DAVISON CO SD
History of Mitchell South Dakota
Additions or corrections to: Andrea Sindt (email@example.com)
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
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 Bank building
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 occupied 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 bacame 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.
Copyrighted 2002 for Davison county South Dakota by:
Davison County Genealogical Society.