Lewis & Clark Campsite
The Missouri River has carved many channels in its history. One such channel curved through the western edge of Elk Point creating the area now known as Heritage Park.
On August 22, 1804, Captain William Clark reported in his journal that the Missouri River "bends to the East and is within 3 or 4 miles of the River Soues (Big Sioux River)." Clark noted a "Great deel of Elk Sign" and reported making camp shortly after reaching "a Tree in the Prairie on the starboard side past a point of Sand on the starboard side."
In 1937, a 77 year-old Elliott Collins recounted Lewis & Clark's journey through this area in his historical thesis of Union County, which he submitted to the University of South Dakota. Collins, a former Clay County School Superintendent and South Dakota Superintendent of Schools, came to the Dakota Territory in 1864 and grew up hearing the oral histories of Elk Point from people like his uncle, Eli Wixson, Elk Point's founder.
Collins wrote that Lewis and Clark "made camp that night by a lone tree on a point of land on the river's north bank. This camp was about half a mile south and a quarter of a mile west of the present site of the Elk Point water plant, on the Eli Wixson farm, later owned by Charles Stickney." This description places the campsite
here in Heritage Park.Eli Wixson Farm Site
In 1858 a treaty was signed between the United States and Yankton Sioux that opened the Dakota frontier to settlement. A military supply route was established from Sioux City, Iowa to Fort Randall, a new outpost 150 miles to the west on the Missouri River.
Eli Wixson, daguerreotypist (photographer), took interest in a tract of land 20 miles north of Sioux City on the Military Road. This valley flatland appeared to escape high waters from the Missouri and Big Sioux Rivers. In 1859, three years before the Homestead Act flooded the Dakota Territory with immigrant settlers. Wixson paid a $14 filing fee and $1.25 an acre to take up residence as the first permanent citizen of Elk Point. He owned Elk Point's first business building, a log structure which housed a hotel, trading post, and a post office on the Military Road located at the southwest corner of Main and Douglas Streets.
In 1865, Wixson donated a block of his property for the Union County courthouse and a block for the Elk Point Public School. The Elk Point City Park was formerly part of Wixson's farm.
Eli Wixson served on the first city council and in the territorial legislature. He was Register of Deeds and county Commissioner, was Elk Point's first postmaster and served in Company B. First Dakota Cavalry.
Eli Wixson died
in 1908 and is buried in the Elk Point Cemetery.