It embraces portions of the water sheds of the Wild Rice, the Minnesota, the Big Sioux, and the James rivers. It also includes the Fort Sisseton Military reservation and contains a large number of lakes within its borders, the larger of which are Wahbay, Prairie, Blue Dog and Lake Parker in the southwestern part of the county. Within the military reservation are the Kettle and other lakes, many of them small; and lying east of these, in the Sisseton and Wahpeton Indian Reservation, and many other, some of considerable size.
The soil of the more level portions is the usual black, vegetable mold, which changes in the vicinity of the lakes to a more sandy character. The watershed of the James River portion is very productive. Considerable marshy land exists in various portions of the county, and there are important areas of timber in the immediate vicinity of the larger lakes, particularly around Wahbay Lake.
The county embraces nearly the equivalent of nine congressional townships within the Sisseton and Wahpeton Indian Reservation. The military reservation covers about 130 square miles. The superficial area of the county is about equal to forty eight congressional town, or over 1,100,000 acres. Oak, elm, ash and box elder timber are found in the vicinity of all the lakes, especially on their southeast sides, and in all spots sheltered from fires, coming from the northeast.
Game is plentiful, including ducks, geese, snipe of all kinds, plover, prairie chickens, prairie pigeons, pelicans, swans and grouse. The following animals are also to be found: foxes, badgers, muskrats, mink and occasionally antelope.
One proposition has been demonstrated to the satisfaction of every one, and this, that the growth of tame grasses, especially timothy and clover, is an assured fact.
The great productiveness of the soil of Day County is not the only recommendation. In this particular section the facilities for stock raising are scarcely equaled anywhere on the continent. The hills afford natural protection for cattle, hogs, and horses; their southern slopes, with but very little artificial aid will give ample protection against the storms of winter that are indigenous to every northern clime. Among the hills in almost every basin, are beautiful lakes that afford abundance of pure water, while along their borders and in the swales and valleys grow rich, succulent grasses, that afford the very fines pasturage.
In December 1881, Chauncey Warner, Lansing Sykes and George Bryant were appointed by Gov. Ordway to organize this county.
They held their first meeting at Webster, January 2, 1882, and appointed the following county officers: Register of Deeds, F. H. Dutton; Sheriff, James Hanson; Surveyor, W.R. Ruggles, Assessor, J.P. Webster; Treasurer, A. Johnson; Superintendent Schools, E. R. Thompson; Justices, J.R. Lee and Lamphere; Constables, W. M. Paul and M. Fritts.
At this meeting the Reporter and Farmer published at Webster was declared the official paper. At a meeting held January 3, 1882, Webster was given the county seat. At a meeting held January 8, 1882 the following officers were appointed: Judge of Probate, T. Lowell; Coroner, M. Johnson; Justice A. J. Franklin; Constable, E.C. Webster. Mr. Johnson having declined to qualify as Treasurer, they also at this meeting appointed George E. Bryant to fill the vacancy.
The first election was held November 7, 1882, when the following officers were elected; Sheriff, I. J. Hanson; Treasurer, L. J. Ochsenritter: Judge of Probate, George Bryant; Register of Deeds, F.H. Dutton; Coroner M. Johnson; Assessor, M.F. Strock; Justices, J.A. Lee, H.W. Fritts and R.M. Shumway; Commissioners, T. Lowell, B.D. Fish, T. Brigham.
Present officers: Register of Deeds, F. H. Dutton; Clerk of Court, T.A. Bones; Judge of Probate, George Bryant; Sheriff, I.J. Hanson; Coroner, M. Johnson; Treasurer, L. Ochsenritter; Superintendent of Schools, W.G. Dickinson; Surveyor, I. Denton; Assessor, M. Rexford; Commissioners, T. Lowell, B. D. Fish, T. Brigham.
