Early History


     The History of Minnehaha County properly begins with an act of the first territorial legislature, approved April 5, 1862, and entitled “An Act to Establish the Counties of Lincoln, Minnehaha, Brookings and Deuel.” 

Section 2, of this act reads as follows:  “That so much of the Territory of Dakota as embraced in the following boundaries be and the same is hereby established as the County of Minnehaha, beginning at the south-west corner of the State of Minnestoa; thence west to the south-west corner of township one hundred and one, north, of range fifty-three, west; thence due north to the north-west corner of township one hundred and six, north, of range fifty-three, west; thence due east to the boundary line between the State of Minnesota and the Territory of Dakota; thence south on said boundary line to place of beginning. 

“Section 5.  And be it further enacted, that for judicial and election purposes the counties of Lincoln, Minnehaha, Brookings and Deuel form one and the same county, with the county seat at Sioux Falls City, in the County of Minnehaha. 

“Section 6.  And be it further enacted that the county seat of Minnehaha county be established temporarily at Sioux Falls City.” 

To trace the series of evolution which made this event possible, it is necessary to give the reader some idea of the history of Dakota prior to this date, but the writer will confine himself strictly to that portion which relates particularly to Minnehaha county. 

Leaving to the ethnological student the unsettled problem of the origin of the Indian nations, who for centuries were the inhabitants of this vast country, and passing over the period from the seventeenth century, in which is included the dispersion of the powerful Indian tribes of the Northwest; the ceding of the entire northwestern territory by France to Spain in 1762; the receding to France in 1800, and the purchase of the same by the United States in 1803 for fifteen million dollars; the gradual development and reaching out of civilization toward “The Land of the Dakotahs” first by trading posts established by fur companies; the famous Lewis & Clark expedition in 1804 (being the first American explorer to ascend the Missouri river into what is now known as Dakota); the establishment, in 1808, of the Missouri Fur Company, to which the first settlements here may be ascribed; the missionary labors of Father DeSmet in 1840; the act of Congress in 1849, by which a portion of Dakota was included in the new Territory of Minnesota-all of which are parts of the history of the country-we come to 1851, in which year was enacted what may properly be termed “the beginning of the end.” 

At Traverse de Sioux, Minnesota, in 1851, the treaty between the United States and the upper bands of Dakota Indians was consummated, giving to the government a portion of land in which was included that part of the present County of Minnehaha lying east of the Big Sioux river.  This constituted a part of the Territory of Minnesota until May 11, 1858, when Minnesota was admitted to the Union and its western boundary was defined by a line running due south from the foot of Big Stone Lake to the Iowa state line, leaving a tract about thirty miles in width extending from this new boundary to the Big Sioux river to be included in the new Territory of Dakota. 

April 18, 1858, a treaty was made by the government with the Yankton Indians by which the latter ceded to the United States all lands owned by them, except 400,000 acres, the eastern boundary of which was the Big Sioux river, and included that portion of Minnehaha lying west of said river. 

The first person to give the world any information in regard to the falls of the Big Sioux was Nicollet, who in 1839 was sent out by the government of Quebec to treat with certain western tribes of Indian.  He wrote a sketch of his travels in the Northwest, which was afterwards published, wherein he gave a description of the beautiful and picturesque falls of the river then called by the Indians “Te-han-kas-an-data” or the “Thick-wooded-river.”  A Copy of this sketch found its way into the hands of Dr. George M. Staples, of Dubuque, Iowa, sometime during the summer of 1856.  The natural advantages of the falls at once struck him, and he took steps to secure possession of the delectable valley. 

At that time speculation in lands and town sites was at high tide, and the doctor without difficulty soon organized the Western Town Company of Dubuque, Iowa. The following named persons comprised the company:  Dr. G.M. Staples, Mayor Hetherington, Dennis Mahoney, Austin Adams, S.P. Waldron, William Tripp, and a number of others whose names the writer has been unable to obtain.  Mr. Ezra Millard of Sioux City, Iowa, was employed by the company to ascertain the location of the beautiful falls of the Big Sioux, and was instructed to take up under the laws of the Unites States three hundred and twenty acres of land contiguous to the falls for a town site in the name of the Western Town Company.  Early in November of the same year, Mr. Millard accompanied by Mr. D.M. Mills, also of Sioux City, started out to obey instructions.  They followed the east bank of the Big Sioux, and after several days’ travel came within sight of the promised land. 

Right here the writer will take the liberty to contradict the fiction which has been frequently published, that the party upon approaching the falls were intercepted by a band of Indians, and although neither party was conversant with the language of the other, the travelers could not misunderstand the meaning of the Indians who, taking the travelers’ horses by the bridle and turning them about, silently pointed in the direction from which they had come, and that the party immediately hastened back to Sioux City.  Such an incident happening at the first approach of white men to the falls of the Big Sioux for the purpose of permanent occupation, would always add piquancy to the events that transpired, and it is with some misgivings whether it would not be better to let it stand, that the writer asserts that nothing of the kind took place.  The fact is, the party had a surveyor with them, and in the name of the Western Town Company took undisturbed possession of three hundred and twenty acres of land, and D.M. Mills one hundred and sixty acres.  The company selected the southwest one-fourth of section nine, and the northwest one-fourth of section sixteen and Mr. Mills the southwest one-fourth of section sixteen.  In a history of Southeastern Dakota, published in 1881, the land taken up at this time is very differently described, but the description above is correct beyond question.  Mr. Mills built a log house above the falls, ten by twelve feet in size, and then returned to Sioux City for the winter. 

In May, 1857, the Western Town Company sent Jesse T. Jarrett, John McClellan, Farwell and Oleson to the Falls, to hold and improve the town site located by the Mills party.  They arrived at the Falls about the first of June. 

Meanwhile, in the winter of 1856-7, the Dakota Land Company was chartered by the legislature of Minnesota Territory, for the purpose of securing the best locations for future towns in the proposed Territory of Dakota, and it is to the efforts of this company, that the location of the western boundary of Minnesota must be ascribed, they being anxious to have the desirable tract lying east of the Big Sioux river included in the new Territory. 

The original incorporators of this company were:  W.H. Noble, J.R. Brown, A.G. Fuller, S.A. Medary, Samuel F. Brown, James W. Lynd, N.R. Brown, F.J. DeWitt, Baron F. Friedenriech, B.M. Smith, Artemas Gale, Parker Paine, Thomas Campbell, Judge Charles E. Flandrau, and a number of others.  The representatives of the company left St. Paul in May, 1857, Dakotaward.  They proceeded to the Big Sioux river, and in what is now Brookings county located the town of Medary, which they intended to be the capital of the new Territory.  Continuing their journey down the river they located the town of Flandrau, named in honor of Judge Flandrau, and then pushed on to Sioux Falls.  But in reaching that point they found themselves anticipated, and the Western Town Company in possession of the prize.  However, they were not to be so easily crowded out after all their efforts, and in the name of the Dakota Land Company took up three hundred and twenty acres of land south of the Falls, which included that present portion of the city known as Gale’s Sioux Falls; and erecting a log house thereon, near where the Burlington depot is now located, named their settlement Sioux Falls City.  James L. Fiske and James McBride remained to hold their claim, and the balance of the party returned to St. Paul. 

The population of Sioux Falls now numbered five souls, Messrs. McClellan, Farwell, Oleson, Fiske and McBride, and although representatives of rival companies, they dwelt in peace and harmony, fearing only their common enemy, the Sioux.  They were not troubled, however, until late in July, when the Indians rose in great numbers, and threatened the extermination of all the settlements on the Big Sioux river. 

We have read in some of the newspaper accounts of the early history of Dakota, “that Col. Noble about this time, with fifty men in his employ, while locating a road from Fort Ridgley to South Pass was driven back by the Indians.”  This has been denied, and one of the first settlers in Sioux Falls is authority for the statement “that Col. Noble was not molested by the Indians, but after having spent fifteen thousand dollars appropriated for the purpose of locating the road, endeavored to get another appropriation, but was unsuccessful.” 

