South Dakota State History

South Dakota State collage of images.

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General State History
Historic Figures

General South Dakota State History

Timeline History of South Dakota

1742: The LaVerendrye Brothers, explorers for France, became the first white men to leave proof of their presence in South Dakota. They buried an inscribed lead plate near present-day Fort Pierre, which claimed the area for France.

1804: Lewis and Clark pass through present-day South Dakota on their way to the Pacific Ocean. They return in 1806. This is the first time the U.S. flag was flown in South Dakota

1861: President James Buchanan establishes Dakota Territory. Yankton is named capital.

1874: Rumors of gold in the Black Hills result in the Black Hills Expedition of Lt. Col. George A. Custer. Gold is discovered in the Custer area and the Black Hills gold rush begins.

1889: North Dakota and South Dakota are admitted into the Union as the 39th and 40th states. President Harrison purposely shuffled the document as he signed them so that no one would know which state was admitted first. Pierre is chosen as South Dakota's temporary capital.

1890: More than 250 Lakota men, women and children where killed by the 7th Cavalry in what came to be known as the Wounded Knee Massacre. A solitary stone monument near the town of Wounded Knee marks the site of this tragedy.

1927: Gutzon Borglam began to work on Mount Rushmore National Memorial. The mountain carving features the faces of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln.

1941: The U.S.S. Dakota was launched. This was one of the most decorated American ships in the war. On two separate occasions, the Japanese reported sinking this ship. For security reasons, the ship was renamed "Battleship X".

1944: Congress passed The Pick-Sloan Plan for development along the Missouri River. This plan includes the construction of four dams along the river: Fort Randall, Oahe, Gavin's Point and Big Bend.

1948: Korczak Ziolkowski began work on the Crazy Horse mountain carving in the Black Hills. When completed, it will be the largest mountain carving in the world.

1989: South Dakota celebrates its 100th birthday.

South Dakota Historic Figures

Gutzon Borglum
1867-1941: Carved the faces of Mount Rushmore. He began the project in 1927 at the age of 60. Work continued until his death in 1941. Borglum's vision for the carving was to illustrate the philosophy of American government, its ideals and its greatest leaders.


Sitting Bull
1831-90: Was a respected Lakota Sioux leader. He helped to lead the Indian army that defeated Lt. Col. Custer at the Battle of Little Big Horn.


Laura Ingalls Wilder
1867-1957: The author of the "Little House on the Prairie" books. Laura writes about her adventures in De Smet, South Dakota in six of her books. She moved to De Smet at the age of 12.


James Butler "Wild Bill" Hickok
1837-76: Was known throughout the Old West for his speed and deadly accuracy with firearms. He came to Deadwood in June 1876 and was killed shortly after. Visit hi sgravesite at Mount Moriah Cemetery and view some of his personal belongings at Adams Memorial Museum.


Meriwether Lewis/William Clark
1774-1809/1770-1838: Explored South Dakota in 1804. The explorers met with the Yankton Sioux and the Teton, Lewis and Clark traveled through the state again in 1806.