DAVISON CO SD
History of Davison county, Mitchell and Firesteel.
Description & History, Davison County,SD
A. T. Andreas' "Historical Atlas of Dakota", 1884
Davison County is situated in the James River valley,
centrally between the Missouri River and the valley of the Big
Sioux, in the midst of the finest portion of southern Dakota.
It is bounded by Sanborn County on the north, by the first
standard parallel which seperated it from the counties of
Hutchinson and Douglas on the south, by Hanson County on the
east, and Aurora County on the west. It comprises twelve
congressional towns, equal to 432 square miles of 276, 480 acres.
The James River traverses two of the towns in the
northeast corner of the county, near the line of Hanson County,
through a fine valley having an average width of a half mile or
more. The other principal streams are Firesteel Creek and Morris
Creek in the north, and Enemy and Twelve Mile creeks in the south
part of the county.
The county was erected in the session of 1873-74. The
commissioners appointed by the Governor were
J. Head, L. Hain and J. Platt. There appears to be no
records of the proceedings of these officers, but they
met at the house of H. C. Green who was appointed Register
of Deeds, and Firesteel was made the first county seat.
The first general election for county officers took place in
November, 1874, at Green's house, at which time the following
officers were elected: Commissioners, John Head, L. W. Lowell,
R. P. Cady; Register of Deeds,Thomas Watson. Watson did not
qualify, and R. L. Alterton was appointed in his stead. Sheriff,
C. Morris, elected, but failing to qualify, L. Hain was
appointed. Treasurer, Rev. J. Morris; Judge of Probate, Rev J.
Morris; Superintendent of Schools, Rev. J. Morris; Assessor, L.
The county seat was changed to Mitchell in 1880.
The following are the present 1884 county officers: Register
of Deeds, J. K. Smith; Clerk of Court, William C.
Metcalf; County Judge, W. L. Warren; Sheriff, R. L. Alterton;
Coroner, A. S. Curtis; Treasurer, R.D. Prescott;
Superintendent of Schools, William H. Helwig; Surveyor, Major
I Green; Assessor, C. B. Rathburn.
The county during the past year has been erecting a fine
two-story court-house, of brick, with a stone basement,
the whole to cost, when fully completed, $30,000. The building
is 56 X 72 feet, and elegantly fitted up with an
ample court-room, the necessary county offices, jury rooms,
gallery for spectators, etc., and a roomy strong jail
in the basement fitted up with iron cells and modern improvements
for the safe keeping of prisoners. It stands upon an elevation near
the center of the city, commanding from its dome a splendid view
of the surrounding country.
City of Mitchell
Andreas' "Historical Atlas of Dakota", 1884
The commencement of Mitchell dates from May 5, 1879, when
a half-section of Government land was located by Gen. John D.
Lawler, with soldiers' additional scrip on the surveyed line
of the Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul Railway, in Davison Co.
The original town was laid out in September following, and in
October lots were offered for sale upon contract, the
purchasing parties agreeing to pay one-fourth the purchase
money down, and guaranteeing the improvement of the lot and
taking a bond for a deed; the remainder to be paid upon the
completion of the railway to town.
These last payments became due on the 1st of May 1880. The
buildings erected previous to the advent of the railway were
either removed from the old trading-post, Firesteel, or
constructed from material hauled in wagons from Marion Junction,
50 miles away.
During the winter of 1879, which was mild and comparatively
free from storms and deep snows, building continued active,
considering the difficulties to be overcome. From the day
when it became apparent that Mitchell would become a prominent
place on a great line of railway, it became at once the
objective point for land seekers, and this fact was duly
recognized by the General Government when, in October 1880
a United States land office was established here. The district
includes the counties of Davison, Moody, Miner, Lake, Aurora,
Buffalo, Brule, Hanson, McCook & Minnehaha.
The following table shows the number of acres taken at the
Mitchell Land Office between January 3 and November 29, 1882:
Number of Homesteads taken..........................6,155
Number of acres taken as homesteads...............984,800
Number of Homestead final proofs.......................331
Number of acres covered by Homestead proofs...... ..52,960
Number of Pre-emptions taken.........................4,042
Number of acres pre-empted.................... ....646,620
Number of Timber Culture entried......................3,315
Number of acres covered by Timber Culture entries..530,400
Number of Timber Culture final proofs...................15
Number of Soldiers; Declaratives......................2,335
Number of Military Bounty Land Warrents located .........14
Number of cash entries................................2,550
Number of acres entered by cash.....................408,000
Following are a few interesting items relating to the early days
of Mitchell, which have been gathered from various sources:
On the 16th of September, 1879, John Walsh moved a 12 by 16 frame
building from Firesteel to Mitchell, and placed it on the lot
south of where the First National Bankbuilding now stands. It was
occupied during the winter of 1879-80 as a post-office, and also
accommodated the "Capital," the first paper published in the place.
