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Brookings County, SD


HISTORY OF Southeastern Dakota, Its Settlement and Growth,

Sioux City Iowa: Western Publishing Company, 1881




The beginning of this prosperous and promising town substantially dates from September, 1879, in which month Volga was platted by Col. Jacoby, the platting agent of the Chicago & Northwestern Railroad Company. The land on which the townsite is located, was owned by Nicolai Evenson. Hans Terkelsen, Alex. Johnson and Lewis Johnson, who each donated forty acres of land for townsite purposes, making these relinquishments as an inducement to the Railroad Company to locate a station at that point.  For some time—from November, 1879, to May, 1880—Volga was the terminus of the road, and under the stimulus which this fact gave to it, its settlement and growth during this period were astonishingly rapid. The end of the railroad track reached Volga about the 15th of November, 1879. The agents of the Company until late in the winter, transacted business in a box car on a side track, and a number of the employes boarded and lodged in a boarding car. The first hotel was the "Pioneer," the construction of which was begun by Johnson Harris in September, 1879. For the time the accommodations at this hostlery were sufficiently rude, the partitions consisting of army blankets. Miller Willson built the second hotel, forty or fifty boarders taking lodgings therein long prior to its completion. I. P. Farrington built the present Farrington House in the winter of 1879-80, but the house was not fairly opened for business until the spring of the latter year. Norton Bros. were the proprietors of the Railroad Boarding House.


During the winter of 1879-80, there was a very considerable floating population, there being probably three hundred employes located at Volga, every place of entertainment being more than comfortably crowded. The spring of 1880 began with bright prospects for the embryo town, Building went on apace, although the inhabitants suffered somewhat from limited capital for investment. The population, as will be seen, was necessarily of a more or less temporary character; yet the town has more than "held its own," and a succession of good crops will place it on a permanently enviable footing. Much good was accomplished in the way of bridge building, mainly through the energetic instrumentality of Mr. Charles Keith, in the fall and winter of 1879-80, which winter, it is well remembered, was a particularly "open" one, wheat being sown in the month of February. A gratifying fact is, that during all floods and seasons of high-waters, Volga has been " high and dry," beyond the reach of danger from that very troublesome source.


The first deed of real estate in Volga was made April 14, 1880, by Albert Keep and wife—representing the Railroad Company—to Charles Keith, and transferred lot number six in block one.


L. V. Rich's "Rich Hotel" was built in the winter of 1879-80. The principal pioneer business men were H. Kirby, Nils Kjos, Hatheron & Son, T. H. Maguire & Company, Hark ins & Rowley, James W. Ask, and others. The town may very properly pride itself on the excellent class of business men in general which its inducements have attracted. The well known and extensive business firms of G. W. Van Dusen & Co., the Winona Mill Company, Youmans Bros. & Hodgins, Laird, Norton & Co., are well represented by the following efficient managers, respectively: Charles Keith, John Albertson, C. L. Warner and L. Johnson.


Volga is located on sections 14, 15, and 23, forty acres in each, town 110, range 51. The population is about four hundred.  Town lots were surveyed—blocks one, two, three and four—at the first survey, the first lot being occupied by H. Kirby. The first building on the townsite was erected by Nils Kjos, the second building by Kirby. The first family to arrive was that of Mr. J. Harris, on the 6th of October, 1879. O. L. Anderson, the first harness maker, came on the same date. October 8th, 1879, is the date of the first well digged in Volga, which was by E. M. Lenander for Harris. E. Nelson moved his blacksmith shop from Renshaw on the 10th of October. On the 13th, Frank Cline, the first blacksmith in Volga, began operations.    Lewis Wilson, the first shoemaker, came October 22d. The first passenger train arrived November 17th. The first public worship in Volga was held January 4th. 1880, Rev. W. L. Alexander, Presbyterian, officiating. The first death to occur was that of Willis Howl, March 9th, 1880; the first settler to enter the bonds of matrimony, was P. Balgord, the pioneer wagon and carriage maker, on the 31st day of March, 1880. The first birth to occur in the vicinity, after the starting of the town, was a son, to C. C. Saunders, living on the forty acres subsequently donated by Lewis Johnson as part of the townsite. The character of the soil in this section, is that of a dark loam, varying in depth from six to twelve feet, before the gravel is reached. As you go west to Nordland, this depth increases to from twenty-five to one hundred and twenty feet. The subsoil is of clay. The water supply is abundant and easily reached. The county, along the Sioux River, is mainly inhabited by Scandinavians, nationalities being vastly more varied seven or eight miles to the north. From Volga, north and south, the country is very well settled. There are several hundred acres of burr-oak timber in the vicinity of Lake Tetonkaha. Oakwood, on this lake, was first settled in 1878.


