A Spirited Pioneer Promoter
Jan 15, 2013
Every Tuesday, we post a South Dakota trivia question on our Facebook page. This week's question was, "What South Dakota pioneer had two cities and a county named in his honor?" Many folks might not know about Wilmot Wood Brookings, so we dug up a little information about him to enhance your South Dakota historical knowledge.
The county and the city of Brookings got their names from one of South Dakota’s greatest pioneer promoters, Wilmot W. Brookings. Brookings set out for Dakota Territory in June of 1857. He arrived at Sioux Falls on August 27, 1857, and became one of the first settlers there. He and his group represented the Western Town Company. After a time in Sioux Falls, Brookings and a companion set out for the Yankton area to locate a town in an area that was soon to be ceded by the Native Americans. This trip was begun in January of 1858, and the two soon encountered a blizzard that froze Brookings’ feet, which both had to be amputated.
Though such a plight would have scared many men from the unsettled Dakota Territory, Brookings was never to be scared away. He rose to a high position, once being a member of the squatter Territorial Legislature and later being elected squatter governor. Brookings was a highly respected man with huge amounts of courage, energy and ability. These traits led Brookings to be appointed superintendent of a road that was to be built from the Minnesota state line west to the Missouri River about 30 miles north of Ft. Pierre. It was during the construction of this road that Brookings came into contact with land that was part of this county at the time. Because of his drive to settle the Dakota Territory, Brookings County and city were named for a spirited pioneer promoter. Wilmot W. Brookings made settlement of this area a real possibility for many people.