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 22 of 99)
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been said, this flood was occasioned by the melting- of the heavy snow
which had fallen during- the winter preceding-, butowing- to the con-
tour of the county nothing- of a similar nature can ever happen ex-
cept from a similar cause. There have been several heavy falls of
rain since the county was settled, but no damag-e worthy of mention
has resulted. The term "rainy season" will never be used to describe
the rainfall in this county, but the New Eng-land term of "rainy
spell" could at times be very appropriately made use of, and at no
time more so than during- the spring- of 1888. On the 26th day of
April it beg-an to rain, and for twenty-nine consecutive days rain fell
at some time during the twenty-four hours. It was a " rainy spell"
and probabh' the long-est the inhabitants of the county ever exper-
ienced, but even this long- continuous rainfall did not raise the water
in the streams to a dangerous height.



Mr. Ole O. Graves, one of the earliest settlers of Hju-hland town-
ship, has furnished us with the followinjj- account of a cloud-burst a
few miles north of his farm:

"About the first day of May, 187(), there was a cloud-burst a few
miles north of my place on the upper Split Rock. The water came
rollino- down over the bottom from eio-ht to twelve feet in depth.
One of my neio'hbors, a Mr. Lee, saw somethino- moving- quite a dis-
tance north of us and thoug-ht it was an immense flock of ofeese, and
took his (jfun and started for the place. He discovered his mistake
just in time to escape with his life. A pair of oxen were picketed
out on the bottom below my place, and the water was so deep that it
took them off their feet, and for a while the picket stakes held them
fast so that they floated. A man on horseback attempted to rescue
the oxen, but was thrown from his horse. He could not swim, but
was fortunate in o-etting- hold of the horse's tail, and the horse took
him to the shore. When the stakes finally became loosened the oxen
saved themselves by swimming- ashore."


This section of the countrv is not remarkable for extremes of
heat and cold, but at the same time it must be admitted that when a
thermometer reg-isters 35° below zero and within six months reg -
isters 100° above, it has traveled over a wide field. Reliable ther-
mometers have done this in Minnehaha county, but these extremes
are seldom reached, the temperature being- rarely 30° deg-rees below
zero. The first winter the writer spent in Minnehaha county the
coldest dav was 26° below zero. Of course, there are cold winters
and mild winters, hot summers and those of moderate heat. The
extreme cold spells are usually long-er here than in the same latitude
in the eastern states, and the same is also true of the extreme warm
spells of weather, and it must also be admitted that there are few
places where there are more sudden chang-es in temperature than in
South Dakota. But taken as a whole, the climate is invig-orating and
healthful, notwithstanding- these occasional extremes of cold and
heat, and the statistics show that the. death rate in South Dakota, in
proportion to the total population, is lower than in any other country
in the world. As appears elsewhere, the summer of 1871 was un-
usually warm, and the summer of 1886 was called a hot one, and dur-
ing- the summer of 1889 there was a long- spell of excessiveh' hot
weather. But the summer of 1894 was both hot and dry, and the
Daily Press in its issue of Aug'ust 9, said: "Skunk creek is dried up
and the prairie chickens have left the country along that stream be-
cause of the lack of water."

The coldest winters during- the last fifteen years were the win-
ters of 1884-5-6-7, especially during- the two last years there were
long- spells of extreme cold weather. But one of the coldest days
during- this period was February 4, 1883, when reliable thermometers
reg-istered 37° below zero. Occasionally in midsummer the heat is
100°, but it is an unusualh- hot dav in Minnehaha countv when it is



above 90°. The 17th day of September, 1895, was one of the hottest
days experienced in this vicinit}'. A thermometer at the Cataract
house, at 3:30 in the afternoon of that day marked 104° in the shade,
and other thermometers in the city indorsed these figures as being
about right.

Dr. Levi S. Carter, Volunteer Meteorological Observer at Sioux
Palls for the United States Department of Agriculture Weather
Bureau, kindly loaned us the record of his observations for the last
few years. We have summarized the average monthly maximum,
minimum and mean temperature, also the averag-e percipitation and
the number of clear days for the years 1893 4-5-6, a table of which
will be found below:



l-'ebruai'}' . .







