DAKOTA TERRITORY 1861-1889: A STUDY of FRONTIER POLITICS” by Howard Roberts Lamar

The DAKOTA TERRITORY has been out of print for many years and is now reissued through North Dakota State University. The introduction of DAKOTA TERRITORY gives a detailed synopsis of the Territorial Policy of the United States from 1789 to 1889.

In just 50 years after Lewis and Clark, the Upper Missouri was flooded with trappers and traders. By 1855 an Indian Agent named Vaughan wrote in his annual report that soon all of the Tribes would be wiped out by starvation. But at this same time, the speculators also moved in. One speculators was Captain Todd who resigned his commission and formed a trading company. He actually made profit on every phase of settlement on the Upper Missouri by a white farming population. Todd (a relative of Mary Todd Lincoln) and his partners “phase capitalists” were able to influence the establishment of the Dakota Territory that became fact on March 2, 1861. Todd was so involved he thought he was a shoe in for territorial Governor, but it was not to be! Some thought Todd was too dandy to settle in the crude Dakotas due to the fact he was a Democrat, his nepotism, and his partner tried to seize St Louis for the Confederacy. Todd did not get the Governorship. However, it did not stop him from being involved in the politics of the territory. Since before statehood, Republicans have held political power in State Senates, Houses, and Governorships in the Dakotas.

Nothing much has changed in 155 years and Republican hold on the Dakotas still reigns as well as the in-fighting over profits made from the so called “Indian Problem”. In the year 1868, constituents could vote for Congressional Republicans or the Radicals and then there’s the Democrats. But, how did the regular Republicans win the territory? Partly by what was happening in Washington DC. The territory was experiencing the Grant boom where anyone supporting both Grant and Congress were popular and also because homesteaders and veterans voted Republican.

In reading “DAKOTA TERRITORY” the reader will recognize many of the names of the builders and shakers of the time: Burleigh, Brookings, and Beadle. Then came the railroad. The railroad was essential to the building and shaping of the territory and leading to statehood. The territorial legislature had to bring in the railroad, meaning lack of ready lumber and other needed supplies were important for settlement.

“DAKOTA TERRITORY 1861-1889: A Study of Frontier Politics” is a wealth of knowledge, it details the political frontier of the Black Hills, the in-fighting of the republican party, and the corruption throughout. Some terminology could be offensive (it was to me) when talking about the Native Peoples but the reader must remember when “DAKOTA TERRITORY” was first written. This book concludes with the revolt of THE Dakota Farmers: 1885-89 and the impact it had on the economy. “DAKOTA TERRITORY” is a must for any South Dakota historian.


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