Haakon County became part of the United States when land was purchased as part of the Louisiana Territory in 1803. In 1861, President James Buchanan signed a bill forming Dakota Territory and on November 2, 1889, President William Harrison signed a proclamation organizing Dakota Territory into the states of North Dakota & South Dakota.
Between 1861, and 1889, only few people were living in the area that is now Philip. Most of them were ranchers enjoying the miles of open Dakota prairie.
After South Dakota became a state, more settlers would come into the Philip area. Many of these people were drawn to "homestead" in the area around Philip. Under the Homestead Act of 1862 a person could acquire up to 160 acres if they would establish a residence and live on the claim for five years. In addition to living on the claim, they were required to pay a fourteen dollar filing fee and a four dollar fee five years later when they had "proved" their claim. Later, homestead acts would loosen the restrictions of homesteading and increase the land available to file a claim on.
In these days, many of the settlers lived in one room shacks made of sod, logs, or boards and tar paper. In the book Haakon Horizons Majorie Poss Oldenberg writes, "Some of these shacks were so small that the bed had to be raised on pulleys to the ceiling or folded against the wall during the day, and the chairs were set outside at night to make room for the bed."
With the coming of the railroad in 1907, the towns of Nowlin, Powel, Midland, and Philip came into being. Other towns away from the railroads like Milesville, Elbon, Dowling, Grindstone, Hartley, Hilland, Kirley, Moenville, and Ottumwa, sprang up as supply sites for the homesteaders.
In 1890, Stanley County was formed, and later in 1914, the people of Stanley County voted to form the counties of Haakon and Jackson out of the western portion of Stanley County. After Haakon County was formed, the towns of Lucerne, Midland, and Philip fought to determine which town would become the county seat.
Eventually the city of Philip was chosen, probably because the city offered railroad access and an excellent location. At first, the county leased a schoolhouse in Philip to use a courthouse. Later a long, low building with five or six rooms would be built. Then a better three story courthouse was built and dedicated to the people of South Dakota and the pioneers of Haakon County. (Haakon Horizons, 82)
Haakon County is home to many historic sites such as:
The Lasting Legacy is a
memorial dedicated to the pioneers of Haakon County. In 1988, a
committee was established to guide the construction of the memorial.
Property was donated by a local couple and the National Guard landscaped
the building site. The memorial is a cement wall, 15 feet high and 50
feet wide, that contains six granite panels. Each panel contains the
names of 90 people who epitomize heritage, progress, and pride. The
memorial was dedicated in 1989 by the late Governor George S. Mickelson
and has become an important place for many committee events.
Lasting Legacy Committee c/o Ralph A. Kemnitz PO Box 489 Philip, SD 57567
The Silent Guide Monument
The Silent Guide Monument
was built in the late 1800s or early 1900s by an early sheepherder to
mark a waterhole that never went dry. Made of flat stones, the guide
originally stood fourteen feet high, and could be seen as far as thirty
five miles away. During the range feuds between cowboys and
sheepherders, cowboys would sometimes rope the guide and pull it down,
reducing it to a pile of stones. Once, a sheepherder grew tired of this
irritation and climbed the pile of stones with a rifle and dared the
cowboys to knock it down while he was there. As homesteaders came into
the area they developed wells and other means to acquire water and the
guide lost its importance. The guide fell over several times and was
rebuilt by locals, who decided to reset the stones permanently. In 1924,
the stones were cemented together and the monument was dedicated to the
South Dakota Historical Society. The monument can be seen eight miles
west of Philip.
The Molyneux cabin was
built in the Black Hills some time in the 1880s. In 1896, it was moved
to the North Fork of the Bad River by Cyrus Molyneux. For a few years,
Molyneux lived out of the cabin and taught the children of area
homesteaders. Eventually, Molyneux moved out of the Philip area and left
the cabin behind. For a period of time, the cabin was used as a granary
and storage shed. Then in 1982, the cabin was moved to Philip and
placed on a cement base. Today, the cabin can be seen on State Highway
14, across the road from Philip School.