South Dakota

Lake County South Dakota



1881 History

1904 History





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

Lake county was created in 1873 and organized by Governor Burbank on September 1st of that year. The lakes from which the county takes its name were a favorite Indian resort and it was here that Inkpadutah brought the Spirit Lake captives in the spring of 1857, and it was on the banks of Lake Herman that one of them, Mrs.Marble, was rescued. The settlement dates from 1870, when William Lee and others settled upon the lakes. Brisk immigration set in in 1878. The railway came in 1881. The principal towns are Madison, Ramona, Wentworth and Winnifred. The Madison Normal School was founded in 1883. Wilbur F. Smith, state treasurer, 1889-90, and I. D. Smith, commissioner of charities and corrections, 1900-1, have represented the county in state affairs. Splendid agricultural region. Area, 549 square miles. Population, 1900, 9,137.



The topography of Lake County is nothing if not picturesque. The county takes its name from the number of beautiful sheets of water within its borders. Its first occupancy by white settlers dates from 1871, its organization as a county from 1873. Its early colonization was attended with many difficulties and hardships, to the enhancement of which the facetious red man contributed not a little. The degenerate sons of the once warlike Sioux are sparsely scattered through the county, living by hunting and fishing, and now thoroughly subservient to the dominant race. Until within a few years their escapades were by no means infrequent, but the increasing tide of white immigration here as elsewhere has proved too much for them. One of the characteristic instances of the aboriginal lack of sand was when William Lee, an old settler of Lake County, was intercepted by an Indian riding a wild pony and with a rifle duly cocked for the occasion. Biding in front of Mr. Lee, Lo made significant motions with his weapon, accompanied by an unearthly "Ugh !" Lee promptly presented a Colt's revolver, large-size. "You no 'fraid Ingin?" queried the savage. "Not by a" __ Well not by what a professor of chemistry would call a "notable quantity,"" was the intent and meaning of Lee's emphatic reply. " H- l, Ingin just make fun ! " returned the noble red man, as he clapped heels to the flanks of his pony and rapidly disappeared from view.

The nutritive properties of the native grasses are said to be remarkable. Instances are related of early settlers who, arriving after the grass had been killed by the frost, cut it in its perfectly dead condition and brought their cattle safely through the winter on this. Isolated from markets and deprived of the means of disposing of their crops, the hardy pioneers for some years turned their attention to hunting and trapping, which furnished means of livelihood and profitable employment. In the winter the scanty population devoted themselves to fishing, tons of fish being taken from the lakes and hauled to the various towns on the Missouri, principally to Yankton and Sioux City, where they met with ready sale at good prices.

Sioux City was the principal trading point in those days, from which flour and other provisions were hauled. A neighborhood in those times included a circuit of fifty miles or more, and dances and merry-makings drew attendance from within the radius of a day's journey. The citizens of Lake County no longer patronize Sioux City, and the days of hunting, trapping and fishing as distinctive occupations are already well nigh forgotten. The surpassing beauty and fertility of the prairies surrounding the chain of lakes in the central part of the county, together with the rare loveliness of the lakes themselves, were chiefly instrumental in drawing the nucleus of the present population around their shores, and thus the work of colonization and development began to progress with astonishing vigor and enterprise. The population of Lake county quadrupled in 1878; its present population is about 4,500. The inhabitants are chiefly Americans from adjoining Western States, with a scattering number of Scandinavians and Germans, the latter largely from the vicinity of Milwaukee, and from an enterprising and thrifty class

of citizens who have made extensive investments.

The chain of lakes is a notable feature which should not be passed by without more than mere mention. They intersect the county from the western boundary nearly to the line of McCook County on the southeast, finding an outlet through a stream which bears the euphonious name of Skunk Creek, and finally blend with the waters of the Big Sioux a short distance above Sioux Falls. These lakes vary in dimensions from one mile in width and six miles in length to small bodies covering but a few acres. All are fed by springs, the banks of some showing within a few paces an equal number of trickling streams flowing in equal volumes throughout summer and winter, thus giving to the water unequaled purity. The depth of the lakes varies from eight to thirty feet, from eight to ten feet being the average. There are great variety and unlimited abundance of fish peculiar to fresh water. These attain a size and weight positively astonishing to one unacquainted with the waters of Dakota. Pickerel weighing from fifteen to twenty pounds and buffalo fish weighing from fifty to seventy pounds have been caught, and in certain seasons a wagon load of fish is not considered an unusual day's catch.

