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Lake Johnson State Historic Site

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Lake Johnson State Historic Site is named for Private George T. Johnson (a.k.a. Johnston), who drowned in the lake on August 11, 1865. Soldiers from the 3rd Illinois Cavalry Regiment, who were camping nearby, were enjoying a refreshing swim on a hot August day when Private Johnson accidently drowned. He was buried near the campsite, and a headstone and flagpole currently stand there in his memory. The site is located seven miles southwest of Cooperstown, Griggs County.

The 3rd Illinois Cavalry Regiment, commanded by Colonel Robert Huston Carnahan, was en route from Fort Abercrombie to Devils Lake. The regiment was assisting the 1865 reconnaissance expedition of General Alfred Sully, which was exploring the territory between Fort Rice and Devils Lake. The information gathered by the mission was used ultimately to select the location of Fort Totten (see Fort Totten).


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This is not the only historically significant event that transpired near Lake Johnson. The Nicollet-Frémont expedition in 1839 and the Isaac I. Stevens expedition in 1855 passed through this area (see Lake Jessie). On July 15, 1862, Captain James L. Fisk’s wagon train of immigrants, who were traveling to the Montana gold fields, camped near the south end of this lake (see Fort Dilts). A year later on July 17, General Henry H. Sibley’s military expedition crossed nearby heading toward Devils Lake.

During the late 1860s and 1870s, military and post roads connecting Fort Abercrombie, Fort Ransom, and Fort Totten ran within a half mile of this site. The trail junction lies about three miles to the south and slightly to the west.

SHSND Address:
612 East Boulevard Ave.
Bismarck, North Dakota 58505
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SHSND Hours:
Museum Store: 8am - 5pm M-F; Sat. & Sun. 10am - 5pm.
State Archives: 8am - 4:30pm., M-F, except state holidays, and 2nd Sat. of each month, 10am - 4:30 pm.
State Historical Society offices: 8am - 5pm M-F, except state holidays.

Contact SHSND:
phone: (701) 328-2666
fax: (701) 328-3710
email: histsoc@nd.gov