Turner County History
South Dakota GenWeb


The surface of the county is gently rolling. The creek and river bottoms are generally level and constitute a part of the most valuble grain and grazing lands. The soil is a rich, black loam, varying in depth from two to four feet, with a clay subsoil capable of retaining moisture for a long time.

The county is well watered. The Vermillion River runs through the entire east side of the county and its bottom lands, which average several miles in width are very fertile. The west fork of the Vermillion enters the county near the northwest corner, runs in a southeasterly course and joins the main river near the centre of the county. Turkey Ridge Creek rises in the northwestern corner, flows through the entire county and empties into the Vermillion near the southeast corner. The valley of this creek, which averages from three to ten miles in width, is unexcelled for fertility, as is attested by the almost countless number of grain stacks to be seen throughout its entire length.

Swan Lake, situated near the county seat, is a beautiful sheet of water, about 1 1/2 miles long and 1/2 mile wide. It is surrounded by high, dry banks and has a sandy bottom. The shores are lined with bowlders and pebbles. Near the centre of the lake is a small island covered with trees which adds much to its beauty. The lake is well stocked with various kinds of fish, and in the spring and fall countless numbers of wild fowl make it a common resort, and furnish abundant amusement for sportsmen.

The mineral resources of the county are undeveloped, but there is sufficient limestone for the use of the people for years; and the carbonate of lime in the form of imperfect chalk also exists in unlimited quantities and can be easily obtained. In this connection, it may be mentioned that several houses in the county are plastered with a material which is called native lime. It has the appearance of slacked lime, and is found usually as a subsoil in low ground. It can be reached by removing the soil and, as it is found in moist places, is soft and easily shoveled out. This substance mixed with sand and hair, in the usual proportions, makes a good mortar, much resembling that made of ordinary lime, a little darker but fully as tough and durable.

ORGANIZATION. Turner County was formed by an act of the ninth session of the Legislative Assembly, approved January 1, 1871. It is bounded on the north by McCook and Minnehaha, on the east by Lincoln, on the south by Clay and Yankton, and on the west by Hutchinson. It comprises eighteen congressional townships, equal to 414,720 acres.

The following extract from the act incorporating the county gives the names of the first officers and the location of the county seat.

William W. Aurner, Valentine P. Thielman and Lewis H. Elliot shall be County Commissioners and C. S. Scott shall be Register of Deeds of Turner County, and the county-seat is hereby located on the southeast quarter of Section 9, Town 97, Range 55, and shall be known and designated as Swan Lake City.

The first general election was held in the fall of 1871. There were five votes polled, and some malicious persons claimed that two of them belonged to Yankton County.

Present county officers: County commissioners, T. C. Elce, Jr., I. N. Monk, I. M. Roper; Register of Deeds, C. M. Pier; Treasurer, j. B. Beebe; Sheriff, I. H. Newby; Judge of Probate, o. C. Stuart; Assessor, J. J. Graber; Superintendent of Schools, L. N. Alberty; Coroner, A. L.. Peterman; Surveyor, Joseph Allen; Clerk of Court, Vale P. Thielman; Justices, J. Allen, W. W. Nutting, W. Negus, O. Still.

EARLY HISTORY---The first settlement of Turner County dates back to July, 1869, when claims were taken at Swan Lake by W. W. Aurner, Colonel G. C. Moody; S. H. Elliot, F. C. Hills and G. M. Ripley.

In September of the same year, the first house in Turner County was built by W. w. Aruner. It was made of a huge pile of sods, finished inside with rough cottonwood lumber. The first white woman that made this county her home was Miss Helen N. Batchelder. This lady and her sister, Miss A. J. Batchelder, came into the county with Mr. Aurner, their brother-in-law. Mr. Aurner returned east for the balance of his effects and the first named lady was installed as housekeeper for several days. It is presumed that her duties as such, kept her sufficiently employed, as she found no time to visit her nearest neighbor who was only twenty miles distant. Mr. Aurner and family were the only settlers here until the next summer (the parties taking claims at the same time failed to make a personal settlement), when they were joined by Vale P. Thielman, C. S. Scott, and several others. In 1872 Messrs. Frederickson, Nilson, Kier, Thompson and many others, followed and the prairie was dotted here and there with white- covered wagons and settlers’ cabins.

Lois J. S. Scott was the first child born in the county. This event took place at Swan Lake in May, 1871.

In the fall of 1870 H. C. Ash, C. F. Lang, and F. Place made settlement on the western side of the county. They were joined the next year by James A. Childs and brothers, and Childstown was founded, which is now surrounded by a thrifty and enterprising class of Russian Mennonites.

The next settlement was made in the southeastern part of the county, in the spring of 1871, by E. W. and M. G. Laird. William Lowrie, ____ Hammond and William Robinson. These sturdy pioneers were followed by others of equal enterprise. New settlers kept coming in and the town of Centerville is the result.

Here the first marriage in the county was solemnized; William Robinson being the groom and Mrs. Hammond the bride. In 1871 Messrs. Morgan and Adams settled on the Vermillion, at a point known afterwards as the town of Finlay, but not having the necessary perseverance they left for older settled regions.

They were succeeded in 1873 by Rev. J. J. McIntire, Eugene Burgess, and shortly after by J. J. Shurtliff, W. W. Hollenbeck and a large number of others.

In the summer of 1872 Messrs. J. W., P. H. and D. C. Turner formed a settlement on the east line of the county and founded the town of Turner. Being enterprising men, they were not long in forming a good settlement in one of the richest valleys in Dakota. Here in the next year J. W. Turner, better known as “Father Turner,” whose name the county bears, built a good flouring mill.

In 1874 J. F. Allen and Mr. Ellerstone formed a settlement in the northern part of the county, called Allentown. They were followed by a few friends, and later on by a large colony of Mennonites.

Of the early settlers a few have left for other countries and climes; some have crossed the “dark river,” but by far the greater number remain to enjoy the fruits of their hard labors, and can to-day look with pride upon what a few years ago was a wild prairie, now covered with well-cultivated farms and pleasant homes.

THE PRESS---The Swan Lake Era was established at Swan Lake by H. B. Chaffee, the first issue appearing on the 28th of October, 1875. On the 5th of April, 1878, William H. Gardner purchased the paper and changed its name to the Swan Lake Press. On the 19th of October, 1878, Mr. Gardner disposed of the paper to Charles F. Hackett, who changed the name to the New Era. The publication was continued at Swan Lake by Mr. Hackett until December 6, 1879, when he removed it to Parker, in which, place it is still issued under the same management.

The second paper started in the county was the Marion Junction Gazette, published by M. A. Fuller. The first issue appeared in July, 1879.

The first issue of the Marion Sentinel, published by J. E. Hazlett, formerly of the Lennox Independent, bears date January 7, 1882.

The next publication was the Turner County Herald, printed at Hurley and edited by W. C. Brown. The first issue appeared May 3, 1883.

The first issue of the Centerville Chronicle, published at Centerville by T. J. Clark, bears date June 14, 1882.

The Dakota State Record, published at Parker by Alva Hand, is the last venture in the newspaper line.

PARKER is beautifully located on Section 17, Town 99, Range 53. The west branch of the Vermillion River passes a few rods west of the town, and from the bluffs on the river banks the iron horse can be seen for a distance of fifteen miles. The town was laid out by Messrs. Kimball and Sanborn, in 1879, and the first settlers on the site were George W. Howard, J. M. Simerson, W. W. Robbins, C. G. Pratt, M. T. Howard, L. Gilbert, S. Hayward, H. H. Schafer and others. the first store building was erected by G. W. Howard for a hardware store, and during the month of August a hotel was built by Orange Still.

CHURCHES----During 1880 the first church building was erected by the Presbyterians at a cost of $1,000. This society was organized by the Rev. J. B. Currens during the year 1879.

The Baptist society was organized in the fall of a880, and subsequently, in 1883, a church was erected at a cost of $1.500. The first Sunday school was organized by this society in October, 1879, with H. O. Newby as superintendent.

The Methodist Episcopal society was organized in August, 1881, and a building erected at a cost of $1,500. The Episcopalians and Disciples also have organizations.

SCHOOLS----The school-house was completed in December, 1879, at a cost of $2,000. The first teacher was I. N. Alberty.

There are good working lodges of A. F. & A. M. and the A. O. U. W., as well as a Grand Army post.

The first bank in the county was established at this point in February, 1880, by Messrs. Gale & Stone. The firm now consists of G. W. Stone, the managing partner for Gale & Stone, L. A. Grant, of Des Moines, Iowa, formerly president of the N. E. L. & T. Co., and A. G. Stone. They transact a general banking business, buy and sell foreign and domestic exchange, discount bills, make collections, etc.

The town was incorporated in January, 1883, by an act of the Legislature. The first officials were: Mayor, William M. Morton; George W. Stone, Treasurer: I. Kleisby, Clerk: Gustave Gilbert, L. Gilbert, W. W. Robbins and J. R. Ward, Aldermen.

Parker is one of the brightest and neatest looking towns in the Territory, with a population of 500 or 600, and growing rapidly. All lines of ordinary mercantile pursuits are thoroughly represented. The Dakota Central Railway was finished to this point in August, 1883, giving it a second direct route to Chicago.

MARION JUNCTION----This town was laid out by Gen. John D. Lawler, in August, 1879, and named in honor of the daughter of S. S. Merrill, of Milwaukee.

