After the West Was Won: Homesteaders and Town-Builders in by Paula M. Nelson

By Paula M. Nelson

Western South Dakota 1900-1917

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Counties not involved with reservation openings but served by the new railroads showed dramatic increases. Stanley County, for example, had 1,341 people in 1900, 2,649 in 1905, as railroad construction began, and an all-time high of 14,975 in 1910. In 1905, Butte County, a huge civil division later split into three large counties, contained only 3,975 people. In 1910, Perkins County, one of the new divisions fashioned from Butte and served by the Milwaukee Road, had 11,348 residents. Lyman County, which benefited from the railroad and from the Lower Brule opening, had only 2,632 people in 1900.

Farmers responded because cheap lands were increasingly scarce east of the Dakota line. Although scientists worried publicly that the drier lands west of the 98th meridian would not be able to support traditional humid-land agriculture, eager settlers had nowhere else to go. They filed claims on and beyond the line of semiaridity, confident of their ability to subdue the land as their predecessors had done on all the agricultural frontiers before them. While railroad expansion and land hunger were the primary reasons for the boom, other factors contributed as well.

Their friendliness and encouragement during my two visits to Pierre were much appreciated. Rosemary Evetts, the librarian, and Bonnie Gardner, the curator of photographs, deserve special thanks. Their interest and enthusiasm made my work pleasurable, and their willingness to work with my sometimes sketchy requests allowed me to pursue new avenues of inquiry without repeated trips to Pierre. At the University of Iowa, where this book began as a doctoral dissertation in the history department, I would like to thank three members of my dissertation committee: my advisor, Professor Malcolm J.

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