Mandan is a city in Morton County, and serves as the capital of that municipality. The seventh-largest city in North Dakota, Mandan was founded in 1879 and is located on the west side of the upper Missouri River and has a population of 22,228 as per the 2017 census. Mandan has repeatedly been ranked in the top five on the Forbes list of “Best Small Places for Business and Careers” and was selected a finalist in the 2013 Rand McNally “Most Patriotic City” competition.
Mandan was named after the historic indigenous Mandan Native American tribe of the area. Native Americans had established settlements in the region for many years, but it wasn’t until French explorer Sieure de la Verendyre led an expedition into what would one day become Mandan that European-American settlers started to take notice of the area’s possibilities. However, settlers did not begin moving to Mandan in great numbers until the early 1800’s, at which time the Lewis and Clark Expedition – among others – drew more people to the region, where a trading post was established that catered to fur trappers.
When the Northern Pacific Railroad expansion line began making its way through North Dakota, the United States Army set up two outposts in Mandan in 1872 and 1873 – Fort Greeley (later renamed Fort Hancock) and Fort McKeen – in order to provide protection for rail workers. As river crossings necessitate the building of bridges, a city springing up in the surrounding areas while work crews are busy is a regular occurrence; such was the case when the Northern Pacific Railroad established a work camp the west river bank in December 1878 to begin construction efforts, complete with its own post office. A year later, Mandan’s first railroad depot and freight building was built as the surrounding community continued to grow and prosper, and the City of Mandan was formally incorporated on February 24, 1881, named for the Mantani Indians, or “people of the bank.”
Mandan’s original purpose was support for the railroad, while the economy of Mandan’s outlying area is largely based around agriculture, which the city itself still supports with a livestock sale ring, farm implement dealers, and suppliers and finance/lending institutions. Subsequent access to rail transportation allowed the agricultural, commercial and industrial sectors to flourish. In recent years, the economy of Mandan has expanded and evolved to include diversified industries such as food processing, petroleum refining, electrical power generation, software development, manufacturing and retail trade.
Mandan Public Schools operates multiple elementary schools in the city, as well as the Brave Center Academy night school. In 2016, the School District was the largest employer in Morton County with approximately 700 employees. In addition, Bismarck State College operates two campuses in Mandan focusing on post-secondary vocational education.