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Judge Wilmot Wood Brookings lent his name to two South Dakota towns and one county.
Judge Wilmot Wood Brookings lent his name to two South Dakota towns and one county.

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.



11:02 am - Fri, November 11 2016
Kerry _ay said:
My great great grandfather, Byron Pay. I so much want to connect to Pay's in state to give family history items when I pass. My brother passed and no one connected after he called historical society. I am history teacher. Our father, Don Raymond Pay son of Mel Pay. Byron's Congressional Medal of Honor is on my stair wall.
06:42 pm - Mon, July 1 2019
Looking for more information on Fountain, established in 1878. We know there was a school called Fountain but we heard there was a hotel at one time on the site across the road from the school where my niece bought a home. Would like to see if there is a photo or any documentation of this hotel which we heard burned down.
03:55 pm - Tue, June 30 2020
David huebner said:
The hotel was moved to Bushnell SD & still Stands on Main St...but empty now
There is a photo in the Brookings county History Book..
04:56 pm - Wed, June 15 2022
I loved your story about the history of Brookings County, South Dakota too where you covered Judge Brookings.

I would like to know how common land patents were in the pioneer days. My great, great uncle Simon Olson Hoel had a land patent on land near Lake Poinsett. I will attach a link to it.

'Lake Poinsett Homestead Patent' | 1887 | 158 acres in Brookings, S.D. | Simon Olsen Hoel | 'SDMTAA 088891' | The Land Patents™
01:37 pm - Mon, December 4 2023
Monica Fier said:
Leland, patents would have been very common in any state West of the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers in the 1800s - early 1900s. The original land grant from the US to the first pioneer to homestead or first owner to plat property would have been done by patent.

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