Valley Springs, also known as “The Front Door to South Dakota,” was settled along the Worthington, Yankton, and Fort Randall Trail around 1862. The trail later was known as the Military Trail. The 1862 Minnesota Indian War drove out the original settlers and in 1869 four of the first pioneers came to the area and settled Valley Springs from the west. Many settled along the Military Trail on the high bank of the Beaver Creek between 1872 and 1873. The railroad was established on June 4, 1878. Billy Doolittle, who became mayor of Sioux Falls in 1908, would be the first to throttle the engine into Valley Springs, Dakota Territory.
After the arrival of the railroad, the town started to grow. A new main street was developed (Broadway). A map in Valley Springs’ museum listed four hotels, two blacksmiths, a bank, numerous stores, a jail, and a toe mill (which made hemp into rope). Along with two elevators, a 10,000 sq. ft. steam-operated Roller Mill operated up to 24 hours a day. The mill shipped four brands of flour-Gold Medal, Choice Family, Economy, and Dakota Best- all over the Midwest and also exported it. Valley Springs also had a creamery that could handle 20,000 lbs. of milk a day. The map also shows a post office, stockyard, lumberyard, tinsmith, and a doctor’s office. Valley Springs had everything that a good town needed.
A new bank was built, and several years later it was robbed. The bank robbers blew the safe in the bank. The robbers escaped by a railroad handcar, and had tied their horses near Beaver Valley Church. The notorious James Brothers also became part of Valley Springs’ history after the Northfield, Minnesota bank fiasco. The brothers stopped at the Nels Nelson farm in rural Valley Springs to water their horses and later returned to Nelson’s farm that night to “borrow” his horses.
There were also three very large sheep ranches around Valley Springs. At one point, Valley Springs was the largest grain shipping point in South Dakota. Valley Springs had a large nursery owned by George Cassidy at the present day Cassidy Park. In 1908 a tornado devastated the east side of Valley Springs but the town was quickly rebuilt.
When the interstate came through the country, it segregated a lot of the small towns from tourist and rural trade. Valley Springs, as with many of the small towns, began to slide back in population. It is now a small town of friendly people, a great school system, and a great water supply with access to the interstate. Located at the tri-state corner, Valley Springs is rich in history and is ready for Billy Doolittle to throttle that rain into town and for the town to start booming once more.
This township is situated in the southeast corner of the county. It is bounded on the east by the Minnesota state line, and on the south by the Iowa state line. It has some excellent farms and farm buildings and, comparatively speaking, no waste land. The main branch of Beaver creek, which enters Palisade township on section thirty-four and runs in a southwesterly course through Red Rock township, enters Valley Springs on section four, and continuing in the same course leaves the township on section seven. The other branch has its source in the southeast corner of the township, and runs in a northwesterly course until it forms a junction with the main branch of section thirteen in Split Rock township. The south line, which is the Iowa boundary line, was surveyed in July, 1852; the east, Minnesota boundary line, in July, 1862; the west, by Cortez Fessenden, in July, 1862; the north, by M.K. Armstrong, in October, 1864, and the subdivisions were made by Carl C. P. Meyer in October 1864. It contains 15,117.82 acres.
S.A. Johnson and Alfred Larson, and perhaps some others, took up land in this township as early as 1870. Frank G. Anderson and Stephen Danielson located there in 1871, and from that time the township was quite rapidly settled. In June, 1872, Jonathan Dunham and M.L. Wood took up land in section three, and a Miss Nancy Merchant pre-empted a portion of the northwest quarter of the same section, where the village is now located. Messrs. Dunham and Wood erected a residence, and commenced breaking the land, and thinking the location favorable for a business center, made application for the establishment of a post office. January 1, 1873, the Valley Springs post office was established, and Jonathan Dunham appointed postmaster, the office being at Mr. Dunham’s residence. A.C. Stone was the second postmaster, and for a while the office was at his residence, but was afterwards removed to the store of Stone & Howe. The next postmaster was P.E. Howe. In 1876, Alfred Larson was appointed postmaster, and in 1880, he was succeeded by Charles Olson. The first store was established by A.C. Stone and P.E. Howe in the fall of 1873. The first blacksmith shop was that of C.O. Remming on the north side of the railroad, which was opened in the spring of 1876. In November, 1880, W.W. Bell opened the first harness shop. A man by the name of Ljungren erected a store building 20 by 50 feet, two stories high, in 1878, and engaged in the hardware business. On the 4th day of June, 1878, a station was established on what is now the C., St. P., M&O. railroad, and Valley Springs can boast of having the first railroad station in Minnehaha county. The first marriage was that of P.E. Howe and Frances H. Acker, and the ceremony was solemnized by the Rev. J.W. Rigby June 28, 1874. The first birth was that of a daughter to John C. and Martha Shepard. The first school was taught by Miss Ida Shafer during the summer of 1874. One of the present school buildings was erected in the summer of 1878, at a cost of $1,600. and is a fine two-story structure. The building which is now the Central House, was erected in 1878, for a private residence. In 1879, it was purchased by Grove Hemsley, and used as a boarding house one year, when it was enlarged, and has since been used as a hotel, under the efficient management of Frank Mellen, who is still the proprietor. The Valley Springs Cemetery Association was organized May 2, 1879, and the grounds are located on the southeast quarter of section 3, and contain ten acres.