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History of American Towns:Sioux Falls, South Dakota

Updated on February 17, 2015

In order to get to the South Dakota Black Hills from Minnesota one is likely to drive Interstate 90 through Sioux Falls, which is fairly close to the Minnesota border. It is also near the Iowa border and from Iowa one might take interstate 29, which crosses with 90 in Sioux Falls. Many of us just go on through because we want to get on to see the Black Hills. I believe I have gone through Sioux Falls several times in my life and paid it little attention.

Since one premise of this series about town history is to explore how towns got their names, I wish I had taken some time to stop and explore. In the case of Sioux Falls the town was named for the falls of the river that that flows through it. But where did the river get its name? Well it seems that the Sioux Indians had been the early inhabitants of the area. The states of North and South Dakota “...were inhabited by the Dakota Indians...” who were part of the Sioux. The Dakotas became a territory in 1861 and named for the local Indians, according to the book How We Named Our States by Pauline Arnold and Percival White.

So, you might ask, how did the City get named? Wikipedia references the Lewis and Clark expedition describing the river as the “Soues River.” Most likely the Soues River became the Big Sioux River. In addition to the Dakota Indians a number of other tribes were in the area over the years. Burial mounds, which appear to date back as far as 500B.C. have been found on the bluffs, according to Wikipedia. The Dakota Indians were hunters who traded with the white fur traders. The area was a rendezvous spot for traders and Indians. The place was one of natural beauty with the river and waterfalls. For later settlers it was a source of waterpower.

In 1856 the first immigrants to the area were from nearby Iowa and Minnesota and they stopped by the falls. Growth in the Dakotas was slow until the gold rush of 1874 when gold was discovered in the Black Hills, according to Arnold and White. Two land companies, the Dakota Company of St. Paul the Western Town Company of Dubuque, Iowa claimed land of 320 acres each. To protect themselves from hostilities from local Indians they worked together

In 1862 the town site was abandoned and pillaged after two settlers were killed due to the Dakota War in nearby Minnesota, according to Wikipedia. In 1865 Fort Dakota was established where downtown Sioux Falls is now. People started to come back and the population grew. The Village of Sioux Falls became incorporated with the territory in 1876 and in 1883 a city charter was granted.

After the railroad came in there was a boom period in the1880’s and the population grew to about 10,000 by 1890. In the early 1890’s a national depression and a grasshopper plague ended the boom. In 1909 things improved with the John Morrell meat packing plant being located there.

The river and the waterfall have made Sioux Falls, S.D. an attractive place because of its natural beauty and the source of power. Its history has had ups and downs but it is worth stopping for a while if you are driving through.


Wikipedia articles on Sioux Falls, S.D.

How We Named our States by Pauline Arnold & Percival White

A markerSioux Falls, S.D. -
Sioux Falls, SD, USA
get directions

Location of Sioux Falls,S.D.

© 2012 Don A. Hoglund


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    • dahoglund profile image

      Don A. Hoglund 6 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids

      Hi kittyjj. Thanks for visiting and commenting. Althoguh it has been a long time since I have been out that way, I am sure you will find it interesting.

    • kittyjj profile image

      Ann Leung 6 years ago from San Jose, California

      Very interesting hub! We're planning on taking a road trip across the country with our kids this summer. Sioux Falls & Black Hills sound like good stops. Thanks for sharing. :)

    • dahoglund profile image

      Don A. Hoglund 6 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids

      Thanks for commenting Wayne. Yes, originally towns were often settled along the rivers. I grew up in a big city and whenever I had occasion to go to small towns I always wondered "why is this town here?"When I first worked in some smaller towns there was a bit of culture shock as well.

    • Wayne Brown profile image

      Wayne Brown 6 years ago from Texas

      There's a story behind every town, DA and amazingly there's a river involved in more cases than not. Rivers provided the obvious and also was a place where the energy of the water could be used to run is a natural place for town. Thanks for sharing this one. WB

    • dahoglund profile image

      Don A. Hoglund 6 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids

      wmhseo,Thanks for visiting my hub and commenting on it.

    • dahoglund profile image

      Don A. Hoglund 6 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids

      Mr. Smith, There are a lot of towns in the country and I think they all have a story. Thanks for commenting.

    • dahoglund profile image

      Don A. Hoglund 6 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids

      Hi Peggy, When I first started writing on line I was planning to write a blog on town names and their origins. I didn't know what a blog was really and my first attempts consisted of several towns in one hub thinking I would just add more. Thanks for the comment,votes and sharing.

    • Mr. Smith profile image

      Mr. Smith 6 years ago from California

      da, I may have plenty of time to spend investigating little towns in the near future. This series of yours might just be the ticket for me. Nicely done.

    • Peggy W profile image

      Peggy Woods 6 years ago from Houston, Texas

      Hi Don,

      It seems that you have found a great niche for article writing. Reading about Sioux Falls was very interesting. Voted up, interesting and will share with my followers.

    • dahoglund profile image

      Don A. Hoglund 6 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids

      Thank you vocalcoach.It seems most people today hate going through small town and cities when they travel. I like them because them make me wonder what king of story lies behind them being there.

    • vocalcoach profile image

      Audrey Hunt 6 years ago from Nashville Tn.

      I love history and enjoyed this hub so much. Thank you Don. I will be reading your other hubs and am sure to enjoy them as well. UP and awesome!

    • dahoglund profile image

      Don A. Hoglund 6 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids

      Thanks Will. I'm glad you enjoy them.

    • dahoglund profile image

      Don A. Hoglund 6 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids

      Hi suziecat. Thanks for commenting. I started this series of hubs because I think there may be stories behind most if not all towns.

    • WillStarr profile image

      WillStarr 6 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      These are great Hubs, Don! Very enjoyable.

    • suziecat7 profile image

      suziecat7 6 years ago from Asheville, NC

      I love to learn the history behind names. Thanks so much for this interesting Hub.