South Dakota

Codington County South Dakota

County History


1904 Codington County article

1881, History of Southeastern Dakota













Codington County is the second county west of the Minnesota State line, and through the southern part of which passes the 45th parallel of north latitude. The lands of this county are prairie and the surface gently rolling; the Big Sioux runs through the county from the northwest to the southeast. Beautiful lakes adorn nearly every township, dotting the prairies on every side with their mirror-like surfaces. The largest is Lake Kampeska, which is two miles wide by six miles in length. This is one of the most beautiful lakes in the Northwest, and is not surpassed by any which we have seen. The most violent storms never so much as soil its crystal waters, which are as pure as the mountain springs. Its shores furnish a splendid drive, and are always as clean as a well-kept gravel walk: they are composed of cornelians, moss agates, and other beautiful and curious stones and shells, which excite the admiration of visitors to such an extent that tons of them have already been carried away, and are treasured up as rare specimens of nature's most remarkable and beautiful handiwork.

The soil throughout the county is a rich, sandy loam, very dark in color, and of an average depth of thirty inches, with alight colored porous clay subsoil, largely impregnated with lime and vegetable substances, and is conceded by all who have investigated the subject to be unsurpassed for the production of wheat. Barley, oats, flax and buckwheat do equally as well, while root crops grow so astonishingly as to surpass the belief of any one unacquainted with the facts.

The early varieties of Dent corn ripen with certainty in this latitude, and yield as well as in Southern Wisconsin or Northern Illinois.

It has already been demonstrated that currants, strawberries, raspberries, and blackberries, and all small fruits, thrive luxuriantly here. The country has not yet had the age to demonstrate its adaption to the growth of apples, plums, cherries, etc., but it is confidently believed by the best judges that all varieties that have succeeded in Wisconsin, Northern Iowa and Minnesota will do equally well here.

The varieties of fine short grass that ripen and cure uncut on the highest and driest prairies, it is claimed, are much more nutritious and possess more fattening qualities than the best quality of blue joint hay. Cattle, during the winter season must be well watered, and well sheltered during the night time, but except during occasional storms there is little or no necessity for feeding hay. Sheep will keep as fat upon the winter pasture of these prairies as during any time in the summer. It is the country par excellence for wool growing, and there is a mine of wealth in store for those who turn their attention to wool growing and furnishing the eastern market during the winter and spring months with choice mutton.

The Winona & St. Peter Railroad, owned and operated by the Chicago & Northwestern Railroad Company, passes though the county from east to west, and the Pembina Road is located through the county from south to north, forming a junction with the Winona & St. Peter Railroad.

The act creating Codington County was approved February 15, 1877, the county being formed out of Hamlin, Grant and Clark Counties. The organization of the county was effected July 19, 1878, the following being its first officers: Commissioners - William Mclntyre, O. S. Jewell, Geo. H. Stoddart. Clerk and Register - W. R. Thomas. Treasurer - O. H. Tarbell. Judge of Probate - A. D. Chase. Sheriff - James Riley. Surveyor - Geo. H. Stoddart. Superintendent of Schools - E. N. Brann. Assessor - Chas. O. Carpenter.

The first election was held in the fall of 1879. The following officers were elected: Commissioners - Alex. Davidson, George Hanson, O. H. Jewell. Judge of Probate - John H. Drake. Clerk and Register - W. R. Thomas. Treasurer - Oscar P. Kemp. Assessor - Chas. O. Carpenter. Surveyor - Geo. Carpenter. Superintendent of Schools - E. N. Brann. Sheriff - James Riley.

The present County Officers are: Commissioners - Alex. Davidson, F. M. Grant, Geo. Hanson. Treasurer - O. Gesley. Clerk and Register - R. B. Spicer. Judge of Probate - C. Campbell. Surveyor - Geo. H. Stoddart. Superintendent of Schools - Frank Crane. Assessor - _____ Allen.

