Sesquicentennial Highlights

Sesquicentennial Highlights
The first issue of The Dakota Republican at Vermillion in July 1861 was the first newspaper in Clay County, and one of the earliest in the territory. Issues were not continuous until 1867. It was the only paper published in the county until 1872.

1863, 1864 and 1865

1863 and 1864 were years of drought, crop failure and grasshoppers. 1865 brought plenty of rain and abundant crops. 1866 gave promise of an excellent harvest, but a grasshopper raid destroyed in one day all that the summer�s labor had produced.

In 1867 and 1868 crops were excellent and increase in population was rapid. Prosperity was evident on every hand. New frame houses were taking the place of the �sod shanty� and the log cabin. Covered wagons came in numbers.

In 1869 the land office at Vermillion recorded 186 claims taken in May and 300 in June in Clay and surrounding counties. These early settlers were largely from good New England families, and sturdy Scandinavians from states to the east. They were, in the main honest, industrious, enterprising and law-abiding, asking nothing of fortune but an even chance to wrest an honest living from a strange, unbroken soil.

The social life was delightfully democratic and informal. Parties, dances, quilting bees and corn husking were frequent social events. Many groves, chiefly cottonwood, were planted about the new homes.


In 1870 there were only four post offices in Clay County outside of Vermillion: Bloomingdale, where there were two flour mills, 12 miles north of Vermillion; Lodi, a tiny village on the Vermillion River, six miles north of Bloomingdale; Lincoln (now Meckling), northwest of Vermillion in Meckling township; and Burbank, southeast of Vermillion.

By 1878 there were new post offices at Alsen, Bluff Center, Glenwood, Greenfield, Riverside, Star Corner, and Saybrook. This increase of post offices indicates the increase of settlements. The census of 1870 gives the population of Clay County 2,623. Only one other county in the territory, Union County, had a larger population. Yankton County was third.

The first telegraph line in Dakota was built in 1870, passing through Vermillion from Sioux City to Yankton. The first Dakota Territorial Fair was held at Vermillion under the auspices of Clay County Agricultural Association in the fall of 1870.

Excerpts taken from a historical edition of the Yankton Press & Dakotan, published June 6, 1936.

2009 will mark the 150th birthday of the city of Vermillion. Each week until the sesquicentennial celebration, this column will present notable historic information pertaining to the city and surrounding areas.

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