History of Yankton County
Bordered on the south by the Missouri River, Yankton County has played an integral part in South Dakota history.
1861 heralded the first territorial government, with the City of Yankton being designated the capital of Dakota Territory. Steamboat trade flourished and in 1873 the first railroad line connected Yankton and Sioux City, Iowa.
The County was named for the Yankton band of the Sioux Indians. History suggests that Meriwether Lewis and George Rogers Clark were the first white men to set foot on Yankton County soil. Pelagie LaBarge is the first known white woman to journey to Yankton County, arriving in 1847 with her husband, a steamboat captain. Joseph R. Hanson was the first settler in 1859. 1861 also witnessed the first official newspaper, “The Weekly Dakotan”, being published.
The first school, held in the home of Dr. Abram Van Osdel, opened in December of 1862. Governor Howard selected Yankton County as the site for the state insane hospital in September of 1878. Yankton City and County lost the fight to retain the status of Territorial Capital in 1883 and the capital was moved to Bismark, ND.
The rich history of the County is preserved through many landmark buildings, historical sites and the written word.