Aside from the beauty of the lakes, the abundance of fish and wild fowl in spring and autumn, in addition to the sport which they afford and the ornamentation which they give to a locality otherwise picturesque, they are vastly more beneficial to the country than would be an equal extent of arable lands; for as every ravine and creek within a large tract surrounding them slope towards their

beds, the drainage of the county through their agency is made perfect, while to the herds of live stock which graze upon the prairies in their vicinity, the advantage of pure water and plentiful shade along the banks of the lakes can not be overestimated. Scattered through the county are tracts of land, apparently dry beds of former lakes and ponds, which, although unfitted for agriculture, by reason of periodical overflows, form a series of natural meadows producing an excellent quality of nutritive wild grass. It will be observed from the above that the facilities for profitable stock raising, as well as remunerative agriculture are exceptionally good.

The present county officers of Lake County are: L. M. Coon, E. B. Stacy, P. Zimmerman, Commissioners; J. A. Trow, Register of deeds; A. McKay, Treasurer; A. Fish, Judge of Probate; J. G. Wadsworth, Sheriff; W. F. Smith, Clerk of Court; J. B. Walters, Coroner


No more fitting instance of the wonderful energy and indomitable enterprise which has characterized the settlement and growth of the great Sioux Valley, can be pointed out than the almost incredible rapidity with which this town has sprung into being and taken position as one of the best known, most substantially prosperous and properly influential communities of Dakota. This gratifying condition of things demonstrates in the best way what well directed and united effort is capable of accomplishing when unhampered by individual selfishness or local jealousies. It must be borne in mind that there were two Madisons: the old Madison and the new Madison.

To correctly understand this situation, it will first be necessary to give a brief history of old Madison, now abandoned for its young and thrifty successor.

Old Madison, then, dates an existence from 1875, on the 13th of July in which year, the town was platted, the village and lake being named by William Van Eps, of Sioux Falls, from the similarity of the townsite and adjoining lake to the townsite of the Capital of Wisconsin and the lake on which it is situated. Old Madison was located on the shore of Lake Madison, about four and one-half miles southeast of the present town. Not long after the plat was surveyed, Madison was made a trading post by the erection of a building used as a general merchandising store by Brooks & Styles, of Sibley, Iowa. In the autumn of 1875, the County Seat of Lake County was located at Madison, and a large business growth resulted; but the coming of the iron horse was a death-blow to the old town, and the location of the station at the site of the present town was the signal for general preparations to move.

The new Madison is the present terminus of the Southern Minnesota Division of the C. M. & St. P. R. R., and is beautifully located between Lakes Madison and Herman, being only, one and one-quarter miles from the geographical center of Lake County. It would be difficult to imagine a more desirable location, or one more favorable in every way for the advancement of a community's interests. Surrounded by a fine agricultural section, well settled and developed, it is the focus from out of which radiates activity and prosperity on every side. There is an abundance of good water, clear, bracing atmosphere; and exceptionally healthful conditions. The present town was platted July 6th, 1880, by William Van Eps, P. H. Harth, O. E. Batchelder and William Lee, and a general migration from the old town to the new began to take place immediately afterward. J. W. Davison was the first to open a stock of merchandise in the new town.

The first railroad train reached Madison January 12th , 1881, and the town was incorporated under the provisions of the Territorial Code on the first of May following. Its present population is fully 600, and is rapidly receiving valuable accessions. The streets are one hundred feet in width, with sidewalks ten feet wide, and already much money has been expended in improvements in this direction. All branches of business are well represented, the buildings being of a superior class and everything wearing an appearance of thrift and permanency.

