On this date in 1918, the Hope Pioneer announced that Hope was the logical choice for the new county seat of Steele County. The headline on the front page blared “Hope for County Seat: Why Not?” The article listed reasons in favor of Hope. It was true that the railroad did not go through Hope, but with the advent of cars and improved roads as well as telephone service, the railroad, it was argued, should not be the deciding factor. Hope had paid more in county taxes than any other town. It was only fair to locate the county seat in the town that had done the most to support the county. The final argument was that a competing town hosted the county fair, so it would be more equitable to spread county institutions throughout the county to benefit more people.
Several years earlier, before the formation of Steele County in 1883, a bonanza farmer in Griggs County was anxious to locate the county seat in Cooperstown. E.H. Steele, president of the Red River Land Company, wanted the county seat in Hope, a growing town named for his wife. The men got together and developed a scheme that would get them both what they wanted.
A vote was held to approve forming Steele County with land taken from Griggs and Traill counties. The vote was contentious. Men from Hope went to Portland, one of the polling places. They antagonized voters. Election officials hurriedly left town and reported they had been driven out by a mob. The votes from Portland were thrown out due to the absence of election officials. The new county was approved by a vote of 493 to 425. The governor subsequently designated Hope as the county seat.
The victory did not last long. Remembering how their votes had been discounted, voters in Portland put the location of the county seat on the ballot in the 1885 election. The vote moved the county seat to Sherbrooke. Sherbrooke was chosen because a railroad was scheduled to go through the town. However, the railroad never materialized. About 1905, petitions were circulated for another county seat election. Hope did not achieve the required two-thirds majority, and another election was scheduled in 1918.
In the end, all of the newspaper’s arguments went for naught as the town of Finley became the new county seat.
Dakota Datebook written by Carole Butcher
Hope Pioneer. “Hope for County Seat.” 6 June, 1918.
Hope, North Dakota. Official Site. "http://www.hopend.com" www.hopend.com Accessed 24 April, 2017.
U.S. Census Bureau. "http://www.census.gov" www.census.gov Accessed 24 April, 2017.
The Hope of the Prairie: 75 th Anniversary. 1957. Located at NDSU Archives.