However, the attitude of the Indians was of such a threatening character that the Dakota Land Company withdrew Fiske and McBride from Sioux Falls.  McClellan, Farwell and Oleson, were now left in sole possession, and recognizing the fact that they were in no position to defend themselves, and deeming discretion the better part of valor determined to withdraw from the scene for a time.  They placed their personal effects in a canoe, and starting from the foot of the falls navigated the Big Sioux to its mouth.  The Sioux Valley was once more deserted by white men, but not for long. 

On the 17th day of August, 1857, the Western Town Company sent Messrs. J.T. Jarrett, J.L. Phillips, W.W. Brookings, S.B. Atwood, A.L. Kilgore, Smith Kinsey, John McClellan, Callahan and Godfrey from Sioux City, Iowa, to Sioux Falls. D.M. Mills also joined them at Rock river.  This party took with them machinery for a saw mill, tools and implements for building, and a large stock of provisions, which were transported by a team of horses and several ox-teams.  They were obliged to travel slowly, the teams being heavily laden, and it being often necessary to bridge the streams to be crossed on the way, so that it was not until the 27th of August, after ten weary days, that the party arrived in sight of the Falls. 

To those of the party who now came for the first time, the scene was inexpressibly grand and beautiful, and all joined in three rousing cheers.  An encampment was made north of the island, and the next day each member of the party selected a claim for himself. 

On the 29th of August, four of the party, Jarrett, Mills, Atwood and Godfrey, started back to Sioux City, for more provisions, leaving the others at work.  In about ten days Jarrett returned, accompanied by Dr. Staples, one of the directors of the company. 

When the party first set out, Jarrett was appointed by the company the agent in charge, but being a man particularly unfitted for the position, he at once became involved in trouble with some to the other employees, and Dr. Staples having been sent out with authority to make a change, removed Mr. Jarrett and appointed W.W. Brookings, agent. 

The men worked untiringly, building a saw mill, a stone house and a store.  The two last mentioned structures were located on what is now north Phillips avenue, near three small houses.  Upon the map showing the survey made in August, 1859, this stone house is located on the northwest quarter of section sixteen, and was called the “Dubuque House,” but the fact is, it was located on the southwest quarter of section nine, near the south line of the section, and was on what is now lot twelve or thirteen of block twenty-five in Syndicate Addition. 

Several of the party went back to Sioux City, leaving only six men in the settlement.  These pursued their labors undisturbed by the Indians, save once, when some of the men run across a small party near the settlement, but they retreated as hastily as the settlers, and so caused no alarm. 

On October 10, however, towards evening, about a dozen Indians rode down over the bluffs, and terrifying the men with their yells, surrounded the one pair of oxen which had been left, and before the astonished settlers came to their senses, had driven them away. 

Four of the men undertook to follow the Indians, leaving two to guard the camp, but their efforts to rescue the oxen were unavailing, and they soon retuned to spend an anxious night.  The Indians were known to be hostile and another and more serious attack was momentarily expected.  With the breaking day their fears were somewhat allayed, and the arrival of Mr. Brookings, who had been absent for some days, helped to encourage them.  The days passed away uneventfully until the middle of October, when the Dakota Land Company sent a party of seven men to look after their interests, and the entire population now began to make preparations for passing the winter at the Falls. 

At the time winter set in they were in a fairly comfortable condition, having besides the saw mill and store building, three dwelling houses, one of them the stone one already mentioned.  The men who spent the winter at the Falls were as follows:  Messrs. W.W. Brookings, J.L. Phillips, John McClellan, L.B.Atwood, A.L. Kilgore, Smith Kinsey, Charles McConnell, R.B. McKinley, S.D. and E.M. Brookings, representing the Western Town Company, and James L. Fiske, James McBride, James W. Evans, James Allen, William Little, James McCall and C. Merrill representing the Dakota Land Company. 

At this time the Sioux Falls settlement was under the jurisdiction of the Territory of Minnesota, and in what is known as Big Sioux county, which then comprised not only the present County of Minnehaha, but also a large portion of the adjacent region, and in December the governor of Minnesota appointed the following officers for the county, Sioux Falls being the only settlement; James Allen, register of deeds; James Evans, sheriff; James L. Fiske, judge of probate; W.W.Brookings, district attorney; J.L. Phillips, justice of the peace; Wm. Little, James McBride and A.L. Kilgore, commissioners, but there are no records showing that the officials qualified or acted under their appointment. 

In May 1858, Minnesota was admitted to the Union, thus leaving all the country west of it in an unorganized condition.  During this spring a number of other settlers came, among them the first white woman who came to the Territory to settle.  This was a Mrs. Goodwin, who came early in May with her husband.  Soon after, Charles White with his wife and daughter came. 

In the latter part of June, the Indians again rose and drove all the settlers from the upper part of the Sioux Valley, including the settlement at Medary, burning all buildings and destroying property. They sent a message to the settlement at Sioux Falls, demanding its immediate evacuation, but by that time the population numbered thirty-five able-bodied men, who were not to be easily driven from the place they had hoped to make a home.  A consultation was held, and it was decided to take measures for defense.  A sod fort was built surrounding the house already mentioned as being near where the Burlington depot now stands, and here at night the people gathered, and a guard was detailed, the men serving in turns.  Scarcely were these preparations completed, when a delegation of Indians visited the Falls and advised the people to leave. 

The settlers pluckily  “held the fort” until the excitement was over, and the Indians once more quieted, but it is not to be wondered at, that many of them had too great a dread of passing through another period of such suspense and fear, and when they could at last withdraw without leaving their companions in danger, they did so, and the population of Sioux Falls City was materially reduced. 

A few years ago, a clipping from a newspaper, published some time during the seventies, came into the writer’s possession, and as it is a copy of a letter written by one of the occupants of Fort Sod, in June, 1858, giving a graphic account of the life led in Sioux Falls at that time by thirty-five men and one woman, it is transferred to this work.  If this should happen to arrest the attention of any of the occupants of old Fort Sod, it would undoubtedly surprise them that they had forgotten so much of the sufferings they had passed through.  But here it is just as we have it:


Cleveland, Ohio, March 8, 1875.

     Friend Taylor:  In looking over ancient home letters, I found the enclosed to my father which may give you an idea of what trials and difficulties the old settlers at Sioux Falls labored under seventeen years ago, when they tried to make homes there. 

     Supplementary to the letter should be added, how we were confined six weeks at the old Fort, and how our provisions ran out—with the exception of a barrel of caked musty flour, which we chopped out and then pounded for use, and how we lived on that fresh pickerel and pike without lard or salt—and how we daily grew poor in flesh and weak in spirits, and how at last Dewitt, and a companion (Brown, now at Fort Edward, N.Y.) made their appearance with a horse and buggy bringing a sack of flour, a half bushel of beans, some pork, sugar and coffee; having circumvented the Indians by taking a roundabout route through northern Iowa, and how the half starved garrison marched out in battle array, rivaling Falstaff’s army, to welcome.  Even more could be said, but have you not ex-Mayor Dewitt, as a fellow citizen of yours to apply to for additional facts, and Major Evans to corroborate them.

Fort Sod, Sioux Falls, D.T., June 17th, 1858.

     Dear Father:  We are in a state of excitement at the present time.  Last Sunday a half-breed, who had been acting as interpreter at Medary reached here, stating that one hundred lodges of Indians (Yanktoais) had arrived at that place and ordered our townsite men away. 

     Mr. Dewitt was at first disposed to fight them, but his men—a dozen or so in number—thought the odds were against them and refused to do so. 

     The consequence was the Indians forced all hands out of the houses, took what provision they wanted and burnt every building down.  Dewitt and men have all gone to Agency or to St. Paul. 

