Potter County Miscellaneous Historical Items
Book Review: Breaking Sod on the Prairie (1933)
Letter to the Editor, Frances Gilchrist Wood
Pictures from the Past: Taber Letters, #1, #2, #3, #4, #5, #6
The Fight for the County Seat - An article by Clarence W. Taber
From the Old Timers:
Ziebach Letter from the Potter County News
A. G. Williams Letter from the Potter County News
I. J. Eales Letter from the Potter County News
County Seat Fight
First Permanent Home of County Officials
Frank G. King, Faith, S.D., “THE FAMOUS BRYSON-HILL FIGHT : A Strenuous Encounter Between Two Early Day Politicians as Told by Witness,” Potter County News, Gettysburg, South Dakota, 50th Jubilee Edition, June 8, 1933.
Transcribed by Peg Williams
We took our politics seriously in those early days and there not being Democrats enough to give us much opposition the Republicans divided up into factions and fought among themselves.
The main factions in Gettysburg were what were known as the Bryson faction and the Todd and Pruitt faction. These originated from a fight between townsite owners and grew so warm that the leaders would not speak to each other when they met on the street. When Captain Bryson met a member of the Todd and Pruitt “gang,’ as he called them, the hair on the back of his neck stood up straight the same as you have seen in the case of a dog when he meets up with another dog with whom he has a fight. The Captain couldn’t say anything mean or bad enough about the Todd and Pruitt “gang.”
One morning the Captain came into my office to look for the Appomattox paper (are you surprised to learn that there was a newspaper there at that time?) and was pawing over the exchanges when Henry Hill, a prominent member of the other political faction walked into the office with a copy of that identical paper in his pocket. Captain Bryson’s eye rested on the paper and he shouted, “You stole my paper.” Henry replied, “You’re a liar.” We didn’t mince words in those days. The Captain retorted, “You’re another and I can lick you, step out into the street.”
Now Captain Bryson was an old man, gray haired and naturally not supposed to be very vigorous physically. Henry Hill was a young vigorous fellow but that made no difference to the Captain, he wanted to fight regardless. They strode out into the middle of the street and I stood in the door of my office calmly smoking my pipe and looking on. The Captain grabbed hold of Henry. Now Henry didn’t want to hurt the old man and the old man couldn’t seriously hurt Henry. Henry yells, “Look out, you’ll tear my vest.”
Bryson replies, “I don’t care if I do.” Then, still standing up, they started to mill around so that first one’s face would come before me and then the other’s. The Captain could not throw Henry and Henry did not want to throw the Captain. When Captain Bryson came around he looked up at me with an appealing look which said as plainly as words could say, “Come and separate us.”
Next Hill’s face came around and he gave me a wink and a nod which I was supposed to interpret as a desire to be separated. Twice they milled around and twice I got the look so I took my pipe out of my mouth, walked leisurely into the middle of the street and said, “Now you darn fools quit that!” Instantly, as though struck by lightning, their hands both fell down to their sides.
The Captain had received a slight scratch on his face which drew a little blood and Henry had some dirt on his hands and face so I said to them, “Now come in the office and wash yourselves up.”
They both followed me meekly into the print shop and I poured out some water into the basin and they proceeded to wash and wipe together, one on each end of the office towel.
Just at this point I discovered the corner of the paper, which had caused all the trouble, sticking out from the pile of exchanges on the table. I pulled it out and gave it to the Captain and he put it into his pocket. Henry went off down the street chuckling and so ended the celebrated Bryson-Hill fight.
Clarence W. Taber, Pictures from the Past, Potter County News, Gettysburg, South Dakota, ?, ? 1933.
Transcribed by Peg Williams
(Editor’s Note: This is the final chapter in the county seat fight as related by Mr. Taber, and is a continuation of his exceptional article that appeared in the Golden Jubilee edition of the News.)
The Gettysburg faction had planned to move upon Forest City and take the county records by storm, but there had been so much talk to this effect, that the residents of Forest City were supposed to be on their guard, especially since the Sheriff’s proclamation that he would defend the county property at any hazard. In fact, it was claimed that Forest City had enlisted the aid of the Indians across the river, and that they already had several hundred Indians guarding the records. This, however, was hardly the case, although it had been discussed.
It seems to have been the impression among the Gettysburg people, that the striking out of the thirteen precincts was done for the express purpose of causing litigation and thus throwing the case into the Supreme Court. If this succeeded, the case might be delayed for a year or more, thus in the meantime leaving the county seat at Forest City. This, the Gettysburg faction was afraid might be attempted, and for that reason was anxious to secure possession of the records as soon as possible.
Word went out throughout the county to the friends of Gettysburg, that an attempt would be made to take the records January seventh, and all through the night of the sixth, men began gathering at the National Hotel in Gettysburg. They at once began to organize. Guards were appointed over the teams and to see that the harnesses were not cut; others were to attempt to preserve peace and prevent physical violence, while others were assigned to assist in removing the records. Dan O’Connor’s sleigh was selected to carry the safe which was to be drawn by his team, assisted by the teams of Messrs. Sayre and Doty. In all, there were probably sixty men who left for Forest City on this important mission; indeed, the ladies of the town said there were hardly any men left in town. All were well prepared, and armed for any emergency. It was arranged that County Commissioner Kail was to begin reading a resolution passed by the county commissioners, as soon as the first team was seen coming down the gulch on the way to Forest City.
About three o’clock in the morning of January seventh, 1885, the cavalcade trooped out of Gettysburg. The night was dark but the sleighing was excellent, so that just before day-break the little army of determined men rapidly descended the gulch leading to Forest City. They were here met by Frank Byrne, who announced that the county commissioners were in session and that a resolution would be read declaring Gettysburg to be the rightful location of the county seat, as soon as the Gettysburg contingent came in sight.
By this time the force had been greatly augmented by recruits who had driven across country and had intercepted the procession on its way. Day was about to dawn as Commissioner Kail caught sight of the procession. Immediately he arose and addressing the Commissioners, presented his now famous resolution. The commissioners had remained in session all through the night and were prepared for what was coming with the possible exception of Commissioner Carpenter. There was some doubt as to what position he would take, but he supported the resolution.
The residents of Forest City were all apparently asleep, but as some of them began to appear on the streets and beheld the mob surround the courthouse, the alarm was given, and very soon the entire town was up and on the scene. Threats were made that they would call the Indians to the defense of the records. Remonstrances were made to the county commissioners, and little groups were formed here and there to see what was best to be done. Others kept the telegraph wires busy, endeavoring to secure a restraining order from the Court to prevent the removal of the records, but without success. It being impossible to get the safe out of the building through the door, one of the windows was enlarged for the purpose; the building was afterward repaired by the same parties. An account of the removal of the safe and records was published in the Gettysburg Herald of Jan. 8, 1885, which is here given verbatim:
On last Monday morning, it being the first Monday in January, the new Board of Commissioners met as provided by law, and proceeded to organize the board. Messrs. Kail and Carpenter having their certificates of election, proceeded to organize by electing L. J. Carpenter, chairman, and seating J. W. Hatch as County Clerk. Mr. Bishop J. Gleason presented himself as a duly elected Commissioner from District No. 2 and demanded his seat. The question then arising as to whether he should be recognized or not as a member of the board, or the office be declared vacant and the vacancy filled by appointment, was argued at some length before the board, and resulted in the board, on motion of Mr. Kail, recognizing Mr. Gleason as the regularly elected Commissioner from District No. 2 and admitting him to a seat on the board.
