The Naming of North Dakota Counties

Source: "North Dakota History and People Outlines of American History
By: Colonel Clement A. Lounsberry (Founder of the Bismarck Tribune)
Volume 1
The S. J. Clarke Publishing Company, Chicago, 1817

Transcribed and Donated by Carrie Tuck


All information is exact from book unless it is inside brackets [ ] and highlighted. Page 483-486
The legislature of 1873 divided Pembina and Buffalo counties, and named the several counties in North Dakota largely in honor of old settlers. Pembina, the original, was so called by reason of the highbush cranberries growing on the Pembina mountains. Enos Stutsman was representative from Pembina in the Legislature, and, upon going to Yankton, which was then the capital of Dakota, spent a night at the home of Morgan T. Rich, the first settler at Wahpeton, and they then agreed upon the principal names.
Billings For Hon. Frederick Billings, president of the Northern Pacific Railroad Company, holing extensive landed interests in Burleigh and other western counties in North Dakota.
Bottineau For Pierre Bottineau, one of the old-time voyageurs, born in North Dakota, where he spent over eighty years of his life.
Burleigh For Walter A. Burleigh, Indian trader and agent, delegate to Congress and contractor for the construction of fifty miles of the Northern Pacific Railroad east from Bismarck.
Cass For George W. Cass, president of the Northern Pacific Railroad, identified with P.B. Cheney in the development of the Dalrymple and other farms in North Dakota.
Cavalier For Charles Cavileer, the first white settler in North Dakota, who settled at Pembina in 1851, where he died after more than fifty years of residence in the Red River Valley. His wife was a granddaughter of Alexander Murray, one of the original Selkirk settlers, and a survivor of the Seven Oaks Massacre. He was collector of customs at Pembina and postmaster for many years.
Dickey For hon. Alfred Dickey, of Jamestown, identified with the early history of North Dakota and later lieutenant governor.
Dunn For John P. Dunn, one of the earliest settlers of Bismarck, where he was engaged in the drug business for many years.
Emmons For James A. Emmons, post trader at Camp Hancock, established at Bismarck in 1872, and for many years identified with the development of Burleigh County.
Eddy For E.B. Eddy, founder of the First National Bank at Fargo and for many years an active factor in the development of the Red River Valley, and an active force in the upbuilding of Fargo.
Foster For James S. Foster, who settled in South Dakota in 1864 in connection with the New York colony from Syracuse, New York. In 1871 he was appointed commissioner of immigration and devoted his life to Dakota interests.
Grand Forks On account of the confluence of the Red Lake and Red rivers at Grand Forks.
Griggs For captain Alexander Griggs, founder of Grand Forks and identified with the earliest navigation of the Red River.
Hettinger For a distinguished citizen of Freeport, Ill., father of the wife of Hon. E.A. Williams of Bismarck.
Kidder For Hon. Jefferson P. Kidder, identified with the interests of Dakota from 1858 until his death. Through the support of the North Dakota delegation he was nominated for Congress in 1874, and served four years as delegate to Congress. He served as associate justice from 1865 to 1875 and from 1878 to 1883.
LaMoure For Hon. Judson LaMoure who came to Dakota in 1860. He was elected to Legislature in 1866, but refused to take his seat. He came to what is now North Dakota in 1870 and was elected to the Legislature in 1872, and has seen almost continuous service in the Legislature since that time. No citizen of North Dakota has left his mark on so many pages of its history as he. He was interested in merchandising and in the agricultural development as well as in its political affairs.
Logan For Gen. John A. Logan.
McHenry For Hon. James McHenry of Clay County, South Dakota.
McIntosh For E.H. McIntosh, a member of the council in 1883.
McKenzie For Alexander McKenzie of Bismarck, the most prominent and influential citizen of North Dakota in the construction period of its existence. (See the chapter headed, Division of Dakota.) Whatever may be said of him it must be said that he has never used his political powers for his own advantage either financially or politically. For several years he was the national committeeman of the republican party from North Dakota.
McLean For Hon. John A. McLean, then mayor of Bismarck. He was a contractor for ties and other material on the construction of the Northern Pacific Railroad west from Duluth, and of the firm of McLean & Macnider, general merchants and contractors at Bismarck. In January, 1876, a committee sent from Bismarck to the Black Hills, headed by H.N. Ross, who had accompanied the Custer expedition to the Black Hills the preceding summer, returned with many specimens of gold taken from the placer mines of the Black Hills. These specimens were regarded as so convincing as to settle the long mooted question as to whether there was any gold in paying quantities in the Black Hills. Mr. McLean and Colonel Lounsberry at once proceeded to Washington, conferring en route with the Chamber of Commerce at St. Paul, resulting in the organization of the Northwestern Stage & Transportation Company, which established a daily line of stages and means of transportation from Bismarck to the hills, and with the managers of the Northern Pacific, Milwaukee & St. Paul, and the Northwestern railroads relative to through rates for passengers and freight to the hills. At Washington they were received by President Grant, Secretary of War Belknap, and on the floors of both the senate and House of Representatives. As a result President Grant directed that there should be no further interference with miners then in the Black Hills or en route there, and Congress took early action toward opening a large portion of the great Sioux reservation to settlement, including the Black Hills.
Mercer For William H. H. Mercer, who settled at painted Woods, Burleigh County, on the Missouri River, in 1869, and remained until his death, identified with the farming and stock growing interests of Burleigh County. He was a member of the first Board of county Commissioners of Burleigh County.
Morton For Hon. Oliver P. Morton, war governor of Indiana.
Nelson For Hon. N.E. Nelson, an early settler of Pembina, who entered the first homestead made of record in North Dakota. Collector of customs at Pembina for many years. Member of the Legislature.
Oliver For Hon. Henry s. Oliver, member of the Legislature of 1885, and thereafter a leading factor in the politics of the territory and state, and postmaster at Lisbon.
Pierce for Hon. Gilbert A. Pierce, governor of Dakota and United States senator. It was changed from Church to Pierce, having been first named for Governor Church.
Ramsey For Hon. Alexander Ramsey, governor of Minnesota, United States senator, secretary of war. He introduced the first bill in the senate for the Territory of Pembina.
Richland For Hon. M.T. Rich, a settler of 1869 at Wahpeton, and because it embraced a land that was rich indeed. Mr. rich visited the Red River Valley in 1864, in connection with Sully’s expedition, passing on west to the gold regions.
Sargent For H.E. Sargent, general manager of the Northern Pacific Railroad, interested in the development of the agricultural interests of the Red River Valley.
Stark For George Stark, general manager of the Northern Pacific Railroad, owner of the Stark farm, near Bismarck, opened to demonstrate the fertility and adaptability of the Missouri River region to general farming.
Steele For Franklin Steele, an early trader at Fort Snelling, and later a distinguished citizen of Minneapolis, associated with the early promoters of Hope, who made large investments in that vicinity.
Stutsman For Hon. Enos Stutsman, who was born in Ohio, taught school and studied law at Des Moines, Iowa, settled at Yankton in 1858, a member of the first Legislature in 1862; came to North Dakota as a special agent of the treasury department in 1864, when he was elected to the legislature from Pembina County and thereafter until his death identified with North Dakota, rendering distinguished service.
Towner for Hon. O.M. Towner, founder of the Elk Valley farm in Grand Forks County, and a member of the Legislature of 1883.
Traill – For Walter J.S. Traill, and employe of the Hudson’s Bay Company, located in early days at Caledonia and identified with the early development of Traill County.
Walsh For Hon. George H. Walsh. His father, Thomas Walsh, located at Grand Forks in 1871. George H. was president of the council in the Legislature of 1881, and of the council in 1883, 1885, and 1889, and of the North Dakota senate after statehood.
Wells For Hon. E. P. Wells, a member of the Legislature of 1881, identified with the development of Jamestown and the James River Valley.
Ward For Hon. J.P. Ward, a member of Legislature of 1885, an active friend of North Dakota at that session, though from South Dakota.
Williams Changed entirely from it original position. Named for Hon. E.A. Williams, who came to Yankton about 1869, and to Bismarck in 1872 as an employe of Walter A. Burleigh in connection with his contract for the constructions of fifty miles of the Northern Pacific Railroad east from Bismarck. He was elected a member of the Legislature that fall and from 1873 forward has been identified with North Dakota interests. He has been in the Legislature several times, twice speaker, which position he occupied in 1883, the history-making session, so far as the interests of North Dakota were connected with the affairs of the whole territory. He was a member of the Constitutional Convention and surveyor general, and has taken a prominent part in the political conventions of the republican party.

