Fort Vermillion



This year, one of my personal projects is to find out more about Fort Vermillion. When did it exist and where? Here is what I know so far:


Fort Vermillion was a French trading post established by Pierre Chouteau, Jr., and Company along the Missouri River in the vicinity of what is now Vermillion, South Dakota. Théophile Bruguiere was a trader in residence. (Jones)


From June 1845 to the spring of 1846, Mormons rested at the fort while on their mission to find a permanent place for the members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to settle. (Jones)


The USD Archaeology Laboratory in the late 1990s searched for the location of Fort Vermillion. They could not just look for remnants of the fort along the current banks of the Missouri River because the Missouri River had dramatic changed its course since the establishment of the fort. The lab “conducted a remote sensing survey over a portion of farmland that was once a river channel, and while they found the channel, the old shoreline area contained no cultural materials.” (Molyneaux)


I haven’t found the fort on any of the maps we have in the Archives and Special Collections, though I am still looking. I did find it on G.K. Warren’s maps in Callaway and Wood’s book, and that is the source of the image in this post.




Gerald E. Jones, An Early Mormon Settlement in South Dakota, South Dakota History, vol. 1 no. 2, Spring 1971.


Brian Molyneaux, email to author 1/12/2016.


Graham A. Callaway and W. Raymond Wood, Lieutenant G. K. Warren’s 1855 and 1856 Manuscript Maps of the Missouri River, Bismarck ND: State Historical Society of North Dakota, 2012. Originals of the maps are in the National Archives.

During the 1980s and 1990s, University of South Dakota commencement program covers often presented brief descriptions of USD buildings.




The South Dakota Oral History Project’s first year was described in a 1970 South Dakota History article.


“This past summer an oral history project was inaugurated in South Dakota. Five thousand dollars was funded by the state legislature at the request of Dayton Canaday, State Historian, and Professor Joseph Cash of the University of South Dakota. Professor Cash and Mr. Canaday suggested to the state legislature that a project be initiated among white settlers while reminiscent accounts of early statehood were still available. The State Historical Society received the money as part of its budget allocation, and the University agreed to provide personnel and technical assistance necessary to produce taped interviews. It was also agreed that two copies of each tape would be produced and placed in the archives at Pierre and Vermillion. This writer was hired as the primary interviewer, and the remaining funds went toward the purchase of tapes, secretarial assistance, and other incidentals.”


Check out the article for information on partners, methodologies, and common themes.


Stephen R. Ward, An Early Assessment of the South Dakota Oral History Project, South Dakota History, vol. 1, no. 1, Winter 1970.


Contact the South Dakota Oral History Center at USD to learn more about the interviews collected for this project. Many, if not all, of the interviews have a record in the library catalog.


This recently transferred panoramic of faculty and students from the University dates from 1920 to 1922. Ray Andrews Brown, assistant professor of law (1919-1922), Arthur Thomas Ireland, instructor of wind instruments (1920-1934), and Fannie Augusta Sims, professor of home economics (1919-1923), were all good clues to providing a date.


Oscar Howe and Vincent Price

Oscar Howe in Studio, 1960's

Oscar Howe in Studio, 1960’s

Today while working with the Oscar Howe Papers, I found the following short statement by Oscar Howe about Vincent Price, “…for forteen (sic) years, Vincent was commissioner of the Indian Arts and Crafts Board of the Department of the Interior. Just last year, he requested that he be replaced by a Native American, an Indian. As commissioner, he made it his responsibility to awaken the American and world public to the beauty of Indian art, and to foster its sale. And, in a very personal way, I must thank you again, Vincent, for engineering my own appearance on my ‘This is Your Life’ years ago.”


We will be closed Christmas Eve afternoon, Christmas Day, and New Year’s Day.

A Holiday Farewell

I felt that I could start this blog post with some cheer before I say my farewells.
Since winter break is coming up and the holiday season is nigh, I thought I would dig through the Archives and Special Collections for some Christmas-related items.
The object that caught my eye was Ellen S. Mills’ diaries, of the Richardson Collection, that span from 1881 to 1883. It appears Ellen and her family lived in the Yankton area for a period of time. Ellen’s diary entries are short, sweet and to the point. If one would be interested in an account of day to day life and expenses during the early 1880s, Ellen’s diaries reveal a glimpse into that time period. In the year of 1881, the family started preparing for Christmas on the 1st of December, between buying gifts and sending Christmas tokens via mail. On the 22nd, the “children came to pop corn & string it for [the] Christmas Tree.” The Christmas tree would be fully decorated on the 24th by Annie and Abrm. On Sunday, December 25th, 1881, the weather was pleasant and Ellen received a fully furnished writing desk, a gold pen, and verses written for her. At the end of the diary, she put things such as expenses, notes, or lists (I found the prices of some items to pleasantly surprising). The diaries offered a perspective of the past that I thoroughly enjoyed reading and experiencing. Alas, the diaries end in the midst of March of 1883, the last entry of Annie singing and playing, not a formal goodbye to be spotted.
Luckily, I have the chance to say my “last” goodbye (we shall see how long I can hold out). Words are inadequate to describe my feelings as of now, and I think they shall remain elusive as I sort through the various emotions I feel leaving this workplace that I have called home for the past four years. I started working here my freshman year, in the labyrinth known as the Archives and Special Collections, which is composed of books, letters, maps, newspapers, and photographs that have only served to contribute to my sense of wonder about the written word. I may have had to spend an obscene amount of time with a capricious photo copier, and I may have had the lights turned off on me in the back room (thankfully, only once in my years here and I sincerely hope that no one ever experiences that exact moment of helplessness, surrounded only by books to keep you company in the dark as you stub your toes, trying to maneuver towards any light source), but every moment was worth working in the Archives. Even though the setting I have worked in is wonderful, I have to say it is the amazing people I have worked with over the years that make my feet heavy and my heart reluctant to leave. Who will introduce me to new musicians every week or play Kishi Bashi’s new albums? Who will teach me lifelong book skills that have become a necessity in my household, such as phase boxing or creating cover jackets? Who will give me holiday treats without fail every year? Who will brighten my day with witty remarks? Who will make this world a bit more bearable, despite its grievances? I could not have asked for better coworkers, but above all, I could not have asked for better bosses. I have seen people come and go, but Sarah and Doris have been the constants in this home away from home that I have been accepted into. The Archives and Special Collections has become a paradise away from the crush of schoolwork and people, where I could dive into collections and books, always discovering something new to appreciate, whether it be music, novels, journals, news, or research.
Ignore the watery eyes; I just got dust in them. Or a falling fly that’s been stuck on the ceiling for days. Or whichever excuse that seems plausible for the Archives to create tears.
I expect this to be only a temporary goodbye, as I head towards my journey of student teaching. I hope, if my schedule permits it, to volunteer at the Archives and Special Collections for the year of 2016, but we shall see what the Fates have to say. Whatever the case may be, I know I will visit this place as often as time permits.
Now, back home to Minnesota for the break, where snow thrives and ice is a familiar state of being. Here’s to sliding on my skis or snowshoes in order to get from point A to point B. Wish me luck!


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