National Register Listings in
Mellette County, South Dakota

The Badlands National Park, located in southwestern South Dakota, is home to one of the world's richest fossil beds, containing the remains of ancient horses, rhinoceroses, and other prehistoric animals.
Mellette County, located in the southwestern part of South Dakota, has a rich and complex history. The county was officially established in 1911 and named after Arthur C. Mellette, who served as the first governor of South Dakota. However, long before European settlers arrived, the region was home to various Native American tribes, including the Lakota Sioux. These indigenous peoples lived off the land and had a deep connection to the Great Plains, which is evident in the county's archaeological sites and historic landmarks.

During the late 19th century, European settlers began to move into the area, drawn by the promise of rich farmland and new opportunities. The Homestead Act of 1862 allowed individuals to claim up to 160 acres of land, leading to a rapid population growth in Mellette County. Cowboys and cattle ranchers also played a significant role in shaping the region, using the vast grasslands to raise livestock and support the burgeoning cattle industry.

The county faced various challenges throughout its history. The Great Depression had a profound impact on Mellette County, leading to economic hardship and widespread poverty. The Dust Bowl of the 1930s further exacerbated these difficulties, as severe drought and soil erosion devastated agricultural production. Many residents were forced to leave in search of better opportunities elsewhere.

In more recent times, Mellette County has strived to preserve its cultural heritage and foster economic development. The county is now home to several tourist attractions, including the iconic White River Bridge and the Sioux Nation Cultural Center and Museum, which showcase the history and culture of the Native American tribes that once thrived in the area. Mellette County continues to be a testament to the resilience and adaptability of its residents, who have overcome numerous challenges to create a vibrant and diverse community.

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

  • 1872 - The area that is now Mellette County was originally part of the Great Sioux Reservation.
  • 1875 - The reservation was reduced in size following the signing of the Act of 1875.
  • 1909 - The County of Mellette was officially established on May 27.
  • 1911 - Shok-Ton-Ton, later renamed as White River, became the county seat.
  • 1913 - The Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul and Pacific Railroad extended its line into Mellette County, bringing new economic opportunities.
  • 1933 - The county experienced significant drought and dust storms during the Dust Bowl era.
  • 1986 - The Gordon Lockdown occurred, where a prison riot took place at the South Dakota State Penitentiary in Gordon resulting in the death of two prison guards.
  • 2000 - The county celebrated its 90th anniversary.
  • 2010 - The census recorded a population of 2,048 residents in Mellette County.