Tuesday’s proceedings were unimportant, but yesterday morning upon the assembling of the board, Mr. Kail presented a resolution, the full text of which we have not been able to procure for this morning’s paper, but the substance of which was to declare that Gettysburg received a majority of all the votes cast at the recent election, and was therefore the legal county seat of Potter county and ordered the various county officers to move their offices to Gettysburg, and deputized Gen. Gilchrist to remove all the property, consisting of safe, records, books, etc., to the county seat. Some fifty or sixty citizens of the county had gone over to attend the meeting of the commissioners and readily lent a helping hand to load the records and safe into sleighs, and in three hours time all the property belonging to the county was on the road to the county seat. By 4 o’clock everything was safely deposited in the building on the south side of Commercial avenue belonging to A.C. Brink. The register’s office will be held in this building until more commodious quarters can be erected. Messrs. Doty, Sayre, O’Connor and Wadsworth each furnished a team to haul the safe and they made eight as fine-pulling teams as we have seen in a long time. The work was all done orderly and quietly with the least possible damage to the building from which the safe was taken, and provision was made for the complete repair of all necessary damages. The delegation from Artichoke consisting of a four-mule load of determined men, arrived just in time to see the safe going up the hill. The boys showed their goodwill, however and deserve just as much credit. It is impossible in this brief and hurried sketch to do entire justice to the subject, but we hope to give a more extended account, with the official proceeding, in our next. – Herald, Jan. 8, 1885.
The only attempt to resist the removal, was the reading of a telegram supposed to have been received from Judge Smith, to the Commissioners, while the property was being removed, to the effect that a writ of error and supersedeas to the Supreme Court had been procured, but the telegrams were afterwards said to be unofficial. Later, the Sheriff was said to have been responsible for the telegram and he was blamed by some for not having interfered with the proceedings, and issued the following card, which was published in the papers of the county:
Jan. 22, 1885.
“Those blood and thunder dispatches that were sent from Forest City to Judge Smith, and represented by the Pierre Journal as being sent by me, the Sheriff of Potter County, were sent by parties more interested in Forest City and I never consented to have my name used in any way.”
“As to my refusal to take the responsibility by force of arms and without the least shadow of legal authority to resist the order of the County Commissioners, I have but to say, that I would have exercised by authority criminally if I had done so. If the people of Forest City will put the proper papers in my hands, I will see that the records are returned; otherwise I don’t propose to lay myself and my bondsmen liable for a few in and around Forest City.”
L.J. Ferris, Sheriff.
An effort was made by the people of Forest City through their attorneys Watson & Ballard to have the Court investigate the removal, but the Court refused on the ground that it was done by action of the Commissioners.
When the safe and records reached Gettysburg the whole town turned out to witness the procession. A guard was appointed to care for and stand watch all that night, for fear of any attempt to regain possession by the people of Forest City, but no further trouble occurred. The possession of the property, the writ of mandamus and the new official county which gave Gettysburg a majority of the votes cast for county seat the bill passed by the Territorial Council during that session of the legislature, numbered Council Bill No. 162 by Section Five which is given herewith, legalized Gettysburg as the county seat and made her title to that honor absolute.
Council Bill No. 162, Section No. 5:
“The act of the commissioners of the said county in locating the county seat at Gettysburg, in said city is hereby declared the county is hereby declared the county seat of said Potter county, and all the county officers of said county shall keep and hold their offices thereat.” (Transcriptionist’s note: Council Bill No. 162, Section No. 5 is transcribed exactly as printed in the newspaper)
Thus ended the long and bitter county seat contest of Potter County.
A. G. Williams, FROM THE OLD TIMERS, Potter County News, Gettysburg, SD, ? ? 1933.
Transcribed by Peg Williams
“Old Timer” was right in his corrections of the Lattin letter. I knew John Lattin. He lived up on the river just north of the Bunker place and south of Steamboat creek. Must have been just about the southwest corner of Tp. 120, R. 78.
The stagecoach was 4-horse instead of 6. My younger brother, “Dade” Williams, was one of the drivers in 1883 and 1884 and Old, Old Timer George Gear of Forest City was another.
The day we went to Forest City and took the county records was the day of the first January meeting of the county commissioners in 1885. Frank Byrne, afterwards governor; John Hatch, newly elected register of deeds, and I went to Forest City the night before to make final arrangements. We had a majority of the new board of county commissioners and as soon as they met they passed a resolution moving the records to Gettysburg.
We gave the signal to our people, who were waiting up in Beaver Gulch and they came pouring out and down to Forest City several hundred strong. It was a complete surprise to Forest City and we just simply loaded the county safe and records on William Kail’s sleigh and took them to Gettysburg. William Kail was newly-elected county commissioner. I rode back to Gettysburg with Mr. Kail, keeping watch behind.
Tom Meacham was county treasurer and he used my office as county treasurer’s office that winter. (My old office is now Ben Savages garage.)
I didn’t intend to write all this stuff, but now that I have maybe it would be interesting enough to publish.
A.G. Williams(Andrew Guppy Williams)
I. J. Eales, FROM THE OLD TIMERS, Potter County News, Gettysburg, SD, March 23, 1933
Transcribed by Peg Williams
Editor, The News.
I received a copy of the “News” of February 9 containing notice of the death of my wife, Benedicta T. Eales, who died Sunday, January 29, 1933, at 2:30 a.m. instead of January 31 as stated in said notice. She was buried January 31 and the dates were evidently transposed.
Also in speaking of me as one of Potter county’s old settlers the notice stated that I left Gettysburg about 28 years ago. My records show that I left there in 1898, 35 years ago. I arrived in Potter County in May, 1883, and settled in Hoven, where the first child in Potter County was born March 6, 1884, my daughter, Pearl Eales.
I also have the record of being the father of the first child born in Gettysburg, Frank Irving Eales, born August 31, 1885, and the records in the Register of Deeds office show a deed of a city lot in Gettysburg was given to my first wife, Nettie A. V. Eales, by the Commissioners of Potter County. “in consideration of the first child born in Gettysburg.” Hence, you see I had something to do with the increase of population of the county.
Was Clerk of Court of the county a number of years, and wrote the first set of Abstracts of the county, and with my partner, Andrew G. Williams, organized the Potter County Land and Abstract Company, which I believe is still inexistence. It is also true as you stated, that I was one of the early Masters of Ionic Lodge NO. 83. A. F. & A.M.
The Lodge was constituted July 6, 1886, and in November 1886, at the first election of officers Daniel L. Carey was elected Mater, and I became Senior Warden. J.R. Hughes was the second mater and I was third master. I have been active in Masonry up to date, as the enclosed card will show.
I made many friends while I lived there, a great many of whom are deceased and are still dropping from the roll of the living. I would like very much to visit Gettysburg and renew the acquaintance of the old friends who are still living and meet the younger generation.
I might mention that I was postmaster there under Postmaster General “Bissell” and helped to establish a post office in the N.W. part of the county, which was named “Eales,” but which I understand has been discontinued. Some of the above may be interesting to some of the younger generation.
I enclose an article “The Printing Press” which you may have room to print. I neglected to state that myself and A. G. Williams founded and were the first publishers and owners of the “Potter County News.”
Note by Peg Williams, Aug. 20, 2010.
A.G. Williams is Andrew Guppy Williams
I. J. Eales is Irving James Eales
Clarence Wilbur Taber, Pictures from the Past, Potter County News, Gettysburg, SD, ? ?, 1933.
