Historical Collection

The Shooting of LaMoure, Watson and Fletcher

Early History of Elk Point, SD

Persons Who Died In Dakota Territory during the Year Ending June 1, 1870

Persons Who Died In the Portion of Dakota Territory Now South Dakota May 30, 1880

Small Pox in Jefferson Township 1880 and 1881

The Historical Mile on the Brule

Pioneer Deaths, 1916

Fatalities among the pioneers of Dakota during the year 1917

Steamboat Wrecks in South Dakota 1918

Dakota Cavalry 1918 (A)

Dakota Cavalry 1918 (B)

Naming The Child - Rosebud Sioux

Story of the first little while girl in Sioux City

The First Marriage in Dakota Territory

by F. M. Ziebach

The first legal, or rather, semi-legal marriage in Dakota Territory occurred on the evening of the first day of January, 1859, and this is how it happened. One afternoon, in the last days of December, 1858, several young Sioux Citizens were assembled in the office of John H. Charles, of that city. While thus assembled or "loafing" a young Frenchman entered the office and inquired for the justice of the peace. Upon being informed that John H. Charles was the incumbent of that distinguished position, the stranger gave his name as John Cloud, said that he had proposed marriage to a dusky maiden of Sioux Point, Dakota Territory, who had assented to the "better or worse" venture, and that he wanted the ceremony of amalgamation more formal and dignified than the ceremony among the Indians at that period, and wanted the justice on the evening of the first day of the new year at Sioux Point to perform the ceremony. John H. congratulated the young man upon his good fortune in securing for a life mate a descendant of the great chief, War Eagle, and sincerely regretted that the limit of his official authority did not extend beyond the Big Sioux River, which restriction made it impossible for him to exercise the functions of his office in Dakota Territory.

There was no other justice in the city, and had there been, he would have been under the same ban. Cloud was puzzled and disappointed. He had planned upon what he termed a civilized marriage and he was loathe to abandon this purpose. And right here the visitors in Charles's office came to the rescue, of the groom-elect, and also with the view of embarrassing the justice, asserted with vehemence and unanimity that the jurisdiction of the Sioux City justice extended over the entire Territory of Dakota, and that his refusal to perform the Ceremony was the anticipation of the inconvenience of the night journey. This reassured Cloud and he renewed his demand that his request be complied with. In this he was heartily supported by the visitors. Finally the justice exploded: "You fellows think you are awfully smart. Now I'll tell you what I'll do I'll go over to Sioux Point and hitch the couple if you fellows will go with me." Cloud endorsed this plan by promising a hearty welcome and a good time to all of the justice's retinue.

And so it was arranged that the justice and all of the jokers should attend the wedding. Accordingly, on the evening of the event the "bunch," consisting of John H. Charles, Enos Stutsman, John Currier, H. C. Ash, James E. Booge and F. M. Ziebach, were conveyed to Sioux Point in a lumber wagon driven by H. C. Ash. Arriving at the house of Louis St. Onge, where the marriage took place, it was discovered that Stutsman's crutches had jiggled out of the wagon under the end gate and were lost. Stutsman was by nature physically defective, in that he had only one leg, and that not half the length of the limb of a well formed man. Otherwise, in body, arms, hands and head, he, was without blemish. He was a prince of jollity and as an entertainer was without equal. He could speak, sing, whistle and had an inexhaustible fund of stories popular in those days. But, like all persons afflicted with physical shortcomings, he was extremely sensitive to his condition, and when he found that his aids to locomotion were gone he lapsed into a morose and sullen mood, would not accept proffered aid, threw himself upon the bottom of the wagon and pulled a robe over him and rejected all offers of assistance. Finally a pair of roughly made crutches were offered to him. At first he refused to accept them, but later, realizing the situation, he took them, threw the robe to one side, sprang out of the wagon, which he could do with the quickness and agility of a normal person, and for the balance of the night contributed his full share to the jollity of the occasion and society unendurable.

The marriage ceremony was performed by Justice Charles with becoming solemnity, after which the bridal party was addressed by Mr. Stutsman, who gave advice, admonition and instruction never before nor since addressed to a newly wedded pair. After the ceremony, dancing commenced; not the Indian dances, but the regular old fashioned cotillion and occasionally a waltz. The music was furnished by a Negro, long a resident among the Indians, who gave his name as John Braze and indulged in the boast that he was the first white man to build a house in Dakota Territory. His musical repertoire, like that of the Arkansas traveler, was extremely limited; but what he could play he played with tireless and sustained vigor, as long as there was a dancer on the floor. This "first white man's house" remains to be discovered and officially located by the State Historian.

