category: Place, date: 2011-09-03, by Otto Bochman
History on the Banks of the Missouri
Those banks shifted during the late 1800s and early 1900s which contributed to the decline of Bon Homme. It had been nominated for the territorial capitol of Dakota Territory in April of 1862 but that was not to be. About all that remains of village of Bon Homme is the cemetery, the monument commemorating the first school in Dakota Territory, and a replica of that first school.
Bon Homme is French and loosely translated means: Good Man. Many, if not all of the first men of Bon Homme were "Good Men." I think we can conclude that the men (and women) who have taken the time to continue to care for the cemetery, the monument, and school replica are equally "Good" for preserving these historic sites.
We are pleased that we can continue to visit the History on the Banks of the Missouri.
According to a writing by Maxine Schuurmans, the cemetery was platted in 1862 on land donated by Benton Fraley, but was already in use in 1859. The Bon Homme National Cemetery holds the remains of several soldiers as well as many citizens of the community. General George Custer lost several men to typhoid fever in 1873 and they were moved from original gravesites close by to the Bon Homme National Cemetery. At the time of this visit (September 3, 2011), the cemetery was very well cared for.
A monument commemorating the first school in Dakota Territory at Bon Homme stands a short distance to the east of the Bon Homme National Cemetery. It was dedicated by members of the Bon Homme County Pioneer Association in 1910. Next to the monument is a replica of that first school house. As you look at and into the school you are reminded of what life must have been like for the pioneers and their school aged children.
Bon Homme Village may not have survived but it continues to hold an important place in the history of Dakota Territory and South Dakota statehood.