Genealogy Trails


Day County, South Dakota

Description, 1885

(from "Dakota", Compiled by O. H. Holt, 1885; transcribed by Karen Seeman)


Day, one of the northern counties of South Dakota, lies between the 45th and 46th degrees of latitude. Its south line is a little north of the latitude of Minneapolis. The county is about forty-five miles west of the Minnesota line. It contains forty-eight congressional townships, or 1,728 square miles.

The Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul Railway traverses the county from east to west, and the Dakota & Great Southern from north to south, while other roads are being projected. These roads brine this section into direct communication with the Milwaukee, St. Paul, Minneapolis. Chicago and St. Louis markets.

The surface is about equally divided between hill and valley lands, and in both the soil is exceedingly rich and productive. This fact has been so evident that nearly all the government lands, even those most distant from the railroads, have been taken by actual settlers. Still there are some vacant lands unoccupied, particularly such as are suitable for stock ranges. Bargains may also be obtained in deeded lands and claims. At present land is worth from two to ten dollars per acre, according to quality and location.

The soil is a rich, black loam, with clay subsoil, the very best for agricultural purposes. Both the Flint and Dent varieties of corn have been successfully cultivated every year since the settlement of the county. Timothy and clover flourish, while small grain and root crops yield abundantly.

This region is especially noted for the variety, luxuriance and nutritious qualities of its native grasses, and this renders the hill sections particularly adapted to stock raising. Large numbers of horses, cattle and sheep have already been brought in by settlers, who are quick to observe that not wheat alone, but a diversified agriculture is the best reliance or a country. Yet no other county can show a better record for wheat and other small grains. The average wheat production in 1884 was fully eighteen bushels per acre, of the best quality, while in many instances twenty-five to thirty bushels were reported.

The county is well watered. Numerous ponds and beautiful lakes abound in fish and water fowl, to the delight of the sportsmen.

There are several thousand acres of timber bordering upon the lakes, and wood sells from four to six dollars per cord.

Churches are erected in the several towns, and schools are multiplying, thirty school houses having been erected in 1884.

All small fruits are successfully cultivated. Plums, gooseberries, grapes, currants and raspberries grow wild in the wooded districts. It is yet too early to speak of the possibilities of growing apples, though experienced horticulturists are confident that the hardier varieties will be a success.

The growing towns of the county are Webster, the county seat, Wahbay, Bristol and Andover, on the Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul Railway, Newark and Britton (with other towns located, but not yet built up), are on the line of the Dakota & Great Southern Railway. In any of these there are good openings for various lines of business.

The towns of Day county have not been "boomed," and are behind the developments of the country, hence they have a safe future.

Flouring mills especially are needed here, and would flourish.

The population of the county is now more than 5,000. The assessed valuation of property in 1884 was $634,601, which is about one-third of its actual value.

The chief settlement or the county having been made within the past three years, there is comparatively little land improved, yet in 1884 there were 49,713 acres of small grain and 634 acres of corn. The county is provided with a court house, has no bonded, and but a small floating debt; the roads are generally good, the deep mud of many Western States being unknown here; the prospective expenditure for roads and bridges is not large. These conditions indicate a low rate of taxation in the future.

The many advantages of Day county insure for it a prominent place in the sisterhood of counties of South Dakota.


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