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Brown County, South Dakota

The Brown County Courthouse is located at 25 Market Street, Aberdeen, SD 57401. Phone: 605-626-7110,

Simmons House

Photo: Simmons House, Classical Revival style, circa 1919, located at 1408 South Main Street. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1984. Image by wikipedia username:Joel Bradshaw, own work, 2015, public domain. Accessed via wikimedia commons, July, 2021.


Brown County [†] is located in north central South Dakota bounded to the north by Dickey County, North Dakota. The east boundary is occupied by Marshall and Day Counties, the south by Spink County, and on the west by Edmunds and McPherson Counties.

Prior to the 19th Century, the Ankara, commonly referred to as the Ree Indians, migrated into the Dakota Midlands in search of more productive lands as a result of long, severe and intolerable droughts encountered in the KansasNebraska area. With their strong agricultural inclinations, these "Corn Eaters," as they were known, readily adapted themselves to their new environment. Although their way of life made few permanent changes upon the natural physical environment, they were instrumental in introducing farming to the region.

By the turn of the 19th Century, the Indian Empire was being invaded by trappers and traders, and the first trading post in the James River Valley was established in 1822 on the Elm River only 21 miles north of the present site of the City of Aberdeen. Hostilities restrained further exploration of the James River Valley until 1838 when treaties with the Indians opened the way for exploration of the area by the "pathfinder," John C. Fremont.

The advent of the Iron Horse expedited westward migration during mid-century stimulating business and employment in the Territory. However, in the early 1870s, continual invasions of grasshopper swarms caused agricultural devastation and a national economic panic which halted railroad development. In 1877, the railroad was instrumental in creating a chain reaction; the results of which were the development of wagon roads, the extension of stage lines, the promotion of cattle ranching, the encouragement needed to push the settlers to new frontiers. The first permanent white settlers arrived in Columbia Township to establish claims and by June 15, 1879, Columbia, originally called Richmond was established at the junction of the Elm and James Rivers.

During 1879, Brown County, named after Alfred Brown, a member of the Territorial Legislature and known as "Consolidation Brown," was opened for settlement. In May of 1880, a timber man filed the first claim for land in the township in which Aberdeen is located. In January of 1881, the first town plot comprising an area of four city blocks was filed. The town was named Aberdeen after Aberdeen, Scotland, the birthplace of Alexander Mitchell, who at the time was president of the Milwaukee Railroad. Commissioners were named by the Legislature in 1883 to select a location for the capitol of the Dakota Territory. Ordway, a booming town in Brown County, was a candidate but received no support from the Commissioners. Columbia was the County Seat of Brown County until 1887, when it was moved to Aberdeen, where it remains.

Brown County Comprehensive Plan 2020-2040, www.brown.sd.us, accessed July, 2021.

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