How Did Pierre Become South Dakota’s Capital?
Remember learning state capitals as a kid? I had to memorize them in fourth grade Social Studies class and took pride in naming all of the capitals to states big and small. As the years have gone on, I've gotten a bit rusty on a few. One I always seem to forget is Carson City, Nevada. Others are easier to remember. St. Paul, Minnesota, for example, seems to be one everybody knows.
But what about Pierre, South Dakota? Nationwide, it's definitely one of the capitals people seem to forget the most. It also seems like an unlikely city to be a state capital in the first place. With a population of around 14 thousand, Pierre is the second smallest state capital in the entire country. What's the smallest? Montpellier, Vermont takes the crown with a population of about 7 thousand residents.
Before South Dakota became a state, it was simply known as Dakota Territory, which comprised both North and South Dakota. Yankton was the original capital of the territory from 1861 to 1883, then the capital moved to Bismarck. When North and South Dakota achieved statehood in 1889, North Dakota stuck with Bismarck as its capital. South Dakota, however, did not choose Yankton.
Because of Yankton's location, in the far southeast corner of the state, it was ruled out as a potential capital. Contenders vying for capital status were Mitchell, Watertown, Huron, and Pierre. It then went to a vote in 1890. The city of Huron came in second place and Pierre was named the state capital.
Pierre was chosen simply because it was located in the near center of the state, along with being on the Missouri River. 130 years later and Pierre hasn't changed much, but it's still the most important city in the Mount Rushmore State.