The Ward of Ward
In 1883, James Johnson and Joseph L. Colton decided to travel into the Dakota territories. They came to rest at the fork of the Mouse and Des Lacs rivers. It was here they decided to create the town of Burlington, a town at the heart of what would soon become Ward County.
The county got its start when a committee of the House of Representatives met to discuss the creation of a county for the area. At first, it was going to be called Colton County, to commemorate Joseph Colton’s settlement. However, Colton lobbied that the name be changed to Ward, in honor of the chairman of the committee. On April 14th, 1885, Ward County was officially recognized. But the county wasn’t fully developed until this date … November 23rd in 1885.
At nine in the morning, the three commissioners of the county met in Joseph Colton’s shop and organized a government. Burlington became the county seat, but that changed in 1888, when the seat moved to Minot. Then in 1908, it was decided the county was too large, and three sections became Burke, Mountrail, and Renville counties. However, the leaders in the new counties didn’t want the town of Kenmare to become a county seat, so they drew the lines around it, letting the town remain in Ward County. This is why Ward has a unique protrusion to the northwest, which is commonly called “the gooseneck.”
Despite the loss of land to other counties, Ward County, has grown to become the third-most populated county in the state. The 2010 census reported a population over 60,000, with an estimate of more than 70,000 by 2015.
The county itself contains a series of interesting attractions, including two ghost towns, Dakota Territory Air Museum, and Kenmare’s Goosefest. It’s home to Minot State University and a U-S Air Force Base. It also does its part for nature, boasting three beautiful wildlife refuges. Joseph Colton would likely be proud, and maybe he should have gone along with using his name. Colton County has a nice ring to it.
Dakota Datebook written by Lucid Thomas