South Dakota was the site of the Wounded Knee Massacre, a tragic event in which over 150 unarmed Native American men, women, and children were killed by U.S. troops in 1890. Today, the site is a National Historic Landmark.
Clay County, located in southeastern South Dakota, has a rich history that dates back centuries. Before European settlement, the area was inhabited by various Native American tribes, including the Yanktonai Sioux and the Omaha. The land was used for hunting, fishing, and gathering, and these tribes had a significant influence on the region's culture and traditions.

During the 1800s, European settlers began to arrive in Clay County. In 1859, the Vermillion River was dammed, creating Lake Vermillion and attracting more settlers to the area. The town of Vermillion was founded shortly afterward, becoming the county seat of Clay County in 1862. The discovery of gold in the nearby Black Hills in the 1870s further spurred growth and development in the region.

Clay County played a significant role in the development of the territory and later the state of South Dakota. It became a major transportation hub with the arrival of the railroad in the 1880s, connecting Vermillion to other parts of the country. The establishment of the University of South Dakota in Vermillion in 1882 added to the county's cultural and educational landscape.

Throughout the years, Clay County has experienced both prosperity and challenges. The agricultural industry, particularly corn and soybean farming, has been the backbone of the county's economy. However, like many other rural areas, Clay County has faced the issues of depopulation and economic decline in recent decades. Efforts are being made to revitalize the region, including promoting tourism, supporting local businesses, and attracting new residents.

Despite its ups and downs, Clay County maintains its historical charm and sense of community. The area's Native American heritage, pioneer spirit, and connection to education continue to shape its identity. Residents and visitors alike can explore the county's museums, historical landmarks, and natural beauty, providing a glimpse into its past and a promising future.

This timeline provides a concise overview of the key events in the history of Clay County, South Dakota.

  • 1857 - Clay County is established by the Dakota Territorial Legislature.
  • 1862 - The Dakota War, also known as the Sioux Uprising, takes place, affecting the area that would become Clay County.
  • 1873 - Vermillion becomes the county seat of Clay County.
  • 1877 - The University of South Dakota is established in Vermillion.
  • 1882 - The Sioux City and Pacific Railroad is completed, connecting Vermillion to Sioux City, Iowa.
  • 1883 - Vermillion is incorporated as a city.
  • 1893 - Vermillion is devastated by a major fire that destroys 53 buildings.
  • 1903 - Clay County Courthouse is built in Vermillion.
  • 1910 - Vermillion reaches its peak population of over 4,000 residents.
  • 1927 - The Missouri River Flood causes significant damage to Vermillion.
  • 1946 - The National Music Museum, originally known as the Shrine to Music Museum, is founded in Vermillion.
  • 1963 - The University of South Dakota‚Äôs basketball team, Coyotes, win the NCAA College Division national championship.
  • 1972 - The W.H. Over Museum is established in Vermillion.
  • 1997 - The "Blizzard of '97" hits Clay County and causes widespread power outages.