Mr. Charles Keith, who has in every respect proved an energetic promoter of the interests of Volga and vicinity, first came to Volga September 25th, 1879, for the purpose of looking up business prospects generally. Mr. Keith first engaged in the lumber trade, and received the first car-load of lumber delivered in Volga, on November 18,1879. He represented Laird, Norton & Co., of Winona, Minn. At that time, the people who were unable to procure lumber, occupied canvas tents. The first lumber was taken immediately from the cars by the purchasers, having been bought before unloading.




The Presbyterian and the Congregational Societies have each an appropriate building. The Presbyterian Society was organized in 1879. The first pastor was the Rev. William Carroll. Rev. John B. Taylor is the pastor at the time of writing. The Congregational Society was organized in the summer of the present year.  The Schools of Volga are in excellent condition.


The Brookings County Agricultural and Driving Park Association, of Volga, was organized in the autumn of 1880. Its officers are as follows: Board of Directors—George Henry, Thomas Bandy, T. H. Maguire, Peter Balgord, William Nichols, J. W. Ask, E. Engleson, J. P. Farrington, Page Downing, Peter Lindskog, H. L. Wadsworth.  President—George Henry. Secretary—E. Engleson. Treasurer—H. L. Wadsworth. The grounds of the Association are one-half mile southwest of town, and are excellently adapted to the purposes for which they are used. There is a first-class half-mile track. The second annual fair was held September 21, 22 and 23 of the present year. Competition in all classes is unlimited, and the exhibits are unusually good.




Attorney.—P. Philip Cady.

Agricultural Implements.—John Albertson, T. H. Maguire, Chas. Keith.

Barber.—B. F. Gates.

Boots and Shoes.—Joseph Daum.

Blacksmith.—H. C. Loomis.

Bakery.—C. S. Johnson.

Contractors and Builders.—John Ike, W. F. Williams, W. E. Tubbs.

Civil Engineer.—Jacob Brown.

Druggists.—A. C. Porter, C. H. Drinker.

Draymen.—Stewart & Hunt, C. T. Wilson.

Depot Agent.—H. L. Wadsworth.

Elevators.—Van Dusen & Co., Chas. Keith, Manager.

Furniture.—A. D. Harrison.

Flour and Feed.—W. M. Nichols, Chas. Keith for Van Dusen & Co.

General Merchandise.—Henry Kirby, Harking & Rowley, J. W. Ask, Wm. Fisher & Co., Seielstad & Hansen.

Hotels.—Farrington House, J. P. Farrington; Rich House, L. V. Rich; Willson House, Miller Wilson; Farmers' Home, P. C. Ford; Skandinavisk House, T. R. Jevne.

Hardware.—Nils Kjos, T. H. Maguire & Co.

Harness and Saddlery.—O. L. Anderson.

Insurance.—Mitchell & Engleson.

Jeweler.—A. C. Porter.

Lumber.—Laird, Norton & Co., C. L. Warner; Youmans Bros. & Hodgins, L. Johnson, agent.

Livery.—Stewart & Hunt.

Masons.—F. S. Idell, C. McCreery.

Meat Markets.-Ed. Achenbach, Carl Sec.

Millinery and Dressmaking.—Miss K. C. Ryan.

Newspaper.—Dakota Gazette, Geo. W. Brown, Editor and Proprietor.
Photographer,—W. H. DeGraff.
Postmaster.—Jacob Brown.
Physician—W. H. Everhard.

Real Estate, Loans and Collections—Mitchell & Engleson, P. Philip Cady, CM. Story.
Saloons—E. Snider, I. P. Farrington.
Undertaker— A. D. Harrison.
Wagon and Carriage Works—P. Balgord.


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