There was not a white woman in the party, although there were present a number of the mixed blood daughters of the French employees of the United States and American Fur Companies. Some of these young girls were well educated in the usual branches and in music. Their clothing was of expensive material and fashioned after the prevailing mode, which, it is unnecessary to say, contained more material and was fashioned radically different from the present style of female adornment. Among the guests was Victoria St. Onge, who was generally known as the "belle of Sioux Point," and who later became the wife of Charles Brazeau, a well-known citizen of the Point. He died many years ago from the effects of injuries received by the premature discharge of a cannon while engaged in the celebration of the Fourth of July at the [Yankton] Agency, Greenwood.

After the dance the entire party went to the house of another settler, whose name I am not able to recall, where a wedding feast was served and most heartily and satisfactorily partaken of. There was no dissent from the remark of a Sioux City guest that "I didn't know dog soup was so 'dashed' good." The "dashed" does not mean that the word was used.

And thus ended the ceremony of the first marriage in Dakota Territory. Its existence was of short duration. Despite the solemn words of the "Squire" and the virile advice and admonition of the exhorter, the nuptial knot was soon loosened and fell apart. And to this result the bride furnished the initiative, alleging that her husband's breath was the extreme opposite of attar of roses, making his presence and society unendurable. Hence, she took her blanket and went her way

Mr. Cloud subsequently married a white woman, without bettering his social or marital condition. He moved to Yankton County and for a number of years owned and occupied a farm a few miles east of Yankton, on the banks of the Missouri. Death has removed the principals; the Missouri River has taken the farm.

And, finally, of the number of guests from Sioux City at the first marriage in Dakota Territory, but one remains to tell the story.

Source: South Dakota Historical Collections, Compiled by the State Department of History, Volume X, 1920.

D. R. Wilson's Story of the Big Blizzard of 1888

(This storm of January 12, 1888, is well remembered in the history of the northwest. It came suddenly in a comparatively mild winter and people were quite unprepared for such a catastrophe. Many lives were lost, the most pitiful cases being those of children lost on the way from school.)

The morning was mild, some snow falling, with the wind from the southeast. Revival meetings were being held at Beresford and Mr. Wilson went up from his home at Sunnyside to attend the afternoon service.

He met a friend there who thought the weather outlook bad, but they went into the meeting, where they found no one but the preachers. In a few minutes the air thickened with snow, the wind veered to the northwest and the temperature fell rapidly. Mr. Wilson's friends urged him not to try to go home, as it was plain what was upon them, but his wife was at home with the small children and the older ones were in school, so he could not be content to remain.

He feared to ride his horse home, lest he lose the road; so he led it. He came "cattering," that is, by short cuts, instead of following the longer road. When he neared his home he did not recognize his surroundings, as the unusual road had confused his sense of direction; but he knew the trees by the road. Already the drifts were deep in the lee of the trees.

His son was at school, one and one-half miles away. He felt that he must go to look after him, but he knew that he could not face the wind to return; so he put in all the stock and hayed them. He prepared what he could for the comfort of the family and started out for the school house. He called at the Duncan farm, to see if they had fetched their children from school, but they had not and were uneasy.

It seemed to get dark all at once; because of his getting turned around in his directions on the way from town, he still could not make them seem true. The road seemed to turn to the east; so in going around a deep drift in the road, he got too far to the west. He heard the sound of the wind in a grove by him and knew where he was; he tried to go more to the east, planning to strike the avenue of trees leading from the road to Godfrey's house, but could not judge his course and soon found himself by a corn crib which he knew was just north of the house. The trees would have guided him to the house safe, but he had to guess his course from the crib. As it happened, when he began to fear he had missed the house, he found himself suddenly at the window, with a light glimmering faintly out.

He stayed there that night, at rest in his mind about the boy, for one of Godfrey's sons had come from school, following the fence, and got food for the children's supper. The teacher, Miss Jessie Chamberlain, was keeping them safe in the school house overnight.