Cavalier, Rolette, Bottineau, McHenry, Ramsey, foster, Logan, Morton, Mercer, Williams, Grand Forks, Cass, Richland, Burbank (now Barnes), Gingras (now Wells), Lamoure, Stutsman, Ransom, Kidder and Burleigh were created by the Legislature of 1873. Benson, Bowman, McLean, McIntosh, Nelson, Sargent, Steele and Towner by the legislature of 1883. Walsh was created in 1881. Dickey, Emmons, Hettinger, Billings, Dunn, Stark, Oliver, Ward and McKenzie were creations incident to other legislative sessions.

The counties created since the Legislature of 1873 and the names are of later date than the conference with Mr. Rich, but the original nomenclature comes from that visit of Stutsman to Rich. Hon. Judson Lamoure was also consulted and he, too, had a hand in giving the first as well as the later creations their names. The same is true of E.A. Williams, a member of the Legislature which made the first division.

Montrail Was named for a prominent half-blood family, descendants of Joseph Mountrail, an early voyageur.
Renville Was named for Joseph Renville, trader, interpreter, mentioned in connection with the translation of the Bible and other important matters.
Adams For Hon. R.S. Adams of Lisbon, a prominent financier and distinguished citizen.
Divide From the division of Williams County.
Grant From a division of Morton County, in November, 1916, for the illustrious Gen. U.S. Grant.
Burke For Hon. John Burke, a democrat, three times elected governor by republican votes, and United States treasurer under President Woodrow Wilson.
Sheridan For Gen. Philip Sheridan.

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