The Dakotas Conference of the United Methodist Church was created in June 1994 with the merger of the North Dakota and the South Dakota Conferences, which had been separate conferences since their beginnings in the 1880s. The merger meeting was held in Aberdeen, S.D.
Methodist Predecessor Conferences
The North Dakota Conference had its beginnings as a mission conference organized in October 1884 in Fargo, in what was Dakota Territory until 1889. In October 1886 in Grand Forks, the mission conference was elevated to full conference status as the North Dakota Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church.
The South Dakota Conference had its beginnings on two fronts in 1880: In August, the Black Hills Mission (of the western part of southern Dakota Territory) was organized in Deadwood; in September, the Dakota Mission Conference (of the eastern part of Dakota Territory that would become South Dakota) was organized in Yankton. The Dakota Mission Conference was elevated to full conference status as the Dakota Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church at a meeting in Blunt in 1885.
The Black Hills Mission was elevated to mission conference status in 1888 and then to full conference status as the Black Hills Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church at a meeting in Hot Springs, S.D., in 1896. However, because of prolonged drought and the resulting poor economic conditions, the Black Hills Conference reverted to mission conference status in 1901. In 1913, at a meeting in Redfield, S.D., the Black Hills Mission Conference merged with the Dakota Conference of eastern South Dakota that wouldn’t officially be called the South Dakota Conference of the Methodist Church until 1953.
During the above organizations and mergers of conferences in the Dakotas, three branches of the Methodist Episcopal denomination merged in 1939 and dropped Episcopal from the name, which would be only Methodist until 1968.