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Kidder County Beginnings


One of northern Dakota Territory’s earliest counties took its name from one of its early politicians.Jefferson Parish Kidder was born in 1815 in Vermont and was that state’s lieutenant governor before he was forty. In 1857, he moved to Saint Paul, Minnesota, latched onto the Republican Party and briefly served in the state House of Representatives.

In 1865, he came to Vermillion in Dakota Territory after President Lincoln appointed him as a territorial supreme court justice.President Grant reappointed Kidder in 1869 and ’73. Kidder left the bench in 1875, when he was elected to Congress as a non-voting delegate for the territory.

By that time, Kidder County had already been created by the Dakota Territorial Legislature.The county is in central North Dakota between Bismarck and Jamestown.The world’s largest sandhill crane statue in Steele, the Kidder County seat, is probably more famous than the county’s namesake, who returned to the territorial supreme court after his time in Congress.

On this date in 1881, the Kidder County government was organized. Dakota Governor Nehemiah Ordway appointed the first three county commissioners.Steele has always been the Kidder County seat,and one local booster even sought to make the town the territorial capital—going so far as to fund construction of a building, set to be a hotel, to help attract the new capitol. His building then became the Kidder County Courthouse in 1884.

As for Jefferson Parish Kidder, he died in Minnesota in 1883.

Dakota Datebook by Jack Dura
North Dakota Agricultural Department. (1909). North Dakota Year Book. Agricultural Department: Bismarck, ND

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