Codington County South Dakota
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
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
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.
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 - _____
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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 &
General Merchandise - Rice Bros., Cleveland and Greer, Owsley Bros.
& Co., Archie Weaver, C. H. Bradford, P. C. Holmes, H. O. Hagen,
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
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, SD
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.
Copyright © Genealogy Trails