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When the United States acquired South Dakota, most of the land became part of the public domain. The federal government surveyed available land into townships and transferred it to private ownership through local land offices. The first land office was established at Vermillion in 1861. See the United States Research Outline for more information about the land entry process. To locate the land-entry or homestead case file for your ancestor, you will need to know either the patent number or the legal description (range, township, section) of the land. The county recorder of deeds may be able to tell you the legal description of the land, or you may be able to pinpoint the exact location by searching the entries in the tract book covering the approximate area concerned.


Mount Rushmore

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Did You Know?

  • In the Black Hills of South Dakota, stands the national memorial, Mount Rushmore, created by Gutzon Borglum. It was designed as a testament to the growth of the country and its great leaders. This magnificent rock carving depicts the 60-foot high (18.3 m) faces of four great U.S. Presidents: (left to right) George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt, and Abraham Lincoln. Borglum started drilling into the 6,200-foot mountain in 1927; however, he died in 1941 before it could be completed. The head of Washington was completed first, followed by Jefferson and Lincoln. Roosevelt's head was unfinished when Borglum died. The memorial was finished later that year by his son, Lincoln. Borglum's original design was a sculpture of the four presidents to their waists, but time and money only provided for their heads. From http://bensguide.gpo.gov/3-5/symbols/mountrushmore.html
  • During the first half of the nineteenth century, various Sioux (also called Dakota) tribes lived in the area that became South Dakota. These included the Santee, Teton, Yankton, and Yanktonnais tribes. The Dakota Sioux Indians comprise about five percent of the state's present population. The first major influx of settlers into the state began in 1863, after passage of the first Homestead Act. Homesteaders in the late 1860s and early 1870s came from the eastern and mid-western states. Many others came from Europe, including groups of Swedes, Danes, Czechs, and Germans from Russia. The Black Hills gold rush of 1875-1877 also attracted thousands of people.

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