Page images
PDF
EPUB

25,000 square miles of land, lying along the Missouri, Niobrara, and Big Sioux rivers. White settlers were admitted in 1859, and a great portion of the ceded lands were immediately occupied. On account of the critical and disturbed

state of public affairs, and the prevailing prejudice in regard · to creating more territories, the organization of Dakota was

delayed till 1861, when, by law of congress, she was declared a territory in common with her sisters, Colorado and Nevada. The organic law was passed February, 1861, and approved by the executive March 2, 1861. President Lincoln promptly hastened to perfect the government of Dakota, by appointing the following officers, as provided under the organic act: William Jayne, of Illinois, governor; John Hutchinson, of Minnesota, secretary; P. Bliss, of Ohio, chief justice; L. P. Williston, of Pennsylvania, and

Williams, of Tennessee, associate justices; W. Gleason, of Maryland, district-attorney; W. F. Shaffer, marshal. By a provision of the organic act, Dakota was made a distinct land district, and G. D. Hill, of Michigan, was appointed surveyor-general. These gentlemen at once assumed the duties of their respective offices, and Dakota may be said to have had a government after June, 1861.

The first general election was held in September following, when the legislature was chosen, and J. B. S. Todd was elected delegate in congress.

The first legislature convened in March, 1862, and the following laws are the result of their sixty days' labor.

Dakota is thus fairly adrift as a Territory of the United States, with good, wholesome laws, competent and faithful officials, and a people orderly, law-abiding, enterprising, and energetic. She will compare most favorably with any of her sisters as a home for the homeless immigrant.

Dakota extends from Minnesota on the east to the Rocky mountains on the west, and from the Niobrara river on the south to the British possessions on the north, comprising nine degrees of latitude, and thirteen degrees of longitude

- upwards of 350,000 square miles of land. Except the ceded lands, this vast tract is occupied and roamed over by dwindling tribes of the red man. With the exception of the Crows of the Yellow Stone, and the Black Feet of the Upper Missouri, these Indians are nearly all known as Dakotas, though divided and scattered into numerous tribes and bands. These Indians, for the most part, still subsist by the hunt. Their hunting-grounds are annually narrowed, and their victims are constantly and rapidly diminishing, though immense herds of buffalo, elk, and antelope still range the prairies. The conviction forces itself upon us that Government must soon make final provision for the maintenance of the residue of its red children. The unoccupied lands of the states, and some of the territories, are already the property of speculators, and squatters are, accordingly, debarred from taking advantage of the recent Homestead law within their limits; thus rendering it necessary that Government should so dispose of the Indians in Dakota, as to enable such as desire, to avail themselves of that liberal and beneficent act. The nation has very little valuable agricultural land outside of Dakota, either subject to preëmption or available as homesteads.

The Missouri river is one of the leading features of Dakota. More than four hundred miles of the eastern slope of the Rocky mountains discharges its waters into the Missouri near the base of the mountains at Fort Benton. The early confluence of these innumerable streams and rivers render the Missouri navigable almost from its very Its course through the very centre of the territory, from the north-west to the south-east corner, together with its sinuosities, furnish over two thousand miles of navigable river for the largest sized river steamers. Its head of navigation is in convenient proximity to the Salmon river and Bitter Root gold mines of Washington and Oregon, and nearer than any other water communication to the recently discovered gold fields of the Saskatchawan and Cariboo, in Her Majesty's possessions. For many years steamers have made annual trips to Fort Benton, and the trade has increased from year to year. It is now estimated that fifty steamers will be inadequate to supply the trade for 1863. The mineral wealth of the Rocky mountains will, in a few years, make the Missouri one of the most important business arteries on the continent. No state or territory can be better supplied with water and water privileges than Dakota. Its streams are countless, and its waters are pure and healthful. Its large rivers are numerous, among the more important of which are the Big Sioux, Dakota, Niobrara, Yellow Stone, Milk, and Red river of the North. The latter suggests an interesting physiological feature in the fact, that its waters flow into Hudson bay. The Red river of the North is navigable, and regular steamers are engaged in the trade between the American settlements on its head waters, and the forts of the Hudson Bay Company along Lake Winnepeg. The Yellow Stone is the largest tributary of the Missouri. Little is known of its valley. The fountains, brooks, and creeks which supply its waters, ooze from the rocks of the mountains only a few leagues from the sources of the already gold famous Salmon river and Bitter Root. The valley of the Yellow Stone is the sacred hunting-ground of the Indians, but the time is close at hand when its fertile valleys will echo with the click and stir of civilization, and the indomitable spirit of the Anglo-Saxon will torture from the hidden recesses of the Red Man's forest home, riches which have lain dormant for ages, and upon which this poor child of the prairie has and ever will gaze with indifference, scorn, and contempt. The Big Sioux and Dakota are navigable for about two months in the Spring, and their valleys are among the most fertile in the United States. The Niobrara is a large stream, some four hundred miles in length, flowing its entire length in almost the same latitude, from near the South pass to the Missouri. Its valley is eminently suited to become a great overland thoroughfare, being well watered, well timbered, and, in all respects, practicable for a railroad. Portions of its valley are densely covered with pine timber, as also the White river valley in the neighborhood, and the region of the Black hills.

source.

The Territory of Dakota is not liberally supplied with timber, save upon the streams, but to those who are familiar with prairie country, and have observed how rapidly it grows when protected from fire, the present supply is regarded ample for years to come.

The climate of Dakota is unsurpassed. The air is salubrious and exhilarating. The rarity of the atmosphere, in consequence of the altitude of the country, is always noticeable in contrast with the oppressive moisture of the Eastern and Atlantic states.

Some portions of the territory are marvellously fertile and productive. The growing season is longer than in the same latitude further east, and the products are the same. The winters are sometimes severe, but in most cases temperate and delightful. In the valleys where the autumn

fires have been kept out, stock will subsist and do well all winter without extra forage or attention.

Gold, iron, coal, lead, and salt have been discovered in different localities in the territory, and though comparatively little is known of its mineral wealth, enough has been developed to excite curiosity and provoke adventure. The hardy pioneer is already in the field, and the day is near, aye, is at hand, when the journey of the gold hunter for California and Washington will be shortened by the more glittering attractions of the Black hills and the eastern slope of the Rocky mountains. The history of Dakota is written in the past history of the Western states. This vast terra incognita is already undulating with the breath of civilization, and the time cannot be far distant when its noble prairies and fertile valleys must yield up their wealth to the restless, aggressive, and all-conquering energy of the American people.

J. T.

« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »