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South Dakota History Timeline
Important Dates, Events, and Milestones in South Dakota
Offers a chronological timeline of important dates, events, and milestones in South Dakota history.
Around 900 CE, constructing earth lodges within villages, the ancestors of the Mandan, Arikara, and Hidatsa tribes begin to plant corn and sunflowers to supplement their hunting practices.
The territory that would become South Dakota was added to the United States in 1803 as part of the Louisiana Purchase. The first permanent American settlement was established at Fort Pierre by the Lewis and Clark expedition in 1804. White settlement of the territory in the 1800s led to clashes with the Sioux, as some of the land had been granted to the tribe by an earlier treaty. Nevertheless, the territory was incorporated into the union on November 2, 1889, along with North Dakota.
17th Century South Dakota History Timeline
1683 - Le Sueur may have visited Sioux Falls to buy furs to be shipped by flatboat to the mouth of the Mississippi.
18th Century South Dakota History Timeline
1700 - From about this time, beads, knives, and tools from Europe showed up on the plains. Horses traded from the southwest and, later, guns from the east greatly changed life in Dakota.
1743 - The LaVerendrye Brothers, exploring for France, become the first white men to leave proof of their presence in South Dakota. They bury a lead plate on a hill on the west bank of the Missouri River near present day Fort Pierre to claim the area for France.
1745 - De Lusigan visited Big Stone Lake to call in unlicensed traders.
1750 - Teton Sioux at about this date, having driven Omaha from Big Sioux and James River valleys, reached Missouri River and engaged Ree in forty years’ war.
1760 - The Sioux Indians, having been pushed out of Minnesota by the Chippewa, first reach the Missouri River. On their way to the Missouri, the Sioux drove the Omaha Indians from the Big Sioux and James River valleys. Sioux arrival at the Missouri ignites a long war with the Arikara for control of the Missouri Valley in central South Dakota.
1775 - Oglala Teton discover Black Hills and soon afterward drive Kiowa from that region.
1780 - Yankton and Yanktonais Sioux, about this date, having been driven from western Iowa by Oto, came up and settled in James River Valley.
1785 - Pierre Dorian, later guide to Lewis and Clark, married a Yankton woman and settled in trade at mouth of James River.
1792 -Joseph Garreau settles with the Ree Indians at Little Bend of the Missouri.
1796 - Registre Loisel builds post on Cedar Island, between Pierre and Big Bend.
19th Century South Dakota History Timeline
1802 - Loisel, a French trader, built a fur trading post near the mouth of Chapelle Creek on an island. Perrin de Lac, French explorer, set a four-sided cedar post probably on what is now known as the Bijou Hills.
1803 - The United States makes the Louisiana Purchase from France. The area that will become South Dakota is part of the Purchase.
1804-1806 - Lewis and Clark make first camp site in Union County, the first military expedition to enter South Dakota. (Captain Clark records much “elk sign” at a place they call Elk Point.) The party elects Patrick Gass to replace Sgt. Floyd, who died two days before, the first election west of the Mississippi. The explorers visit Spirit Mound, which area tribes say is inhabited by “devils.” William Clark wrote: “From the top of this mound, we beheld a most beautiful landscape. Numerous herds of buffalo were seen feeding in various directions. The plain to north, northwest, and northeast extends without interruption as far as can be seen.” The expedition councils with the Yankton Sioux at Calumet Bluff. The expedition presents gifts of tobacco, corn and flags. The Yankton Sioux prepare a feast. Mr. Dorian, the interpreter, stays behind to negotiate a peace with the Yankton’s neighbors and arrange for the chiefs to visit Washington. The expedition stops near present-day Chamberlain. Lewis spends the next day hunting and describes immense herds of buffalo, deer, elk and antelope in every direction. The party arrives at the mouth of a small river they call Teton (now Bad River). A council with the Teton Sioux turns tense; Clark draws his sword; the Tetons string their bows. Chief Black Buffalo diffuses the situation. Without this action, the expedition and American history could have changed dramatically.
1805 - Pierre Dorian conducts party of Sioux chiefs to St. Louis.
