The city started as a village in Palisade State Park in 1872. The railroad company decided to build a diversion point, (joining of two railroad tracks) and switching yards where Garretson is now located. Railroad officials offered the business people of Palisades free lots if they would move their business to the new town site. The new city was named after A.S. Garretson, a millionaire railroad investor from Sioux City, Iowa. The City of Garretson began in 1889, the same year South Dakota became a state. Some buildings and homes were moved from Palisades and many new ones built. Several businesses were built of hand quarried quartzite blocks. Many of these unique quartzite buildings were on the east side of Main Street and were destroyed in a fire in 1971. They were replaced by brick buildings.Today Garretson has a population of 1065 citizens.
Farming is our Major Industry
Farming is the main industry in the Garretson area. The businesses you see in the rural town generally relate to this vocation. The businessmen, farmer and workingman all depend on each other.
The sodbusters started settling in the area in the 1850′s. We were known as part of Dakota Territory. The native vegetation in the area then was tall prairie grass with a few trees along rivers. Much of the soil is the clay-loam type which is among the richest found anywhere. The average rainfall for this area is 22-26 inches per year to help produce bountiful crops. The lack of rainfall, no matter how good the soil is, affects not only the farm economy, but also that of a rural town. The world food market greatly controls the prices the farmers get for their products.
Corn, soybean, oats and alfalfa hay are the most common crops grown here. Like any industry, farming has changed considerably over the years. The sodbuster used horses for his power to pull two row equipment. Tractors used today can range up to 400 horse-power (or more) engines. Even 31 row planters can be spotted in fields but 12 row is more common. At one time every farm had a few chickens, hogs and cows. Today much of this livestock is raised in corporate facilities.
Driving around the rural areas, you will occasionally spot redwood signs stating that the site is a Bi-Centennial Homestead farm. That means descendents of pioneers who homesteaded the land still farm there today.
The Famous James Brothers
Jesse and Frank James were perhaps the most famous outlaws of the Old West. The brothers were born in Clay County, Missouri in the 1840′s. Frank was the older of the two. During their teen years, they joined Confederate guerilla bands in the Civil War.
After the war, the James brothers formed an outlaw gang in 1866. They used the experiences they had during the Civil War of sneak attacks on Federal forces to make a living in robbery. The James gang robbed small banks in small midwestern towns, trains and stage coaches. They became heroes to many, because some folk believed they only robbed from the rich and gave to the poor. It is estimated the James gang had taken over $300,000 in their 15 year robbing career.
The James gang met their match in 1876 when they tried to rob the bank in Northfield, Minnesota. Two members of the gang were killed by Northfield residents in the attempt. Jesse and Frank were the only members of the gang that escaped the posse due to Jesseâ€™s famous jump on horseback across Devil’s Gulch at Garretson, South Dakota. The James brothers had little success in forming a new gang and robberies after the Northfield attempt because they were recognized everywhere.
In 1881, Jesse took on the name of Frank Howard and posed as a cattle buyer at St. Joseph, MO. He was shot in 1882 by a young man, Robert Ford, for $10,000 ransom money. Frank gave himself up and was found not guilty for his crimes by a sympathetic jury. Frank held a variety of jobs until he died peacefully in 1915. A Jesse James weekend is held annually in Garretson with many family activities. Jesse James weekend is the last weekend in June. For more information please call 594-6721.
Red Quartzite “Gold of Minnehaha County”
You have been touring beautiful formations of quartzite in the Garretson area, but mining of quartzite is a multimillion dollar business in Minnehaha County. Three quarries of the pink to shade of purple rock are found in the County. Two are in or near Sioux Falls and the other at Dell Rapids. A 20 to 30 mile wide band of the pink quartzite stretching from the Wisconsin Dells to near Mitchell, South Dakota is the only measurable supply in the United States. Next to diamond, it is the hardest known rock. Because of its durablility, the crushed rock is shipped nationwide to be used in road building, as an additive for asphalt and concrete, and railroad track beds. Quartzite is also used in engine block for Ford and in building colorful panels for building around our nation.
In the late 1890′s and early 1900′s, the rock was used extensively to build ornate buildings. Stone cutters from Europe came to help build many large buildings from quarried blocks that are found on Main Streets in many of the area towns including Garretson. The stone was also used as foundations of many area homes and barns. The rock is no longer used extensively in building construction. Quartzite also played another important part in the history of South and North Dakota. The 360 mile border between the two states was marked with 720 quartzite markers, one every half-mile.
Quartzite is relatively easy to mine locally because the rock is located close to the surface. The local quarries are expected are expected to produce stone for many more decades. When it is time for the quarries to be reclaimed, they will probably be used as man-made lakes or for water reservoirs. While in production, the companies are required to follow air and water standards. Trees and other landscaping help contain the dust and keep the mines hidden. Because of safety rules, none of the quarries are able to offer tours.