Dana Reed Bailey.

History of Minnehaha county, South Dakota. Containing an account of its settlements, growth, development and resources ... Synopsis of public records, biographical sketches .. online

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Online LibraryDana Reed BaileyHistory of Minnehaha county, South Dakota. Containing an account of its settlements, growth, development and resources ... Synopsis of public records, biographical sketches .. → online text (page 2 of 99)
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spent the winter at the Palls were as follows: Messrs. W. W.
Brooking-s, J. L. Phillips, John McClellan, L. B. Atwood, A. L. Kil-
g-ore. Smith Kinsey, Charles McConnell, R. B. McKinley, S. D. and
E. M. Brooking-s, representing- the Western Town Company, and
James L. Piske, James McBride, James W. Evans, James Allen,
William Little, James McCall and C. Merrill representing- the
Dakota Land Company.

At this time the Sioux Palls settlement was under the jurisdic-
tion 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 larg-e portion of the adjacent reg-ion, and in
December the g-overnor of Minnesota appointed the following- officers
for the county, Sioux Palls being- the only settlement: James Allen,
reg-ister of deeds; James Evans, sheriff; James L. Piske, judg-e of
probate; W. W. Brooking-s, district attorney; J. L. Phillips, justice
of the peace; Wm. Little, James McBride and A. L. Kilg-ore, com-
missioners, but there are no records showing- that the officials qual-
ified 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. Good-
win, 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 Palls, 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 gath-
ered, and a guard was detailed, the men serving in turns. Scarcely
were these preparations completed, when a delegation of Indians
visited the Palls 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 Palls 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 Port Sod,
in June, 1858, giving a graphic account of the life led in Sioux Palls
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 Port Sod, it would undoubtedly surprise them
that they had forgotton so much of the sufferings they had passed
through. But here it is just as we have it:

Cleveland, Ohio, March 8th, 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 with-
out 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 Edwards, 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 cir-
cumvented 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,
wlio had been acting as interpeter at Medary reached here, stating that one hundred lodges of
Indians (Yanktonais) had arrived at that place and ordered our townsite men away.


Mr. Dewitt was at first disposed to fight them, but his ineti— 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 settlers, 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 towards Medary to reconnoitre.
The next day they returned and reported the Indians to be within thirty- five miles of herein
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 deter-
mined 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 prosj>ect,
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 'he wall, and an iimer 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 I'ort 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 ist lieu-
tenant) sentries and scouting parties on duty day and night. All told we number thirty-five men
fc»r 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 walls 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 pre-
tend 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 I^idgely) are on the Mormon
expedition, and the result is that settlers are left to protf^ct themselves.

The news of this Indian difliculty 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 Palls 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 org-anized, the advantag-e of Yankton for a capital would
be recog-nized. On the other hand, should the Territory be org-an-
ized at once the capital in all probability would be located at Sioux

During- the summer of 1858, the Dakota Land Company, deeming-
it necessary to make known to the world in g-eneral and Cong-ress in
particular, the need for org-anization of the g-reat and increasing-
population of the Territory, as well as the wonderful advantag-es 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 Com-
pany 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 boug-ht 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 re-
sult 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 ap-
pears 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 Aug-ust 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 Surg-eon;
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
Bridg-e and Main streets.

In 1881, an extensive history of Southeastern Dakota was pub-


lished in book form bv the Western Publishino- Co., of Sioux City,
la., 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 followino- account
of this newspaper: " The first newspaper published in the Territory
was issued at Sioux Falls. This was the Dakota Democrat, estab-
lished in 1857 by S. J. Albrig-ht." These dates are clearly erroneous.
And its assertion that Mr. Albright left Sioux Falls in 1860, takino-
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 thereafter was published as The Independent, this head-
ing- 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 diifer so much in
regard to dates and other things appertaining to its publication
which should be accurately stated, especially as it was the first news-
paper published in Dakota, that we have taken great pains to ascer-
tain 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 bv the Indians the last of
August, 1862.

