SHSND Home > North Dakota History > Unit 3: Commerce Culture, and Conflict, 1800-1878 > Creating Dakota Territory

Unit 3: Set 2. Creating Dakota Territory - Introduction 1861 - 1866

Introduction | Territorial Documents | Celebration | Gov Letters | Oaths | Activity

President Abraham Lincoln appointed his personal physician, William Jayne of Springfield, Illinois as governor of the new territory of Dakota. Other high ranking territorial officials were appointed by the president. The territorial governor then appointed some officials, such as constable, and justice of the peace. Other officials were elected. The residents of the territory (most living in Yankton or nearby in the extreme southeastern part of the territory which is now South Dakota) elected representatives to the territorial legislature (Council and House of Representatives) and other offices such as state treasurer.

Slowly, counties organized in the southern portion of the territory, but also in the extreme northeast county (Pembina) where European American settlement had been underway since shortly after 1800. The territory had to provide governmental services for the small but persistently growing population. Officials had to establish and maintain law, build roads, organize counties, townships, and school districts.

Governor Jayne served for just two and one-half years and then returned to Illinois. Jayne recommended as his replacement Newton Edmunds, a native of New York who had come to Dakota Territory in 1861 and had served as a clerk in the Surveyor’s office. His quick rise to governor demonstrates the appeal a newly established territory held for ambitious young men.

Edmunds was conscientious as governor. He knew the state had to have agencies that would promote the well-being of the residents and allow it to grow economically. However, the young territory was often unable to enforce laws, fund agencies, and provide the necessary functions of government. An effective government was necessary to support ordinary commerce and family life in the territory.

Edmunds was also appointed Indian commissioner for Dakota Territory. During his term of office, relations between the increasing population of European Americans and the many tribes of American Indians of the territory were in a state of crisis. The War of 1862 which began in southern Minnesota when the Dakota rebelled against an unjust agent spilled over into northern Dakota Territory. Many bands of Dakota fled west and north pursued by General Alfred Sully. Sully carelessly attacked any band of Indians he came across which led to more hostilities. Edmunds called for treaty councils to try to bring peace to the territory.

Official Papers of the Governor Series No. 76, Box 1.

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