The first settlement in this county was made at Wahbay Lake (Wahbay in Indian signifies the place where the wild fowl congregate) as early as 1868 by Francis Rondelle, an Indian trader, who located at the west end of the lake. In January, 1876, Albert Barse cane into the county and during the following month made a settlement on Section 31, Town 123, Range 54, securing a very fine grove of timber in the immediate vicinity of the same lake. The next settler was earl P. Owen, who located at Minnewaste Lake in April, 1877. Then followed the settlement of Daniel Paul at the latter lake in June, 1880. Early in 1880 Joseph Gruber, Seldon Woodward and _____ Kronkuski also made settlement in the neighborhood of the lakes. During this summer the Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul Railroad was graded through the major part of the county, and during the summer and fall settlements followed closely in the track. The development of the county has since then been very rapid. There are many beautiful lakes in this county, and in connection with one of them, Lake Parker, is quite an interesting Indian legend.
This lake is called by the Indian Tok-niwan, which interpreted means "Swimming Enemy." According to their traditions, a band of Indians were driven from their fellows in the south on account of their bad habits. These Indians went north and sought home in the county of the Assiniboines, and having from time to time received accretions from other bands, became eventually quite a powerful people called the Lost Tribe. Later they returned to their southern home, not to smoke the pipe of peace, but to avenge their supposed wrongs. They found their enemies camped on the east side of the Lake Parker, in an elbow of the lake, where they had erected strong barricades facing the east and south, presuming that the lake would protect them on their western side. But in the night the Lost Tribe swam the lake and, attacking them in the rear, killed them almost to a man.
Blue Dog Lake is named after an Indian who settled at the east end of the lake. He was called Sun-Ka-to-Kiemum, which, interpreted means "The dog that paints himself blue."
Near Fort Sisseton are what are known as the Kettle Lakes- Cega-iapi--the French interpretation of which is Sounding Kettle, and the American, Talking Kettle. it seems that the Indians at one time found an iron kettle which giving forth a ringing sound, caused them to name the lakes accordingly. Minnewaste or "Good Water Lake," is as its name denotes, a beautiful sheet of water, with a gravelly bottom and high banks.
There are in this county well-defined remains of the mound builders. Mr. Barse thinks that at one time an extensive pottery manufactory had ben established on his farm, as there are chippings of flint, and broken pottery of all kinds is found there.
WEBSTER:-- Mr. J.P. Webster came into this county in June, 1880 and selected as his homestead this town site June 5. He was at that time the only settler in the county west of the Wahbay settlement. The Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul Railroad Company located their road and commenced grading in the vicinity of Webster about June 20, the first train arriving on October 27, 1880. Mr. Webster and his family remained there the entire winter, the house standing a little south of the present town site.
During this fall E. R. Ruggles and B. D. Fish located in the vicinity, but did not make a permanent settlement until the following spring. The winter 1880-1881 is noted throughout the entire West as one of unusual length and severity, and this little settlement was consequently cut off from communication with the outer world until May 15, 1881. On this day the long blockade was raised and the first train reached Webster. The following persons soon after came in and took up claims in the vicinity, viz.; E. Knapp, E. Babcock, Charles Wright, E. A. Smail, J. C. Bush, John Norton, E. Balzer and L. J. Ochsenritter.
The town was platted in June, 1881. E. Smail was the first person to decide on building, and erected part of the store now occupied by John Norton. On its completion, in connection with Mr. Norton, he commenced a general merchandising business. The old part of the Balzar House was finished shortly after, and but few other improvements were made during this year. In 1882 several business houses were erected and the town began to put on metropolitan airs.
In 1883 there was an activity in building operations that produced splendid results. Residences, public buildings and business houses of all kinds were erected, and during this season the improvements amounted to the considerable sum of $27,000. Among these improvements we may mention the Congregational church building, the high school building and the court-house. The former is a large structure, 30 by 54 ground dimensions and 22 feet ceiling. It has a seating capacity of about 200 and is finished, both inside and out, with modern appliances. It is a decided ornament to the town.
The high school building is situated in the northeast part of the town. It is 44 feet square and 30 feet high, having two assembly room, above and below, besides wardrobes, halls and a belfry and clock town, in which hangs a genuine Meneely bell, weighing 600 pounds. A school has been in operation during the past winter, with H.E. Wilson as principal. Miss Frane Moulton assistant and Prof. H.D. Root as musical director. The average attendance has been eighty-five and the school is rapidly growing in the confidence of the general public. The officers are M. M. Moulton, director; E. C. Warner, clerk and Frank Wallace, treasurer.
