SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — Nov. 2 is South Dakota’s statehood birthday. It’s also the statehood birthday for the neighbor to the north, but while part of South Dakota’s story, it is still another story.
South Dakota was named a state on Nov. 2, 1889, and so was North Dakota. North Dakota is the 39th U.S. state while South Dakota is the 40th.
The two became separate states in 1889 but they were of one for many years as part of the Dakota Territory before that. The relationship was rocky at times.
South Dakota had been agitating for statehood for several years before 1889, including in 1885. President Benjamin Harrison supported South Dakota statehood in 1885, according to “Perspectives on Statehood:
South Dakota’s First Quarter Century, 1889-1914″ by Howard R. Lamar.
As part of the Dakota Territory, the two states seemed to be headed to one statehood as a government and related entities were formed in the late 1860s and 1870s.
But the Dakota Territory could not become a state (or two states) until it had reached a population of several thousand people, according to the North Dakota Historical Society.
Yankton was the first capitol of the Dakota Territory from 1861-1883. But in what’s been called the “capitol grab,” the territory capitol was moved from Yankton to Bismarck, in what is now North Dakota.
Although there was government-sanctioned effort to move the capital from Yankton to what is now North Dakota and closer to larger populations and cross-country railroads, Dakota history said it was one individual that railroaded the choice of Bismarck. “Alexander McKenzie proved very effective at controlling the government by moving the capital. Representing the Northern Pacific Railroad, McKenzie controlled the politics of North Dakota for decades,” a story on the North Dakota Historical Society said.
But the capitol move didn’t stop South Dakota’s statehood.
Ben Jones, the official state historian with the South Dakota State Historical Society, said his historical soft spot for the state’s birth is the Civil War veterans who moved to the Dakota territory after the Civil War. Those veterans fought for the Union Army and were part of making South Dakota a state, Jones said.
“Two people (state residents) need to know more about are Joseph Ward and William Henry Harrison Beadle,” Jones said. The two men were instrumental in South Dakota achieving statehood.
Jones said each state is allowed two statues in the U.S. Congress. The state’s statues are of Ward and Beadle.
Ward was Dr. Joseph Ward, a minister in Yankton.
“Much of the South Dakota State Constitution is written in the words of Dr. Ward,” his biography on the South Dakota Hall of Fame website said. The biography included for his statue in Washington, D.C., described him as a leader in the movement for South Dakota statehood, according to the Architect of the Capitol website. Ward served was a member of the 1885 committee to present the petition for statehood to Congress.
Beadle “served as secretary of the 1877 commission to codify the territorial laws and as chairman of the judiciary committee in the territorial House,” the biography of his D.C statue says, according to the Architect at the Capitol website. Before that, Beadle served as the surveyor-general of the Dakota Territory.
Pick the capital city
Remember the capital grab in the Dakota Territory? As a new state, South Dakota needed a capital location.
Seven cities vied for the location. Those cities were Pierre, Sioux Falls, Mitchell, Watertown, Huron, Aberdeen and Redfield. Sioux Falls was already the state’s largest city and was under consideration. Watertown with its multiple railroads and booming businesses was also a strong contender, according to the South Dakota State Historical Society.
Pierre was a middle geographic location, which drew favor but Huron countered that with the argument that the land west of the Missouri River would never be as populated as the land east of the river.
Pierre was officially elected the capitol site in a majority public vote in 1890. Mitchell challenged the city in a 1904 vote.
South Dakota has had 3,940 legislators since 1890. The number of senators may not be less than 25 nor more than 35; the House of Representatives must have between 50 and 75 members. The Senate has had 35 members and the House has had 70 members since 1970.
The state’s first governor was Arthur C. Mellette who had also been the territorial governor. Mellette served until 1893.