September .
October ...
December .




1 1



• 51


1. 6 1



6 1









1. 71







Coldest da_), February 21, 1893, 35 degrees below zero.

Warmest day, July 25, 1894, ^°7 degrees.

Precipitation 1893 2671 inches

Precipitation 1894 10.44 inches

Precipitation 1895 -O.33 inches

Precipitation 1896 27.97 inches

Since writing the foregoing, there has been such extreme cold
weather, remarkable also for its great duration, that we should al-
most feel like stopping the press to record it, if this work was being

If extreme cold weather should be encountered in the future, it
would be w^ell to examine the record of the cold spell which the whole
country experienced in January and February, 1899. Hicks pre-
dicted mild, pleasant weather for the week commencing January 22,
but notwithstanding Hicks, it commenced growing cold Wednesday
evening January 25. The next day it was colder still, and so on, un-
til Sunday nig'ht when there was a snowfall of about four inches.
Monday it was cold, and it continued growing colder until Wednes-
day the 8th day of February. During that day, the thermometer at
no time indicated less than twenty-three degrees below zero, and at
eight o'clock the following morning it was forty-two degrees below,
and some ambitious thermometers indicated one or two degrees
colder still. This kind of weather, with little variation continued un-
til Sunday night, February 12, when it grew warmer.

It was one cold wave after another for eighteen days, or one cold


wave comintJ- down from the northwest in sections, with but little in-
termediate space between them. It was a record breaker, not only
in this locality, but all o\er the country east of the Rocky Mountains.
Followino- is the minimum record of Dr. L. S. Carter for the first
thirteen days in February, 189'): •), 1<), 14, 2*), 2S, 30, 2'), 38, 42, 22,
40, 32, 13 deo"rees below zero.



Althou^'h Minnehaha county is not remarkable for severe storms,
still there have been some that are worthy of mention. It is un-
doubtedly true that during- the earlv settlement of southeastern Da-
kota, the class of storms known as "blizzards" were more frequent
and severe than during- the past decade. In the biojj-raphical sketch
of C. K. Howard will be found some incidents in connection with the
blizzards of thirty 3'ears ag-o, and other early settlers have informed
the writer that scarcely a winter passed without two or three bliz-
zards of more or less severity. Perhaps the most notable one that
occurred since w-hite people commenced to inhabit this county was
the January blizzard of 1873. It extended throug-hout Dakota, Min-
nesota, a portion of Iowa and the northern half of Wisconsin. II})-
wards of seventy people perished in Minnesota. In Minnehaha
county the storm commenced in the forenoon of the 7th, and con-
tinued with but little abatement for nearly three days; four persons
lost their lives and several others met with narrow escapes. Robert
Foster, who lived with his family in a sod-shanty in the northwest
part of section 33 in Benton, lost two children. On the morning- of
the storm his son Robert, fourteen years old, and his daug-hter
Sarah, twelve years old, started out to g-o a little over a half a mile
north, where some bait had been put out for foxes, when the storm
overtook them. They walked about a mile and a half south and a half
a mile east, and finally stopped in a roofless sod-shanty, where they
were found on the 15th day of March following-, the gfirl still stand-
ing-, and it was evident that the boy had died standing- by his sister,
but had fallen over as the snow melted away. The other persons
who perished in the storm were A. M. Abbott and a Scandinavian,
whose name the writer has been unable to learn. On the 15th day of
October, 1880, there was a heavy snow^ storm, and it would seem that
it was worthy of being- classed as a blizzard. The last gfenuine bliz-
zard visited this section of the country on the 12th of January, 1888.
It struck Sioux Falls about the middle of the afternoon. At 2 o'clock
the sun was shining- brig-htly, and the weather was delig-htfuUy mild
and pleasant, but before four o'clock it was several deg-rees be-
low zero, and the wdnd was blowing- a g-ale from the north-
west. This storm was quite extensive, and coming- as it did just
about the time of the closing- of the district schools, many a sad dis-
aster happened. At Baltic a Miss Jacobson was teaching- school,
and about the time the storm commenced she started to walk to the
house of John O. Lang-ness, in company with one of her pupils about
fourteen years of agfe by the name of Josephine Grinde, daughter of