1806 - Lewis and Clark return from Pacific, passing through South Dakota again on their return to St. Louis, in late August. The trip downstream goes much more quickly than the trip upstream.
1807 - Manuel Lisa undertakes trade with Indians at the head of the Missouri River. Sergeant Nathaniel Pryor attempts to conduct Big White, a Mandan chief, who visited Washington with Lewis and Clark, to his home and is attacked and driven back by Rees, assisted by Miniconjou Teton Sioux under Black Buffalo. Four were killed, and nine were wounded.
1808 - St. Louis Missouri Fur Company organized for trade on upper Missouri. Established post in Loisel house on Cedar Island.
1809 - Manuel Lisa of the St. Louis Missouri Fur Company safely conducts Big White to his home in North Dakota. Finds Rees friendly.
1810 - Loisel Post burned with large stock of furs.
1811 - Astorian party go up the Missouri River to Grand River, where they buy horses from Rees and go thence up Grand River toward Pacific. First recorded exploration of northern Black Hills region. Manuel Lisa finds Sioux excited over “Prophet craze” and believes this is due to hostile English influence. Reports condition to General Clark, Indian agent.
1812 - General Clark sends Manuel Lisa to northern part of South Dakota, where he builds Fort Manuel, to control Indians along the Missouri River. Red Thunder, Flathead Yanktonais chief from Elm River, Brown County, with son, Waneta, and 22 Sissetons, enlist to serve English in war against Americans.
1813: - March 5. Yankton join Arikara and Gros Ventre in siege of Fort Manuel. Great battle in which Manuel loses 15 men, and the fort was destroyed. Real engagement of War of 1812. Lisa retires to Big Bend, where he establishes fort and keeps Tetons friendly to Americans.
1815 -Teton Sioux sign treaty of friendship at portage des Sioux. Chief Black Buffalo dies there July 14 and is given military funeral. 1816: Trueau House burns.
1817 - Joseph LaFramboise starts a fur trading post at the site of present day Fort Pierre. This marks the beginning of the oldest continuous white settlement in South Dakota.
1818 - Hazen Mooers set up fur trading post at Great Bend of Big Sioux (Flandreau.) Fort Tecumseh built at site of Fort Pierre, by Columbia Fur Company. Fort Recovery built upon American Island at Chamberlain, by Missouri Fur Company. (It is possible this post was built 10 years earlier to compensate loss of Loisel Post, and was headquarters of Manuel Lisa during War of 1812-1815.)
1823 - Arikara Indians attack a fur trading party led by a General Ashley. Twelve of the fur traders were killed and eleven wounded.This fight is one of the first fights between Indians and whites in South Dakota.
1825 - Treaties are signed with a number of Indian tribes in South Dakota.
1828 - American Fur Company absorbs Columbia Fur Company and becomes dominant in Dakota trade.
1830 - Fort Tecumseh, later Fort Pierre, established as fur trade center.
1831 - The Yellowstone becomes the first steamboat to travel on the Missouri River in South Dakota.
1832 - Fort Pierre built to succeed Fort Tecumseh. George Catlin, famous painter of Indian pictures, visits Fort Pierre and paints many likenesses. Frederick Le Boue, a trader, kills Francious Quenel, an employee, at mouth of Cherry Creek, on Cheyenne River. Le Boue arrested by order of Williams Laidlaw, bourgeois (*businessman) of Fort Pierre, and sent to St. Louis in chains.
1837 - Great smallpox epidemic on Missouri River. All tribes suffer severely. Mandans practically destroyed
1838-1839 - Nicollet and Fremont conduct several exploration expeditions through South Dakota.
1840 - Fort Pierre visited by Fathers C. Hoecken and P. J. DeSmet and the Rev. Stephen Return Riggs. First formal sermon preached in South Dakota by Stephen Return Riggs at Fort Pierre.
1843 - Audubon, the naturalist, visited this section on a professional trip and observed and noted most of the birds and animals. Father Alexandria Ravoux visits Fort Pierre and baptizes many Indians.
1845 - Father Ravoux visits Fort Vermillion.
