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Minnesela (Lakota: mni šeyéla; “red water”) was the first settlement in and county seat of Butte County, South Dakota, United States. Minnesela was founded in 1882 and was located three miles southeast of present-day Belle Fourche. The railroad’s decision to bypass Minnesela and to continue on to Belle Fourche in 1890 caused the town to be abandoned by 1901.
In 1876, American pioneer John T. “Buckskin Johnny” Spaulding and his brother-in-law Thomas J. Davis built the first home, a two-story log cabin, two and a half miles southeast of present-day Belle Fourche. It was constructed from logs felled in the Black Hills between Crook City and Deadwood; the logs were then hauled to the site. The house was made up of a living room, parlor, kitchen, children’s room, and a main bedroom. This cabin housed Spaulding; Davis; Davis’s wife, Lucinda; and the Davis’ children. During the next five years, homesteaders gradually settled the area. After Spaulding left, his cabin was used by many settlers in the area until the late 1930s. Minnesela was plotted in 1881 by D. T. Harrison and Azby Chouteau. In early 1882, after the population of the area reached 100, the community decided to build the town on the east bank of Redwater River, at a location one-half mile south of Spaulding’s cabin.
Seth Bullock and his business partner, Sol Star, moved into the area and built the SB Ranch at the confluence of the Redwater River and the Belle Fourche River in 1879. This ranch grew to become famous throughout the West for its thoroughbred trotting horse breeding, and in the spring of 1881, Bullock planted the first crop of alfalfa in the Western United States. In 1884, the Marquis de Mores created a stage line in order to connect Deadwood, South Dakota to the Northern Pacific Railroad, which passed through Medora, North Dakota. A few shacks, a stage barn, and a saloon were set up on the SB Ranch. The stage line failed after only a few trips, and the line shut down; however, the saloon remained open, to the disapproval of many Minneselan women. The last building on the De Mores station site burned down in 1888. Minnesela experienced severe winter weather; the snow sometimes covered windows 2-stories high. In 1886, a hot, dry summer and a powerful winter blizzard destroyed farmers’ crops and ranchers’ livestock.
Minnesela is located on the Great Plains about three miles southeast of Belle Fourche, Butte County, South Dakota. It is about 10 miles north of the Black Hills. The town was located on the banks of the Lower Redwater River. The present marker is slightly to the east of the banks of the river.