Church Histories

The newest additions to our collection includes booklets about the history of a number of area churches. Many of these come from centennial celebrations in the 1980’s. In these written histories, you’ll find founding members, pastors who have served throughout the years and the numerous buildings that have been built for services.

Below are links to the documents, with a small bit of information taken from their pages.

These histories contain a lot of good information, especially about life and struggles in the 1880’s and 1890’s. I encourage you to read more about each of them.

I’d like to thank the Aberdeen/Brown County Landmarks Commission for these valuable pieces. If you have any historical documents that you would like to share (photos, written histories), please let us know in the comments or via this page.


Area Depots

We’ve added a large number of photographs to our collection of area Chicago Milwauke St Paul & Pacific Railroad Company depots. The photographs are taken from a number of depots around Aberdeen, and the railroads it connects to. A number of the depots, and in some cases, the entire town, no longer exist. Below are some highlights:

Yardmaster W.C. Westfall and his office at Aberdeen, SD yard

Yardmaster W.C. Westfall and his office at Aberdeen, SD yard. The yardmaster would always be dressed up.

Meeting trains at the Ipswich Depot.

Meeting trains at the Ipswich Depot.

The elevator near the Holmquist Depot burned, you can see the scorched walls of the depot.

The elevator near the Holmquist Depot burned, you can see the scorched walls of the depot.

Hosmer Depot, as seen from a train car.

Hosmer Depot, as seen from a train car.

Gathering outside the Millard depot.

Gathering outside the Millard depot, including two conductors in the engine.

Here is a quick link for the recent railroad photographs.

Aberdeen Brochures

Two new documents have just been added to the collection: Aberdeen (1969) and Aberdeen S.D. (1981). Both are Aberdeen marketing pieces put together by the Aberdeen Chamber of Commerce, and cover a wide range of information about life in our community.

Aberdeen Brochures

Aberdeen 1969 Aberdeen 1981

Looking through these brochures, you can see all sorts of pictures from the time and advertisements from the active businesses at the time. Read through them, for a great snapshot of life in Aberdeen’s history.

Collection Update – Maps!

Our collection has been quietly improving since our last update. Thanks to the Brown County Courthouse, Northern State University and the Alexander Mitchell Public Library, we’ve added quite a few more items to site.

One of the more interesting developments has been the creation of our Historical Maps Exhibit. In this exhibit, some of the maps from the collection are presented over current street maps and satellite imagery. You can fade between the overlaid map and the current imagery to compare changes over time. In addition, each page has links to the original documents as well as a link to view the map within Google Earth.

Highway map of SD in 1919.

Highway map of SD in 1919.

Of particular interest, the Sanborn maps of Aberdeen have been stitched together so you can see the details included in pages of those maps (see the pic below). At magnified zoom levels, you can see the detail of the street and building information of those maps. And in this format you don’t need to jump from page to page to see it in context.

View down to the streets and buildings.

View down to the streets and buildings.

Take a look around, and let us know what you think. If you have any historical maps that you think would make good additions to the project, contact us.

Collection Timeline

Alexander Mitchell Public Library

Since the beginning of Aberdeen, education and literacy have been important factors to the people in the community. It is for this precise reason that only two years after the town began in 1882, B.E. Hutchinson became the first president of the Aberdeen Free Library Association. Under the Association’s guidance, a subscription library was opened, housed in two rooms on the second floor of the Hagerty block. A subscription cost 25₵ per month and $1.50 per year, and the library also received funds through benefit lectures. Furthermore, the library was conveniently located in conjunction with the telephone exchange, so the operator was often in charge of the books as well.

The library moved around several times, but in the end the community wanted a real library building. To that end, C.H. Pryor donated a building site and Andrew Carnegie gave the town $15,000 on the condition that the city would pay 10% for upkeep. With all of the funding and land provided, a lovely classic-colonial style structure was built, complete with three floors, and the library was opened on July 15th of 1902 with Miss Aurora Koehler in the position of librarian. At Mr. Carnegie’s request, the library was named after his friend, Mr. Alexander Mitchell of the Chicago, Milwaukee, and St. Paul Rail Road Company.

Unfortunately the building was condemned in 1950, and then the floor collapsed, so the library was temporarily moved into a bookmobile and a second story location on Main Street. The situation was remedied, however, when the current Alexander Mitchell Library was built in 1963. This building contained only one story with a partial basement, and it included a garage area for bookmobiles. The basement held the children’s section and a multi-purpose room that would seat 150 people, and the main floor held the adult section with a newspaper and periodical section and a research area. Lots of things have changed in the library since then, but it can still be found at its original location at 519 S. Kline Street.

Other Useful Links
Alexander Mitchell Library, 1884-1964
Alexander Mitchell Library official website
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Clark Swisher

The beginning of every Northern State University fall semester is always kicked off with football, and one of the most important people in the history of NSU football is Clark Swisher.