The Winona & St. Peter Railroad Company finished their roadbed in 1873 to the outlet at the northeast end of Lake Kampeska, claiming that their grant of lands from the Government extended that far, but did not operate the road beyond the Minnesota State line, farther than Gary, until the fall of 1878. In that year the Company repaired the road from Gary to Watertown. In the summer of 1878, J. C. B. Harris, of Yankton, proposed to donate a forty-acre tract, and half, divided or undivided, of a half-section near the outlet of Lake Kampeska, to the Railroad Company in consideration of the location by the Company of a town at that point. June 28, 1873, Harris had filed a pre-emption on the northwest quarter of section 13, town 117, range 53. Afterwards entries were suspended until 1875. The projected town of Kampeska was laid out in August, 1878. Harris first went up to Lake Kampeska in the summer of 1874, on a tour of inspection. There was only one white man in Codington County at that time, none in Hamlin, and but two in Deuel. James P. Warner, now a resident of Clark, was the only white resident of Codington County at the time of Harris' visit. Harris went out again in 1876, at which time he found D. B. Lovejoy and William C. Pike located on the opposite side of the Sioux River from the present town of Watertown. At Gary, Capt. Herrick was then located, and there were perhaps a dozen settlers in Deuel County.

On the 5th of February, 1875, David D. Keeler was appointed Postmaster of Kampeska Postoffice, and J. B. Montgomery, Assistant Postmaster and Notary Public. At that time the office was included in Hamlin County. Kampeska Postoffice was discontinued November 30, 1875. Montgomery went first to Lake Kampeska. Geo. H. Stoddart remained with Montgomery part of the winter of 1874. Warner came to that point in the spring of 1874. Montgomery was the first white man to break land in Codington County, raising about six acres of corn and two acres of "garden stuff." Keeler and Montgomery left in March, 1876, the former returning to Yankton, the latter going to the Black Hills, where he still resides.

Robert Pike, a surveyor in the employ of the Winona and St. Peter Railroad Company, in connection with others, organized the Kampeska Homestead Company, with about forty members, in 1872 each member obligating himself to take a homestead ia [sic] the vicinity of the Lake. A paper called the Commonwealth - a monthly publication, printed in Chicago - was issued from Kampeska, the first number appearing in January, 1874. White & Pike were the publishers. William C. Pike, a brother of Robert Pike, came out in the spring of 1873, accompanied by his wife, who remained but a short time. The grasshopper invasion of 1874 caused the abandonment of this attempt at settlement. This, and the death of Robert Pike, caused the dissolution of the Kampeska Homestead Company. September 25th, 1874, William C. Pike and others organized the Lake Kampeska Homestead Colony, which was substantially the same in its objects as its predecessor, the intention being to establish a "community," with a common mode of living, "corporate farming," and upon principles, many of which would no doubt be useful, were they not impracticable. How closely - or whether, at all, - any all, - any of the principles of the "Colony" resembled those of the famous Oneida Community it is foreign to the purpose of this History to discuss. Pike spent two winters in the East, lecturing upon the advantages of the project; but little or nothing came of it, and the Lake Kampeska Homestead Colony, after a brief and altogether unsatisfactory existence, went the way of many such enthusiastic but short-lived schemes.

The grasshopper invasions were a serious drawback to this section as to all others that were visited by the scourge, and retarded immigration for several years. Without attempting to give the arrivals of the first permanent settlers in the order in which they came, the writer will go on to state that William Mclntyre came to Codington county October 9th, 1877, and located upon a half-section, on the east half of section 34, town 117, range 53, two miles west of the present town of Watertown. Mr. Mclntyre came out again from Sparta, Wisconsin, in company with his brother and others, in February, 1878. The party located 2,600 acres of land in one day, in the neighborhood of Mclntyre's claim.

