CHAPTER XIV. 

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SIOUX FALLS IN 1862, 1866, 1870—REMINISCENSES OF MRS. PHILLIPS—JOHN NELSON’S  “INDIAN SCARE”—GILSETH’S AND AASEN’S EXPERIENCE IN COMING TO THIS COUNTY IN 1866.

SIOUX FALLS IN 1862. 

(REMINISCENCES BY JESSE B. WATSON.)

 

     “When Company A, Dakota Cavalry, of which I was a member, came to Sioux Falls during the summer of 1862, there were four small houses along the river bank on the west side.  One of them was occupied by the printing press, the others were empty.  Near the present site of the Burlington deport was a small house occupied by J.B. Amidon, and a little east of where the brewery is now, on the side hill, was another small house occupied by G.P. Waldron, and between his house and where the Merchants Hotel is now, a man by the name of B.C. Fowler was living with his family.  This habitation was built of stone, poles and grass.  There were also two young men by the name of Allen living a little southeast of Amidon’s place.”

 

SIOUX FALLS IN 1866.

 

     Eihardt Fleitz, who came to Sioux Falls as a member of Company D, 22d U.S. Infantry, in 1866, has been a resident of the county since then, has kindly given us a pretty full description of the buildings and general appearance of things upon his arrival. He said in part:  “I came to Sioux Falls with my company, I think on the 7th day of June, 1866.  It was commanded by Colonel Knox.  There were just seventy-three men in the company.  Company E, 6th Iowa Cavalry left Sioux Falls the day our company arrived.  The buildings in Sioux Falls at that time were the barracks, round house, commissary building, laundry, stable, sutler’s store, a stone house at the foot of Ninth street, and another on the east side of the river, opposite where the Commercial Hotel is now, and a house called the pipestone factory near where Pankow’s foundry is now located.  The two buildings called the barracks were side by side about twenty feet apart.  The south room in the east building was occupied as a hospital, the next room was the office, and in the next room the soldiers slept in bunks.  The south room in the west building was occupied, after we came, by the orderly sergeant, next to his was the kitchen, and the balance of the building was a mess room.  What we called the round house was a stone building north of the barracks.  It was called so, owing to its shape, for it was nearly round.  It was built of stone, but had no roof, and the floor was about eight feet from the ground.  It was built to go into in case of attack.  I think it was more than thirty feet in diameter.  The commissary building was of stone, and stood pretty near where the Commercial Hotel is now.  The laundry was a small log house near the west end of Eighth street bridge, and the stable was north of this, and was dug out of the bank for the west wall, and stone and logs next the river, and covered with poles and hay.  The stone house near the foot of Ninth street was occupied by Dr. Nisley.  The sutler’s store was a little shanty built of cottonwood boards in part.  I don’t know what the building on the east side was built for, but we used it for an ice house.  During the summer of 1866, we built what was known as the officer’s quarters, where E.J. Daniels now has his store.  We also built a hospital between this building and the sutler’s store, south of the Edmison-Jameson building. It was built of logs, and was one story high.  We also built a powder house, and a building to exercise in during the winter.  Our company fenced in what we called the parade grounds, putting down posts and a rail on top. There were thirty-five saddle horses in our company, and a detachment was occasionally sent out scouting.  We had more snow and rain then than we have now.  The highest water I ever saw in Sioux Falls was in the spring of 1867, and I have seen the flat west and north of the city covered with water in June.  I was discharged May 7, 1869, and during my service four men of the company died.  The first one was a man known by the name of Bolse, he died of fever; the next one, of consumption; the third was drowned, and the fourth was frozen to death out by Frank Forde’s farm.  After about a year Colonel Knox left, and Captain John Duffy was in command of our company.  In 1868, I think it was, about eight or ten men took up land on the military reservation along the Sioux river north of town, and commenced cutting timber and building log houses.  A detachment of our company was sent out (and I was one of the men sent) to arrest them and bring them in.  They were arrested, brought in, and put in the guard house for two or three days, and then Captain Duffy let them go, after promising they would keep off the reservation.  Some of these men are now living on the same places where we arrested them.  When I came to Sioux Falls there was an old steam boiler lying on the bank of the river west of the island, but I don’t know where it came from, and whether it was ever in use in Sioux Falls or not.  The men usually had pretty good supplies, sometimes a little short, but were comfortable and contented.” 

     Since obtaining the foregoing statement from Mr. Fleitz, the writer met Mr. John H. Holsey of Canton.  He was a member of Company D, and said:  “the company marched out of Sioux City Sunday afternoon, June 3, 1866, camped that night five miles from Sioux City, on the Dakota side of the Big Sioux river, Monday night camped on Brule creek, Tuesday night at Nixon’s, Wednesday night at Pattee slough, Thursday night at Canton, and marched into Sioux Falls Friday, June 8, at two o’clock in the afternoon.”