Andrew Grinde, then living- in Brandon. They were blinded by the
snow and frozen to death. Another distressing- case during- this
blizzard was the death of a Mrs. Kennedy and her son Joseph. The
home of the Kennedy's was four or five miles west of the City of
Sioux Palls. About dark Mr. Kennedy started to g-o to a well a few
rods from the house, and not returning- Mrs. Kennedy and son went
out to look for him. When the blizzard had subsided she was found
onlv a short distance from the house frozen to death, but the boy was
not found until about the 20th of March following-. He had traveled
about two miles and a half in the direction the wind was blowing-.
Mr. Kennedy finding- he could not return to the house crawled into a
straw stack and remained during- the nig-ht. Three other persons in
the county lost their lives during- this storm.

Mr. Zeliif of Sherman has furnished us with the following- inter-
esting" description of his experience in a blizzard: "Since coming- to
Dakota I have seen but two blizzards. The first one was in the win-
ter of 1880-1, an the second one in January, 1888. On the morning- of
January 12, during- the last-mentioned year, I left Sioux Palls to
drive to my home, a distance of twenty-five miles. The snow was
drifted, and my horses g-ot down several times, and I prog-ressed so
slowly that at four o'clock in the afternoon I was still six miles from
home. I had just g-ot my horses out of a snow drift and w^as letting-
them rest. The sun was shining- and it was so warm that I had
taken off my coat. The first I knew I was covered with a cloud of
snow, accompanied with a sharp wind. I looked at my watch; it was
four o'clock. I started at once to g-et to a house, but soon found I
was traveling- in a circle, and was g-etting- cold. I stopped and unhar-
nessed my horses, cut the ice off their nostrils, and let them loose. I
thoug-ht I would g-ive them a chance for their lives. I then turned
the sleig-h-box over and g-ot under it and wrapped myself up in my
buffalo coat and blankets. I had hard work to keep awake. My
horses did not leave, and occasionally I would kick the box and one
of them would neig-h in response. At eight o'clock the next morning-
I pried the sleig-h-box up with the neck-yoke I had taken under with
me. When I g-ot out I could not stand, and I crawled around on my
hands and knees until I found a landmark bv which I knew the way
to Mr. Royce's house, and manag-ed to g-et there, but I was so nearly
frozen that I could not speak or stand. Throug-h the kind attentions
of Mrs. Royce, I was able late in the afternoon to g-o for my horses,
and found them leaning- ag-ainst each other by the sleig-h. They had
attempted to follow me in the morning-, but owing- to a g-reat bank of
snow had been unable to do so. They were quite warm when the
blizzard struck us, and they were soon covered with a sheet of ice,
and I think this protected them."

As an illustration of the mental condition of some persons caug-ht
in a blizzard, we g-ive below the wandering-s of Peter E. Oien, a
young- man in the employ of Ole Gunderson of Mapleton, who was
frozen to death during- this blizzard. He took a load of manure
about seventy rods from (iunderson's barn and unloaded it, and as
he started back the storm struck him. After it was time for him to
return, and not doing- so, Mr. Gunderson started out to pilot hini in.


He soon found that instead of coming* in the direction of his build-
inu-s, Oien had g-one south. Following- the track he found that he
had driven into a deep snow drift in a ravine. Here he had unhitched
the horses and left the sled. After this he could find no trace of
him, althoug-h he continued the search until after dark. The next
morning- he resumed the search and traced him in his wandering's
several miles. He finally was found dead within six rods of Joe Nie-
son's house, six miles south of Mr. Gunderson's place. In one place
he had followed a fence quite a long- distance, and when coming- to
the end of it had turned and followed it back nearly its entire leng-th,
and if he had continued a few rods further would have come to a
barn. At another place he had g-one straig-ht throug-h a g-rove and
had passed near to a house. Three times he was within three or
four rods of a dwelling; house, but did not seem to realize his sur-
roundings. He kept both horses with him. Once he got into a
snow drift. He first got one of the horses out, and then went back
for the other. He drove them most of the way, but at last walked
beside them. When his body was found one of the horses stood
near bv it.

