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Last Territorial AG


Johnson Nickeus, born in 1850, played a number of roles in the final years of Dakota Territory.  He was an attorney in Jamestown who served two terms on the Territorial Legislative Council, which included the last session at Yankton and the first one at Bismarck.

In 1883, Nickeus introduced the bill to incorporate the city of Jamestown, which passed up to Governor Nehemiah Ordway,who for whatever reason, didn’t sign or veto the legislation, so Territorial Secretary James H. Teller affixed the territory’s Great Seal to make the incorporation official.

In 1883, after the legislature transferred part of Wells County to Foster County, Nickeus helped a wealthy Dakota developer recover a number of townships back to Wells County in a border battle. That developer was Richard Sykes, who founded some early towns in what is now central North Dakota.He rewarded Nickeus with a small house and lot in Jamestown.

Nickeus was also on the scene for legislative efforts to remove the territorial capital from Yankton, chairing a special committee to study a bill to place the capital in Huron.

Nickeus also had hopes that a town he platted in McHenry County could get a rail line. Scriptown was located near Velva. It was briefly the McHenry County seat, but Towner gained that distinction, no doubt in part because the railroad came to Towner, but not to Scriptown. Towner even gained the log cabins that had comprised Scriptown.

On this date in 1889, Governor Arthur Mellette appointed Johnson Nickeus as the sixth and last attorney general of Dakota Territory – an appointment that ending just a matter of months as the territory gave way to statehood, and George F. Goodwin was elected as the state’s first attorney general.

Nickeus went on to become the U.S. consul to Barranquilla, Colombia, under President Benjamin Harrison. In 1898, Nickeus was elected mayor of Tacoma, Washington, serving one term. He died suddenly in 1901 in Honolulu, Hawaii.  He was only 51 years old.  Nickeus Park in Jamestown is named for him.

Dakota Datebook by Jack Dura

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Kingsburg, G.W. (1915). History of Dakota territory. S.J. Clarke Publishing Company: Chicago, IL
North Dakota. (1910). Report of the attorney general of North Dakota to the governor. Office of the Attorney General: Bismarck, ND
Spokesfield, W.E. (1929). The history of Wells County, North Dakota and its pioneers.
Stine, T. (1933). Jamestown’s fiftieth anniversary: Official program and history 1883-1933. Morris Printing Company: Jamestown, ND
Tacoma, Wash. (1905). Revised charter and ordinances for the city of Tacoma, Washington. Allen and Lamborn Printing Company: Tacoma, WA
Williams, M.A.B. (1966). Origins of North Dakota place names. Bismarck Tribune: Bismarck, ND

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