Stark County History


Stark County was created February 10, 1879, as a county within Dakota Territory from parts of Howard County and Williams County. It was named for George Stark, who was Vice President of the Northern Pacific Railroad from 1875-1879.


 The county organized on May 25,1883 and Dickinson was selected as the County Seat.


The second courthouse was built.  It was a two-story red colored brick structure built by P Plettenberg and Renken at a cost of $15,000.


Stark County became a county in the state of North Dakota on November 2, 1889.



In 1891, the North Dakota Legislature enacted legislation annexing Dunn County, Hettinger County, and parts of Billings, Bowman, McKenzie, Wallace, and Williams Counties into Stark. However, the act was vetoed by Governor Eli C. D. Shortridge.


1895 - 1899

Additional annexation legislation was enacted in 1895, affecting the boundaries of Stark, Billings, and Mercer Counties, subject to approval by the counties' voters. The annexation went into effect November 3, 1896, but Wilson L. Richards, a local cattle rancher, sued to overturn the annexation because he and other landowners in the area were now subject to taxation by Stark County. The case went to the North Dakota Supreme Court, which ruled the law unconstitutional on May 18, 1899. The annexation remained in effect, however, due to a replacement law approved by the legislature March 9, 1899, in anticipation of the court's decision.



This second annexation law was overturned by the North Dakota Supreme Court in 1901 because the annexation was not referred to the voters of the affected counties as required by the North Dakota Constitution. This lawsuit involved a landowner, Henry Schaffner, whose property in Williams County was added to neighboring Mercer County by the 1899 law. Schaffner objected when the Mercer County sheriff seized and attempted to sell Schaffner's property to collect taxes the county claimed Schaffner owned. The court ruled that the seizure was illegal, since the 1895 ruling meant Schaffner's property was outside of Mercer County's jurisdiction.


1903 -1905

The Legislature passed a third annexation law in 1903, this time submitting it to the voters of Stark County and the unorganized counties of Dunn and Hettinger for approval. The annexation was approved by 502 votes in Stark County and 65 votes in Hettinger County, but it failed by 1 vote in Dunn County. Stark County claimed the annexation vote valid, since the legislation required a majority of the aggregate votes cast. However, the North Dakota Constitution required a majority vote in each affected county subject to annexation, so the state of North Dakota sued Stark County on the grounds that the enabling legislation was unconstitutional and that the "no" vote in Dunn County meant the annexation failed. The North Dakota Supreme Court ruled the 1903 law unconstitutional in 1905. 


Stark County received a minor boundary change in 1908 when Dunn County was formally organized.


 The third and present courthouse was constructed in 1936 to 1937 at a cost of $213,000.


 Courthouse addition was completed.  The cost of construction of the addition was $6,500,000.