O. S. Jewell came out to the vicinity of the Lake in 1876, and D. B. Lovejoy came in May of the same year. During the winter of 1876-7, the County was abandoned. Lovejoy built for himself a house, in June, 1876, hauling the lumber there from Marshall. In the fall of 1877, Mclntyre found Jewell and Lovejoy the only two settlers in Codington County. In the summer of 1878 quite a number of people came in. Among the first were the Kemp Bros., of Sparta, Wis., Rice Bros., of the same place, E. H. Ulrick, Ernest Brizee, R. Mclntyre, A. M. Mclntyre, D. M. Richardson and two sons, and James Tanner, also of Sparta; Rev. A. D. Chase, George Crosier and others, of Vernon County, Wis.; Charles Carpenter and family, O. H. Tarbell and family. C. C. Wiley, James Riley and Geo. H. Stoddart were among the very earliest settlers in Codington County, as appears elsewhere in the biographical sketches of these gentlemen. Rice Bros, and Kemp Bros, engaged in the mercantile business on their claims in the spring of 1878. Owsley Bros., of Sparta, Wis., came in the spring of 1879, and immediately engaged in business. L. L. Leach's family came in the autumn of 1879. R. B. Spicer came in June, 1878, and located a claim adjoining Watertown.

The first five acres of wheat raised in Codington County were grown by O. S. Jewell during the summer of 1878, west of Lake Kampeska. It was threshed with a flail, and yielded twenty bushels to the acre.

The postoffice of Kemp was established early in the spring of 1878, on the Kemp farm. Oscar P. Kemp was the Postmaster. The postoffice was removed to Watertown in the spring of 1879. Rice Bros, were occupying a little cabin on their farm, one mile east of town, and were engaged in selling goods, as were also the Kemp Bros., on their farm.


There is no more substantial or promising town in Dakota than Watertown. Nowhere else in the Territory will be found a population made of a better or more progressive class of immigration. Its various business establishments - all branches of which are represented - are placed upon exceptionally good footings, and are conducted in a manner which compels the admiration of the disinterested visitor. It is not the province of a work of this character, to enter into details as to each business house, as to the amount of business transacted therein, or, indeed, to advertise goods and wares. The writer, however, can but pay a deserved compliment to a growing little city of more than a thousand inhabitants, which stands, where less than two years ago, not a solitary evidence of civilization appeared. The buildings of Watertown are of a superior character.

Save one or two small buildings, there were no buildings on the present townsite of Watertown, until the first of April, 1880, about which time the place became the scene of remarkable activity. The town was platted in September, 1878, by Col. Jacoby, and was incorporated under the provisions of the Territorial Code, in April, 1880. It is located on section 31, township 117, range 52. There are two additions - one platted by Wm. Mclntyre on a part of the northwest quarter of section 32, township 117, range 52, and called East Watertown; to which there is an addition platted by R. F. Pettigrew, and called Pettigrew's Addition to East Watertown - the other platted by C. O. Carpenter on the southeast quarter of section 30, township 117, range 52, and called North Watertown.

Probably one hundred carpenters were put to work on or about the first of April, 1880, and as a resident expresses it, there was a "continual pounding from morning till night." From that time, the town grew wish undiminished rapidity, save for the deprivations of the great snow blockade of the winter and spring of 1880-81, the incidents of which are in themselves sufficient to fill a volume.

The United States Land Office is permanently located in Watertown, and transacts an immense amount of business, owing to the continuous stream of immigration which pours into this point. A. C. Wellette is the Register, and A. R. Pease, Receiver. Hon. T. A. Kingsbury is the obliging Chief Clerk.

The hotel accommodations are excellent, the Central House, Merchants Hotel and East Watertown Hotel being the principal places of public entertainment.

There are two first-class grain elevators. The first was erected by Van Dusen & Co., in the summer of 1879, and is one of the largest elevators west of Winona. It is managed by the Alexander Brothers, who came here in April, 1859; Melvin from Cassopolis, Mich., Barton from Red Wing, Minn.

