Texas Cemetery, Dakota Territory

In the summer of 1989 Governor George Mickelson celebrated 100 years of South Dakota statehood by leading a Centennial Wagon Train from the Texas Cemetery, the only remaining evidence of a territorial community called Texas that flourished as a rough steamboat town on the bank of the Missouri River in the 1860s and 70s.

How it got the name Texas is one of the secrets of the dim and distant past. But according to fragmentary reports, it was a small town with a hotel and other business places. Steamboats used to land there, tying up to the big cottonwoods on the river bank. A sawmill furnished lumber for many of the buildings in Elk Point six miles to the north.

Stories abound about this now phantom town. The Texas community was said to have included former African-American slaves from Texas who found their way up the Missouri River during and after the Civil War.

Indeed, Union County was established as Cole County in 1862 but shortly thereafter changed its name to Union County in support of the Northern states during the Civil War.

The demise of this steamboat town parallels the introduction of rail transportation through Elk Point in 1873. How many are buried in the Texas Cemetery is not certain. Many of the graves have no markings. Several stones have been damaged by vandals. What remains is a testament to the pioneers who first ventured into the Dakota Territory and built the modern state of South Dakota.