Kickin’ Country Small Town of the Day – Baltic, SD
If you get out on foot and head north following the Big Sioux River the first town you get to is today’s Small Town of the Day. Baltic, SD.
When my wife and I first moved to Sioux Falls I tried to talk her in to moving to Baltic. I love it’s quaint ‘country feel.’ She was more about shopping and big city convenience, so we settled in Sioux Falls. But it’s that small town mystique that so many towns like Baltic have, that appeal to people. I would imagine people living in Baltic are very happy raising their kids in a town with a small town vibe.
Baltic is a town of almost 1100 people. Their motto: Begin building tomorrow dreams today. South Dakotas 23rd Governor Nils Boe was born in Baltic. The neat thing about some of these small towns of the day is the history that’s been preserved. We’ll have more on that later.
If you haven’t been to Baltic, take a quick Sunday drive. You’ll be impressed. They keep things mowed and painted. It’s a pretty little town located on the hills overlooking the river. I particularly like how you can cross the railroad tracks by the elevator when your headed west and your in Big Sioux Riverbottom land right now. When your coming in from the east you get a look at Baltic School. It’s impressive with it’s well groomed sports facilities and the big American flag is always flying.
By the way, I’ve been to Baltic for sporting activities and the red carpet is always rolled out for visitors. Hefty Seed is located on the outskirts of town overlooking the town.
Head up Cliff Avenue or jump off on Interstate 29. Baltic. It’s a pretty cool little town. It’s the Kickin’ Country Small Town of the Day.
COPIED FROM THE PAPERS OF
MARTIN B. SMEMOE
During the spring and summer of 1880, the road-bed for the railroad between Sioux Falls and what is now Baltic was being constructed – it was slow work to build the grade for a railroad during those early Dakota days – the workers did not have equipment comparable to the present day tractor-powered bulldozers and graders; horses and ox-teams were hitched on- to small scrapers and plows, and these were supplemented by pick and shovel workers. By hard and steady work the roadbed was ready for the laying of the rails by fall; but on October 14th a severe snow storm stopped all work; this storm was followed by recurring snowfalls throughout the winter – snowdrifts were as high as the tree-tops and the snow was several feet deep on the flat ground until April of the following year. When the warm weather arrived, the heavy snow melted in a short time and changed the Sioux River into a rushing flood that washed out the railroad bed from Baltic to Sioux Falls; the Pembina Railroad tracks in and south of Sioux Falls were also inundated. (The Pembino Railroad later became part of the Milwaukee Railroad System)
The Milwaukee track was laid from Dell Rapids to Sioux Falls in 1881. It was during that same year that Frank and Justin Pettigrew began the construction of a power dam and a flour mill which formed the nucleus of what was to be the town of Baltic, then named St. Olaf and later was called Keyes and a post office was established under that name; however it was shortly thereafter name BALTIC..
In the fall of 1884, the St. Olaf Roller Mill was ready for operation; in the meantime, the company had built two houses across the tracks from the mill – residences for the personnel. The house on the track north of Elm Street was occupied by the first head-miller, and family – Mr. and Mrs. Adams and children. Mr. C. H. McFarlin was the assistant miller. (He lived in the house now occupied by Emma Langness and the Adams family lived in the house now occupied by Mr. and Mrs. John Moller.) Quite a vast area surrounding Baltic and the town were settled mostly by Scandinavians, many immigrants from the northern parts of Norway, particularly from Trondhjem and from the farm lands around the city.
Baltic is located in section five in Sverdrup Township and Section thirty-two in Dell Rapids Township, land on which Rolf Anderson Floren and family settled in 1868- land was later acquired by John Langness and Frank Pettigrew.
The first store in the village was built by Chris Ebert in 1884and again there was an elemental hindrance in the progress of the founding of our town of Baltic; on July 21, this store building was demolished by a terrific wind-storm that swept over the entire county. Mr. Ebert rebuilt the store and continued the business until 1887 when he sold to A. J. Berdahl and John 0. Langness. The storm, that destroyed the Ebert Store, was most destructive in the northern section of Minnehaha County – at Dell Rapids a church, a schoolhouse, and three store buildings were blown down and two children were killed; another incident in connection with this fearful storm occurred about ten miles east of Baltic where a rural school house, occupied by the teacher and twenty-one scholars was blown off the foundation and driven about a half mile by the forceful winds. The teacher, in relating the experience said, ‘The first I noticed was a violent rocking of the building and the overturning of the stove, then the building began to move; at times it s eemed to bound over the ground and then it would slip along smoothly.” The teacher had locked the door so the children could not get out, and while she was helping some of the boys hold a desk-top against a broken window, she called to the other children to pray for their deliverance and one little girl replied, “Let us out first.” Strange as it may seem no one was seriously injured, and the building was just slightly damaged- A person, now living in Baltic has a vivid recollection of this incident having been one of the children on that memorable ride. (This girl was Fannie Olsen -now Mrs. M. B. Smemoe)
From the records of the proceedings at the regular session of the Minnehaha County Commissioners, January 7,1884, it was ordered that seven hundred dollars be appropriated to aid in the construction of a bridge between Section Five of Sverdrup and Section thirty-two of Dell Rapids Townships. A con- tract for the bridge was signed by R. F. Pettigrew and the chair man of the board. A party who lived here when the bridge was constructed said, “That bridge was built by an old man and a woman helper, and their only tools were a hammer and a saw. They cribbed up a square of timber and filled it with rip-rap stone to support the middle of the bridge.” The bridge was certainly not an elaborate structure and did not appear to be safe to walk across, far less safe for wagon traffic; however that first bridge served until 1895 when the country put in a new bridge of wood on masonry abutments placed on bedrock a short distance south of the old bridge. (That wooden structure was replaced by a steel bridge in 1910.)