On January 3, 1881, C. H. Prior filed his plot of the future townsite of Aberdeen [†], named after the Scottish home of Alexander Mitchell, president of the Chicago, Milwaukee and St. Paul Railroad. The site was chosen for its natural slough, which provided water to replenish steam engines.
In 1882 an outstanding bumper crop of Spring Wheat was raised in the area and the land boom began. Railroads brought in vast numbers of homesteaders. The first railroad to reach Aberdeen was the Milwaukee Road, which arrived on July 6, 1881. That same year the Chicago and North Western laid tracks through town. On July 26, 1886, it completed its line and in 1907 the Minneapolis and St. Louis joined the other three.
Aberdeen is a good example of the growth of railroads—both real and paper. The Aberdeen Bismarck and North Western; the Detroit and South Western; the Rock Island; and later the Illinois Central were projected and in some cases even graded into the county.
Railroads played an important role in the growth of Aberdeen from the beginning when they chose the town's location and brought in the first settlers. Crops, produce and staples were shipped on the rails into and out of town. In later years the railroad made Aberdeen a distributing center for wholesale houses in the area.
With the immigrants came the need for a social and governmental center with churches, schools and businesses. Aberdeen's population and importance grew even though the boom years reached their peak in 1885 and a depression lasted through the 1890s. The proposed historic district was home to many of Aberdeen's socially prominent families. Among them were: B.C. Lament, who lived at 519 South Arch, was an experimenter with spring "wheat and artesian wells. Louis Lager designed Aberdeen's Grain Palace and resided at 417 South Kline. Frank Beard, one of the town's early settlers who played an active role in its development, lived at 403 South Kline. A.E. Boyd, an extensive landowner in Brown County, built the house at 320 Sixth Avenue Southeast.
† Edith French, Vermillion SD, Aberdeen Historic District, 1974, Natina Park Service, National Register of Historic Places nomination document, 1974, accessed July, 2021.