Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Historic Cemetery's: Elmwood Cemetery

The historic Elmwood Cemetery is in Union County, South Dakota, near the towns of Jefferson and Elk Point.


August 22, 1804 - The Lewis and Clark Expedition made camp in the area now called Elk Point. This area was first settled in 1859 along the Military Road running from Sioux City to Fort Randall in the Dakota Frontier, making this community one of the oldest in South Dakota.

September 3, 1806 - The Lewis and Clark Expedition camped in the area of Elk Point during their return trip through the area along the Missouri River.

1857 - Fort Randall was built to help protect the white settlers in the area. The Military Road was created as a supply line for the fort.

1859 - Eli Wixson and setteled as the first white man in the area that became Elk Point. He built Elk Point’s first home and modest trading post close to this military supply line.

1862 - Union County was originally established as Cole County. But was changed shortly after in support of the Northern states during the Civil War.

Eli Wixson built a more elaborate hotel and post office. The town of Elk Point continued to grow and more settlers moved into the area.

1864 - Edward Elliott Collins  came to the Dakota Territory with his family. He would later combine his first-person accounts of Union County history with the accepted oral histories of Elk Point.

1865 - U.S. Congress authorized the construction of three sanctioned wagon roads through Dakota. The wagon trail from Sioux City to Fort Randall was exceptionally wide between the Big Sioux and Missouri Rivers because of deep rutting during the wet spring and winter seasons. A stagecoach trip from Sioux City to Elk Point – a distance of 25 miles – could take 5 hours or more.

1860's to 18770's - The town of Texas, Dakota Territory flourished as a rough steamboat town. Steamboats would tie off to the giant Cottonwood trees that were abundant along th ebank of the Missouri River. The local saw mill provided lumber for the buildings in the nearby town of Elk Point.

It is unknown how the town got the name of Texas. But according to some fragmentary reports the town had a hotel and other businesses.

Other reports state part of the town's population included former slaves from the south who escaped to freedom along the Missouri River to the territory's of the north before and after the Civil War.

1873 - Because of the introduction of rail transportatoin in the area the town of Texas and the steamboat industry declined and came to an end.

1889 - The Mason's building is constructed on the corner of Douglan and Main in Elk Point where Eli Wixson had originally built a post office and hotel.

1919 -  Authorized by the State of South Dakota, the old stagecoach line between Elk Point and Sioux City became part of State Highway 77.

1937 - Edward Elliott Collins, who had first come to the Dakota Territory in the 1860's, included the Lewis & Clark episode in his historical thesis of Union County. He records in his thesis that Lewis and Clark “made camp that night by a lone tree on a point of land on the river’s north bank. This camp was about half a mile south and a quarter of a mile west of the present site of the Elk Point water plant, on the Eli Wixson farm, later owned by Charles Stickney.”

The location described by Collins would put the campsite in Heritage Park.

1950's -  As Interstate 29 was built and became the dominant artery of commerce, Highway 77 was taken over by Union County. But markers along the Old Military Road remind us of the history that took place over this former wagon trail.

1989 - Governor George Mickelson celebrated 100 years of South Dakota statehood by leading a Centennial Wagon Train from the Elmwood Cemetery, the only remaining evidence of the Texas territorial community.

Reference source:
The History and Mystery of Elk Point

Previous articles in the series:
Eberly Cemetery: Overview Photos
Eberly Cemetery: Gravestones and Family Plots
Eberly Cemetery: From Inside the Trees
Historic Cemetery's: Civil Bend Cemetery, Union County, South Dakota