C. H. (Caleb Holt) Ellis.

History of Faulk County, South Dakota, together with biographical sketches of pioneers and prominent citizens online

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Online LibraryC. H. (Caleb Holt) EllisHistory of Faulk County, South Dakota, together with biographical sketches of pioneers and prominent citizens → online text (page 1 of 23)
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The first quarter of a century has passed since the real

work of pioneer life began in Faulk county — the work of

transforming the wild, unbroken prairie, the home of the

buffalo, the wolf and the wild and uncivilized red man — of

blotting out the well worn Indian trail, extending from the

eastern to the western boundary of the country.

A work that means so much for us, that has been carried

forward with such telling results, as the years go by, shall

ever remain an enduring foundation upon which our future

social, political, intellectual and moral greatness must

stand, demanding a more enduring record than legend or

story — Facts well authenticated, facts from the well stored

memory, from brief records placed in historical form, before

the ruthless hand of Time removes the heroic band from

our midst.

For the accomplishment of such a work is this History

of Faulk County written.

And to the men and women who composed that heroic

band, who left home, with all its social surroundings that

enter so largely into the present life, and builded greater

than they knew in laying the foundation for a more liberal,

broader and higher education and a nobler manhood and

womanhood, is this work dedicated.

C. H. Ellis.
Faulkton, S. D.





It is not our home and immediate surroundings that
are to be considered in the making up of actual and pros-
pective conditions from a financial, social, political and
moral standpoint; but the civil government, the national
and state organizations, the higher powers, to which we
are to look to guide and protect us.

While among the youngest of the states. South Dakota
occupies the fore-front in actual wealth and material pros-
perity. In 1889 she exchanged her territorial relations
with one general government for those of equal sovereign
statehood in the Great American Republic. With an area
of 76,000 square miles, divided almost equally east and
west into two parts by the Missouri river, (with the except
tion of the famous Black Hills country, which contains
one hundred square miles located in the south-western
part of the state, of the richest mineral deposits on the face
of the globe), the entire state with a soil of unsurpassed
fertility, with climatic conditions superior to all its sur-
roundings, underlaid by the greatest artesian basin in the
world, furnishing an inexhaustable supply of water for any
and all purposes, when and wherever wanted; it needs but
time and an intelligent appreciation of its wonderful re-
sources to secure a world-wide reputation that shall secure
an agricultural population second to no state in the union.
With a population of only six to the square mile it
produced in 1901;
Wheat, 35,000,000 bushels, valued at $18,000,000.00


Corn, 70,000,000 bushels, valued at 35,000,000.00

Other grains and Agricultural Products- • • • 35,000,000.00

Hay Products 10,000,000.00

Live Stock 35,000,000.00

Dairy Product 9,000,000.00

Wool, Hides and Furs 4,000,000.00

Gold and other Minerals 13>000.000.00

South Dakota now ranks among the states of the
Union; Third in the production of corn, third in the pro-
duction of wheat, first in the production of flax, fifth in the
production of barley, oats and rye, eighth in the produc-
tion of wool, tenth in the production of live stock, and
actually produces more wealth in proportion to its popula-
tion than any other state in the Union, as is proven by
government.statistics and other reliable data.

The climate is free from malaria, mild, invigorating and
healthful, for which reason the death rate in the state is
the lowest in the Union. The summers of South Dakota
are moderate, without any excessive heat, the most de-
lightful season of the year being the long„ beautiftfl autumn,
and the winters are so mild that the live stock are grazing
on the range all winter without shelter of any kind.

The annual mean temperature of the state for the 3'ear
1906, determined from forty-three stations having a com-
plete record, was 45 degrees. Wheat growing is, and
must continue to be, one of the important branches of farm-
ing and is carried on at the present time with great profit.
The crop for 1905 averaged fifteen bushels par acre. While
South Dakota is sadly deficient in lumber for building,
purposes, the deficiency is largely made up in the vast de-
posits of material for the best Portland cement, which can
be utilized in the erection of more permanent and cheap-
er buildings, when durability is. taken into consideration.


With her vast deposits of coal and the introduction of al-
cohol for the purpose of light, heat and power, a better and
a more desirable supply is at hand.

