Dakota City, North Dakota

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Map detail

Dakota City, North Dakota (also called Dakotah City and Dacotah City) was a prospective townsite, occupied by one log cabin, in hopes that owning property at the confluence of the Red River and Sheyenne River would result in town growth and wealth. Two men, Frank Durant and David Auger, were commissioned by Pierre Bottineau to claim the site.

Charles Carleton Coffin visited North Dakota during his crossing of the Northwest sometime around July, 1869, and camped near Dakota City:

"We reach Dakota City, — another thriving town of one log-house, — peopled by Monsieur Marchaud, a French Canadian, his Chippewa wife and twelve children."

Illustration, Harper's Magazine

In 1859, Marlton Marble traveled the Red River, and described Dakota City:

...after crossing at Dakotah City, as the one log-house at the crossing of the Red River is called, we had a long day...[1]

Marble also wrote:

We crossed the Red River into Dakota Territory near the mouth of the Sheyenne. The place was Dakotah City, as the one log house at the crossing was called."[2]

While river traffic was a major form of transportation at the time, making key river locations — like a confluence — more valuable, the railroad superseded river travel a few short years later. The Northern Pacific Railroad chose to cross the Red River eleven miles south of Dakota City, at what is now Fargo, killing off river transportation and causing many of these townsite claims to evaporate.

The book Origins of North Dakota Place Names references the 17 July 1955 edition of the Fargo Forum as a source of information on Dakota City.

One possible location of the Dakota City townsite.

Position of Dakota City

1859 map on modern photo

In the photo above, the Red River Valley Historical Society indicated that they believed the Dakota City townsite was just south of the Sheyenne River outlet; a nearby resident who gives river tours also told me he thought the townsite was to the south. All records indicate that Dakota City was positioned at a good place to cross the river - and the 1859 Clay County plat and survey indicates a river crossing just to the north of the Sheyenne outlet, although that survey incorrectly placed the Sheyenne outlet too far south. The map detail at the top of the page, from an undated late-19th century map, however also places Dakota City north of the Sheyenne outlet. Nothing turned up in a recent investigation of property records for sections 13 or 24, township 141, range 49, in which both possible sites lay, but Cass County ND records begin in the late 1870s and early 1880s, later than most records of Dakota City.


  1. Harper's magazine, August 1860, vol 21
  2. Red River Valley Historian, Vol IV, no 1, Spring/Summer 1970, pg 19.