S.C. Hyde - 1872



The citizens of Lyon County have long felt that its beauty and natural resources were little known.  They have also felt that the growth and development of the county and the interests of immigrants and capitalists seeking locations in the West, might be promoted by adopting some means for making known the character of the country.  It has also been thought that some effort should be made to preserve the memory of the early settlers of the county, who have periled their lives in the wilderness and endured great hardships and privations to lay the foundations of the county, and to make some record of events in its early history, which would otherwise pass into oblivion when this day and generation have gone.

Accordingly, the Board of Supervisors of Lyon County ordered the publication of a pamphlet, to be devoted to these objects. 

Index to Sections


One of the early settlers of the county, who is well acquainted with the county, was appointed to write the pamphlet, and the following pages are the result of that action.

The writer is indebted to Dr. John K. Cook, of Sioux City, Iowa, and Hon. Charles Negus, of Fairfield, Iowa, for valuable information concerning the early his The report of Dr. C.A. White, State Geologist, and the sketch of Iowa by Hon. A.R. Fulton, Secretary Iowa Board of Immigration, have also greatly assisted in the preparation of this pamphlet.  The aim has been to give a brief sketch of the early history of the county.  Also, to give a truthful description of the country, and such a statement of facts as will give to all who may desire to seek new homes in the West, a correct idea of the superior inducements which our young county offers.

That these objects may be attained, and many induced to settle within our borders and share the advantages  and blessings which await all who will make homes among us, is the earnest desire of

The Writer


Early History

Lyon County, forming the northwest corner of the State of Iowa, is bounded on the north by the State of Minnesota, west by the Big Sioux River, which separates it from Dakota Territory; on the south by Sioux County, and by Osceola on the east.  These limits embrace a beautiful region of country, extending 37 miles in length east and west, and about 17 miles in width, containing about 575 square miles, or 368,000 acres.  The altitude of this county is about 1,400 feet above sea level, and it lies east of the middle of the United States.

Prior to the year 1851, the territory embraced within the present limits of Lyon County had never been designated by any particular name.  And the vast region of country comprising Northwestern Iowa was almost entirely unknown.

The General Assembly of Iowa, by act approved January 15, 1851, created the county of Buncombe, comprising what is now Lyon County.  The following circumstances gave rise to this singular name:

The Legislature which convened in 1851 was composed of a large majority favoring stringent corporation laws, and the liability of individual stockholders for corporate debts.  This sentiment in the Legislature, on account of the agitation of railroad enterprises, then beginning brought a large number of prominent men to the capital.  To have an effect on the General Assembly, they organized a lobby legislature, in which these questions were ably discussed.  They elected as Governor, Verplank Van Antwerp, who delivered to this self-constituted body a lengthy message, in which he sharply criticized the regular Legislature.  Some of the members of the latter body were in the habit of making long and useless speeches, much to the hindrance of business.  To these be especially referred, charging them with speaking for buncombe, and recommended that as their lasting memorial, a county should be called Buncombe.  This suggestion was readily seized upon by the regular Legislature, and the county of Buncombe was created with few dissenting votes.

By act of the General Assembly, approved January 12th, 1853, Buncombe County, with several others, was attached to the county of Wahkaw, for judicial and revenue purposes.  The same Assembly, by act approved January 12th, provided for the organization of Wahkaw, which had been created in 1851, and by another act, approved at the same date, changed the name of Wahkaw to that of Woodbury.

Buncombe remained under the jurisdiction of Woodbury County, until its organization, January 1st, 1872.

By act of the General Assembly, approved September 11th, 1862, the name of Buncombe was changed to Lyon.  This was in honor of the gallant General Nathaniel Lyon, who fell at the battle of Wilson's Creek, while leading the First Iowa Infantry in a charge.


The Indians

Both history and the earliest traditions agree that the Sioux, one of the most powerful and warlike of the Indian nations of America, have from time immemorial been the sovereigns of Northwestern Iowa, and a vast region to the north and west.

At the time of the creation of Buncombe County (now Lyon), in 1851, the title to the soil still vested in the Indians.   However, on the 23rd of July, 1851, a treaty was concluded with the Sioux, by which they relinquished to the United States all their lands in Iowa.

The Yanktons and Tetons, tribes of the Sioux, formerly inhabited the region watered by the Big Sioux and Rock rivers and their tributaries, comprising what is now Lyon County.  These were the most savage and warlike of any of the great Sioux nation, and maintained an almost constant warfare against the Iowas, Omahas and Ottoes, powerful rivals, who lived to the south.

Here in our beautiful county of Lyon has been the home and the favorite hunting ground of the Yanktons for ages.  Depending principally upon the chase for sustenance, the countless herds of buffalo, elk, antelope and deer, which constantly roamed over these prairies, rendered this region especially attracting to the Sioux.  These they hunted on horseback, using the bow and arrow.  And the countless numbers of these animals which they annually slaughtered may be inferred from the heaps of bones and skulls which still lie about their old camping grounds.  They specially delighted in the meandering valleys of the Sioux and Rock rivers.  The timber skirting these streams supplied them with fuel, shelter, and ash for making their bows and arrows, and constructing their tepees.

The Sioux have left many evidences of a long occupation of this country.  Prominent among these are their burial places.  One situated on a high table land, on the west bank of Rock river, overlooking the town of Doon, bears evidence of great age.  This consists of many series of circular mounds, each about fifteen feet high.  They are encased at the summit in stone, and contain the bones of their dead.  But the most remarkable of all their relies are situated on a plateau extending back from the east bank of the Big Sioux river, on the south side of a small creek in Township 100, range 49.

These works are of the most singular character, and bear evidence of great labor and ancient origin.  The surface of the earth appears to have been removed to a considerable depth, from a large field being thrown up into pyramids or mounds from fifteen to twenty-five feet high.  Of these, there are a great number covering over twenty acres.  Some of these works assume the form of an amphitheatre composed of circular terraces rising one above another from the ground.  In other places circles have been formed of huge blocks of Sioux quartzite rock.  Ornaments of copper, vessels of pottery, pipes and pieces of curious workmanship, cut out of the famous pipe-stone, have been found upon these grounds.  Not having the appearance of works of defense, habitation, or burial places, they must have been devoted to athletic feats, public games, and religious exercises.

On the north bank of the creek are the remains of long lines of redoubts and breastworks, having the appearance of an old fortification.  Their village, or camping-ground, was situated a short distance to the southward. These have been the loved and consecrated grounds of the Yanktons from time immemorial.  Here, in one common family, these children of nature met to worship the Great Spirit.  And here they hade farewell to their happy hunting-grounds, and departed forever.




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