Henry C. Hansbrough, a prominent figure in North Dakota politics, made significant contributions to the state’s development. Initially a journalist, he founded newspapers in Grand Forks and Devils Lake. Hansbrough played a vital role in the movement for the division of Dakota Territory, leading to North Dakota’s statehood. He served as a congressman and later as a United States senator, advocating for his constituents and authoring important legislation.
Henry C. Hansbrough, the senior United States senator from North Dakota, was born in Randolph County, Illinois, on January 30, 1848. His parents, who were from Kentucky, named him in honor of their close friend and partisan of Henry Clay. His ancestors were originally from Virginia. Henry was raised on a farm and received a common school education. When he was nine years old, his parents moved to California, where he later learned the printer’s trade. From 1869 to 1879, he worked for the San Francisco “Chronicle,” initially as a printer and later as an editorial writer and assistant managing editor. Due to his failing health, he relocated to Baraboo, Wisconsin in 1879 and pursued a career in journalism. In 1881, he moved to Grand Forks, North Dakota, becoming one of the early settlers in the valley. He played a significant role in the region’s development for several years. Shortly after his arrival, he founded the Grand Forks Daily News. In 1883, he sold the News and moved to Devils Lake, which was still in its early stages. There, he established the Devils Lake Inter Ocean and has been publishing it ever since. The newspaper has gained recognition as one of the leading weekly publications in North Dakota. Mr. Hansbrough actively engaged in territorial politics, both through his newspapers and his personal involvement in public affairs. He played a key role in the early history of Devils Lake and served as the city’s first mayor for two terms after its incorporation in 1887. Additionally, he held the position of postmaster for the city.
Mr. Hansbrough’s entry into active political life began during the movement for the division of the Dakota Territory in the late 1880s. He was a prominent advocate for division during the prolonged conflict leading up to its achievement. In June 1888, at the territorial convention held in Jamestown, he was nominated and elected as one of the delegates to the national convention that nominated Benjamin Harrison for president. The fight for division was intense, and Mr. Hansbrough faced opposition from those against the division. Nevertheless, his supporters stood by him, and he was nominated and elected as one of the first congressmen from North Dakota. During his time in Congress, he played an active role and authored the antilottery bill, which successfully countered the efforts of the Louisiana Lottery Company to exploit the people of North Dakota. Although he was not re-nominated for Congress in 1890, he immediately ran for the position of United States senator and was elected by the legislature in 1891. He was re-elected in 1897 and again in 1903. His term ended in March 1909.
C.F. Cooper & Company, History of the Red River Valley, Past And Present: Including an Account of the Counties, Cities, Towns And Villages of the Valley From the Time of Their First Settlement And Formation, volumes 1-2; Grand Forks: Herald printing company, 1909.