Until the late 1840s white settlement in the area of present-day North Dakota was largely limited to the areas along the Missouri. That began to change after the admission of Iowa to the Union in 1846, the discovery of gold in California in 1848, and the organization of the Minnesota Territory in 1849, each of which implied that what is now North Dakota would eventually become a territory as well. That possibility encouraged white settlers to move into the area. In the 1850s two land companies were formed, the Dakota Land Company in Minnesota and the Western Town Company in Iowa, each wanting to secure desirable land in the anticipated Dakota territory.
By spring of 1857 both companies had built separate communities at the site of present-day Sioux Falls, South Dakota. By early 1861 hundreds of settlers had migrated to the region, establishing communities in what is now South Dakota at Vermillion, Yankton, and Bon Homme, and occupying farms in the surrounding lands. On March 2, 1861, President James Buchanan signed the act establishing Dakota Territory, which included all of present-day North and South Dakota, as well as large portions of Wyoming and Montana. The first legislature of the Dakota Territory met in what is now Yankton, South Dakota, in 1862. In 1868 the creation of the Wyoming Territory established the western boundary of the Dakotas. The southern boundary was fixed in 1882. "North Dakota" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia
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