Convention at Vermillion
President Lincoln appointed William A. Jayne, mayor of Springfield, Illinois, as the governor of the newly established Dakota Territory in the spring of 1861. Jayne had been Lincoln’s personal physician and an Illinois state lawmaker, and was only thirty-four years old.
Soon after Jayne took his oath of office in Washington DC, the political crowd in Dakota began organizing. On this date in 1861, a territorial and political convention met in Vermillion in southern Dakota to sort out some early business. The convention passed several resolutions, including allegiance to the U.S. Constitution, nominations for a delegate to Congress, and supporting passage of the Homestead Act.
Though the convention was to organize “a national union party,” the only men in attendance were Republicans. George M. Pinney, was elected chairman, A.W. Puett, was elected secretary and A.J. Bell, was nominated for Congress. Bell gave a speech that closed the convention with “nine hearty cheers.”
In the weeks and months ahead, Dakota’s legislature would organize after elections for the territorial House and Council. The first Legislature convened in Yankton in March of 1862. Governor Jayne resigned in 1863 and was initially elected as Dakota’s non-voting delegate to Congress, but the incumbent opponent cried foul on the votes and won. Jayne then returned to Illinois.
It would be almost thirty years later that North and South Dakota would become states—one of the longest waits of any territory for statehood.
Dakota Datebook by Jack Dura
Kingsbury, G.W. (1915). History of Dakota territory, Vol. 1. S.J. Clarke Publishing Company: Chicago, IL
Lounsberry, C.A. (1919). Early history of North Dakota: Essential outlines of American history. Liberty Press: Washington, D.C.