties. Named for Edward H. Steele of Minneapolis, Minnesota (1846-1899), secretary-treasurer of the Red River Land Co., which was largely responsible for the county's establishment. Government organized: June 13, 1883. County Seat: Hope, 1883-1885; Sherbrooke, 1885-1919; Finley, 1919-present.
Stutsman
Created by the 1872-73 territorial legislature and named for Enos Stutsman of Yankton and Pembina, (1826-1874), who was a powerful political leader in the early days of Dakota Territory despite being severely handicapped with badly deformed legs. Government organized: June 20, 1873. County Seat: Jamestown, 1873-present.
Towner
Created by the 1883 territorial legislature and named for Oscar M. Towner (1842-1897) of Larimore, founder of the Elk Valley bonanza farm in Grand Forks County and a member of the House of Representatives during that session. Government organized: January 24, 1884. County Seat: Cando, 1884-present.
Traill
Created by the 1874-75 territorial legislature and named for Walter John Strickland Traill (1847-1933) who, as an employee of the Hudson's Bay Co., became a resident of the future county in 1870. Government organized: February 23, 1875. County Seat: Caledonia, 1875-1891; Hillsboro, 1891-present.
Walsh
Created by the 1881 territorial legislature and named for George H. Walsh of Grand Forks (1868-1913), a newspaper, political and one of Grand Forks' earliest residents. Government organized: August 30, 1881. County Seat: Grafton, 1881-present.
Ward
Created by the 1885 territorial legislature and named for Mark Ward (1844-1902) of Kimball, Brule County, South Dakota, chairman of the House committee on counties at that session. Government organized: November 23, 1885. County Seat: Burlington, 1885-1888, Minot, 1888-present.
Wells
Created by the 1872-73 territorial legislature and renamed by the 1881 session for Edward Payson Wells of Jamestown (1847-1936), a banker and early promoter of the James River Valley as well as a member of the legislature during 1881. Government organized: August 28, 1884. County Seat: Sykeston, 1884-1894; Fessenden 1894-present.
Williams
Created by the 1872-73 territorial legislature but located south of the Missouri River in the vicinity of present-day Dunn and Mercer counties. It was established in its present location by the 1891 state legislature. Named for Erastus Appelman Williams of Bismarck (1850-1930), an outstanding figure in the political history of Dakota Territory and North Dakota who served during ten legislative sessions, including one at which Williams County was originally created. Government organized: December 8, 1891. County Seat: Williston, 1891-present.