Union county occupies the southeastern extremity of Dakota, bordered on the east by the Big Sioux river, and on the southwest by the Missouri. Its greatest length north and south is forty-eight miles, and width eighteen miles.
About one-third of the surface consists of bottom land adjacent to the bordering rivers, of inexhaustible fertility, which, in their natural state, produce grass that yields, on an average, three tons of excellent hay to the acre. These lands, when cultivated, yield large crops of corn, oats, wheat, barley, potatoes, and all vegetables suitable to this latitude. Corn yields from forty to eighty bushels per acre, oats from forty to seventy-five, and wheat eight to thirty bushels, according to the season, heat and moisture having much influence upon this crop. Barley yields from twenty-five to fifty bushels per acre; potatoes and all vegetables produce abundantly and are of excellent quality.
The country back of the valley is an undulating plain, in some parts rather too uneven, but most of it is excellent farming, and all good grazing lands. This part of the county does not produce as much corn and hay as the bottom lands, but is better adapted for the cultivation of flax and wheat.
Union county, which has an area of nearly 500 square miles, was first organized as Cole county in 1862. Its prosperity was at first retarded by Indian wars, grasshopper scourges, monetary depressions, etc. The county now contains 8,500 inhabitants, prosperous homes, thriving villages, with churches, schools, railroads, active business men, tradesmen and manufacturers.
The Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul Railway crosses the southwestern portion, and upon it are Elk Point and Jefferson, the oldest towns in the county. Elk Point, the county seat, contains about 1,000 inhabitants, several churches, all branches of necessary business, a large flouring mill, and an excellent school, enrolling 250 pupils and employing four teachers.
Jefferson is a thriving village, eight miles southeast of Elk Point, and is the centre of a flourishing French community. The Roman Catholic Church at this point was the first church building erected in the county. Jefferson has a good public school, with an attendance of about eighty pupils.
Beresford, in the northwestern part of the county, on the line of the Chicago & North-Western Railway, is a new town, the first building having been erected in the summer of 1883. It contains about 300 inhabitants, and represents a thriving and enterprising community.
Alcester and Richland are growing villages, the former on the Chicago & North-western Railway, and the latter situated at the junction of the Big Sioux and Missouri valleys.
There are no government lands for sale in Union county, they being all owned and mostly occupied by residents. Most of the farmers own 160 acres, but a few have smaller tracts, while a small proportion are tenants.
Unimproved lands are worth from seven dollars to fifteen dollars per acre. Farms under cultivation, with some buildings, are held at from twelve to thirty dollars per acre.
Good public schools are numerous and readily accessible, but few families being at a greater distance than two miles from a school house, while a market and postoffice are within a two hours drive of the most secluded inhabitant.
The present population, while largely comprised of people from the States, includes a considerable foreign element, largely French and Scandinavian.
Although the lands in Union county are occupied, and the foundations of prosperous communities partially established, yet the energy, intelligence and wealth of other sections are needed and cordially invited.