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Alexander McKenzie was a powerful man in the political field in Dakota Territory. The Jamestown Alert called him the “noblest Roman of them all” and noted, “Without a doubt the people of North Dakota would turn in and send him – the one man above all others – to the United States Senate… if he would consent himself.” For several years, McKenzie had been busy dealing with stocks, bonds and western securities with an office in New York. He had been able to amass a small fortune, and his dealings endeared him to the railroad, which he promoted in Dakota Territory. Despite his association with the railroads, he was a champion of northern Dakota Territory having come up through the ranks from a humble beginning in Bismarck. In 1883 he had led the effort to wrestle the capital away from Yankton.

McKenzie could have the political office of his choice, but he was too busy in his personal business to accept a political position and there may have been a question of residence since most of his time was spent in New York.

Even though McKenzie had political clout it, appears he was backing the wrong candidates. Working behind the scenes at the Fargo Republican Convention, he was unable to obtain the nomination for General Allen. When former Governor Neheiah Ordway was stumping the territory attempting to gain support as a senatorial candidate, he sought the support of his friend, Alexander McKenzie, but Ordway’s term as governor was clouded by nepotism and political favoritism, having appointed nonresidents to political office over local politicians. As Ordway’s popularity dimmed in all but the northeastern part of the state, McKenzie’s support waned, leaving Ordway among the vanishing hopefuls. While Ordway continued to battle on, McKenzie faded from active participation in politics. With the aid of his friend, E. A. Williams, and the support of the railroads, McKenzie had however accomplished his main goal – through a constitutional mandate, Bismarck would remain the capital of the new state.

Meanwhile, another issue in the countdown to statehood was prohibition. Anti-prohibitionists remained somewhat subdued, encouraged by past victories in the 1888 election and the failure to pass a prohibition plank in the last legislative session. They also noted that many of the towns, cities and county governments had opted for a high license fee to fund new streets and make other civic improvements on the income from the sale of liquor licenses, becoming dependent on those funds. But, with less than two weeks to go, the anti-liquor leagues were confident they could reverse the Biblical feat and turn wine back into water … and we’ll hear more about that in our next Countdown to Statehood.

Dakota Datebook by Jim Davis


The Bismarck Tribune September 27, 1889

Grand Forks Weekly Herald September 27, 1889

North Dakota Capital September 27, 1889

Jamestown Weekly Alert September 26, 1889

The Milton Globe September 26, 1889