     The Indians sent word by the half-breed, for us to leave the country forthwith and that they would be down here in the course of a week and would drive us off, if we had not left.  Mr. Dewitt also told the half-breed to tell us to go to St. Paul or any other convenient place at once. 

     On the receipt of this intelligence, we called a meeting of all the settles, and unanimously determined to remain and defend ourselves and property.  As some doubted the correctness of the half-breed’s intelligence, we dispatched two mounted men toward Medary to reconnoiter.  The next day they returned and reported the Indians to be within thirty-five miles of here in great numbers.  All day Monday was wasted by us, trying to decide which house to fortify.  The Dubuque Company were determined not to abandon their buildings and we were equally determined not to abandon ours. 

     The Dubuque Company’s houses being under the brow of the hill, could not be fortified to much advantage, whereas our house was on an open plain, commanding an extensive prospect, with a fine spring of water adjoining; therefore the settlers, knowing that there must be unity of action in the matter, sided with us, and on Tuesday morning we commenced the building of our Fort.  We have erected of sods and logs, a perpendicular wall eighty feet square, ten feet high, and four feet thick, with a deep ditch surrounding the exterior base, port holes are arranged every few feet in the wall, and an inner platform to stand upon.  Also have an inclosure of three acres, securely fenced for the herding of the cattle. 

          We now feel safe and are determined to resist the Indians and if necessary to fight them.  We want to teach them that they can not every season drive off the settlers on this disputed land. 

     The new settlers, Mr. Goodwin and his wife, have moved into our old cabin which is now a wing of the store house, and Mrs. Goodwin has made a large flag out of all the old flannel shirts we could find, and we now have the stars and the stripes proudly waving over Fort Sod. 

     All the property of the place is now deposited with us, including the movable portion of the saw mill machinery. 

     We are on a military footing.  Have organized into a company, (the undersigned 1st lieutenant) sentries and scouting parties on duty day and night.  All told we number thirty-five men for defense, not including the woman, and she can shoot a gun as well as any one. 

     The Dubuque Company’s agent, Brookings, whose feet were frozen off last winter, will be brought to our house as soon as Indians are reported in sight.  We feel secure now and could fight 600 Indians, and even if the wall could be scaled, which is almost impossible, we could retreat into our store house which is impregnable. 

     Those Yanktonais occupy the country northwest towards the British possessions, and pretend to claim an interest in all the country owned and ceded by the Sioux Nation.  The Chiefs who were in Washington the past winter are not with them.  They have been told that a treaty has been made with the Yanktons, but they will not recognize it until the first payment is made and they even threaten to kill the chiefs for making the treaty. 

     All the troops in this section of the country (Fort Randall and Ridgely) are on the Mormon expedition, and the result is that settlers are left to protect themselves. 

     The news of this Indian difficulty will travel all over the country, and we cannot expect any more immigration this way before next spring; and from all accounts there were large numbers enroute here to settle in the Big Sioux Valley, who will now turn back.  I fear immigration will be retarded for several years. 

     Four Sisseton Sioux came in last night, but hurried off when they heard of the Yanktonais coming.  We sent letters to the Agency by them.  Weather hot, 90 odd degrees in the shade.

James M. Allen

      At this time there were trading posts established at Yankton and other near points on the Missouri river, which were controlled by Frost, Todd & Co., and this company, unlike those at the Sioux Falls settlement, was opposed to any immediate organization of the Territory until a treaty could be made with the Indians, and the land beyond the Big Sioux river be ceded to the United States.  They would then be entitled, under the trading post license, to locate a mile square of land around the post to cover their improvements, which would include the Yankton town site, and then, should the Territory be organized, the advantage of Yankton for a capital would be recognized.  On the other hand, should the Territory be organized at once the capital in all probability would be located at Sioux Falls. 

During the summer of 1858, the Dakota Land Company, deeming it necessary to make known to the world in general and Congress in particular, the need for organization of the great and increasing population of the Territory, as well as the wonderful advantages of the country, sent out from St. Paul a printing press, printer, and editor.  The press was one which had already seen over twenty years of service, having been purchased of the Smith Press Company in 1836, and used to print the first paper published in Dubuque, then a small mining town.  In 1842, the press was sold to a stock company and used in printing the Grant County Herald, in Lancaster, Wisconsin.  A few years afterward, J.M. Goodhue bought the old press and moved it with an ox team on the ice to St. Paul, where it was used for a long time in printing the St. Paul Pioneer.  The Pioneer soon required a larger press, and in 1858, the old Smith press was again sent on its travels and by ox-power.  After a long and tedious journey over the prairies, through forests and streams and around lakes it at length reached Sioux Falls, where it was once more to serve its purpose as the herald of advancing civilization, and was duly installed in a stone building on the bank of the river.  The editor was Mr. S.J. Albright, and the printer was J.W. Barnes, afterwards a compositor in The Times office in Dubuque.  The result of this step was the birth of  The Democrat.  It was issued at irregular intervals, i.e., whenever the enterprising editor or citizens could think of anything that would advertise Dakota, and copies were circulated broadcast throughout the east. 

The first issue of this paper appeared on the 2d day of July, 1859, a copy of which is now in the possession of Doane Robinson of Yankton.  Mr. Robinson, in a letter to the writer, says:  “It is printed on the outside only, and contains nothing of local interest except the poem by Gov. Masters entitled ‘Sioux Falls’ which appears in the July (1898) monthly South Dakotan.  I have my copy framed, and it is too frail to handle.”  He sent the writer four issues of The Democrat, viz., Vol. I, numbers 3,4,6 and 9.  No. 3 was published August 26, 1859.  No. 4 was published November 8; No. 6, December 15, 1859; No. 9 February 18, 1860.  In these issues appear the following advertisements:  Albright & Allen, Dealers in Real Estate; J. McCall, Mason, J.L. Phillips, Physician and Surgeon; W.W. Brookings, Attorney and Counsellor at Law; John Rouse, Boot and Shoe Maker; and J.W. Evans, Carpenter.  The office of “The Democrat” was in the “Democrat Building” N.E. corner of Bridge and Main streets. 

In 1881, an extensive history of Southeastern Dakota was published in book form by the Western Publishing Co., of Sioux City, Ia., and The Democrat is there mentioned as Dakota Democrat, and the date of the first publication, in its account of the “Sioux Falls Settlement,” is asserted to be on the 20th day of September, 1858, but in a chapter entitled “Sioux Falls” we find the following account of this newspaper:  “The first newspaper published in the Territory was issued at Sioux Falls.  This was the Dakota Democrat, established in 1857 by S.J. Albright.”  These dates are clearly erroneous.  And this assertion that Mr. Albright left Sioux Falls in 1860, taking the heading of The Democrat with him, may also be erroneous.  But it is a fact that Mr. Albright left Sioux Falls about this time, and the paper therafter was published as The Independent, this heading having formerly been used for a paper published in Iowa by F.M. Ziebach.  During the last fifteen years we have seen several accounts of this newspaper enterprise, and they differ so much in regard to dates and other things appertaining to its publication which should be accurately stated, especially as it was the first newspaper published in Dakota, that we have taken great pains to ascertain and record the exact facts in reference to it.  Further on, an account of the destruction of the press will appear as one of the incidents of the burning of Sioux Falls by the Indians the last of August, 1862. 

