Town and County

What the receding glaciers left behind in northeastern SD became the Coteau des Prairies. In the beginning, this region was a home for fish, birds and animals on the rolling hills and in lakes.  Native Americans in the area traveled through, hunted here and quarried the red-pipe stone, “catlinite,” for peace pipes. Eventually, European Americans put down roots by homesteading 160 acre parcels. Part of that settling included a railway constructed in 1880 to connect east to west; products to people. Summit represented the "high point" in elevation between Chicago, IL and Mobridge, SD. The climb up to Summit was Marvin Hill, a formidable trek. (An interesting note: the name for the neighboring town “Marvin” came from the name on the safe at its railroad stop.) Rail business was responsible for making Summit an important stop; it was a gathering point for the area. Summit was born in 1892; it expanded with the development of farming and ranching in the region.

Summit’s establishment through homesteading was enhanced when, also in 1892, the Lake Traverse Indian Reservation was opened to homesteaders. The Reservation border (sometimes called Sisseton Sioux or Sisseton / Wahpeton) started at Lake Kampeska in Watertown spreading in a triangle shape north, extending into North Dakota. Near Summit, the reservation existed for a few miles east and west. It was an intense time, almost a “mad house,” as there were about 10,000 people who wanted to homestead, but only 1,000 farms available.  A person obtained land by paying $2 or being the first to settle the farm. The area weathered the chaos, and a community was born. These courageous folks brought their religious faith, skills, and tenacity with them, opening churches, schools and businesses.

Rooms went for $2 a night at the Summit House Hotel, one of three hotels in 1916 (One became a mortuary!). There were lots of activities in those days with raising grain and cattle, using horses, fishing and buying supplies and services. Summit’s first bank was started in 1897. Those were the days for board sidewalks, hitching posts, dirt streets, no street lights, and homes lit by kerosene lamps. Electricity arrived in town sometime before 1915 and seven street lights were installed on Main Street, plus a few side streets. The lights were used sparingly from about five in the morning to daylight and from dusk until midnight. An overview:

In the year 1916, the town of Summit boasted the following businesses: two banks; one barber shop; two billiard parlors; two blacksmith shops; five carpenters; one dray line; one drug store; four elevators; one feed mill; one furniture store; one garage; three general stores; two hardware stores; one harness shop; two hotels; two implement dealers; one jewelry store; two livery stables and feed barns; two lumber companies; two meat markets; one millinery shop; one newspaper; two doctors; two restaurants; four real estate agents and one shoe store. (Summit Centennial 1892-1992 July 3-5 1992)

It was a very busy place!

Summit is still a active spot, even though it is smaller. People continue gathering at the Top of the Hill Café to eat together; they go to the Summit Bar to enjoy the afternoon or evening. Peoples State Bank undergirds area businesses. Families still fish, hunt and go boating. A volunteer fire department stands ready to help. Sports participation is a huge focus. There may be something in Summit’s water, or it could be the high expectations, commitment to practice and love of sports that constantly produces great athletes from this little town. Of particular note is the last near decade of dominance of Girls B basketball by Summit High School. (“Go Eagles!”) The entire community comes out regularly to support the girls and boys in their activities in sports, as well as academics. Summit truly is a great place to live.

One last note about their neighborly spirit: Back in 1968, the school burned down. In five short days, the folks of Summit came together, and through temporary space and donations got the school up and running. They took a tragedy and turned it into a triumph that united. They are a people that help.  

It is a community that opens up its door, pickups and town hall to anyone in need. Just recently Summit hosted stranded University of North Dakota hockey fans in their midst for a couple of snowy days. Here is the account in the Rapid City Journal. And here is a video on YouTube.

SummitWind, Wahpeton Wind and Blue Cloud Wind are proud and honored to be a small part of such an inspiring, tenacious, loving community. During the hardships of life, farming and illness, these people stick together, supporting each other with ideas, counsel and expectations about the future. Come for a visit; you will be welcomed. You may even want to stay!

Panorama of hills and fields in the Summit area
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