SHSND Home > North Dakota History > Unit 4: Building a New State,1878-1914 > Ranching

Unit 4: Set 3. Ranching - Introduction

Introduction | Louis Connolly Introduction | Arthur Huidekoper Introduction | Activity

Ranchers arrived in northern Dakota Territory a little later than farmers. This was due in part to the later development of railroad access in the western part of the state and in part due to the continuing effort of the Lakota to defend their hunting area, treaty lands, and way of life. The Battle of the Little Big Horn in 1876 secured peace in the northern plains for European American settlers. The Northern Pacific Railroad reached the Little Missouri River in the fall of 1880. The Great Northern Railroad reached Williston in the early 1890s. Rails carried horses, beef, and other ranch products to eastern urban markets.

Among early badlands ranchers were future U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt (1858 – 1919) and the Marquis de Morès (Antoine Amédée Marie Vincent Manca de Vallombrosa, 1858-1896) who bought cattle trailed up from Texas and turned them out on the open range. Both lost most of their herds during the very bad winter of 1886-1887, and the Marquis’ poor business practices led to the closing of his beef slaughtering plant at Medora. Other ranchers, however, stayed in business because they managed their herds and crops with an eye to Dakota’s irregular weather, and erratic national markets.

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