Lake County Historical Plaques

Written by Dale Nighbert

During the mid and late-1950s, members of the Lake County Historical Society were instrumental in placing five bronze markers or plaques located at historical points of interest in Lake County.

North of Madison on Highway 81 is a plaque marking the site of the colony of Badus. This colony was organized when a group of Swiss Colonists filed claims around Lake Badus in 1877 and 1878. Today, a church and cemetery remain of what was once an active little settlement.

West of Madison, located off Highways 34 and 81 near the Isaac Walton League building, is a plaque describing three historic points along Territorial Road – the old town site of Herman, the Indpaduta Indian Campsite, and the Herman Luce cabin located at Lake Herman State Park.

The village of Herman was platted in 1878 and named for Herman Luce, pioneer settler of 1870. It’s described as once being "a thriving town with stores, a newspaper, and a bright future until the railroad entered New Madison in 1881."

A half mile south of the settlement of Herman is a plaque commemorating the location of the Inkapaduta campsite. This plaque records an 1857 event describing a renegade Sioux Indian named Inkapaduta and his band that killed 42 persons at Spirit Lake, Iowa. They carried off four white women as slaves, and stopped and camped on the eastern shores of what later became Lake Herman. One of them, Mrs. Marble, was rescued by two other Indians – Greyfoot and Sounding Heavens.

Located south on Highway 19 is a plaque announcing the location of old Madison- the site of the first county seat. Lake County was organized in October, 1873, when Herman Luce and John T. Hare, the first qualified County Commissioners, met at the cabin of William Lee near the site of what became old Madison. It was platted in 1874, and the county seat was located there by an election the same year. The plaque describes how "Old Madison was the County Seat until the railroad came to the present site of Madison in 1880. The safe and county records were secretly moved at night, changing the county seat to new Madison without an election."

On the northwest shores of Lake Madison is a plaque describing the Chautauqua grounds – established in 1890. This six-acre site was one of the first Chautauqua’s west of Chicago. It became the home of the forty-room Grand View Hotel, an auditorium seating 2500 people, a cafeteria, a dance hall, tents, stables for horses, and 125 cottages. For forty years, the Chautauqua held programs with noted speakers that often attracted 3000 to 10,000 visitors each season.

Nearly half a century later, these bronze markers remain standing where they were once placed waiting for any history-minded individual to notice them, stop, and give them a read through.

Inkapaduta Plaque Chautauqua Plaque
Inkapaduta Plaque
(looking east)
Chautauqua Plaque
(looking northwest)
Lake Herman Plaque Old Madison Plaque
Lake Herman Plaque
(looking east)
Old Madison Plaque
(looking north)
Badus Plaque
Badus ~ Pioneer Swiss Colony Plaque
Ash Grove Seventh Day Adventist
Ash Grove Seventh-Day Adventist Church

Wording on Bronze Plaques


3/4 Mile East - Placed by the Lake County Historical Society

Lake County was started October, 1873 when Herman N. Luce and John T. Hare, the first qualified County Commissioners, met at the cabin of William Lee near the site of old Madison, to organize. William Van Eps platted the old town of Madison June 1874 and in the fall of 1874 the County Seat was located there by election. Old Madison was County Seat until the railroad came to the present site of Madison in 1880. The safe and county records were secretly moved at night, changing the County Seat to New Madison without an election. William Lee was the first postmaster, appointed in March 1874.


1 to 2 Miles South - Placed by the South Dakota Department of Transportation

Lake Herman was the original stopping point on the Indian Trail that led from the pipestone quarries in Minnesota to the Three Rivers of the Sioux, a Sioux sanctuary near Fort Thompson on the Missouri. State Highway No. 34 closely follows this Indian Trail.

  • 1 Mile South – Old Townsite of Herman Village, platted in 1878, was named for Herman Luce, pioneer settler of 1870. It was a thriving town with stores, newspaper and a bright future until the railroad entered New Madison in 1881. William Luce was appointed first Postmaster in 1874.
  • 1 1/2 Miles South to Inkpaduta Indian Camp site – 1857.
  • 2 Miles South to Lake Herman State Park and original log cabin of Herman Luce, built in 1871.


Placed by the Lake County Historical Society

The Lake Madison Chautauqua Association, established 1890, was a corporation patterned after the original Chautauqua in New York. One of the first Chautauquas west of Chicago, it purchased 60 acres of the old Baker homestead from J. A. Trow, known as Morena Beach, platted and set out trees, built the Grand View Hotel of 40 rooms (located near this spot which burned in 1945), an auditorium seating 2500, a cafeteria, and a fine dance hall. It grew from a white city of 200 tents and stables for 200 horses to a summer resort of 125 cottages.

For 40 years it furnished a high grade program for two weeks each summer, often having an attendance of 3,000 and 10,000 on July 4th. Excursion trains ran on special days from 500 miles distant, and a narrow gauge mortor track from Madison and later a spur of Milwaukee track were used. Its platform was an open forum and did much to bring into favorable notice the city of Madison and Lake County. Some of the noted speakers were T. DeWitt Talmage, W. J. Bryan, William H. Taft, Booker T. Washington, General John B. Gordon, Robert M. LaFollette, Eugene V. Debbs, Russell H. Conwell, Sam Jones, Biship Hartzell, Father Cleary, Frank R. Robertson, and D.W. Robertson. The first moving pictures in South Dakota were seen here.

