Jerauld County History

Jerauld County History

Search billions of records on

A Brief History of Jerauld County

Jerauld County straddles the moraine between the James and Missouri River. The moraine is often called the Wessington Hills. The eastern part is flat rich land which once laid at the bottom of the glacial Lake Dakota. The county was named for H.A. Jerauld , a territorial legislator from Canton, SD.

Wessington Spring, the county seat, was named for an early explorer who found a natural way to scale the heights of the moraine. Wessington Springs has many natural springs and sometimes they break out in basements of homes many years after they have been built.

Another story of the naming of Wessington Springs says that Col. W. H. Noble was sent by the Chicago, Milwaukee and St. Paul Railroad to map the area and look for a way to build a railroad into the area and he had a teamster named Wessington. They named the springs in his honor and it still remains today.

Wessington Springs was granted a post office in 1884, but had first been called Elmer, but no date was given for Elmer. One of the first schools was opened in 1884 in Wessington Spring and in 1887 the Free Methodist Seminary was built on a side hill and surrounded by a beautiful Shakespearean Gardens. The seminary would be called a high school or junior college today and the building is still used as a high school in the town.

Waterbury was an early town up on the top of the moraine. It had a post office from 1884 to 1913 when the area suffered from a prolonged droughts and many of the people moved away.

Alpena was founded in 1883 and named by C.W. Prior for a town in Michigan. Alpena although small still has a post office and school.

Lane was founded in 1903 and named for L.W. Lane who was part owner of the townsite.

Other ghost towns in Jerauld County are Ada, Busby, Crow Lake, Dale, Fauston, Glen, Gordon, Hyde, Longland, Lyndale, Parsons, Pearl, Starkey, Stetson, Stock, Sullivan, and Templeton.

Several springs are found at the foot of the Hills including Gravel Pit Springs, Big Springs, Iron Spring, Sulphur Spring and Val Vern Dale Spring. This was named for the children of the landowners.

Turtle Peak and Turtle Ridge are a 400-foot rise north of Wessington Springs and are named for an Indian mosaic on the top. Stones were placed to form a large turtle with its head to the rising sun. This is believed to be the burying place of chief Big Turtle.

On a height about two miles west of Wessington Spring, overlooking the whole county, early settlers found the outlines of an Indian Village. The view from here is breathtaking. It is believed that the Indians loved the beautiful view.

The first recorded settlement in Jerauld County was in 1876 by two squatters, Hains and Nicholson. Hains built his cabin at the foot of a hill near a spring and Nicholson built his about four miles away. They did not farm and the manner of the making a living could have involved horse stealing. The Hains cabin has been restored and is a Noble Trails Monument in Wessington Springs Park.

In 1878, three brothers, Moses, Peter and Ogden Barett, came from Minnesota and settled in Barrets Gulch. Mail service began from Yankton to Fort Thompson (to the west of Wessington Springs in Buffalo County). Peter R. Barrett was the first postmaster operating out of his shanty.

Horse thieves were a problem in the early days. The nearest law was in Hanson County so the settlers under the leadership of the Methodist Minister, A.B. Smart, took matters into their own hands and captured one man, the rest soon left the area.

The greatest influx of settlers came in 1882-83. Among them was a doctor, Mrs. N.C. Weens.

Return to Jerauld County Main Page