A recent valuable addition to the enterprises of the town is the Lake County Flouring Mill. Owned by Mr. B. D. Sprague, the construction of which was begun in May of the present year, and completed in October, at a total cost of about $20,000. They are roller mills and contain all the latest improvements, no trouble or expense having been spared to that end. They will grind about 500 bushels of wheat per day, and their work will not suffer by comparison with any other mills in Dakota. Mr. H. A. Snyder is

the head miller.

Madison has two excellent newspapers, the Madison Sentinel and the Lake County Leader. The Sentinel was first started at old Madison in April, 1879, by Joe H. Zane and F. L. Fifield. W. F. Smith succeeded Fifield in March, 1880. In May of the same year Smith disposed of his interest to Zane, and in June W. H. & A. M. Jones became interested in its publication. W. H. Jones became sole editor and proprietor in December, 1880. The Leader was established in June, 1879, at Herman, six miles west of old Madison, by F. C. Stowe, who brought it to new Madison in November, 1880. Its final sale to E. A. Fuller and J. M. Preston was consummated September 3rd, of the present year. It is published by Fuller & Co., with J. M. Preston as the editor. Both the Sentinel and the Leader have contributed in no small degree to bring about the present prosperous condition of affairs at Madison.

The hotel and other accommodations are excellent, and the business men wide awake to appreciate and avail themselves of everything conducive to the advancement of the community.


There are five church organizations at Madison, all with encouraging prospects. The Presbyterian Society was organized at Old Madison, in 1877, and has a handsome edifice. Rev. G. F. Leclere is the pastor. The Baptist Society is of recent organization, and has also an appropriate edifice. The Congregational Society was organized in August of the present year, and holds services in Davison's

Hall. The Society will erect a suitable structure as soon as practicable. A Methodist Episcopal organization existed at Old Madison, the members of which expect shortly to organize their Society in the new town. There is also a large Catholic membership in Madison, an edifice for the accommodation of which will shortly be erected.

The educational facilities, present and prospective, are unusually excellent. The contract for the new school building, which is to cost $4,000, calls for its completion November 20th, 1881. Meantime a temporary building has been occupied. A matter for considerable self-gratulation is the success attending the efforts of the citizens for the establishment of a Territorial Normal School at Madison. The Legislative Assembly having at its last session passed an act establishing five Normal Schools in the Territory, conditioned upon the deeding by each locality, where such an institution was desired, of one hundred and sixty acres of land to the Territory for such purpose; within the period of six months, the citizens of Madison promptly bought and paid for by private subscription the requisite one hundred and sixty acres, at a cost of $1,750, and deeded it to the Territory as required by the act. The deed has been accepted by Secretary Hand as Acting Governor during the absence of Governor Ordway, and the appropriations will no doubt come as a matter of course, thus securing to Madison an institution of great benefit to the entire community, as well of the highest credit to the people of the Territory. It will especially be borne in mind in this connection that Madison is the only town in the Territory which complied with the conditions of the above act.

The Lake County Agricultural Association, whose objects are all that the name implies, was organized in the fall of 1879, and held its third annual fair on the 29th and 30th of September, of the present year. Its grounds are about one-half mile east of town, contain sixty acres, and are unsurpassed in adaptability for the purpose for which they are used. There is an excellent half-mile circular track, good buildings and conveniences, a large floral hall being among the erections of the present year. Competition in all departments is unlimited, premiums liberal, and the annual meetings will bear favorable comparison with any of the Middle and Western States. The present officers of the Association are: President, G. P. Borland; Vice-President, P. H. Harth; Secretary, F. C. Stowe; Treasurer, David Mullen; Board of Directors, Jacob Bergstresser, John Fitzgerald, R. B. Mullen, J. M. Preston, Philip Zimmerman. Lake County claims the honor of being the first county to organize an Agricultural Association in Dakota.