The second elevator is also a large one, and was erected in 1880, by the Porter Milling Co., of Winona, Minn., one of the very large flouring mills for which the State is so justly famous. They have a capacity of about 1,000 barrels of flour per day.

The Bank of Watertown was established March 1st, 1880, by Col. O. C. Johnson and O. Gesley, both of Beloit, Wis. Mr. Gesley came here in March, 1879, and Col Johnson in March, 1880. This bank is located on Oak street, in a substantial brick building erected by them for that purpose. The building is 24 by 70 feet two stories high, and is elegantly finished throughout. The large vault is thoroughly fire proof, and their valuables are further protected by one Hall's latest improved fire and burglar proof safes, the doors of which are faithfully guarded - by a time lock. This bank receives deposits, buys and sells exchange, and does a general banking business.

The Codington County Bank opened its doors for the first time on the 1st day of September, 1880. It is owned by H. D. Walrath and S. B. Sheldon, both formerly of Ogdensburg, St. Lawrence Co., N. Y. This bank is located on the corner of Oak street and Kemp avenue, in a brick building erected by them for that purpose. The building is built of brick, 23 by 45 feet, and two stories high, and is tastefully designed and elegantly finished. The inside of the building is equally beautiful in design and finish. The bank is supplied with a perfectly solid brick and stone fire-proof vault, and within the vault is one of Hall's latest improved burglar proof safes, that can only be opened through the medium of one of the most approved time locks. This bank receives deposits from farmers, merchants and others, buys and sells foreign and domestic exchange, makes collections and does a general banking business.

The Dakota News was established June 23, 1879, by S. J. Conklin, of Waterloo, Wis., and W. O. Fraser, of Marion, Ohio. The firm name is Conklin & Fraser. The paper is a six-column quarto, and has already a large and rapidly increasing circulation. Its jobbing department is very complete, and it is supplied with all the modern conveniences of a first-class news and job office.

The Codington County Courier is a seven-column folio, published weekly by Geo. A. Edes, who came here from Marshall, Minn., in the summer of 1880, and purchased the good will of the Watertown Independent, which was established in April, 1879. Both these papers are excellent publications, creditably representing an intelligent constituency.

Trinity Episcopal Church was organized in the summer of 1881. The Society propose building shortly. Rev. M. Hoyt, D. D., Dean of Dakota, is the Rector. Wardens - H. D. Walrath, J. I. Monks. Vestry - Oscar P. Kemp, S. A. Briggs, A. R. Pease, S. B. Sheldon, F. W. Hoyt. Treasurer - S. B. Sheldon.

The Congregational Church was organized in March, 1879, by Rev. H. B. Johnson, who also preaches at Estelline in Hamlin County, and at Clark, Clark County.

The Methodist Society was organized about the same time, by Rev. A. D. Chase, who came here from Wisconsin in 1878, and entered land here, on which he has made valuable improvements. The Baptist Society was organized in 1880, by Rev. A. S. Orcutt, formerly of Chicago, and a Church of the Disciples has been organized by Rev. Geo. Clendenan.

Watertown Lodge No. 24, I. O. O. F., was instituted August 20, 1880, by D. D. G. S. Poore. The following are charter members: C. M. Cannon, C. W. Swift, C. Goss, Geo. A. Edes, C. C. Whistler, August Huntzicker, Geo. E. Watson, Phil. Crittenden, John Saur. The first officers were: C. W. Swift, N. G.; C. C. Whistler, V. G.; C. M. Cannon, Secretary; C. Goss, Treasurer. Present officers: I. M. Westfall, N. G.; C. Goss, V. G.; C. C. Whistler, Secretary; D. C. Thomas, Treasurer. The membership is about twenty-five, and the Lodge is in a flourishing condition.