1847 - Mrs. Joseph LaBarge comes to Fort Pierre with her husband, Captain LaBarge on the Steamboat “Martha.” First white woman to visit South Dakota. The “Martha” attacked by Yankton Indians at Crow Creek.
1849 -Inkpaduta, son of the renegade Wamdesapa, massacres his cousin Wamunidi-yakapi and 17 other Wakpekuta.
1851 - Father DeSmet visits the Teton Sioux. Sante Sioux relinquishes title to all lands east of Big Sioux River by treaty of Traverse des Sioux.
1857 - The white influx into South Dakota receives a boost with the establishment of a settlement at the site of present day Sioux Falls.
1858 - The Yankton Sioux sign a treaty which cedes much of eastern South Dakota to the United States and opens the land for settlement. White settlers continue to enter South Dakota. A provisional government is established, but it is not recognized by Washington.
1859-1860 - White settlers continue to come to South Dakota. Another attempt at establishing a territorial government is made. This attempt also fails to obtain Washington's recognition.
1860-61 - J.B.S. Todd, an early promoter of Dakota Territory and brother-in-law of Abraham Lincoln, goes to Washington, D.C. to lobby for territortial statis for Dakota. (J.B.S. Todd - Dakota Profile)
1861 - Dakota Territory is formally established. The legislation creating the new territory is signed by President James Buchanan. The new territory includes the present states of South Dakota, North Dakota, Montana, and most of Wyoming. William Jayne of Illinois is appointed as the first territorial governor.
1862-1865 - The War of the Outbreak occurs. The war started in Minnesota with the Santee rising of 1862 and spread into Dakota. Several towns, including Sioux Falls, were evacuated until the end of hostilities. The war resulted in several forts being built in Dakota. Dakota's contribution to the war against the Indians consisted of two troops of volunteer cavalry and a number of militia units.
1865 - The Edmunds Commission, headed by Governor Newton Edmunds, negotiated a series of treaties with the Indians in Dakota. These treaties brought about a temporary end to hostilities.
1866 - Red Cloud war begins. Andrew J. Faulk succeeds Newton Edmunds as governor. Great affliction of grasshoppers. Crops eaten. Fort Sully (new) established.
1868 - A treaty is signed with the Sioux ending the Red Cloud War of 1866-1868. Among the provisions of the Ft. Laramie Treaty of 1868 is a clause that continues the Great Sioux Reservation. The area contained in this reservation included the Black Hills. (Dakota Profile - Spotted Tail) Peace Commission at Ft. Laramie, Wyoming, 1868 Shown from right of center pole are Gen. Harney, Gen. Sherman, Gen. Sanborn, General Augar, Gen. Terry, Gen. Henderson and Asa White, commission secretary.
1872 - The Dakota Southern Railroad becomes the first railroad to operate in South Dakota, running from Vermillion to Sioux City, Iowa. The road was completed to Yankton in 1873. The Judge Brookings, first locomotive in Dakota Terr. on the Dakota Southern RR. on Oct 1st, 1972
1874 - Rumors of gold and the need for military posts on the Great Sioux Reservation in the Black Hills area result in the Black Hills Expedition of Lt. Col. George A. Custer. In addition to troops, Custer's expedition included a large corps of scientists and several miners. Gold is discovered in the vicinity of present day Custer and the Black Hills gold rush begins.
1876 - Whites continue to enter the area of the Great Sioux Reservation. Many of the intruders go to the Black Hills to look for gold. The failure of the Army to keep whites out of the Hills angers the Sioux and war begins. The most notable event of the war is the defeat of Custer and the 7th Cavalry at the Little Big Horn in June.
1877 - A treaty is signed that ends the Black Hills war and gives the Black Hills to the United States. Renegade Indians are returned to their reservations and agencies. (Dakota Profile - Spotted Tail)
1878-1887 - This is the period of the Great Dakota Boom. Settlers pour into Dakota. The railroads provide a major incentive to settlement. Agriculture and industry both prosper.
