Why Are There Two Dakotas, Carolinas, and Virginias?

(Last Updated On: June 1, 2018)

Have you ever looked at the map of the United States and wondered why there are two Dakotas, two Carolinas, and two Virginias? If so, you’re not the only one. Americans all across the country have been asking this same question for years. Unfortunately, there are still many citizens out there who don’t know why the U.S. doubled up on these states.  

Some people have jokingly said it was because the forefathers ran out of names to use, but it is actually quite the contrary. The reasons themselves are rooted deeply in American history, and if you’ve ever found yourself wondering with no avail the answer to this question, here’s a little bit of background on why and how the United States has two Dakotas, Carolinas, and Virginias.

The Dakotas


  • What is now known as North and South Dakota was formerly known as the Dakota Territory. The Territory itself was founded in 1861 and was also comprised of certain parts of Wyoming and Montana.
  • Because of differences in population size, the territory split down the middle. From the beginning, the southern part was always way larger than the northern part. This difference in size created some resentment between the North and South, as access to resources became more and more imbalanced.
  • By 1883, South Dakota had a large enough population to request individual statehood, but was denied. Unfortunately for the South Dakotans, the federal government decided they would only grant statehood to one, large, “Dakota,” territory. This of course upset the South as their only other option was to wait until the North had enough people living there to become its own state.
  • Fortunately, in 1889, the Northerners could finally support a stable population and the paperwork declaring statehood was filed. President Benjamin Harrison signed the papers that year to declare South Dakota and North Dakota as completely separate states, and interestingly enough, added Montana and Washington to the Union as well.

Next, the Carolinas


  • Early French settlers who arrived in what was then referred to as the Carolana Colony were immediately driven out by Native Americans. Everything from Malaria and Smallpox to rebellion and Blackbeard the Pirate made the founding of this territory extremely difficult.
  • The Lords Proprietors, led by Lord Shaftesbury and John Locke, controlled the area from 1663 to 1729. Unfortunately, the Lords fought constantly and little to no progress was made toward deciding what to do with this particular chunk of land, how to govern it, and how to defend it.
  • It wasn’t until 1710 that a governor was actually appointed. That year the Proprietors finally had enough and put Edward Hyde in charge as Governor of Carolina. At the time, a South Carolina didn’t exist, and wouldn’t for another twenty or so years.
  • The Proprietors sold their shares of the Carolinas back to Britain in 1729. As soon as the shares were sold back, the colony was split into North and South and would remain British territories until the onset of the Revolutionary War. Because of each state’s differing methods of settlement (frontier land vs. flat land for plantation farming), the split was inevitable.

Lastly, the Virginias


  • The Virginia colony was long a British colony until the breakout of the Civil War. In fact, Virginia and West Virginia were once one and the same until the debate over slavery drove them apart. Their political differences eventually led to the Western part of the state separating from the Eastern part of the state, thus forming West Virginia and Virginia, respectively.
  • West Virginia was officially added to the Union as a separate state in 1863. With the Civil War ramping up on the Eastern seaboard, it didn’t take long for West Virginia to become it’s own entity and join the Union.

Generally, having two Dakotas, Virginias and Carolinas isn’t a huge deal for most Americans, but this bit of history will definitely help you at your next trivia gathering!

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