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Welcome To KEY TO THE CITY's Page For
Mercer County, North Dakota


"The little town with a big heart"

Page Contents for Zap, North Dakota

Statistics & Facts


History & History-related items

City Attractions


Historical Events


Statistics & Facts

The North Dakota state capital is Bismarck.
The population of Zap is approximately 287 (1990), 237 (2010).
The approximate number of families is 162 (1990), 109 (2010).
The amount of land area in Zap is 2.697 sq. kilometers.
The amount of land area in Zap is 1 sq. miles.
The amount of surface water is 0 sq kilometers.
The distance from Zap to Washington DC is 1437 miles.
The distance to the North Dakota state capital is 65 miles. (as the crow flies)
Zap is positioned 47.28 degrees north of the equator and 101.92 degrees west of the prime meridian.


northwest of Bismarck
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History & History Related Items

Settled in 1913 on a Northern Pacific Spur line from Mandan, North Dakota. The town was named by a railroad official by the name of Mr. Pettibone. He chose Zap because of a coal mine on the edge of the town. He was aware of a coal-mining town in Scotland named Zapp and decided to name the community after the Scottish town. As was normal during that time, the name was Americanized and spelled with only one "p." This version is one of several for the naming of the town, but it normally accepted as the accurate story.

A history page for Zap.

See Zap historical events for details of the "Zap In."
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Beaver Bay Recreation Park
only 15 miles North offers - boat ramp & primitive camping
Beaver Bay has some of the best fishing around
Bismarck & Dickinson are only 80 miles away
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Zap City Government

Zap, North Dakota
email contact page

City Auditor
PO Box 97
Zap, ND 58580
Phone: 701-948-2256

Zap Historical Events

10 May 1969
Zap had the only official riot in North Dakota on this date. The National Guard had to be called in to quell it. The event was called the "Zap In." People from all over the country came in. One of the slogans used for the event was "Zipped to Zap."

1969, May
1969 was a key year for the hippies and the heads. Woodstock, later in the year, is generally considered the watershed of the era. Yet, this noteworthy and famous event was proceeded by the "Zip to Zap." If a more remote location in the lower 48 could be found than Zap, North Dakota, I do not know what it would be.
While the details may fade with time, I remember that while Woodstock was a careful, almost Media orchestrated event, Zap was spontaneous. It all stated when a bored student newpaper editor up at the "other" university in the state (UND in Grand Forks) wrote an article promoting a "Zip to Zap" as a week-end joke. North Dakota is used to being the butt of the nation's jokes due to its remote location and sole newsworthiness (in the national eye) when it has extreme weather like blizzards or floods. So, not to be outdone, our local university, NDSU, added a few details in their student press and, lo and behold, other campuses in the region took it seriously. Not used to being taken seriously, North Dakota soon found itself the destination of thousands of college kids from throughout the region, and poor little Zap, a conservative community of mostly German-Ukrainian descendents, was to unwillingly play the host.
To their credit, the UND and NDSU student leadership, who tried to organize the spontaneous gathering, quickly got permission for some camping areas in vacant fields and organized some amateur bands to keep those in attendance entertained. But it soon became clear there was simply not enough to keep such a large crowd together, particularly when some elements had other ideas. The local bars in the area were (only 2 or 3) drunk dry. One was burned down, an a mini-riot ensued when the local citizens decided they'd had enough and ordered the gathering to break-up and go home. A few did, but most were either not causing trouble and saw no reason to leave, or were in a state of drunken stupor and in no condition to reason, much less drive. By the next morning (Saturday), the North Dakota National Guard arrived to help the town move the crowd out and clean up the mess. There wasn't much resistance by then. Most of the kids remaining had either sobered up or didn't cause any trouble in the first place. The trouble makers had done their damage the night before. For the cost of promoting such an event, the student associations of UND and NDSU were left with a huge bill, courtesy of the damage caused mainly by out of state trouble-makers. We were still paying on it when I attended NDSU some years later. I remember the era well as an 8th grader at Fargo's Agassiz Junior High as I published an underground newspaper called "Agony at Agassiz", generally a one-page hectograph (an old gelatin transfer printing method before the era of copies) with the issue taped to my briefcase to advertise that I had copies available for 5 cents inside. Probably, I was viewed as the class nerd (it was very unfashionable to carry briefcases back then), and my foray into underground paper publishing was an attempt to put a "naughty" facade on a serious young man. So, of course, my news found its way into current events class as did the unfolding news on the "Zip to Zap." As kids of that age do, we emulated our older brothers and sisters in college and the rebellious atmosphere of the time in our own way, to the extent that our teacher, a wonderful, but liberal, 40ish spinster by the name of Cheryl Watkins, finally banned news items from "Agony at Agassiz" or on the "Zip to Zap."
What is important to remember is that the Zip didn't happen overnight. It was early April when the weather started to get warm that the UND and NDSU student newspapers thought they would promote the Zip as a joke. They stopped laughing when other campus papers in the area took it seriously and it gradually became apparent that the Zip was going to happen in some way, shape or form. While it was stupid and naive on their part to think they could actually organize such an event and control the type of crowd which came, they tried. Certainly there was a cultural clash-- the rural people of the Zap area being among the most hard-working and conservative you could find anywhere, the students from the area whose political leanings, if they had any, were along the lines of some traditional well-behaved liberal like Eugene McCarthy or Walter Mondale, and the outsiders (whose political leanings were along the lines of Hanoi Jane Fonda or Karl Marx) who were intent on challenging authority and causing as much trouble as possible.
Submitted by David Staples Zap


The population of Zap was:
1920 - 257
1930 - 406
1940 - 574
1950 - 425
1960 - 339
1970 - 271
1980 - 511
1983 - 625
1990 - 287

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