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Jamestown

Jamestown History

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Jamestown's rich frontier history lives on in a thoroughly modern city.

A leader in today's modern economy, Jamestown shares a history in the building of the great Midwest. Its earliest inhabitants were the American Indians who left traces of their existence in the ruins of a 3000-year-old village.

The first white men known to explore the Jamestown area were Jean G. Nicolet and John C. Fremont, who traveled the James River in 1839.

After the Minnesota Uprising of 1862, US Army General Henry Hastings Sibley and Alfred Sully came to Dakota Territory to trap the Sioux involved in the massacre.

The Northern Pacific Railroad soon followed General Sibley to the Jamestown area. In 1871, a work crew set up camp where the railroad would cross the James River, adding another section to the new northern transcontinental line. The next year, General Thomas Rosser of Northern Pacific named Jamestown after his hometown in Virginia.

To protect the railroad crews working west, President Ulysses S. Grant ordered a military guard that later built Fort Seward. The fort and its soldiers also kept order in the budding, rough-and-tumble frontier village below the fort.

Wherever the military set up camp, civilians followed, and soon a tent city sprang up below Fort Seward.

In 1873, Stutsman County became the first official county within Dakota Territory.

Once the railroad opened up Dakota, settlers came pouring in to break open the rich soil. Lured by the offer of free land in the Homestead Act, immigrants flooded to the plains and built sod houses and dugouts to stake their claims.

By 1883, the city had two banks, two newspapers, 10 churches, a new county courthouse, a growing school system, and a population of 1000. In that year, Jamestown was incorporated into a city.

During the next century, the tent city beneath the fort on the hill grew into a regional trade center. Clothing stores, hardware stores, furniture stores, drug stores, and meat markets lined the main thoroughfare.

Jamestown College opened in 1883, and a decade later the Opera House welcomed WC Fields and Mary Pickford. In 1914, the first Stutsman County Fair was held.

With progress came the inevitable growing pains of controversy and disappointment. The city twice cast and lost its bid to be the state capital.

More expansion brought Park Plaza Shopping Center, the state's first enclosed mall. Later, Jamestown Mall, the Civic Center, the World's Largest Buffalo, Frontier Village, and Buffalo Mall added their prosperity to the city in the valley.

Still, through the promises and disappointments, the city thrives. The spirit of the early pioneers to whom the city owes its very identity lives on in the city you see today.

From the valley where the James and Pipestem Rivers meet, Jamestown, North Dakota, greets its visitors with hometown hospitality.

Jamestown, the "Pride of the Prairie," is centrally located in the state, midway between Fargo, the state's largest city, and Bismarck, the state capital. Jamestown intersects Interstate 94 running east and west across the state and US Highway 281 running north and south from Canada to Mexico.

In Jamestown you'll find a thriving community of hard-working people, making things happen today. But you'll also get a view of our rich history. Jamestown is the home of the "World's Largest Buffalo," Frontier Village, and a live herd of roaming buffalo. We proudly offer the Fort Seward Historic Site and Interpretive Center, a museum of area pioneer artifacts, and the National Buffalo Museum. And then there's White Cloud, a rare albino bison, who joined the live herd of buffalo in 1997.

The city also features many varieties of sporting and recreational facilities. Jamestown and Pipestem reservoirs offer some of North Dakota's finest fishing and boating. Hillcrest Soccer Complex is unmatched in the state. Our softball and baseball diamonds host tournaments throughout the summer each year. In addition to hosting major athletic events and activities, Jamestown is a strong force in the North Dakota convention and meetings market.

The Jamestown Civic Center and local motels offer spacious meeting areas and comfortable rooms. Many restaurants feature a variety of dining for all our guests, from fine cuisine to fast food, from a casual family atmosphere to ethnic experiences.

For your traveling convenience, the city is served by Mesaba Airlines and Trailways Bus Service.

Courtesy of the The Source: 2005 Edition, published by the Jamestown Sun

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