1880 - The Chicago & North Western Railroad becomes the first railroad to reach the Missouri River when its
tracks reach the new town of Pierre late in the year. Although building west at the same time as the North
Western, the Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul Railroad will not officially reach the Missouri at
1883 - By 1883, Dakota Territory had been reduced to what is now the States of South and North Dakota, Wyoming and Montana having been organized as separate territories. The northern part of the territory had grown in population to the point that the center of population was no longer in the Yankton area. This population shift led to the major event of 1883, the removal of the territorial capitol from Yankton to Bismarck. The move caused much bitterness among the people of southern Dakota. The capitol removal resulted in the first attempt to get southern Dakota admitted to the Union as a separate state. Washington refused to recognize the new state.
1885 - The discontent created by the capitol removal in 1883 sparked a second attempt to create a State of Dakota out of the southern half of the territory. Voters in southern Dakota approved a state constitution and elected a full slate of state officers. The legislature and state officials convened in Huron and organized the new state government. Senators were also chosen for the new state. Once again, Washington refused to grant statehood.
1886-1887 - Droughts bring the prosperity of the Great Dakota Boom to an end.
1888 - A major blizzard strikes the eastern part of southern Dakota. The blizzard
1890 - Pierre is chosen as the permanent capital of South Dakota. A number of
1895 - In his opening address to the legislature on January 8, newly reelected
governor Charles H. Sheldon praised outgoing treasurer Walter William Taylor
for his efficiency, faithfulness, and the energy and zeal which he displayed in
the management of the office of the treasury. The next day, January 9, governor
Sheldon asked that his words of praise for Taylor be stricken from the official journal.
It had just been discovered that Taylor, a former Redfield banker, had fled to South
America and the state's treasury was short $367,000.
1896 - Andrew E. Lee, a Populist, is elected as the third Governor of South Dakota. Lee was the first non-Republican governor. Only five other men who were not Republicans have served as governor, four being elected and one succeeding to the office on a resignation.
1898 - The Spanish-American War is fought. The Ist South Dakota Infantry is called into federal service and is sent to the Philippines. The regiment misses the fighting against the Spanish, but does see combat during the early months of the Philippine Insurrection in 1899. Besides the infantry regiment, South Dakota contributed five troops to the 3rd US Volunteer Cavalry, commanded by Col. Melvin Grigsby of Sioux Falls. The 3rd Cavalry spent the entire war in training camps in the United States.
20th Century South Dakota History Timeline
1900 - The Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul Railroad reached the Missouri River at Evarts
in northern South Dakota. Evarts quickly became a major shipping point for cattle
from western South Dakota.
1906-1907 - Both the Chicago & North Western and the Milwaukee Road build west from the Missouri River to Rapid City. The North Western beat the Milwaukee to Rapid City by several months. Development of western South Dakota was greatly aided by the establishment of two direct rail links with eastern South Dakota and eastern markets.
1906 - The Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul Railroad begins construction of its Pacific Coast Extension.
The Extension, when completed in 1909, gave the Milwaukee a line to the Pacific coast and put SouthDakota on a transcontinental rail line. The town of Evarts was abandoned when the Milwaukee decided
1908 - The cornerstone of the new capitol building is laid. The first steps are taken to open large parts of the Cheyenne River and Standing Rock Indian Reservations to white settlement. The land is formally opened in 1909.
1910 - The new capitol building in Pierre was opened for use. Designed by the same architects who designed the Montana capitol, the new capitol ended the possibility of new fights over the sight of the state capitol. Although growth in the size of state government required an addition to the capitol building in the 1930s and the construction of several separate office buildings, the building opened in 1910 has continued to serve as the capitol to the present day.
1917-1918 - The United States was involved in World War I. South Dakota's major contribution to the war was the 147th Field Artillery Regiment. The 147th was created out of half of the 4th South Dakota Infantry and two batteries of Oregon National Guard Artillery. The 147th saw heavy action as it provided artillery sport for ten different American and French divisions. The regiment received numerous decorations and citations from both France and the United States. After the war's end, the 147th was retained as part of the South Dakota National Guard.