On the 21st of the same month, M. F. Dunham moved the second
building from Firesteel, and set it on the southeast corner of
Second and Lawler streets, where it was occuppied as a dwelling.
In the same month Messrs. Wells and Oswald and Mr. S. F.
Goodykoontz commenced bringing lumber by team from Marion
Junction, and in October began building, the former on lot 9,
in block 13, of the original town, and the latter on lots 10 and
11, in the same block. About the same date O. R. Betts erected a
small frame building on lot 12, block 8, in which he opened a
hardware store, and probably sold the first goods in Mitchell.
M. F. Dunham also hauled a building over for W. Abbey, and
located it on lot 7 block 18, where it was occupied as a
boarding house by A. P. Pilger. About the same time J. Davy
put up a building on lot 19, block 19, which was used for a
saloon, and known as the "Chalkstone Saloon."
In October, John Lowell moved his building over from Firesteel,
and placed it where the Gleason House afterward stood, and of
which it became a part. In the same month W. Wells erected a
hotel where the Sanborn House now stands, and named it the
The growth of the city since 1880 has been like that of many other
towns in Dakota, rapid and phenomenal. In March of the last
mentioned year, a single square of frontage would include all the
business building of the place.
The year 1882 witnessed a wonderful boom in the growth and
improvement of the town. Among the fine business structures
erected were the bank of Ormsby, Clute & Co., the First National
bank block, the Letcher block and the bank of Mitchell. During
the year the aggregate value of building improvements reached
the respectable sum of $500,000.
The year 1883 witnessed a still greater expansion and outlay.
During the season twentyfive business blocks and 200 residences
were built, and the aggregate outlay reached an immence
sum. The mercantile business of the city for 1883 amounted
to more than $1,000.000.
The prosperity of Mitchell is owing largely to railway influences,
it being the crossing point of the two lines of the Chicago,
Milwaukee & St. Paul Railway, giving it a central location
and making it a fine marketing point for a large region of
productive country. The location of a district land office
has also conduced largely to its growth and business, and
its situation in the heart of the James River Valley contitutes
another important factor in its circle of advantages as a
business point. The cosmopolitan character of its people,
coming as they do from all parts of the American Union, is
still another reason for its energetic continued advance in
wealth and population.
Valuable building materials abound in the vicinity, including
the white chalk-stone of the Missouri Valley, a reddish variety
of sand-stone, and the famous Sioux Falls quartzite.
Firesteel Creek; Early Settlement
Andreas' "Historical Atlas of Dakota", 1884
The following information relating to the early settlement
of Davison County was furnished by Rev. John Morris, who
arrived in the county on the 4th of April, 1874, to select a
home for his family, and eventually settled on
the James River in Town 104, Range 60, near the mouth of
Morris Creek. At the time of his arrival, he found
H. C. Green and family living on the bank of the James
River, near the mouth of Firesteel Creek, and living with
him were J. Head and Mrs. Baker and her two sons,
all of whom had settled the year before. J. Platt and
family, who had settled at about the same time, were living near.
Near them on the river and not far from the Firesteel Creek Mr.
L. Hain was living, having been a resident since the fall of
1872. All these parties were living in Town 103, Range 60.
Immediately on his arrival Mr. Morris began the erection of a
dwelling, and in May 1874, was joined by his family. The
lumber for his house was hauled by teams from Yankton. In
the same month Mr. L. Lowell, from Bon Homme County, arrived
and located on the river in the same township about one mile
south of Green.
Mr. R. Alterton came into the county about the same time as
Morris, and also located in Town 103, Range 60, J. McDonald
located on the Firesteel Creek on the same day, adjoining
Alterton, and John Lowell settled in June 1874, on the river.
Major I. Green, a brother of H. C. Green, who had been engaged
in surveying in the valley, located land in the summer of 1874.
Luke Lowell was another settler in the same township in May 1874.
George F. Allen settled in June 1874 on Section 32, Town 104,
Range 60; A. Curtis settled in Town 103, Range 60, in April
1874. In May of the same year R. P. Cady, Thomas Watson, Henry,
Charles and Richard Morris settled on Sections 26 & 27 in
Town 104, Range 60.
The following voters were residents of the county in the fall
of 1874: H. Morris, C. Morris, Thomas Watson, R. P. Cady,
J. Head, Rev. John Morris, H. C. Green, R. Alterton,
Maj. I. Green, L. Hain, M. C. Baker, G. Baker, A. Curtis,
J.S. Platt, L. Lowell, George F. Allen,--Tyrrell, Charles
Saunders, and Kromer, a blacksmith. During the years 1876,
1877,1878, there were only a few settlers; but in 1879 there
was a great influx of new comers.
In the fall of 1879 a considerable settlement was commenced at
Firesteel, and thirty-two buildings were erected, but upon
the settlement of Mitchell everything was removed to
the new town.
Copyrighted 2002 for Davison county South Dakota by:
Davison County Genealogical Society.