After having spent four years in the U.S. Army during World War II, Clark Swisher joined the NSC (Northern State College) staff in 1946 as head coach in football, basketball, tennis, golf, and track and field. This is a pretty busy schedule for any person, and after a couple of years other coaches took over all of the sports except football. Then, in 1968, Coach Swisher retired and became the NSC athletic director, and he still held this position when the new Swisher Field was dedicated to him on September 10th, 1976. With a football coaching history constituted of 146 wins, 42 losses, and 4 ties as well as 4 perfect seasons and a 3 time selection as South Dakota’s college coach of the year, he was more than worthy of the honor bestowed upon him.

Four years after the dedication of the 6,000 seat Clark Swisher Field, NSC decided to dedicate their 1980 Gypsy Days to their beloved athletic director, and shortly thereafter he announced his retirement. Clark Swisher, however, was always involved in sports, and he continued to be active in NSC athletics for years to come. He was also a member of the U.S. Olympic Committee from 1975-1984, and he did a stint as the president of the NAIA (National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics).

It is needless to say that when Clark Swisher passed away in 2005, Aberdeen and NSU mourned his loss. There remains, however, a new $3.2 million football-track-soccer Clark Swisher Athletic complex that was dedicated in the same year of his passing, and it continues to serve as a reminder to Clark Swisher’s great legacy in the sports world.

(Left photo:Northern State University football coaches. L-R: Fred Drews, Bill Jordan, Clark Swisher, Bob Wachs, Don Woods.)
(Right Photo: Coach Swisher, Bob Miller and Junior Pereboom getting ready on runners starting blocks.)

Other helpful links:
Northern State Athletic Facilities
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Masonic Temple

Another of the historic buildings that has a place in the collection is that of the Masonic temple. Built in 1897, it was reported to have been the first temple erected only for Masonic purposes west of the Mississippi. At the time it was built, it would have been located opposite of the Grain Palace on grounds that were surrounded by an ornamental iron fence. The building was three stories high, made of white brick trimmed with Lake Superior sandstone.

Always a very symbolic and secretive organization, the inside of the Masonic temple was decorated accordingly. For example, the keystone of the arch over the inner door was reportedly composed of stone from Solomon’s temple in Jerusalem. Also included in the impressive decoration was a massive banquet room with ceilings over 14 feet in height that was perfect for hosting Masonic programs, and in order to retain that secrecy already mentioned, the ground floor of the building was arranged so that the lodge room parts could be entirely shut off by closing and locking only two doors.

At the time the Masonic temple was constructed, the only people who were really involved were men who were not Catholic. In 1916, however, there was a massive remodeling project, and the ladies of the Eastern Star became a little bit more involved. There was a new kitchen, a sun porch, and the current ladies’ parlor was enlarged. These renovations cost an estimated $20,000, and the building was ready for the re-dedication ceremony where over 300 masons were in attendance. Since then, things have apparently continued to go well for the Masons, since the Masonic temple may still be found on Main street just behind the Methodist church here in Aberdeen.

Other useful links:
The Scottish Rite
Aberdeen Shriners
Exploring Brown County
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YMCA (Young Men’s Christian Association)

Of the many interesting items to be found in the collection, there are quite a few that have to deal with the YMCA (Young Men’s Christian Association).

In the early 1900’s, the city of Aberdeen had a huge fundraising campaign in order to establish and build their own YMCA. As seen in the campaign pamphlet “A Civic Movement to Meet a Great Civic Need,” it was believed that “If a boy’s time is occupied usefully, he will not want to become vicious,” and a local YMCA would certainly occupy a boy’s time. It was portrayed as a combination of a club, athletics, education, religion, and organization, all to be housed in one single building. There were dormitories to house away-from-home young men, a gymnasium, night school, a pool, and kitchen facilities. Everything needed was to be provided.

YMCA Drum and Bugle Corps

In 1915 the plans for the YMCA came to fruition when Mrs. A. E. Boyd donated a site for building, provided that the facility be erected in 5 years. The money was raised, and the cornerstone was laid on September 25th, 1921. Unfortunately the funding ran out, and the unfinished structure was closed up for three years. Then there was another funding campaign, and a reported $75,000 was raised in a time of 12 days. The building continued, and the YMCA was complete in the fall of 1926. Since then, there has been quite a lot of remodeling and additions, including some campsites with cabins. Staying with Aberdeen through the years, “the Y” remains a prominent fixture in the community for all to enjoy.

Other useful links:
A Civic Movement to Meet a Great Civic Need
YMCA Sustaining Membership
50 Years of Service and Growth
Dedication Exercises
Aberdeen Family YMCA Website
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