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Timeline: 1870s

By | Last Modified: July 11, 2020


  • Camp Greene is established at the confluence of the Missouri and Little Heart Rivers, about six miles south of present-day Bismarck in April. It is the first modern establishment in the region.
  • Fort McKeen is commissioned at the confluence of the Missouri and (big) Heart Rivers, on the west bank where the Northern Pacific Railroad is expected to cross. McKeen replaces Camp Greene. The fort is renamed Fort Abraham Lincoln in November.
  • A townsite is secured on May 14th and officially named Edwinton in August, after Chief Engineer Edwin Johnson of the Northern Pacific Railroad. The first buildings are commissioned by Doctor Walter Burleigh, including his office and home.
  • Businesses begin establishing in May, including Asa Fisher’s billiard hall, John Dunn’s general/drug store, John Yegen’s restaurant and bakery, and the Shaw & Cathcart dry goods store.
  • Camp Greeley, later called Camp Hancock, is occupied on August 8th. It serves as a warehouse and supply depot, as well as an infantry post to support the railroad. It later becomes the U.S. Weather Bureau and is, today, a historic site.
  • Linda Slaughter establishes the first school at Camp Hancock – Sabbath School, a Presbyterian Sunday school. She later establishes the city’s first public school the following year.


  • Early development is rapid, swelling to roughly 1,000 citizens and sixty-to-seventy buildings by spring.
  • Edwinton is renamed “Bismarck” after German chancellor Otto von Bismarck. While there are reports of the town being renamed Bismarck as early as May, it was not officially recognized as such until July 17.
  • Bismarck Tribune publishes first issue (July 11)
  • Burleigh County is organized and Bismarck named its county seat (July)
  • J.E. Turner, a Civil Engineer working for Northern Pacific, supervises platting the town; assisted by George Sweet and John Bowen.
  • Linda Slaughter is appointed school superintendent and establishes the first public school, Bismarck Academy, at the Congressional Church by September. Slaughter had previously established a Presbyterian Sunday school from a tent at Camp Hancock in August 1872.
  • Panic of 1873 – a nationwide financial crisis – halts railroad construction for six years.


  • Major spring flooding wipes out much of anything south of the railroad, including Carelton City.
  • Gold is discovered in the nearby Black Hills, sparking a gold rush
  • Father John Baptiste Marie Genin founds St. Mary’s Parish and dedicates its first permanent church the following year at Main Avenue and Mandan Street. It was replaced in September 1898 with the present-day church facing Broadway Avenue.
  • W.B. Shaw store closes


  • Bismarck is incorporated, electing John McLean as its mayor


  • Bismarck Tribune staff writer Mark H. Kellogg is first to report on the Battle of Little Bighorn


  • The first schoolhouse is opened, a two-room building constructed at the southwest corner of Thayer Avenue and Sixth Street.
  • Camp Hancock is re-purposed from an infantry post to the Quartermaster’s Office and Signal Station. It remains as such until 1894.
  • St. Mary’s Academy and Boarding School is established (April)



  • First National Bank opens at corner of 4th Street and Main Avenue, the second bank in Dakota Territory

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