The Dakota Land Company, as already appears, was enterprising in its efforts to obtain possession of land in Dakota favorable for the location of towns, and, believing that it will not be uninteresting, we transcribe a portion of a report which was submitted at the annual meeting of the stockholders, of the company in October, 1859.  This report was made by J.L. Fiske, showing the operation and progress made by the company from August 1, 1858.  It briefly referred to the report of Secretary Gay, made the year previous from which it appeared that the company had suffered heavy damages and losses by the sacking and burning of the towns of Medary and Flandrau.  The report then proceeded to show that during the year “twenty-six hundred and forty (2640) acres of scrip had been purchased to lay on six towns” and that “two of the directors of the company had taken charge of a special expedition into the Territory for the purpose of resurveying and establishing the required boundary marks to six, designated by the board, preparatory to entering them with the scrip on hand.”  That this party visited all these parts, and, after preparing the necessary plats and other papers, Messrs. Gay and Smith proceeded to the land office having jurisdiction, and successfully entered the towns.  Two of these towns were in Minnesota, namely, Saratoga, in Cottonwood county, and Mountain Pass, situated at the head of Lake Benton.  In Dakota four towns were located, and described as follows:  “Medary, the county seat of Midway county, the first organized county in Dakota, situated on the Big Sioux river at the crossing of the government road, and twenty-five miles due west of Mountain Pass, two hundred and twenty acres; Flandrau, the county seat of Rock county at the junction of the Coteau Percee with the Sioux, fifteen miles south of Medary, six hundred and forty acres; Sioux Falls City, established seat of government for Big Sioux county, and the recognized capital of the Territory, at the falls of the Big Sioux, the head of navigation, three hundred and twenty acres; Emanija, the county seat of Vermillion county, at the mouth of Split Rock river and Pipe Stone creek, on the Big Sioux, thirteen miles below the Falls, and at the more practical head of navigation for large steamers, six hundred and forty acres.” 

As already stated, the eastern portion of Minnesota Territory was admitted as a State in May, 1858, and this left all that portion of the present limits of the two Dakotas east of the Missouri and White Earth rivers in an unorganized condition.  From this time until the Territory of Dakota was organized March 2, 1861, the situation of the settlers was a peculiar one.  During the summer of 1858, the residents of the Sioux Valley were perplexed with the problem how to proceed in order to obtain the benefits of a duly constituted government.  Of course, they appreciated the fact that such government must come through the organization of a territorial government, and this could only be established by an act of Congress. But this would take considerable time, and until it was accomplished, unless some provisional laws were enacted, each person would be a law unto himself.  Again the question was considered how to best present this state of affairs to Congress, and obtain territorial organization.  It was finally determined that it would be advisable to set up a government themselves, elect a legislature, and enact such laws as would answer their purpose of the time being, memorialize Congress for territorial organization, and elect a delegate to Congress to urge the immediate establishment of a territorial government.  Having determined upon this plan, they proceeded to put it in force, and a mass convention was called for that purpose.  The action of the convention appears from the following notice, which was printed on small slips of paper:



     “At a Mass Convention of the people of Dakota Territory, held in the town of Sioux Falls, in the County of Big Sioux, on Saturday, September 18, 1858, all portions of the Territory being represented, it was resolved and ordered that an election should be held for member to compose a Territorial Legislature. 

     “In pursuance of said resolution, notice is hereby given that on 

Monday, the Fourth Day of October 

Next, at the House of 


In the Town of 


In the County of 


An election will be held for ………………..members of the Council and …………………of the House of Representatives for said Legislature. 

     “The polls will be opened at 9 o’clock in the morning, and close at 4 o’clock in the afternoon of said day. 

     “Dated at …………………………this 20th day of September, A.D. 1858 

“(Dakota Democrat Print, Sioux Falls, City.)”

     With the thirty or forty souls who composed the population at that time, it required considerable ingenuity to arrange matters, and the elections were conducted in a somewhat peculiar manner.  We learn from one of the members, that on the morning of election, the whole population organized into parties of three or four, elected each other judges and clerks of election, and then started off with their teams in various directions for a pleasure trip, and whenever a rest was taken, which occurred frequently, an election precinct was established, and the votes not only of the party but of their uncles, cousins, relatives and friends were cast, until as a result of the election the total vote rolled up into the hundreds, and was properly certified to. 

Soon after the election the legislature convened, and Henry Masters was elected president of the council, and at the close of the session was elected governor.  S.J. Albright was elected speaker.  This session lasted only a few days, but with due deliberation all needful bills for home government were introduced, discussed and passed.  It also passed the strongest resolutions and memorials to Congress, praying for an early organization of the territory, and elected A.G. Fuller, Esq., to represent the Territory in Washington. 

Years afterwards in speaking of this legislative session, a member said:  “There has never been a regular legislature in Dakota in which dignity, decorum and good order were better observed than in this squatter legislature, and it would be well for other legislatures to take pattern thereby.” 

Mr. Fuller spent the winter of 1858-9 in Washington endeavoring to secure his admission as a delegate, but his efforts were of no avail, his influence being counteracted by that of Frost, Todd & Co., who desired to postpone the organization of the Territory as before stated.  He succeeded, however, in establishing a post office at Sioux Falls.  Mr. James Allen was made the first postmaster, and the post office was located for a short time in the Dakota Land Company’s building already referred to. 

At this point in the early history of events we have had not a little difficulty in sifting the truth from a mass of contradictory statements made by individuals, who were residents of Sioux Falls at the time of their occurrence.  Judge Charles E. Flandrau, of St. Paul Minn., and one of her foremost citizens, about three years ago, desiring to obtain the exact facts concerning the first settlement of Dakota, and especially the facts in reference to the attempt to form a government on the principles of “squatter sovereignty,” applied to S.J. Albright, then a resident of New York City, for the coveted information.  This Mr. Albright is the same person who came to Sioux Falls in 1858, and was the editor of The Democrat.  He complied with Judge Flandrau’s request, and his narrative was so interesting and apparently correct, that it was published in the Minnesota Historical Society’s Collections, Vol. VIII, Part II, pages 134 to 147, inclusive.  This narrative, with the preface by Judge Flandrau, has been published in pamphlet form, and through the kindness of the judge we have a copy before us.  This narrative, while purporting to give an account of the first organized government of Dakota, entirely ignores the provisional or squatter legislature of 1858, in fact, not only ignores it, but declares that “the first legislative assembly of Dakota came together in Sioux Falls City in the winter of 1859.”  Mr. Albright would undoubtedly admit he was mistaken in this if he had before him Vol. 1, No. 4, of The Democrat published November 8, 1858, at Sioux Falls City, of which he was then the “Editor and Proprietor,” for in that issue may be found the following account of the assembling of the legislature in 1859.



“Report for The Democrat. 

     “The second session of the Legislative Assembly of the Territory of Dakota, convened at the Capitol House on the 2nd inst.” 

     Then follows the legislative proceedings up to and including Monday the 7th day of November, 1859. 

     Again Mr. Albright in the same issue says editorially under the caption of “Dakota Legislature.”  “This body convened for a second session the 2nd inst., that being the day appointed by law for its convocation.” 

     After having given the facts in reference to the legislative assembly of 1858, and the election of Governor Masters, the propriety of referring to the inaccuracy of this narrative may be questioned, but it must be remembered that the narrative of Mr. Albright has the endorsement of the State Historical Society of Minnesota, and at some future time, when the evidence cannot be produced to sustain our statements, their accuracy may be challenged.  Judge Flandrau in his preface to the pamphlet above referred to characterizes these incidents as “a most interesting and curious epoch in the history of the Northwest,” and also says  “It presents the only actual attempt (excepting one earlier instance, the organizing of the “State of Franklin” in 1784, in the district which now forms the eastern part of Tennessee) to form a government on the principles of “squatter sovereignty.”  If it is interesting, it is certainly important that all the incidents connected with it should be correctly recorded. 

     In Vo. 1, No. 3, of The Democrat published August 26, 1859, there appears the following:



     “Notice is hereby given, that on Monday, the 12th day of September, 1859, at the several election precincts in the County of Big Sioux, an election will be held for the following named officers, to-wit: 

     “A Governor, a Secretary of the Territory, a Delegate to Congress, four members of the Territorial House of Representatives, two members of the Territorial Council, a Judge of Probate, a District Attorney, three County Commissioners, a Sheriff, a Register of Deeds, a County Treasurer, a Coroner, two Justices of the Peace, two County Assessors, and two Constables. 

