Prairie Public NewsRoom
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Counties on the ND Map


There are 53 counties in North Dakota today, but early on, the map of the state changed frequently. The first counties were established when region was still a territory. Additional counties were added, carved up or divided, which was often a point of contention. Have you ever heard of Burbank County? How about Stevenson? Both existed at one point.

Pembina County was one of the earliest. Created by the 1866-67 Territorial Legislature, the county was named for the high bush cranberry that grew wild in the area.

Barnes County was one of several created by the 1872-1873 Territorial Legislature. Originally named Burbank County, for one of Dakota Territory's governors, it was renamed for Judge Alonson H. Barnes during the 1874-1875 legislature. Additional counties were created by the 1879 legislature. In 1907, Adams County was created by official proclamation of Gov. John Burke. Burke County, John Burke's namesake, and Divide County were also created by his proclamations, in 1910.

On this date in 1913, the count of counties had just changed, and it looked like more changes were coming. The most recent "new" county was Golden Valley. It had been created from the western section of Billings County during the November 1912 general election. More counties looked like they might change soon. As the Mandan Pioneer reported:

"The publishers of North Dakota maps are having a hard time to keep up with the changes which are constantly being made in the divisions of the state. Scarcely is one map published before another county is formed and it is necessary to print another. Another difficulty which confronts them is the necessity of waiting for the decision of the supreme court of the state and usually for a rehearing before it is certain whether or not the new county has been created, as in nearly every instance an appeal has been made to the courts."

Golden Valley made fifty counties. So what were the last three counties?

Sioux County was created by proclamation of Governor Louis B. Hanna in 1914 from the area encompassed by the Standing Rock Indian Reservation in North Dakota. A few months later, in December, Slope was formed from the southern section of Billings County. And in 1916, after several attempts to divide up Morton County, its southern section was allowed to split away after favorable votes in the 1916 general election, forming the final county, the 53rd, Grant County.

Dakota Datebook written by Sarah Walker



The Mandan Pioneer, February 21, 1913