OFFICERS’ QUARTERS, 1866 Photo

 

     The cuts for this illustration and the one on page 29 were made from photographs obtained from Amos Broughton of Tishoka, H.Y., who procured them while on a visit at Sioux Falls in 1870.  It has been frequently said to the writer by old residents of the city that the earliest date any photographer visited Sioux Falls was in 1872; that the pictures of Sioux Falls claimed to have been taken in 1871 were in fact taken in 1872, and those of 1872 taken in 1873.  One thing is certain, the soldiers were in Sioux Falls when the picture of the officers’ quarters was taken, and they left here June 18, 1869. 

     John Holsey, when shown our illustrations said:  “I recognize them very well. Col. Knox was down to the Missouri river to Yankton, I think, and brought a photographer back with him in an ambulance.  In this picture of the officers’ quarters Col. Knox is sitting in front of the door, with his orderly standing behind him.  Ed. Broughton sits facing the Colonel, and Charley Howard is sitting with his back to the building, with his little daughter Mamie standing by him.  Mr. Howard at this time was living in Sioux City and was up on a visit to his sutlers’ store then in charge of Ed. Broughton.  The other illustration represents the barracks as they were at that time, and the tarpaulin covering the barrels and bags of provisions at the end of the barracks looks familiar.  The photographer took several pictures at the time, and I feel sure these were taken in the fall of 1866, or in 1867.” 

     The officers’ quarters faced the east, and was located on the south lot where E.J. Daniels’ store now stands, and the photograph of the same must have been taken from the northeast of the building, as the whole contour of what is now the city west of Ninth street appears in the background.  When the other picture was taken, the camera must have been placed southwest of the officers’ quarters. 

 

 

SIOUX FALLS IN 1870.

 

