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Moses K. Armstrong


Moses Kimball Armstrong, a Dakota Territory delegate to the U.S. Congress, was born on this date in 1832. Although a successful land surveyor by practice, Armstrong is best known today for his diverse and shining political career in the western territories.

Moses Armstrong was born and raised in Milan, Ohio. He stayed in Milan after completing grammar school in order to enroll in college preparatory courses at the Huron Institute before seeking a degree in surveying from Western Reserve College in Cleveland. In 1856, at the age of twenty-three, Armstrong moved west to Minnesota Territory. He was elected surveyor of Mower County, and in 1858 was assigned to survey uncharted federal lands to the west.

When Minnesota achieved statehood later that year, Armstrong moved to Yankton, then a small Indian village in Dakota Territory. There, he began his political career by becoming a member of the first Dakota Territorial legislature in 1861. He was re-elected in 1862 and 1863, and served as speaker of the Territorial House in 1863. In 1865, Armstrong served as clerk of the Supreme Court, and he was elected to the Territorial Council in 1866 and 1867, serving as president of the council in 1867. In that capacity, he served as secretary of the U.S. Indian Peace Commission. In 1869, he was re-elected to the Territorial Council, and from 1871 to 1875, Armstrong served as a Democratic Representative to the 42nd and 43rd United States Congresses. He lost re-election to a third term, however, and moved back to Minnesota in 1875.

In addition to his political leanings, Armstrong was a successful writer, surveyor, banker, and businessman. He edited the Dakota Union in 1864, and even penned a book in 1901, titled The Early Empire Builders of the Great West. He was also the first to establish the great meridian and standard lines for land surveys in Dakota Territory. Upon his retirement from Congress, he took up banking and made real estate investments in St. James, Minnesota. Five years after his history book was published, Armstrong passed away in Albert Lea, Minnesota, at the age of seventy-three.

Dakota Datebook written by Jayme L. Job

Lounsberry, Clement A. 1919 Early History of North Dakota: Essential Outlines of
American History: pp. 382-3. Liberty Press: Washington, D.C.