Among the first to settle here were F. Rocher, C. H. Flowers, John Ryan, John McNamee and George L. McKay. It is situated at the junction of the main line and the Running Water branch of the Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul Railway, and has in the neighborhood of ?00 inhabitants. A very fine school-house was built in 1879, at a cost of $2,000. The Catholics and Presbyterians have church edifices. The German Lutherans hold services in private houses, or wherever they can find room. The village was organized in September, 1881. The first officers were, Trustees, Jacob Hieb, Frederick Roeber and Joseph Bingenheimer; Clerk, T. Schriber; Treasurer, E. Rieff; Justice, James Christian.

HURLEY----This town was laid out by the Western Town Site Company, represented by Albert Keep, on the 19th day of March, 1883. It is situated on the line of the Dakota Central Railway. The property was purchased from C. A. Near and Rowland Rees. The former owned the northeast quarter and the latter the northwest quarter of Section 27, Town 98, Range 53. In May, 1883, T. H. Judson platted an addition to the town, which consists of forty acres in the southeast quarter of the same section. The railroad grade was finished to this point in July, 1883, and the first regular train reached the town in the month following.

The first building was put up in January, 1883, before the town was platted, by R. Rees, who put in a stock of hardware. In February, 1883, J. Swan moved in a building from a point two miles south of the town site, and opened a boarding house. A steam elevator, with a capacity of 20,000 bushels of grain, was erected during the fall of 1883, by Messrs. Lamsom & Farnsworth, of State Centre, Iowa.

During the summer of 1883, the Baptists and Episcopalians built church edifices. In February, 1884, the Turner County Bank was opened: E. May, president; A. May, cashier.

The village was incorporated October 16, 1883, the vote on that day standing thirty-two for incorporation and five against. The first village election took place on the 3d of December, 1883, with the following result:

Aldermen: A. B. Vinton, D. Dwyer, Sr., and M. S. Robinson; Clerk, Rowland Rees; Treasurer, P. Allen, Assessor. G. A. Near; Justice, J. Allen; Marshal, J. T. Hogan.

Hurley presents a substantial appearance, and there is no doubt that in a few years its population of 200 people will grow into as many thousands. The beautiful and fertile Spring Valley region lies just to the west of the town, and the time is not far distant when the products of this district alone will support a populous town.

CENTERVILLE----The Western Town Lot Company purchased the southeast quarter of Section 23, and the southwest quarter of Section 22, in Town 96, Range 52, sometime during the Fall of 1882; and in March, 1883, the town was platted. During the summer of 1883 F. M. Rowley platted an addition of fifty- one acres in Section 23, and J. Coleman an addition of forty acres in Section 22. About the 20th of March, 1883, the first building was commenced by W. H. Haseltine. It was erected on the corner of Broadway and Garfield streets, and occupied as a drug store. Immediately after W. H. Douglas moved his store building from the old town of Centerville and located it on Broadway. Messrs. Lowrie & Ayer built their hardware store, and during the summer of 1883, building was continuous. The population of the village is about 250.

The bank of Centerville was established in May, 1883, officered by A. Rowell, president, and H. P. Sweet, cashier.

The German Presbyterians and Baptists erected churches during the year 1883. The post office was moved from the old town site to the new town in June, 1883. The town is beautifully situated about forty rods east of the Vermillion River, in one of the most fertile regions in the Territory, thickly settled by a good population, that has resided here from ten to fifteen years. Large and well cultivated farms, surrounded by handsome groves, show that the region is prosperous, and the town commands an excellent trade.

SWAN LAKE, the present county seat, is finely situated on the bank of Turkey Ridge Creed, and near the beautiful Swan Lake, in the midst of a fine agricultural district. It is about two and a half miles from the Dakota Central Railway in an air line. It contains the county offices, and one general store, two church organizations, Methodist and Presbyterian, and a number of dwellings.

The place was settled in 1877, and Joseph Allen, now a prominent business man of Hurley, was the first Post-master, locating there in April of that year. He removed to Hurley in April, 1883. The building of the new railway past its doors carried most of the business formerly transacted here to more favored points.



This page is a transcription of Andreas' Historical Atlas of Dakota (1884), published in Chicago by A. T. Andreas. Every effort has been made to be
true to the original book. Many typographical and factual errors in the original have been corrected. The original text is shown and the corrected text
then appears in brackets [like this --- JRF] with the initials of the person who offered the correction.

This book is available on microfilm from the South Dakota State Archives and can be borrowed on inter-library loan.

These electronic files are ©1997, 1998 by the SDGENWEB and the
contributors who transcribed the information.

Graphics and page layout © Joy Fisher, 1997, 1998.