Historical Marker in
Pierce County, North Dakota

North Dakota was the first state to provide free high school education to all of its residents, starting in 1905. This early commitment to education helped North Dakota develop one of the highest rates of high school graduation in the country.
Pierce County, North Dakota, has a rich history that dates back to the late 1800s. The region was initially inhabited by Native American tribes, including the Dakota and Lakota Sioux, who relied on the fertile lands along the Mouse River for hunting and gathering. However, with the arrival of European settlers in the 1880s, the area underwent significant changes.

The establishment of Pierce County began in 1886 when the Great Northern Railway constructed a line through the region, attracting settlers to the area. The county was officially organized and named after Gilbert A. Pierce, a territorial governor of Dakota. The town of Rugby was also founded in 1886 as a division point for the railroad, becoming the county seat.

Agriculture quickly became the backbone of the county's economy. The fertile soil and favorable growing conditions allowed farmers to cultivate crops like wheat, barley, and oats. The farming industry flourished, and by the early 1900s, Pierce County became known as the "breadbasket of North Dakota."

Pierce County also experienced its fair share of challenges. In the early 1900s, a series of droughts and harsh winters devastated the agricultural sector, causing economic hardships for farmers and forcing some to leave the area. However, the resilient community persevered, adapting farming methods and embracing new technologies to overcome these difficulties.

Over the years, Pierce County has continued to evolve and thrive. Today, the area remains predominantly rural, with agriculture remaining an essential part of the local economy. The county is also known for its rich natural beauty, including the picturesque Rugby Wildlife Management Area and the striking landscapes of the Coteau des Prairies. As Pierce County looks to the future, it remains rooted in its past while embracing new opportunities for growth and development.

This timeline provides a concise overview of the key events in the history of Pierce County, North Dakota.

  • 1804: Lewis and Clark expedition passes through the area.
  • 1851: Fort Berthold is established by the US Army.
  • 1880: The Northern Pacific Railway reaches the area, leading to increased settlement.
  • 1887: Pierce County is established, named after President Franklin Pierce.
  • 1905: Rugby becomes the county seat.
  • 1910: Pierce County Fair is held for the first time.
  • 1920s: Oil is discovered in the area, leading to an economic boom.
  • 1951: The J. Clark Salyer National Wildlife Refuge is established.
  • 2007: The Pierce County Courthouse undergoes major renovations.