     “Election to be held in the 1st Precinct at the Dakota House; 2d Precinct, at the house of Henry Masters; 3d Precinct, at the house of Charles Philbrick. 

“J.M. Allen, 

“Clerk Board Co. Commissioners. 

     “Dated this 6th day of August, A.D. 1859.”

     Mr. Albright’s narrative also ignores the fact, that Henry Masters was elected governor by the legislature in 1858, and here again we find in the issue of November 8, 1859, of The Democrat, the following notice of the death of Gov. Masters:




     “Since our last issue, Dakota has been called upon to mourn the death of one of her oldest, ablest and most honored citizens.  Henry Masters, her Governor, has been called from his sphere of labor and usefulness on earth, to that bourne from whence no traveler returns.  His demise occurred on the fifth day of September last, after an illness of about ten days, and in the fifty-third year of his age.”

     We also find in The Democrat of August 26, 1859, an advertisement of S. J. Albright and J.M. Allen of Sioux Falls City, Dealers in Real Estate, under the firm name of Albright & Allen, and in their list of references the following:  “Hon. Henry Masters, Governor of Dakota Territory.”


     This would seem to settle the question that Henry Masters was the first governor. 

It is not an important matter, but the statement by Mr. Albright that “Henry Masters was originally a Massachusetts man and removed here from Dubuque, Iowa, with his family and effects: should be corrected.  Gov. Masters was born in Bath, Maine, and came from the city of Brooklyn, N.Y., to Sioux Falls, his family remaining in Brooklyn, with the exception of his son Harry; who came here some time after his father, probably in 1859.  Gov. Masters, on one occasion at least, preached a sermon in Sioux Falls, the first sermon preached in the county, and probably the first within the present limits of the State of South Dakota.  It was in the support of the Swedenborgian faith. 

On the 10th day of August, 1859, a convention was called to meet in Sioux Falls City to nominate a candidate for delegate to Congress, and, as Mr. Albright says in his narrative, “a few days subsequent to the adjournment of the convention, the community was startled by the information that he (Gov. Masters) had been stricken with apoplexy at his home and that death had followed the stroke,” and as Gov. Masters died on the 5th day of September, it is undoubtedly true that there was a convention held on September 3, and was the only convention held that year, for it is a fact that candidates for other offices were nominated at this time. 

In reference to the nomination and election of Judge Kidder for delegate to Congress in 1859, we do not hesitate to affirm that the following statements can be fully substantiated.  Judge Kidder came from St. Paul to Sioux Falls late in August, 1859, and was nominated for delegate to Congress on Saturday, the 3d day of September, and left Sioux Falls for St. Paul the forepart of the following week; that before the election took place, A.G. Fuller, who was absent at the time the convention was held, returned to Sioux Falls, and was so displeased with the fact that Judge Kidder had been nominated instead of himself, that the name of Judge Kidder was taken from the ticket and Mr. Fuller’s substituted, and Mr. Fuller was voted for in the Sioux Valley.  After the election Mr. Fuller went to St. Paul, and it was arranged between the two candidates that Judge Kidder should have the election, and a return was made from Pembina showing that Kidder had a majority over Fuller, and he received the certificate of election. 

Gov. Masters was nominated for governor at this convention, but his death created a vacancy on the ticket.  Mr. Albright soon after the convention went to St. Paul, and during his absence his name was put on the ticket for governor in place of Henry Masters.  Mr. Albright was elected governor, but, we are informed, did not qualify, and was displeased with his election, stating that he would prefer to be a member of the House, and its speaker, the same as he was the year before, and a certificate was issued to him as a member of the House. 

At the top of the first editorial column of The Democrat in its issue of November 8, 1859, the following appears:



     “An unavoidable absence eastward, prolonged beyond desire or expectation, and our inability at the time of departure to procure mechanical aid in our office, must be our apology for the hiatus of several numbers which has occurred in the publication of the Democrat.  A like occurrence has been provided against as far as may be in the future, and we trust that our readers will, in view of the cause which led to it, excuse the one just passed.”

     The last issue of The Democrat before this, was on the 26th day of August, 1859. 

When the second session of the legislature convened on Wednesday the 2d of November, 1859, it adjourned from day to day until Monday, the 7th, for want of a quorum.  On that day Mr. Albright was nominated speaker by Representative C. Cooper, and was elected unanimously, and acted as such during the session of the legislature, which adjourned on the 18th of the same month.  A bill was introduced in the House (H.B. No. 5) “providing for the death or resignation of the governor” passed by the House on November 14, and by the Council November 16.  It is a disputed question who was the governor after the death of Gov. Masters, but, according to the best information obtainable, we are confident that this bill No. 5 made the Hon. W.W. Brookings (who was then President of the Council) ex officio Governor.  He signed the certificate of Judge Kidder’s election as delegate to Congress “W.W. Brookings ex officio Governor,” and sent it to him at St. Paul, but Judge Kidder sent it back requesting him to sign it as “Acting Governor,” which he did. 

The members of the legislature were as follows:



     Midway and Pipestone counties—J.W. Evans, C.Cooper, JE. Peters, William Stevens. 

      Big Sioux—John Rouse, George Freudenreich, R.M. Johnson, S.J. Albright 

      Vermillion and Rock—William Little, Albert Kilgore, Amos Shaw. 

     The council organized by electing W.W. Brookings, president, C.S. White, secretary, B. Jarrett, messenger, M.V.B. Fisk, sergeant-at-arms. 

     The members of the House were sworn in by J. McCall, and organized by electing S.J. Albright speaker, LW. Stuart clerk, John Kelts sergeant-at-arms.

     It is hardly probable that any members of this legislature were residents of Vermillion or Yankton counties.  In looking up their residences, and especially the places where elections were held, we have come to the conclusion that no votes were cast in the Missouri Valley.  The Hon. J.R. Hanson, now residing at Yankton, was a resident of that place in 1859, and in response to a letter written him in regard to the matter, he says:  “There was a public meeting held at Yankton November 8, 1859, which declared among other things as follows:  “We do not approve of any election that has been held, nor will we participate in any that may be held in any portion of this territory for the purpose of electing a delegate to Congress, but we trust in the wisdom and justice of Congress to provide us with a legal form of government at an early day.”  Copies of this resolution were ordered sent to Vermillion, Big Sioux, Bon Homme and Atkinson to be read at meetings to be held at those places.  This resolution was subsequently adopted at Vermillion, but I don’t know about the other places. 

“From the foregoing it is fair to presume that no vote was had for delegate to Congress, representatives to a legislature or territorial officers.  My personal recollection is that we did not participate in that election.” 

This would seem to settle the question that this provisional government was participated in almost exclusively by Big Sioux county, and especially so when the members of the legislature, Greenway, Brookings, Amidon, Evans, Peters, Little, Kilgore, Scales, Stevens and Shaw, accredited to Midway, Rock, Pipestone, Vermillion and Yankton counties, were well known residents of Big Sioux county. 

We are indebted to the columns of The Democrat for a partial report of the proceedings of this legislature.  Memorials to Congress to extend a territorial government over Dakota, to recognize Judge Kidder as a delegate, to recognize and ratify the laws passed, and to establish a land office at Sioux Falls, were passed.  A bill providing for filling a vacancy in case of the resignation or death of governor, and bills for fixing the boundaries of Big Sioux county, and establishing the counties of Scott and Buchanan, were passed.  Bills prohibiting the setting of prairie fires, the running at large of cattle and swine, the incorporation of the Sioux Falls Manufacturing Co., and the establishing of supreme and district courts were killed.  Joint resolutions appointing a public printer, providing for the printing of the laws passed, and instructing the delegate to Congress to ask for the appropriation of $6,000 to defray the expenses of the government of Dakota for the current year, were passed. 

The year 1860 was a very quiet one, the settlers anxiously awaiting the result of Judge Kidder’s efforts in their behalf.  Very few immigrants came.  Among those were J.B. Amidon and family. 

