Legend has it that when Lewis & Clark made a pitstop near present-day Yankton in August of 1804, they wrapped a young Indian boy with the American flag as a gesture of love and respect for the Dakota natives who lived here. The story continues to say that this young Dakota native grew up to become chief of the Yankton Sioux tribe during the tumultuous time when white settlers moved in to colonize the riverfront land.
This Dakota native chief, Strike-the-Ree, was integral in the peaceful merging of the Yankton Sioux tribe and the incoming white settlers in 1961. This sparsely populated, muddy, treeless land on the Missouri River became the Dakota Territory, and the growing settlement of Yankton was designated as its first capital.
Those first buildings, with their sod roofs and dirt floors, started popping up in the area that is now the Meridian District. They were some of our region's first general stores, taverns, and trading posts. Many still stand today, and efforts continue to preserve these historic structures.
Stroll around the Meridian District and look for the beautiful Romanesque and Italianate features that many of these historic structures boast. While you're there, imagine that over 150 years ago, this same downtown district was booming with visitors chasing the gold rush, classic wild west shenanigans, constant rail traffic, riverboat commerce, national politics, and both American and immigrant pioneers starting new lives. It was and still is a land of rich history with a bright future.
The Hot Spot
3rd and Walnut was the center of downtown events and home to three presidential campaigns for Teddy Roosevelt, William Jennings Bryan, and William McKinley.