Transcribed by Peg Williams
(Editor’s Note: Mr. Taber is now associated with the F. A. Davis Publishing Co. of Chicago, after an eventful lifetime begun in the east and enriched by many years in Dakota when this territory was young. One of his works, “Breaking Sod on the Prairie” is said by Old Timers to be an authentic picture of the early life in this country. A review of this book will be published in The News in the near future.)
The editor has asked me to contribute something regarding early days in Potter county. There probably are not many in the county who are even familiar with the writer’s name, therefore little need be written of a personal nature. As a boy in Dakota Territory I began to keep a scrap-book of interesting materials pertaining to the county and to Gettysburg. Excerpts from this scrap-book will be given to the editor from time to time. Much of this material is not now available and it should be of interest and value to the citizens of the county.
By way of introduction, may I state that my stepfather, the Rev. James A. Somerville came to Potter county in the summer of 1882. He at first had decided to settle in the Jim River Valley, and I well remember the pictures of steamboats plying that river which he sent east for our enjoyment. Of course, no steamboat could have traversed the small stream at that time. He returned to our home in Newark, N. J., with wonderful tales of the Territory, and in the fall of 1882 he again started for Potter county with my brother, his son, and daughter. Here he built a two-story frame house in Arena township, on Sec. 4, Twp. 120, R. 75. The first of July, 1883, my mother, my sister Ida, and myself arrived at Blunt, from which place we drove some fifty-four miles to our new home. An account of that drive, our first night in the Buffalo House in Gettysburg, and of our subsequent life in Arena township is told in my book, “Breaking Sod on the Prairie.” Of course, part of that story is fiction, but for the most part it is true.
We occupied a full section made up of a Homestead, a Preemption, a Tree-claim, and a Soldier’s Declaratory claim. Our immediate neighbors, as I remember them, were the Austins, Rings, Manfulls, and Porters to the east and southeast. To the west, our nearest neighbors were Ed Zuber, the two Bacon families, the Flights, Sloats, Cartwrights and Sam Cole.
The intervening years after the family broke up and before I entered the Potter County Bank, tragic as they were for the boy I was, may be passed without comment. Those years represent an exciting story which some day I hope to write. Suffice it to say, that I was in the Potter County Bank for some thirteen years, being the cashier when we moved from Gettysburg the latter part of December, 1899. In Gettysburg, I was married to Jessie W. Kennedy, and my three children were born there.
Having reintroduced myself to the older settlers, and having made my bow to those who have settled in the county since I left, I hope to send the News some excerpts from my Dakota scrap-book from time to time.
Clarence Wilbur Taber
Transcribed by Peg Williams
The actual settlement of Potter county did not take place until the spring of 1883. There were a few ranchers along the Missouri as early as 1866 when Frank Aldrich was engaged in driving cattle thru what is now Potter county. In 1868 he had a herd of cattle at the mouth of the Cheyenne, but it was not until 1882 that he moved his family to the ranch on which the site of Forest City was subsequently located.
Settlement began in earnest in the spring of 1883 and before the following winter, towns had been located at Forest City, Appomattox, Gettysburg, and Hoven, and within that year seven newspapers had been established in the county. The first postoffice was Wanetah, the second, Appomattox, and the third Gettysburg.
Township lines were surveyed in the fall of 1881 and in 1882 by M. C. Cassius and E. J. Snover, and John Mellen, with the exception of Township 117, R. 73 which was surveyed by George W. Phillips, Jr., in August, 1883.
The first person to make an entry of government land in the county was Stephen B. Williams, who made timber-culture entry No. 915 on Jan. 16, 1883, covering the E 1-2 NW 1-4 and W 1-2 NE 1-4 sec. 21-118-78.
The first homestead entry filed was that of George W. Thomas who located on Jan. 22, 1883, on the N 1-2 NW 1-4 and NE 1-4 NW 1-4 sec. 17, and the SE 1-4 SW 1-4 sec. 8-118-78.
The first preemption filed was that of Frank P. Harris, Jan. 23, 1883, No. 1173 on the S 1-2 NE 1-4 NW 1-4 NE 1-4 and NE 1-4 NW 1-4 sec. 8-118-78.
The first patent issued in Potter county was on Nov. 1, 1884 to Edward G. Kennedy for lots 4 and 5 of sec. 5, and lots 1 and 2, NE 1-4 NW 1-4 of sec. 8-118-78.
The first settlement was at Forest City, the second at Appomattox, and the third at Gettysburg. Most of the townships maintained a local postoffice. The season of 1883 did not witness a very large acreage, but by the following year the influx of settlers added many acres under cultivation. Flax was usually the first crop on “breaking.” The early settlers were largely American from the Atlantic and Middle Atlantic States, and quite a few from Iowa and Missouri. In these early years, those from other countries were largely Scandinavian with quite a few from Canada. In time most of the eastern and Mississippi Valley states were well represented. Many trades and professions were represented among the “claim holders.” School teachers, ministers, clerks, engineers, and other vocations were well in evidence during 1883 but most of these remained only long enough to prove up their claims.
Almost the first work among the settlers, after building a sod-house, was to dig for water. In many instances water was hauled from two to ten miles in tanks. The distance from railroads was a hardship. Supplies were brought by team or oxen from Blunt on the south, and Ipswich on the northeast. The regulation house was a shack of sod with a board roof covered with hay or sod. Sometimes the inside was treated with a coat of mud or whitewash, and some boasted of a board floor. Strange to say, the State of Kansas last year advertised for some one to tell how the sod-house was made, and the writer was called upon to make such a description. As fuel had to be teamed many miles across the country, the early fuel consisted of “buffalo-chips” or straw or hay packed into a wash-boiler and set over a kitchen stove.
The hardships suffered by the early pioneers far exceeded those of our New England forefathers, as they had plenty of wood to burn and with which to build, an abundance of fowl and fish, and wild animals whose fur could be utilized for clothing. Water also was everywhere. The last wild buffalo was killed near Gettysburg. Antelope were still in evidence in the northern part of the county, and foxes were not uncommon in the Swan lake-bed. Here beaver could be trapped.
Some timber wolves ranged along the Missouri and they sometimes traveled up the water-courses into Swan Lake. Coyotes, badgers, prairie chickens, ducks, wild geese, and gophers were plentiful. Cranes were to be found along the Missouri and some wild-cats. Rattlesnakes were in evidence along the hills, and there were a number of prairie dog communities in the western part of the county. Rain was abundant during 1883 and 1884 and 20 bushels of wheat to the acre, and 60 of oats were common. The sod-potatoes raised in those years were the equal of the much vaunted Idaho potatoes of the present day. Land was then valued at ten dollars per acre. Farm-hands were paid from $15.00 to $20.00 per month and board. School teachers felt well paid at $20.00 per month. In these days of virgin soil the prairies were beautiful with many wild-flowers and fields of blooming flax and other grains. The sloughs and lake-beds had an abundance of water in the spring, and farmers found plenty of hay in these lake-beds. A swath cut about a piece of lake-bed was sufficient warning that it had been preempted for hay by some farmer. There was sufficient hay-land for all, although some had to cut their prairie hay three to five miles from their homestead. The year 1883 and 1884 seemed like boom years so far as products of the soil were concerned.
Boom-towns sprang up all over the Territory. Ft. Sully to the southwest was still in existence, and Gettysburg sometimes was visited by more than one deserter from this Fort. “The railroad is coming” was a frequent phrase upon the lips of settlers in all parts of the Territory, and to some of the most prominent of these towns, the railroad never did come. Fairbanks in Sully county was one of these boom-towns to appear and disappear, and some of the buildings in Gettysburg were hauled overland from Fairbanks.
