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Steele City

Kidder County, North Dakota

Steele City Hall is located at 105 East Broadway, Steele, ND 58482.
Phone: 701‑475‑2133.

Beginnings [1]

By an 1864 Act of Congress, the Northern Pacific Railroad Company was given a land grant to aid in the construction of railroad and telegraph lines. The site of Steele was in the land given by the United States to the Northern Pacific Railroad during Grover Cleveland's administration. The Northern Pacific Railroad reached the area which was to become Steele in 1872 and by 1884 had become an important railway station, one of the largest livestock shipping points in the "northwest." Wilbur F. Steele, a man of great vision and with capital to invest, came to this area as a young man of thirty-four. That year, 1878, the Northern Pacific Railroad sold Section 17, Township 139, Range 73 of said land, subject to railroad right of way, to Mr. Steele as a townsite.

Mr. Steele established and built a fine farm on the southwest quarter of Section 16 adjacent to the present city limits on the east, and also the area later platted as the City of Steele. Within the next year or two Mr. Steele invested in more real estate and farmed extensively. He also worked at inducing eastern people with capital to locate in Kidder County. In 1881, convinced of the future prosperity of the area, he platted the City of Steele on the southeast quarter of Section 17, across the section line from his farm.

The first building erected on the town site was a small frame building for a courthouse (located on Block 24). This was soon followed by the Park Hotel, which was built by Mrs. E. McGowan of Washington, D. C. The hotel was on the lot that is presently the First Presbyterian Church, in Jewell Park.

Kidder County was organized in 1881. Governor Ordway appointed Wilbur F. Steele, John W. Van Deusen, and Frank Whipple as county commissioners. They met at the city of Steele to organize and, by popular vote of the county citizens, made Steele the county seat in 1882. The first mercantile store was built in 1882 by Mr. Whitney and Mr. Clock. A lumberyard was built in the spring of 1882 by Mr. William Price, which did much for the improvement and building stock of Steele that year. Mr. Price was one of the first trustees of the First Presbyterian Church of Steele.

Town lots sold like gold bricks during the fall of 1881 and 1882. The original plat was nearly sold out, so Steele's Addition was platted in 1882. Building started actively in the spring of 1882 with the first house erected on the townsite. The owner was Mrs. Elizabeth Allhouse, to whom a stained glass window on the east wall of the sanctuary in the present First Presbyterian Church is dedicated. The capitol of the Dakota Territory was in Yankton, South Dakota, but the question of moving it arose in 1883. Steele was offered as a contender for this honor, its bid accompanied by a $100,000 check. Mr. Steele erected a three story brick hotel building to house the legislators. He also established water mains and two brick water towers for water works. When Bismarck was chosen, Mr. Steele sold the brick hotel building to Kidder County on April 21, 1885 to become a courthouse.

The Northern Pacific Railroad built a frame depot and placed an agent and telegraph operator in Steele. During 1882 and 1883 the county was rapidly settled by homesteaders. Steele became a boomtown. The population is not known as records could not be found. Businesses of all kinds were established, providing all the services required of a new western town.

  1. Vernice M. Johnson, First Presbyterian Church of Steele, Kidder County, North Dakota, 2004, nomination document, National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places, Washington, D.C.