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Williams County, North Dakota


The Williams County Courthouse is located at 205 East Broadway, Williston, ND 58802; phone: 701-774-4374.

The first white settler in the vicinity was Robert Matthews, employed by the post traders at Fort Buford to cut hay for the cavalry horses in the 1870s. The first white man to settle in Williams County outside a trading or military post was George Grinnell.

Williams County[†] is 2,077 square miles and is mainly rolling prairie land. It includes 10 incorporated municipalities. The 3 largest cities are Williston, the county seat and population center, Tioga, and Ray. The county also has 57 townships.

Williams County and several adjacent counties are underlain by an oil-rich shale formation known as the Bakken. The County experienced a previous oil boom in the late 1970s whose abrupt demise a few years later left many projects unfinished and placed a financial burden on the communities and individuals that only recently was overcome. With the relatively recent innovation of hydraulic fracturing rejuvenating hard-to-extract formations, since approximately 2005, Williams County is once again at the epicenter of an intense oil and gas boom. This boom is predicted to last another 15 to 25 years, peaking around 2025 then scaling back to maintenance level of operations for another indefinite period of time.

The oil boom has triggered a steep population growth with projections that more than double the 2010 Census count of 22,398. If the level of projected growth materializes over the next 15-25 years, how it develops will have a dramatic impact on the quality of life of its residents, and the fiscal well-being of the local government.

While much of the growth impact is visible in Williston and Tioga, the two largest cities, the unincorporated areas of the county have also been impacted by the current boom in many ways.

Williams County Comprehensive Plan: Draft, September, 2012, www.williamsnd.com, accessed November, 2012.

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