Those interested in this series of articles on early life in Potter county might find it worth while to clip them for a family scrap-book, adding to them other items of county history.
Transcribed by Peg Williams
It is difficult to establish the exact precedence of the coming of early settlers to Gettysburg. Feb. 27, 1883, Capt. James Bryson with two other parties camped at Eagle Peak (north of town) over night, but they left the county to return at a later date. C. E. M. Oliver arrived from Appomattox May 21, 1883, and was immediately followed by Wm. Combellick, Sr., Charles, George and Fred Robinson, A. H. Higgins, Messrs. Regan, Force, Young, Benster, Hayward, Burdick, Teall, Millard, Todd, May, Hulshizer Brink, and others. The first women were Mesdames Hayward, Garret, Abbe, and Walker, Mrs. Benster and daughters, Mrs. Mary O’Brian and daughters, and Miss Platt.
March 25, 1895, the Ladies Relief Corp published a special edition of the Gettysburg Courier, consisting of historical facts pertaining to the early settlement of the county. A sketch entitled “Reminiscences of Gettysburg” by Mrs. M. M. Benster, gives a good insight into the early life of the settlers. She wrote as follows:
“The village consisted of two tents, one called by our soldiers a ‘wedge tent,’ and calculated to shelter one person and his belongings; the other a wall-tent being 8x10 ft. and considered a great luxury; one covered wagon or prairie-schooner. Our number, I believe, was twelve. Mrs. O’Brian and her family of four increased the number to seventeen, after which, settlers came in rapidly. An attempt was soon made to find water, but without success, and it was found necessary to haul what was required in barrels and tanks from the Artichoke Creek. The second week, an attempt was made to establish Sabbath service. As we had one of our number, Dr. Valentine, who was studying for the ministry, we asked him to deliver a sermon, which he did. Our first meeting was held in his tent, our seats being his bedstead and trunk. There were nine present. The next service was so well attended that we were obliged to go into the dining room of the Buffalo House, which hotel consisted of two very medium sized tents, and an extremely rough board shanty without a floor. We occupied the shanty, and I think, no minister ever had so appreciative an audience. Our mail was addressed to Blunt, and anyone coming to our village was given all the mail addressed to anyone known to have come to the locality, the bundle of mail being placed on the counter of our grocery store. From which each selected his own letters. We had been trying to select a name for our village, and in September after sending the post-office authorities several names which had for various reasons been rejected, we were officially recognized by the name of ‘Gettysburg’ and a post-office appointment was made and the post-office located in the grocery store mentioned.”
If the writer is correct, the first postmaster was M. M. Benster, and it was his grocery store in which the post-office was first located. The first public school was organized in the spring of 1885. Mrs. Benster wrote that “The only available room was over a tin-shop, which was the regular resort of all loungers. The knot-holes in the floor formed an easy source of communication and current topics were much more easily learned than book lore. The teacher tried to have the pupils drown the gossipers (down stairs) by having much concert work.” There were no stairs to the schoolroom on the upper floor which was reached by means of an oil barrel. This room was used for all religious services and adults often found it difficult to reach the door gracefully. After using this room for four months, stairs were built.
The settlement in and around Gettysburg was largely an overflow from the settlements along the railroad from Huron to Pierre. Forest City and Appomattox already had been located. A party of old soldiers had made a contract and they paid considerable money for a location at Appomattox, but the terms of the contract not being carried out, a number of them concluded to seek a new location, and they finally agreed to settle at Gettysburg.
Clarence W. Taber, Pictures from the Past, Potter County News, Gettysburg, SD, ? ? 1933.
Transcribed by Peg Williams
(Continued from last week)
The town was founded in the spring of 1883 by a joint stock company consisting of Gen. O. L. Mann, Maj. J. Q. Walker, Capt. J. B. Weeks, Capt. Jas. Bryson, Gen. Pearce, and Asheal Todd. At this time, the land around the town was unsurveyed and not in the market for entry. The company scripped forty acres of what is now known as the old town-site, and made an agreement among themselves that when the land came into the market, they would enter the four quarters surrounding the original forty acres, and include them in the town-site, giving them a full section plus forty acres. Before the land could be filed upon, disagreements had arisen between the members of the company, and its business came to a standstill. When the surrounding land did come into the market, it was filed upon by non-members of the Company. Miss Margaret Platt filed upon the NW 1-4 of sec. 25, Libaneous Todd upon the SW 1-4 of sec. 24, David Goodnow upon the remaining 120 acres on the SE 1-4 of sec. 23, and afterwards upon the NE 1-4 of sec. 26. During the winter of 1883, Miss Platt lived entirely alone upon her claim and proved up in the spring of 1884. The town-site in the meantime had been located upon the forty acres scripped from the SE 1-4 of sec. 23. In the spring Miss Platt sold to Mrs. Lucy P. Bryson 60 acres from the NW 1-4 of Sec. 25, which was laid out and platted by Capt. Bryson, and which became known as Bryson’s addition to Gettysburg.
When the disagreement arose among the members of the original Company, each member appointed his own agent for the sale of lots, so that a conflict of authority made it impossible to secure a clear title to any lot in the original town-site. This was located directly north of the Goodnow claim. As there seemed no opportunity of harmonizing the differences between the members of the company, and as the location of the county seat was before the people, this dispute was used against Gettysburg as a candidate for the county seat as legal title could not be secured by the purchaser of any lot in the original town-site. Capt. Bryson now offered a free lot to anyone who would move buildings from the old town-site to his “addition,” and it was not long before all accepted his offer, so that the entire village was moved during the spring of 1884 to its present site.
In October, 1884, a tract of 78 acres lying directly east and adjoining the original town-site was platted by Geo. W. Todd, who offered to the county, lot 46 to be used as a site for a courthouse, providing the county seat was located in Gettysburg.
In the early fall of 1886, J.B. Weeks, a member of the original town-site company, gave notice through C.E. Simmons Land Commissioner of the C. & N. W. Ry., on the part of himself, C.L. Mann, K.W. Pearce, and J.Q. Walker, as members of the Town-site Company that they claimed an interest in the SE 1-4 24, NW 1-4 25, NE 1-4 26-118-76 under the original agreement among themselves to file upon these lands and enter them in the original town-site.
Aug. 27, 1886, Mr. Weeks visited Gettysburg, and that night met with several citizens at the Buffalo House for the purpose of considering these claims. The people of the town were very indignant and threatened to tar and feather him, and after he left the Buffalo House that night, he was set upon by a number of citizens who treated him to a shower of rotten eggs. The next day a meeting was called to consider the matter. Weeks demanded $2500 in cash as a settlement of all claims held by the original town-site Company, but the citizens believing it to be an attempt at blackmail refused to pay it. Weeks finally was induced to sign a Quit Claim deed to all interest the Town-site Company claimed, and an agreement was published which stated that he no longer considered that he or the original Town-site Company had any further claims on the lands in question.
An agreement had been made between Geo. W. Todd and Robt. B. Fisk for the sale of the SW 1-4 of sec. 24, upon which was located Todd’s Addition to Gettysburg, in the event of Gettysburg securing
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the county seat. The transfer was made accordingly, and Mr. Todd afterward sued Mr. Fisk for the balance of the purchase money, claimed to be $350.00. In his defense Mr. Fisk alleged that Mr. Todd according to their agreement was to work for the upbuilding of Todd’s Addition, and to do all he could to remove the town-site from Bryson’s Addition to Todd’s Addition. He further filed a counter claim for $250.00 for alleged legal services, and the court finally granted Mr. Todd a judgment against Mr. Fisk for $190.00.