Kampeska Lodge No. 13, A. F. & A. M., was instituted in November, 1879, under dispensation from the Grand Master of Dakota. The charter bears date June 9, 1880. Charter members and first officers: D. C. Thomas, W. M.; W. H. Edes, S. W.; I. R. King, J. W.; S. Snyder, Treasurer; Frank Hoskins, Secretary; W. R. Thomas, S. D.: Geo. E. Hanson, J. D.; W. A. Carroll, S. S.; H. B. Johnson, J. S.; G. H. Cady, Tyler; S. W. Bowman, M. T. Briggs, C. E. Edes, J. J. Owsley. The present officers are: D. C. Thomas, W. M.; W. A. Carroll, S. W.; G. E. Hanson, J. W.; J. J. Owsley, Treasurer; John M. Hoyt, Secretary; W. R. Thomas, S. D.; I. R. King, J. D.; M. T. Briggs, S. S.; Frank Hoskins, J. S.; G. H. Cady, Tyler. The Lodge has a membership of about forty and enjoys an enviable reputation. The Grand Lodge of Dakota will meet with Kampeska Lodge in June, 1882.

E. N. Brann was appointed County Superintendent of Public Instruction in September, 1878, and elected in November of the same year. The first school district was organized in April, 1877, the first meeting for that purpose being held April 23d at the house of C. O. Carpenter. Miss Laura L. Leach (now Mrs. L. S. Deming) taught the first school in the summer of 1879, in the hall of Gesley & Duxtad. The school house was built in the fall of 1879, 48x50 feet in dimensions, and has a seating capacity of about two hundred. E. N. Brann was the Principal, Miss Eva Carpenter, Assistant. In the winter of 1880-81, J. N. Williams was also employed as teacher. Frank Crane, of Sparta, Wis., became Principal in May, 1880, Mr. Crane, Miss Carpenter and Miss Carrie Briggs, constituting the corps of teachers for the present year. The last enrollment was one hundred and thirty-five pupils. There are nineteen school districts in Codington County, and seventeen school houses, all well built, substantial structures, and provided with the latest improved school furniture and apparatus.

The first municipal election was held June 8, 1880.


Election, 1880 - Trustees - Wm. McIntyre, President; John Kemp, W. L. Beals, Frank Rice.
Clerk - Charles X. Seward.
Treasurer - C. C. Whistler.
Assessor and Marshal - John N. Johnson.
Justice of the Peace - S. A. Briggs.
Present Officers - Trustees - Wm. McIntyre, President; Frank Rice, M. D. Alexander, Hans Johnson.
Clerk - Chas. X. Seward.
Treasurer - C. C. Whistler.
Marshal - James L. Wiley.
Assessor - J. C. Miller.
City Attorney - Chas. X. Seward.
Justice of the Peace - Wm. M. Pierce.
Board of Education - John N. Johnson, R. B. Spicer, S. B. Sheldon


