Section A: Beginnings
Press & Dakotan

Section A: Beginnings


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PRESS & DAKOTAN SATURDAY, AUGUST 6, 2011 YANKTON 150: PAGE 15A Eyewitnesses To A Frontier The Newspaper s 1936 Anniversary Edition Offered Recollections Of Yankton s Early Days Imagine Yankton 150 years ago. Frankly, that may be nearly an impossible task for many people. Yankton in the early frontier days was virtually as isolated from the east from white society as we are interconnected with the world today, even here in the remote Midwest. It was a different world in 1861, as well as the 19th century. Indeed, it was a different existence completely. In an effort to shed some light into those dark passages of our past, the Press & Dakotan dug into its archives specifically, its special 1936 edition celebrating the 75th anniversary of Yankton and Dakota Territory. Several early pioneers were contacted for their recollections of those frontier days, and their insights were nostalgic and illuminating in 1936. We hope they serve the same purpose here in 2011. WADE BURLEIGH ... It used to be said, As goes Yankton, so goes Dakota Territory, for Yankton, the capitol, was truly the gateway into the Territory. As time passed, however, the Territory grew smaller and Yankton larger, till now it has become a city one of the most beautiful for its size to be found. ... ... Time often places a halo around the days of P&D ARCHIVE PHOTO small things that refuses to be removed. The good As the years and decades passed, the recollections of those pioneers who settled here during the earliest days of the Dakota Territory came to be sought out old days are fixed fixed to stay. Especially is this by subsequent generations who still could trace their immediate roots back to those days. true when recalling the exploits of boyhood. Yankton as a village had the finest set of boys that ever lived. No one could deny it. Yankton had the slowly advanced, all became still very still. Sud camping out, digging pumlaws (Indian turnips), rounded by a stockade. Government soldiers were stagreatest men, the best teachers, the fastest horses, denly several well-armed men appeared from the whip braiding, hunting and some trapping. Some of tioned there for the protection of the people from the the best shots, etc., etc., in all the world. shrubbery, ordered them to stop, and demanded to the boys owned horses and most of them had dogs, Indians who were making raids upon the white settleBut little grass grew on the streets leading to the know who they were. Under the circumstances the guns, and lariats. ments from time to time. river in swimming season. How could any one ever horsemen were willing to be accommodating. The offiThere was enough of real tragedy from time to time Those early years in South Dakota were filled with have so much fun as eight or ten boys who would cers of the law, for it was they becoming satisfied, exto prevent a boy s imagination from becoming dormany hardships for the pioneers who moved out into leave their clothes on the fine rock beach near the plained that they were seeking to recapture a prisoner mant. For example, a man who had shed blood at St. this new uncivilized country to settle there and make foot of Broadway, walk perhaps a mile upstream who had escaped from the jail in Yankton and whom James, Nebraska, was held for a time a prisoner in a it their future home. The land had to be cultivated, through the willows, swim out to a large floating log, they thought might be hiding in the rough land of that room on Broadway. As a diversion he made bows and logs hewn and houses built, and roads and means of and ride it, roll it, and region. ... arrows and passed them through the transom, decocommunication established. These things were acdive from it? Then One morning a rated and stained, to some of the boys. Later he was complished under very great handicaps. Machinery The coming of the Rooshuns was considfrom maybe a mile new boy appeared at hung. Or, for example, the man who, while being tried and tools were very scarce, if they had any at all, and below town they ered by the boys at first as an unwarranted in- school wearing moc- for shooting a man in town, made a dash for the door, much of the work was done by hand. The first few would swim ashore casins and a fur cap, leaped upon a horse and escaped over the western years the pioneers lived in constant fear of the Indians vasion. ... But gradually by general good and return to their to the rear of which hills. Later he died with his boots on in a double and during the trouble with the Indians the farmers clothing, possibly or humor and a spirit of willing comradeship, a large wolf-tail had tragedy. and their families around Yankton worked on their probably to find most farms during the day time and were called into the they won a place among the local boys, as did beenaattached. He MARY M. DAVIS of it tied in hard was white boy, but stockade at night. This, of course, made the work knots and hear an ex- their fathers among the men of Yankton and Mrs. Mary M. Davis, of Marcus, Iowa, is another pihis foot and headeven more slow and hazardous. ultant voice from the oneer of Dakota still living who took refuge with her inter Mother tells of one incident that shows the feeling Dakota. This happy adjustment was finally ef- gear were an act of top of the bank cry, parents in the Yankton Stockade in 1862. preted as of dread and uncertainty under which the women and Chaw raw beef! and fected