The proposition of Geo. W. Todd to donate block 46 in his addition to the county was accepted by the commissioners and the courthouse later erected thereon.
A petition signed by F.W. Burdick and Daniel Force with fifty other legal voters, was presented to the County Commissioners praying for the organization of the civil township of Gettysburg, and said township was so declared by the commissioners, July 17, 1885. The first meeting for the election of officers of said township was called for Aug. 1, 1885.
F.W. Burdick platted and laid out what became known as Burdick’s Addition to Gettysburg, and Miss Platt laid out what became known as Platt’s Addition to Gettysburg. The Western Town Lot Company subdivided, and laid out part of Bryson’s Addition, most of which was north of Garfield Ave., which became known as the Western Town Lot Company’s Addition to Gettysburg.
Much of the foregoing may not be of much interest to most of the present citizens of Gettysburg, but the facts are important in the history of the town’s growth, and they should be preserved. At the time of their inception, these developments were of tremendous interest to the settlers, and much bitter feeling was engendered between the various factions involved.
It is not possible to relate the history of the county and that of Gettysburg in exact chronological order. The next article will take up the organization of the county, out of which grew the intense fight for the location of the county seat.
Transcribed by Peg Williams
Clarence W. Taber, Pictures from the Past, Potter County News, Gettysburg, SD, ? ? 1933.
Transcribed by Peg Williams of the Potter County Library
Following the complaint against James W. Shaw for bribery in connection with the organization of Potter county, Mr. Shaw was arrested and brought to trial at Blunt. In the meantime, he published the following open letter in the Forest City Press, Jan. 2, 1884:
“A charge having been brought against me as one of the Potter county commissioners, by one Chas. A. Gilchrist, of having bribed Gov. N.G. Ordway, of Dakota Territory, by paying him (the Governor) a large sum of money to secure my appointment as one of the commissioners of said county, I hereby denounce the charge as infamous and maliciously false in every sense. The affidavit charges me with bribing the Governor on the 6th day of November, A.D. 1883, at the city of Pierre, Hughes county, Dakota, when it is a well known fact to a large number of people that I was at home in Forest City, a distance of fifty-five miles from Pierre, and had been for some time prior to said date, and it is also a self-evident fact that on the 6th day of November, 1883, Gov. Ordway was at Bismarck, the capital of Dakota, as my commission, also that of Mr. Kretchmer, and this man Gilchrist, bears date Nov. 6, 1883. I have never had either on the 6th of November, or at any other time, any communication with Gov. Ordway, either oral, written, or in any other manner. J.W. Shaw.”
The Forest City people were very indignant that such a charge should be preferred against Mr. Shaw, and the Forest City Press mentions the fact that “Mr. Gilchrist being in town, and some of the citizens are in favor of riding him out of town on a rail.” The name of A.C. Melette, who later became Governor of South Dakota, is mentioned as one of the friends who accompanied Mr. Shaw to Blunt at the time of the trial.
When the trial was called, Chas. Spencer, the Governor’s supposed representative, was wanted to give his testimony, but it was found that he had left the territory, presumably for fear of implicating the Governor. The case wad dismissed and Shaw released on the ground that his admissions could not be used against himself, and because of the lack of material evidence. The costs were charged to Gilchrist. There were many circumstances, however, which left doubt of Shaw’s innocence in the minds of those who favored Gettysburg for the county seat. Those who favored Forest City felt that the arrest of Shaw was malicious prosecution, although there were some among them who had their doubts. The evidence, although not conclusive, was in the minds of impartial observers as stronger in favor of Shaw’s guilt than it was of his innocence.
Following the trial, Chas. Spencer returned to the Territory and brought suit against the Forest City Townsite company for a large sum for legal services, presumably in securing the appointment of the two commissioners, Shaw and Kretchmer, and he later secured judgment against Warren Gee and others of the Townsite company.
Nov. 29, 1884, nearly a year later, at a regular meeting of the County Commissioners, Gilchrist being absent, the other two commissioners voted in favor of issuing to Shaw two warrants, numbered on the records as Warrant No. 148 for $300.00 “expenses of organizing Potter county,” and Warrant No. 149 for $100.00 “defending Potter county’s organization.” It was supposed that the first warrant was to reimburse Shaw for a portion of his time and expense in securing his appointment, and that the other warrant was to cover his expense in defending himself against the Gilchrist bribery suit. There was much dissatisfaction among the settlers when they learned of the issuing of these warrants, but after the new Board of Commissioners was appointed, they thot best to honor these warrants rather than have suit brought against the new county.
Many incidents of the nature mentioned combined with the seeming desire of Shaw and Kretchmer to work together, and the fact that so questionable a procedure was carried out during Gilchrist’s absence, all tended to confirm the suspicion that the appointment of these two commissioners was open to serious question. On the other hand, the bitter feeling between the people of Forest City and those of Gettysburg, may have had much to do in coloring public opinion. Every point gained by one side or the other was unduly exaggerated.
The early records regarding this part of the history of the county are very incomplete. The first meeting of the newly appointed Board of County Commissioners was held in a little log house in Forest City, Dec. 27, 1883. A somewhat faded photograph of this log house is in the writer’s possession. Of course, the Commissioners, as was their legal right, appointed Forest City as the temporary county seat of Potter county, so the little log house referred to was in reality the first courthouse in the county. A resolution was introduced at this first meeting, stating that “each (commissioner) was rightly appointed and eligible,” but Mr. Gilchrist objected to this, and as some one put it Kretchmer voted that Shaw was rightfully appointed, and Shaw voted that Kretchmer was rightly appointed. At any rate all credentials were accepted. It was at this meeting that the Commissioners declared that the county seat of Potter county was Forest City, or that part of Forest City, described as the W 1-2 of the NW 1-4 of sec. 21-118-78. The meeting was adjourned to meet at Gettysburg the following day.
Friday, Dec. 28, 1883, Mr. Shaw who had been appointed Chairman of the Board the day previously called the board together at Gettysburg, promptly at one o’clock. Gilchrist was absent, but the two commissioners said they waited for him until two o’clock, although the Gettysburg faction claimed they at once went into session at one o’clock. A number of citizens were present and demanded that they be allowed to make suggestions for the appointment of the first county officers, but they were not permitted to be heard. It was known that Gilchrist was on his way to Gettysburg, and that at this time he was not far away. The commissioners were urged to await his arrival but they refused. There is no doubt that the commissioners did wait a short time for Gilchrist to appear, but it was evident they desired to hasten their action before he arrived. To quote from the Gettysburg Herald of Jan. 4, 1884:
“The two friends of the Governor’s son, (Shaw and Kretchmer) then proceeded in the most hurried manner possible to read off the names of the county officers and to appoint them as fast as one could put the question, and the other vote for it. Every officer except a Justice of the Peace and a Constable, were gobbled up for Forest City,” and as someone put it at the time, “the reason these two were not Forest City men, was because they had no more eligible timber over there.”
To continue from the Herald:
“Then a resolution was read by Kretchmer on the trot, with his knees shaking under the table and his voice trembling, whether conscience stricken or afraid the General would arrive, and by some possibility prevent action, we can’t say, which confirmed their previous action making Forest City the temporary county seat. In eleven minutes after taking off their hats, the “majority” of the board grabbed their coats, just as Gen. Gilchrist drove into town, as the Forest City Press put it, ‘frothing at the mouth.’ “
The Herald, of course, was very partisan, and yet if the writer exaggerated the case, circumstances proved that in the main the account was correct. Indeed, the two commissioners were so anxious to get through that they overlooked appointing a Sheriff. On the way home, one of them remembered the omission and then and there appointed Edw. W. Dennis as Sheriff. When they arrived home they corrected the minutes of the Gettysburg meeting to show that Dennis had been appointed at the same time the other officials were named. Following is a list of the county officers appointed by these two Commissioners, said officials to act until the first general election might be called:
J.C. Strickler, Register of Deeds.