Attorneys - S. J. Conklin, Poore & Church. Campbell & Comfort. D. C. & W. R. Thomas. Banvard & Wood. Warrer & Budd. Seward, Glass & Eddy.
Banks - Codington County Bank, Walrath & Sheldon; Bank of Watertown, O. C. Johnson.
Temperance Billiard Parlor - C. C. Maxwell.
Boarding and Restaurant - P. F. Englesby, O. J. Webster.
Barbers - Langhorm & Co.
Clothing, Etc. - F. W. Hoyt, Heintz & Hassinger.
Contractors and Builders - Chas. Walker, R. A. Zimmerman, Sours Bros.
Druggists - O. E. Dewey & Co., Tarbell Bros., C. Goss.
Elevators - G. W. Van Dusen & Co., Alexander Brothers; Porter Milling Company.
Flour and Feed - L. F. Tondro.
Furniture - Peter Mauseth.
Groceries - W. W. Dennis, A. Weaver, P. C. Holmes.
Blacksmiths - G. E. Bartlett, S. Blackbarn & Co.
Plow Factory - H. E. Stewart.
Hotels - Central House, Ulrick & Beals; Merchant Hotel, J. C. Mulholand; Johnson House, Johnson & Cartford; East Watertown Hotel, Wm. McIntyre; Dakota House, D. McMath.
Hardware and Farm Machinery - Kemp Bros., O. Gesley, Monks & Wiser.
General Merchandise - Rice Bros., Cleveland and Greer, Owsley Bros. & Co., Archie Weaver, C. H. Bradford, P. C. Holmes, H. O. Hagen, Graham Bros.
Insurance - Warner & Budd, S. B. Sheldon, S. A. Briggs, S. J. Conklin, O. Gesley, Seward, Glass & Eddy.
Jewelers - O. I. Fleod, M. Greer, Jr.
Livery - W. H. Bloom, Higgins & Eaton, Castle & Son, Kinsey & Wiley.
Millinery - Mrs. Fox, Mrs. Cameron.
Newspapers - The Dakota News, Conklin & Frazer, Codington County Courier, Geo. A. Edes.
Meat Market - Stephens and Whistler, C. F. Fosdick.
Lumber - Yoaman Bros. & Hodgins, R. B. Spicer. Laird. Norton & Co., J. C. Miller. Empire Lumber Co., Wm. M. Reed.
Depot Agent - G. E. Starkweather.
Painters - G. Cox & Son, J. A. Baker.
Physicians - Bennett & Briggs, I. M. Westfall.
Shoemaker - J. D. Moulton
Saloons - L. M. Thomas, J. C. Mahlholland.
Postmaster - J. I. Monks.
Real Estate & Loans - Warner & Budd; Seward, Glass & Eddy; Banvard & Wood, S. D. Scudder, Poore & Church. S. J. Conklin. D. C. & W. R. Thomas. W. H. Donaldson.
Undertaker - Peter Mauseth.
Wagon Maker - D. F. Owsley.
Merchant Tailor - S. A. Briggs & Co.

[Source: History of Southeastern Dakota, Its Settlement and Growth, Geological and Physical Features - counties, Cities, Towns and Villages - incidents of Pioneer Life - biographical Sketches of the Pioneers and Business Men, with a Brief Outline History of the Territory in General." Western Publishing Company, Sioux City, Iowa, 1881 - tr. by G.T. Transcription Team, VB]


History of South Dakota, Volume 1
by Doane Robinson
1904 B. F. Bowen & Co., Publishers
transcribed by Vicki Hartman


Codington county, formerly Adair county, created by act of February 15, 1877. Explored first by Fremont and Nicollet, 1838. Visited by Dr. Riggs. 1840. First railway, in advance of settlement, 1872. In 1873 Joseph B. Montgomery and David D. Keeler settled upon Lake Karnpeska, but there was no settlement of consequence until the early spring of 1878, when it came in a flood. The county was organized by Governor Howard in 1878 by the appointment of William McIntyre, O. S. Jewel and George Stoddard as commissioners. They located the county seat at Lake Kampeska, but that fall the settlers voted it to Watertown, where it remains. The county was named for Rev. G. S. Codington, an early Dakota legislator. Rich agricultural county. Watertown, chief city, has United States land office and weather bureau. Large wholesale trade. Rock Island Railroad, built in 1884, also same year Minneapolis & St. Louis. Great Northern came in 1886. A. C. Mellette, governor, 1889-93: Frank Phillips, railway commissioner, 1892-4; Frank Crane, superintendent public instruction, 1895-99; M. Finnerud, regent education, 1893-6; Alex McIntyre, regent of education, 1903; John Mulholland, oil inspector, 1891; Lee Stover, lieutenant colonel First South Dakota in Philippine war; Company H, same regiment, recruited in Watertown; Mark W. Sheafe, brigadier general of volunteers. Spanish war, 1898; David C. Thomas, commissioner of charities and corrections, 1903. Area, 786 square miles. Population. 1900, 8,770.



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