New history revisits old military trail

Students of history and the general public will be interested in a new book published by Yankton author, Maxine Schuurmans Kinsley, which focuses on a military road over uncharted land the federal government surveyed in 1856-57 to connect warehouses at Sioux City, Iowa Territory, to Fort Randall 150 miles upriver.

The Sioux City to Fort Randall Military Road 1856-1892 – Revisited spans the 160-year period beginning when white settlers from the East began eyeing lands west of the Big Sioux river inhabited by Dakota Sioux Indians. The primitive overland trail was needed to protect those newcomers and to transport military supplies to Fort Randall. The well-illustrated history brings the reader up-to-date with brief histories and descriptions of the five counties bordering the Missouri River through which the road ran.

Part I of two, "A New Epoch Dawns in the Upper Missouri River Valley," describes the period of early European exploration, the fur trade industry; military operations conducted between Sioux City and Fort Randall by both federal soldiers and Dakota Cavalry Companies A and B, and territorial road-building. Included also is a lengthy chapter on the removal of the Yankton Sioux to the Yankton Reservation in 1859 and their adaptation to reservation life administered from Yankton Agency at Greenwood.

Part II continues with brief histories and updates of Union, Clay, Yankton, Bon Homme, and Charles Mix counties. Clay County was an important hub both politically and militarily en route to Fort Randall.

Focus is always on personalities and stories. Kinsley utilizes more than 200 photos and maps to bring them to life. The 160-page paperback contains a bibliography, appendix listing members of First Dakota Cavalry Companies A and B, and complete index listing many names which may be of interest to genealogists.

Although the military trail was virtually abandoned by 1892 when Fort Randall itself was abandoned, its impact on the lands through which is progressed remains. Physical traces remain as well at rock crossings on creeks and in ruts on natural prairies. Kinsley, who resides in Yankton, welcomes inquiries by phone, 605-665-2015, or e-mail maxsch@iw.net.

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