Martin Sprague, Assessor.
Asa M. Akin, Treasurer.
Jno. B. Beaver, Coroner.
Henry J. Klett, Justice of the Peace.
Henry J. Eidam, Constable.
Edw. M. Dennis, Sheriff.
Daniel Fry, Probate Judge.
Fred H. Meyer, Surveyor.
Richard M. Springer, Supt. Of Schools.
Wm. Combellick, Justice of the Peace.
W. A. McMichael, Constable.
Transcribed by Peg Williams
Following the meeting of the two County Commissioners, Shaw and Kretchmer, in Gettysburg, at which time they made their appointments of temporary county officers, and voted to locate the temporary county seat at Forest City, the following article appeared in the Gettysburg Herald:
“We are mad; of course we are mad. Mad from the roots of our hair to the nails in our boots, but we are not mad because Forest City has got the county seat and gobbled the county offices, but because we have been sold like a drove of cattle, bid off like yearling steers, with Ordway as seller, Shaw as purchaser, and Kretchmer as auctioneer, knocking us down for $2,500 cash and $2,500 upon delivery of the chattels.”
J.E. Ziebach had been appointed as Clerk of the District Court by the Judge of the District Court, Second Judicial District, and although his bond was approved by the County Commissioners, his appointment was legal in every way. Legal matters coming before him would not be affected by any fraud that might have been practiced on the part of any of the Commissioners in securing appointment. The citizens of Gettysburg were so worked up over what they declared to be outrages on the part of the two county commissioners, that they called an indignation meeting which was announced in the Herald of Jan. 11, 1884.
“We, the undersigned citizens of Potter county, call upon the people of said county, to meet in mass convention on Saturday, Jan. 19, 1884, to listen to the expressions of indignation regarding the recent alleged organization of Potter county, and to adopt measures of protection against such corrupt measures in the future.
And. C. Brink.
This meeting was held as called at Brink’s office, but the crowd was so large that many had to remain outside. A set of resolutions was adopted, denouncing Ordway and declaring that in the appointment of Kretchmer of Pierre, he had ignored the voice of the people and the qualifications of Chas. E.M. Oliver, a one-legged soldier, and had imposed upon “us, a young upstart without citizenship, and unknown to the people of the county,” that they looked upon his appointment as a fraud, and that they did not consider any of the acts of the County Commissioners as binding. The resolution also incorporated appreciation of Gen. Gilchrist for his course, and an expression of confidence in his integrity. A committee was also appointed to raise funds to prosecute suits that might be begun in behalf of the people.
The two commissioners, Shaw and Kretchmer, probably realized the day of their meeting in Gettysburg that a storm was brewing, but they gave as the reason for their extreme haste in leaving Gettysburg, that they expected to be served with a writ of quo warranto, directing them to appear before Judge Edgerton, and show cause why they should not be ousted from office, but the writ never appeared.
After Gen. Gilchrist arrived in Gettysburg that day and found what action had been taken by the other two commissioners, he at once proceeded to Blunt where he swore out the complaint against Shaw for having bribed the Governor. The Forest City Press said, in this connection, “It shows the maliciousness and venom that is in the man when it is known that he walked to Blunt that night, a distance of 42 miles to swear out a false affidavit.” The same paper, Jan. 5, 1884, referring to Gilchrist’s attitude on the location of the county seat, said: “Gilchrist went to Commissioner Shaw and proposed to locate the county seat on 160 acres of land out on the prairie, saying they could make big money by scripping the same, and starting a new town, which proposition was indignantly refused by Mr. Shaw. Then this treacherous sycophant, Chas. A. Gilchrist, went to Mr. Kretchmer and proposed the same thing to him and was indignantly repulsed. Then he proposed to locate the county seat at Gettysburg, assuring Mr. Kretchmer that they could make a large sum of money by so doing, and in fact, he did everything that was dishonest toward the people of Appomattox.”
The new county officials made their headquarters in the east rooms of the Warren Gee building on Atkins Ave. in Forest City, which the Commissioners rented Jan. 7, 1884, at a rental of $20.00 per month. Here they remained until July 1, 1884, when they moved the records of their various offices to the Aloys Bilz building, for an annual rental of $500.00 for one year from the foregoing date. Mr. Bilz retained sufficient space in his building for the postoffice.
April 7, 1884, the Commissioners adopted a plan submitted by Supt. Of Schools, Springer, to divide the county into school districts, Aug. 4, 1884, they instructed the Register of Deeds to transcribe from the records of Sully and Hughes counties, all legal documents pertaining to Potter county.
The original County Commissioners held their office until the first general election which was in November, 1884, at which time a new set of commissioners was elected, and they took their office Jan. 2, 1885.
It was not until Feb. 3, 1885, that Judge Seward Smith, by the following order, detached Potter county from the counties of Hughes and Sully:
“Territory of Dakota, Fifth Judicial District, ss.
“By the authority invested in me by law, I, Seward Smith, an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the Territory of Dakota and as Presiding Judge of the District Court of the Fifth Judicial District, hereby detach the county of Potter in said Judicial District, from the county of Hughes, and other counties together with which, it, and they, have heretofore constituted one Judicial District, and it is hereby ordered that the said county of Potter, shall of and by itself alone be and constitute a separate and complete subdivision, and a term of the District Court is hereby appointed to be held at the courthouse at the county seat of said Potter county at such time as may be hereafter designated by law, or by the Judge of said Fifth Judicial District.
Dated at Pierre, Hughes county, this 3rd day of February, 1885.
Seward Smith, Judge
The foregoing order practically closed the first chapter of the political history of Potter county. The county had been organized, the temporary County Commissioners, and county officials had been appointed, the temporary county seat had been located, and the first general election had been held at which time new county officers were duly elected. The campaign preceding this election, and the location of the permanent county seat is another story.
Transcribed by Peg Williams
Wessington Springs, SD
March 22, 1933
Mr. O.E. Mesick, Gettysburg, S.D.
Dear Old Timer:
I notice in the daily press that Gettysburg will stage a celebration of the 50th anniversary of the founding of the town in June, 1883.
There has been a lot of water passed over the dam in the last 50 years. It was a buoyant citizenship that spread over Potter county in those early days. Hopes were high; ambitions great. The townsite boomer was abroad and embryo towns were platted with reckless abandon and without much vision of their future commercial possibilities.
I first put foot on Potter county soil the latter part of March, 1883. Drove from Aberdeen to LeBeau and down to the mouth of the Little Cheyenne – an enchanting view presented itself – a tree-lined bend of the Missouri river – a full section of high level bench land – flanked by high hills on the South and East – beyond for many miles a virgin, rich and gently rolling prairie – an inviting location for what proved to be a dream city for the Forest City townsite boomers.
I decided to cast my lot with Forest City and returned in June to help survey the townsite, but had no financial interest in the project. The scattered boulders at the rivers edge, a mile below the town, widely advertised as the “only rock-bottom railroad bridge location on the Missouri river.” Waneta was a rival townsite, located a mile or so above Forest City, but never developed beyond its surveyed plat. Appomattox and Gettysburg had promising prospects, but how many present residents of Potter county can locate the then prospective town of Copp, Davidson or Pembroke?
