Fall River County, South Dakota

In 1743 the sons of French explorer Pierre Gaultier de Varennes, sieur de La Verendrye, left a dated plaque on a bluff overlooking the Missouri River near what is now known as Pierre, marking the first white exploration of South Dakota. The journals of Jean-Paptiste Truteau, of the Missouri Co. and the maps of James McKay and John Evans, were used by Meriwether Lewis and William Clark on their expedition up the Missouri River.
One of the first to arrive after Lewis and Clark was Manuel Lisa a trader from St. Louis. He built Fort Manuel near an Arikara village on the Missouri. The interpreter at this trading post was Toussaint Charbonneau, who was the husband of Sacajawea, Others followed including, Jedediah Smith, Jim Bridger and others.
The first steamboat to come this far north was the Yellowstone, from then until the arrival of the railroad in the 1870's steamboats plied the waters of the Missouri. They brought much needed goods from St. Louis to Fort Pierre. Forts and trading posts dotted the banks of the Missouri and many became the foundations for today's cities, such as Yankton, Vermillion, Chamberlain and of course Pierre.
The Treaty of Fort Laramie in 1868 established the Missouri River as the boundary of white settlement. And west of the river became the Great Sioux Reservation. For the Sioux and the Cheyenne, who had come to the area a few generations prior to the arrival of the white man, the Black Hills were hallowed ground.
The band of the Teton Sioux were led by chiefs and warriors who became the legends of the American West: Red Cloud and Crazy Horse of the Oglala, Spotted Tail of the Brule, Big Foot of the Miniconjou, and Sitting Bull of the Hunkpapa. The most famous Battle was The Battle of Little Big Horn. Although the Indian Nations won this was the beginning of the end, their final defeat was inevitable.
South Dakota continued to gain in white population from 10,000 in 1870 to 348,000 by 1890. Many of the new inhabitants were from Northern Europe already accustomed to the climate that South Dakota afforded. They were from Norway, Sweden, Russia and Finland.
Gold and rumors of gold in the Black Hills lured many to South Dakota. Many turned to farming the fertile ground, or raising livestock after the rush was over.
Hot Springs (see map) became a turn-of-the-century spa, these were the fad of the times. The Indians frequently camped at "Minne-kahta". The names of the warm water springs are, Catholican Springs, Lakota Springs, and last but definitely not least, Mammoth Spring. This spring is the largest in the Black Hills, with 10,000 gallons of water flowing per hour. Then in 1974 the Mammoth Site was found (see map). This site can be visited and you can see an archeological "dig" in progress. Hot Springs, is enclosed on the south by the Sawtooth Mountains, Battle Mountain on the east and the Black Hills on the west and north. Cold and hot brooks flow into the Fall River (from which the county gets its name), which flows thru town and joins the Cheyenne River south of Hot Springs.
Fred Evans was a benefactor of Hot Springs. In 1875 he owned the Evans Transportation Company which was the largest in the west, hauling between Fort Pierre and the Black Hills. He built the Minnekahta Hotel (later the Evans Hotel) and Evans Plunge. He donated land for every church in town and the Soldiers' Home. He also paid for the water system, baseball team, and a city band.

Fall River County's brief but rich western history is being preserved by the Fall River County Historical Society and their artifact collections are on display at the Pioneer Museum in Hot Springs. The museum is open daily to the public, Monday through Saturday from May 15th until October 15th. Please come visit, and tell them "Old Stu" sent you.
If you have information, or links you would like to share please send it along to me and I will be happy to consider it for use on this site. Just click on one of the email icons below and drop me a note.
Stewart "Stu" Marty, County Coordinator - volunteer

RETURN to Fall River Main Page
or enjoy visiting one of these other Fall River pages

Directory  History  Inquiries  Links  LookUps  Send Query

  FUN  News  History  Fall River MAP

May, 1998