when it was learned that the newcomHer father, Washington Reed, with his family aropen defiance. A children lived during these times. While the men were then quickly fade rived in Yankton in July, 1862, and took a homestead Star Chamber busy working it was not always convenient for some away in the distance, ers were not Russians but Germans ... on Smutty Bear Bottom just west of town, where the court was called by of them to stay at home with the women and children indicating rapid travJohn Ryken place now is located. the passing of notes and they were often left at home alone during the day. eling. Twas well for him, as we would say in these dull During the Indian scare the Reed family moved into One day when Mother was a small girl, she and her under the seats; he was tried and condemned. The days, to step on the gas, while the swimmers made the Stockade, but being accustomed to border life boy evidently sensed the situation, for as soon as the mother were alone and saw some one coming and good use of their teeth to help untie the knots. closing bell sounded, he made for the door and barely they soon returned to their farm home, being anxious grandmother, fearing it was the Indians, took Mother And the steamboats more than a quarter of a about their stock. escaped from the building with a mob of avengers at by the hand and they fled down through the brush hundred! All stopped at Yankton. And when one would Mrs. Davis, now quite feeble, lives with her daughhis heels. Once outside, being a good runner and light and plum thickets along the Missouri river. They hid whistle, and all did, what thrills! Not the ordinary, avter, Mrs. W. J. Satterlee, at Marcus. Two years ago she of foot, he managed to keep ahead of the yelling mob there for several hours and finally when it began to erage thrills, but the rare kind that start deep down in visited friends and relatives in Yankton. Through her till he bolted within his own front door. It was a hairget late, they decided they would have to return the corridors of boy s anatomy, chase each other up daughter, Mrs. Davis sends the following interesting breadth escape from insulted, unwritten boy law. The home. They circled the farm and climbed the hills and down, and all around each nerve fiber and send a story ...: next morning he reappeared, but minus moccasins, back of the house so that they could get a view of the boy (and half the town) to the river bank in time to Mrs. Mary M. Davis was born near Des Moines, fur cap, and of course wolf-tail. This change of regalia house without being seen. When they got near enough see the boat land, fresh from the unknown lands of was duly accepted as a sufficient apology and he soon Iowa, in 1856 and moved to Yankton, Dakota with her so that Mother could see the house from her mother s mystery. father and mother, Mr. and Mrs. Washington Reed and became one of the boys. shoulder, they found the house surrounded by people, Occasionally a mackinaw came floating down the three brothers, Matthew, William and Thomas in 1862. but they could not discern whether it was Indians or The coming of the Rooshuns was considered by river, containing from ten to thirty men (with an occaThe trip was made by ox team and was a long and tethe boys at first as an unwarranted invasion. More white people. They were fearful of returning but realizsional woman), miners, deserters, adventurers, all dious trip. They arrived in Yankton, July 2, her sixth than one conflict occurred. But gradually by general ing the could not stay in the open all night, they finally stimulating that most subtle thing in mental machinbirthday. On their way to Yankton they passed good humor and a spirit of willing comradeship, they ventured forward and soon discovered that the house ery, a boy s imagination. through Sioux City, Iowa, and at that time there were won a place among the local boys, as did their fathers was surrounded by soldiers. The father returning in And what local adventures! For example, two boys among the men of Yankton and Dakota. This happy ad- only 25 or 30 houses in Sioux City. the afternoon had found them gone and fearing they set out on horseback for Bon Homme Island, the Very soon after arriving in Yankton they acquired justment was finally effected when it was learned that had been carried off by a roving band of Indians, had largest island in the Missouri River. Because of warm the newcomers were not Russians but Germans, many a farm on the bottom lands west of Yankton, three returned to Yankton and brought out the soldiers to weather, and also to add a touch of romance, they demiles from town. The Reed family lived on this place of the latter being already among the respected and look for them. Needless to say, they were very happy cided to return home at night by the river road and until after the death of Mr. Reed in 1901. Washington influential citizens of the vicinity. to see the soldiers, and the soldiers were glad to find trail. On descending from the chalk bluffs about ten Reed, her father, was a member of the third and fourth In still earlier days several half-breeds (Indian and miles west of Yankton, they heard voices. It was quite territorial legislatures. white) were among the boys of the town. That fact dark and about 1:00 o clock at night. As the horses Yankton at that time was a fort and was surmay account for some of the diversions, such as FRONTIER | PAGE 17A
Eyewitnesses To A Frontier
Eyewitnesses To A Frontier
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