With the most recent round of renovations complete on the Kingsbury County Courthouse, now would be a good time to reminisce about the history of this grand old building. There are many wonderful traits in this courthouse and within it lies many interesting items and stories.
Kingsbury County was organized on Feb. 18, 1880, according to “De Smet Yesterday and Today.”
George W. Kingsbury of Yankton, a pioneer, editor, historian and legislator, had the honor of being the namesake for the newly formed county.
During the May 9, 1880, meeting of the board of Kingsbury County, De Smet was chosen as the county seat. It was platted in 1880 and incorporated in 1883.
Incidentally, 1880 was the same year that Charles Ingalls filed his homestead claim just three miles southeast of De Smet, the little town on the prairie.
According to courthouse records that were referenced in the Courthouse Centennial program on May 30, 1882, Mr. and Mrs. Keep presented the site for the county to build a courthouse. In no time at all, the county built a jailhouse, but county business was conducted at various county employee’s homes and offices throughout De Smet.
The De Smet newspaper editor of that period, Mark Brown, chastised the county commissioners because people found the lack of a courthouse deplorable.” At present,” he wrote, “all of the record books stand on shelves in the register’s office, where a fire would leave no vestige of them. Every land title in the county is in peril every day.”
Because there was no courthouse by 1883, the very first county court was held in G.W. Elliots’s new flour-mill south of the railroad tracks.
In April of 1888, the county finally passed a resolution to construct the courthouse. Later that year, the county appropriated funds to cover the labor and material. The architect for this first courthouse was W. L. Dow of Sioux Falls of the Dakota Territory.
This building is what we know today as the east building. Its construction was not to exceed $4,000. It was completed one year before South Dakota officially became the 40th state.
The initiation of the “West Building” began on April 5, 1892. The building contract was awarded almost six years later Jan. 20, 1898.
The second building was designed by architect Dow, just like the first. M. E. Bush was awarded the construction contract at a cost of $14,800. Additional costs for the total construction were $44 for interior brickwork and $225 to raise the roof on the east building up to the height of the new courthouse on the west side.
In April of 1898, the construction began on the new courthouse. The first cornerstone was laid on June 11, 1898. The stone was furnished by the city of De Smet and is jasper stone from Sioux Falls. Records show there was an entire day of festivities and celebration on June 11th.
Finally, in January of 1899, the new courthouse was completed. It featured a large front porch, a spectator balcony over the court room and a covered drive-through between the newer west building and the east building.
Posted on 11-08-2018
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