1927 - Gutzon Borglum begins work on the Mount Rushmore monument. The monument contains the faces of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt, and Abraham Lincoln. Borglum's work had its origin in the desire of State Historian Doane Robinson to have a monument to American history created in the Black Hills. Although never completed, the Rushmore monument is still a major tourist attraction.
1928 - Gov. Bulow pardons Poker Alice, 78, after she is convicted on a bootlegging charge. Gov. Bulow was said to be reluctant to send a white-haired old lady to prison. Poker Alice was a gambler/madam from Stugis whose enterprises catered to the soldiers at Ft. Meade.
1930s - South Dakota is hit hard by the Depression. Drought and dust created severe problems for agriculture. The Civilian Conservation Corps and the WPA provided many jobs. The CCC was instrumental in providing much forest conservation work in the Black Hills.
1939 - President Franklin D. Roosevelt creates Badlands National Park.
1940 - In November, the 147th Field Artillery Regiment of the South Dakota National Guard is called into Federal service. The regiment is assigned to Fort Ord, California.
1941 - the 147th Field Artillery performs well at Fort Ord, prompting troops of the regular army 7th Infantry Division to talk about having the 147th assigned as the divisional artillery. In November, the 147th is ordered to overseas duty in the Philippines. The regiment was in Hawaii at the end of November. The regiment's convoy was a week west of Hawaii when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor. The attack on Pearl Harbor caused the 147th's convoy to be rerouted to Australia. For a time during the end of 1941 and the early months of 1942, the 147th was the only major Allied unit stationed in the Darwin area.
1941-1945 - The United States was involved in World War II. South Dakotans were involved in
the fighting in Europe, Africa, and the Pacific. The most notable contribution by a South Dakota
unit was made by the 147th Field Artillery during its service in the Pacific. The 147th was
reorganized in 1943 into the 147th and 260th Field Artillery Battalions. The 147th was the last field
artillery regiment to be reorganized by the Army. The 147th Battalion built a solid record of
combat service in New Guinea and the Philippines as part of the 158th Regimental Combat Team.
The 260th Battalion spent the rest of the war driving trucks. These two battalions were the only
units of the South Dakota National Guard to maintain a specific South Dakota identity during the war.
1947 - In response to Indian requests for a monument similar to Mount Rushmore to honor Indian heroes, Korczak Ziolkowski began work on Crazy Horse Mountain in the Black Hills. The work was to be a statue in the round of the Oglala Sioux leader Crazy Horse. Though it was still not finished at Ziolkowski's death in 1982, the Crazy Horse site is a major tourist attraction.
1948 - Blizzard hits northeastern South Dakota. The National Guard is called out to assist in clearing roads.
1949 - Blizzard hits South Dakota early in January. Air drops of hay are required in much of central and western South Dakota. The CNW line from Pierre to Rapid City was blocked for several weeks.
1950-1952 - The United States participated in the Korean War. Several South Dakota National Guard units were called into federal service, but none of them saw combat. The 196th Regimental Combat Team held South Dakota's outstanding National Guard tradition by outperforming units of the Regular Army both in training in Colorado and on active duty in Alaska.
1952 - A major flood on the Missouri River proves the wisdom of the Pick-Sloan Act. Flood damage is severe in Pierre, with much of the town inundated. The flood causes damage all through South Dakota and in downstream states. The severity of the flood provided additional justification for construction of the Oahe Dam.
1962 - The electric generating station at the Oahe Dam is completed. Oahe is the largest of the six Missouri River Pick-Sloan dams, with a generating capacity of 700,000 kilowatts. With completion of the Big Bend Dam and generating station several years later, the Missouri River dams achieved a generating capacity of over 2,000,000 kilowatts of electricity.
1966 - The Pathfinder Atomic Power Plant built by Northern States Power Company near Sioux Falls begins producing electricity. It was considered the world's first all-nuclear power plant. After only one year's operation,however, it was converted to a conventional power plant because of technical problems.
Late 1960s - All four of the Pick-Sloan dams in South Dakota are completed.