     After having obtained a biographical sketch of Mr. Fowler’s life down to the time he arrived in Sioux Falls, the remark was made to him:  “You have seen a great many changes since coming here in 1870?”  His reply to this remark was taken down by a stenographer and is as follows:  “Not many changes, but great many improvements have been made in Sioux Falls since I came here.  When I came, Colonel Allen had a grocery store in the barracks, the post office was in his store and he was postmaster.  Cyrus Walts clerked for him and was deputy postmaster.  W.S. Bloom had a stock of hardware and groceries also in the barracks, and C.V. Booth and John McClellan had each a room in the same building.  I worked for Jeptha Duling in his stage barn the first winter.  East of the barracks on the bank of the river a man by the name of Moulton had a general store in an old government building; the old government stables were a little east of this building on the bank of the river.  Frank Raymond kept hotel in what was called “Old Steve’s House” it was on the bank of the river east of where the Emerson block now stands.  In the west tier of barracks Hiram Caldwell (who died a few years ago at Hartford) lived with his family, and Joe Dickson and his brother Tom lived there too.  Duling was running a stage from Sioux Falls to Yankton.  Afterward, when Stevenson had this line, I drove for him—used to drive through in a day, change horses and deliver the mail at Turnerville, Swan Lake and Clay Creek.  When I came here, C.K. Howard had a stage line from Sioux Falls to Elk Point; there was an express messenger on this line.  There was also a pony express from Sioux Falls to Flandreau, run by Lew Hulitt.  Howard had a stock of goods in the old sutler’s store.  This store was built of logs and fronted east, and was located east of Phillips Avenue near where the E.L. Smith block is now.  South of the store, Howard kept a hotel in the building which has been recently used for a butcher shop, and now stands opposite Dr. Robert’s residence on 12th street.  Cash Coats and a half-breed by the name of Mark Wells, clerked in Howard’s store.  There was a place called “The Dive,” it fronted east, and you had to go down a step or two to get into it; it was built of stones, logs and dirt, and was the dirtiest place on earth; this hole was north of Howard’s store.  In the spring of 1871, True Dennis came to Sioux Falls and started a blacksmith shop in the store building Moulton had vacated.  R.F. Pettigrew built a small office that spring about opposite of where the Commercial House is now; it was just south of the barracks.  There is a little building still standing nearly opposite the Commercial House which was built about twenty feet south of the west barracks at that time by a man named Prescott.  In 1871 Joe Dupries built the Central House, which is still standing on the same spot, but greatly altered and enlarged.  Mr. Dupries was a genuine Frenchman.  In the fall of 1871 a Mr. Leonard taught school in a sod shanty on the side hill near where the brewery is now.  He lived in a shanty on his claim a little west of town.  He was partially insane, and we boys used to go and stay with him nights for fear he might commit suicide if left alone.  There was an old man we called “Dutch Charlie.”  He was an old trapper and had a shanty on his claim near where the linen mill is now.  Everybody was afraid of him.  James Stevenson built a large stone house for a hotel where the brewery is now, but he never finished it so he could occupy it.  He was the Stevenson who succeeded Duling in running the stage line to Yankton.  In 1872 he had a pony livery stable—not a horse in the outfit.  The same year a man by name of Caster built a butcher shop east of the Central House.  In 1871 a lawyer by the name of McLaury built an office where the Metropolitan block is now, but moved it off the next year, when the Episcopal church was built there.  In 1872, McLaury built a residence and an office with a basement where the Emerson block is now; there was a meat market in the basement and “Billy Bainbridge” was the butcher and Captain Dick was with him.  They had a good choir in the Episcopal church in those days—I sung in it myself.  Before the church was built the meetings were held in any place where a room could be had.  In 1872, a bakery and restaurant was started in the barracks by a Mr. Boardman.  He afterwards moved north and put up a building about where the Merchants Hotel is now.  In 1872, a man by name of Dixon, who had been a clerk in Boston came to Sioux Falls with $8,000 and bought all the land he could see.  He soon had more land than money.  He built the building on the northwest corner of Main avenue and Eighth street.  J.D. Cameron built a bank building a little north of the Cataract.  C.O. Natesta & Brother had a general store just north of Cameron’s bank.  Napoleon Boutcher, fresh from Canada, opened a shoe shop opposite to where Daniels’ store is now, and he used to charge the boys as high as $20 for a pair of boots, but he made the finest boots I ever saw.  In 1870, a Mr. Botsford took up a claim of 40 acres where Meredith’s addition is now.  He married the cook of the Cataract Hotel.  He was the first miller that came to Sioux Falls, and he was always planning to build a mill but could not raise the money.  When I first came to Sioux Falls in the fall of 1870, we all turned in and helped build Covell’s two-story sod mansion, and a sod barn over 100 feet long.  They were located south of the street car track, opposite the present Covell buildings.  There was a large family of Harthorns—the old man and his wife, Frank, Dan, Jim and Tom, his boys.  Harthorn senior lived out near Clark Coats.  Frank had a pre-emption claim south and east of the culvert under the Illinois Central railroad on the east side of the river, and he had a shanty in the rocks a few rods northeast of the culvert.  I slept with him one night and I had to crawl in on my hands and knees.  In the winter of 1872 I taught school in the barracks.  I still have a certificate to teach school, dated December 28, 1872, signed by Cyrus Walts, superintendent.  During the winter of 1873, Frank Forde, John Forde and myself lived in a log shanty on the bank of the river west of town.  We had no knives or forks, and used to cut our food with jack knives.  I used to go over to Fuller’s, a half a mile south, and get about three square meals a week; got there about mealtime and they would ask me to eat with them—and I consented.  There was no work to be had that winter, and we used to pull up maple trees in Fuller’s grove (a natural grove) and sell them in town for what we could get.  We ate a good many beavers that winter—cooked them in the sod as we had no stove.  Frank Forde took a soldier’s black blanket, folded it and laid it on a table and cut out a pair of trousers with a shoe knife and sewed them himself.  Dressed in these, a buckskin shirt and a pair of moccasins he used to attend the dances in town.  He made a cap from a wolfskin, with two tails attached to it, which he wore on all occasions.  I remember a little experience I had in 1871.  There was an odd character known as “Israel Putnam,” who had taken up a claim one mile east of Dell Rapids in the bend of the river.  I went up and stayed with him a few days.  The mosquitos were so bad that we had to sleep under a wagon box.  They stampeded the horses one night and we had to go about ten miles after them the next day.  There was not a house then where the city of Dell Rapids is now located.  Well, in those days society wasn’t graded anywhere in these parts; the Indians were about as good as anybody, and they used to come from Flandreau to Sioux Falls in droves, and the merchants used to trust a good many of them for goods.  When I hear people now talking about hard times, I always think of the early seventies in Minnehaha county.”

REMINISCENCES OF MRS. HATTIE C. PHILLIPS.