Among the real old-timers of Potter county that I have always held in affectionate remembrance is A. G. Williams, of Gettysburg. He held forth in Forest City in 1884, and I think he can remember the time he appeared before a mock justice of the peace and drew a fine of an old pair of socks.
Potter county holds the distinction of being at one time the home of two governors of South Dakota. A. C. Mellette became the first governor of South Dakota upon its admission to statehood in 1889. He located a homestead two miles north of Forest City in 1882 and built comfortable pioneer buildings where he resided with his family. He returned to his former residence at Watertown after “proving up.”
Frank M. Byrne, a Potter county resident in 1884 and several years later, served two terms as governor 1913-1917, while a resident of Faulk county. His wife was a Potter county girl who lived with her brother and sister just east of Forest City. Beaver’s gulch gets its name from her family.
I always remember my two years as a resident of Potter county with a feeling of pleasure.
Yours of 50 years ago,
J. E. Ziebach
Transcribed by Peg Williams
My Dear Sir:
Many thanks for your recent review of my book “Turkey Red” and letter. Have had somewhat of a struggle trying to remember the names of my old neighbors, but anything that will help you to pass on “ to the end that they may come to love and appreciate their country more,” I am more than glad to do. That is why I wrote the book.
My father, Gen. Charles A. Gilchrist, a civil engineer and builder of many of the railways of the west, went with a soldiers colony to Dakota as surveyor for them in 1881 or 1882. They settled in Potter county about twelve miles north of Gettysburg and called the post office Appomattox. Judge Shurleff tells me there is nothing but a field on the old site now.
My married name was Fairbanks and the newspaper was the Appomattox Herald. I lived there until I proved up and practically all of the book “happened.” There was a manager, J.Q.A. Walker, who after collecting most of the filing fees of the Colony, decamped without ever going to Huron to file the claims. There was also a Bishop Fallows (I think it was) from Ohio who played politics to the grief of the settlers.
Nolan ran the Sod Hotel; Miss Wheeler was the postmistress; Swearing Smith was real, a middle-aged man at the time. I’ve buried McCallum’s real name so deep that I’ve forgotten it. There was a doctor named Willy; a lawyer named Orrin Williams and another, McDowell; two sisters, school teachers, named Goode; a family on the South Trail – Gleason; another settler, William Early; two down the creek, father and son, Mr. Donovan and Grant; our musician with his guitar, Harry Crossley. The rest of them flit back as gentle ghosts but their names have gone. There were a number of Norwegians, nameless, because forgotten, but the best of neighbors.
Very little of the novel is pure fiction. The baby with the croup was my own. After the storm another lone mother was found in her shack, unconscious from exhaustion and cold, with her baby dead on her knees. And dear old Dan’s mules halted behind Gleason’s shack in the gray of a winter morning, with Dan frozen stiff on the driver’s seat, lines clutched in his dead hands.
Ask any of the old-timers if they were liable to forget being lost in a blizzard or fighting prairie fires or being hailed out or camping out all night lost on the prairie with a year old baby – or the wolves howling and coyotes yipping, or dodging rattlers in the buffalo grass, or building a sod house and trying to live in it, fighting hawks or a Durham cow at the other end of a picket rope?
Or glorious spring mornings galloping across the edge of the world into a blue haze of blind gentians with never a fence or road to bar the trail. Or still, clear winter nights with a sky spanning all creation, blazing with more stars than astronomers are able to find in their newly expanded universe.
For thirty years I’ve lived in and around New York City, most of the time in the usual bandbox apartment, and yet that frontier life burned in so deep that occasionally I gasp when a son or daughter casually leaves the car standing without hitching the horses. And if an electric bulb suddenly expires, I repentantly wonder if I filled that lamp in the morning.
Perhaps most difficult of all is the persistent misconception the East, part of it, has of the West. And the shame is that much is due to writers ready to sell that which they know is untrue for the usual thirty pieces of silver. My regret is that I am not a better writer to make my story count.
But I’ve been pretty much over the world now and it’s the same story everywhere. Yet all through Central and South America, Africa, as well as back-of-beyond in Europe are natives often superior to their critics.
I had no intention of furnishing you with so much copy. Do you still set type in a stick at the case as I did on the Herald? Or are linotypes everywhere now. The big dailies here have no kinship with the animal I knew.
Just one last word. In the old days LeBeau, old LeBeau, was the end of the stage line from Blunt and the next stop beyond Appomattox. As you may guess, Gettysburg was another Soldiers Colony – both named for battlefields. Of course there was rivalry between us and Forest City on the banks of the Missouri, incipient county seat fights, for we were still a Territory, as well as commissioner scraps.
I’ve crossed the continent to the coast half a dozen times since the old days, the last time by the Northern Pacific through N.D. -- I don’t know why but I couldn’t bear to go back! Maybe I will some day.
Again, thanking you for your letter – and now for your patience.
Frances Gilchrist Wood
Transcribed by Peg Williams
What “Giants in the Earth” is to South Dakota, so “Breaking Sod on the Prairie” is to Potter county, for here is an intimate story of our own country, intimately told by a man who lived every word that he wrote. The book is naturally fiction, and entertaining fiction at that, but we have the author’s word that most of the facts are true. Old Timers who have read the book agree with him.
Obviously Mr. Taber has given fictitious names to some persons and places, but all of them can be recognized. For instance, Center Town in Gettysburg, with its Buffalo House, the first hotel. Farmer City and the activities about the location of the county seat, lead one on a direct route to Forest City. But the Little Cheyenne, Swan Lake, Blue Blanket Valley burst from the story in delightful reality.
The story itself deals with the trials of Donald Deen (the author) and his family who were brought to the prairies of Dakota from the East by their stepfather, who takes the name of Alexander Frayden in the novel. There is no evolved plot to distract one from the beauties of this word picture of early Potter county, but the story is entrancing and leads one on until the last page has been read.
“Frayden’s Folly,” the huge two-story frame structure that stood as a mighty sentinel on the prairie in aristocratic splendor but quite impractical, is still in our midst, a brief search reveals. Originally in Arena township where the author’s family lived, the house was moved to Lucas township and is now occupied by Alois Zuber, according to local authorities on the subject.
With the Golden Jubilee this summer bringing back the old days to Potter county, every resident owes it to himself to read this story. We are told at the library that seven copies of the book have been in circulation here during the past few years and none of them has ever rested more than a day on the library shelf. A copy of “Breaking Sod on the Prairie” should have a place in every home library in the county. – FAG.
County seat fight
Frank G. King, “No Violence Marked Move of County Seat Records,” Potter County News, Gettysburg, South Dakota, ?, ? 1933.
Transcribed by Peg Williams
By Frank G. King, Faith, S.D.
A recent item in the news releases from the University of South Dakota said, “In Potter county in 1885 an armed mob from Gettysburg went to Forest City, tore out a portion of the building in which the county records were held and removed the records to Gettysburg. The sheriff of the county started in pursuit with a large armed posse.”
This item conveys an erroneous impression in that it uses the word “mob,” a word which is generally used in regard to a lawless, unlawful and violent crowd of persons. It also conveys the impression that their actions were without warrant of law and illegal. This is a very common error in writing the histories of the early days and doings in South Dakota and arises presumably from the desire to be spectacular, romantic and conveys an idea of roughness and of an uncivilized condition. That these impressions are entirely erroneous and exaggerated I shall endeavor to show by this article.
