Yankton County History



from "Dakota", Compiled by O. H. Holt, 1885


Yankton county lies on the Missouri river in the southeastern part of Dakota, on the southern boundary line. Its approximate area covers 528 square miles, or 337,920 acres. The James river passes through the county from northwest to southeast, dividing it into two nearly equal portions. The immediate valley of this river averages about one mile in width. There are several streams of minor importance which flow through various parts of the county. The Missouri river bottoms are very fertile, and vary in width from one to several miles. Considerable timber, such as Cottonwood, elm, box elder and oak, is found in the Missouri Valley, and brick clay abounds in various localities.

The surface consists of rolling prairie land, and river and creek bottoms, and the soil is exceedingly fertile, producing lavishly all the small grains, Indian corn and vegetables. The native grasses flourish abundantly, affording splendid pasturage. Yankton county ranks among the very best in Southern Dakota for general farming and stock-raising purposes.

The Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul Railway enters the county in the southeastern part, extends east and southeast until Yankton City is reached, then takes a north-westerly course and passes across the western border at a point about midway between the north and south lines.

The city of Yankton, situated on the Missouri river at the south boundary of the county is located on a beautiful plateau, and is laid out on a very liberal plan, the streets being from 80 to 100 feet in width and well graded and graveled. Much attention has been paid to the planting and rearing of shade trees, and the result is most gratifying, as the attractions of the city are greatly enhanced by the rich, green foliage which so beautifies and adorns it.

The present population of Yankton is about 4,500, and is made up of a class of people who, for intelligence, enterprise and thrift, have but few peers in any section of the country.

The cause of education has ever been one of the most important in the estimation of the citizens, and the liberality displayed in providing adequate school facilities has been remarkable. The annual school tax levy is from $6,000 to $10 000, and the enrollment of pupils nearly 1,000. For these there are provided half a dozen school buildings, including a high school, all models of comfort and convenience. The system, is admirably administered under the direction of a competent school board, an able superintendent and an excellent corps of teachers.

Yankton College, under the patronage and care of the Congregational Church, although not sectarian in its character, is one of the most prominent and important educational institutions in the city. This splendid building, composed of Sioux Falls quartzite, was erected in 1883. and occupies a commanding site about a mile from the river, and includes upward of twenty-five acres of choice land beautifully laid out.

The Academy of the Sacred Heart is a fine and costly brick structure, and was, for many years, occupied as a Catholic school, but at present the building is used as a school for Indian boys.

The Southern Dakota Asylum for the Insane is located about two miles north of Yankton. More specific reference to this notable institution is made in another part of this book.

Many fine artesian wells are flowing in various parts of the city, the largest of which is 500 feet in depth and produces 50,000 gallons in twenty-four hours. This well supplies a large reservoir which furnishes a complete system of water supply for the city.

Yankton contains three flourishing banking institutions, a dozen hotels, and many manufacturing industries, among which are a woolen mill, a steam flouring mill, a large brick manufactory, and extensive foundries and machine shops. There are also several breweries, a first-class book-bindery, and several blacksmith and wagon shops. The city has an extensive telephone system, is well supplied with the various orders and societies, a United States Signal Station, upward of twenty-five practicing attorneys, half as many physicians and surgeons, and more than a hundred mercantile institutions, many of which do an extensive wholesale business. A large pork-packing house has lately been established there also.

The Yankton Postoffice is an important one, and its business is constantly increasing. Several stage lines centre in the city; altogether, there are five stage and mail lines. Four newspapers, including one in the German language, are published.

There are no less than ten church organizations in Yankton, eight of which have houses of worship.

Yankton is the county seat, and has a fine brick court house and jail building, erected at a cost of $12,000.

There are thirteen postoffices in the county, four of which—Gayville, Utica, Lesterville and Jamesville—are quite important villages. The first three named are on the railroad.






Yankton County


from "History of Southeastern Dakota, Its Settlement and Growth", 1881

Transcribed by Karen Seeman



Yankton County is one of the southern tier, and is bounded on the north by Hutchinson and Turner, on the east by Clay and Turner, on the south by Nebraska, from which it is separated by the Missouri River, and on the west by Bon Homme. It extends twenty-four miles east and west, and about the same distance north and south. Its general features are the same as the other counties bordering on the Missouri River. It has a strip of bottom lands extending along the river, varying in width from a few rods to several miles, the remainder being rolling prairie, well adapted to pasturage or tillage.

The soil is a rich sandy loam, very fertile, and produces well any kind of grain or vegetables, usually grown in this latitude.

The climate is healthful and pleasant, the winters being generally not so long as in the same latitude in New England, and usually quite mild until near January, about which time occasionally severe storms occur, and which last for a few days only, succeeded

by several weeks of fair weather. The springs generally commence early in March, the Missouri River breaking up soon after the middle of this month, and by the first of April, farmers have generally finished sowing their wheat and oats. The summer weather
is not hot and sultry, owing to the pleasant breezes which invariably spring up in prairie countries, some time in the forenoon and continue through the day. The evenings are generally cool and pleasant. The rainy season of Dakota usually comes in the month of June, but showers are frequent during the spring and summer. It is a fixed fact however, that there is much less cloudy weather at Yankton, than in Central New York. The climate is usually healthy, fevers and lung diseases not being frequent among those
who have long breathed the pure air of Dakota.

The greatest portion of the timber of Yankton County is to be found along the Missouri River, in the southern part of the county, but considerable timber is also to be found in ravines, running out from the Missouri and James Rivers.

The Missouri River washes the entire southern boundary, while the James River runs diagonally across the county from northwest to southeast. The James River has numerous creeks emptying into it, the most important of which is Beaver Creek, six miles
north of Yankton. Springs are common along the bluffs, which border on the bottom lands along the rivers, many of which are the sources of streams of considerable size. Good wells of excellent water are generally easily found on the bottoms, by digging from ten to twenty feet, and on the uplands, from fifteen to thirty feet. Plenty of stone for building purposes can be found on the table lands. Wells are from thirty to fifty feet deep in the city of Yankton. The building stone of Yankton is one of its peculiar features. It is a species of soft lime-stone, called "chalk-stone," because, when first quarried, it is as soft as chalk, and can be used for marking, like chalk. It can be readily sawed into shape for building, or hewn with an ax. When exposed to the weather, it becomes harder, and makes a perfectly solid wall, much cheaper than brick; and when properly put up and ornamented, makes a beautiful house, resembling granite. This stone is found in inexhaustible quantities within half a mile of the city of Yankton. A large grist mill and several elegant residences have been constructed of this material.




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