The following statistical record of 1906 ought to find
a place in the permanent record of the production of wealth
supplied to the world in one year. The following is an
official report, viz:

Wheat, 37,494,108 $20,931,877.24

Corn, 77,414,331 33,224.299.30

Oats, 51,324,557 12,831,139.25

Barley, 24,603,257 7,380,077.10

Flax, 2,283,156 • 2,383,156.00

Speltz, 4,558,708 1,367,612.40

Hay, 3,073,554 tons 14,868,770.00

Potatoes, vegetables and Fruit 5,000,000.00

Dairy Products 7,500,000.00

Eggs and Poultry 5,000,000.00

Honey, 90 tons 25,000,00

Ivive Stock 36,000,000.00

Wool and Hides, 300,000.00

Mineral and Stone 9,000,000,00

Total 145,812,831.29

New wealth per capita, 278.00

No more convincing proof of the prosperous condition
of any state can be produced than her bank resources, to-
gether with the valuation of all classes of property. The
banks of South Dakota have $70,198,433.62, and a total
valuation of all classes of property of $260,630,977.00; but
the true yaluation is estimated at a billion of dollars.

South Dakota has no bonded debt and the limit of tax
levy cannot exceed 2 mills to the dollar, as provided by the
constitution. The rate of taxation in South Dakota is low-
er than in any of the Northern states.



South Dakota is the best equipped state in the Union
for educational purposes. She is proud of her common
schools. Where there are children to go to school, teachers
are provided and school houses built: The school law con-
templates that every child in the state shall receive the
benefit of a common school education and makes liberal
provisions to attain that end. It provides for the trans-
portation to school of all children li\nng at an unreasonable
distance from schools. Free school books are furnished,
and libraries are also provided. Two sections of land in
each township were set apart for school purposes by the
general government, which assures a very low rate of tax-
ation for the common schools. With four normal schools,
one at Aberdeen, one at Madison, one at Spsarfish and
one at Springfield, and a school of Mines at Rapid City,
a State University at Vermillion, and an Agricultural Col-
lege at Brookings, the supply of teachers should be equal
to all demands.

Denominational schools are as follows, viz: Methodist

colleges at Mitchell and Hot Springs, Congregational col-
leges at Yankton and Redfield, Presbyterian at Huron, the
Baptist at Sioux Falls, the Scandinavian Lutherans at
Sioux Falls and Canton, and the Episcopalians at Sioux
Falls. The Roman Catholics have well equipped academies
at Aberdeen, Sturgis, Elkton, Marion, Vermillion and
other points, and the Mennonites at Freeman.

The population is cosmopolitan, being composed, as
reported by the census of 1905, of 33,473 Scandinavians,
17,873 Prussian Germans, 12,365 Russian Germans, 22,144
Canadians, 5,564 settlers from England, Scotland and
Wales, 3,298 Irish, 1,566 Hollanders and the balance of the
population, Americans.


By occupation the people are engaged as follows:
Eighty-two thousand eight hundred and fifty-seven are
farmers, of which 57,288 own their own homes; 16,821 are
engaged in domestic and personal service, 15,247 are in
trade and transportation: 14,327 follow mechanical pur-
suits, and 7,877 are in professions. There are over 150,000
school children enrolled in the public schools of the state.
Three fourths of the farmers own the land they till, a most
gratifying and satisfactory^ fact from a financial standpoint.
Seventy-eight per cent of the population are native born.

The state of South Dakota has provided liberally
for her most unfortunate class, the insane, as well as to
guard society from the most vicious element of the popula-
tion. The hospital at Yankton has large, well constructed
buildings where these unfortunates are well cared for.
The Northern Hospital for the insane and feeble-minded
has been erected at Redfield, where a certain class of the
insane are cared for. The penitentiary^ at Sioux Falls is a
modern structure, well suited for the purpose for which it
was built and is under the best possible regulations. The

state reform school is located at Plankinton. Its equip-
ment consists of several large buildings, suitably furnished,
and a 640 acre farm. The deaf mute school at Sioux
Falls and the asylum for the blind at Gary are also
well equipped institutions. The Soldier's Home at Hot
Springs, with its well constrijcted buildings, is an institu-
tion of which the state can well be proiid.