 

     In an interview relative to the early days of Sioux Falls, Mrs. Phillips informed the writer of many interesting incidents which occurred at that period, and which are given below in her own language: 

     “The first sermon I heard in Sioux Falls was preached by a Methodist minister by the name of Cuthbert.  One day I was in my kitchen and heard some one say “howdy!”  I looked around and saw a tall gentleman standing in the kitchen door, and he again said “howdy!”  I had lived south, and knew what howdy meant, so I said “howdy!” and asked him in.  He then asked me if he could hold religious services in my house.  I told him my husband would provide a place for him somewhere in town; but he said he did not want any other place than my house.  I waited until the doctor came home, who gave him permission to use our rooms.  They were neatly carpeted, and the clerical stranger ejected so much tobacco juice and so indiscriminately that at last I spoke to him about it, when he apologized and said he would be more careful.  He held meetings Saturday evening, and Sunday morning and evening, and Monday I had to go all over my carpets on my hands and knees and clean them of tobacco juice.  On Sunday I provided dinner for himself and family, consisting of eight persons, and, as all our provisions came from Sioux City, taking it all together, these meetings were quite a tax upon our hospitality.  In those early days a Mr. Riggs, pastor of a Presbyterian church in Lockport, Illinois, and the Rev. Dr. Ward also preached in Sioux Falls.  The first church organized was the Episcopal, and this organization erected the first church building.  Mrs. Clark G. Coats and myself started the first Sunday school.  We had happy times in those days.  Every one went to church and Sunday school, even Charley Howard (in his shirt sleeves). 

     I remember the blizzard of 1873, very distinctly.  It came without warning. The doctor had just taken the pony and started for the river, and I was taking up dinner in the kitchen.  The stove pipe ran up through the roof in place of a chimney, and all at once something struck that pipe with a crash.  It was the blizzard.  I looked out the window, and saw the doctor a little ways from the house hanging on to the pony.  For some time he could not move away from where he stood.  It was a terrible day.  I had a servant girl at the time by the name of Foster whose brother and sister were lost in the blizzard in Benton, where the family resided. 

     I remember an amusing incident, which I saw from my window, in connection with the store building near the barracks.  Col. Allen had purchased it, but the Delaneys occupied it, and he wanted to get them out.  He tired to persuade them to give possession, and one day he became so urgent that Mrs. Delaney, who was a large woman, picked up a tea kettle of boiling water and started for him, and the colonel ran away just as fast as he could.”

JOHN NELSON’S “INDIAN SCARE.”

 

     As will be seen from this biography, Mr. Nelson settled in Mapleton during the summer of 1866.  At that time his only neighbor was John Thompson, who lived about two miles up the river on his claim.  Mr. Nelson had erected his cabin in the woods near the Big Sioux river, where he thought himself safely hidden from the pioneer’s most dreaded foe, the roaming Indian.  Everything was quiet for a few months, and no unusual sound disturbed the stillness of the prairie.  But one evening during the fall, just about sundown, while he was chopping wood near the cabin, unearthly yells and howls suddenly reached his ears.  In shorter time than it takes to tell it, he dropped his ax, ran into the cabin, and gathering up what valuable papers he had, brought his frightened wife and baby out of the cabin and around the bend of the river, where they remained until quite dark.  They then crossed a little valley to a small lake surrounded by tall grass in which he hid his wife and child.  Having placed them where the thought they would not be discovered, he shouldered his rifle and started for John Thompson’s place.  Upon arriving there he was surprised to find the family quietly eating their supper, while he had expected to find them all butchered by the Indians.  After having briefly told of the approaching danger, he returned for his wife and child, whom he safely brought to Mr. Thompson’s house.  During this trip he heard something moving through the grass near him.  He cocked his rifle and quietly awaited the approach of the stealthy steps of what he thought to be an Indian, but fortunately was found to be only a deer.  It was temptingly near for a good shot, but for fear of attracting the attention of the Indians he did not fire. 

     The next morning, in company with Mr. Thompson and Ole Gilseth, he went down the river, and nearly opposite his cabin he discovered two Indian tepees.  They then got behind a tree and called to the Indians, which seemed to greatly surprise them, and gathering up their belongings, they hastily left the place without further trouble.

EXPERIENCE OF TWO OF THE EARLY SETTLERS IN THIS COUNTY DURING THEIR WALK FROM REDWOOD, MINNESOTA, TO THE SIOUX VALLEY, IN THE FALL OF 1866.

 

     An account of this trip appeared in an issue of the Syd Dakota Ekko in November, 1895, and thinking it would prove interesting to the readers of this work, a translation of the same is given below. 