The year 1861 saw the hopes and expectations of the ambitious population realized.  March 2, President Buchanan approved the bill for the organization of Dakota Territory, and President Lincoln hastened to perfect the government by appointing the following officers in accordance with the organic act:  William Jayne of Illinois, governor; John Hutchinson of Minnesota, secretary; P. Bliss of Ohio, chief justice; L.P. Williston of Pennsylvania and J.L. Williams of Tennessee, associate justices; W. Gleeson of Maryland, district attorney; W.F. Schaffer, United States marshal. 

By a provision of the organic act, Dakota was made a distinct land district and G.D. Hill of Michigan appointed surveyor-general.  The name of “Dakota” was given to the territory for the reason that the numerous tribes of Indians who had inhabited this region from the earliest times known to the whites bore the general name of Dakotas, although each tribe had its peculiar name aside from the general one. 

The officers appointed by the president at once entered upon the discharge of their duties, and in June of the same year Dakota had a regular government.  On the 13th day of July, 1861, Governor Jayne issued his first proclamation, dividing the territory into judicial districts and assigning the judges for each. 

July 29, 1861, Governor Jayne issued his second proclamation, dividing the territory into legislative districts, and appointing September 16, for a general election, when members of the legislature and a delegate to Congress should be elected. 

The first district comprised the Big Sioux valley, and to this district was assigned two councilmen and four members of the House. 

The first general election held in the new territory was an exceedingly interesting one.  There were three candidates for delegate to Congress:  Capt. J.B.S. Todd, independent; A.J. Bell, union; and C.P. Booge, the people’s candidate.  Of 585 votes cast, Todd received 397, and was declared elected by the board of canvassers, who issued to him the certificate of election as the first delegate to Congress from Dakota. 

The members of the legislature elected from the first district were as follows:  Council, Austin Cole and W.W. Brookings; House, J.C. McBride, Christopher Maloney, Geo. P. Waldron and H.S. Donaldson. 

The first legislature convened March 17, 1862, at Yankton, that place having been designated by the governor as temporary capital.  At this session an act was passed establishing the County of Minnehaha, and authorizing the governor to nominate, and with the consent of council, appoint the county officers. 

The following officers were elected:  judge of probate and treasurer, J.B. Amidon; register of deeds, Harry Masters; sheriff, J.W. Evans; commissioners, Wm. Stevens, Wm. Amidon, and B.C. Fowler; justice of the peace, James McCall. 

An act was also passed legalizing the official acts of James M. Allen as register of deeds, and James McCall as justice of the peace for the County of Big Sioux as organized under the authority of Minnesota.  A memorial to Congress was also passed, praying for the establishment of a military post at Sioux Falls City for the protection of the settlers. 

During the previous winter, Company A, Dakota Cavalry, consisting of ninety-six men under Captain Nelson Miner, was organized and mustered into service in April, and a detachment of this company was stationed at the Falls.  J.B. Watson, John McClellan and A.F. Shaw were members of this company. 

The spring and summer of 1862, were full of promise to the young County of Minnehaha, and had the Indians remained quiet all would have gone well with her.  Fate, however, decreed otherwise, and the bright anticipations of the little band of pioneers who had toiled and endured so faithfully, were soon to be destroyed. 

In August the Indian uprising began again, and horrible massacres on the frontier of Minnesota were perpetrated.  The news did not reach the Falls until some time afterward, but on the 25th of August an event occurred, which caused consternation among the settlers.  This was the murder of Judge J.B. Amidon and his son.  They left their home in Sioux Falls City early in the morning, to cut some hay on their land about a mile north, taking their dinners with them.  When night came and they did not return, Mrs. Amidon became alarmed and notified the soldiers, who, fearing the worst, at once started in search of them.  Not until the next morning was their search rewarded and their worst fears realized.  They were found in a cornfield, adjacent to the hayfield, Judge Amidon, lying on his face, with a bullet hole through his back, and the son farther back in the cornfield, his body covered with arrows.  It was evident that the judge had died instantly, but the boy had survived long enough to draw a number of arrows from his body. While the soldiers were searching for the murderers a number of Indians appeared on the bluff with the evident intention of attacking the village, but on the return of the soldiers, they fled and escaped in the timber along the river. 

The settlers were now thoroughly alarmed, and when a day or two later messengers arrived with the news of the fearful massacres on the frontier, and with orders from the governor for the soldiers to proceed to Yankton and bring the settlers with them, they hastily gathered up such property as could be easily carried and, with heavy hearts, abandoned the earthly possessions they had fondly called their own. 

After their departure the Indians entered the village, destroyed everything they found, and set fire to the buildings.  They ended the pioneer labors of the old Smith press by throwing it into the river, where it laid until 1871, when it was rescued and placed on exhibition in the town.  A part of it was sold to True Dennis, at that time popularly known as the “village blacksmith,” and the bed lay for some time near where E.B. Smith’s furniture store is now located, but Hiram Caldwell, living north of Sioux Falls, took it home and used it for a door step.  R.F. Pettigrew discovering the use to which it was being put, and thinking it should be preserved as a relic of the first newspaper enterprise in the county, gave Mrs. Caldwell five dollars for it, and now has it in his possession.  Mr. Pettigrew’s brother Fred has the spindle.  The Indians carried the type away with them, and some of it afterwards found its way back to the settlements in the form of ornaments to the pipes which they made of pipestone. 

Two months later a number of men with a small party of soldiers under Captain Miner came back to the deserted village in the hope of finding and taking back with them some of the movable property which had been left behind in their hasty flight.  They found the house which had been occupied by W.W. Brookings (standing nearly where the Milwaukee depot is now located), and two others still left, the fire having died out without consuming the buildings as the Indians had expected.  Among other things found and saved were some valuable papers belonging to Mr. Brookings, which were kept in a trunk and were partially burned. 

By October of this year all the settlements in the Sioux Valley were abandoned, and most of the settlers left the country.  A few in Yankton and Bon Homme counties gathered at Yankton, where a good stockade had been built, and remained there through the troublous times, not knowing what moment they might be attacked by the savages and their lives sacrificed.  For nearly three years the Sioux Valley remained almost deserted.  A long and disastrous Indian war was feared, and the settlements were unguarded and defenseless, and murders and depredations were frequent. 

The second session of the territorial legislature convened on the first day of December, 1862, at Yankton, and after two weeks of contesting and quarreling, was finally organized.  The acts passed, relating directly to Minnehaha county, were as follows:  the counties of Clay, Lincoln, Deuel, Minnehaha and Brookings were made the second council and representative district, and entitled to a representation of three members of the Council and six members of the House.  The counties of Clay, Cole, Lincoln, Minnehaha, Brookings and Deuel were constituted the first judicial district of the territory, with the seat of jurisdiction at Vermillion, and the first Tuesday of May in each year appointed for the court to convene.  Memorials to Congress were also passed, praying for the establishment of a mail route form Mankato in Blue Earth county, Minnesota, to Fort Randall in Dakota territory via Sioux Falls, and for the establishment of a military post at Sioux Falls for the protection of the settlers.  The latter is given in full as a picture of the state of affairs in Dakota at that date, and reads as follows:


“To the Hon. E.M. Stanton, Secretary of War: 

“Your memorialist, the legislative assembly of the Territory of Dakota, would most respectfully represent that the frontier settlements of western Minnesota, northwestern Iowa, and southern Dakota will require for several years to come, military protection to guard the inhabitants and their property from the attacks and plundering of roaming hostile bands of Indians who are constantly ravaging that section of country; further, that all the frontier settlements of southwestern Minnesota, northwestern Iowa, and almost the entire valley of the Big Sioux river in Dakota, have been depopulated during the past summer through fear of hostile Indians, the inhabitants having been partially butchered in several of these settlements; further, that for the last six years, the Minnesota Sioux and the Yankton Sioux have been in the habit of coming down the river of the Big Sioux, to a rendezvous near Sioux Falls, then making that a base, strike off into northwestern Iowa and southern Dakota, where they steal, ravage and harass the settlers, then escape before any assistance can arrive from either Forts Randall or Ridgley, and had it not been for the soldiers stationed at Sioux Falls during the late massacre in Minnesota, it is more than probable, that a large number of the settlers in this territory would have met with the same fate as those of the State of Minnesota:  Therefore, your memorialist would most respectfully ask, that a military post be established and occupied at an early day as possible on the Big Sioux river, in the vicinity of Sioux Falls.  Your memorialist would further represent that said Sioux Falls is about half way between Forts Randall and Ridgley, on a direct line with the same and that a military post at said point would not only protect the immediate vicinity of Sioux Falls, but would amply protect the frontier settlements of southwestern Minnesota, northwestern Iowa, and southern Dakota.  A small force of cavalry stationed at said post would be able to keep all hostile Indians north and west of a line running from Fort Ridgley in Minnesota to Fort Randall in Dakota.  Further, your memorialist would represent that there is abundance of building material at said Sioux Falls, and your memorialist will ever pray. 