The court-house, situated west of Main street, near the heart of the city, is an imposing structure, 30 by 36 feet in size. There are four offices below, with a hallway through the center, and a stairway leading to a large court room and two jury rooms in the second story. The building is handsomely painted and is a comely edifice, capable of accommodating the county business for several years. The building and grounds are paid for.
Beside these, the city is supplied with a commodious Opera House, with a finely equipped Masonic lodge room on the second floor. Its benevolent societies are, one Masonic lodge, one Sons of Industry, one Good Templars and preliminary steps have been taken to organize a Royal Arch Masonic lodge and an Odd Fellow's lodge.
Webster is the supply point for Fort Sisseton and Britton. a daily stage runs to these two points, a triweekly to Watertown and a weekly to Lake Lynn and Wahbay Lake. The Iowa, Sioux Falls & Northern Railway will probably enter the county at the southeastern corner, traverse its whole length and leave it at the northwestern corner.
The pioneer paper of the county, the Reporter & Farmer. made its first appearance September 7, 1881, the publisher being Mr. A. C. Tuttle. The paper was purchased October 1, 1883, by Messrs. J. C. Adams & Son. Since coming to Webster, Mr. Adams has begun the publication of the Daylight, at a point known as Giles City, on the northeast quarter of Section 6, Town 126, range 57, forty miles from a railway and fourteen miles from a post office. The Daylight is managed by Mr. E. A. Baker and first made its appearance June 7, 1883. Mr. Adams has been engaged in journalism for thirty years and for the past thirteen years resided in Avoca, Iowa, where he published the Avoc Delta, a paper which wields considerable influence throughout that portion of Iowa.
The Day County Bank was opened in the fall of 1883 by Mr. J. alley. The estimated population of the town is about 500.
ANDOVER;-- In May, 1881, Geo. Bryant located just west of the present town site of Andover, and at about the same time Messrs. A. K. Johnson, A. A. Johnson, Marshall Vincent and Arthur A. Bryant located on adjoining sections. These were the only parties who located here in that year, with the exception of the Misses Ellen and Nellie Bryant. The railroad reached Andover in the last days of June. The town site had been platted by the spring of 1882 that the town showed decided growth. Mr. Webster's store was built in February, 1882 and in March or April of the same year the Andover House was built. These building together with a small structure put up by Mr. Taylor, were the only improvements made in 1882. In the spring of 1883, the town had a regular boom, and building of all kinds were up as it were in the twinkling of an eye. it is now a prosperous town of some 200 inhabitants.
The Andover Gazette was first issued in June, 1883, by Messrs. Bryneldsen & Stickles. It is a lively and well conducted sheet.
BRISTOL:-- This is a promising town on the Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul Railway line, situated about half way between Webster and Andover, where it commands a fair share of trade and general business.
An enterprising newspaper, the Bristol Herald, is published by Messrs. Sharrett & Balser. The first issue made its appearance August 2, 1883
BRITTON:--This lively town is situated in the northwestern part of the county, in Town 127 north, Range 58 west, near a branch of the Wild Rice River in the midst of a fine agricultural region, having a rich black soil from five to fifteen feet in depth, underlaid with a clay subsoil.
The town is located on a slight ridge separating two valleys and commanding a splendid view over the "Broad Valley" to the north and west; the "pleasant Valley" to the southwest and the beautiful "Hills" and lakes of the military reservation to the southeast.
The Dakota & Great Southern Railway makes this town an important point on its line and will locate division shops here. The place is named in honor of Col. Isac Britton, general manage of the road, and a well known railway contractor and builder.
Among improvements now in progress are a three story hotel, several general stores, a number of elevators, a banking house and several lumber yards. A newspaper has recently been established. The country in the vicinity is well settled with an energetic and industrious class of people, and present indications point to a prosperous and wealthy community at no distant day.
About 320 acres have been platted into city lots and a rapid settlement and upbuilding is anticipated. Several additional railway lines are expected to make Britton a crossing point.