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The site of Bismarck has a long history as capital city. Originally and unofficially named Edwinton, it was renamed Bismarck in 1873 and became a county seat. At that time, Yankton was the capital of Dakota Territory; ten years later, however, the capital was moved to Bismarck. In 1889, when North Dakota attained statehood, Bismarck retained that honor of capital city.

The capitol building burned down in 1930, however, and discussion arose about moving the capital elsewhere—such as Jamestown. The move would mean a lot of business and growth for Jamestown. Supposedly, the decision would also serve the state economically by saving residents money. However, in Bismarck, F.M. Davis, chairman of the capital defense committee, said the only figures they had seen for alleged money saving was in mileage. He listed several other costs that had not, up to then, seemed to have been taken into account: for example, in Jamestown, wells would have to be drilled, with more cost for the labor, whereas in Bismarck, water could be accessed through the Missouri River. Other costs had not been figured either—such as the cost it would take to move state departments to Jamestown. That would require temporary housing for state officials and moving costs. Another cost would simply be changing the capital city on textbooks, maps and state records.

It was a big topic, and a big idea. However, as the Adams County Record reported, “to people living outside the sphere of influence of both Bismarck and Jamestown, this movement to change the location of the capital site appears wholly unfair and somewhat vicious.” Not that it blamed all citizens of Jamestown; however, the article asserted that the capital city had been built up over the last 45 years in the place where the old pioneers had chosen, and that it made no sense to move it.

Chairman Davis further wrote, “Throwing aside all sentimental considerations, such as historical association, and discarding all sentimental association, and discarding all questions of right and justice, such as the fact that to move the capital would ruin the lives of many Bismarck home owners, the question for the people of the state to decide is where the state government can be operated most economically.”

The vote to decide which city would be the capital city was held on this date in 1932 during the presidential primary. Of course, Bismarck won. Listen tomorrow to hear more about the results.

Dakota Datebook written by Sarah Walker

http://www.webfamilytree.com/North_Dakota_Place_Names/B/bismarck_%28burleigh_county%29.htm – Doug Wick

Adams County Record, March 10, 1932

The Steele Ozone and Kidder County Farmers Press, March 17, 1932

Adams County Record, March 3, 1932