Old Military Road


Before the railroads ran through South Dakota and before the homesteaders flooded the Northern Plains, the U.S. Army ran a westward supply line over 100 miles from Sioux City to Fort Randall, where the Missouri River flowed eastward to become the common boundary between the Territories of Nebraska and Dakota.

Fort Randall had been built in 1857, and in 1859 Eli Wixson built Elk Point's first home and modest trading post close to this military supply line. In 1862 Wixson built a more elaborate hotel and post office on the site now occupied by one of Elk Point's signature buildings - the Masons' Building constructed in 1889 on the corner of Douglas and Main.

In 1865 the U.S. Congress authorized the construction of three sanctioned wagon roads through Dakota. The wagon trail from Sioux City to Fort Randall was exceptionally wide between the Big Sioux and Missouri Rivers because of deep rutting during the wet spring and winter seasons. A stagecoach trip from Sioux City to Elk Point - a distance of 25 miles - could take 5 hours or more.

The old stagecoach line between Elk Point and Sioux City eventually became part of State Highway 77, authorized by the State of South Dakota in 1919. As Interstate 29 became the dominant artery of commerce, Highway 77 was taken over by Union County. But markers along the Old Military Road remind us of the history that took place over this former wagon trail.