At the time of this l)lizzard there was a g-ood deal of discussion
in the newspapers as to what causes the singular conduct most i)eo-
ple manifest when caug-ht out in a blizzard, and in one thing they all
agreed, that a majority of those people lose all power of reasoning
and do not seem to recognize the most familiar surroundings,


There has never been a real, genuine cyclone in Minnehaha
county, but there has been some violent windstorms sweeping- through
this section at different times which in a few instances have almost
reached the dignity of a cyclone, and have been termed by the news-
papers "Baby Cyclones."

During the summer of 1883 a strong wind accompanied by a
thunderstorm swept over the northwestern portion of the City of
Sioux Falls, and two or three houses in process of construction were
destroyed, a few small buildings tipped over and a dozen chimneys
blown down. During the afternoon of Monday, July 21, 1884, a heavy
thunder storm swep over the entire county, resulting- in the loss of
several lives and causing- the destruction of considerable propertv.
The wind was terrific, but did not have the cyclonic twist. The storm
was most destructive in the northern portion of the county. At Dell
Rapids the Congregational church, a school house and three store
buildings were blown down, and considerable damage was done to
other buildings. Another school house a few miles out from Dell
Rapids was also blown down, and two children killed. A store build-
ing was demolished at Baltic, and several buildings at Valley Springs
were seriously damaged. The most curious incident in connection
with this great storm occurred in the southeastern portion of High-
land. A school house, occupied by the teacher, a Miss Chase, and
twenty-one scholars, was driven before the wind a half a mile. Miss
Chase, in relating the incident, said: "The first I noticed was a
violent rocking- of the building, and the overturning of the stove, and
then the building began to move; at times it would seem to bound over


the j^Tound, and then to slip along- smoothly." She called on the
children to pray for deliverance, but a little daugfhter of Ransom
Walter replied: "Let us g-et out first!" Strang-e as it may seem no
one was seriously injured, and the building- but slig-htlv damag-ed; and
the people in the school district acquiesced in the new location of the
school house. The house of Peter Dig-re in Hig-hland was blown down,
one child killed and Mrs. Dig-re seriously injured. A daug-hter of
Samuel Dukken of Burk was blown some distance and killed. But
the destructive feature of this storm was not confined to the wind
alone; the lig-htning- w^as a fearful accessory. Mrs. John Hill, of
Hig-hland, was struck by lig-htning- and instantly killed; the house of
Axel Scott in Lyons was also struck, killing- Mrs. Scott and pros-
trating- five others. Several other buildingfs were struck, and con-
siderable stock was killed.

The nearest approach in this county to a real twister occurred
on the afternoon of May 3, 1895. During- a heavy shower in the vicin-
ity of Sioux Palls, a little commotion was noticed on south Minne-
sota avenue in the city, and it was soon evident that arrang-ements
were being- made for a cyclonic display. After everything- was in
readiness, it started out in a northwesterly direction, and as it ad-
vanced its track widened, reg-ardless of the obstacles in its way. At
first it only overturned small building-s in a playful way, but it soon
increased in fury, and after giving- the Summit avenue viaduct a
sharp blow it turned west and commenced business in earnest. The
trees in Pettig-rew's g-rove were blown down, some barns destroyed,
and it at last focused on the Willowdale mansion and the bridge
across the Sioux river; the house was unroofed and the bridg-e de-
molished. The chain mortising works were visited, and the upper
story of this "castle in the air" w^as scattered about the prairie.
But the most serious damage was done to the carriag-e works standing-
near the river. One building containing- nearly 100 carriages was
blown down, and some of the carriages completely ruined and all of
them more or less damaged. Prom this point it went up the river
about half a mile, and then as quietly disappeared as a real estate boom.