Its first president was J.H. Williamson with F.C. Whalen as secretary and J.L. Jones as treasurer. The directors and stockholders were many of the prominent men and women of the state. For many years it graduated a class from its four year course in the "Chautauqua Literary and Scientific Circle." The state W.C.T.U. built its headquarters here, called Clarence Hall. After its first few troublesome years, the Chautauqua was saved financially, sponsored, and managed for over thirty years by its new presidents, Capt. H.P. Smith and son Geo. G. Smith.

With the coming of a new era – the auto, moving pictures, and radio – the programs were discontinued and the Chautauqua Grounds became privately owned and used for cottages and playgrounds.


Placed by the Lake County Historical Society

Here in 1857, two Christian Indians, Seahota (Greyfoot) and Makpeyahahoton (Sounding Heavens) braved the wrath of Inkapaduta, a renegade Sioux. He and his band killed 42 persons at Spirit Lake, Iowa, in March and carried off four white women as slaves. They rescued one of them, Mrs. Marble, and returned her to her people.


Placed by the South Dakota Department of Transportation

So named because of its beautiful lakes. It had been the realm of the Dacotah (Sioux) Indians with few white intruders until ceded by the Yankton tribe in 1858. In 1857 the Nobles Trail was built across its NE corner and that year Mrs. Wm. Marble, a captive of Inkepaduta’s renegade Indian band, was rescued at Lake Herman by two Christian Indians.

It was created in 1873 from parts of Brookings, Minnehaha, and Hanson Counties, and organized October 6th with Herman N. Luce and Lohn T. Hare as commissioners. Settlement began in 1870 when Wm. Lee, John Walker and Herman N. Luce arrived and built the Lee log cabin, its first edifice. Shortly, Madison, named for Madison, Wis. and Herman, named for Luce, grew up on the shores of Lakes Madison and Herman, respectively. By 1880 its population was 2657 and the coming of the railroad that year shifted the county seat from "Old Madison" to Madison laid out by C.B. Kennedy July 6th, 1880.

The first train arrived January 12, 1881. The Swiss Colony at Badus was founded in 1878, Wentworth in 1880, Winifred 1882, and Ramona in 1887. Madison State Normal was established in 1881 with classes starting in 1883. Its present name, General Beadle State College, honors its President W.H.H. Beadle (1889-1906) who was known as the "Savior of the School Lands." From 1890 to 1932 the Lake Madison Chautauqua brought culture and entertainment to thousands from a wide area.

Lake County, 24 miles square, rich in soil and scenery, welcomes you.


Placed by the Lake County Historical Society

Lake Herman was one of the chain of lakes known to the early traders and trappers as "skunk lakes," was named by Herman N. Luce, who took "Squatter rights" on its eastern shore here in 1870. This log house, the second built in Lake County, was built for Luce by William Lee and John Walker in 1871 after building the first for Lee at Lake Madison in 1870.

This area was an early day camping ground for Indians going east to the Pipestone Quarries in Minnesota.

The renegade Wahpekute, Sioux, Inkpaduta and his band camped one half mile north of here after the Spirit Lake Massacre in 1857, and Mrs. Marble, one of the four women captives, was rescued here by two Christian Indians, Seahota (Grey Foot) and Maypeyahahotan (Sounding Heavens).

This campsite, the best in the area, was used for camp meetings, religious gatherings, and picnics from its earliest days.

The four graves near the log house were for: Mary, 8 year old daughter of Herman Luce; Mr. Abbott, a trapper, brother of Mrs. Luce lost in a blizzard in 1878; Mrs. Abbott, the mother of Mrs. Luce, and Mrs. Herman N. Luce, burnt to death in 1881.

Part of the park was purchased by City of Madison in 1941 and 118 acres thereof given to State Park Board in 1946 and 30 acres was purchased from O.O. Lanvehaug by the Park Board.


1/4 Mile West - 1/4 Mile South - Placed by the Lake County Historical Society

In 1877 a group of Swiss chose a point on the shore of Lake Badus for a colony. In 1878 Joseph Burkler, his family and some single men, arrived. In 1879 the colony was augmented by 11 other families who came by rail to Luverne, Minnesota and thence overland. That fall they built a school, with Theresa Schnell as the first teacher. A colony house was built; Joseph Muggli was the first storekeeper and appointed the first Postmaster of Badus in May 1879. The colony continued as such until 1886. The names of Berther, CaJacob, Cassutt, DeCurtins, Deragisch, DeRungs, Glossi, Rensch, Schnell, Tuor and Wolf are well known in Lake County, their ancestors being of the original colony.


Built twelve miles north of Madison, Dakota Territory in 1882 - Placed by the Seventh-Day Adventist Congregation

Tread softly, for within the sacred precincts of this simple sanctuary the Holy Spirit moved many of its communicants to significantly serve their God and humanity.

With a membership and rarely more than thirty, the core of whom were industrious farmer-folk, some did become eminent as clergymen, physicians, and educators. One was the first Adventist minister to serve as a Chaplain in the United States Army. Two were missionaries to Africa. Three served as missionaries to South America. Several others became prominent educators, one a college president. Five studied medicine and became active in the healing profession. Others were dedicated nurses or devoted homemakers.

Family names to be remembered are: Abbot, Bidwell, Biggs, Bresee, Brooks, Cheney, Cleland, Clough, Courser, Herrick, Kellogg, McLeod, Perry, Riter, Schlisner, and Smith.

"Quench not the Spirit." 1 Thessalonians 5:19