Bismarcks’ first non-native American residents were members of the military.
Although troops did not actually arrive until August 8, 1872, Camp Hancock, a United States military post, was commissioned at Bismarck on April 16, 1872, to provide protection for equipment and crews involved with the construction of the Northern Pacific Railroad through the area.
Companies of the 17th Infantry were garrisoned there until 1877 when it was converted to a depot to supply the needs of nearby Fort Abraham Lincoln and other military posts further west. The original camp consisted of an enlisted man’s barracks, two officers quarters, two quarters for married enlisted men, and a one-room guard house. In addition, there was quartermaster’s storehouse, a small stable, and a tented hospital.
In 1894 the U.S. War Department transferred oversight of the property to the U. S. Department of Agriculture. Under the Department of Agriculture’s auspices, the Camp Hancock facility housed to Bismarck Weather Station until 1940 when the Bureau moved to the Bismarck Municipal Airport south of Bismarck. From 1949-1951, the facility was occupied by the U.S. Soil Conservation Service. In 1951 the site was deeded to the State of North Dakota with the North Dakota State Historical Society to serve as trustee.
Located on Bismarck’s West Main Street, today Camp Hancock is a State Historical Site. The site currently features a museum housed in the Camp’s only original building, the Post Surgeon’s quarters which later became the Post Executive Officer’s quarters. This building was built in 1872 and is the oldest known building Bismarck.
In addition the site includes a 1909 Northern Pacific locomotive and the 1881 Church of the Bread of Life, known today as St. George’s Episcopal Church. St. George’s was constructed on the corner of Avenue A and Mandan St. in the winter of 1879-80 and was consecrated in 1881. At the start of the 20th Century, the church was moved to the corner of Third St. and Rosser Ave. After the 1949 construction of a new Episcopal church, called the St. George’s Episcopal Memorial Church, the original St. George’s was donated to the State Historical Society and was moved to its present location at Camp Hancock in 1961.
Camp Hancock is listed on both the State Historic Sites Registry and on the National Register of Historic places because of its military history. The Camp is open to the public May 16th through September 15th - 1 PM to 5 PM (Friday-Sunday.) - admission is free.