Dakota Territory | Prairie Public Broadcasting

Dakota Territory

Theodore Roosevelt’s first step into Dakota Territory was not to western cowboy country, but to Fargo-Moorhead. His first tangle with wildlife was with birds, not bison.

And when 21-year-old Theodore and his 20-year-old brother Elliott left the Red River Valley after ten days of hunting with new shotguns, the area was minus 208 critters – prairie chickens, ducks, plovers, coots, grebes and more. That was acceptable hunting style in September 1880.

The next month he would marry Alice. And over the next few years, Roosevelt became the youngest man elected to the New York State Assembly, published his first book The Naval War of 1812, and shot his first bison in the Badlands.

Theodore Roosevelt’s initial trip to Western Dakota Territory’s badlands was a rollicking adventure of hunting, frustration, and awe for the young New Yorker in his early twenties. In mere days TR was entranced by the beauty and the desolation of gnarled, stunted cedars, miles of plateaus, running rivers, scoria, sandstone and clay.

A parade of national figures came together to lay the cornerstone for the new Dakota Territory Capitol in Bismarck on this date in 1883. They included Henry Villard, president of the Northern Pacific Railway; financier Jay Cooke; former President Ulysses Grant; Hunkpapa Lakota holy man Sitting Bull; and a German minister appearing for Chancellor Otto von Bismarck. More than 3,000 people attended the ceremony.

Theodore Roosevelt’s first opportunity to personally express much of his passion for our nation, as well as Dakota Territory’s gift of healing grace, was in 1886. TR was the featured speaker at Dickinson’s first full-on Independence Day celebration.

Theodore Roosevelt’s residency in Dakota Territory began in June of 1884 when he saddled up for the life of a cowboy and rancher. In the wake of his wife and mother’s same-day deaths, the despondent 24-year old from New York found healing and solace in the Badlands and a lifetime connection with the people of the wild West.

Arbor Day

Apr 26, 2019

Today is National Arbor Day, but many states observe Arbor Day on different dates based on the best tree planting times. North Dakota’s Arbor Day comes a week from now, the first Friday in May. Only Alaska and Maine have later dates in May, and some southern states observe Arbor Day in November, December or even January.

Weasel Words

Mar 19, 2019

Theodore Roosevelt extolled the American West throughout his life, influenced by his adventures with the people of the West, from Dakota Territory’s Little Missouri River all the way to the Pacific Ocean.

He was never shy talking about the ethical standards he adhered to and strove to uphold in his personal, public and private life. He called out with pride the people he met in the West as being “average citizens of the right type.”

In 1886, Christian Maiers, his wife, the first of their 11 children, along with his parents and a brother, moved from Russia to Dakota Territory. Christian had only $20 left when the whole family moved into a 12x18 foot sod house. To earn extra money, he and other settlers gathered old buffalo bones to sell to fertilizer companies.

Colonel Forman

Mar 12, 2019

Cornelius Hagerman Forman was not a young man when he gathered a group of friends and family from Michigan, along with a load of lumber, and struck out to establish a town in eastern Dakota Territory. Colonel Forman was fifty-five and had already started another town named for him in Michigan. But Forman, North Dakota was to be an even greater chapter.

What began as a desperate late night ride to warn of an attack ended poorly for a young military man in Dakota Territory. Sam Brown lost the use of his legs after a fifteen-hour, 150 mile ride one wintry night in 1866 near present day Sisseton, South Dakota.

Legend calls him “Prairie Paul Revere.” He was born on this date in 1845 and raised on the Minnesota frontier. His father was a fur trader and scout, and a major under General Henry Hastings Sibley.