As to my authority or ability to give a correct and true statement of the occurrences of that day, let me say that in 1884 I was the editor and publisher of the “Gettysburg Herald,” the only newspaper published in the town at that time; that I was intimately and actively connected with all the details of the election preceding the removal, and was a member of the so-called “mob” which moved the county seat, and because of their importance in my life and the effect upon my business the incidents are so indelibly impressed on my mind that there is no possibility of my being mistaken in the facts which I shall relate. I do not make this statement in any spirit of braggadocio, but simply to convey to your mind the fact of their truthfulness.
Governor Ordway was the governor of Dakota Territory at this time and was universally regarded as a grafter and a man of much corruption in office. There were many counties to be organized and the law provided that the governor should appoint the first board of county commissioners in a newly organized county and the commissioners named the temporary county seat. In every county there was a strenuous fight over the location of the county seat. With many towns it spelled absolutely life or death, especially in the counties which the railroads had not reached. Ordway made a practise of appointing one commissioner each, from two aspiring towns and then sending a personal representative into the county and appointing him as the third commissioner. You will readily see that this allowed him to keep a string upon the location of the county seat.
When Potter county petitioned for organization, true to his usual practise the Governor appointed one man from Forest City and one from Appomattox and sent a young man by the name of Frank Kretchmer who had been employed in the office of the Governor. Kretchmer came out and took a squatter claim by placing a shack on some vacant government land and was immediately appointed commissioner. Of course we never knew how much or what the Governor got for locating the temporary county seat at Forest City, but to all appearances and in the general belief he was liberally rewarded.
When the issue for the permanent county seat was submitted to a vote in the fall of 1884 Gettysburg secured an overwhelming majority. It now became the object of the Forest City people to stave off the removal to Gettysburg as long as possible until the next election when they had hopes of the possible reversal of the vote. What finally happened was that the county commissioners threw out votes in three-fourths of the precincts of the county and refused to count them, counting those precincts which were carried by Forest City, making an official declaration that Forest City was the permanent county seat of Potter county. Gettysburg had no intention of entering into a long litigation to gain what they had lawfully and rightfully secured at the election. The board of county commissioners which met in January, 1885, had a majority for Gettysburg. It was then decided that the new board should declare Gettysburg the county seat and order the removal of the records of the county to that town. In order to keep our intentions from our opponents, that they might not get an injunction from the court to prevent such removal, we determined to keep our action a profound secret until ready to move.
A company of approximately one hundred men gathered in Gettysburg at three o’clock in the morning with conveyances as I remember mainly consisting of bob sleds. There were no weapons visible nor did the writer see any on the trip although it was said that one man had a rifle under the blankets in his sled. It was fartherest from our thoughts to imagine the necessity of weapons though we were prepared to make a vigorous fight if our attempts to get the records was interfered with.
They proceeded in an orderly and quiet manner to the town of Forest City and arrived there just as the sun was rising above the horizon. The board of County Commissioners, who were in the secret of the removal, met early and immediately let the contract to move the safe and records, to General Gilchrist who called upon the visitors from Gettysburg to assist him, and I might add that they were not at all reluctant to do the same.
They proceeded in an orderly manner to pile everything into two bob sleds but the safe which the county had bought, was too large to get out the door without taking off the jambs and possibly some other portions of the building. However no damage was done to the building except that absolutely necessary to get the safe out. Before leaving town they made a contract with a local carpenter to repair the places they had damaged and paid him in advance in spot cash.
The writer was standing on the platform in front of the printing office when one of the crowd accidentally shoved his elbow through the window pane. I immediately entered the printing office and handed the foreman, the proprietor not being present, one dollar for the damage. I merely mention these incidents to show the utter lack of lawlessness of the “mob.”
While the work of removal was going on, the sheriff, LeRoy Ferris, arrived on the scene and claimed that he had an injunction from the circuit court enjoining our proceedings. There was no communication between Forest City and Pierre where the judge presided, except a telegraph line, and although the sheriff tried to bluff it through we were not chumps enough to think that an injunction could be served by telegram. Therefore no attention was paid to the sheriff’s orders.
After we were well on our way to Gettysburg with the records, etc., the sheriff succeeded in getting an order from the circuit court to protect the records and see that they were not injured in any manner. He came post-haste to Gettysburg with half a dozen men and showed his telegram to the Gettysburg people. We told him that was alright, they had all the papers safe and for him to sit right down there and protect them if he desired, but as far as taking them back was concerned he would meet with force before they would allow that to be accomplished. The writer, with A. G. Williams, was on guard for a part of the night.
The fact that the records never went back to Forest City, that no legal steps were taken to compel us to carry them back, which would have been the procedure had the removal been illegal, is ample evidence that we acted and proceeded entirely within our rights, within the law and with order and decorum. Attorney Cosand went immediately to Pierre and the judge had a big laugh when he learned how we had circumvented the attempt to hold the matter in court for two years.
It is interesting at this late day to consider the names of some of the men who comprised the “mob” that moved the county seat from Forest City to Gettysburg. I remember Frank Byrne, afterwards Governor of South Dakota, George and Libaneous Todd who later made a fortune out of the invention and manufacture of Todds’ check protector, A.G. Williams, a prominent citizen of Gettysburg, J.R. Hughes for many years cashier and manager of the Potter County Bank, I.J. Eales, later a practicing surgeon in Chicago, Frank Burdick, an early day attorney, Captain James Bryson an old soldier and promoter of the Gettysburg townsite, W.W. Cosand also a practicing attorney in Gettysburg for many years, A.J. Pruitt who afterwards became wealthy and a globe trotter. Of course I cannot recall nearly all the names of the men who were in this so-called “mob.” I am pretty certain that Ernest Adams and Frank Dillon were there but am not certain on that point, and I may say that practically every one of them remained in the county and became prominent citizens leading in business and political affairs. The trouble of dictating these few paragraphs is taken only in the hopes of conveying to the present generation a different and more correct knowledge of the men and matters that prevailed in those early days. What we did was not greatly different from what the same number of men would do today under like circumstances and feelings to avoid long, expensive, and unjust litigation.
(Note: It is authoritatively stated that others who participated in this event and now living here are H. George Hanson and W.H. Neyhart.)
“First Permanent Home of County Officials,” Potter County News, Gettysburg, South Dakota, ?, ? 1933. [courthouse photo included with original article]
Transcribed by Peg Williams
Following the fierce struggle between Forest City and Gettysburg, this city became the permanent county seat of Potter county in January, 1885. Above is pictured the first courthouse in Gettysburg.
The building was erected largely through the offer of Robert B. Fisk, who originally proposed a $2,000 cash donation toward the erection of the courthouse providing that Gettysburg became the county seat.
The final contract provided that Fisk furnish and deliver to Blunt, all of the necessary material for the superstructure to be 30x40 feet in outside dimensions. The county was to bring the material to Gettysburg. The county was to build the foundation and Fisk was to complete the building, except painting, which was to be done by the county. In addition, Fisk was to provide a well for courthouse use. In return he was to receive $500 from the county. Presumably, the building was erected under the provisions of that contract. The site was also donated by Fisk, who owned a large interest in the Todd’s addition to Gettysburg.
The courthouse as shown above served as the home of the county government until the erection of the modern brick and stone structure in 1910. It was located on a site north of the present depot.
The cupola rising above the front of the building was blown off in the storm of July 19, 1892, and when repairs were made the cupola was eliminated so that after that the building had somewhat of a different appearance than as shown above.
The man in shirt sleeves in front of the building in the above picture is James Bryson, one of the original founders of the first townsite company.