     Ole O. Gilseth and John J. Aasen, Jr., left Goodhue county, Minnesota, in the fall of 1866, with the intention of joining their friends, John Thompson and John Nelson, who had settled in the Sioux Valley in Dakota during the spring of that year.  Ole J. Aasen, who then lived in the vicinity of Kenyon, in the same county, drove them to Faribault.  From there they took post horses to St. Peter, where they found a man who was going to Redwood, and drove with him to that place.  They then continued their way on foot, each carrying a bundle of clothes and a rifle.  Thus far they had put up no provisions for their trip, thinking they would buy some from a family they knew, who lived on a farm some distance from Redwood.  But evening came with not a house in sight, and they spent the night on the open prairie.  The next morning it was cloudy, the sun could not be seen, and they were unable to tell what direction to follow, but they decided to try and find the farm they had looked for the day before, and which they believed could not be very far off.  Early in the afternoon a grove came into view, and thinking this must be the place, they walked briskly on, hopeful of being in plenty time for a good supper.  However, the grove was farther away than it at first appeared, and it was not until late in the evening they reached there, only to find, instead of friends and shelter, the dreaded wigwams of an Indian camp, with their still more dreaded occupants.  Having the terrible massacre of 1862 in the western part of Minnesota still fresh in their minds, even starvation could not induce them to go near the Indians, but with trembling hearts and careful steps they succeeded in reaching the other side of the grove, without being noticed, and here they spent the night in a large tree.  Mr. Gilseth keeping vigilant watch, with his hand on the rifle until the break of dawn, when, thankful for their scalps though starving, they continued their wandering westward.  That day they could not even find any water.  Towards evening they noticed a storm was approaching, and it being late in the fall and quite cold, they wrapped all their clothes about them and laid down, trying to rest.  Soon the storm broke loose. It was a terrible storm of snow and rain, and continued until towards morning, when it cleared up and they could see the sun again.  They now took a southwesterly course, thinking they had gone too far north.  That evening they reached a few small lakes, the shores of which were frozen, but farther out they discovered a flock of ducks swimming about in the open water.  Mr. Gilseth sent a shot into the flock, and two big ducks was his reward.  Now, at last, there was to be a feast!  Roasted duck!  But again they were doomed to disappointment.  The storm had wet them through to the skin, and their matches were useless.  Consequently, no fire, no steak; and the ducks were eaten raw. 

     After having rested through the night and breakfasted on another piece of duck, they continued their journey.  During that day they discovered a wagon track, which they followed, thinking it must lead to some settlement.  It was very indistinct, and sometimes even lost, but it was fortunately found again.  Towards evening Mr. Aasen became so weak and tired that he told Mr. Gilseth to continue his way alone, but after having slept awhile he felt so much better that they resumed their walk, though they were obliged to leave their bundles of clothes, only carrying their rifles.  They walked about that whole night, and in the morning found themselves by a river which they supposed to be the Big Sioux river.  But now the question arose whether to follow the river up or down to reach their destination.  Finally they decided to follow the river on its course downward.  Soon they came to a hay-stack, and thinking that now they must surely find some people, they made a thorough search, but no one could be found.  Later they came to a bend in the river, which they forded in order to shorten their way, and following the river the whole day and part of the night finally came across some new-mown hay raked up in small piles, and near by found a wagon box which Mr. Gilseth recognized to be the same that John Thompson had taken with him from Goodhue county. 

     Encouraged by these discoveries they looked around further, and soon found a door to a dug-out on the hillside.  Here they knocked, and this time they were not disappointed, as a friendly voice from within bid them enter.  Opening the door they found a room occupied by two white men, who, they soon learned, were hunters stopping there while hunting game in the vicinity.  This was near where Dell Rapids is now located.  The wagon box they had seen proved to belong to Mr. Thompson, the hunters having on their trip from Sioux Falls borrowed the same from him.  The starved and tired wanderers were well received; the hunters abandoned their bed in their favor, and slept on the floor, and the following morning drove them down to John Thompson’s, where they received a hearty welcome.  And thus ended their perilous journey, and two more sturdy pioneers were added to the young settlement. 

     Mr. Gilseth took up land in Mapleton township, when he gradually improved for a future home.  The first three years he only staid on his claim long enough to keep his rights under the homestead law, the other part of his time he worked out.  During this time he came to the conclusion that “it is not good for a man to be alone,” and in the spring of 1870, returned to Goodhue county, worked there during the summer, and in the fall, in company with quite a number of new settlers, came back to Minnehaha county.  In this company was a Miss Anna P. Moe.  Shortly after their arrival the first marriage ceremony in this county was performed by Pastor Christensen; and Ole Gilseth and Anna P. Moe since then have managed the Gilseth farm in unity and concord. 

     Mr. Aasen took up land in sections twenty and twenty-nine in Sverdrup township, there he still resides and has a good, comfortable home. 

  

  

   
 

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