The people of South Dakota are congenial and hospit-
able, and as a class, morally, socially and intellectually,
w^orthy and reliable. South Dakota as a state in the Ameri-
can Union, stands in the front rank and is one to which
■ev^ery citizen of Faulk county may well feel proud to own




While it was as early as A. D. 1850, that a few hardy .
adventurers settled within the bounds of what is now re-
organized as the state of South Dakota there was no real
conception of its vast and imposing natural resources
until 1875, and it was five years later before the real tide
of immigration set in. So far as its real existence as a de-
sirable land for homes and civilization is concerned, there
was gradual development and passing through an experi-
mental stage of nearly two decades, before actual facts be-
came fixed in intelligent minds that it was actually one of
the most, if not the "most desirable agricultural and mining
state in the Union.

The following, published about 1890 in the Dakota
Outlook, is the best and most reliable information in regard
to the early histor}' of South Dakota, obtainable:

"As originally organized Dakota included Montana,
Idaho and Wyoming, thus embracing about a half million
square miles.

"The first settlement of Dakota by white men was in
1812, when a few of the Scotchmen who composed theAssi-
naboine colony of Lord Selkirk, settled at or near where
Pembina now is. These loyal subjects of the British crown
were not a little annoyed, years after, to learn that they
had been tilling the soil and breathing the air of the land
presided over by' Uncle Sam's 'bird o' freedom,' and most
of them moved northward.


"it does not appear to be definitely known when the
first settlers came into South Dakota. The party of lyewis
and Clark (1803-6) were the first white men to explore the
Missouri river to its source, and the report of the expedi-
tion, published in 1814 probably gave the first information
of Dakota. But the accounts of the extreme cold and other
hardships which the explorers encountered were not such
as to make this land inviting. While the course of empire
took its westward flight, Iowa, Nebraska, Colorado and
Kansas became the promised land of the eastern emigrants.
Dakota was considered a part of the Great American Desert,
a land of barren sands in summer, and of snows and frosts
in winter.

"Sometime, however, about the year 1850, a few hardy
adventurers settled in Dakota, and their magnificient crops
of wheat bore unmistakable evidence that this was, indeed,
a goodly land. Their reports caused others to come, and
by the year 1858 thriving settlements had been made along
the Missouri at Elk point, Vermillion, Yankton and other
places, and at different points along the Big Sioux. These
settlements were upon Indian land, which was finally deded
in the spring of 1858.

"During the next two or three years a large number of
settlers came in and the people began to move for the for-
mation of the Territory of Dakota. In these early days the
citizens of Sioux Falls were no less energetic and enter-
prising than they are now. They not only discussed the
matter, but proceeded to organize a provisional govern-
ment, choosing also a full list of territorial officers.


"This was during the latter part of 1859. On the 8th
of November of the same year there was held at Yankton a
meeting, the object of which u^as to petition congress to
organize the territory. A similar meeting was held at
Vermillion on the day following. The organization was
not accomplished, however, until February, 1861, and the
approval on the organic act on March 2nd, was one of ths
last official acts of President Buchanan.

"William Payne, the first governor, entered upon the
discharge of his official duties May 27, 1861. A census
showed the population to be 1,786.

"On September 16, there occured the first election, at
which J. B. S. Todd was elected delegate to congress.

"The first legislative assembly met on the 17th of
March, 1862 and adopted a full code of laws.

"in 1870 the census showed a population of 14.181, of
whom 12,887 were white. This was a small gain for ten
years; but little was yet known of the natural resources of

"Up to this time two-thirds of the population of the
territory lived in the counties of Union,, Yankton and

A gradual increase continued until 1875, when the
Dakota boom may be said to have begun. At this time
gold was discovered in the Black Hills, and almost all the
papers in the country published wonderful stories of the
•I^recious yellow nuggets that were found there. Adven-
turers flocked in from every direction. Not only did they
find gold, but they found also, millions of acres of the
very best land, and that the country was one of the most











Til n N F T'. IONS


healthful in the world. While thousands passed onward
to the Hills many stopped on this side of the Missouri.
Many more, attracted by the marvelous stories of the gold-
en wheat fields crowded into North Dakota. In that sec-
tion where in 1878 there could not be found 1,000 people,
there are to-day 100,000 people, the assessed value of
whose property last year was over three hundred million.
South Dakota has nearly a quarter million of people, whose
property, assessed on a scale much lower than that of
North Dakota, is over one billion in valuation."

