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Redfield, South Dakota History

Taken from the city site at:

A gentleman by the name of Frank Meyers came to this area with a party of Chicago and Northwestern surveyors in 1878. In 1880 Meyers established the first post office, which was located in a box car. At this time, Redfield was known as "Stennett Junction"; "Stennett", named for a man who was an official with the Chicago and Northwestern Railroad, and "Junction" in anticipation of the railroads criss-crossing the state.

On February 1, 1881, the town's name was changed from Stennett Junction to Redfield, in honor of Joseph Barlow Redfield. Redfield was one of the oldest and most valued auditors for the Chicago and Northwestern Railroad Company. Redfield purchased much of the land in this area for investors in Chicago. He is remembered for his "General Grant" appearance.

Redfield's history would be incomplete if the conflict over the Spink County seat were not mentioned. In county elections of 1880 to 1884, the county seat was voted upon to determine the location. Old Ashton was the original county seat, but other candidates were Ashton, Redfield and Frankfort. In December of 1884, Redfield boosters brought the contest to a climax by seizing the records which had been tampered with so that Redfield had a definite advantage. A serious conflict was avoided but the war between Old Ashton and Redfield is still topic for conversation.

Old Ashton continued to be the county seat until 1885, when an act of legislature gave the honor to Ashton. In the fall of 1886, another election was held and Redfield had the honest majority of the votes. With Redfield gaining the county seat in a "respectable" manner, people in remote districts no longer looked upon Redfield as a home for "outlaws and thugs".

This region has a noble history that was first documented by Lewis and Clark in their journals. They recorded annual Indian tribal councils and trade fairs held at the Council Rock site.

The Council Stone site was first occupied by a people who constructed a village of dirt lodges. The James River, called Whitewoods by the Indians, served as a natural boundary as well as a convenient waterway for travel. The Yankton and Yanktonai bands of Sioux later located villages in the vicinity.

One famous leader, Chief Joseph Drifting Goose of the Hunkpati band of Yanktonai, occupied Armadale Island, located a few miles north of Fisher Grove on the James River. His confrontations with early white settlers are legendary.

To settle the Drifting Goose problem, a 69,000 acre reservation was established in this vicinity. Subsequent appeasements allowed Drifting Goose's band to move to Fort Thompson on the Missouri River. The James Valley area was then opened for white settlement.

Also of historical significance is release of Abigail Gardner just north of Redfield. Following an Indian massacre in 1857 near Spirit Lake, Iowa, four women were taken captive by a band of renegade Indians. Of the four women, only two survived. Abigail was held captive for 84 days. She was then purchased by the Yankton Sioux and her freedom was then bought by the government. The cost of her freedom was "two horses, 12 blankets, two kegs of powder, 20 pounds of tobacco and 70 yards of cloth", Abbie wrote in her book.   She was released at a site northeast of Redfield along Turtle Creek.

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This page was last updated on 7 July 2012 at 7:26 pm

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