5 Stories from Sioux Falls Past that Would Make Great Movies
The history of South Dakota is so much more than just Deadwood or the Black Hills gold rush. The early day of South Dakota and Sioux Falls in particulate are full of fascinating stories that would make great movies. We have the life of a great woman, the time Sioux Falls was abandoned and burned, murder and more. There are tales that could be serious historical dramas, silly farces or great biographies. Here's five.
(And if any move producers are reading, I am available for pitches or to sell a script or an outline or story credit or whatever - Ben)
In August of 1862, Judge Joseph B. Amidon and his son William were making hay on their claim which was a mile north of their cabin in Sioux Falls (near where the Penitentiary is today). When they didn't come home that night, Mrs. Amidon alerted the Dakota Cavalry detachment in Sioux Falls. The men's bodies were found in the morning. Joseph had died gunshot; William of arrow wounds.
It was believed that they had been killed by a scouting party of Native Americans under orders from Chief Little Crow to drive settlers out as part of the Dakota War.
A few days after the Amidon men were buried, the governor of the Dakota Territory called for the abounding of Sioux Falls. The town remained abandoned for three years until Ford Dakota was built in 1865.
There are some great stories here. How about a movie about what happened when the natives met the Amidons. We could see the event from each group's perspective. Or a movie about the abandoning of Sioux Falls and moving of all the people to Yankton. That would make a great Coen Brothers type movie.
The story of Makana Na Ota E ‘En is the tragic sequel to the Amidon Affair. A few months after Sioux Falls was abandoned, a military scouting party returned to the town-site with some civilians. They found the town burned. Near the Falls of the Big Sioux they saw a group of Native Americans. The Calvary sounded a charge and the went after the people at the Falls. The Native American's escaped, except for one man who's horse got caught in some mud near Covell’s Slough. That man was Makana Na Ota E ‘En (Among Little Trees). Soldiers fired and wounded him. He was then killed by a mounted soldier’s saber lashes.
At the time Makana Na Ota E ‘En was thought to be related to the band that was accused of killing the Amidons and burning the town. It turned out that the group of Native Americans at the Falls that day were not part anything and had just been at the wrong place at the wrong time.
Imagine a movie about that last day of Makana Na Ota E ‘En's life. Start in the morning, breaking camp, maybe some hunting. There'd be conversations about the men on their horses, about their lives and the future. Then they stop for a rest at the Falls. While enjoying lunch the military arrives and tragedy unfolds.
Thomas Egen was an immigrant from Ireland that homesteaded near Sioux Falls in 1876. He was hanged in Sioux Falls for the murder of his wife in 1880. She was found dead from a beating in the cellar of their sod home. At Egen's trial, his step-daughter Catherine and her husband James Van Horn testified for the prosecution. Before he was hanged Thomas said, "Judge, I have nothing against anybody in the Court, or anybody around the country, except the Van Horns. They betrayed me and may the curse of God be upon them. I can stand it, Sir. The law may not reach the Van Horns, but the curse of God will."
45 years later while on her death-bed Catherine confessed to killing her mother. She said they had argued and she beat her mother to death.
This could be a great courtroom movie. Or a movie told from Thomas' or even Catherine's perspective. Or maybe a story told by the ghost of the mother.
The forgotten Deadwood of Minnehaha County was a mining town just to the east of Sioux Falls proper set up to quarry the great deposits of Sioux quartzite and cut the rock into paving stones. The town thrived at the end of the 19th century and had a wild reputation, especially in comparison to it's fancy neighbor.
The lives of the stone cutters was hard and dangerous. And life in East Sioux Falls could be bawdy. In face, when an electric rail line connected the two Sioux Falls in the 1890's the town became a sort of getaway for the proper folks of Sioux Falls.
The stone market eventually died and the town disappeared.
There's a great story in the rise of this town as it tries to establish itself under the judgmental looks of the bigger city. Working class people building establishing a community against the odds.
Eliza Tupper Wilkes came to Sioux Falls in 1877. She was an ordained Universalist minister. Shortly after coming to Sioux Falls she worked as a lone missionary, traveling to conduct services for remote communities. She was the first ordained woman minister to publicly preach in Dakota Territory. She also organized seven churches in South Dakota, Iowa, and Minnesota.
She was a driving force in the building of the All Souls Church at the southeast corner of Dakota Avenue and 12th Street. Her and her husband built several houses in the Cathedral Historical District in Sioux Falls.
Eliza was also a civic leader and a champion of woman's suffrage. She was instrumental in starting the city's first public library and a key part of growing the institution.
A biopic of Eliza's life would be a wonderful, amazing story.