The drop-down menu for MAPS (top of this page) lists pages about maps that are important for the history of spatial thinking and decentralization. I have used the term, “maps,” in a very broad sense.
This page shows maps related to the history of the Dakotas Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church.  They will be numbered and displayed in sequence as they are added.

1.  This interactive map shows MEC women clergy in the Dakotas, 1920-1941.

Title:  Methodist Episcopal Church Women Clergy in the Dakotas, 1920-1941.

Internet Location:  embedded from maphistorian at

Description:  This map shows the names of women who served as pastors at their earliest currently documented locations.

Base Map:  Nokia Terrain Day from

Dataset:  Compiled from Annual Conference Minutes.

Geographic Information System Processing:

Comment:  The name of Grace Huck appears on this map as the last woman pastor to be appointed in the Dakotas during the time period, 1920-1941.  She was appointed to Rural and Fort Rice, North Dakota, after the Methodist Episcopal Church (MEC) had merged with other denominations in 1939 to create The Methodist Church.  In fact, she is known and loved today as the first woman to be ordained and elected to conference membership in the Dakotas.  She has given details of her life in her autobiography, God’s Amazing Grace; Stories from My Life (2005).

She did have lesser known predecessors whose names are also mapped here but who were never elected to conference membership because of church law prevailing at the time.  These women included pastor’s wives who served a few months to complete the conference year of husbands who died and women who served many years in small churches that paid low salaries.

Elizabeth Preston Anderson, who was serving at Park River, North Dakota, in 1929, was probably the best known of these pastors.  She provided leadership for the women’s rights and prohibition efforts of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union (WCTU).  She usually lived in Fargo, and being a pastor was not the main activity of her life.

Very little information is now available about some of these women beyond what the official annual conference minutes published each year.  Please contact Stephen Perry at if you can shed any light on their lives or add a name to the list.

2.  This interactive map shows MEC members as a percentage of 1890 county population in the Dakotas.

Title:  North Dakota & South Dakota, 1890, Methodist Episcopal Church Members as % of County Population

Internet Location:  embedded from maphistorian at

Description: This choropleth map shows 1890 counties in darker colors for those with higher percentages of MEC members in the county population and lighter colors for those with lower percentages.  Clicking or touching a county will display this percentage as well the percentage of Methodists in the total number of church members of any denomination in a county.

Base Map: Carto World Eco

Datasets:  (1) Newberry Library Historical County Boundaries, (2) Percentages calculated from 1890 U. S. Religious Census data at Minnesota Population Center, National Historical Geographic Information System: Version 2.0, Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota 2011.

Geographic Information System Processing:

Comment:  By the end of the 1870’s, ancestors of today’s United Methodist Church had settled in three regions of Dakota Territory:  (1) the southeast corner near Sioux City, Iowa, (2) the Black Hills, and (3) Fargo (Cass County) and its hinterlands north down the Red River Valley and west along the Northern Pacific Railroad to Bismarck.

During the large migration of the 1880’s, they also settled the James River Valley (east and west of today’s U.S. 281) and created what is today the most numerically successful of all the mission conferences established in the American West following the Methodist Episcopal Church’s General Conference of 1880.

This map shows settlement in 1890 just after the statehood of North Dakota and South Dakota.  Most of the counties with the lowest percentages of Methodist Episcopal Church (MEC) members lay in the west and the Great Sioux Reservation where few European Americans of any denomination had settled.

Most of the counties with the highest percentages of Methodist Episcopal Church (MEC) members lay in the James River Valley (Brown, Marshall, Faulk, Spink, Hand, Beadle, Jerauld, Davison).  These counties were also located next to each other in South Dakota.

In North Dakota, Pembina, Kidder, and Bowman counties were isolated from each other, and, in South Dakota, Codington County (the location of Watertown) stood apart.  Pembina County benefited from Canadian Methodist immigration and historical connections with Canada.  Bowman County in southwestern North Dakota seems to be an anomaly, and the low MEC percentage of church members contradicts the high MEC percentage of county population.  The absolute numbers were very low, and the data may be wrong.  The high percentages for Kidder County and Codington County need further explanation.

Today, the settlement pattern of 1890 dominates The United Methodist Church’s presence in the Dakotas in two ways.  (1) The counties with the highest percentages of United Methodists still lie in the James River Valley even though the largest congregations lie in the cities of the I-94, I-29, and I-90 corridors.  (2) The United Methodist percentage of the total population for the two states remains today what it was in 1890, about 2.5%.

Anyone comparing today’s percentages with 1890 percentages needs to keep in mind that they include adult members but not children.  Today’s adult members are raising far fewer children per household than the adult members of 1890.

Maps locating congregations during the Territorial period will be posted below and will show high coincidence with the railroad network.

3.  This map from the David Rumsey Collection shows details of counties, townships, cities, and railroads in North Dakota and South Dakota at the end of the Territorial period.

Title:  County and Township Map of Dakota. Copyright 1887 by Wm. M. Bradley & Bro. (1890)

Internet Location:  David Rumsey Image 0594043

Description:  This map appeared in an atlas published in 1890 by a commercial cartography enterprise that Samuel Augustus Mitchell started in the early 19th century.

Source (per  Mitchell’s new general atlas, containing maps of the various countries of the World, plans of cities, etc. Embraced in ninety-three quarto maps. Forming a series of one hundred and forty-seven maps and plans. Together with valuable statistical tables. Also a list of post-offices of the United States and territories, and also Census of 1880 for states, territories and counties, also of cities of over 10,000 inhabitants. John Y. Huber Company, Publishers, Philadelphia and St. Louis. 1890. (on verso) Entered … 1886, by S. Augustus Mitchell … Washington.

Comment:  The information on this map, even though it was published in an atlas dated 1890, appears to have been current as of the copyright date in the lower left corner of the map itself, 1887.

For example, it did not show the separation of Marshall County from Day County in northeastern South Dakota, and, although it showed the 7th Standard Parallel in the 5th Principal Meridian and Baseline of the U. S. Rectangular Land Survey, it did not indicate that this became the boundary between North Dakota and South Dakota in 1889.  The title of the map assumed territorial status.

The map showed the railroad network of Dakota Territory in the late 1880’s as a series of black lines connecting small circles.

Two points demonstrate the importance of the railroad network for the history of The United Methodist Church in the Dakotas.  (1) The network dramatically increased the size of the area accessible to immigration from the East.  (2) It required a corresponding increase in scale, scope, and financing for the development of congregations and conferences.