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Hope’s Midnight Raid


Cooperstown and Hope were once in the same county – Griggs – which was established by the Territorial Legislature in 1881. But that wasn’t to last.

Governor Nehemiah Ordway declared Hope the county seat in the summer of 1882, because it was already a thriving little community and – well – it was also the county’s only town. Meanwhile, Rollin Cooper, a bonanza farmer, registered a plat for a new town on the other side of the Sheyenne just weeks before the first county elections. Cooper wanted the county seat moved to his new town, which at that point consisted of one building – a granary that housed three carpenters who were building a boarding house.

Moving the county seat was a bitterly contested issue by November 7th. Election fraud was rampant. Railroad crews were paid to vote, whiskey was flowing, and people voted several times by changing hats and casting their ballots at different polling spots.

Almost every official who won that election lived near the Cooper brothers’ farm, and Cooperstown was named the new county seat. The Cooper boys took possession of the county records and handed them over to William Glass, one of the carpenters living in the granary.

Glass was made deputy register of deeds and placed in charge of the records. Glass asked for more protection than the “25 cent lock” on the granary door, but he was assured they wouldn’t have any trouble. The exact date has been lost, but it was around this time of year that the three carpenters were put to the test.

“When they came we were asleep,” wrote Glass. “They went through that door with one little push and were right on top of us in a second.” The raiders took the county records and hid them in bin of oats before sending them off to Minneapolis for safekeeping. A few weeks later, the two sides came to an understanding, and the records were given back to Cooperstown. Griggs County was divided up, and Hope became the first county seat of the newly established Steele County. Two years later, the town again lost the seat to the more centrally located town of Sherbrooke. When the railroad failed to come to Sherbrooke, the seat was moved again in 1918, this time to Finley, where it (so far) remains

Dakota Datebook written by Merry Helm