Hughes County History

Hughes County is located in the approximate center of the state and of the North American Continent. Hughes County was organized in November of 1880 and named after Alexander Hughes. It ranks 45th in county size, with approximately 741 square miles. Pierre was selected as the county seat, and when the state organized in 1889 it was also given the honor as the new capitol city.

Mitchell disputed Pierre's selection as state capitol for several years, finally giving up the fight to have it changed about 1903. Due to its location on the river (Missouri), it was an early center of river trade. In 1863, the army established a post called Ft. Sully about four miles from what is now Pierre. It was active there until it was moved north on the river to Sully County in 1866. The very southern area of the county as set aside for the Crow Creek Indian Reservation.

Some of the early settlers in the area were J. P. Laughlin, Joseph Reed, Burt Dickey and Eva Dix. Prior to these hardy people there were many trappers and hunters that came and went on the other areas, some stayed.

In 1883, three small communities were organized in Hughes County to the east of Pierre. They were Blunt, Harrold and Canning. All had several businesses in their early years and schools and postal service. Blunt and Harrold still are active. In the 1890's Blunt had about 1,500 people with a decline to about 500 in 1935. Both Harrold and Blunt had newspapers in the 1800's, and for some years after that. Originally the site of Canning was called Paxton, and it was the little village of Paxton that in 1880 had the first official post office. The first school district in the county was formed in 1881 which started the operation of several area school houses. For about six years Pierre had "Pierre University" in operation but due to financial problems it was moved to Huron about 1898. In 1891, the "Pierre Indian Leaning Center" was started under the name of the "Pierre Indian School", and remains active to this time.

Early churches in the area were Methodist, Catholic, Presbyterian. The first organized church groups started about 1881.

The city of Pierre was organized in 1883 with a population of about 1,800. With the coming of the railroad from the east in 1880 and its ferry business across the river with Ft. Pierre to the west it established a busy trade industry. Like all new towns it soon had many business ventures. One of the earliest, if not the first settler of note in Pierre, was Anson Hilger. In 1887, the arrival of Charles I. Hyde was the beginning of one of the largest family business operations that was notable in the area. Today, with the Oahe Dam just upstream on the Missouri River, Pierre is a center of fishing and water sport activity. The Cultural Heritage Center opened by the State of South Dakota provides visitors with an interesting place to study the history of South Dakota.

The topography of Hughes County is varied from rolling plains to the more rugged Missouri River Breaks. The area has nine soil associations, ranging from deep loam type in the northwest to claypan and clayloam in the east central. Crops vary with the markets but wheat, corn, soybeans and hay are the main types through the years. Approximately 55% of the usable land is grazing for livestock. Precipitation ranges on an average of 16-18 inches. Some irrigation is now practiced along the river and Lake Oahe.

-Copied from the 1989 Hughes County Centennial Atlas