The following extract from a letter from the distin-
guished and much beloved Ex-Governor Faulk in regard to
the creation of Faulk county, now in the posession of the
author, will be of interest not only for the important facts
but from the source from which they are obtained: "l
know from my own personal knowledge, that in the winter

of 1873, during the administration of Governor Burbank
and Gen. Edw4n McCook, the territorial secretary, was
acting governor, Governor Burbank being absent in the
east. The legislature passed a bill Creating several coun-
ties, among which was Faulk county. No other county
had been previously created by the Dakota legislature
covering any portion of the territory embraced in this
county. And the same is true to the best of ray recollec-
tion as to all the other counties created that winter. It
was organized under the laws of the territory while Ordway
was Governor, the date and facts relating to which you
will find in the Times, or other papers published in your
vicinity at that period.

"In the winter of 1883 an attempt was made to pass a
bill through the legislature cutting off range 72 and 73


from the west side of Faulk county and adding thein to
Potter county. County seat rivalry appears to account
for this very singular movement, at any rate it was resisted
so vigorously that a compromise was eJEFected at the last
moment by which only one tier of townships w^as taken,
and which left the present county seat within three miles,
of the geographical center of the county.

You wished me to say something about the very be-
ginning of general knowledge concerning this portion of
South Dakota. I will briefly allude to its history prior ta
1861, the time of Jhe organization of Dakota Territory..
Previous to that date, and before the act of congress cre-
ating the territory of Minnesota,, the Missouri river formed
the western boundary of Wisconsin and all that portion,
laying east of the Missouri river was embraced in the
county of the St. Croix. But after the: state of Minnesota,
was created, coixgress in 1849, caused it to be attached
to Mirmesota, and the legislature of Minnesota changed its-,
name to Dakota county or, at least it formed a portion of.
that county. All o£ that portion of Dakota laying west of
the Missiouri river was taken from the territory of Neb-

"When r came to Dakota in 1861, this huge territory-
embraced what are now the four states North and South
Dakota, Montana arwi Wyoming and a part of Idaho — an
area of 350,000 square miles. This was more than one
third of the whole of the Louisiana Purchase. This vast
region was really as little known to the most of the Ameri-
can people as if it had been located in the darkest portion
of Central Africa. The Lousiana Purchase, in which,
^outh Dakota is situated, was made by President ]ei-


ferson in 1803, and contained about 1,000,000 square
miles, which was obtained at thenominal cost of $15,000,000.
It had once been claimed by Spain by right of discovery ,
then sold to France, and by France transferred to the
United States."

Gov. Faulk finished up his most interesting letter with
the following, which is most highly appreciated by the
people of our county: Andrews, the historian, in his
•"Historical Atlas of Dakota," published in 1884 at Chicago,
after giving a general sketch of the geographical features
■of the country, concludes with this paragraph:

The climate soil and productions of Faulk county
•compare favorably with other counties of central Dakota,
-and the county is being settled and occupied by a very su-
perior class of people, largely from lUinoiSj lowa^ Minneso-
ta and Wisconsin."

This was the verdict of history eleven years ago, and
to-day I am very stue it may be written that it has lost
nothing of the distinction awarded to it by .the publisher
•of the Atlas of Dakota.



Faulk County, South Dakota, is located on the east

:side of the divide between the waters of the James and

^Missouri Rivers^ and, strictly speaking, is in the James

River valley and is bounded on the north by Edmunds

<county , on the south by Hand and Hyde counties, on the east

by Spink and on the west by Potter counties. The county

has an area of one thousand and eight square miles, con-

.-sisting, by government survey, of Townships 117, 118, 119


and 120 north, and range 66, 67, 68, 69, 70, 71 and 72
west, being twenty-four miles north and south, and forty-
two miles east and west. It is watered by Scatterwood
lake and Snake or Nixon creek, which rises in the south-
western portion of Edmunds county and the coteaux
upon the extreme western line of Faulk county, which for
ages had been the feeding ground of vast herds of buffalo,
until they had been exterminated by the Indians who
roamed upon the plains.

