The historic Cannonball Ranch in Morton County, North Dakota, about 35 miles south of Mandan on Highway 1806, is one of North Dakota’s oldest. Located at the confluence of the Missouri and Cannonball rivers, the ranch served as a gathering point for travelers as early as 1865.
In addition to a ranch operation, the site included a hotel, a general store, a ferry crossing, a steamboat landing and fueling station, a military telegraph station and a stage line. The general store doubled as a telephone switchboard to Fort Yates and Mandan, a post office and the area polling place.
R.M. Johnson, one of the first white settlers along the Cannonball River, started the ranch in the 1860s. Henry S. Parkin purchased it and the surrounding several thousand acres in 1883. Henry ran up to 700 head of cattle in the area along with mules, sheep, hogs and hybrid horses.
The ranchstead once included two houses, barn, blacksmith shop, bunk-house, icehouse, laundry and tennis court. The Parkin home had 24 rooms and hosted many guests. Their hospitality and generosity were widely known by the white settlers and the Indians in the area.
Henry served as justice of the peace, a county commissioner, a member of the first Territorial Legislature and a state senator. He married Alma Galpin, an enrolled member of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe, on January 19, 1879. Their many business ventures became very successful and the Parkins were soon one of the wealthiest families in the Territory.
After Henry’s death in 1895, Alma operated the ranch and other businesses until her death in 1913. Over 2,000 people attended Alma’s funeral at the ranch. Both Henry and Alma were buried there.
Other owners of the ranch were Louise Van Solen (Alma’s stepsister) and her daughter, Lucille; John F. Sullivan Sr., whose family owned the ranch for 65 years; and Monte and Nancy Allen. Though much of the original ranch land was inundated by the Oahe Reservoir, the Allens developed a buffalo herd on the historic 7,500-acre ranch.