A history of Jerauld county, South Dakota

In presenting to our readers this history of Jerauld County we are undertaking a rather large task. There is so little of record and so much of legend that it is hard to separate the wheat from the chaff. However, we have carefully sifted the legends as received and have selected what seemed to be accurate. Of the later history, of course, records disclose the facts and that has been less difficult to gather.


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The story of the country embraced within the limits of Jerauld county, prior to the removal of the Indians to their reservations in 1859, is almost legendary. Even the man. for whom was named the range of hills that run north and south thru the center of the county, is only known to have been a trapper who frequented the lakes and streams in this part of the great territory prior to 1863.

Of him it is related, that he in company with some other trappers was engaged in his usual avocation along the Firesteel and Sand Creeks at the time of the Indian uprising at New Ulm, Minnesota, in 1863. The whole western country was then swarming with hostile bodies of Sioux. As these bands were driven westward by the soldiers from Minnesota, the trappers were caught in the line of retreat taken by the savages. Wessington and his companions took refuge in the grove near the big spring. For several days the trappers fought off their enemies, but provisions and ammunition failing, they attempted to break through and escape. One by one they fell, selling their lives as dearly as possible. Wessington was the last of the number. He was wounded and captured. Taking him back to the grove where he and his friends had made such a gallant fight, the Indians tied him to a tree and put him to death by torture. The story of his capture and death was told by the Indians. Various trees about the spring have been pointed out in later years as the spot where the trapper met his death.

Among the soldiers who followed the Indians in their retreat through the hills and camped by the big spring, were Chas. Davis and Richard Butler, both in later years, residents of Alpena.