The Dakota Land Company, as already appears, was enterpris-
ing- in its eiforts 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, 1850.
This report was made by J. L. Fiske, showing the operation and
prog-ress 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 dam-
ag-fc's 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
X^urchased 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 bound-
ary 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 jurisdic-
tion, 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 countv, 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 fortv acres; Sioux Falls City, established seat of gov-


eminent for Big- Sioux county, and the recog-nized capital of the Ter-
ritory, at the falls of the Big- Sioux, the head of navig-ation, 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 Palls, and at the more practical
head of navig-ation for larg-e 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 unorg-anized condition. Prom 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 g-ov-
ernment. Of course, they appreciated the fact that such g-overn-
ment must come throug-h the org-anization of a territorial g-overn-
ment, and this could only be established by an act of Cong-ress. 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. Ag-ain the question was considered how to best
present this state of affairs to Cong-ress, and obtain territorial
organization. It was finally determined that it would be advisable to
set up a g-overnment themselves, elect a leg-islature, and enact such
laws as would answer their purpose for the time being-, memorialize
Cong-ress for territorial org-anization, and elect a deleg-ate to Con-
g-ress to urg-e the immediate establishment of a territorial g-overn-
ment. 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 Palls, 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 mem-
bers to compose a Territorial Leg-islature.

"In pursuance of said resolution, notice is hereby g-iven that on
Monday, the Pourth Day of October
Next, at the House of

In the Tov*'n of

In the County of

An election will be held for members of the Council

and of the House of Representatives for said Leg-islature.

"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 Septem ber,

A. D. 1858.

"(Dakota Democrat Print, Sioux Palls, City.)"


With the thirt}^ or forty souls who composed the population at
that time, it required considerable ing-enuity to arrano-e matters, and
the elections were conducted in a somewhat peculiar manner. We
learn from one of the members, that on the mornino- of election, the
whole population org-anized into parties of three or four, elected each
other judo-es 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 es-
tablished, and the votes not only of the party but of their uncles,
cousins, relatives and friends were cast, until as a result of the elec-
tion the total vote rolled up into the hundreds, and was properlv cer-
tified to.

Soon after the election the leg-islature convened, and Henry
Masters was elected president of the council, and at the close of the
session was elected g-overnor. S. J. Albrig-ht was elected speaker.
This session lasted only a few days, but with due deliberation all
needful bills for home g-overnment were introduced, discussed and
passed. It also passed the strong-est resolutions and memorials to
Congress, praying- for an early organization of the territorv, and
elected A. G. Fuller, Esq., to represent the Territory in Washington.

Years afterwards in speaking of this legislative session, a mem-
ber 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. Puller 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, desir-
ing to obtain the exact facts concerning the first settlement of Da-
kota, 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 com-
plied with Judge Flandrau's request, and his narrative was so inter-
esting and apparentlv correct, that it was published in the Minnesota
Historical Society's' Collections, Vol. VIII, Part II, pages 134 to
147, inclusive. This narrative, with a 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 purport-
ing to give an account of the first organized government of Dakota,



entirely ig-nores the provisional or squatter leg-islature of 1858
fact, not only ignores it,but declares that "the first Icg-iskttivc assem-
bly 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, 1859, at Sioux Falls City, of which he was then the
"Editor and Proprietor," for in that issue may be found the follow-
ing 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.

Ag'ain Mr. Albright in the same issue says editorially under the
caption of "Dakota Leg-islature:" "This body convened for a
second session the 2nd inst., that being the day appointed by law for
its convocation."

After having g-iven the facts in reference to the legislative as-
sembly of 1858, and the election of Governor Masters, the propriety
of referring t9 the inaccuracy of this narrative may be questioned,
but it must be remembered that the narrative of Mr. Albright has
the indorsement 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 Flan-
drau 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 im-
portant that all the incidents connected with it should be correctly

In Vol. 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 Septem-
ber, 1859, at the several election precints in the County of Bjg- Sioux,

Online LibraryDana Reed BaileyHistory of Minnehaha county, South Dakota. Containing an account of its settlements, growth, development and resources ... Synopsis of public records, biographical sketches .. → online text (page 2 of 99)