The field notes of government sur\-eyors gave a most

discouraging account of the whole region, and, when in
April 1882, a party of three home-seekers from Missouri
left the Chicago & Northwestern Railroad at Redfield and
started out in a westerly direction, on a three days' tour of
exploration, one would have said it was inspiration rather
than sound judgment, that prompted their movement.
But after a most careful exploration , in place of a " barren
waste scattered over with growin'g cactus," they beheld a
beautiful, slightly rolling prairie covered with luxuriant
grasses and the clear waters of the Nixon. They returned
with a most happy report that it was a "goodly land," and
one to be earnestly sought after. This party consisted of
Alexander LaFoon, D. S. Smith and T. H. McMullen.
The location they selected was upon the south side of the
creek, in what proved to be Township 118, range 68.
(The government survey had not then been made.) Their
plan was for a large colony, but the arrival of others broke
up their arrangements so that their plan, so far as a Mis-
souri colony was concerned, never materialized. A para-
mount idea was the location of a future county seat, and,
but for the subsequent coming of the Chicago & Northwest-


ern Railroad, there is little doubt but lyaFoon, in place of
Faulkton, would have been the county seat today.

The first party of immigrants located permanently up-
on the ground in June, 1882, and among them were T. H.
McMullen, Booth, Russell and Whitehead. Additions
were soon made to the colony, and among them were
some of the strong, influential men of our county at the
present day. About this time a party of home-seekers
from Charles City, la., located on the creek about five
miles west of them in Range 67, and christened their
town Faulkton; in honor of the distinguished and hon-
ored Governor Faulk, for whom the county was named.

Faulkton at once became an active competitor for
the county seat. On Dec. 21st, 1882, the first number
of the Faulkton Times appeared, withH. A. Humphrey,
editor and publisher. It is claimed that the Times was
the first paper printed in Faulk county, yet the LaFoon
Record, A. E. Evans, editor; Evans & Geddis, proprie-
tors, was a very close second. On Dec. 25th the La-
Foon town site was platted. Each of the papers left
no stone unturned in advocating the advantages and su-
perior claims, of its own location.

The struggle to control the county organization and
secure the county seat became the one and only theme of
-conversation and effort that commanded first attention.
It soon became evident that a new factor must be taken
into consideration. Gov. Ordway, through his son,
George L. Ordway, and one Tibbits, who had been a
business partner of George E. Ordway in Denver, Colo-
rado, had put up the county organization, including the
county seat, to the highest bidder. A den of thieves


were in control and must be recognized. The Faulkton
Times, in commenting upon the transaction, said: ' The
deal was a public one, and much of it a matter of pub-
lic record. It was consummated in broad daylight, — as
a matter of fact barter, — without a blush of shame, and
the participants candidly conversed about the amount of
land and money paid. The people of the county were
disgusted and outraged that their interests should have
been made an article of merchandise, and their most
sacred rights should have been put up by the governor
and sold to the highest bidder as an article of speculation"
An intelligent and candid writer, who was fainiliar with
all the circumstances at the time, said: "Faulk county
residents are entirely excusable for the part taken by
them in this piece of open bribery, because it was im-
possible to proctu'C an organization of their county with-
out yielding to the demands of the organizer. There
were at least 2,500 people in the county at the time of
its organization and they were suffering great inconven-
ience and expense for want of local government. A math-
ematical calculation has been made by a resident, and his
figures show that if Faulk county had paid $10,000 in cash
six months ago for an organization, the people would have
been ahead today in a financial sense. ' '

It can, therefore, readily be seen that after so large ex-
perience and the disastrous consquences of delay, the citi-
zens of Faulk county were ready to resort to any process
which would give them government. They were forced

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Online LibraryC. H. (Caleb Holt) EllisHistory of Faulk County, South Dakota, together with biographical sketches of pioneers and prominent citizens → online text (page 1 of 23)