History of Union County South Dakota

This History of Union County, South Dakota was authored by Donald Dean Parker and published in 1959 by South Dakota State College, and it stands as a comprehensive chronicle of the region’s development from its earliest settlements to its role in the broader tapestry of state and national history. This work delves into the intricate narrative of Union County, capturing its transformation from a sparsely populated territory to a flourishing agricultural hub, enriched by a vibrant community and diverse cultural heritage.

The book is meticulously structured, beginning with an expansive overview of Union County, including its founding, geographical characteristics, and the pivotal moments that shaped its early years. Parker’s narrative extends to the detailed accounts of Union County’s settlements, particularly Elk Point, which emerges as a focal point for the county’s development, showcasing the establishment of its first institutions and the community’s resilience in the face of frontier challenges.

A unique aspect of this volume is its exploration of the origin of place names in Union County, offering insights into the historical and cultural influences that have left an indelible mark on the region. The narrative weaves through the broader context of territorial and state history, touching upon significant events such as the Louisiana Purchase, the Lewis and Clark Expedition, and the complex interactions and treaties with Native American tribes, which underscore the dynamic and often turbulent history of the area.

Parker also addresses the critical role of early explorations, trading companies, and the inevitable push towards territorial organization and statehood, painting a vivid picture of the political and social evolution of South Dakota. The book does not shy away from discussing the darker chapters in the region’s history, including conflicts with Native American tribes and the impact of the Indian Wars on the settlement and development of the territory.

The volume serves not only as a historical record but also as a pedagogical tool, emphasizing the importance of integrating local history into the teaching of state history. It aims to provide educators and students with accessible, detailed accounts of Union County’s past, encouraging a deeper understanding of the historical forces that have shaped the community and the state at large.

Table of Contents

  • Union County, p. 1-U
  • Union County, by Hon. Emory Norrism p. 13-U
  • Origin of Place Names in Union County, p. 27-U
  • Elk Point, p. 30-U
  • Early Union County Post Offices, p. 37-U
  • Territorial and State History, p. 1-SD
  • The Louisiana Purchase, p. 4-SD
  • Early explorations by White Men, p. 5-SD
  • The Trading Companies as pioneers, p. 6-SD
  • The Lewis and Clark Expedition, p. 8-SD
  • The Political History of Louisiana, to 1803, p. 9-SD
  • Territorial History, p. 10-SD
  • Government Prior to 1861, p. 10-SD
  • Early treaties with the Indians, p. 11-SD
  • “Squatter” Government, p. 12-SD
  • Organization of the Territory, p. 13-SD
  • Settlement of the Sioux Valley, p. 15-SD
  • Settlement of the Missouri Valley, p. 16-SD
  • The Indian War, p. 19-SD
  • Exploration and Settlement of the Black Hills, p. 22-SD
  • The Early Territorial Period, p. 24-SD
  • The Middle Period of Territorial Development, p. 26-SD
  • The Later Territorial Period, p. 27-SD
  • The Movement for Division and Admission
  • State History, p. 31-SD
  • The Constitution, p. 31-SD
  • Political History of the State, p. 32-SD
  • The Messiah War, p. 37-SD
  • The Spanish War, p. 40-SD
  • Industrial Development of the State, p. 41-SD
  • Educational Development and Religious History, p. 43-SD
  • Conclusion, p. 44-SD
  • Notes and Citations, p. 45-SD
  • History of Dakota, p. 1-D
  • References for South Dakota History, p. 1-Ref
  • Chronology, p. 12-Ref


Parker, Donald Dean, History of our county and state : Union County, Brookings, South Dakota : South Dakota State College, 1959.



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