From Dell Rapids' Attic - History
From 1872-1879, the basic foundation of Dell Rapids took shape through the efforts of various businessmen and strong civic leaders. These men usually had the necessary insight and ability to solve the concerns facing the small population. As the settlement grew, more people began to take an active interest in community affairs. This growth demanded leadership in government concerns.
In 1879, a group of citizens decided it was time for a more structured form of government. The population was at least 600 and growing. Their first step was to incorporate the settlement of Dell Rapids under a provision of a special act of the Territorial Legislative Assembly. It was no longer a settlement, but an official “village” and was called so for ten years. A Board of Trustees was elected to conduct all the business affairs that affected the village. The board included a president, treasurer, clerk, and four trustees, each with appointed duties.
There were many business transactions facing the first Board of Trustees when they met March 24, 1879. They wasted no time securing funds for building a bridge for the new territorial road, purchasing cemetery ground, and providing a jail. A fire break was developed to protect the village from prairie fires. Bonds for $12,500 were issued to induce the railroad to build into town. To maintain law and order, a marshal was hired. Later there were appointments for a fire warden, fire chief, street commissioner, and a Board of Health.
Other governmental decisions of the village of Dell Rapids were made in the 1880’s. A volunteer fire department was organized in 1883, and a hand engine was purchased. Muddy streets and the need for sidewalks were matters also requiring attention. By 1888, Dell Rapids had a system which supplied the village with pure spring water.
In December, 1888, a petition was circulated to determine if Dell Rapids should become a city under general law. In January, 1889, after a special election, the community lost its Board of Trustees and village status, and Dell Rapids emerged as a city with a city council. As the city was making plans for its future growth, another larger governmental body was going through changes. Dakota Territory officially became South Dakota and North Dakota on November 4, 1889.
The city waterworks was completed in November 1894. Bonds were sold for $9500 for the project which included a well drilled through solid rock, a granite pump house, and granite water tower on the hill. This stone water tower became one of three such stone structures in the country. The tank on the tower had a 2500 barrel capacity. An engine was installed and was ready to operate in case of necessity.
A gas plant was added in 1905 and 225 gas meters were in use by 1908. The city’s sewage system covered 22 blocks and an additional nine more blocks were to be added by the end of the year.
By 1925, Dell Rapids had a wide variety of ordinances. For instance, “It was unlawful for any person to pile or keep any firewood on any public street, road, alley, or sidewalk within the city.” There were also speed regulations for animals that read as follows: “No person shall ride any horse or mule in any public street, alley, or ground in the city of Dell Rapids at a reckless or dangerous rate of speed, or over any public bridge with the city, faster than a walk.”
Citizens also had to keep their goats and other animals corralled. One ordinance stated, “It shall be unlawful for any person, company, or corporation to permit or suffer any horse, cattle, swine, sheep or goat, or other animal to run at large within the city.” One could not picket a cow, horse or mule in such matter that the animal could cross any roadway or sidewalk.
Taxes in 1925 included a road and poll tax, and it was the duty of the street commissioner to collect such tax.
A fireworks ordinance stated that no one could “discharge within the fire limits any fire crackers, rockets, or any other piece of fireworks,” not even on the Fourth of July.
The mayor’s salary in 1925 was $10.00 for the year, and each alderman received the same pay as the mayor. The city treasurer received $25 per year, and the city auditor earned $125. The city assessor received $3.00 per day for each and every day actually engaged while the Superintendent of Waterworks earned $70.00 per month.
Many of these ordinances were omitted when the book was reviewed in 1926.