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Lincoln’s North Dakota Legacy

One of President Buchanan’s last acts was to sign the Organic Act, which created Dakota territory. Consequently, the territory was just two days old when President Lincoln took office in 1861. He appointed many of Dakota’s first officials, including two governors, four territorial Supreme Court justices and three marshals. But after his assassination in eighteen sixty-five (1865), Lincoln’s legacy continued in Dakota Territory and present day North Dakota.

Lincoln was born on this date in 1809 in a log cabin near Hodgenville, Kentucky. The city of Lincoln, North Dakota was named in honor of the sixteenth president. The town was incorporated in nineteen seventy seven (1977) from the Fort Lincoln Estates housing development. The city is one of the youngest in North Dakota and sits southeast of Bismarck. Lincoln Valley, a ghost town in Sheridan County, also honored the president.

Across the Missouri River from Bismarck is Fort Abraham Lincoln State Park, which preserves the history of the former military fort and river-dwelling tribes that occupied the banks in earth lodges. It’s from there that Lieutenant Colonel George Armstrong Custer and the Seventh Cavalry left in heading west to Montana Territory, where Custer met his fate at the Battle of the Greasy Grass in 1876.

A number of elementary schools throughout North Dakota are also named for the President. At NDSU, Old Main has a log cabin space that originally housed the Little Country Theatre a century ago. A bust of Lincoln stares down from the fireplace mantle over his quote “Let us have faith that right makes might.”

Another bust of Lincoln sits outside the Traill County Courthouse in Hillsboro, North Dakota. It’s a replica of the one Governor Louis Hanna gifted to Frogner Park in Oslo, Norway in 1914 to celebrate the centennial of the Constitution of Norway.

Of course, one of the biggest legacies of Lincoln in Dakota doesn’t carry his name, but is in the family farms descended from the settlers who took advantage of the Homestead Act, which Lincoln signed in 1862.

Dakota Datebook by Jack Dura


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