1973 - South Dakota was rocked by Wounded Knee II and the Custer Court House Riots. Wounded Knee II was the occation of the town of Wounded Knee by members and sporters of the American Indian Movement. The Custer Court House Riots occurred during the trial of several Sioux in Custer. These two events appear to be a highwater mark for A.I.M. One result of the activity by A.I.M. has been an increase in demands by the Sioux for the return of the Black Hills to Sioux control.
1974 - As a result of the shortage of doctors in South Dakota, the legislature created a medical school for the University of South Dakota.
1978 - Richard Kneip became the first man to resign as governor when he resigned the office in July 1978 to become US Ambassador to Singapore. Kneip was the fifth non-Republican governor and only the fourth Democrat to be governor. Harvey Wollman, Richard Kneip's lieutenant governor, became the first man to serve as governor without being elected to the office. Wollman became governor on Kneip's resignation. Kneip's resignation came seven weeks after Wollman was defeated in the Democratic primary for governor. Wollman served as governor for just over five months until the inauguration of William Janklow in January 1979.
1980 - The Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul & Pacific Railroad abandons several thousand miles of track and withdraws from the Pacific Coast. The abandonment affected more than half of South Dakota's total railroad mileage. The lack of rail service caused by the abandonment created severe problems for South Dakota agriculture. The Milwaukee was persuaded to keep the mainline through northern South Dakota open to Miles City, Montana, so that coal shipments could continue
1981 - Governor William Janklow calls a special session of the state legislature to deal with problems caused by the Milwaukee abandonment. The result of the special session was the purchase of much of the abandoned Milwaukee track in South Dakota. This purchase was used to form the base for an essential core rail
1982 - The Milwaukee pulls out of South Dakota completely when it abandons
all track west of Ortonville, Minnesota, in March. The importance of the mainline to agriculture and the Big Stone power plant resulted in the State purchasing the line from Ortonville to Miles City, Montana. Burlington Northern Railroad assumed operation of the line under a lease-purchase agreement. With the purchase of the
1986 - The Chicago & NorthWestern Railroad ended its long association with central South Dakota and the city of Pierre when the NorthWestern sold its line from Rapid City, South Dakota, to Winona, Minnesota to the L. B. Foster Company
of Pittsburg, Pennsylvania. The sale came about because of intense opposition to
abandonment of the line between Huron and Rapid City. The NorthWestern had tried
to abandon the part of the line between Pierre and Rapid City in 1983, but the ICC
blocked the abandonment. The sale stopped another abandonment attempt. The
Rapid City-Winona line is now being operated by the Dakota, Minnesota & Eastern
Railroad. The North Western retained a spur line into Sioux Falls and a line from Chadron,
Nebraska through Rapid City to Colony, Wyoming. With the Milwaukee already gone from
South Dakota, the sale of the Rapid City-Winona line removed all but a small portion of the
two railroads which were instrumental in the settlement and growth of South Dakota.
1988 - South Dakota suffers from severe drought conditions. The drought had its beginnings in the fall and winter of 1987, when rain and snow amounts were far below normal. Farmers and ranchers in many parts of the state were faced with partial or total crop failures and severe lack of feed for cattle. Lightning caused a large forest fire in the Black Hills in July. Helped along by existing drought conditions, the fire destroyed approximately 16,000 acres in the vicinity of Custer State Park and Mount Rushmore. The fire burned for over a week before it was contained. South Dakota voters approve a constitutional amendment that will allow limited gambling in the city of Deadwood. Before gambling could go into effect, the legislature would have to pass appropriate regulations and the voters of Deadwood would have to approve gambling in a special vote.
1989 - Deadwood voters approved the gambling measure and a state board
21st Century South Dakota History Timeline
2007 - National Science Foundation chose Homestake, former gold mine near Lead, as site for multipurpose deep underground science and engineering laboratory
2010 - South Dakota named seventh best place to do business in U.S. by CNBC
2011 - South Dakota had third lowest unemployment rate in U.S.
US History Overview
The word History comes from the Greek word historķa meaning "to learn or know by inquiry." History is not static. It's fluid. It changes and grows and becomes richer and more complex when any individual interacts with it.