Historical Marker in
Dewey County, South Dakota

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The state bird of South Dakota is the ring-necked pheasant, which was introduced to the state in the early 1900s.
Dewey County, South Dakota, has a rich history shaped by the Native American tribes, European explorers, and the development of the American frontier. The area was traditionally inhabited by the Lakota Sioux tribe, who relied on the land for hunting and following migratory patterns. This changed when European explorers, such as Meriwether Lewis and William Clark, ventured through the region in the early 1800s.

The territorial government established Dewey County in 1883, naming it after William P. Dewey, a prominent politician. The discovery of gold in the Black Hills during the late 19th century further accelerated settlement in the area, bringing in miners and prospectors seeking fortune. However, conflicts between these new settlers and Native American tribes, primarily the Sioux, escalated.

The Battle of Little Bighorn in 1876, also known as Custer's Last Stand, took place in nearby Montana, but its aftermath had a significant impact on Dewey County. Following the defeat of General George Armstrong Custer, the US government sought control over the region to prevent future Native American uprisings. The Wounded Knee Massacre in 1890 was a tragic event that occurred in the county, marking the end of major armed conflicts between the US government and Native American tribes.

In the 20th century, Dewey County witnessed a transition from agriculture to more diverse economic activities. The construction of the Cheyenne River Dam in the 1940s provided new opportunities for irrigation, transforming the local landscape and fostering growth in the agricultural sector. Nowadays, the county remains a mix of ranching, farming, and small businesses, with natural beauty and historical sites attracting visitors from across the country.

This timeline provides a condensed summary of the historical journey of Dewey County, South Dakota.

  • 1873: Dewey County is established as part of the Dakota Territory.
  • 1881: The town of Timber Lake is established as the county seat.
  • 1883: The Chicago, Milwaukee, and St. Paul Railroad reaches Timber Lake, spurring growth in the area.
  • 1909: The town of Isabel is platted and becomes a major shipping point for cattle and grain.
  • 1910: The Battle of White Butte, a conflict between settlers and Native Americans, takes place in Dewey County.
  • 1922: Lightning strikes the Dewey County Courthouse in Timber Lake, resulting in its destruction.
  • 1929: The Great Depression hits Dewey County, leading to economic hardships for many residents.
  • 1940: Dewey County's population reaches its peak at over 10,000 residents.
  • 1982: Dewey County High School is established in Timber Lake.
  • 2002: The Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe Emergency Medical Technicians begin providing ambulance services in Dewey County.