“Approved January 2, 1863.”


     At the legislative session in 1863-4, nothing affecting Minnehaha county was done, and it still remained deserted. 

At the fourth session of the legislative assembly, begun in Yankton on the 5th day of December, 1864, and concluded January 13, 1865, the following memorial was passed:


“To the Hon. E.M. Stanton, Secretary of War: 

“Your memorialists, the Legislative Assembly of the Territory of Dakota, would most respectfully represent, that the safety of the people of southern Dakota and northern Iowa from the attacks of hostile bands of Indians require the establishment of two small military posts—on the Big Sioux river in the vicinity of Sioux Falls, and one at the point on the Dakota river near a straight line between said Sioux Falls and Fort Randall.  Sioux Falls is about half way between Fort Randall, Dakota, and Fort Ridgley, Minnesota, and your memorialists are of the opinion that such posts would give better protection to southern Dakota, than the system heretofore adopted, besides being far less expensive; therefore your memorialists pray for the establishment of such military posts; and as in duty bound will ever pray. 

“Resolved, That a copy of this memorial be sent to the Secretary of War, Hon. J.B. S. Todd and Hon. A.W. Hubbard. 

“Approved, January 12, 1864.”


     In response to this prayer, on May 1, 1865, a military post was established at Sioux Falls, and Company E, Sixth Iowa Cavalry, under Captain Eicher, was ordered to take possession of the post.  A tract of land ten miles long and seven miles wide, comprising the present township of Sioux Falls; sections 13 to 36, inclusive, of Mapleton township; sections 13, 24, 25 and 36, Benton township, and sections 1, 12, 13, 24, 25 and 36 Wayne township was set apart for a military reservation. 

Barracks were built by this company during the summer of 1865, also a stone house called the commissary building, as shown in the accompanying illustration.  The barracks were located in part on what is now Phillips avenue, between Seventh and Eighth streets, the south end being about 125 feet north of Eighth street.  The larger building was about forty feet in width and thirty feet of the south end was west of the westerly limit of Phillips avenue, and nearly the entire north end was in Phillips avenue.  A portion of the building at the right was built in 1866. 

On the 8th day of June, 1866, Company D, Twenty-second U.S. Infantry, under Col. Knox, arrived at Sioux Falls to relieve the cavalry, which left the same day the infantry arrived, only Dr. Nisley and Mr. Pratt, the hospital steward, remaining. 

With the establishment of a military post in the Big Sioux Valley peace and safety were secured, and gradually immigration began, though slowly at first, and it was not until 1869 that the population of Sioux Falls became as large as in the spring of 1862. 

The first sutler at Sioux Falls was A.F. Hayward, who came with the establishment of the post in May, but he afterwards sold out to Charles K. Howard. 

At the legislative session begun in December, 1865, and concluded in January, 1866, a memorial to Congress was passed, praying that a small number of bloodhounds might be placed at each military post, for the better protection of the lives and property of the citizens from the small bodies of Indians, who were frequently skulking in the tall weeds and timber along the streams, for the purpose of theft or murder.  Congress was also memorialized for the establishment of a mail route from Sioux Falls to Ponca, Nebraska, by way of Brule Creek and Elk Point, with weekly service thereon. 

In the summer of 1866, a number of families settled in the county, among whom were John Nelson, John Thompson, Wm. Melvin, Sylvester Delaney, John J. Aasen, Jr., and Ole O. Gilseth. 

Nelson and Thompson left Goodhue county, Minnesota, with their wives, on June 4.  They came across Iowa, and after leaving Spirit Lake saw no white people until they reached Fort Dakota.  They took up land about ten miles from the fort, and Thompson is still living where he first settled.  Melvin and Delaney took up land in the same vicinity.  Melvin soon left for Kansas, but the log house he built is still standing about three-fourths of a mile north of Thompson’s place and is occupied by Ole L. Floren and family.  An account of privations and hardships endured by Aasen and Gilseth in reaching Dakota, as translated from an issue of the Syd Dakota Ekko, published in November, 1895, will be found in the chapter of reminiscences. 

At the next session of the legislature, which convened at Yankton on December 4, 1866, and adjourned January 12, 1867, a memorial to Congress was passed, praying that a road be laid out and established from Elk Point up the Big Sioux Valley to Fort Dakota, and asking an appropriation of ten thousand dollars for that purpose.  As all supplies for the fort were transported by teams from Sioux City by way of Elk Point, a road from the latter place to the fort was a necessity.  A memorial was also passed asking that the unexpended balance of a previous appropriation amounting to three thousand dollars, be applied to improving and bridging the main traveled road from Sioux Falls to Yankton by way of the upper James river ferry. 

In 1867, Ole Gunderson, Foster Gunderson, Martin Gunderson, John Johnson, Larson Sweet, J. Larson, Ole J. Arnson and their families settled in the county. 

During the session of the legislature which begun December 26, 1867, at Yankton and concluded January 10, 1868 an act was passed to reorganize Minnehaha county.  John Nelson, John Thompson and William Melvin were appointed county commissioners and Edward Broughton register of deeds. 

In the spring of 1868, John O. Langness and Sivert and Gullick Kringen started west, from Minnesota, to find a place suitable to organize a colony.  They found no place that suited them so well as the Sioux Valley, and retuning to Minnesota they came back in the fall, bringing with them a large number of Scandinavians, among whom were the following:  Gudmund T. Ravlo and his sons, who are still living in the county; Nils Iverson, Iver and Nils Nilson, Rollof Pederson, J. Krogstad, Lars Kvarnmo, Jens Berg, Peder and Thomas Paulson; Paul A. Risvold and his two sons, Andrew and Peder Risvold; Gudmund Dalemo, Ole Thompson, Guttorm Eklo and his son Peter Magnus; John Bruaas, who settled at Baltic; Halvor Nyhus, Thorsten and Jonas Nassan and Ole Hougtro.  O.B. Iverson and Ole Bergerson settled in Split Rock, and John Walker also settled there about this time.  John Langness brought with him a whipsaw, which was in constant demand in constructing the houses the settlers began to build.  Ole Thompson and Mr. Langness would saw two hundred feet of boards with this saw in a day.  John Thompson sent to the “old country” for one of these saws, and afterwards procured another nearer home, and there were two or three others in use in this vicinity.  This method of manufacturing lumber by the early settlers affords a striking illustration of the limited advantages and resources of pioneer days. 

John Anderson Ole and Gunder Thompson settled about two miles from the present city of Dell Rapids.  Ole Thompson used to help the Indians break their lands, and as his plow accomplished the purpose far better and in much shorter time than their implements, they gave him the name of “Maka-jubbedu-tanka” or “The great land-breaker.” 