The organization of the Luke County Cemetery Association was perfected April 23, 1881. Its officers are: President, P. H. Harth; Vice-President, J. G. Wadsworth; Secretary, J. M. Preston; Treasurer, A. E. Clough; Directors, A. M. McCallister, G. P. Borland, Wm. Lee; Superintendent of Grounds, J. H. Law.

Madison Lodge No. 20, I. O. O. F.- Was instituted April 10, 1880, by D. D. G. M. Woodruff, of Dell Rapids, with the following charter members: William Lee, Charles Miller, P. Marquart, John Jacobs, William Luce, C. W. Howard, C. C. Rosnow, J. G. Wadsworth, J. R. Taylor, A. E. Clough. Its first officers were: P. Marquart, N. G.; C. Miller, V.G.; A. E. Clough, Secretary; W. H. Luce, Treasurer. The following are its present officers: A. E. Clough, N. G.; J. I. Taylor, V. G.; H. Gulstein, Secretary; P. Hansen, Treasurer; Representative to the Grand Lodge, Charles Miller. The membership is about fifty, and comprises one of the finest young lodges in the Territory, its number embracing a majority of

the substantial business men of the town. The Lodge is financially, prosperous, has money in its treasury, and the membership is rapidly increasing.


President Board of Trustees - A. E. Clough.
Trustees - A. E. Clough, Wm. Lee, E. W. Dyer.
Clerk - J. M. Preston.
Treasurer - E. W. Hart.
Justice of the Peace - E. Sheridan.
Marshal - D. T. Scott.
Board of .Education - Alexander McKay, A. E. Fuller, J. W. Davison; J.M. Preston, Clerk.


Attorneys - F. L. Soper, G. K. Tiffany, S. M. Smollon, J. M. Preston, W. F. Smith, C. B. Kennedy
Agricultural implements - Wadsworth & Harth, A. E. Howland & Son, J. F. Richardson.
Blacksmiths- -John Huntimer, B. D. Holt, W. S. Revee, Peter Hansen.
Boarding House - Mrs. Mary Golden.
Banks - Citizens' Bank, J. A. Trow, Cashier: Lake County Bank, F. W. Thaxter, Cashier.
Boots and Shoes - John McCormack.
Barbers - E. Rice. F. M. Cooksin
Contractors and Builders - Fuller Bros., John Buckley
Depot Agent - W. J. Mallon
Druggists - Clough & Howe, A. A. Broodie
Fuel - R. R. Company, H. J. Patterson
Flour and Feed - H. J. Patterson
General Merchandize - P. H. Harth, Daly and Fitzgerald. A. McKay. J. W. Davison, C. S. Raymond, Clark & Cameron.
Hardware - E. W. Dyer, McCallister Bros.
Hotels - Madison House, J. D, Andrews; Commercial House, J. J. Cranney
Insurance. - C. B. Kennedy, F. W. Thaxter.
Jeweler. - O. G. Auley.
Livery - Scott & Sheridan. J. Vandervort, A. W. Clark
Lake County Flouring Mills. - B. D. Sprague
Lumber. - John Paul, Henry Gulstein; Agent, C. L. Coleman, Wesley Hill; Agent; Drew Bros., by Frank Drew.
Merchant Tailor - N. Grosch
Meat Markets. - Renner & Schultz, Frank Snyder
Millinery. - Mrs. A. E. Clough, Miss Jennie Jones.
Newspapers. - Lake County Leader, Fuller & Co. Proprietors, J. M. Preston; Editor; Madisen Sentinel, W. H. Jones, Editor and Proprietor
Notions. - A. Fritz.
Physicians. - A. E. Clough, S. M. Jenks
Postmaster. - P. H. Harth, J. M. Preston, Assistant
Painter. - W. A. Cole
Restaurant. - L. Ricker
Real Estate and Loan. - Citizen's Bank, Lake County Bank, C. B. Kennedy, W. F. Smith, F. L. Soper, Scott & Sheridan.
Stone Masons - S. Q. Brown, James Barrett
Saloons - Batchelder & Smith, A. B. Houts, T. Lannon, A. Froeliger.

[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, S.M.]



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