Almost as soon as Congress created Dakota Territory (see last post), its new territorial legislature began establishing counties. The legislature established Lincoln County during its first session in 1862. 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, which eventually won the site selection for the government’s asylum for insane Indians.
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. It may have seemed so in its early days, and my next post will discuss some of Canton’s nineteenth-century history.