Canton’s Early Roots

A Trapper’s Shack

Though the city of Canton was small compared to East Coast standards, it was an up and coming community for the far West. Almost as soon as Congress created Dakota Territory,  its new territorial legislature began establishing counties. The legislature established Lincoln County (where Canton is located) during its first session in 1862.

Representative Traps and Trapper

Representative Traps and Trapper

Only two signs of white civilization marked Lincoln County at this early date: a road crossing its northeast corner, and a small shanty on the Sioux River. The shanty had been built by trappers Dutch Charley, Bill Tunis, Old Ross, and his two sons, between Beaver Creek and the Sioux River. This small dwelling was an ideal place to capture game, and gave the area its first name, Trapper Shanty. For several years, this shanty was the only structure in Lincoln County, and became popular with travelers between Sioux City and Fort Dakota. Later, the area around Trapper Shanty became Canton, South Dakota.

Trapper Making a Bear Set

Trapper Making a Bear Set

The people of Canton, South Dakota had always dreamed big. Another old name for the town was Commerce City, though it was never an official one. Land speculators (circa 1850s) mapped the area and created the town there, but Commerce City doesn’t seem to have existed in any legal sense. Canton was also known as Gate City, capitalizing on the idea that it was a gateway into Dakota Territory. With such an energetic history behind them, Canton’s citizens no doubt thought it possible that its unique Canton Asylum for Insane Indians would make it a world-renowned mecca for the study of insanity.

 

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