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THE SIOUX CITY TO FORT RANDALL MILITARY ROAD

 

 

            The Military Road was established in 1856 with Army Engineers drawing the route. Traveling the approximately 150 miles from Sioux City, Iowa, established in 1853, to Fort Randall was not an easy trip by any means. Ft. Randall construction was authorized by General Harney on June 26, 1856 and was actually located in Nebraska Territory at that time. Dakota Territory was not created by Congress until 1861. The road had to cross four rivers along the way. The Military Road was as narrow as 30 feet wide to as wide as 20 miles. The extreme width was due to wet and muddy conditions along the dirt trail and a new path had to be made where the sod prairie was smooth again.

            Crossing the Big Sioux River just west of Sioux City was accomplished with the establishment of the Proquette Ferry which started operation on December 18, 1855. The road snaked its way up 14 miles to Willow Creek then 15 miles to Elk Point and on west another 16 miles to the next river crossing at Vermillion.

            The Vermillion River Ferry was also established in 1855. Going on west for 18 miles was a small river crossing. The Stanage James River Ferry took travelers across the James River. Once the “Jim” River was crossed it was another 12 miles to the Dakota Territorial Capital at Yankton. Yankton had a trading post which was established there in 1855 and was owned by George D. Fiske.

            There were many stage coach stops along the way after the travelers left Yankton. The first stop west of Yankton was 9 miles at Lakeport which was established in 1861. Continuing on west for another five miles was
Hawlejek established in 1872 as a post office. Five miles west of Hawlejek was the village of Bon Homme platted out in the fall of 1858. Springfield was next along the bluffs of the Missouri River located 8 miles west of Bon Homme. Moving on west of Springfield four miles travelers came across Emmanuel Creek followed by Choteau Creek in 16 miles.

            The Indian lands started on the west side of Choteau Creek and in 11 miles the Indian settlement of Greenwood was established in 1859. It was another 16 miles to White Swan on the east side of the Missouri River and the crossing to Fort Randall on the west side of the river. This crossing was made possible by a ferry boat that was built and operated by the Army.

            The Military Road divided at the Choteau Creek station. The Military Road followed the lowlands and went through Greenwood on its way to White Swan. The government road took the high ground around where Marty Mission is and then meandered down over Sunrise Hill to
White Swan. In wet weather the rain ran off the higher road so it dried out faster and in the winter the wind blew the snow away and made travel easier.

            Bridges had started to be constructed in 1865 and by 1869 there were bridges across the first three rivers. The Missouri River did not have a bridge at White Swan. The Army constructed a cable ferry to cross the river while the fort was in operation from 1856 to 1892.

            A cable was attached on each bank of the river and for the ferry to cross it was turned into the current and the current pushed the boat across the river. In order for the ferry to return to the other side a “ferris wheel” was cranked by the boat operators who cranked the boat back across the river.

            The distance from Sioux City to Fort Randall was about 150 miles by land but by water it was about 275 miles. Traveling between the two places took about 15 days allowing about 10 miles per day by wagon. This road was the only one policed and protected by the soldiers. After 1867 this road was sometimes known as the Government Road.

           

Click here to Read Maxine Schuurmans Kinsley's book - "The Sioux City to Fort Randall Military Road 1856-1892 Revisited"

 

Contact Us:

Southeast South Dakota Tourism

1101 Broadway Ave # 113  

Yankton, SD 57078


(605) 665-2435

(888)-353-7382

 

http://southeastsouthdakota.com/

 

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