The western portion of the county has not been entirely exempt
from cyclonic manifestations. About four o'clock in the morning of
June 21, 1892, the people in the southwestern part of Clear Lake
township became suddenly aware that a "baby cyclone" was play-
ing about their premises. It originated a few miles west of this
county. In Montrose, McCook county, it destroyed the house of
Wm. Olin, and his wife was killed. As it came east it destroyed sev-
eral barns and granaries, but became somewhat moderated in force
when it entered this county. When it reached the residence of John
S. Lacy in section thirty in Clear Lake, it picked up his barn and
hen-house and carried them away, but it did not move a buggv top
that stood on the ground facing the wind not more than three feet
from the barn. It spent its force by the time it reached Hartford,
but while traveling through Clear Lake it did considerable damage,
breaking a woman's arm, shaking up E. C. Kibbe's buildings, de-
stroying small buildings and removing others from their foundations.
In one instance where a building- was destroyed the windows were
found a half a mile awav with the glass unbroken.



In addition to the usual electric display durinjjf thunder storms,
there have been occasional storms in Minnehaha county which could
be only characterized as electric storms. During- the summer of
1871, there were quite a number of them. It was hot and drv all
summer, and althoug-h every few days it looked like rain, it all ended
in electrical displays without a drop of rain. From time to time
since then the old settlers of the county have reported similar occur-
rences. But the electric storm of all others of which any account
has come to the knowledg-e of the writer occurred dviring- the summer
of 1886. About two o'clock one morning-, if there was a person living-
within the limits of Sioux Palls who was not suddenly awakened,
then there can be but little hope for such a person at the resurrec-
tion. Upon looking- out to see the cause of all the commotion g-oing-
on, a cloud could be seen hanging- over the northwestern portion of
the city, from which lig-htning- and peals of thunder were emitted at
the rate of forty-five per minute. The cloud was moving- in a south-
easterly direction, and passed over the city, without shedding- a drop
of rain, and was succeeded by brig-ht starlig-ht. In the centre of its
path the electric fluid seemed to be in a hurry to take the shortest
line and make the quickest time possible to the earth. Althoug-h,
while passing- over the city several buildings were struck by lig-ht-
ning-, the storm did not seem to have any particular object in view
and did no serious damag-e. To those who were not too much frig-ht-
ened to appreciate it, it was a grrand display, but such an one that no
person could possibly wish to see repeated. During- the time the
cloud was passing- over the cit\' the atmosphere was in such a pecu-
liar condition that ordinary conversation could be distinctly heard
and understood two blocks away. Taking- it altog-ether it was the
finest free exhibition ever g-iven in Sioux Palls.

Very frequently our newspapers publish articles with the head
line "What a stranger thinks of Sioux Palls" and a little incident
which occurred in connection with this pyrotechnical display would
probably have found its way into the columns of the local newspapers
if it had not been for fear of destroying the reputation of the place.
A gentleman had come in from the east on the Omaha train the even-
ing before, with a view of making some investments in city property.
He was fatigued after his long journey, and retired early to his room
at the Commercial hotel, and was soon sound asleep. At two o'clock
in the morning he awoke very suddenly, and. as he said, for a long-
time could not imagine where he was. He felt certain he was not on
the earth or in any other place he had ever heard of, and for awhile
thought that he was being transferred somewhere in chariots of
fire. As soon as the storm was over, and he had regained his
strength, he g-ot up, dressed, and came into the hotel office. He asked
the clerk what had happened, and when he was told that nothing un-
usual had transpired as he knew of, he inquired when the first train
would leave Sioux Palls; he returned east that morning. But before
leaving, he told a gentleman in the city that he would not remain
another night in this region of the country for all the gold there was
on the continent.



The history of the sale of intoxicating- liquors in Minnehaha
county, althoug-ii not differing- widely from what it has been in other
places with about the same population where local option and prohi-
bition have been tried, yet it would seem to be of sufficient impor-
tance to occupy a little space in a work of this kind.

Prior to 1862 about the only restriction upon the sale g'rew out
a scarcity of exchang-e for the commodity.

The first territorial leg-islature passed an act to reg-ulate the
sale of spirituous liquors to the extent that it became necessary to
procure a license from the county commissioners or the town council
of incorporated towns to lawfully sell in less quantities than one
pint. The sum to be paid for a license was not to exceed one hun-
dred dollars, nor be less than ten dollars, and in fixing- the amount in
each individual case the commissioners and council were chargfed to
have "proper reg-ard to the apparent advantag-es of the applicant's
situation for business."

Any person disobeying- this restrictive measure, upon conviction

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 22 of 99)