Yearbooks of the Old Settlers Association of Yankton County, South Dakota

For fifteen years, from 1944 through 1958, the old settlers of Yankton County, South Dakota sponsored a yearbook that compiled their own fascinating stories of life in southeastern South Dakota in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. These yearbooks were later bound and filed with the local library and the state historical society. As written by Emma Meistrik, Secretary and Historian of the Old Settlers Association of Yankton County, “We dedicate this volume to the future old settlers of Yankton County and may call it Volume I, trusting that it will be continued indefinitely. It is upon the worthwhile things of the past that the future builds for ever increasing achievement.”1


Yearbooks of the Old Settlers Association of Yankton County, 1944-1958 (Yankton, South Dakota: Old Settlers Association of Yankton County, 1958); private collection of Melanie Frick.

My copy, once in the possession of an aunt, was not bound professionally, and I’m unsure whether all of the yearbooks are included. However, the stories within are rich with detail. Many of the settlers recount their experiences as immigrants, the establishment of their homesteads, and their survival of the deadly blizzard of 1888, as did Christine (Schmidt) Nelson of Yankton County, South Dakota.

She shared her recollections with her daughter, who wrote, “As an old settler of Yankton county she has many memories of the early years in her community. She recalls the old Indian trail which brought Indian traders to the home of her parents, Mr. and Mrs. Jens Smith, early settlers of Bon Homme county. On the old stage trail between Springfield, Fort Randall and Sioux City, the Smith farm was used as a place to change horses for the carrying of the mail.”2

Of the aforementioned blizzard, it was said, “Mrs. Nelson attended the Breezy Hill school and recalls the blizzard of 1888 when her only brother, Mads Smith, spent the night in the schoolhouse. The next morning after the storm, the sun was shining brightly and the family were overjoyed to see the young boy walking over the sparkling hard drifts after his night’s vigil.”3

The brief autobiography concludes, in part, “Mrs. Nelson is well-known by her many friends and relatives as a person who always has a warm welcome hand extended to all those who call at her home. Even today, at the age of 85, she is active with her household duties and retains an active interest in what is going on about her. She is cordial and sympathetic with the many young people who come her way. She is truly one of Dakota’s pioneer mothers who still looks ahead and enjoys her home and family.”4

As with A Yearbook from the Southern State Normal School, Springfield, South Dakota, 1916, copies of the compiled Yearbooks of the Old Settlers Association of Yankton County, 1944-1958 are likely not widely available to most researchers. Although my copy may not be complete, I would like to offer look-ups to anyone seeking information about the individuals named below as featured settlers:

Christine Schmidt Nelson
Ingeborg Oleson Pederson
George L. Gilman
Martin and Katherine Jensen
The Donaldson Family
Mr. and Mrs. Edward Tenge
Harry Robinson
Mrs. Katie Maloy Foley
The DeVoe Family
The Hammond Family
The Volin Family
The Dowling Family
Nellie Lingo
William Bader
Father Nichols of Mission Hill
Arthur C. Ellerman
Mrs. Minnie Gilliland
Elphraim Miner
Dave Wallace
O.J. Anderson
Nicholas Scherschligt
Ole Peterson
The Sparks Family
Charles Jydstrup
Herbert Wadsworth Pike
August Moses
Frank M. Walsh
Patrick Dineen
Christina Nelson Callesen
Hardy Carlson
Jorgen Madsen
Armour MacFarland
The David J. Gilliland Family
The Van Epps Family
The Christen Olsen Family
Theodore Sheridan Devol
Henry Schmuck
F. H. Feldman
The Kristian Nielsen Family
Balzaar Balensky
Joseph Mills Hanson
George H. Whiting
Agnes Marie Whiting-Chase
Thomas Hart Wadsworth
Willis W. French
Christena Millbeier Kurtz
The Abraham Lewis West Family
Matilda and Ed Donvan
The Andrew Swanson Family
Mr. and Mrs. A. L. Van Osdel
The Frick Family
Lewis Smith
Herman J. Marks
Anna Marks
John Fejfar
Allen C. English
Christoph Steinbach
M. P. Ohlman
The Elsbree Family
Nelson J. Cramer
The Herbert Kenyon Family
Norman Learned
Peter Binder
The Bruget Family
Gertrude Bentley
The Broderson Family
Anna Dahl and Regina Mortenson
George Garvey
B. V. Loosemore
Will and Anna Magorien
M. P. Ohlman, Sr.
Mr. John Reich
Frank Lincoln Van Tassel
Gottlieb Schenk

1 Yearbooks of the Old Settlers Association of Yankton County, 1944-1958 (Yankton, South Dakota: Old Settlers Association of Yankton County, 1958); private collection of Melanie Frick.
2 Ibid.
3 Ibid.
4 Ibid.


8 thoughts on “Yearbooks of the Old Settlers Association of Yankton County, South Dakota

  1. Karen House

    I am a direct descendent of both Abraham (Abram) L. West and O.L. Van Osdel. I would love to read anything about those two families that might be in your copy of the Yearbook!

  2. Dana Nelson

    Harry Robinson was my great uncle and one of two sons of Doane Robinson. Can share whatever is in the Old Settlers Yearbook with me?

  3. Tony Waldner

    Could I get a picture of Nelson Cramer as he was a lawyer for the Milltown Hutterite colony in South Dakota? Thank you!

  4. Pingback: One of Dakota’s Pioneer Mothers | Homestead Genealogy

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