Pierre is the oldest continuously occupied white settlement in South Dakota. From
the French Verendrye explorers to Scotty Philip, the man who "single-handedly saved
the American buffalo," you'll find it right here, in Fort Pierre.
It is interesting to note that Fort Pierre is also home to three other major attractions
central to the Lewis & Clark story. Taken together, these four sites comprise
a chronological representation of relations between the races, from first contact
through today and into the future.
The Verendrye Monument National Historic Landmark, where in
1743 the French-Canadian la Verendrye brothers buried a lead plate establishing
France's purported claim to the entire future Louisiana purchase;
Mouth of the Bad River, where in 1804 President Jefferson's
Corps of Discovery met, counseled, feasted, and exchanged barely restrained hostilities
with the "Teton" Lakota;
Fort Pierre Chouteau National Historic Landmark, largest
trading post on the upper Great Plains in the 1830's, currently under excavation,
and traditional site of pre-European multi-Tribal trading convocations; and
Future home of the Wakpa Sica
Reconciliation Center, Congressionally-authorized Tribal Supreme Court, mediation
center, Lakota cultural center, artifact repatriation depository, and Tribal genealogical
As you look out from the bluffs overlooking the Missouri River, you can almost imagine
what French explorers must have thought about their discovery of this new land.
The rugged terrain, a mighty winding river, the raw beauty of an endless land. And
lying at your feet is the city of Fort Pierre.
Its central location on a major river was a powerful attraction to early explorers,
settlers and traders. Profitable fur trading was established in the late 1700's
and by 1830 Fort Pierre was a bustling trade center and steamboat stop. In 1855
the first military fort in the northwest was established and by the time of the
Black Hills Gold Rush, Fort Pierre was the major transportation and distribution
hub in the territory.
Rev. Stewart Sheldon, on his May 18, 1880 visit to Fort Pierre:
". . . a strange mixture of Americans, English, Irish, Swedes, Norwegians, Russians,
Poles, French, Canadians, half-breeds, Indians, and what not. . . . Protestants,
Catholics, Spiritualists, Moralists, Liberals, Freelovers, Ingersolites, Nothing-arins,
and how many others I do not know . . . .Nearly all the people were in hot and eager
pursuit after the almighty dollar! Freighters and cowboys and adventurers from nearly
all over the world were duly represented, and there was one continued white heat
of excitement week days, Sabbath days, and all. The night before I got there two
young men, stimulated by whiskey, drew their pistols on each other in a miserable
dance house, and one of them fell dead at the feet of his assailant, and in a few
hours was buried on the hillside just back of thetown, without hardly more ceremony
than if it had been the burial of a dog! It was indeed first-class missionary ground
without any mistake."
From: History of the United Church of Christ in South Dakota 1869-1976,
Edward C. Ehrensperger, Editor; 1977 by United Church of Christ in South Dakota.