A large number of settlers came into the county during 1869, and several people located at Sioux Falls and engaged in business.  Among them were N.E. Phillips, R.F. Pettigrew, John Hunter, Jephtha Duling, Clark G. Coats, and D.B. Reynolds.  Mr. Duling brought his family, and moved into a cabin built by one of the soldiers very near where the Burlington depot now stands.    At that time the only women Mrs. Duling found in Sioux Falls were Col. Duffy’s family, and two of the soldiers’ wives.  Mrs. Duling, however, was accustomed to the privations of frontier life, having lived with her husband at Fort Randall from 1863, until his discharge in 1865, and then on a ranch in Charles Mix county until they removed to Sioux Falls.  Later on Mr. Duling built a house on the bank of the river near the cabin in which they first lived.  In 1874, during a heavy wind, he was struck by the roof of an old shed and instantly killed.  Mrs. Duling soon after removed to Dell Rapids, where she married James H. Bishop, and resided until her death, which occurred August 18, 1894. 

In those early days the only place where supplies of any kind could be purchased was at the sutler’s store kept by C.K. Howard, and the prices paid would delight the hearts of the merchants in Sioux Falls nowadays, who have to contend with numerous competitors and keep up in the race of “cut prices.”  Then a spool of thread sold for fifty cents, calico was fifty cents a yard, and molasses two dollars a gallon. 

During the legislative session in 1868-9, a memorial to Congress was passed, stating that Fort Dakota was no longer needed as a protection to the settlements on the Big Sioux, and praying that it might be removed to Medary, sixty-five miles north of Sioux Falls, which resulted in the military post at Sioux Falls being vacated on the 18th day of June, 1869. 

In 1870 the military reservation was opened to settlers, and immigration steadily increased.  Among those who came were Nils Noregaard and Nils Lauritsen from Denmark, who took up land along the river below the present site of Dell Rapids.  James Nisbet, A.W. Hunt, Wm. Dockstader, John Hoy, Mr. Richardson, and Byron D. Graves settled west and south of Dell Rapids.  John Bippus, and John C.Clellan returned during this year to the scene of their old labors.  Dr. Phillips came in June, and brought his family, and they moved into the officers quarters, located where E.J. Daniels’ store is now. 

At the advent of Mrs. Phillips, there were only seven white women in Sioux Falls; and during the summer, in connection with Mrs. C.G. Coats, she established the Pioneer Union Sunday School.  It was during this year that social matters began to have a standing in the community. 

The spring of 1871, opened auspiciously for Minnehaha county, and a large number of the most desirable class of citizens came to Sioux Falls and the surrounding country to make for themselves permanent homes.  Improvements on quite an extensive scale were made during this year.  R.F. Pettigrew built an office, Joe Dupries the Central House, W.H. Corson the Cataract Hotel, Wm. VanEps a large store building; all of which were occupied for business purposes.  During the fall of this year the first residence was built at Dell Rapids, then known as Dell City.  The residents at the close of the year felt greatly encouraged by what had been accomplished during the year, and were hopeful that 1872 would materially increase their prosperity and lessen the privations of pioneer life.  They were not destined to disappointment. 

During 1872, new industries sprung up in Sioux Falls and Dell Rapids, and considerable land was taken up in the county by actual settlers; a saw mill was built at Dell Rapids by Dennis Rice, and a store building was erected during the summer; a newspaper outfit arrived the latter part of April, and the Dell City Journal soon made its appearance.  In Sioux Falls several buildings were erected; C.K. Howard built a store 20x64 feet; Charles Hamilton, a photograph gallery; an Episcopal church was built; John McKee established a harness shop; J.J. Hancock, a shoe store; Bland & Castor, a meat market; Edwin Sharpe a lumber yard; and a bakery and restaurant were also among the new business enterprises.  A weekly newspaper was also among the new business enterprises.  A weekly newspaper was started by W.R. Kiter on the 10th of April; the fourth of July was celebrated on the Island, and R.F. Pettigrew delivered the oration; the “Dive” was torn down, and a temperance society organized.  Artemas Gale, Melvin Grigsby, and Thomas H. Brown were among the new settlers during this year. 

It has not occupied much space in giving detail the improvements in the entire county prior to 1873, but during this year so much was done towards the development of this section that a general statement must suffice.  Immigration set in early, and the Sioux Falls Pantagraph is responsible for the statement that “the prairies were teeming with schooners from the states.”  On the 15th day of May the Sioux Falls Independent, a weekly newspaper edited by C.W. McDonald, made its first appearance.  The land office was opened for business in Sioux Falls June 9, and on that day seventy-three declaratory statements, sixty homestead and six cash entries were made, covering 22,240 acres of land.  The Webber & Hawthorn grist mill commenced operation May 26.  It appears from the Sioux Falls Pantagraph, in its issue of August 27, that there were thirty-two buildings in process of erection at that time in Sioux Falls.  At the close of the year the Sioux Falls Independent enumerated the buildings completed during the preceding six months, and the list comprised twenty-five business buildings and fifty-nine residences; thirteen of these buildings were two stories high.  A schoolhouse was built, 22x40 feet.  The Methodist congregation had at the close of the year a church building 20x26 feet nearly ready for occupancy; and during the summer thirty thousand brick were manufactured by D.H. Tolbett.  In the issue of the Sioux Falls Pantagraph of July 16, it appears that the barracks had been purchased by True Dennis, and its next issue, July 23, “the barracks have been taken down and removed;” so there need be no question as to when these old landmarks of Indian warfare disappeared from the public view.  At the close of the year Sioux Falls had eight lawyers, three physicians, two resident ministers, twenty carpenters, five mason, two hotels, two restaurants, two lumber yards, two blacksmith shops, two hardware stores, two meat markets, two wheelwright shops, two bakeries, one paint shop, one barber shop, one livery stable, two dealers in agricultural implements, and six general stores.  It is needless to add that the people of Sioux Falls enjoyed the holidays in 1873, so much having been accomplished. 

During the winter of 1873-4 social affairs engaged the attention of the residents of Sioux Falls as never before; church socials, balls, sleigh rides, “and other festivities,” as one of the local newspapers expressed it at the time, were of frequent occurrence. 

With the coming of spring quite a large number of people arrived in the county to settle, and some of the townships had their first settlers about this time. 

But the year 1874, which began so promising, will long be remembered by the older inhabitants as a year of adversities.  Multitudes of grasshoppers visited this section, and complete destruction followed in their wake.  All the crops were destroyed, and a large number of the settlers who had expected to raise enough to supply their wants were doomed to bitter disappointment.  To meet this emergency a society was organized, and T.H. Brown visited the east and obtained a large quantity of clothing and food, which was distributed by the society; and $534.68 in money was also raised for the same purpose.  The improvements during this year would not compare favorably with the year preceding, but several residences and a few business buildings were erected in Sioux Falls, and Valley Springs township had its first school and --marriage. 

The events which make up the history of the county to the beginning of the year 1875 have been stated in the chronological order of their occurrence, and comprise the most important events that transpired during her transition state—from the home of the savage to the dawn of civilization. 

It was during the early seventies that Minnehaha county passed through the most trying stage of her existence, and it is fortunate that the settlers were composed of men of remarkable energy and enterprise.  During this period, mills, stores, shops, churches and schoolhouses were built, regular terms of court were established; the board of commissioners; projects for better transportation facilities were being considered, and the limitations of pioneer life were fast disappearing. 

How to best present to the reader the events that have transpired since then, has been a source of considerable anxiety to the writer.  At first it was thought the better way would be to continue to chronicle the events in the order of their occurrence, but as the work progressed it became evident that this method was impracticable, especially after determining to give an account of the settlement and development of each township and municipality by itself, including a large list of biographical sketches of the residents. 

The plan was therefore adopted of first giving an account of the county commissioners’ proceedings, courts and other kindred subjects in which all the people of the county are equally interested, to be followed by the local history of each township and municipality. 


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Sioux Falls, Minnehaha County, SD

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