History of Roberts County

Taken from the 1938 Farm Directory

Dakota Directory Service

Mitchell, South Dakota

Roberts County is located in the extreme northeastern part of the State of South Dakota. County seat, Sisseton. Area, 711,040 acres. Named for S. G. Roberts of Fargo. Bounded on the north by the State of North Dakota, on the east by the State of Minnesota, on the south by Grant County, and on the west by Day and Marshall counties. Principal industries: farming, stockraising, and dairying. Towns and cities located in Roberts county are: Sisseton, Wilmot, Rosholt, New Effington, Peever, Summit, Ortley, Claire City, Hammer, White Rock, Corona, and Victor. There are thirty organized townships in the county.

When the county was organized, the county seat was located by the board of commissioners at what was then known as the town of Travare, on the hill about two miles west of Browns Valley, and a court house was built during the first summer. (This first court house now houses the Porter Garage, in Wilmot.) At he first election following this location, in the fall of 1884, the question of the location of the county seat was submitted to a vote of the people and Travare was declared the county seat. Later the county seat was moved to Wilmot where it remained until 1889 when it was removed to Sisseton, where it has remained since..

The first white settlement in Roberts county was made by the Hudson Bay Company on Lake Traverse just after the war of 1812. When this post was discontinued is not a matter of record. Of other early white settlers, Martin McLeod opened a trading post on the shores of Big stone Lake about four miles north of Hartford. During the Indian outbreak in 1862 the Sisseton and Wahpeton Indians, under the influence of John Otherday, Paul Mazakootemani and other chiefs, remained friendly to the whites and rendered great service in rescuing prisoners and scouting. Solomon Roberts, for whom the county is named, open a trading post on Big Stone Lake, below Hartford, in 1867.

The first shingle-roof building in the county was the home of the well known Indian, Akipa, where the early missionaries held their services and was erected in 1868.

In the spring of 1868 the Sisseton Agency was established, being removed from Lake Traverse where it was first located two years previous. Goodwill Presbyterian mission was established in the fall of 1869 by Rev. S. R. Riggs. The government established a school in 1873. Rev. E. Ashley established a mission, without school, in 1879. St. Andrews Industrial school was erected in 1894 one mile southwest of the city.

The first actual settlement of the county began in 1869-1880 in the southeast part of the county, which was all that was open to settlement at that time. The county was organized in 1883 out of parts of Grant and Richland counties. In 1892 the government purchased of the Indians the Sisseton and Wahpeton reservation which comprised the greater parts of Roberts county, and it was thrown open to homesteaders. Sisseton was platted as a townsite April 15, 1892. The natural advantages to be found here brought together a band of live wire business men and it as a result there is a modern little city here now of about 2000 people. A large and modern retail district supplies the needs of a wide and prosperous agricultural community. Sisseton is located at the terminus of the Whetstone branch of the Milwaukee road.


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Updated 11/27/02