Southwest North Dakota has a long and rich history that begins with Native American communities. The city of Dickinson has more than lived up to its original name. It began as “Pleasant Valley Siding” in 1881, when the Northern Pacific Railroad reached this point in a wide valley on the Heart River, halfway between the Missouri River and the Montana Territory border.
Dickinson gradually became the main trade center within a 150-mile radius in the territory. The large cattle outfits dotting the countryside purchased their supplies from and shipped their stock out of Dickinson. For decades Dickinson remained a major cattle shipping point, and ranching was a major element in the region’s economic system. Gradually this area shifted to a strong agricultural- farming base and more and more immigrants arrived to take on the challenge of raising grain for a living. By the 1950s the oil industry had also become a significant resource to the region. Ranching and farming continue to be integral to the local economy, in addition to the oil and coal industries.