History of Badlands National Monument
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White settlement of the Badlands region was slow. Suited for grazing, the region in the 1890's was primarily the domain of cattlemen and sheepmen. At that time the region was surveyed by the Government. [54]

horses, carriages, and riders
Figure 8. OLD INTERIOR, 1906. Settled in about 1881, the town was known as Black until the name was changed around 1895. It was located about two miles southeast of the present town of Interior. In 1907, old Interior was abandoned in favor of the present townsite when the Milwaukee Road was built. [55]

Bruce Siberts, a Dakota cowboy, was in the Badlands several times during the early 1890's. He stated:

The big pasture west of the Missouri that the Sioux had turned over to Uncle Sam had few ranchers in it when I went there in 1890, but within another year or so there were all kinds of livestock roaming over it. [56]

Siberts' acquaintance with the Badlands was the result of his experience with cattle thieves who "holed up" there. The outlaws, after stealing Siberts' cattle, drove them to the Badlands.

Siberts started out in pursuit. During a week's stay in the Badlands, he saw thousands of head of stock, many of which were unbranded. Unable to recover his stolen cattle, he returned to his home on Plum Creek, a tributary of the Cheyenne River. He obtained a companion and went back to the Badlands. There the two men built several horse traps, captured a number of unbranded horses, branded them, and later sold the horses for $600. [57] Siberts returned alone to the region the following year to obtain more unbranded horses, but lost his horses to outlaws. As a result he was left afoot many miles from home. Siberts succeeded in taking the horse of Bill Newsom, head of a group of cattle rustlers, and made his way to a railroad town in Nebraska. He returned to South Dakota by rail. [58]


Isolated from natural transportation routes, few settlers moved into the region until the coming of railroads. In 1907 the Chicago and North Western Railway Company built its line from Pierre through Philip and Wall to Rapid City. During the same year, the Chicago, Milwaukee and St. Paul Railroad Company (now known as the Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul and Pacific Railroad Company or, simply, the Milwaukee Road) completed its line from Chamberlain to Rapid City along the White River through Kadoka and Interior. [59]

There was considerable homestead activity in 1906 under the original homestead law of 1862, despite the fact that the 160-acre farm unit was inadequate in the region. Leonel Jensen, a long-time resident in the vicinity of the Badlands, stated that when his father came to the region in May 1906 there were few homestead buildings. In the fall of that year there was a homestead shack on practically every quarter-section of land, because many settlers had anticipated the coming of the railroads. [60] In 1912 the period to "prove up" on the lands was liberalized by changing the time of residence from five to three years. The Enlarged Homestead Act of 1909 was applied to South Dakota by Congress in 1915, enabling settlers to acquire 320 acres instead of 160. [61]

The homestead laws were liberalized again in 1916 by the enactment of the Stock-Raising Homestead Act. This provided for 640-acre homesteads on lands officially designated as nonirrigable grazing lands. [63]

Figure 10. A BADLANDS HOMESTEAD. Newly plowed sod marks the beginning of a farm in 1911 northwest of Interior near the badlands wall.

Figure 11. Some Badlands homesteaders lived first in dugouts similar to the one belonging to the Josh Sullivan family as shown on this postcard mailed in 1909. It was located one half mile south of the present national monument boundary just off the Cedar Pass - Interior highway. [62]

Figure 12 Lumber to build the Louis J. Jensen home, located just west of the Badlands, was hauled by rail from the Black Hills to Wall, South Dakota. Taken in 1908, this photograph represents a typical house of the Badlands homesteading era. [68]

From 1900 to 1905 the population in western South Dakota increased from 43,782 to 57,575; by 1910 it was 137,687. [64] From 1910 to 1930 it continued to increase, but at a slower pace. In the decade following 1910 the population of Pennington County increased slightly from 12,453 to 12,720; by 1930 it was 20,079. In Jackson County, which contained no urban centers, the increase was much smaller. From 1920 to 1930 (no figures are available for 1910 to 1920) the population went from 2,472 to 2,636. [65] For a comparison with recent trends, the populations of Jackson and Pennington counties in 1960 were 1,985 and 58,195 respectively. [66] (The western or 87 percent of the present Badlands National Monument is located in Pennington County; the eastern section is in Jackson County.)

Between 1910 and 1920, increasing amounts of land in western South Dakota passed out of the public domain and into private ownership. Encouraged by the high prices for farm and ranch products resulting from World War I, many farmers and ranchers took advantage of the liberalized homestead acts. By 1922 less than half of the land which was later included in Badlands National Monument was publicly owned. [67]


History of Badlands National Monument
©1968, Badlands Natural History Association
badlands/sec2.htm — 04-Feb-2005

Copyright © 1968 by the Badlands Natural History Association and may not be reproduced in any manner without the written consent of the Badlands Natural History Association.